Stroke of Insight

Reading: My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey
by Jill Bolte Taylor. At age 37, neuroanatomomist Taylor had a massive stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain. She lived to tell the tale of two brains.

Here’s a woman — a brain scientist to start with — who experienced the shut-down of her left hemisphere, where our ability to speak and process language resides. She got first-hand experience of what it means to be “right-brained.” She discovered that without the immense information-processing and brain-chatter of her left brain, she was literally in nirvana. Total peace. Total communion with the universe. She might have enjoyed it more if she hadn’t also been panicked about her life going down the crapper. (You can watch her 20-min TED Talk video here>>>)

She reminds us that our brains give us two ways of perceiving and interacting with the world. Being aware of that and keeping a balance is good.

I’m always struggling to hush up my brain chatter — the genie on my shoulder who is constantly worrying, instructing, editing, judging, planning — so I can better enjoy being totally in the moment. But storytelling (what I do) is strictly a left-brain activity. Good to have right-brain Moments. Very good to be able to tell the tale.

My problem is that I get to a point where I’ve totally overworked and overwhelmed my left mind. It becomes a “monkey mind” jumping unproductively from tree to tree. That’s when I need a vacation to right-brain land, to let my left brain reboot.

I think this is why I always have a burst of productivity after a good long vacation. Our travels are visual extravaganzas. We move along in tune with the road. Interesting that during our long trip last October, my creative activity was drawing. And when we got back to Rochester, within a few days, I was not an artist but a novelist. Good ol’ left brain was refreshed and ready to get back in the driver’s seat.

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