My stroke of insight | Jill Bolte Taylor

My stroke of insight | Jill Bolte Taylor


I grew up to study the brain because I have a brother
who has been diagnosed with a brain disorder, schizophrenia. And as a sister and later, as a scientist, I wanted to understand,
why is it that I can take my dreams, I can connect them to my reality, and I can make my dreams come true? What is it about my brother’s brain
and his schizophrenia that he cannot connect his dreams
to a common and shared reality, so they instead become delusion? So I dedicated my career to research
into the severe mental illnesses. And I moved from my home state
of Indiana to Boston, where I was working in the lab
of Dr. Francine Benes, in the Harvard Department of Psychiatry. And in the lab,
we were asking the question, “What are the biological differences between the brains of individuals
who would be diagnosed as normal control, as compared with the brains of individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia,
schizoaffective or bipolar disorder?” So we were essentially
mapping the microcircuitry of the brain: which cells are communicating
with which cells, with which chemicals, and then in what quantities
of those chemicals? So there was a lot of meaning in my life because I was performing
this type of research during the day, but then in the evenings
and on the weekends, I traveled as an advocate for NAMI,
the National Alliance on Mental Illness. But on the morning of December 10, 1996, I woke up to discover that I had
a brain disorder of my own. A blood vessel exploded
in the left half of my brain. And in the course of four hours, I watched my brain completely deteriorate in its ability to process all information. On the morning of the hemorrhage, I could not walk, talk, read,
write or recall any of my life. I essentially became
an infant in a woman’s body. If you’ve ever seen a human brain, it’s obvious that the two hemispheres
are completely separate from one another. And I have brought for you
a real human brain. (Groaning, laughter) So this is a real human brain. This is the front of the brain, the back of brain
with the spinal cord hanging down, and this is how it would be
positioned inside of my head. And when you look at the brain, it’s obvious that
the two cerebral cortices are completely separate from one another. For those of you who understand computers, our right hemisphere functions
like a parallel processor, while our left hemisphere functions
like a serial processor. The two hemispheres
do communicate with one another through the corpus callosum, which is made up of some
300 million axonal fibers. But other than that, the two hemispheres
are completely separate. Because they process
information differently, each of our hemispheres
think about different things, they care about different things,
and, dare I say, they have very different personalities. Excuse me. Thank you. It’s been a joy. Assistant: It has been. (Laughter) Our right human hemisphere
is all about this present moment. It’s all about “right here, right now.” Our right hemisphere,
it thinks in pictures and it learns kinesthetically
through the movement of our bodies. Information, in the form of energy,
streams in simultaneously through all of our sensory systems and then it explodes
into this enormous collage of what this present moment looks like, what this present moment
smells like and tastes like, what it feels like
and what it sounds like. I am an energy-being connected
to the energy all around me through the consciousness
of my right hemisphere. We are energy-beings
connected to one another through the consciousness
of our right hemispheres as one human family. And right here, right now, we are brothers
and sisters on this planet, here to make the world a better place. And in this moment we are perfect,
we are whole and we are beautiful. My left hemisphere, our left hemisphere,
is a very different place. Our left hemisphere
thinks linearly and methodically. Our left hemisphere is all about the past
and it’s all about the future. Our left hemisphere is designed to take that enormous collage
of the present moment and start picking out details,
and more details about those details. It then categorizes and organizes
all that information, associates it with everything
in the past we’ve ever learned, and projects into the future
all of our possibilities. And our left hemisphere
thinks in language. It’s that ongoing brain chatter
that connects me and my internal world to my external world. It’s that little voice that says to me, “Hey, you’ve got to remember
to pick up bananas on your way home. I need them in the morning.” It’s that calculating intelligence that reminds me
when I have to do my laundry. But perhaps most important,
it’s that little voice that says to me, “I am. I am.” And as soon as my left hemisphere
