Why Your Brain Won't Stop Thinking About Your EX: My Interview With Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor
My journey speaking with Dr. Taylor is a long one. I want to get to the good stuff as soon as possible, but i want to explain how it all started. It started with Oprah radio, continued to sushi convos with Jac + Nicole, aTED talk and finally me staying up late every night for the last 2 weeks crying, laughing and breathing in the epicness that is Dr. Taylor, and her book, A STROKE OF INSIGHT. Basically, Dr. Taylor suffered a massive stroke, but because she is a brain doctor she knew what was happening. Her entire brain turned off and lost the categorizing, organizing, describing, judging and critically analyzing skills of her left brain, along with its language centers and thus ego center, Jill’s consciousness shifted away from normal reality. In the absence of her left brain’s neural circuitry, her consciousness shifted into present moment thinking whereby she experienced herself “at one with the universe.” I mean, that's sort of amazing right?
Honestly, my love of this story comes from being afraid to die. I have conflicted views of heaven. I have struggled my entire life to "create" something for myself, and now at 30 am beginning to look back and feeling like, I haven't even begun to live, yet. I am, in fact, so afraid to die, I have never ridden a rollarcoaster. I tremble anytime I have to take a flight. I've been practicing my wedding vows because the "death do us part" turns my mind into a weeping mess of a lost human.
I was raised in a mixed religion home, my mom, a Buddhist who convinced me my energy would come back as sunsets and ladybugs, my father, a Catholic, who surrounded me with pictures of pearly gates and heaven. Now, I am marrying into a strong Christian family. It's hard to not be afraid because the stories are so different. It's hard to believe that humans can go to heaven, but not dogs, when dogs are the most wonderful, loyal creatures out there.
In short, Dr. Taylors book rocked my soul, completely changed the way I live my time on earth, and created a very safe place for my soul to exist knowing that at the end of THIS life, yes! my brain will die, and with that my memories of my life with Chris, my personal ego of "Keltie" and all that I lived in this life. it's proven that I would need a functioning brain to remember and "be" me. But, what is "me?" Dr. Taylors booked made me truly feel like an infinite being. My energy and my soul will continue to be in this world, forever. I feel very lucky to have the time that I have on this earth, and I've never felt more gratious, thankful. I've made a personal vow to stop creating a life and start living a life.
Below are the questions Dr. Taylor was so lovely to answer. Her answers will rock your core. I hope this bring mindfulness and love to each of you today.
I hope you enjoy this interview. xx
1. If there is one thing that you could tell every single young person in the world, who is figuring out their life path and their personal road to happiness, what would that be? -KC
DT- We each have two very distinctive, if not even opposite, personalities. One part of us may be judgmental while at the same time our other part is very open minded and curious. Another part of us may be very logical and intellectual while another part is sensitive and compassionate. We have these opposite experiences because the two hemispheres making up our brain process information in different ways. The better we get to know these two characters inside ourselves the more free we become to choose how we want to be in the world. The better we know ourselves, the more options we have in how we live our lives.
2. There is so much on our plates as people, and in your book, you speak about having lost your sense of the past and the future during your stroke. Do you think it's possible for someone like me, to be as present in my own life, as you were and have become? I find it lovely in theory, but with the pressure of work, and relationships and family, I sometimes find it very difficult to stay mindful.
You find it difficult to stay mindful and aware of the present moment because your left brain is taking care of the details that make your life so you can earn enough income to gain the possessions you want so you can feel like a successful person. That's all your left brain character at work and she is dominating your mind. Your right brain is not attached to any of those details but rather she is attached to this present moment experience. Your right brain character comes out when you take a moment to pause and patiently look in your grandmother's eyes to tell her you love her, or you dive into a lake while giggling with glee. Our right brains are always right here, right now, perfect and full - but our left brain runs off with our minds often hijacking us into pain from the past or into our fears of the future.
3.My mother sent me my baby-book for my thirtieth birthday this year, and in it she wrote many times "that I was born that way..." With all that you know about the brain, do you think people are born angry, happy, a serial killer, a hippie, or depressed? Or do you believe our brains a set to be a certain way, or is everything we are, learned?
I think we are born with cells making up our cortex and most of those cells are not yet wired together. A lot of wiring will happen during our first three years and the specifics of this wiring is influenced by both our genetics and by our experience - both nature and nurture play a role. Our brain connections and circuits continue to grow throughout our lives. Right now as you are reading these words, new connections and thought patterns are being established in your brain and the more you think about something then the more that circuitry runs automatically on it's own and ultimately we become defined by the thoughts we think and the behaviors we engage in.
4. We talk alot about relationships on my blog. So this one is for all the broken hearted girls... Why when you have your heartbroken, and you KNOW that this person is toxic to your life, does your brain insist on dreaming about them every night for weeks?! I wish that our brains were smarter sometimes!
I love this question and it perfectly follows the last one. When we spend a lot of time thinking and remembering and focusing on someone then the more powerful that circuitry becomes inside our brain, and the better we are at doing this then the harder it is to stop that circuitry from running after the relationship has ended. If you are really good at rerunning your relationship while it is going on and you are really good at focusing on not only the details but the big picture then the harder it is to turn that off and the circuitry replays itself in our dreams.
5. I recently lost my grandma, after she suffered a stroke. She lost her ability to tell time. She would say "you know, it can be Wednesday, and then sometimes you get another Wednesday, it doesn't happen often..." right before she died she told my brother a story "I was down at the lake, and Jesus was there, and we was supposed to bring his friends, but they couldn't come, but he said they would come next time." It was one of the most peaceful moments in her struggle. Do you believe in the "white light" or do you believe our brain gives us what we need to feel peaceful in our last days?
I believe interesting things happen when the brain cells start to shut down and shift toward the experience of death. When death happens our left brains shut down in their ability to process the information of the external world so that we can make sense of - and keep track of the information around us. We forget people, names, experiences, details. When that happens we shift more into the right brain experience which is the big picture. I don't have the answer to what happens after death occurs, but I do believe we need a functional brain to have the experience that we have.
6. I was moved to huge weeping gasp sobs when I read this section of your book:
"...I am part of a great structure- an eternal flow of energy and molecules from which I cannot be separated. Knowing that I am part of the cosmic flow make me feel innately safe and experience my life as heaven on earth. How can I feel vulnerable when I cannot be separated from the greater whole? My left mind thinks of me as a fragile individual capable of losing my life. My right mind realizes that the essence of my being has eternal life. Although I may lose these cells and my ability to perceive this three- dimensional world, my energy will merely absorb back into the tranquil sea of euphoria. Knowing this leaves me grateful for the time I have here as well enthusiastically committed to the well-being of the cells that constitute my life."
In just a few sentences you took away my fear of death, because all along I believe humanity has sort of being waiting for someone to tell us what happens when we die. This made sense to me. We really are infinite. People say that when a human dies that 21 grams is lifted from their weight. Do you believe in a soul? Do you believe that or souls can go to heaven? Or that something else exists for our being after we leave our earthly cells?
I believe there is a shift and a release. The cells work together, billions at a time, in order for me to create my perception of reality. It is because of that circuitry that I know my name, that I can speak to you or even know what a mother is. Without those cells, I believe, I cannot process any of that information. So I don't believe that I continue to exist with this consciousness when I don't have the cells to support those functions. However, there then is the question of whether or not consciousness exists beyond these cells and if so then do I simply dissolve back into that all knowingness or how does it work? Since I did not die, I do not have a real opinion about this, but I will say that this experience with stroke and the loss of my left brain took away all my fear of death and it left me grateful that I was still in this form capable of experiencing life - for at least a while longer.