Jill Bolte Taylor: Does Our Planet Need A Stroke Of Insight? (Updated)

Jill Bolte Taylor: Does Our Planet Need A Stroke Of Insight? (Updated)

Dec 14

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Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor

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Updated December 14, 2013

Added Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s interview with Oprah.

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DOES OUR PLANET NEED A STROKE OF INSIGHT?
By Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor
Huffington Post
January 4, 2012

Original Link

Before 2008, everything I did had something to do with mental health. I’m a neuroscientist, and I was all about understanding how we create our perception of reality, and understanding what’s going on in the brains of people who experience hallucination and delusion.

But then I gave a TEDTalk about my own experience with stroke. Within weeks of delivering that talk in 2008, my life changed and the repercussions still resonate loudly in my world. My book, My Stroke of Insight, has been translated into 30 languages. Time and Oprah’s Soul Series came calling. I’ve traveled to Europe, Asia, South America, Canada; I’ve criss-crossed the states. And in February 2012, I took a trip to Antarctica with Vice President Al Gore, 20 scientists, and 125 global leaders who care deeply about climate.

While I was traveling the globe, I still thought my core issue was mental health. But, perhaps spurred by that trip to Antarctica, I’ve come to understand that the two issues of mental health and global health are closely linked — if not one and the same. Similar processes we use to improve our mental health can help us make better, more responsible decisions as a society — by focusing on the compassion and integrity of our right brain, rather than the judgment, punishment and deception of our left brain.

To use a powerful metaphor, we have two magnificent information-processing machines inside our heads. Our right mind focuses on our similarities, the present moment, inflection of voice, and the bigger picture of how we are all connected. Because it focuses on our similarities, in my mind she is compassionate, expansive, open, and supportive of others. Juxtaposed to that, our left brain thinks linearly, creates and understands language, defines the boundaries of where we begin and where we end, judges what is right and wrong and is a master of details, details and more details about those details. Because it focuses on our differences and specializes in critical judgment of those unlike ourselves, our left brain character tends to be our source of bigotry, prejudice, and fear or hate of the unfamiliar.

What this means is that the mean little voice inside my head, the one that is critical of self or others and judges everyone and everything in a negative way, is a part of my neurocircuitry. The question is, what say do I have in who and how I want to be in the world. Do I have the power to choose being kind over being judgmental? Do we have the power to be open rather than based in our fear? Of course we do, and the better we understand the choices we have been making, either consciously or unconsciously, the more say we will have in the world we create. Neurocircuitry may be neurocircuitry, but we don’t have to run on automatic.

We are an amazing species living in an amazing time. We know more about the human brain and how it works than we ever have before, and for the first time in the history of mankind, we have the ability to consciously direct our own evolution. We know we have the ability to not only experience our biological circuitry, but to observe it, nurture it, and change it. We have the ability to consciously choose who and how we want to be in the world, and we are teaching our children skills about mindfulness, reflection, the value of introversion, vulnerability, and how to respect the environment. At the same time our world has become extremely polarized, not only in our politics, but hate crimes abound; war is ongoing between those who look different, those who believe differently or even those who are different genders. By better understanding what’s going on in our brains, we can better understand all of this behavior and what choices we want to make.

I trust we can create an age where we stop relating to the world skewed through our left-brain values as individuals focused on profit, personal gain, power, prestige, authority, advantage, and the material goods money can buy. Instead, it’s time to shift our approach to the planet and our relationship to it, as we explore the most important question of our time: How do we each, as individuals of a collective whole called humanity, bring our gifts to the table to be a part of the solution?

The reality of global warming is no longer an issue for debate. The real conversation now revolves around this question: How are we going to manage the repercussions of our actions , and do it quickly enough to sustain life as we have known it? Needless to say, this is not the way our society works now, and as a result, the health and well-being of our planet has not only been threatened but compromised.

I am a true believer that the next step in our human evolution is upon us, and we are becoming more balanced in not only how we live inside our own heads but in how we treat our planet. When we live our lives through the intention of our right minds, and use the skill sets of both minds to achieve our goals, we become a whole-brained and more balanced society. Change is never easy, and there will always be those who fall behind. But overall, I am encouraged by where we are, and the direction we are heading.

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Jill Bolte Taylor’s Stroke Of Insight

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k9Phy9C5Ees

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RELATED LINKS:

• Jill Bolte Taylor on Wikipedia
• Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor on Gabrielle Giffords
• Fresh Air Interviews Jill Bolte Taylor (June 25, 2008)
MP3 of Fresh Air Interview

• The Light & The Life Review (pdf handout)

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My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey
By Ph.D., Jill Bolte Taylor

On the morning of December 10, 1996, Jill Bolte Taylor, a thirty-seven-year-old Harvard-trained brain scientist, experienced a massive stroke when a blood vessel exploded in the left side of her brain. A neuroanatomist by profession, she observed her own mind completely deteriorate to the point that she could not walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of her life, all within the space of four brief hours. As the damaged left side of her brain — the rational, grounded, detail- and time-oriented side — swung in and out of function, Taylor alternated between two distinct and opposite realties: the euphoric nirvana 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 Jill was having a stroke, and enabled her to seek help before she was lost completely.

In My Stroke of Insight, Taylor shares her unique perspective on the brain and its capacity for recovery, and the sense of omniscient understanding she gained from this unusual and inspiring voyage out of the abyss of a wounded brain. It would take eight years for Taylor to heal completely. Because of her knowledge of how the brain works, her respect for the cells composing her human form, and most of all an amazing mother, Taylor completely repaired her mind and recalibrated her understanding of the world according to the insights gained from her right brain that morning of December 10th.

Today Taylor is convinced that the stroke was the best thing that could have happened to her. It has taught her that the feeling of nirvana is never more than a mere thought away. By stepping to the right of our left brains, we can all uncover the feelings of well-being and peace that are so often sidelined by our own brain chatter. A fascinating journey into the mechanics of the human mind, My Stroke of Insight is both a valuable recovery guide for anyone touched by a brain injury, and an emotionally stirring testimony that deep internal peace truly is accessible to anyone, at any time.

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1 comment

  1. Clint Summer

    Interesting to see how Ms Bolte Taylor’s views and my own connect. Brings up some questions: Could the left brain be considered the “survival brain,” the one that is most active when there are unmet needs? If so, is it not activated more when there are needs that are and have been chronically unmet? Could this include emotional or relational needs (even unconscious ones)? If so, can we relax the survival mind, which functions to separate and narrow our attention, by creating human environments in which those deeper needs can be met? Are we not, as humans, unique among life forms in our ability to create those environments that best serve us?

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