Sunday, August 10, 2008

Nonfiction Book Review: My Stroke of Insight

book cover
My Stroke of Insight chronicles the personal journey of Jill Bolte Taylor, a Harvard-trained neuroscientist who experienced a rare stroke involving the left hemisphere of her brain at the age of 37. The journey began on the morning of December 10, 1996. Within only four hours, she was left unable to walk, talk, speak, read, write or recall events in her life. Blood filled the left portion of her brain, causing it to swell. The stroke involved a hemorrhage in the middle to posterior portion of the left hemisphere of her brain- the analytical portion, while the intuitive right hemisphere allowed her to miraculously experience peace during this tragic event. The left portion of the brain allowed Jill to recognize that she was having a stroke and finally enabled her to seek the help she desperately needed. Jill required eight years for complete recovery.

Taylor emphasizes that the brain is a marvelous and miraculous structure. The human brain is wired to allow individuals to perceive the world as we do each day. We recognize our place in the universe, think and respond to stimuli, all because of billions of neurons interconnected within a complex neural network. The left hemisphere is responsible for higher level cognitive and analytical thinking. The right hemisphere is more intuitive and is responsible for creating a sensory view of our environment, what things smell, feel and taste like. Both hemispheres of the brain share information and work together to allow us to perceive the world as we do. What a complex and beautiful structure!

As a result of the stroke, Jill Taylor advocates that inner peace comes with quieting daily mind chatter by shifting awareness to the right side of our brain. First, we must realize that we are interconnected with one another- we are all part of the cosmic whole. Interconnection with one another and to the Earth is a beautiful concept and one we should embrace. In addition, focus on the present moment. Think about your breath, the light, temperature and finally relax your body. Silence all outside cognitive thoughts.

Please read this book. You will gain a greater sense of peace as well as learn much about the structure and function of the brain. Taylor’s journey is an inspirational one that should cause us to shift our focus toward the present. We owe our perception of the world to complex neural circuitry. Jill Taylor has said that her “stroke of insight” allowed her to recognize complete inner peace. She has received the gift of seeing the intricacies of the pathways created by billions of neurons, resulting in our unique perception of the world around us. Finally, we learn that complete peace can be achieved by a simple shift of focus.
To learn more about strokes, the brain and Dr. Jill Taylor, please visit the following interactive websites:

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