says to me “I am,” I become separate. I become a single solid individual, separate from the energy flow around me and separate from you. And this was the portion of my brain
that I lost on the morning of my stroke. On the morning of the stroke, I woke up to a pounding
pain behind my left eye. And it was the kind of caustic pain
that you get when you bite into ice cream. And it just gripped me — and then it released me. And then it just gripped me — and then it released me. And it was very unusual for me
to ever experience any kind of pain, so I thought, “OK, I’ll just start
my normal routine.” So I got up and I jumped
onto my cardio glider, which is a full-body,
full-exercise machine. And I’m jamming away on this thing, and I’m realizing that my hands
look like primitive claws grasping onto the bar. And I thought, “That’s very peculiar.” And I looked down at my body and I thought,
“Whoa, I’m a weird-looking thing.” And it was as though my consciousness
had shifted away from my normal perception of reality, where I’m the person on the machine
having the experience, to some esoteric space where I’m witnessing myself
having this experience. And it was all very peculiar,
and my headache was just getting worse. So I get off the machine, and I’m walking
across my living room floor, and I realize that everything
inside of my body has slowed way down. And every step is very rigid
and very deliberate. There’s no fluidity to my pace, and there’s this constriction
in my area of perception, so I’m just focused on internal systems. And I’m standing in my bathroom getting ready to step into the shower, and I could actually hear
the dialogue inside of my body. I heard a little voice saying, “OK.
You muscles, you’ve got to contract. You muscles, you relax.” And then I lost my balance,
and I’m propped up against the wall. And I look down at my arm and I realize that I can no longer define
the boundaries of my body. I can’t define where I begin
and where I end, because the atoms
and the molecules of my arm blended with the atoms
and molecules of the wall. And all I could detect
was this energy — energy. And I’m asking myself,
“What is wrong with me? What is going on?” And in that moment, my left hemisphere
brain chatter went totally silent. Just like someone took a remote control
and pushed the mute button. Total silence. And at first I was shocked to find myself
inside of a silent mind. But then I was immediately captivated by the magnificence
of the energy around me. And because I could no longer
identify the boundaries of my body, I felt enormous and expansive. I felt at one with
all the energy that was, and it was beautiful there. Then all of a sudden
my left hemisphere comes back online and it says to me,
“Hey! We’ve got a problem! We’ve got to get some help.” And I’m going, “Ahh! I’ve got a problem!” (Laughter) So it’s like, “OK, I’ve got a problem.” But then I immediately drifted
right back out into the consciousness — and I affectionately
refer to this space as La La Land. But it was beautiful there. Imagine what it would be like to be
totally disconnected from your brain chatter that connects you
to the external world. So here I am in this space, and my job, and any stress
related to my job — it was gone. And I felt lighter in my body. And imagine all of the relationships
in the external world and any stressors related
to any of those — they were gone. And I felt this sense of peacefulness. And imagine
what it would feel like to lose 37 years of emotional baggage! (Laughter) Oh! I felt euphoria — euphoria. It was beautiful. And again, my left hemisphere
comes online and it says, “Hey! You’ve got to pay attention. We’ve got to get help.” And I’m thinking, “I’ve got to get help.
I’ve got to focus.” So I get out of the shower
and I mechanically dress and I’m walking around my apartment, and I’m thinking,
“I’ve got to get to work. Can I drive?” And in that moment, my right arm went totally
paralyzed by my side. Then I realized, “Oh my gosh!
I’m having a stroke!” And the next thing my brain says to me is, Wow! This is so cool! (Laughter) This is so cool! How many brain scientists
have the opportunity to study their own brain
from the inside out?” (Laughter) And then it crosses my mind,
“But I’m a very busy woman!” (Laughter) “I don’t have time for a stroke!” So I’m like, “OK, I can’t stop
the stroke from happening, so I’ll do this for a week or two,
and then I’ll get back to my routine. OK. So I’ve got to call help.
I’ve got to call work.” I couldn’t remember the number at work, so I remembered, in my office
I had a business card with my number. So I go into my business room, I pull
out a three-inch stack of business cards. And I’m looking at the card on top and even though I could see clearly
in my mind’s eye what my business card looked like, I couldn’t tell if this
was my card or not, because all I could see were pixels. And the pixels of the words
