By Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, New York Times bestselling author of My Stroke of Insight
My story is ironic and really quite profound. I was a brain scientist at Harvard, teaching and performing research when a blood vessel exploded in the left hemisphere of my brain. Over the course of four hours, I watched my brain completely deteriorate in its ability to process all information. On the morning of the stroke, arterio-venous malformation (AVM), I could not walk, talk, read, write or recall any of my life. I became an infant in a woman’s body.
On the morning of the stroke, the cells in my left hemisphere became completely nonfunctional as they were swimming in a pool of blood. When my language centers went off-line, I could no longer create language with my vocal cords or understand language when others spoke to me. In the absence of language, I shifted away from my normal perception of reality. With my brain no longer communicating with me through my normal brain chatter, I shifted away from having any understanding of the external world. When my brain-chatter became silent, I shifted into the consciousness of my right hemisphere, where I experienced a deep sense of peacefulness and euphoria.
The left and right hemispheres of our brains really do process very different information in very different ways. Our left hemisphere is our ability to process language and communicate with the external world. It breaks the big picture of life into details and thinks linearly, methodically and sequentially. As a result, it is capable of understanding the past as it relates to the present, as it relates to the future. It is exceptionally capable of both judgment and critical analysis. Our right hemisphere, on the other hand, is all about the present moment and it embraces the big picture of the context of our lives. Our right hemisphere is a right here right now experience that celebrates the essence of our existence. It thinks in pictures and is the source of our gratitude, appreciation of the present moment and experience of deep inner peace.