Thursday, January 15, 2009

Stroke of Luck

I was so impressed with this short article in AARP that I reserved the book at my library and ended up writing 6 articles because of it. They've all been posted so many of you have been reading along. The story has been a real inspiration to me in many ways. I hope it might be the same for you if you're just joining us. Knowing how our brain works gives us many advantages to using them wisely in reference what we allow it to think about.

The article from AARP Magazine, Nov/Dec 2008:

By Mark Matousek

In her bestselling memoir, My Stroke of Insight (Viking, 2008), Harvard-trained brain researcher Jill Bolte Taylor, 49, tells of the rare form of stroke she suffered in 1996 that shut down the left hemisphere of her brain (where language, logic, and linear thought are based). For months she was unable to walk, talk, read, write, or recall the events of her life. Remarkably, this shutdown—and silencing of mental chatter—left her in a state of bliss. After eight grueling years of rehab, she regained full brain function yet could still access at will what she describes as a state of complete peace and well-being.

Q: Can a person tap into this bliss without suffering a stroke?
Absolutely! When you’re really paying attention to the richness of the present moment, that’s right-minded awareness. The left hemisphere is preoccupied with past and future, projecting fears, contemplating ideas that aren’t relevant to the here and now. Once you realize you have these two different brains, you can learn to choose, moment by moment, how you want to live. Of course, you do need the push as well as the pause to function properly.

Q: “The push as well as the pause”?
I use the tools of the left hemisphere to push into the world, but as soon as it becomes stressful, I can feel that in my body, and I switch to the right hemisphere to pause. I may prefer the pause because it feels better. I’m more joyful, cooperative. People like me better. As I recovered my skills, I consciously chose not to let that left-brain circuitry dominate again. Stress is a frame of mind. If I’m in traffic and there’s no solution in sight, I relax and enjoy the few moments I have. Standing in line at the store, I observe rather than engage. You can say, “If I pull the plug on this circuit, I don’t have to think [stressful] thoughts anymore.”

Q: How can the rest of us learn to pull the plug?
One way is to use your senses to pay closer attention to your environment. What does the air smell like? What are the sounds, the colors? What’s happening in the distance? Take a walk outside and don’t focus on details. The other great thing is to awaken your body by jiggling your head, your shoulders. I guarantee you’ll feel different after three minutes. You’re pumping the nervous system, encouraging the cerebral spinal fluid to move around. Or try dancing.

Q: How do you spend time these days?
I work on brain-cancer cases, particularly with children who come for proton radiation therapy, at the Midwest Proton Radiotherapy Institute in Bloomington, Indiana. During the spring I teach neuroanatomy at Indiana University School of Medicine. Then there are many keynote speeches at medical conferences.

Q: You haven’t exactly slowed down.
I do have a very busy schedule, but it’s filled with what I love to do. I’m a teacher at heart, helping others get their brain to do what they want it to do. Down the road I want to do educational programming that will teach children how to tend the gardens of their minds from a younger age.

The articles I wrote are these:
Your Amazing Brain
Power To Change Your Mind
Stroke Of Genius On Emotions
Taking Thoughts Captive
Getting Out Of Negative Loops
Fighting The Darkness

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