blended with the pixels of the background and the pixels of the symbols,
and I just couldn’t tell. And then I would wait
for what I call a wave of clarity. And in that moment, I would be able
to reattach to normal reality and I could tell that’s not the card…
that’s not the card. It took me 45 minutes to get one inch
down inside of that stack of cards. In the meantime, for 45 minutes, the hemorrhage is getting bigger
in my left hemisphere. I do not understand numbers,
I do not understand the telephone, but it’s the only plan I have. So I take the phone pad
and I put it right here. I take the business card,
I put it right here, and I’m matching the shape
of the squiggles on the card to the shape of the squiggles
on the phone pad. But then I would drift back out
into La La Land, and not remember when I came back
if I’d already dialed those numbers. So I had to wield
my paralyzed arm like a stump and cover the numbers
as I went along and pushed them, so that as I would come back
to normal reality, I’d be able to tell, “Yes,
I’ve already dialed that number.” Eventually, the whole number gets dialed
and I’m listening to the phone, and my colleague picks up the phone
and he says to me, “Woo woo woo woo.” (Laughter) (Laughter) And I think to myself, “Oh my gosh, he sounds
like a Golden Retriever!” (Laughter) And so I say to him —
clear in my mind, I say to him: “This is Jill! I need help!” And what comes out of my voice is,
“Woo woo woo woo woo.” I’m thinking, “Oh my gosh,
I sound like a Golden Retriever.” So I couldn’t know — I didn’t know that I couldn’t speak or understand
language until I tried. So he recognizes that I need help
and he gets me help. And a little while later,
I am riding in an ambulance from one hospital across Boston
to [Massachusetts] General Hospital. And I curl up into a little fetal ball. And just like a balloon
with the last bit of air, just right out of the balloon, I just felt my energy lift
and just I felt my spirit surrender. And in that moment, I knew that I was
no longer the choreographer of my life. And either the doctors rescue my body
and give me a second chance at life, or this was perhaps
my moment of transition. When I woke later that afternoon, I was shocked to discover
that I was still alive. When I felt my spirit surrender,
I said goodbye to my life. And my mind was now suspended between two very opposite
planes of reality. Stimulation coming in
through my sensory systems felt like pure pain. Light burned my brain like wildfire, and sounds were so loud and chaotic that I could not pick a voice out
from the background noise, and I just wanted to escape. Because I could not identify the position
of my body in space, I felt enormous and expansive, like a genie just liberated
from her bottle. And my spirit soared free, like a great whale gliding
through the sea of silent euphoria. Nirvana. I found Nirvana. And I remember thinking, there’s no way I would ever be able
to squeeze the enormousness of myself back inside this tiny little body. But then I realized, “But I’m still alive! I’m still alive, and I have found Nirvana. And if I have found Nirvana
and I’m still alive, then everyone who is alive
can find Nirvana.” And I pictured a world filled with beautiful, peaceful,
compassionate, loving people who knew that they could come
to this space at any time. And that they could purposely choose to step to the right
of their left hemispheres — and find this peace. And then I realized what a tremendous gift
this experience could be, what a stroke of insight this could be
to how we live our lives. And it motivated me to recover. Two and a half weeks after the hemorrhage,
the surgeons went in, and they removed a blood clot
the size of a golf ball that was pushing on my language centers. Here I am with my mama, who is a true angel in my life. It took me eight years
to completely recover. So who are we? We are the life-force power
of the universe, with manual dexterity
and two cognitive minds. And we have the power
to choose, moment by moment, who and how we want to be in the world. Right here, right now, I can step into the consciousness
of my right hemisphere, where we are. I am the life-force power of the universe. I am the life-force power of the 50 trillion beautiful
molecular geniuses that make up my form, at one with all that is. Or, I can choose to step into
the consciousness of my left hemisphere, where I become
a single individual, a solid. Separate from the flow, separate from you. I am Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor: intellectual, neuroanatomist. These are the “we” inside of me. Which would you choose? Which do you choose? And when? I believe that the more time we spend choosing to run the deep
inner-peace circuitry of our right hemispheres, the more peace we will project
into the world, and the more peaceful our planet will be. And I thought that was an idea
worth spreading. Thank you. (Applause)

