Season 1, Episode 06
Harnessing the Power of Your Brain with Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor
What if you could tap into the power of your entire brain to experience true peace and the present moment?
This is the exact phenomenon that Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor has been studying since she experienced a stroke in 1996 that changed her whole perception of reality.
In this episode, we explore the idea that our brains have 4 characters that serve different essential functions to make up who we are and how we experience the world. We discuss each character, how to tap into different parts of our minds, and how we can use this in the fertility journey and parenting.
Dr. Taylor’s experience changed everything she knows about the brain and our human consciousness. It’s an honor to get to bring her on the podcast to share her experience, discuss her incredible knowledge of the brain, and understand better how we can use this in the conscious fertility journey.
- Taylor’s experience with her stroke and how it changed her brain [4:15]
- Where consciousness begins and ends in the brain [7:06]
- The core functions of our four brain hemispheres [11:39]
- Bringing together the four hemispheres for a brain huddle [15:41]
- Using the brain huddle to surrender to the present moment [22:54]
- Taylor’s experience of Nirvana after the stroke [31:37]
- Conscious work to invoke quantum healing in our bodies [35:06]
- Generational differences in consciousness [43:59]
- The power to choose moment by moment [56:12]
Watch the Episode
Read This Episode Transcript
I want to introduce you, many of you probably know her, Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor. Her latest book is Whole Brain Living. And I want to share a little bit about her because she’s the New York Times best-selling author of My Stroke of Insight blends neuroanatomy with psychology to show how we can short-circuit emotional reactivity and find our way to peace. Just hearing that peace word makes me feel a little bit better in that there’s somebody out there who’s has a neuroscience background that can tell us and share how we can do that.
I’m a little bit bug about Dr. Jill Taylor. She’s a Harvard train in published neuro anatomist. In 1996, which I hope she’ll share more about, she unfortunately experienced a severe hemorrhagic stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain, causing her to lose the ability to walk, talk, read, write, and recall much of her life. And then in her memoir, her first book, My Stroke of Insight, she documented her experience with the stroke. And in her eight year recovery, this book, My Stroke of Insight spent 63 weeks on the New York Times non-fiction bestseller list and it’s still routinely the number one book about stroke on Amazon as well.
Now you’re going to find out that Dr. Taylor’s a dynamic teacher and a public speaker, and she loves to educate all age groups and academic levels as well as corporations about the beauty of our human brain and its ability to recover from trauma. I know so many of us not only experiencing physical trauma, but in this time emotional trauma. In 2008 she gave the first Ted talk that ever went viral on the internet. So she may be credited for breaking the internet, I don’t know, on that day. She now has well over 28 million views. Also in 2008, you should know that she was chosen as one of Times magazine’s hundred most influential people in the world and was the premier guest on Oprah Winfrey’s Soul series webcast as well.
Her latest book that I just got to read and found very inspirational is Whole Brain Living: The Anatomy of Choice and the Four Characters That Drive Our Life. And this is also available now. Dr. Taylor, welcome to the Conscious Fertility podcast and thanks for making the time to connect and talk today.
Jill Bolte Taylor:
Thank you, Lorne. I’m looking forward to it.
Now your background is in neuroscience. You’re a neuroanatomist. From a material perspective then, we’re going to get right into it, is there more to peace of mind in physical health than what meets the eye from that materialistic perspective? Basically what we derive from our physical senses. Now that you’ve had this experience and maybe share what you experience because what you experienced sounds a little out there for many and let us know is if there’s more than meets the eye. Now that you’ve come from what you call the left brain side as a neuroscientist, seems like you’ve opened up to your right brain side and put them together. Can you tell us a little bit more about your experience and is there more to life than just what we learned from our five senses?
