Posted in Book review, Reflection

A Stroke of Insight

CoverIn the stillness of the morning the soul eases itself back from the silent world of dreams and begins to allow the programmes of the left brain begin to shape and plan the events of the day.
It is a quiet and safe place my right hemisphere world of creative unitary energy. I do not need lines, fences, channels in that place. I wander freely and lightly skipping from one image to the next. The soul speaks a softer dialect to the consciousness when I walk there. It truly is the green pasture where my soul is restored.
Reading “My Stroke of Insight” by Jill Bolte Taylor PhD has given me an anatomical framework for understanding some of the experiences of contemplation and meditation that come to me on the spiritual path. A neuro-anatomist or as she calls herself, a brain scientist, Bolte Taylor came to the field as a deep response to growing up with a schizophrenic brother. She describes how she could never understand how her brother and her could have exactly the same contextual experience and yet interpret the experience is such different ways. She wanted to study brains to see where the differences came from.
It was whilst pursuing this path, that in her late thirties she woke up one morning and whilst preparing to go to work realised that she was having a stroke. Despite the suffering of bleeding into the left hemisphere of her brain, there was also the fascination of the scientist who realised that she would be living what she had been studying all these years.
To me what is most helpful in the book is the experience Jill has as her left brain shuts down. The left brain is the where all the logical processors and interpreters live. Speech, sight, hearing, and even body boundaries are the result of the raw data having been processed on the left of the brain and then transmitted to consciousness. As this part of her brain shut down Bolte Taylor experienced the un-audited activity of the right brain. She says, “In the absence of my left hemisphere’s analytical judgement, I was completely entranced by the feelings of tranquility, safety, blessedness, euphoria and omniscience.” (pg49). She was also aware of a deep desire not to fight to return to logic and reason, but wanted many times to simply yield to the “enfolding sense of liberation and transformation”
She didn’t and fought back. The book is an amazing revelation of the intricacies of the brain, the power of creative care-giving largely by her mother “GG” as well as the plasticity of the brain in its ability to re-learn new ways of functioning.
My Stroke of Insight is filled with very helpful insights and lessons for those who care for stroke victims and the exploding of many of the stroke myths, like “you only have a few months to regain functions and then the residual damage will remain”. For me, however, the interface with the spiritual disciplines of contemplation and meditation, as well as the deep brain psychology of these disciplines is the books major attraction.
What was Jill Bolte Taylor’s Stroke of Insight? I am not taking anything from your own reading of the book as it has much more to say than just this, but the Insight was, “peace is only a thought away, and all we have to do to access it is silence the voice of our dominating left mind”
I highly recommend this book.
It has left me with a deep desire, “May I nurture and cultivate my silent right brain so that it may to be bullied by my logical left”

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Fascinated by words, sounds, and scenes. Intrigued by people and their states of mind. I am a Pastoral Counsellor, Conflict Mediator and Newspaper Columnist.