My Stroke of Insight

Inga Dellea-MessnerImagine your own personal apocalypse strikes. Your mind, your body – your whole selfbecomes a blank slate.

What would you recreate?

In her mind-altering book, My Stroke of Insight, neuroscientist Jill Taylor discusses this question, forced on her by a severe stroke. She describes both her stroke and her recovery. Yet she makes this journey not a tragedy but an awakening, an opportunity!

My Stroke of Insight

“My Stroke of Insight” by Jill Bolte Taylor is available from the library in hardcover, large print, and downloadable audiobook.

Jill’s stroke compromised the left side of her brain, leaving her with no language, no math, and no sense of self. In basic terms, the left side of your brain makes sense of the input your right brain sends it.

Infancy redux
The left brain is what many would call your “thinking” mind. It houses your ego, self-awareness, and your “brain chatter” (that little voice in your head that never shuts up). And it’s the source of any sort of analytical thought, or memory of who you are. So if your left brain is wiped out, you’re suddenly an infant, experiencing the world for the very first time.

However, because of her stroke Jill also discovered something amazing.

“In the absence of my left hemisphere’s judgement, I was completely entranced by feelings of tranquility, blessedness, euphoria, and omniscience.”

The right side of our brain is what allows us to really experience life. The right mind, according to her, is pure joy, peace, and acceptance. Freed of her left mind, she says,

“my perception of my physical boundaries was no longer limited to where my skin met air. I felt like a genie liberated from its bottle. The energy of my spirit seemed to flow like a great whale gliding through a sea of silent euphoria. Finer than this finest of pleasures we can experience as physical beings, this absence of physical boundary was one of glorious bliss.”

Achieving nirvana
Jill describes the aftermath of the stroke as reaching nirvana. And after nirvana, she was able to choose which aspects of her left mind to “reinstate.” She no longer accepted anger, anxiety, or arbitrary judgment, and she could regain her cognizance without rekindling things that felt bad.

I must admit, her trippy epiphanies were a bit difficult to wrap my head around, but I still learned so much!

A colleague recommended My Stroke of Insight to me when I told her my grandmother had had a stroke, so I was emotionally invested in reading it. However, the most important message I took away (after discovering it had not actually been a stroke that put my grandmother in the hospital) was not mere facts. It was truly a stroke of insight.

This book caused me to stop worrying for one day about money, a mooching roommate, and clothes strewn all over my floor. Instead I relaxed at the beach and caught a movie with my boyfriend.

I bet it would allow you, too, to savor the popcorn!

About Inga Dellea-Messner

Library Assistant Inga Dellea-Messner grew up in Windham and Hudson. She worked at the Rodgers Memorial Library for seven years before becoming a library assistant at the Nashua Public Library. On her way to earning her bachelor’s degree from Keene State, she spent five months studying French in Bretagne (Brittany).

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