Jill Bolte Taylor:
When you think about yourself as a biological creature, that’s all you are, you’re a biological creature, you are a collection of cells. And every ability you have is because you have brain cells that perform that function. I can create language and make sound, and that’s a group of cells inside of my brain. Wipe them out, I can’t do that anymore. And then we have the ability to have a group of cells that allows us to comprehend and understand when someone speaks, wipe those cells out and we have no comprehension. We have the ability to move our body in space, wipe those cells out and we have paralysis. Every ability we have, we have because we have brain cells that perform that function. When I experienced my stroke and it wiped out my left hemisphere, it wiped out my language.
I could not speak or understand when other people spoke. It wiped out a group of cells that defined me as an individual. My ego went completely offline, was floating in a pool of blood. There’s a group of cells in the left hemisphere that creates a holographic image of where I begin and where I end. I wiped that out. On the morning of the stroke, I could not walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of my life because all of those functions were in the left hemisphere. But in the absence of those abilities, those cells reaching across to the right hemisphere, through what we call the corpus callosum, which is made up of some 300 million axonal fibers so that two hemispheres know what the other one’s doing. When I wiped out the left hemisphere, it released its inhibition off of the things going on in the right hemisphere. And I experienced the present moment.
And in the present moment, it’s peaceful and it’s beautiful and exciting. I didn’t have the boundaries of where I began and ended, so I perceived myself to be the biological creature that I am. I am an energy ball wrapped around some 50 trillion, beautiful molecular geniuses, these cells that have differentiated so that I have all of these abilities. What I learned on that morning was every ability we have is because we have brain cells that perform that function and different parts of the brain really do are responsible for very specific abilities.
Would you describe this as an awakening on a spiritual side? The reason I want to ask you this question is, there’s many cultures and traditions that talk about this present moment. They talk about nirvana. There’s in a new age movement, manifestation movement, law of attraction movement that talk about get into the present moment. The quantum field, go from space, time to time space, and you access this conscious universe on spiritual awakening. But a lot of these people just every day Joe’s as in, they don’t have the neuroscience background that you have. So you bring a little credibility to this. Little maybe a lot. Did you experience nirvana? Is there more to this world?
You said it couldn’t tell where you began and ended anymore. You were connected to everything. For those people that are wondering if there’s more to life than meets the eye, and if there’s something else we can do, what was your experience? What do you believe now?
Jill Bolte Taylor:
Well, I’m going to go right back to, I believe every ability we have is completely dependent on the brain cells that perform that function. We have the perception that I begin an I in here where my skin meets the air, because there’s a group of cells in my left hemisphere that defines a holographic image of where I begin and where I end. Wipe those out and any of us is no longer going to have that perception of individuality from that which is outside of us. I think that in looking at, how do I feel, what do I think, my left brain looks at me as an individual and to the consciousness of my left hemisphere, the whole world revolves around me. I’m important. Me and my relationship with the external world. That’s the skillset of that left hemisphere.
But in the absence of that left hemisphere, I still have skill set, but it’s based on a bigger spatial experience where I the individual, me, my ego, I died that day, and I had to rebuild the circuitry and I had to create a new level of consciousness by healing those cells and create a new individuality and a new identity. I think that if we are perceiving ourselves as only that which our senses perceive, then which pieces of our senses? For example, my left hemisphere, let’s say, I look at you or you look at me and I’m talking and I’m talking with my hands and I’m using facial expression, well that’s language, but that’s language cues that are being picked up by the language cells in the right hemisphere.
The left hemisphere language cells are picking up the words and the details of the words and putting meaning on those words, so I can comprehend that language and communicate with you. It takes both hemispheres perceiving experience from the external world to have the big picture, as well as the detail information processing. We have two different hemispheres that do it very differently. And the better we get to know how the different cells organize information and actually manifest me, then when I have choices to make. I actually know and understand what my choices are based on what I know about my brain.
And when I experience conflict, I can understand, okay, well, this part of my brain is saying, well, I have to do this. I want this. This is what I need in order to be happy. And the other consciousness and other part of my brain might be saying, well, I can be happy without any of that. Why do we need that? That’s just stress.
