Thursday, February 18, 2010

Here's something you shouldn't miss!

Early this past December, a member of my family suffered a stroke. In discussing how family members could help with his recovery, my brother reminded me of a book several of us read a year or two ago. Although I remembered reading the book and being impressed, I couldn’t recall the relevant recommendations in any detail, so I quickly got my hands on a copy to refresh my memory. (Actually, I downloaded a copy to my Kindle for a modest price.)

On the morning of December 10, 1996, 37-year-old neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor had a massive stroke. In the hours, days, months and years following the event, Jill's brain and body became her laboratory, a theater where she learned more about human capacities and potentials than any school or classroom had offered to teach her.

In her book My Stroke of Insight, Taylor details her experience. She includes an appendix of 40 specific notes about the things she needed from the people around her in order to recover.

Without question, if you care about someone who has had a stroke, Taylor’s book is a must read.

But the book works on so many levels that – even reading it a second time – I couldn’t stop thinking of all the loved ones, friends and even acquaintances I wanted to share it with.

Whether you face a physical, emotional, mental or spiritual challenge, whether the challenge is yours directly or concerns the recovery or growth of someone you care about, Jill Bolte Taylor’s book offers something you need to know.

For example, Taylor's experiences and her conclusions tell us not to make limiting assumptions about how much a victim can recover or grow. Eight years after her stroke, Taylor was still regaining skills.

Taylor's left-brain stroke introduced her to her right-brain capacity to experience herself as merged and peacefully at one with the universe. As she recovered, she wanted to regain her sense of herself as a separate and whole individual. But she hoped to recover that sense without also regaining her "egotism, intense desire to be argumentative, need to be right, or fear of separation and death..”. (Taylor, My Stroke of Insight, digital edition location 1778-1780.)

She also explains how externally triggered emotions can take control of a person – or, alternatively, how the person can wait out the initial emotional-biochemical rush and gain purposeful control.

Taylor has followed the success of her book with many appearances, U-Tube posts and interviews, further expanding on the book. In the following excerpt from an interview published on-line, she discusses how she now uses what she learned to keep her life more in balance today.

Can you describe that feeling of bliss that your stroke brought on, and how you're able to hook into it now?

I know that I have a choice in how I look at any situation, and I can create tools that help me recognize when something is stimulating my stressful circuitry. I feel my anxiety and my body pumping up, and it doesn't feel good physically. What do I need to do to step to the right of that? For me, it's coming to the present moment by getting back into my body -- going for a walk, changing my visual scene, and thinking about what I'm looking at. Often I'll sing a song, a very soft melody that's slow and simple, because for me it's an issue of escalation.

My anxiety and stress circuitry runs fast and I can feel that, so I'll consciously choose to shift into something slower. And when I consciously shift into a slower thought pattern, there's just this incredible absence of urgency, of stress, of thinking about all the things in my life that give me stress. A deep inner peace pervades me. There's a celebration of life -- a joyfulness. It's a beautiful experience.

from an interview with Jill Bolte Taylor reported at

I've put Jill Bolte Taylor’s book on my shortlist of works I go back to over and over. I hope you will, too.

[Cross-posting with]

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Transition Time

Despite a blue-gray, lazy-feeling Sunday, we went for one last winter walk on the beach --

before returning to family and friends in scenes more like this --