My Stroke of Insight
A Brain Scientist's Personal JourneyBook - 2006
On December 10, 1996, Jill Bolte Taylor, a thirty-seven- year-old Harvard-trained brain scientist experienced a massive stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain. As she observed her mind deteriorate to the point that she could not walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of her life-all within four hours-Taylor alternated between the euphoria of the intuitive and kinesthetic right brain, in which she felt a sense of complete well-being and peace, and the logical, sequential left brain, which recognized she was having a stroke and enabled her to seek help before she was completely lost. It would take her eight years to fully recover.
For Taylor, her stroke was a blessing and a revelation. It taught her that by "stepping to the right" of our left brains, we can uncover feelings of well-being that are often sidelined by "brain chatter." Reaching wide audiences through her talk at the Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) conference and her appearance on Oprah's online Soul Series , Taylor provides a valuable recovery guide for those touched by brain injury and an inspiring testimony that inner peace is accessible to anyone.
From Library Staff
vpl_goodgifts Dec 20, 2014
On December 10, 1996, Jill Bolte Taylor, a thirty-seven- year-old Harvard-trained brain scientist experienced a massive stroke. With equal parts humour and intellectual curiosity, Taylor shares her recovery process and the insights she learned.
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My soul was as big as the universe and frolicked with glee in a boundless sea. (p. 69)
I was simply a being of light radiating life into the world. (p. 71)
In the absence of my left hemisphere's negative judgment, I perceived myself as perfect, whole, and beautiful just the way I was. (p. 71)
Because everything around us – the air we breathe, even the materials we use to build with – are composed of spinning and vibrating atomic particles, you and I are literally swimming in a turbulent sea of electromagnetic fields.
I felt weak and wounded. My arm felt completely depleted of its intrinsic strength, yet I could wield it like a stub. I wondered if it would ever be normal again. Catching sight of my warm and cradling waterbed, I seemed to be beckoned by it on this cold winter morning in New England. _Oh, I am so tired. I feel so tired. I just want to rest. I just want to lie down and relax for a little while._ But resounding like thunder from deep within my being, a commanding voice spoke clearly to me: _If you lie down now you will never get up!_
I was aghast when I realized it was their plan to cut my head open! Any self-respecting neuroanatomist would _never_ allow anyone to cut their head open!
What a wonderful gift this stroke has been in permitting me to pick and choose who and how I want to be in the world. Before the stroke, I believed I was a product of this brain and that I had minimal say about how I felt or what I thought. Since the hemorrhage, my eyes have been opened to how much choice I actually have about what goes on between my ears.
Many of us spend an inordinate amount of time and energy degrading, insulting, and criticizing ourselves (and others) for having made a “wrong” or “bad” decision. When you berate yourself, have you ever questioned: Who inside of you is doing the yelling, and at whom are you yelling? Have you ever noticed how these negative internal thought patterns have the tendency to generate increased levels of inner hostility and/or raised levels of anxiety? And to complicate matters even more, have you noticed how negative internal dialogue can negatively influence how you treat others and, thus, what you attract?
There has been nothing more empowering than the realization that I don’t have to think thoughts that bring me pain. Of course there is nothing wrong with thinking about things that bring me pain as long as I am aware that I am choosing to engage in that emotional circuitry. At the same time, it is freeing to know that I have the conscious power to stop thinking those thoughts when I am satiated.
When my brain runs loops that feel harshly judgmental, counterproductive, or out of control, I wait ninety seconds for the emotional/physiological response to dissipate and then I speak to my brain as though it is a group of children. I say with sincerity, “I appreciate your ability to think thoughts and feel emotions, but I am really not interested in thinking these thoughts or feeling these emotions anymore. Please stop bringing this stuff up.” Essentially, I am consciously asking my brain to stop hooking into specific thought patterns. Different people do it differently of course. Some folks just use the phrase, ”Cancel! Cancel!” or they exclaim to their brain, “Busy! I’m too busy!” Or they say, “Enough, enough, enough already! Knock it off!”
Intuitively, I don’t question why I am subconsciously attracted to some people and situations, and yet repelled by others. I simply listen to my body and implicitly trust my instincts.
I love knowing that I am simultaneously (depending on which hemisphere you ask) as big as the universe and yet merely a heap of star dust.
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