I’m going to see if we can tie this in a bit for our main part of our audience being fertility, hence this Conscious Fertility podcast. And at the end of your Ted talk, it reminded me of a quote by Viktor Frankl. He has a quote saying “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” and at the end of your Ted talk, you said, change yourself and change the world. We share this desire. And the intention behind the Conscious Fertility podcast is the wake up call, struggling to get pregnant, to grow your family. You’re drawn to lots of things like in our practice, acupuncture, laser diet lifestyle, working on that physical body.
And then now conscious work, so healing your mind in your heart because you go from conscious fertility to then conscious conception, to conscious parenting. And if these children are raised by developmentalists versus behaviorists, as one of the attachment therapists, the first time I heard this was from Gordon Neufeld, and I’ve seen this inside your book, everybody wants to be seen, heard, and understood or seen, heard, and loved. And if the attachment needs are met in this generation, he says in one generation, the planet will heal. Why? Because these children will grow up getting their attachment needs met so they won’t need to cut, they don’t become drug addicts. There’s no suicide. And when they grow up and you and I we’ve expired the world be great because they’ve had their attachment needs met, meaning they’re conscious.
And so this is why I wanted to talk to you because to me you’re one of the conscious experts out there from your background and your personal experience. So this leads me into a question then. You believe in conventional medicine, obviously it saved your life it sounds like, it was part of the process when you had your stroke. I also remember reading your book, the way you paraphrase it is you believe also in the body innate ability to heal. I want to know how you see with conscious work or what you call the brain huddle to me is a form of conscious work. How can this impact our health on a physical level?
Jill Bolte Taylor:
I’m going to go back to the concept that every ability we have, we have because we have brain cells that perform that function. And so I have been on several podcasts and conversations about fertility, and I always have to bring up what circuitry might I be running that is interfering with my ability to conceive. And if you look at the left hemisphere, the left hemisphere is about me in my need, in my perfection in relationship to what I need the external world to look like and my relationship with that. Well, that’s a preconceived notion. That’s not reality. Reality is what’s going on in the right hemisphere, which is right here right now. And in the right here right now, experience, I can experience peaceful euphoria. I can exercise. I can get the adrenaline high from being connected to other people. I can be just out of judgment.
I think that as we’re looking at conscious fertility and conscious conception, I think it’s important to look at well, what parts of me as a biological creature am I exercising that actually promotes my ability to conceive? And as you mentioned, there are all kinds of things that my left brain can do in order for me to prepare not just my womb, but prepare myself to be in a space of peaceful conception. You’ve got to remember that conception is, it’s not just about me and it’s not just about my partner, it’s about a couple of cells. It’s about an egg and a sperm. And am I even an environment within which an egg and sperm might join together and actually want to live? And if I’m living in a constantly stressful environment, then the womb that I am providing for my conception to happen will pick up on that stress because I’m not just a biological creature, I’m an energetic creature.
I think it is really important to think about the brain, think about how different parts of the brain can work toward not just me being a conscious person, but me creating a conscious life within which my womb then becomes open to the possibility of fertilization and conception.
And with not wanting to stress out the women listening because fertility causes stress and then we hear stress can interfere with fertility. You do have an approach to deal with stress and trauma. I’m trying to think of how you put it in your book, but you say you can kind of interrupt this with the brain huddle. I want to let women know there’s tools out there that you share.
Jill Bolte Taylor:
We have been trained that the right hemisphere is the emotional brain and the left hemisphere is the left thinking brain. And that’s simply not true. We have emotion in each hemisphere and we have thinking tissue in each hemisphere. When we get to know these different groups of cells, they result in four different character profiles. And this isn’t new news really, all I’m doing is taking the world of psychology and saying, well, let’s lay that down on top of the anatomy of the brain and say, okay, Carl Jung talks about four major archetypes. Well, why? Why do we exhibit these four character profiles? And it’s because we actually have brain cells in our brain that result in those four character profiles.
