The first time I head Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s story, I was so fascinated. It was the middle of the night and I came across her giving a presentation in the middle of my sleepless night. Despite hitting the record button on TiVo, I couldn’t bring myself to turn off the television. I sat there for over an hour just watching in amazement. It was close to 4am and my mind was spinning. Many years later, I sat with the same excitement as Oprah hosted her on “Super Soul Sunday”.
If you haven’t heard her story, you should! As a Harvard trained brain scientist, Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor was fascinated with the brain. On December 10, 1996, at the young age of 37, a blood vessel exploded in the left side of her brain. Over a 4 hour period, she found herself exploring an area of science she had never dreamed of….her own personal hemorrhagic stroke of the left side of her brain. The incredible detail of the symptoms leading up to her stroke all the way to the complete deterioration where she was left unable to speak, walk, read, write or recall anything from her past. As her left brain started malfunctioning, she found a clear distinction between her left and right side of the brain. The left was all about being rational, grounded and time oriented….whereas the right side offered an opposite reality – one of nirvana and a complete sense of well-being and inner peace. She luckily was able to get help and after 8 hard years of recovery with the help of her mother, she recovered and went on to tell her story. Her inspirational recovery and journey has given us all a better understanding of the brain’s capacity to recover as well as the knowledge that we have the ability to step into our right brain and change the way we think. “Peace is only a thought away,” she shares.
My favorite part of her story is about energy. By now many of us have heard Oprah repeat her favorite Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor quote… “Please be responsible for the energy you bring into this room.” I have tried to make this a mantra in my life. Energy, especially negative, can spread like wildfire. Whether it is negative politics or crappy day spirit…it does nothing but add darkness to our world. I am not pure of thoughts, but I do try to minimize the spillage. It is one of the worst forms of pollution….spiritual pollution. Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor shared how she could sense and feel the energy of people as they came into her room. There two main types of people….those who give energy and those who take. With only so much to give, it is important to not surround yourself with only takers. Now, I know people who accept this belief, but are also major takers of their own. It is important to find the balance. When you need help, be open to accepting it…but in turn, be open to helping others.
The other piece I found interesting was when she spoke of the peanut in our brain. When she was recovering, she found that when she didn’t like the way something made her feel, she choose not to run the circuitry in her brain to create the new baggage. It’s all about circuitry. “You have to remember that your brain is just a bunch of cells and I look at the cells as a bunch of little children. And some little children I want to play with and there are other little children who I don’t really like what they do and I’m going to say no…I don’t want to go there.” She then went on to explain that your thoughts are controlled by a group of cells that are around the size of peanut that are designed to tell stories and make us feel safe in the world. “You are not your thoughts. So pay attention to what you’re thinking and then decide if those are thoughts that are creating the kind of life that you want created and if it’s not, then change your thoughts. It’s really that easy.” So, we have the ability to say no to the peanut. Then she went on to share that anger is a rush of feeling that lasts only about 90 seconds. Wait and it will pass. Those who hold onto anger are simply rethinking the same thoughts that rerun the loop. It is a choice and how we feel is up to us alone. Amazing and empowering!
Her story is truly incredible and I advise anyone to stop and listen when you see her. She has completely changed the way I look at my brain, my thoughts and my reactions to others. More great news…her book, “My Stroke of Insight,” is being made into a movie. It is being directed by Ron Howard and starring Jodie Foster. I can’t wait!