Stroke of Insight: A Window Inside the Brain

"You have this brain that brings you to the present moment, and in this present moment you are experiencing a collage of sensory … You can feel the temperature of the air. You can feet the slight breeze in your hair. You can see the world. You can smell scents about you. There is this magnificent present moment."

The Balanced Brain

But there are also downsides to living only in the present moment.

"The disadvantage of just living in the right hemisphere is as soon as I would turn my back on you, I would have a new present moment and you don't exist for me anymore," she explained. "Imagine what that would be like … we require so much information that we have learned in the past to teach us how to appropriately act with the present moment. So, it takes both. I am an advocate of the balanced brain where you have both."

According to Taylor, the world we live in doesn't emphasize a balance of the left and right sides of the brain.

"We are in a very left hemisphere dominated society," she said. "We reward our children for their left hemisphere skills."

The right hemisphere, she says, is "an experience of deep internal peace that is just phenomenal, and to think that we all have that right there, right there in the consciousness of the right mind. To me that was the insight, it was I can have this experience of nirvana and bliss… And we are all perfect and whole and beautiful simply because we are."

Taylor says anyone can consciously go to that part of the brain, comparing it to how everyone detaches and relaxes while on vacation. "It's an awareness," she said. "First, I think, it's an awareness and then a practice and a discipline."

"You can always take yourself back to that perception. Does that mean you're going to spend you life on vacation? No, because you want to be a productive human being in the world. But it does mean you're sitting in that board meeting and you're bored to death and you're feeling all this stress and you're late for home and your tension is rising and you have that choice to picture I'm going back to bliss."

Taylor says this is easier than meditation, because there is "no destination."

"That doesn't in any way negate the validity of where meditation will take you if you want to go through that kind of a practice and you enjoy that. For me, I just want to go there. I just go there."

'Stroke Survivor'

After her stroke, Taylor says that she was no longer a "normal human being," and the person who had achieved so much professionally disappeared. She says that her values, interests and abilities all shifted.

"I did lose my mind," she said.

"When that language center, when that left hemisphere died, I had no recollection of her life," she explained. "That person and her capacities, she died. And I was real clear that I was no longer that person because I didn't share anything about her other than this form. I was going to look like her, I was going to speak like her, but I didn't have any of her memory… So, it was never my goal to recover. So we grieved her, we mourned her, we let her go. And we celebrated, 'OK, now who am I going to become?'"

Taylor resented the anxiety, anger and pity of those around her at the hospital, and doesn't believe people who have suffered brain injuries should be categorized as damaged.

"I was not a victim. I was a stroke survivor. It's an attitude. It's an attitude of how do we look at people that are different than we are," she said.

Learning to Speak, Return to Research

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