If I get to know where my stress circuitry is and which part of my brain, which character profile I’m exhibiting that promotes or prepares, and then I look at the other part of my brain, a different character profile that relaxes and is playful and is open. Then how do I find this balance between these different parts of my brain? First I encourage people to get to know the four characters inside of your brain. And then once you know those four characters, the tool you’re talking about is called a brain huddle. Well, the huddle is between these four different parts of your brain so that they can actually create whole brain balance inside of yourself, so that you are actually making conscious decisions based on what you know now about these four different parts of who you are.
We make different decisions when we bring the different parts of who we are in communication with one another, instead of just letting one of these characters run wild and run our lives.
Are you willing to share your brain huddle, how you use this whole brain process to deal with when we have the emotional, when we’re hijacked by our emotions with stress and fear and anxiety?
Jill Bolte Taylor:
Okay. Character one, I’m going to talk about these four characters inside of the brain, because what you’re talking about is these four characters and how do they intercommunicate? The left thinking tissue inside of our brain is it’s about me, it’s about mine, it’s about me in relationship to the external world. And it tends to be a perfectionist. It likes to create order. It’s the part that’s going to define what is right? What is wrong? What is good? What is bad? It likes to be the boss and it’s fussy about how it likes things to be. This part of us, character one wants us to take the stapler and put it back so that we can find it later. It likes to control. That’s our alpha type personality. We all have it. It’s our rational thinking brain.
So think about your rational thinking brain and how dominant is that part of you? The left emotion is what I call character two. The left emotional tissue is again about me the individual, I have a past, I have a future. The thing about this character is that it’s in the past and it’s in the future, but it brings information in about the present moment and then compares it to my entire past and says, do I want more of this or do I want less of this? And if I want less of this, then I’m going to push away what’s in the present moment because it’s a preconceived experience of that’s dangerous I’m going to say no to it. A lot of my fear, a lot of my anxiety, if I’ve tried to conceive in the past and I’ve not been successful, then that’s going to be this part of me.
And this part of us can be overwhelming and it can be self sabotaging in its own way because now I have so much fear and anxiety that I’m not interacting with even myself in a healthy way. Character three is the right emotional tissue. Well, the difference between the right hemisphere and the left hemisphere is the right hemisphere is just right here right now in the present moment. And it doesn’t have a me ego identity. It’s just right here, right now. I have to have a pass to be able to know, well, what is my name? My name is Jill Bolte Taylor. My character one knows that information and it tells me and keeps reminding me, this is my phone number, this is my address, this is the data about me, the individual.
But in the right hemisphere, it’s just right here right now. It’s very playful. It’s very open. It’s very creative. There’s no right wrong, good, bad, so I don’t have to fit myself in the box of that. I can be entrepreneurial. It’s collective. It likes to be with others. It’s a part of the we experience. That’s character three, creative, playful, open a possibility, enjoys, engaging with one another, it’s an adrenaline junkie. And then character four is the right thinking tissue inside of our brain. And it’s just about the present experience at the big picture. I don’t have to engage in anything. That’s what character three does. But it’s this incredible deep sense of gratitude that, oh my gosh, I’m alive. This is my calm. This is my peaceful, this is my acceptance of what is is. This that feeling of euphoria.
When we pray, we pray to feel character four. When we meditate, we meditate to quiet the left hemisphere so that we can feel the peacefulness of character four. We all have all four of these parts of our brain. We recognize each of these characters probably. We probably can recognize which one of these shows up most of the time as our dominant and some of these we might find, well, I’m not very playful. I find I’m not very creative. I don’t spend a lot of time because my left character, one thinks it’s a waste of time for me to go for a walk at lunch. So then I have to look at the dynamic relationships between these four characters. And this is where the brain huddle comes in.
