Another Perspective on Awakening


Normally it would be a logical conclusion to assume that having a stroke would be a bad thing to have happen in your life. But Jill Bolte Taylor is a brain scientist and when she had her stroke she was able to observe the details of her experinence as she lost and regained her brain function. Hers is a teaching story. Not many of us have felt interested in delving into dry factual brain science. I haven’t. Yet Jill’s story brings it alive because it is what actually happened to a living breathing human being.

Jill experienced the loss of the use of the left hemisphere of her brain due to a blood clot, and then regained it again over the course of an eight year process of brain re-education.

She is able to eloquently describe what life is like when only the right hemisphere of the brain is functional, and the experience appears to be what we spiritual people have been calling enlightenment, nirvana, the kingdom of heaven. The oneness, the being in the present moment, the perfection of all things – all of this is how our right hemisphere experiences life all the time. On the other hand it is the left hemisphere that measures, judges, compares, fears, condemns etc., but it is also, of course, what makes us able to function.

When Jill experienced the loss of contact with left brain input, she was in paradise, but she couldn’t function. Her conclusions after regaining these functions are so clearly validating the importance of the effective working together of both hemispheres, giving ourselves a comprehensible experience of being alive and allowing us to know how to be in the world based on input from both sides.

The sense that my brain makes of this is this: based on input from the right hemisphere, the left hemisphere then is able to let me therefore know how to live, in both large and small ways.

In this view of the brain, what could awakening be except the shift in what we are identifying with – out of the thinking/calculating mind of the left brain, into an identity which encompasses and accesses both hemispheres and allows them both to function harmoniously and compatibly!

It looks from here like the whole “human condition” set of issues (hatred, fear, poverty, etc) is coming from the long-time dominance of the left hemisphere over the right, from not allowing the input from the right to be a part of our awareness. The thinking/communicating mind is so noisy, and the paradisical world of the right brain is so quiet, that an unhealthy dominance has occurred.

It seems clear to me now that we are at the point in our collective experience where we can begin to shift this dominance. Our spiritual interests have brought us to this threshold, but the threshold itself is not a spiritual one. It is a human one. Jill’s story can be heard by anyone, irrespective of religion or spiritual interest or not. This is about what we are. Although she never uses the word, Jill’s story seems to me to be totally about awakening because it gives us the possibility of a new kind of relationship with the busy left hemispheres of our brains that have created the ego structures and the whole experience of separation, difficulty, problems etc. Yet when our left hemisphere is being tempered/influenced by the right it can be a powerful tool in service of that One-Life which we apprehend and connect with through the right.

Knowing how little I know about all this, I’m sure the brain science here is all a huge oversimplification, but I’ve always been a fan of simplicity so don’t really want to apologize for that. Simplicity is one of the attributes of Truth, if you ask me, and so I look for it within complexity.


3 thoughts on “Another Perspective on Awakening”

  1. If you are curious, we have started a forum discussing the right brain and that movement away from left brain dominance (the cultural norm). For now, the spiritual explanation of the right brain/left brain is mostly a metaphor since the exact physical cause and effect of spiritual experiences are not yet known. We were inspired by Dr. Jill’s TED talk and also our own right brain breakthroughs.


  2. Yes, there is much to learn from Jill’s experience. Some observations I made while reading her book: The recognition of being everything in the form of no-thing in particular. I don’t recall that she ever considered that her new found Being included the make-up of her left hemisphere. It feels like there is some meaning there. Another possible opening I observed was that the momentum of the individual identity was so strong that the decision to rebuild Dr. Taylor was automatic. Possibly a good place to ask; Who is this “I” that is rebuilding “Jill”? And of course the nature of this “I” has given us Jill’s experience just as it is, so that we can ask these questions. It’s a Love story for sure.


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