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Brain Waves


a blog by Joy and Jim Meyers

We just watched “brain anatomist” Jill Bolte Taylor’s amazing talk at the TED conference, a symposium dedicated to promoting "ideas worth spreading.” A very accomplished scientist, Bolte Taylor knows more about the human brain than just about anyone. It was this knowledge that enabled her to fully experience, in the moment, her own stroke. One morning in 1996 things seemed strange to her. She was unable to speak or read and her movements became almost foreign to her. She knew that something was wrong, but did not have the mental acuity to figure out why. Plus, she was too busy enjoying herself.

In her presentation, Bolte Taylor explains how each hemisphere of the brain works. According to her studies, the left brain is in charge of logic, linear thought, and memory. Basically, the left side of our brain is the boss. It keeps us on track with certain reminders like, “Remember how much it hurt when you tried to turn that pan without an oven mitt? Don’t do that again.” The left brain is our watchdog. In contrast, the right side of the human brain is built for pleasure. It functions in present tense only. Your right brain might say something like “whoaaaa, check out how my hand looks when I put hot wax on it.” The right brain is all about experiences, using our senses in the immediate. This was the part of Bolte Taylor’s brain that was running the show during her stroke. She felt a serenity not known to her before. She remembers feeling that her very being was without borders or boundaries—and she liked it.

After a harrowing eight years of recovery, Bolte Taylor’s life lesson has become her message. Try to let the right brain into our lives in a more conscious way. Yes, the left brain keeps track and we need this. But she maintains that the peace and beauty she experienced during her stroke (when the left brain abandoned her) must absolutely be a part of her waking life. And she believes that every one of us has the capacity to experience that calm and wonder without having a stroke.

Jim and I were pretty inspired. We started to talk about what all of this meant to us. Was it possible to live in the moment even if that moment was painful? Could we find joy in our lives even of we didn’t have everything we wanted? And the answer, we decided, was yes. We have been so hung up on our past struggles and completely obsessed with our future (What if this round of IVF doesn’t work? What if nothing ever works?) we seem to have forgotten that our present lives are happening, too.

It’s high time we experienced NOW.

Obviously, we are oversimplifying here. Jim and I might need years of practice in transcendental meditation to get there, but we are inspired nonetheless. So in honor of Jill Bolte Taylor and her truly inspiring studies, here’s a list of all the things that are good about not having kids just yet:

Jim and Joy’s Things-Aren’t-So-Bad-Because-We’re-Living-In-The-Moment List

1. We’re still together after everything we’ve been through and we still like each other a lot.
2. We can pick up and leave any time we want.
3. We can obsess over our dog, who is currently top banana around here.
4. We can (and do) live on a busy street without worrying.
5. Joy can eat spicy foods because she is not breastfeeding.
6. Jim can keep riding his dirt bike because he’s only responsible for himself.
7. We can listen to Howard Stern every morning.
8. If a baby is crying, we can leave the room because it’s not ours.
9. We can have a glass coffee table with pointy corners.

You can watch Bolte Taylor’s moving presentation here. Think about it. Maybe it’s time to put a little more right brain in your life?

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