The huddle is the huddle between these four characters that make up our brain. Brain, B, breath. Bring your mind to the present moment. Focus on your breath. R is to recognize, okay, as I was calling the brain huddle, which of those four characters called the huddle? A stands for appreciate the fact that regardless of which character I was, who called the huddle, there’s four of me in here. I might not know them all very well, but I can call on them and I can try to identify with them and I can get to know them, but I can certainly A, appreciate that I do have all four at an anatomical level. I stands for then inquire. In this moment I could give my microphone and come out as any of those four characters. My character one can come in and fix something. My character two can come in and whine or complain about something.
Character three can come in and make a joke about something. And character four can just come in and be loving and supportive and nurturing. At any moment in time we have that possibility. And so N then stands for navigate the next moment. Out of the next moment, out of all four of my characters, which one am I going to give the microphone to put the energy in, and then let that part of my character come out?
I have this approach that I call NAC notice, accept, choose again. And when I read your brain huddle, it resonated because the approach I have is kind of like Googling conscious work. Every time I hear an author or a scientist, I have found that this fits over it really well. If you’re willing to entertain me, I want to share this idea with you, because I have questions as I go through it. Because my left brain, I think, needs to understand how it’s working. I’ve seen it work. I’ve experienced it for myself in patients and I’m using terminology that you will know and you may cringe with some of the terminology, but my brain, the left brain used to be a chartered accountant before I did Chinese medicine.
There’s that part of me that just needs to hold on to something, right? I do have a left brain. My right brain gets in there and it loves this. It wants to believe. It wants to believe, but my left brain needs to know. Right? I always have that, as I say, my whole brain is my head is in the cloud, so I love going to the right and my feet stay on the ground. Here’s this approach that I call, NAC, notice, accept, choose again. So notice. Stop, don’t take it personally. Everything that happens neutral and we give it meaning. Breathe in for four, hold for four out for eight. To me, this is your breath and recognize, your BR, right? There’s the notice part.
Jill Bolte Taylor:
Exactly. First of all, it’s the pause, right?
It’s the pause.
Jill Bolte Taylor:
You push the pause button and you push the pause button on that left hemisphere just routinize, routinize, routinize, run it over, run it again. Know it. Now I got to detail it, blah, blah, blah. You push the pause button, you noticed, you became aware, you recognized, keep going. Beautiful.
And so what I had learned, so the next step is accepting what is, surrendering into the moment, what you call appreciate. And many years ago, I read a book by Eckhart Tolle called The Power Of Now. And it sound amazing. I want to now, but I didn’t know how to now. And my personality, the one that doesn’t want to sit and meditate, the one that needs to do, the very strong, left, dominant side needed to do. And I came up with using these, they call them energy psychology tools to use doing, get my left brain happy to put me into a state of being, into present moments. I call the accepting what is tools that I use are how to now. I use emotional freedom technique. I may use psych K. I may use the Byron Katie inquiry process, rapid transformational therapy, hypnosis, breathing, surrender, basically tools to get into the present moment.
They are tools. They are what I call tools and gimmicks. The key is, can you get into the present moment? Because when you can surrender to what is, this is what I think is happening. This is where I want to ask you Dr. Taylor on this. I think what’s happening is when we’re in that trigger mode we go into high beta brain waves. We go into overwhelm. Maybe we go into sympathetic. The amygdala’s firing, the reptilian brain, and we are no longer resourced and we’re in survival mode and we’re in that little part of that P brain. And when we notice and surrender to what is and get into the present moment, we take ourselves out of high beta into possibly alpha brain waves, from sympathetic to parasympathetic. And when we get into the present moment, I think then we become resourced. What you call we’re whole brained.
And when we’re resourced, I hear some people call this the pre manifested state. Everything’s either pre manifested or manifested, or I’ve heard it called the quantum field. I’ve heard it called going from space and time to time and space. It’s where all potential exists. I don’t know. I just know that it seems like this space called the present moment, seems to connect us to super consciousness or something happens that is greater than us. And you’re now in a space where it’s paradoxical because when you truly to surrender to what is, is when you can choose again, which is the C part, which what you call navigate.
