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Another Scientist Discusses The Importance Of Insight

July 23, 2009

Read this, from The Huffington Post.  It’s the first half of an interview with Susan Smalley, Ph.D., who, like Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, had a life-threatening personal experience that pushed her to tap into the non-rational part of herself.  (The second part of the interview was published yesterday, if you want to check it out.)

PF: What was your life approach before this heightened awareness?

SS: I didn’t think about trying to heighten my sense of consciousness in any way. I thought, yeah, learn more, read more, study more, talk to people, everything’s in books, everything’s out there in a reason-based world. Just follow it.

I gave zero time to places that would increase intuition, or enhance insight, ignoring what is probably a core component of wisdom. I was just running around constantly doing, doing, doing, and trying to soak up knowledge from books and experiments and science.

Sound familiar?  Sure did to me.

Dr. Smalley goes on to describe the nature of her “mystical experience,” and how she worked to integrate the insights she gained into the ‘real life’ she still needed to maintain.

In particular, this part hit home like woah, in the decisions I’m facing right now:

My quandary became that I didn’t know how to go back to work, as I had a totally different view of the world. I felt that the insights I gleaned during that 30 day period were ones that we could each discover but how do you discover them if you don’t give time for yourself to try to uncover that stuff?

Before I didn’t think that this was anything I should value … to take time for myself, to reflect on things. Or to use any kind of tools that could help you to do that.

I didn’t know what to do next and I didn’t know if I could ever go back to UCLA because I just thought it was so inconsistent with this way of seeing the world – an alternative way of knowing – a first-person experiential way vs. a third person scientific way. Both are valuable and I used to think only one was valuable for real truth, until I realized they both are valuable.

How do we find life work that promotes both of these ways of knowing?

If anyone has any suggestions, please spill.  :)

And why do stories like this one garner so much attention?  Why are they compelling? Perhaps it’s a rare and special case when someone so accomplished in a recognized intellectual field (especially Western medical science), but who lacks spiritual knowledge or wisdom, suddenly opens up to this new dimension of learning.  Every day I feel grateful that my life took this same kind of turn.

Tomorrow I’ll post a letter I wrote to someone who helped me make the leap.

Happy Thursday, y’all!

* * * * *

[Update: Here’s another one from yesterday’s HuffPo: on the science of goodness.  I can just see the new line of Hallmark cards: “Thanks for all the gamma waves.” ;) ]

3 Comments leave one →
  1. bohemiankitsch permalink
    July 24, 2009 11:54 pm

    “How do we find life work that promotes both of these ways of knowing?”

    only one idea comes to mind:

    genuine service to others. i find that it’s richest when both ways of knowing are present.

  2. July 26, 2009 5:13 am

    Yes. Yes and yes. Thank you for reminding me. :)

    How do you always know the best things to say to stop me from stressing myself out?

    Also, the other day I remembered something else: that when things are right on the inside, external factors will fall into place. The type of work doesn’t matter half as much as the mentality we bring to it. Which fits with your idea of “genuine service,” in the sense that almost any labor can be service, if that’s how we approach it.

    And what is it to work with love?

    It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart,
    even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth.

    It is to build a house with affection,
    even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house.

    It is to sow seeds with tenderness
    and reap the harvest with joy,
    even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit.

    It is to charge all things you fashion
    with a breath of your own spirit,

    And to know that all the blessed dead are standing about you
    and watching.

    From you-know-who — the only person I ever quote these days, haha!

    Oh, and by the way — it’s good to see your sweet face, you photo-havin’ fool, you. ;)

  3. Cat permalink
    July 27, 2009 7:41 pm

    I love your quote-love-affair with my man Gibran. I discovered him when I was 12 and he utterly transformed the way I looked at the world. Finally, there was another person out there who could capture all the beauty and the pain, the sadness and the joy, so tenderly, so lovingly.

    Your thoughts and questions are ones that pierced me deeply because I struggle with how to maintain my awakening while working. I think in the end, it comes down to discipline. Looking back on all that I’ve experienced, I’ve come to realize that meditation and yoga have prepared me to emanate light in all that I do. I often forget to recharge, to recenter, to refocus. Sometimes I get too wrapped up in the details, but sooner or later my Beginner’s mind reminds me to take a deep breath and relax into it all with the truths I hold deeply.

    Take this time to cultivate your light. To feel it to your core. To know its roots and to radiate its beauty. And soon you will find that everything you do is a part of this practice—that you no longer need to delineate a certain space or a certain time to this endeavor. It becomes a way of being, and so infuses into your way of living and working.

    Hope this helps…I would love to gvideo you again, sometime soon.

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