September 17th, 2009

Dr. Jill Taylor's Stroke of Insight

Dad said: "Count to ten before acting when angry."  Not very useful, unless one counts reeeal sloooow.  It takes ninety seconds for the physiological response I interpret as anger to leave my body.  Counting to NINETY might help me be more mellow.

Mother said: "If you can't say something good about a person, don't say anything at all."  Right on! Mom.  That's probably very good advice for someone who wants to be more spiritual.

These are just a couple of the thoughts that come to me (or come out from me -- who knows) as I read Jill Bolte Taylor's, My Stroke of Insight.

This book is useful to me on several levels: its a great, brief, simple introduction to the brain, its two hemispheres, how it works, and its relationship to its body; it is a powerful description o
f what it is like to have a "left brain" stroke (like 80% of all strokes) and recover from it; it provides good advice for health care personnel, caregivers, and friends of stroke victims about what stroke survivors need--one of the things future stroke victims and the mentally ill need is for me to donate my brain (post mortem) to the Harvard Brain Bank); and (most important for me) it is a series of clues about the relationship between mysticism and the functioning of the right hemisphere of the brain(Taylor's "right mind").

I intend to reread the book in its entirety many times, so I hesitate to single out particular chapters as more useful than others.  Almost every one of the book's 20 chapters says something I need to hear about spirituality.  Chaoters 6, 7, and 15 through 19 best reveal her "stroke of insight"  that anybody can experience the deep inner peace and compassion that "comes from"  the right hemisphere--you don't actually have to have a left brain stroke.

Most of her practical ideas are one's I have heard before--affirmations, silence, mantras, awareness of the body, slowing down, relaxing, prayer, music, patience; but it is nice, from a skeptics point of view, to note the physiological basis for these devices.  I am already starting to feel "more comfortable inside my own skin" while realizing that that skin is a pretty arbitrary boundary when used to distinguish "me" from all that is.