So everybody that I hear, they all have their methods, but what I love is it all fits into. You got to notice it. You got to interrupt the story like you said, you got to have the pause. And then you got to surrender to what is. Some people can just do it. They have the circuitry and they’re in the moment. Me I’m building it. I’m much better at it, but I have to stop and tap for five minutes or breathe or do something to get me into the now. And when I go from that anxious high beta sympathetic drive, I find myself, my patients, they feel calm, it’s a sense of relief, a sense of peace. And they’re out of the story now and now they get to choose what they want. Is what’s happening what I think is happening? Are we going from hi beta to alpha? Are we going from sympathetic to parasympathetic?
It sounds like, would this be what you’re seeing when it happens to people, they’re going from character two into whole brain then and character four and three, everybody’s becoming aligned, is that what you think may be happening? Or can you explain what I’m observing, but not knowing the neuroscience to explain it?
Jill Bolte Taylor:
I think you’re going from the left brain to the right brain, period. I think that’s what you’re doing. Because when you look at the cells in the left brain, you have collective cells that go to fewer cells, to fewer cells, to fewer cells, biologically programmed to throw away data focused, throw away data focused, throw away data, detail, detail, more details about those details. That’s how your left brain is wired. It’s a fantastic tool. We have to have that level of discern and differentiation in order to function in the external world. I have to perceive myself as separate than you because otherwise we’re just one big blob and we’re like a bunch of amoeba floating around together and there’s no distinction. Right?
We have to have this magnificent left brain, but the right brain doesn’t do that. The right brain does the opposite. It takes what is and expands to more, expands to more, expands to more so it’s the big picture situation. Well to the right hemisphere, I don’t have the boundaries of where I begin and end. So that means I am just an energetic blob and you’re just an energetic blob and our energies are all bound up together. I have to have that left hemisphere to say, oh no, I’m a blob and you’re separate. You’re a different blob. But you’re not. To the right hemisphere what is is. When you pause and you notice that’s your left brain saying, pause, stop, let’s pay attention. And then you say acceptance. Well for me to accept, that means I have no judgment.
So in no judgment, part of that is no barrier. There’s no boundary between a this and a that. When as soon as there’s a this and a that, there’s a comparison between the two of one another. It is natural at a biological level for the left hemisphere to create critical judgment, not critical being mean, but to critically analyze something as of this and a that, because then we can talk about them because they’re separate and then we can compare and we can contrast and we can analyze. And we do all those marvelous things that the left brain does. But as soon as you accept, what have I accepted? I have accepted I’m a life force. I’m a life force. I’ve got energy around this mass of what I am. I am connected to all it is. I’m as big as the universe.
And in that experience of being at one with all that is, there’s no analysis going on. I simply am being, and as I’m simply being, it’s like I’m being alive. And coming with that sense of being alive comes this incredible sense of gratitude of, oh my God, I’m alive. Forget everything else, I’m alive. And that’s what happened to me on the morning of the stroke, was I lost everything else. And all I had was I didn’t die that day. And in not being dead that day, that’s all I had, was the experience of the present moment with no energy or impetus toward anything, just simply the state of being, but I’m still wired for that at a biological level. It’s the difference between me being alive and me being dead.
So as you think about, okay, well, all this analysis of waves and blah, blah, blah, well, we can talk neurotransmitters, we can talk neural systems, we can talk about it from a million different directions. But to me it really boils down to, we have two fundamentally different ways of being, I call it going to the gutter. This is an extreme, but imagine yourself, you were just in a terrible accident and you are laying in a gutter. You have 30 to 60 seconds to be alive. You are bleeding, you know you are bleeding. You are dying, you know you are dying. And in that experience, the left brain shuts down on all of it’s, oh my God, can I fix it? Because you can’t fix it, you’re dying.
