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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor; Brain Integration; Scleranthus

Jill Bolte Taylor is a neuro-scientist that experienced (I don't think she would say "suffered") a left-sided brain hemorrhage, or stroke, and not only fully recovered but has written an incredible book that chronicles the journey. You can also see her presentation on The link is If you work with, have known someone that experienced a stroke, or intend on having one yourself, I highly recommend this book. Not only will it give you some peace and understanding on what they might be going through, it will help improve your quality of interactions.

But there is so much more to this book, and to her presentations, than the medical aspects of stroke. She provides insight into left and right brain hemisphere integration as only one who has experienced the separation could provide.

She describes how the right side of your brain sees the world in pictures and considers itself to be an energy being, connected to everything and not separated from, your surroundings. This side of your brain thinks only in "this moment, the now" and is not concerned or focused on the past or the future.

In direct contrast, the left side of your brain thinks of itself as "I am", and the "I" is a separation from your environment. She describes the left hemisphere as containing that little voice that thinks in very linear ways and reminds you what you should do. Rather than thinking in pictures like the right side of the brain, the left side thinks in language. The left side of the brain is very focused on both past and future. It takes incoming data and categorizes the details into projects and possibilities. In is your "intelligence".

Towards the end of her talk on, after Dr. Bolte-Taylor has described both perspectives she asks "which would you choose". Hmmm.. that is a point to consider.

Luckily most of us have both sides functioning. But the trick it seems to me, and maybe the trick is big enough to even be a life purpose, is to integrate those two "beings". I mean really integrate- not choose at this moment to think with the left brain and the next moment to think with the right, but honestly use both in some kind of way that is much greater than the sum of the two parts.

I believe there are a few "aids" to doing this. There are Vision Therapy techniques that work on visual aspects of this. The techniques are usually applied to children but in some cases to adults, if there are problems with visual tracking and depth perception. These problems occur when both eyes don't work together- sounds a bit like a brain integration issue! When the eyes don't work together, the child can see 20/20 when each eye is tested but can't remember where they left off reading if they look up from a page and can't judge distances and depths other than guessing that the bigger object is closer to them, which is usually, but not always, the case. Unfortunately, most ophthalmologists don't routinely test for tracking and dept perception so it can go undetected.Sometimes children with these issues are labeled as slow learners. They typically have reading problems and are likely to appear poorly coordinated and accident- prone. When the eyes start to work together the world changes from quite "flat" in appearance to an amazing three dimensional "pop-up-book". It's a very dramatic difference I can assure you!

There are Bowen therapy techniques that address the issues of integration and connect both sides of the body if there are energy blockages. This is very subtle but very powerful manipulation. (I have talked about Bowen therapy in some earlier posts).

There is also the Bach flower Scleranthus. In an earlier blog entry on November 2nd,I discussed the indecision that Scleranthus can help with. I believe the indecision that is experienced when in a "scleranthus state" is due to this separation between hemispheres.

People that benefit from scleranthus typically try to intellectualize decisions. They think linearly, listen to that little voice, and try to decide simply things based on logic. What they don't take into account is the right side of the brain and how they feel about things. For instance, if you aren't sure what you should wear to a business appointment, your left brain might consider things like how others will perceive your choice, whether a particular color matches your skin tone, if those colors go together according to the color wheel, or if that is professional enough according to office standards. It's hard to make a decision based on so many intellectual variables. Typically, the scleranthus person end up asking someone else what they think, or just going with the outfit they last had on when they ran out of time to decide! And yet, they often don't feel good about their choice. On the other hand, if you only use the right side of your brain and consider what would make you feel good, you might end up at a business meeting in beautifully colored pajamas!

So somewhere in the middle, good decisions can be made if you consider both left and right influences. By considering the intellectual reasons and your feelings you might choose an outfit that is appropriate for the meeting but makes you feel confident and attractive.

Jill Bolte-Taylor is talking about something much much greater than making clothing choices. And I'm not suggesting we can reverse pathologically blocked hemispheres with Bach flowers. But maybe if we consider small, every day examples of the disconnect, we might begin to arrive at ways to integrate the big things.

Mostly, what I am suggesting is that you read, "My Stroke of Insight"! And if you can't decide if the book is right for you- take some Scleranthus!!

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