"Pain and deprivation. The Buddhist monks sit on roofs, fasting and sleepless until they reach enlightenment. Isolated and exposed to the wind and sun. Compare them to Saint Simeon, who rotted on his pillar. Or the centuries of standing yogis. Or Native Americans who wandered on vision quests. Or the starving girls in nineteenth-century America who fasted to death out of piety. Or Saint Veronica, whose only food was five orange seeds, chewed in memory of the five wounds of Christ. Or Lord Byron, who fasted and purged and made his heroic swim of the Hellespont. A romantic anorexic. Moses and Elijah, who fasted to receive visions of the Old Testament. English witches of the seventeenth century who fasted to cast their spells. Or whirling dervishes, exhausting themselves for enlightenment.
"All these mystics, throughout history, all over the world, they all found their way to enlightenment by physical suffering.
"The left half of your brain deals with logic, language, calculation, and reason, he says. This is the half people perceive as their personal identity. This is the conscious, rational, everyday basis of our reality.
"The right side of your brain, the doctor tells her, is the center of your intuition, emotion, insight, and pattern recognition skills. Your subconscious.
"He says people live their lives out of the left half of their brain. It's only when someone is in extreme pain, or upset or sick, that their subconscious can slip into their conscious. When someone's injured or sick or mourning or depressed, the right brain can take over for a flash, just an instant, and give them access to divine inspiration.
"According to the German philosopher Carl Jung, this lets us connect to a universal body of knowledge. The wisdom of all people over all time.
"Frida Kahlo and her bleeding sores. All great artists are invalids.
"According to Plato, we don't learn anything. Our soul has lived so many lives that we know everything. Teachers and education can only remind us of what we already know.
"Our misery. This suppression of our rational mind is the source of inspiration. The muse. Our guardian angel. Suffering takes us out of our rational self-control and lets the divine channel through us.
" 'Enough of any stress', the doctor says, 'good or bad, love or pain, can cripple our reason and bring us ideas and talents we can achieve in no other way.' "