And all of the emotions push away because it’s not about my past and it’s not about my future, it’s about, I am here, I have 30 seconds left of this life. And I feel myself draining out. And as I drain out, as that consciousness shifts from me and all that life that was, to what is going to be next. What level of consciousness do I have? And my consciousness is literally as big as the universe, because that’s what I’m returning to. That’s how I look at it.
When you had your near death experience, because you thought you were dying, when that left brain surrendered to, I can’t do anything, and it went offline because of the blood being toxic to those cells. Do you recall having a deep sense of peace when you were in that state?
Jill Bolte Taylor:
Totally nirvana. I describe it as nirvana and I don’t even know what that means. Pure euphoria, blissful, gratitude, celebration, love. It was fantastic. The absence of experience. The absence of experience is one of bliss. Now think about what that just said, the absence of experience, because even in the exercise of the experience, much less what I’m feeling about it or I’m thinking about it, the absence of experience is one of bliss.
Can you tap into that now with your practice since you had that experience?
Jill Bolte Taylor:
Absolutely. I don’t have to practice. I have to practice being here in the left brain with this world, because I made an agreement. I was blissful euphoria, but completely nonfunctional. Well I’m still alive. So what do I do with that? Do I exist in a vegetative condition for a couple of decades until my body does decide that it’s going to die or do I actually decide I’m going to try to step beyond simply blissful euphoria and actually try to have a neuron connect with a neuron, so that I can have a higher level of consciousness, which is whole brain living. It’s like, okay, how do I get more of my neurons back on board so I can become a functional person again. And my only agreement with myself was that I’m willing to recover as much as it would take for me to be perceived as normal again, because that’s the only way I’m going to have a voice in the world.
And then what is the voice in the world? Well, the voice in the world then is, well, this was my experience. This is what happened to me at neuroanatomical level. This is what it felt like and what I did purposely in order to rebuild the connections inside of my brain, in order to rebuild those circuits that I needed in order to be able to have those abilities again. How many times have I said every ability we have, we have because we have cells that perform that function. Well, I lost all those cells. I had to go back and rebuild access to just not those circuits, but to bring them into the bigger picture, so that I could run them all again as a whole brain and experience my life as a whole brain person.
Here’s a big picture question that everybody not even those looking to grow their families, I think will have an interest in. Possibly two part question. What you’re describing this miraculous healing outside of maybe what orthodox medicine can say is even possible at times. There are accounting like Dr. Joe Dispenza, he’s a prolific talker about consciousness. He talks about his bike accident and how he used his mind to rebuild his back that shouldn’t be rebuilt. I don’t know these people personally, but I know of, I count for people basically died of cancer, but they were only dead for 30 seconds and came back to life, had a near death experience, had a new personality in a sense when they came back and then their cancer just vanished over months without them doing anything. I know two cases of that. Again, I can’t validate it. These are anecdotal, right?
I hear other stories of that. It sounded like, so this is where I’m looking for clarification. In your book it sounded like you kind of tapped into character four. And so with conscious work, if we’re looking to support the bodies in healing, because there is conventional medicine, you’re not opposed to it, is my understanding. You’re saying support the body and get present and do these tools and remove the restrictions, the emotional restrictions, the friction, we call it Qi stagnation in Chinese medicine, to allow more flow and receptivity in the body. And it sounds like it was your character four. And so that’s the question I have is, if we’re looking to go beyond space and time around matter, treating matter, which is what we do in conventional medicine, this sounds like a new quantum type of healing.
Can you talk about it? Because you’ve experienced it and just what your thoughts are about how much the body can heal. Doesn’t mean we know how to tap into it, you’re using your energy, your effort to stay in the left brain. You said to stay in this world. Most of us are looking for that nirvana and we’re trying to get into the right brain more often. Right?
