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28 May 2009 @ 12:41 pm
MSOI, Passages, Part 2  
One of the most fascinating elements of Bolte's account is her lucid description of losing the normal perception of physical boundaries:

"I felt like a genie liberated from its bottle...Finer than the finest of pleasures we can experience as physical beings, this absence of physical boundary was one of glorious bliss. As my consciousness dwelled in a flow of sweet tranquility, it was obvious to me that I would never be able to squeeze the enormousness of my spirit back inside this tiny cellular matrix" (67).

As Bolte explains in various parts of her account, her hemorrhage occurred in the orientation association area of her brain. More specifically, the posterior parietal gyrus (PPG) of the left hemisphere was incapacitated by the trauma incurred by the stroke. "This region of our left brain helps us identify our personal physical boundaries. When this area is inhibited or displays decreased input from our sensory systems, we lose sight of where we begin and where we end relative to the space around us" (136).

For me, this explanation of inhibited PPG activity describes a rather grossly physical experience of interbeing. As it turns out, such particularly inhibited brain function does, in fact, seem to support the capacity to understand and appreciate the philosophical concept of interbeing.  Bolte cites research conducted by Newberg and D'Aquili (2001) which resulted in greater insight relative to "the neuroanatomy underlying our ability to have a religious or spiritual (mystical) experience" (135). These folks examined the brains of meditating Buddhist monks and Franciscan nuns with "single photon emission computed tomography" (135) (a.k.a. SPECT). The meditators were instructed to pull on a cord when they became aware of reaching a deep state of meditation. What Newberg and D'Aquili found was that deep states of meditation coincided with decreased activity in the left hemisphere language centers and in the PPG.

Bolte applies these findings to her own experience and concludes that in essence, in addition to the havoc her stroke caused with useful brain functions such as language and mathematical reasoning, it also simulated a deep state of meditative bliss within which she was able to experience herself as completely at one with everything perceivable that she would ordinarily characterize as not-self. On the morning of her stroke, she experienced a swift and dramatic shift into a dimension of cognition where interbeing was the default perception, and remained in that mental space for years.
 
 
 
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