My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey
Posted by nliakos on July 7, 2010
by Jill Bolte Taylor
My first introduction to Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, brain anatomist, was her extraordinary TED talk from February 2008 by the same name:
In this riveting talk (the first one I ever listened to! Now TED.com is my favorite website), Taylor describes in great detail the devastating cerebral hemorrhage she experienced at the age of 37. She explains how the blood that flooded through the left hemisphere of her brain shut down its function, leaving her with only her right hemisphere, and describes the sense of total peace and connection with everything in the universe she experienced when this happened. At the end of the talk, she claims that she can now voluntarily “go to” this place of peace and interconnection at will.
In the book, Taylor describes the stroke as well, but most of the chapters are devoted to describing her long (eight-year) recovery post-stroke, which she only touches on in the talk. This makes for fascinating reading. She went from almost total incapacitation to almost total recovery (apparently she did not return to her scientific research, but one gets the impression that had she wanted to, she might have been able to do that; instead, she opted to nurture her new “right-brain self” discovered during and after the stroke; she writes and speaks about her experience and also creates art based on the brain). She writes how her mother moved in with her to manage her recovery and how they fought for each tiny bit of progress she made. What a hero her mother is!
Taylor stresses that doctors who warn that any abilities not regained by six months post-stroke will be forever lost are WRONG, citing her own eight-year recovery. This is really important information for everyone to be aware of! If she had stopped trying to improve after six months, the book would never have been written nor the talk given; she would probably be living out her days in a nursing home.
As a friend and I were listening to the audiobook together, she mentioned that it reminded her very much of Eckhart Tolle’s book The Power of Now (summary here). We listened to that as well, and the resemblance is indeed striking. Tolle never refers to the right brain, but his “enlightenment” or “pure consciousness” and Taylor’s blissful right-brain state of inner peace seem to be exactly the same thing. Tolle’s thinker is Taylor’s brain-chatter. Taylor’s book provides a possible physical explanation for Tolle’s concept of spiritual enlightment. It’s very interesting to read the two books together.
My Stroke of Insight Home: http://www.mystrokeofinsight.com/