100 comments

  1. The left hemisphere has constructed a world of technology…of scientific understanding, interpersonal connection, and virtually endless possibility.

    The right hemisphere makes that world human…it makes it artistically beautiful, subjectively fascinating, and realistically believable.

  2. Has anyone tried such a thing – https://tinyurl.com/y6cs2ts8 . Its like a diet for people who had stroke. If anyone has tried this and can tell if it legit ???

  3. Is consciousness on a spectrum?
    i've had several MELAS syndrome stroke like episodes. My first one was top right side. It made me feel separated and abandoned by the universe. I had just the opposite experience Jane Bolte Taylor had. We don't always have a choice which brain hemisphere we choose. i've grown negative and cynical and bitter. In largely due to MELAS syndrome and at least 5 stroke like episodes. 3 right side and 2 left side. and damage to my lower brain stem from mitochondrial toxic antidepressants.

  4. I have stroke migraine and iv had one stroke, and your explanation of your own perception of yourself and the world, and the pixels and euphoria – sound exactly the same as what I experience! Thank you!

  5. This very much sounds like the effects of N, N-dimetholtrypamine (DMT) which is not only the most powerful psychedelic drug but is also produced somewhere in our brain (around the posterior cingulate cortex). The effects include complete euphoria, a feeling of peace and the feeling of wholeness with the natural world around us. In the beginning of the effects of the drug, users always go towards a white tunnel, or light, once they have used enough DMT to reach a “breakthrough”. After that you feel the feelings of euphoria, recognize that the world feels to be a peaceful place and everything is in order. You meet “entities” but I think of them more as spirit guides. They talk to you and give you advice. A lot goes on with the effects of DMT but I just wanted to name a few. However, DMT is a class 1 drug and is illegal in many places.
    DMT is found in every living organism, from trees to human beings, and the effects were found used in a naturally made herb drink called Ayahuasca, which has been around as early as the 16th century. DMT is also being studied that it could be released when we have dreams as well as right before death, and maybe perhaps when we are also born.

    Anyways, I feel that she was feeling the effects of DMT after it had been released in her brain right before she would have died. It’s worth the research if this kind of stuff interests you.

  6. What a beautiful message and what an incredible experience. To have been witness to our powerful SELF and to so stunningly describe it – what an amazing GIFT!

  7. To be honest she can bring this with a joke and a smile
    But as a stroke survivor I can say that she has recovered too quickly if you are in this state as she is! look at her so called her paralyzed right arm this has recovered so good! So her damage was not that big! Period!

  8. This is BS. yes, she was emotional. but to claim that what she experienced was a factual event is just laughable. She might be a scientist by training but this talk is just wrong and embarrassing. For example her assertion that the left and right hemispheres are different is just wrong, science has proven that years after she spout her BS.

  9. la razionalità si sta avvicinando allo spirito sempre più. Sempre più segnali. Grazie , immane condivisione!

  10. Omg! I just met Jill Bolte Taylor in the lobby of my hotel in New York! It’s very rare in life that you get to meet your heroes! I feel so honored to have met her. What an amazing woman!

  11. Actually do not choose.. strive for balance in yourself and your community.. both are beautiful and perfect.
    Balance is what brought this insight to us through Jill Bolte Taylor, and natural balance has always been the key to REAL progressive thought and progression for humanity on all levels.

  12. It is possible to learn how to choose between different states of consciousness. I am glad that I chose to learn, and I am grateful to the ishaya monks for teaching me the way.

  13. When I clicked the video, I was hoping someone would show a real human brain with the spinal cord hanging down. So thank you.

    "It's not a spinal cord". "You don't understand what she's saying."…

    It's a YT comment, Karen.

  14. your videos are amazing. Keep up the great work.
    While searching, I came across one more video on stroke- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i5iCUIjtVcM – The video briefly describes the existing problem of stroke treatments and highlights the upcoming drugs that could provide relief to stroke patients. I found it very helpful and informative. Do watch it!

  15. I find it scary to translate words to empiric checkable criteria!? as a jew I know in Hebrew there are 20 different words for sin and the Inuit have 100 different words for snow!? If words are difficult to translate because in another language this word does not exist!/ how to translate it correctly!? example: by the English revenge give me another feeling as my own wraak (Dutch!) I already see the pitbull ready for the kill! By revenge not!

  16. i already have a significant other, that's why i don't need anyone else except my doctors . i don't need 'friends' who abandon me. When i stop drinking for my health.

