My Stroke of Insight is her account of what happened that day, her subsequent 8-year recovery, and how these events changed her life for the better. The most interesting part of the book for me was Bolte Taylors discussion of what happened to her on that morning in With her scientific background, Bolte Taylor was in a unique position to observe the Jill Bolte Tayor was a year old neuroanatomist when she experienced a massive stroke that severely damaged the left hemisphere of her brain. With her scientific background, Bolte Taylor was in a unique position to observe the progressive breakdown of her own functioning as the blood from her burst AVM spread throughout her brain. As new areas were affected, different functions were lost, and reading about her experience is a strange kind of real-world brain anatomy lesson. She realized early on that the attitude and pacing of her caregivers made a big difference in how willing and able she was to respond, and she speaks in detail about what she, personally, found was most effective in helping her heal.
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And as a sister and later, as a scientist, I wanted to understand, why is it that I can take my dreams, I can connect them to my reality, and I can make my dreams come true? So I dedicated my career to research into the severe mental illnesses.
Francine Benes, in the Harvard Department of Psychiatry. And in the lab, we were asking the question, "What are the biological differences between the brains of individuals who would be diagnosed as normal control, as compared with the brains of individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia, schizoaffective or bipolar disorder? So there was a lot of meaning in my life because I was performing this type of research during the day, but then in the evenings and on the weekends, I traveled as an advocate for NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
But on the morning of December 10, , I woke up to discover that I had a brain disorder of my own. A blood vessel exploded in the left half of my brain.
And in the course of four hours, I watched my brain completely deteriorate in its ability to process all information. On the morning of the hemorrhage, I could not walk, talk, read, write or recall any of my life. And I have brought for you a real human brain. Groaning, laughter So this is a real human brain. This is the front of the brain, the back of brain with the spinal cord hanging down, and this is how it would be positioned inside of my head. For those of you who understand computers, our right hemisphere functions like a parallel processor, while our left hemisphere functions like a serial processor.
The two hemispheres do communicate with one another through the corpus callosum, which is made up of some million axonal fibers. But other than that, the two hemispheres are completely separate. Because they process information differently, each of our hemispheres think about different things, they care about different things, and, dare I say, they have very different personalities.
Excuse me. Thank you. Assistant: It has been. Laughter Our right human hemisphere is all about this present moment. Information, in the form of energy, streams in simultaneously through all of our sensory systems and then it explodes into this enormous collage of what this present moment looks like, what this present moment smells like and tastes like, what it feels like and what it sounds like.
I am an energy-being connected to the energy all around me through the consciousness of my right hemisphere. We are energy-beings connected to one another through the consciousness of our right hemispheres as one human family. And right here, right now, we are brothers and sisters on this planet, here to make the world a better place.
And in this moment we are perfect, we are whole and we are beautiful. My left hemisphere, our left hemisphere, is a very different place.
Our left hemisphere thinks linearly and methodically. Our left hemisphere is designed to take that enormous collage of the present moment and start picking out details, and more details about those details. And our left hemisphere thinks in language. I need them in the morning. I become a single solid individual, separate from the energy flow around me and separate from you.
And this was the portion of my brain that I lost on the morning of my stroke. On the morning of the stroke, I woke up to a pounding pain behind my left eye.
And it was the kind of caustic pain that you get when you bite into ice cream. And it just gripped me — and then it released me. And then it just gripped me — and then it released me.
And it was all very peculiar, and my headache was just getting worse. And every step is very rigid and very deliberate. I heard a little voice saying, "OK. You muscles, you relax.
And I look down at my arm and I realize that I can no longer define the boundaries of my body. And all I could detect was this energy — energy. What is going on? Just like someone took a remote control and pushed the mute button. Total silence. And at first I was shocked to find myself inside of a silent mind. But then I was immediately captivated by the magnificence of the energy around me.
And because I could no longer identify the boundaries of my body, I felt enormous and expansive. I felt at one with all the energy that was, and it was beautiful there. Then all of a sudden my left hemisphere comes back online and it says to me, "Hey! But it was beautiful there. Imagine what it would be like to be totally disconnected from your brain chatter that connects you to the external world.
So here I am in this space, and my job, and any stress related to my job — it was gone. And I felt lighter in my body. And imagine all of the relationships in the external world and any stressors related to any of those — they were gone. And I felt this sense of peacefulness. And imagine what it would feel like to lose 37 years of emotional baggage! Laughter Oh! I felt euphoria — euphoria. It was beautiful. And again, my left hemisphere comes online and it says, "Hey! Can I drive?
Then I realized, "Oh my gosh! This is so cool! Laughter This is so cool! How many brain scientists have the opportunity to study their own brain from the inside out? So I go into my business room, I pull out a three-inch stack of business cards. And then I would wait for what I call a wave of clarity. It took me 45 minutes to get one inch down inside of that stack of cards.
In the meantime, for 45 minutes, the hemorrhage is getting bigger in my left hemisphere. So I take the phone pad and I put it right here. I need help! So he recognizes that I need help and he gets me help. And a little while later, I am riding in an ambulance from one hospital across Boston to [Massachusetts] General Hospital. And I curl up into a little fetal ball. And just like a balloon with the last bit of air, just right out of the balloon, I just felt my energy lift and just I felt my spirit surrender.
And in that moment, I knew that I was no longer the choreographer of my life. And either the doctors rescue my body and give me a second chance at life, or this was perhaps my moment of transition. When I woke later that afternoon, I was shocked to discover that I was still alive.
When I felt my spirit surrender, I said goodbye to my life. And my mind was now suspended between two very opposite planes of reality. Stimulation coming in through my sensory systems felt like pure pain. Light burned my brain like wildfire, and sounds were so loud and chaotic that I could not pick a voice out from the background noise, and I just wanted to escape. Because I could not identify the position of my body in space, I felt enormous and expansive, like a genie just liberated from her bottle.
And my spirit soared free, like a great whale gliding through the sea of silent euphoria. I found Nirvana. And that they could purposely choose to step to the right of their left hemispheres — and find this peace. And then I realized what a tremendous gift this experience could be, what a stroke of insight this could be to how we live our lives. And it motivated me to recover.
Two and a half weeks after the hemorrhage, the surgeons went in, and they removed a blood clot the size of a golf ball that was pushing on my language centers.
Here I am with my mama, who is a true angel in my life. It took me eight years to completely recover. So who are we? We are the life-force power of the universe, with manual dexterity and two cognitive minds. And we have the power to choose, moment by moment, who and how we want to be in the world.
Right here, right now, I can step into the consciousness of my right hemisphere, where we are. I am the life-force power of the universe. I am the life-force power of the 50 trillion beautiful molecular geniuses that make up my form, at one with all that is.
Or, I can choose to step into the consciousness of my left hemisphere, where I become a single individual, a solid.
My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey
About Us Welcome to the My Stroke of Insight website, an interactive place to read inspiring stories and share techniques on how to create deep inner peace. This website, created by Dr. Jill, is intended to be a resource for you as you find your way to discovering your own insights. Jill with Oprah, April Learn about stroke through the Resources page, where you can read and memorize Dr.
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