My brain injury, resulting from a pill popping suicide attempt, has actually been a blessing in disguise. I certainly did not think I would ever say such a thing. While the injury was global, my left side was more damaged than my right because I am physically right dominant and there was much more to damage on the left side of my brain.
Because a lot of my existing connections and pathways were wiped out, I got to start with a clean slate of sorts. I am not advocating this at all, but it has proven to be an amazingly good thing for me. Really.
Jill Bolte Taylor, a brain scientist, experienced a massive hemorrhage on the left side of her brain. In her book My Stroke of Insight, she uniquely and knowledgeably describes the process she experienced as her brain shut down, and she lost the functions of speech, motion, and self awareness.
She tells of living out of her right brain for a while after. She likens the right brain to a parallel processor. It is all about the right here and right now and interpreting our experience of ourselves in the world through the senses. It thinks in pictures and connects us to everything around us through its’ consciousness.
The left brain is a serial processor. It interprets the world linearly and methodically. It is all about the past and the future. It picks out details of present moment and categorizes them and gives them meaning based on associations it makes with past experiences. It thinks in words and defines us as separate entities. It is also responsible for that ongoing brain chatter which, in my case, was incessant and not very nice.
With her left brain quiet, she tells of experiencing a kind of nirvana when she awoke. I also lived in this kind of bliss for months as my left brain functions gradually came fully back on line. For the first time in my life, it was quiet in my head. I was not haunted by the past. It was there, but it was not constantly, drearily encroaching upon the present and the future.
I also was not terrified of the future. To me, it might as well have not even existed and was not a concern. I lived entirely in the present. I liken it to the Mad Magazine guy’s slogan “What me worry?”
I can remember laying on the trampoline (makes a great place for a nap BTW) in the sunshine just watching the puffy, white clouds float by against the backdrop of a brilliant, blue sky and being perfectly content even though I had a pretty serious brain injury and had lost custody of my kids, blah, blah, blah.
Jill Bolte Taylor says this proved to her that anyone can attain this same state and make the choice every moment of every day to exist and operate out of either of the two cognitive minds.
In my own life, it has been a deliberate process to develop and maintain the glimpse of nirvana and to not allow the left brain to bully the right brain and take over. I do this through such practices as meditation, mindfulness, and more. Anyone can also achieve this. Brain injury not required. Heaven or hell? It really is your choice and is all in your brain.
Jill Bolte Taylor: