Writing With Your Non-Dominant Hand

“I believe that the more time we spend choosing to run the deep inner peace circuitry of our right hemispheres, the more peace we will project into the world and the more peaceful our planet will be.” - Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor

Are you stuck, blocked, at a dead end, confused, up against a brick wall…

Here’s a good word for it, stymied…

Are you stymied? (Some days, I am so very stymied!)

Let's Try A New Exercise

If any of these labels fit where you are at the moment, I have something for you to try. Actually, I have a couple of things for you to try (even if you’re not stymied!) - and to try them, you have to get out of your brain, rather into a different part of your brain.

What?!

I mean, out of what may be your “normal” way of thinking - and into a different “area” of your brain that has, shall we say, a different “approach”- different information. I mean into the creativity-enhancing part of your brain - the right side of your brain.

Betty Edwards, author of the bestselling classic, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain: A Course in Enhancing Creativity and Artistic Confidence, explains the shift that’s needed to access your creativity this way - “to set up conditions that cause you to make a mental shift to a different mode of information processing - the slightly altered state of consciousness - that enables you to see well.”

Start Drawing!

She’s talking about learning to draw as a drawing she tells us “will tap the special abilities of the right side of your brain…you will delve deeply into a part of your mind too often obscured by endless details of daily life.”

You may not want to learn how to draw - but accessing the right side of the brain opens you up to many more possibilities involving your creative potential - in any area of your life. So how do we do that - how do we get into that part of the brain?

Well, you already do get into this altered state sometimes when driving on the highway or jogging, doing needlework, typing, listening to music, and meditation, to name a few. Sometimes I’d enter it when ironing, of all things! I used to have an hour commute to work which often shifted me. But her method is more tactical, she has us draw using our non-dominant hands.

Edwards’ book is wonderful and is full of great exercises to achieve what she calls the cognitive shift to the R-mode state of consciousness. My friend Connie, a corporate lawyer, quit her stressful job, and then, for fun, she signed up for a Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain adult ed course. Her progress and success were phenomenal. She now exhibits in galleries and had never done any kind of art before her course!

Morning Pages

So, when I am needing a shake-up in my thinking - to get me out of whatever hole I’ve dug for myself - I have a few experts I go to for their “shakeup” methods to help me travel to my right hemisphere.

I have used Edwards’ book (and want to go through it again). If you read my previous blog about Morning Pages, you already know that Julia Cameron is another of those experts. Morning Pages (and her other “basic tools”) help us to unlock our creativity.

And as Cameron tells us, I agree that our creativity equals our spirituality. Well then - that’s a big opening, a big gift to explore for potential inspiration in whatever you’re up to.

But here’s another one. Have you tried writing with your non-dominant hand? Right, with your “other” hand.

Well, if you are now writing three long-hand pages each morning (a la Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way), then you must have found the great benefit of writing Morning Pages (you do recall that I shared that it helps one’s memory, too) so think of it as yet another way to exercise a skill that’s endangered - writing, printing, using your hand (not the computer keyboard)…in this case, your non-dominant hand, to express yourself.

It is a great way to move you from operating out of your left brain hemisphere to your right brain hemisphere - and each of these two very separate parts of your brain does have different functions.

How Does This All Work? 

You know that I am not a brain scientist. I can just tell you anecdotally how these processes have worked for me and the women I coach. And I am certainly not a neuroanatomist, but Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor is.

You must have heard of her. She has one of the most watched TED talks and her book, My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey, is on the same subject as her TED Talk - which tells the story of her experience of having and recovering from a stroke and what she learned about the brain as a result.

Here’s how she describes the different hemispheres - from the transcript of her TED Talk:

“The two hemispheres do communicate with one another through the corpus callosum, which is made up of some 300 million axonal fibers. But other than that, the two hemispheres are completely separate. Because they process information differently, each hemisphere thinks about different things, they care about different things, and dare I say, they have very different personalities."

Right hemisphere - Brain

Our right hemisphere is all about this present moment. It’s all about right here right now. Our right hemisphere thinks in pictures and learns kinesthetically through our bodies' movement.

Information in the form of energy streams in simultaneously through all of our sensory systems. And then it explodes into this enormous collage of what this present moment looks like.

What this present moment smells like and tastes like, what it feels like and what it sounds like. I am an energy being connected to the energy all around me through the consciousness of my right hemisphere.

We are energy beings connected to one another through the consciousness of our right hemispheres as one human family.

And right here, right now, all we are brothers and sisters on this planet, here to make the world a better place. And at this moment, we are perfect. We are whole. And we are beautiful.

Left hemisphere – Brain

My left hemisphere is a very different place. Our left hemisphere thinks linearly and methodically. Our left hemisphere is all about the past, and it’s all about the future.

Our left hemisphere is designed to take that enormous collage of the present moment. And start picking details and more details and more details about those details. It then categorizes and organizes all that information. Associates it with everything in the past we’ve ever learned and projects into the future all of our possibilities.

