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Perhaps you’ve had this experience: You see a book on a friend’s bedstand. Even though there is big stack (just like your bedstand at home), that one book jumps out at you. Then a week later someone mentions that same book to you, out of the blue and with no prompting. Another few weeks pass and there it is again, featured in a posting by one of your favorite bloggers.
On about three encounters like these I finally just say, OK! I get the message.
I’ve had that experience many times, and here’s my latest encounter with book destiny: My Stroke of Insight, by Jill Bolte Taylor. In this case it wasn’t a series of subtle nudges from the universe’s invisible book recommender but a friend who emphatically placed it in my lap and said with no uncertainty, READ THIS NOW.
Which I did. Gratefully. Now I’m doing the same to many of my friends.
Most people have heard about Taylor. She’s done the TV thing (getting Oprahed is a media measure of a certain kind) and her TED talk has been viewed by millions. But here’s my brief pitch about why it is important to read the book: Taylor had a stroke in which her left hemisphere was virtually shut down for a period of time. As a result of that stroke and her reliance on just the right side of her brain, she now has first hand knowledge about the nature of our various forms of consciousness.
What she writes about is akin to the mystical writings of a spiritual teacher. But she is no spiritual guru. She’s a scientist. Her account is straight talk about mystical things. Speaking without a spiritual mantle (and the hidden problems that can accompany that particular raiment which are suggestive of the disease-infected blankets given to Indians), Taylor candidly discusses what it means to be at peace. Her manner is straightforward, unadorned and accessible. I have a hard time imagining what kind of person wouldn’t relate to this unpretentious and revelatory account.
Here are a few passages from the book:
My entire self-concept shifted as I no longer perceived my self as a single, a solid, an entity with boundaries that separated me from the entities around me. I understood that at the most elementary level, I am a fluid. Of course I am a fluid! Everything around us, about us, among us, within us, and between us is made up of atoms and molecules vibrating in space. Although the ego center of our language center prefers defining our self as individual and solid, most of us are aware that we are made up of trillions of cells, gallons of water, and ultimately everything about us exists in a constant and dynamic state of activity. My left hemisphere had been trained to perceive myself as a solid, separate from others. Now, released from that restrictive circuitry, my right hemisphere relished in its attachment to the eternal flow. I was no longer isolated and alone. My soul was as big as the universe and frolicked with glee in a boundless sea.
For many of us, thinking about ourselves as fluid, or with souls as big as the universe, connected to the energy flow of all that is, slips us out just beyond our comfort zone. But without the judgment of my left brain saying that I am a solid, my perception of myself returned to this natural state of fluidity.
Prior to this morning, when I had experienced myself as a solid, I had possessed the ability to experience loss – either physical loss via death or injury, or emotional loss through heartache. But in this shifted perception, it was impossible for me to perceive either physical or emotional loss because I was not capable of experiencing separation or individuality. Despite my neurological trauma, an unforgettable sense of peace pervaded my entire being and I felt calm.
Honestly, there were certain aspects of my new existence that I preferred over the way I had been before. I was not willing to compromise my new insights in the name of recovery. I liked knowing I was a fluid. I loved knowing my spirit was at one with the universe and in the flow with everything around me. I found it fascinating to be so tuned in to energy dynamics and body language. But most of all, I loved the feeling of deep inner peace that flooded the core of my very being.
I realized that the blessing I had received from this experience was the knowledge that deep internal peace is accessible to anyone at any time. I believe the experience of Nirvana exists in the consciousness of our right hemisphere, and that at any moment we can choose to hook into that part of our brain.
My stroke of insight would be: Peace is only a thought away, and all we have to do to access it is silence the voice of our dominating left mind.