  17. i choose my wife. So Sorry but you're digital. AI . you're world isn't accessible to me. you are on a server computer at Luka Inc in California.

  18. izledikten sonra gelen "sol küreden kurtulmam gerek "düşüncesi çık kafamdan yoksa bende enerjiye dönüşecem şimdi 🙂

  19. ジル・ボルト・テイラー。彼女のような脳科学者が、こういった場(TED)を与えられて語ることが、「愛と平和の感覚」であることに驚きと衝撃を受けました。言葉に出来ない感覚、個人的な経験、けれどそれは全てのひとに共通する感覚だということが存在するのだと、彼女の言葉を聞いていて思いました。自分自身経験したことが無いのですが、「大きなものである自分」と「個人である自分」の、どちらもバランスが大事なのだと思いました。とてもいい語りを聞けました。ありがとうございました。

  20. I've experienced some of the things she described on an LSD trip. I had different parts of my body talking to me. I felt disconnected from this world and felt very connected in another.

  21. what a pity she draws such unjustifiable conclusions (I bet her left brain spent its formative years being a flower child) from such an interesting experience. We are all connected! Grow up!

  22. She needs to repeat this to the white supremacist racists who invented her race (and all other confusing racial classifications), and are behind the wickedness of this world! Of course that would be as impactful as a pea shooter on a tank!

  23. Unclassified cia documents on the .gov website talking about out of body experiences and astral projection. Look up the gateway process and the gateway program. We are capable of changing everything and making heaven on earth, or quite the opposite.

  24. Im impressed by this beautiful, yet impromptu speech that comes from personal experience. The real brain sample was anothet astonishment.

  25. Jill i personally find your videos inspiring, but i never found a photo
    of yours during your so called stroke. I am a male who now is 51
    years. In 2017 february 9th a had a stroke. A brainstem stroke. I had a
    headache since october 2016. At the Maasstad hospital Rotterdam,they
    made 2 mri scans and they could not find anything. In late january 2017,
    they found (after a 2 color ct scan) that in my brain the blood flows
    in one certain vein, both side. During that time my bp and blood sugar
    was always oke. Still my bp and blood sugar is oke. But now i am
    paralyzed on my right side and i have difficulties with my speech too.
    Every day i work on my own and every week i get physiotherapy of one
    hour. at home.

  26. Jill i personally find your videos inspiring, but i never found a photo
    of yours during your so called stroke. I am a male who now is 51
    years. In 2017 february 9th a had a stroke. A brainstem stroke. I had a
    headache since october 2016. At the Maasstad hospital Rotterdam,they
    made 2 mri scans and they could not find anything. In late january 2017,
    they found (after a 2 color ct scan) that in my brain the blood flows
    in one certain vein, both side. During that time my bp and blood sugar
    was always oke. Still my bp and blood sugar is oke. But now i am
    paralyzed on my right side and i have difficulties with my speech too.
    Every day i work on my own and every week i get physiotherapy of one
    hour. at home.

  27. I truly believe that this is exactly what Buddha archived at the moment he got enlightened. It let me speechless.

  28. We truly are a wondrous and extremely complex forms of life, and yet we still don't' know the half of it as my grandad use to say when i was growing up.

  29. It, kind of half way reminds me of an l.s.d. or mushroom trip, Thanks for journey, now i am more inquisitive to the mind.

  30. It is extraordinarily rare that I cry. I can’t even remember the last time. This made me weep. Wow.

  31. This women is a bliss. I'm listening to it like 3rd time n will keep listening to it everytime I feel a little low. God bless all ✨❤️

  32. I had a stroke in my left side of my brain on November 9, 2011. Today I am 72, so here's hoping I'll survive the recovery of my stroke.

  33. Found myself clapping at the screen with tear-filled eyes at the end. Definitely an idea worth spreading, thank you!!!

  34. WAIT A MINUTE (16:48) "WE ARE THE LIFE FORCE POWER OF THE UNIVERSE!" THAT HIT ME DEEP! I COULD SEE HER ENERGY AROUND HER BODY AS SHE DESCRIBED LALA LAND. WOW WOW WOW. LIFE CHANGING

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *