Dr Jill Bolte Taylor - How A Stroke Brought Mental Clarity
Updated: Mar 14
This blog post is a summary of Dr Jill Bolte Taylor's Ted Talk on her stroke which is posted directly below. We focus on her realisations during both the stroke and the subsequent arduous recovery.
What if the moment you lost everything, you realised everything else you had been missing?
Let’s take the example of a brave and resilient Dr. Jilll Bolte Taylor. She is a neuroanatomist, an inspirational speaker, and an author.
At the age of 37, perhaps ironically while studying the human mind, she experienced a severe stroke. As she illustrates so engagingly in the talk, when she had the stroke she was unable to move or communicate.
Somehow, while having a stroke, Taylor was able to experience a more full understanding and functioning of the brain. In the Ted Talk, she discusses the structure of our brain, which is divided into two hemispheres (This is an oversimplification that modern science is moving away from, as of late. However, we believe there is still merit to the idea, and more so the consequential influence it can have on our behaviour.)
She discovered in this moment, that the duty of the left hemisphere was to guide her as an individual, and functioned primarily to look out for her individual needs.
At the time, this manifested as the left portion of her brain encouraging her to solve the current problem. It alarmed her about what was going on, encouraging her to battle against the stroke, and call a coworker for help.
The right hemisphere, on the other hand, seemed elevated at what was a unique, and surely transformative experience… especially for a scholar of the mind. The right brain seemed unnerved by the consequences of a stroke. Instead, the right brain was responsible for what can only be described as a sense of awe that Dr Jill was partially feeling. It was also more concerned with how her momentary experience could be used to help others. It was clear, to her, that the right hemisphere had a strong sense of unity; a sense of connection to fellow life.
Her left hemisphere provided a newfound appreciation for her own safety and well-being, while the right gave her motivation to heal and guide society to a higher state of collective health.
This experience and discovery kept her motivated throughout her 8 year long recovery.
She has said that:
"Unfortunately, as a society, we do not teach our children that they need to tend carefully the garden of their minds.”
The main take away seems to be that in order to unify the world, we should unify our own minds first. Many of us spend our time too deeply in the left hemisphere, thinking “linearly and methodically”. We think only in comprehensible language, internal chatter within our internal world. The left hemisphere is the voice in your mind that individualizes you, and distances your existence from other life, in order to hopefully “protect you”.
However, we are bound by so many responsibilities, goals, and emotions, that we forget to nourish that part of us that belongs to the universe… the right hemisphere.
According to Dr Jill Taylor, if we want to live our lives to the fullest and experience true clarity, we should spend time exploring and unifying our mind.
It seems obvious, but we forget that our brain is responsible for all the most amazing emotional and spiritual experiences.
As she advises, we ought to also give proper rest to our brain. Our sleeping and eating habits must be healthy so that our brain can function fully to keep us safe and happy.
Living a healthy life is a must if you want to experience the unity of life, and everything that it has to offer.
Furthermore, resistance and resilience are key. Even at our worst, we can use our brain to shield us from our conditions, and filter the negativity of our environment.
Of course, we can’t change everything, but it is our reaction to our problems that defines our happiness.
Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor has always been an inspiration throughout her career, and even more so after her recovery. Her professional come back, and the important neurological work she has shared with the world is nothing short of phenomenal.
Charlie Bird Health Network urges you to look more into her, her work, and her guidance to a better life.