And our left hemisphere thinks in language. That ongoing brain chatter connects me and my internal world to my external world. That little voice says to me, “Hey, you got to remember to pick up bananas on your way home and eat them in the morning.”

That calculating intelligence reminds me of when I have to do my laundry. But perhaps most important, it’s that little voice that says to me, “I am. I am.”

And as soon as my left hemisphere says to me, “I am,” I become separate. I become a single solid individual separate from the energy flow around me and separate from you.”

On the day of her stroke, Bolte’s brain kept moving from one hemisphere to the other, and she was able to be a witness to the differences.

She comments, “Wow! This is so cool. This is so cool. How many brain scientists have the opportunity to study their own brain from the inside out?”

Her 18-minute TED Talk is well worth the time it takes to watch it. It helps visual people like me see what she’s talking about as she holds an actual brain and shows us the two very separate hemispheres, connected by the corpus callosum, with the spinal cord dangling down.

Is This Legit? 

Much is written about the differences between the two sides and how they process. Both sides are needed, of course. Delving into how our brains work is enough to make me marvel yet again about how awesome our bodies are - miraculous.

But my message to you today is about how it will behoove you to take time to enhance your right hemisphere processing - however you choose to do it. Bolte goes as far as to say this in the conclusion of her TED Talk:

“I believe that the more time we spend choosing to run the deep inner peace circuitry of our right hemispheres, the more peace we will project into the world and the more peaceful our planet will be.”

I agree with her and what I’m suggesting here is for you to try out these techniques of accessing your right hemisphere, and then you get to decide what the benefits are for you.

I was introduced to writing with my non-dominant hand by Lucia Capacchione, Ph.D.’s book, The Power of Your Other Hand: A Course in Channeling the Inner Wisdom of the Right Brain

When healing from a debilitating illness, Dr. Capacchione discovered that using her nondominant hand helped her access old feelings that she had squashed in childhood – what she called feelings from her little Inner Child.

Feelings that hadn’t been acknowledged and were blocking her. Here’s how she writes about the experience in her book:

“This book was born out of my own personal struggle with this battle of the psyche. When my left hand was allowed to speak for the first time, I heard the voice of a long-forgotten self, a part of me that cried out for attention, that longed to be listened to. It eventually brought me to my Inner Self, the Divine Spirit or Higher Power that lives within all of us dressed in the costume of our personalities.”

I agree with Edwards, Bolte, Cameron, and Cappachione that there is a significant part of us that remains untapped if we don’t take the time to do activities that encourage us out of our normal way of thinking.

Left to our own devices, I think it’s the logical part of us, the left side – some might even call it the ego (the know-it-all part of us) - that steps forward to offer us solutions, tips, shoulds, and direction. It often speaks with the voice of our culture and our parents.

I’m not saying ignore what we’ve learned from our culture and parents – I’m suggesting that if we just go with that, then will miss out on additional wisdom that we hold – more specifically, the voice of our intuition or of our higher self – or of our inner child. I recommend visiting a different place inside of us and seeing what that place offers.

Start Writing With Your Non-Dominant Hand 

So, let’s do it.

Go and find a piece of paper and something to write with.

Take that pen or pencil or crayon – and put it in your non-dominant hand.

— Let’s start with your name —

  • Print your first name — good!
  • Now print your last name — good!
  • How did that feel? You should have seen your face when you did it — such concentration — but you did well. Did it feel weird? Uncomfortable?

— Let’s keep going —

  • Now write your first name — yes, in cursive.
  • Write this sentence — print or in cursive — My name is _________.
  • Write this sentence — print or in cursive — my favorite things to do are: and list three things
  • How did that feel — what came out — did it seem childish — because you’re contacting your inner child. She’s playful and loves it that you’re giving her attention.

— Now she wants to draw —

Please draw:

  • A square
  • A circle
  • A triangle
  • So good – you’re ready for …
  • Draw a house, put a tree next to it, a cat – or a dog – add in the sun.
  • You’ve got this!

How does it FEEL? Is it fun? Are you just going with it – yes, it feels weird, maybe, but you’re trying something new.

I strongly recommend that you visit Dr. Capacchione’s website and read her book The Power of Your Other Hand or one of her other books so you can fully understand her groundbreaking work and use it to unlock what wants to come up in you.

Are You Ready To Start? 

But before I let you go. One of the best, most helpful ways to use your non-dominant hand is to ask it questions. Write your question with your dominant hand and let your non-dominant hand answer.

An exercise I use with my groups to explore future directions is I ask them first to write three things they want to do before they die with their dominant hands. List them — go ahead and do that now.

Next, using your dominant hand, write the question — What are three things I want to do before I die? Then, put the pen in your non-dominant hand and write the answer.

Compare them — what do you notice? Often the non–dominant hand has playful, childlike answers, but don’t dismiss them — they may be more insightful than you think.

Your non-dominant hand will open up a whole new world of wisdom for you – all from within a most amazing source — you!