Right Brain Insights from a Stroke

Just finished reading “My Stroke of Insight” by Jill Bole Taylor, a brain scientist who suffered a stroke on the left side of her brain and discovered, painfully, the value of relying on the right side of the brain. It took her 8 years to fully recover her cognizant self, but in the meantime Jill learned to trust her intuitive and present-focussed right brain.

As a person who types N (Intuitive) preference on MBTI, and also who is practicing mindfulness meditation to learn to be more “fully present”, I found this book a fascinating and uplifting account. While I respect and am grateful for my cognitive ability to read and write, I have also felt that our more intuitive intelligence is undervalued in business and social interaction.  Now this book describes how one very smart intellect was bowled over by the impact of having only her right brain to rely on. According to this scientist, the right brain gives you information as a master collage rather than in sequential facts. The other very cool thing is that the right brain sees the big picture and has the ability to be empathic. It also translates non-verbal communication to give us subtle cues. The right brain checks for congruency between the words being said (left brain) and the expression (right brain). Jill picks the word “compassion” for right brain, and also joy.  

Many of us suffer from “monkey mind” or the busyness of a mind always chattering. Jill talks about this brain chatter as being one of the jobs of the left hemisphere language centre. By running a constant loop of information the brain reminds of us who we are and repeats all the details and facts of our life so we can remember them. It is the ego centre. But to the right mind, no time exists but the present moment. Jill recounts that feelings of intense JOY happen in the present moment, thanks to our right brain.

Finally, the book reminded me that the left brain will, in the absence of information, fill in the gaps with make-believe facts and stories – which we then think are true. We rely on thought patterns to sort large volumes of information into hierarchies and patterns. The problem is that this thinking is predictable  and is based on past experience. That’s our clever mind. The right brain will take in all information and give us an immediate inventory about the space we are in and the relationships everything has together. It will think “outside the box” and explore the possibilities in the moment.

How can we access our right brain without having a stroke?

 – use the skills of your motor system, i.e. relax your muscles consciously to release tensio

– use movement like yoga and tai chi, or walking in nature

– sing, create, play music, draw, paint, dance

– play with singing bowls or vibration – try humming

– use your left hand and the left side of your body more

– use a mantra or mandala to interrupt and quiet your brain chatter




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