I kind of snuck up on the back door to meditation and mindfulness. It started with me reading "The Master and His Emissary" by Iain McGilChrist, about eight years ago while camping on the beach in Kauai. The book by the renowned psychiatrist talks about about how our brain is divided into two separate brains that talk to each other, but function differently. He tosses out some ideas about how left brain tends to dominate right brain, but right brain is the master and left brain is the emissary. Left brain thinks it's running the program, and discounts right brain, such that most of the modern people are running on purely left brain.

A few months later a friend suddenly died, then my brother. I found myself deeply hurting and confused at a level I'd never experienced before. I had heard of mindfulness, and decided to give it a try. I found almost immediate relief from this psychological pain I was experiencing, and have been a mindfulness practitioner now for eight years. I was quick to see the correlation between McGilChrist's ideas and those of mindfulness, so I've always had this understanding when reading dharma literature, and I've read a lot. It seems to me that what meditation and enlightenment masters teach is essentially right brain/left brain asymmetry. We quiet the talkative left brain so that we can hear the wisdom of the right brain.

So, am wondering if others see things this way as well?

3 Answers 3


it’s important to understand that meditation impacts both the left and right hemispheres of the brain. It strengthens the “corpus callosum,” the bundle of nerves that connects the two hemispheres, leading to a more balanced and integrated use of both brain halves. This results in enhanced creativity, better focus, deeper thought, improved mental health, and clearer thinking.

However, from a Buddhist perspective, meditation is not just about the physiological effects on the brain. The primary goal of Buddhist meditation, such as Vipassana, is enlightenment. It’s a practice that cultivates mindfulness and insight, helping practitioners understand the true nature of reality.

On the other hand, “Samatha” type meditation, which existed in ancient India as part of yoga and other techniques, focuses on calming the mind and developing concentration. These practices can be very helpful for stress relief and relaxation.

So while meditation does have effects on brain activity and can help balance the right and left brain, its ultimate purpose in Buddhist practice goes beyond these physiological benefits. It’s a tool for spiritual growth and understanding.

  • Good points! Think I'd have to agree.
    – Tom Cubb
    Commented Sep 24, 2023 at 17:45

I did not read the book by Iain McGilChrist, however, current research into meditation and its effects on the brain indicated that both the right and left hemisphere of the brain are activated.

In addition, my readings of research into vision, perception, attention and consciousness in the field of neuroscience indicate that higher level consciousness involves a complex yet coordinated interplay between various parts of our brain as shown in this study and other studies into agnosia. If we assume meditation is a form of training to achieve higher consciousness then it would be logical to assume that both the right and left hemisphere of our brain are equally important.

Personally, I suspect meditation is about achieving a harmonious state and communication between both hemispheres. It may look asymmetrical on functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) but that’s simply because both hemispheres evolved to handle different functions. Just as our hands and legs evolved differently for different task, no one would want to function without one or the other.

  • Yes, I think of "natural awareness" as being a state or condition in which the left and right become more balanced, rather than left overriding right.
    – Tom Cubb
    Commented Sep 24, 2023 at 17:48

Wisdom is not just a function of brain. There is a wisdom of heart , wisdom of intestines, wisdom of kidneys , wisdom of feet, wisdom of hands etc . Therefore it is not right to say that meditation only caters to left brain and right brain. Advanced meditation involves whole body from feet to the brains. It unites left brain and right brain and center. Apart from left brain and right brain there is a center as well which science has ignored.

  • Yes! Thanks! Whole body!
    – Tom Cubb
    Commented Oct 1, 2023 at 14:49

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