Friday, February 11, 2011

My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor

My all-time favourite TED Talk is by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, a brain scientist who tells about her experience undergoing a major stroke and then recovering completely. View the 20-minute clip online here. It has moved me to tears five times already!

Taylor's book is just as powerful as the video. Family and friends of anyone who is recovering from brain injury will appreciate her practical appendix which lists "Forty Things I Needed the Most."

The best part of the book, however, is the way it honours the unique gifts of the right hemisphere of our brains. "To the right mind, no time exists other than the present moment, and each moment is vibrant with sensation. Life or death occurs in the present moment. The experience of joy happens in the present moment. [...] The present moment is a time when everything and everyone are connected together as one. [...] It perceives the big picture, how everything is related and how we all join together to make up the whole. Our ability to be empathic, to walk in the shoes of another and feel their feelings, is a product of our right frontal cortex."

"Thanks to the skills of our right mind, we are capable of remembering isolated moments with uncanny clarity and accuracy." Fortunately for the rest of us, this capability has enabled Taylor to give us an amazingly detailed account of the morning of her stroke. Her long road to recovery started with her determination to regain functioning of the left side of her brain, even though it meant giving up a newly discovered euphoria.

Taylor temporarily lost the ability to discern boundaries to her self. She experienced oneness with the universe, a state of consciousness known to some as nirvana. It took eight years before Taylor's perception of her self shifted from that of fluid energy to that of a solid being, separate from the whole. The entire journey has had a huge impact on her life and she is an inspiration to others.

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