Has everyone in the world seen this (the information below, not my pretty peony)?
http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/229 (it's about 19 minutes, well worth the time, and a site with lots of other good stuff, as well)
http://www.oprah.com/spiritself/oss/guest/oss_guest_jboltetaylor.jhtml (you could spend a couple of hours on this 4-part interview)
I found this information through a NY Times article from May 25, and had not heard of it before. As a psychology undergraduate, I was fascinated with research on cerebral hemispheres, and always thought myself far more "right-brained" than "left brained" (I'm left-handed, and my left-handedness is pretty strongly dominant). Now I see that's part of why I felt like a "natural born mystic."
For those of you who don't like to follow links (why not??), Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor is a brain scientist who had a stroke that disabled her left hemisphere (which deals with language, numbers, linear thought, cognitive memory, and just about everything that we call "rational thinking"). Her right hemisphere remained intact -- that hemisphere of wholistic, kinesthetic, intuitive, sensate knowing. Her experience, as well as her reflection on that experience, is fascinating. She basically shows the anatomical basis for what Christians, Jews and Muslims call mystical ecstasy or union with God, what Hindus call nirvana, and what Buddhists call enlightenment. She shows that it's our left brain, with all its language-based chatter, that inhibits our sense of the mystical, and that to silence the chatter allows the ecstatic to be experienced -- and it's there within us all the time -- we just cover it up with the chatter.
Now anyone who has practiced centering or contemplative prayer for any length of time knows this. Through that very difficult process of quieting the thoughts, we can, from time to time, experience the Holy in a direct way. I'm not saying that God is within us, exactly (though we are made in God's image, so some stamp or thumbprint or shred of the divine must be there) -- but it's that quiet, still place, that right brain, if you will, where we hear God. God doesn't often speak to me in words, but rather in senses, impressions, perceptions, intuitions, that my left brain then attaches language to, and which become ideas and phrases and sometimes sermons!
Is this a little "New Agey?" Perhaps some would say so. As an Episcopal priest (turns out Jill Bolte Taylor's father was my priest in Terre Haute, Indiana, in the 60s), I don't find anything in these ideas that are incompatible with Christianity. I think Jesus told us not to worry, and to not get too attached to any material things or relationships, because they interfere with this quiet mind that contains or can enter the kingdom of heaven and the voice of God. He did say that the kingdom of heaven is within us, among us -- not some pie-in-the-sky future thing (though, since the kingdom is eternal, it will also be in the future), but RIGHT NOW, if we choose to reach out and accept it. I do not have a problem with the integration of the scientific and the spiritual. In fact, I love it when the scientific bears out spiritual truths that have been known for millennia!
And now I'm off to see my spiritual director. It's a hot, sunny day on the Cumberland Plateau, and it's my day off, besides. I hope life is beautiful wherever you are.