The Power Of The Right Brain

Jill Bolte Taylor

Jill Bolte Taylor

In the 18 minute TED video that follows, neuro-anatomist Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor shares her insights into the working of a human brain. These insights are a result of extensive research and her personal experience when she suffered a massive stroke at the age of 37.

The Two Personalities Of Our Brain

Dr. Taylor explains that the brain is divided into two hemispheres, each having distinct personalities. The right hemisphere is concerned with sensory perceptions of the present moment. Since its approach is more intuitive and creative, it offers various possibilities to us in any given situation. Instead of experiencing the world as an entity separate from ourselves (like looking at a garden from the fence), the right brain allows us to immerse ourselves into the world around us and engage with it as a part of the whole. This process of becoming one with the universe translates to an impersonal approach to thought and action. The left hemisphere, on the other hand, thinks methodically and is the seat of rationality. It processes the information from the present in the context of our past and projects it onto the future. The sequence of events from the past, the present and the future, as processed by the left brain, shape the individual’s life story, through which one derives a sense of identity (“I am”).

The Stroke Of Insight

On the morning of the stroke, Dr. Taylor’s left hemisphere was suppressed by a blood clot, forcing her right-brain personality to dominate. She shares how dominant right-brain activity made her awareness shift from within her to outside of her, making her feel expansive and liberated from the confines of her limited physical form like a jinni freed from a lamp. Free from all stresses and emotional baggage of 37 years, which are primarily the result of left-brain activity, she felt peaceful, serene and full of compassion – an experience she describes as ‘Nirvana’.

While both hemispheres are critical for our existence, today we live in a culture that is left-brain dominant. Beyond a certain level, our identity as a unique being different from the universe leads us to attach too much importance to ourselves. This forms the root cause of jealousy, hatred or anger, all of which disrupt our inner peace.

Calling out for the right-brain personality in us, Dr. Taylor urges us to lose our sense of identity when necessary and be one with the flow of the universe. As her narrative of the stroke suggests, when we engage with the flow, we rise above the clutches of the circumstances that we otherwise complain about and are liberated from the conflicts within. The choice is ours to make.

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