“Stroke of Insight”

I’ve heard Jill Bolte Taylor, the author of “Stroke of Insight”, on radio interviews and she also has a lecture on TED.com. Recently my agent Farley Chase, who is reading the book, sent me the following passages and I’ve quoted his email below.

Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroscientist suffers a stroke and recovers (and) because of her expertise in neuroanatomy she’s able to write about what it feels like to lose brain function, and understand why it feels the way it does. The stroke happened in her left brain and when it went so did cognition. Earlier in the book she establishes the basics of brain function and the difference between left brain and right brain.

On how the brain works:
“Sensory information streams in through our sensory systems and is immediately processed through our limbic system. By the time the message reaches our cerebral cortex for higher thinking, we have already placed a ‘feeling’ upon how we view that stimulation-is this pain or is this pleasure? Although many of us may think of ourselves as thinking creatures that feel, biologically we are feeling creatures that think.”

As she lay in the hospital she has only access to the right brain (our reptilian/emotional side) and sees herself:

“My entire self-concept shifted as I no longer perceived myself as a single, a solid, an entity with boundaries that separated me from the entities around me. I understood that at the most elementary level I am fluid. Of course I am fluid! … My left hemisphere had been trained to perceive myself as a solid, separate from others. Now, released from that restrictive circuitry, my right hemisphere relished in its attachment to the eternal flow. I was no longer isolated and alone. My soul was as big as the universe and frolicked with glee in a boundless sea.”

She goes on to describe this sensation, of being one with everything, of rejoicing at connections and about energy and how everything gives it off, the vibrations of the particles we’re all made of. Without language, without cognition, “I experienced people as concentrated packages of energy. Doctors and nurses were massive conglomerations of powerful beams of energy that came and went. I felt rushed by an outer world that did not understand how to communicate with me. Because I could not understand or speak language I sat silently on the sideline of life…. With this shift in my right hemisphere, I became empathic to what others felt. Although I could not understand the words they spoke, I could read volumes from their facial expressions and body language. I paid very close attention to how energy dynamics affected me. I realized that some people brought me energy while others took it away.”

She goes on to describe the peace and sense of oneness. “The essence of your energy expands as it blends with the energy around you, and you sense that you are as big as the universe. Those little voices in your head, reminding you of who you are and where you live become silent. You lose memory connection to your old emotional self and the richness of this moment, right here, right now captivates your perception. Everything, include the life force you are, radiates pure energy. With childlike curiosity, your heart soars in peace and your mind explores new ways of swimming in a sea of euphoria. Then ask yourself, how motivated would you be to come back to a highly structured routine?”

{I would add that a feeling is embedded with far more information than just pleasure or pain (degree of resistance, momentum, angle of deflection, etc.) and that there is a non-cognitive apparatus of focusing this energy in the higher processing reaches of the animal mind and hence the importance of the physical/emotional center of gravity, subliminal beam of attention, the two brain makeup and the heart. This is how the animal derives meaning from a feeling and is thus informed how to navigate its way through the world by synchronizing with complex beings of attraction. At any rate, now we know what a dog feels.}

Published November 13, 2010 by Kevin Behan
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2 responses to ““Stroke of Insight””

  1. Christine says:

    Regarding this sentence: “I realized that some people brought me energy while others took it away.” In my life I have felt this same sensation, intensely; only there have been far too many who have taken energy away from me. I believe this is why I am in my current state and/or situation if dis-ease.
    This article brings with it such clarity into the canine mind and how it works/feels. I had similar sensations as a child; of being as big as the universe, expanding and stretching ever higher into the atmosphere. I became very afraid of the sensation of falling back to earth. I’ve often thought this was related to seizure activity as epilepsy does run in my family and that it was attached to the onset of puberty (as epilepsy sometimes is).
    This is all very interesting stuff!

  2. Heather says:

    Wow. I have always wondered what dogs felt, and if it was the same as we felt.

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