Occasionally I become aware of an author before I know much, if anything, about the book he or she has written.
This happened recently when a friend recommended that I listen to a 15-minute online Ted.com talk by 37-year-old Harvard neuroscientist, Jill Bolte Taylor, who suffered a stroke and came back from it with a powerful message.
Taylor wrote a New York Times best-selling book, “My Stroke of Insight” (Viking Adult, 2008), in which she shares the details of her ordeal from a unique and personal perspective.
She was a brain scientist who got to observe what was happening to herself from the inside out. But here’s the thing – because of her training, she was able to observe and isolate the differences between the functions of the left brain and right brain. Turns out, it’s pretty crowded in there with very different personalities.
Taylor’s left brain suffered the hemorrhage and became gradually disabled, leading her to live consciously only in her right brain for some time, during which she describes the most peaceful, loving state she has ever experienced. Nirvana, actually. Silent and nonjudgmental.
The left side is where the incessant chatter comes from that interprets our present moment in view of our past experiences and projects the future based on that flawed information.
The right side is only the present self. Pictures, not language. Energy without boundaries. Taylor is really quite poetic about it. Her message is that we can all choose to live more in the right hemisphere of our brain, thereby creating more “Kumbaya” moments in our otherwise damaged and hurried lives of quiet desperation.
It is ironic that at the same time I learned about Taylor, I became aware of a book written by author and spiritual teacher Michael A. Singer, “The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself” (New Harbinger/Noetic, 2007). Oprah Winfrey recently interviewed the author and his book soared to No. 5 on the New York Times paperback best-seller list – five years after publication).
Singer’s message is more spiritual in nature and application but basically the same description of the “we inside of me” that Taylor lived to tell about.
Wouldn’t it be fun to eavesdrop on a conversation between those two folks?
Taylor might say, “It was a cosmic explosion of connectedness. I felt that I was a part of all of the energy in the world. My body had no beginning and end. It was Nirvana!” To which Singer might reply, “Yeah! If only we could be more mindful and meditate more, we could see that we are all one big organism of universal consciousness on our way to enlightenment and unconditional happiness.” Taylor might then say that we are all flawed humans by nature with years of emotional baggage weighing us down, and if we just choose to live more in our right brain, we could have a more connected, peaceful experience. To which Singer might counter that we are perfect, eternal spiritual beings by nature, made in the image of God, and we are temporarily having a human experience. I’d like to hear them debate that one.
I have seen both authors interviewed either online or on television and truly enjoyed them both. Furthermore, I highly recommend both of their books. It is always inspiring to me when common truths seem to come from different origins. Or, maybe the origins are the same, only the avenue of entry is different.
At this moment, my right brain is feeling “Don’t worry, be happy,” and my left brain is chattering away about how I really should shut up now before I am forever branded a new-age nut case. Or, perhaps someone should call 911 because I might be in serious need of medical attention. I’m just saying… they’re both right. It really is very crowded in here.
Sharon Lennox-Infante, contributing editor for Book Buzz, is a Los Altos resident.