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Who Are We?

"We are the life force power of the universe with manual dexterity and two cognitive minds."

This is part of the answer Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor leaves us with after relating the fascinating and gripping story of her stroke, caused by hemorrhage to the left hemisphere of her brain, and the unexpected spiritual moment she experienced within that stroke: Nirvana.

As a dedicated neuroanatomist whose work involves postmortem studies of human brains, Dr. Taylor was in a rare position to understand and examine what was happening to her when her cognitive facilities began to shut down one morning in 1996. It took her 8 years to fully recover from that stroke and to be able to share what she now calls her "stroke of insight." When she speaks of it at the TED conference in February 2008, she begins by describing the basic functioning of the brain's hemispheres, presenting a fresh human brain for our inspection with discomfiting matter-of-factness*. But as she continues her talk with warmth and humor, her presentation leaves off being an introductory lecture on brain anatomy and takes flight into realms of cognitive and spiritual sensation, her stroke as she lived it, her innermost life. Her telling becomes theatrical; she moves and brings her entire body to help us understand the intensity and power of her experience, and we are moved to take the journey with her. 19 minutes.

For this impassioned talk, Dr. Taylor has been named one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People of 2008. Today, in addition to continuing her brain research, she spends time designing a line of stained-glass brains and traveling the country as the "Singing Scientist," encouraging people to leave their brains to the Harvard Brain Bank for scientific research. She's also written a book, My Stroke of Insight. You can learn about her advocacy, her designs, her singing, her book, and more on her website.


* I couldn't stop wondering what happened to the individual who until just shortly before was using that brain and spinal cord.


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