Book Review: Stroke of Insight

By Kathy Boyd

The KIHC book club celebrated its first anniversary by reading and discussing My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor. We agree that it is an extremely hopeful, comforting and inspiring book.

Bolte Taylor, a brain scientist, suffered a stroke in her mid thirties. Her book examines her pre and post stroke life, her astounding step by step description of the stroke itself, her chronicle of the arduous path to recovery, and a discussion of the workings of our brain. The book is simply written and a rather quick read, yet it is chock full of amazing information.

We appreciated her description of how the brain works. She made clear the differences in left and right brain hemispheres and the completely different ways that the two process information. She demonstrates that the brain’s different ways of processing give us a “complete” picture of the sensations that our bodies experience. She reminds us that we are energy beings, processing energy input, with our miraculous brains making “sense” of it all.

She gives wonderful insight for stroke patients and their caregivers. She describes her ability to feel visitors’ and professionals’ energy when her other mechanisms for deciphering information were compromised. She either opens or closes to that energy in protection of her fragile self. She makes us aware that each ailing person needs to be treated in a caring, thoughtful and respectful manner, reminding, for example, that a person unable to speak is not deaf. She inspires us to find a way in which to communicate when the regular channels are not working.

As she travelled the path of recovery, Jill’s ability to focus intently on her own needs was inspiring, as well as her ability to celebrate each baby step she made. She put the ruler behind herself instead of putting it in front. She maintained enthusiasm. She ate and slept when she needed to. She causes us consider how often we disregard the body’s messages and fail to reward ourselves for our achievements. Her recovery depended on her taking care of herself and being kind to herself. We all need reminders of the importance of self care.

Jill’s mother’s devotion to her recovery is inspirational. Love and support are so important to well being.

Bolte Taylor reminds us that peace is just a thought away. With her brain shutting down she experienced divine bliss. She lacked the normal judgmental attitude of her brain’s left hemisphere. She felt peace, oneness with the universe and all things, and a lack of separateness. She felt herself as energy, as an energy being. Her account inspires faith and perhaps, for some of us, makes passing seem less frightening. Jill encourages us to practice getting to the “peaceful” place where the mind stops chattering and one can experience bliss. We’re encouraged to pay attention to the now and find the serenity available to all of us.

We next read 50 Secrets of the World’s Longest Living People.

by Sally Beare.