Review of awesome My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor

Finished listening to My Stroke of Insight by neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor today. It appeared to be as interesting as I expected, so I’d like to share it with you.

Jill is a Harvard PhD who built a highly successful career in science. Everything went just perfect till the moment when she got a stroke on one of her mornings. As a result, she lost almost all of her cognitive and physical skills, but survived. Moreover, eventually she finally recovered which took more than 8 years. Step be step she learned everything: from speech recognition, to walking and reading.

Jill Bolte Taylor

The Book tells her personal story and gives a basic understanding of our brain. According to author our brain functions can be separated by hemispheres: left and right. Right one lives in a present moment and is responsible for our sensory feelings, intuition, and perception of universe as a whole. Left one in turn is our rational mind, future planning, past evaluation, speech, critical thinking, etc.

After the stroke Jill lost functions of left hemisphere. The most interesting part is that despite the loss of cognitive functions, she describes her experience with sincere rapture. She emotionally tells us about feeling of “deep inner piece and bliss” and expresses ideas that I highly connected with a topic of mindful meditation that kind of follows me last month. BTW, here are two awesome Google Talks about it: first, second. I even decided to listen to book of the latter one, but that’s a separate story.

In My Stroke of Insight Jill talks a lot about right hemisphere with which connects this state of bliss comparing it to nirvana. She highlights how close we are from this state: “only one thought away”. But we often lose it by being immersed in our thoughts and actions or in left hemisphere.

How according to author can healthy people get closer to this state? Among many ideas which she shares you can find very simple things. Such as gratitude for everything that you have and what surrounds you, attention to and development of sensory feelings, meditation, special perception of environment during physical activity, etc.

But the most important thing is attention to one’s own thoughts and feelings, conscious choice of what to focus on and what not to. Jill believes in neuroplasticity, in our ability to train our brain through attention and concentration on aspects that we’re interested in.

To sum up, I really enjoyed the book and made many notes while reading it in my attempt to restore this useful notes-taking habit.

If you’re not sure if this is something you might be interested in, I suggest you to watch Jill’s TED speech. Less than 20 minutes.

Also, you might be interested in reading comments in Mind Hacks blog post about the book.

For more details it’s better to read the book. You know, where you can easily find an audioversion.

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