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Photo by Ioann-Mark Kuznietsov / Unsplash

We're human beings, not human doings.

I don't like cute slogans that punch above their weight (try to carry more meaning than their pithiness allows), but that one is great.

The left hemisphere is the hemisphere of doing. It is tasked with the nitty-gritty of everyday life. It's in its element when it's earning money, drywalling the basement, and slaying orcs.

The right hemisphere is the hemisphere of being. It is concerned with the whole picture: the greater reality.

Being is superior to (prior to) doing. Doing must serve the being, or there is no reason to do the doing.

Unfortunately, modern culture is left-hemispheric culture, so we are always doing.

We're always peddling the bike. We proudly declare ourselves "driven," without realizing that's like declaring ourselves "addicted." When we are addicted, something is controlling us. When we're driven, something is driving us.

And that "something" is often the left hemisphere.

Not always, but if we find ourselves unable to resist activity, we might have a rogue left hemisphere making us peddle that bike.

We then need to put a stick in the spokes: daily . . . maybe even hourly.

The Healthy Effects of Reading

Of course, the stick often causes the bike to stop abruptly, flipping us over the handlebars. I think that's why so many people struggle initially with prayer or meditation.

But there are less harsh ways to stop the bike.

We can just read.

Did you know that people who read regularly are 43% more likely to report a good night's sleep?

They also score better on worry and depression questionnaires.

These nerds are even more likely to enjoy their social lives.

Recreational v. Productive Reading

Reading puts us into receptive mode (to "receive" being).

Well, kinda.

Certain kinds of reading put us into receptive mode.

The reading needs to be for fun, devotion, curiosity and wonder, or personal fulfillment (broadly, "recreational reading"). The left hemisphere reads, too, but it reads so it can figure out how to build a better bow to slay the orc ("productive reading").

If you're not sure whether you're engaged in recreational reading or productive reading, watch yourself while you're reading: Do you feel any agitation that you're wasting time or that you ought to be doing something else? Do you start thinking about the things you're going to do when you finish reading?

If you're engaged in productive reading, you won't feel any such pricks: the left hemisphere is content because you're dancing with it.

If you're engaged in recreational reading, you'll probably feel the pricks. It's your left hemisphere telling you that you're wasting time. (Of course, if you're clearly engaged in recreational reading and have zero agitation, that's a sign that you have a healthy right hemisphere.)

Bottom Line Suggestion

We need to shut down the left hemisphere with recreational reading at least twice a day.

Try 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes at night. Maybe 15 minutes of "curiosity reading" in the morning (a non-fiction book) and 15 minutes of "fun reading" at night (a fiction book). That's my routine, anyway, sprinkled with smaller snatches of recreational reading throughout the day.

I also keep a pen and notecard with me, so I can calmly jot down those pricks from the left hemisphere ("You need to take out the garbage tonight") and return to my recreational reading. It's my way of keeping my foot on the left hemisphere's neck so my right hemisphere can enjoy its walk.