Jil Bolte Taylor was a neuroscientist working at Harvard’s brain research center when she experienced a stroke. In 1996, she woke up in her home in Boston with a piercing pain behind her eye. A blood vessel in her brain has popped and in minutes, her left lobe, began to fail her. The left lobe controls ego, analysis and judgment. All of a sudden, her worries and stress about her brother with schizophrenia disappeared and thoughts revolving around her pressurizing job faded away. Oddly, it felt great.
She says her body disconnected from her mind. But while her spirit felt liberated, her body struggled. She had a clot the size of a golf ball in her head, and she lost basic analytical functions like speech, understanding numbers or letters, or even, at the beginning, recognizing her mother. At the age of 36, the Harvard neuroscientist underwent intensive surgery for 8 years to recover.
Her story is unusual. Since her left hemisphere was not fully destroyed, Jil was lucky and she feels like she is a new person. Her message, that people can choose to live more peaceful spiritual lives by sidestepping their left brain, has resonated widely through her book “A Stroke of Insight”.
Through her experience, she has a deeper first-hand understanding of how different the left and right brain hemispheres are and how they have different personalities. Generally, the left brain gives us context and logic and the right gives us creativity and empathy. Recent research though shows that both hemispheres work together to establish an individual’s personality
Dr Jil Bolte Taylor is also famous for new notion of linking mental and global health together. She believes that global and mental health are interlinked – if not one and the same. Similar processes, she proposes, that the things we use to improve our health, can be used to improve global health. By focusing on compassion and integrity of our right brain, rather than judgment, punishment and deception of our left brain, we can help give our planet a ‘stroke of insight’.
- Jill Bolte Taylor (2013). Does our planet need a stroke of insight? The Huffington Post
- Leslie Kaufman (2008). A Superhighway to Bliss. New York Times.