Jill Bolte Taylor:
Can you explain a little bit about the healing? And I’ll just preface or add because we do have the understanding that your thoughts and your emotions impact your electrical hormonal system. So your nervous system changes, your hormones change. You can have stress hormones that over time can lead to inflammation and turn on genes that are not good for your health. And we can have positive thoughts and emotions that turn on hormones, you get more dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin that can turn on and off genes that promote longevity, healing and maybe reproduction. So just from your experience and from the science that you know, what’s the body capable of healing? Because it sounds like Joe Dispenza’s story, your story, you tapped into something that goes beyond what we’re seeing in mainstream medicine.
Jill Bolte Taylor:
First of all, medicine is based on disease, which cells are not well. We’re trying to bring in wellness. We’re trying to bring in, how do we bring in wellbeing? And right now there’s a real call for that. But the medical system made a decision back in the early 1900s to focus on illness instead of wellness. What that means is that if I have a problem, I’m going to focus on the cells that are a problem. If I have a cancer, then I’m going to focus on the cancer and I’m going to give all my energy and all my focus and all my fear and all my pain and all my, oh my God, I’m going to die to the cancer cells. Well, it’s like the cancer cells, at least in the beginning are like what? 1%, and maybe 2% and maybe 5% of all these cells.
Well, I don’t give my power to the cells that are ill. I give my power to the cells that are well. My body is biologically programmed to be its own healing machine. And if I truly believe that, then I’m going to focus on the consciousness of all these cells. But I’m not going to say, this is my liver cell and I’ve got this or this is my brain cell and I got that. It’s like it’s one collective hole. And because it’s one collective hole, but I am not just cellular, I am energetic, if I bring in my fear and my anxiety and my sadness and my grief energetically, then that’s going to impact the energetic of my whole body and the whole wellness or lack of wellness. And if I think, this, that or the other, and I’m just all focused on something that is just totally out there on another planet, then it’s like, where am I putting my energy?
I think about us as biological creatures, as this magical combination of the cells and the energetic of each of those cells and how they interact with one another. I am one thing, I am a human. It doesn’t matter if I’m a single celled organism or a human organism, I am an organism. And what happens in one part of the body influences what happens in another part of the body. And then, oh my gosh, as a human, I have this magnificent brain, this magnificent mind that gets to choose, pick and choose, which energy do I want to bring into that body. And it’s like, why on earth would I want to fill my body with all the fear and all the anxiety and let that fuel those cells that are not well as opposed to come in with open light and love and say, okay, we are a team and I am mama head of the team.
And it’s like, let’s do what we can do in order to bring energy, positive energy in order to create healing. When you look at these wonderful stories of these people who have had, let’s say the girl who had a near death experience, she was riddled with cancer, she came out of a near death experience and she saw herself healing and within, I don’t remember how much, but not much time at all the tumors went away. Because what she brought back was her character four consciousness of I am love, I am healthy. And it cut out all the fear that had manifested this disease inside of her body and noticed that these people when they come back, we live differently than we lived before.
This is why I’m suggesting you don’t have to have a near death experience for this. You can proactively do conscious work like your brain huddle and the tools that you offer-
Jill Bolte Taylor:
… through your teaching in books. And what I like to do in my practice, I call the conscious fertility approach. This idea though that you’re saying, this consciousness. What is this? I think in your book, you said, when we have our brain, it’s like we’re connected to a computer. And so when you’re stressed, you’re only using a little part of your computer. When you’re whole brain, you got access to everything. So you’re resourced. But it sounds like you’re also connected to the internet. You can access all the computers of the world. Do you subscribe to the idea that there is consciousness and we all connect to this and when you’re connected to this consciousness, this is where these magnificent things can happen. You experience bliss and you can have if you choose, biological upgrade.
Jill Bolte Taylor:
I think that that’s a big question because then you get into what is consciousness and is consciousness of language and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. What I do believe is, I do believe that the universe has a natural tendency toward creating order out of disorder and out of making sense out of nonsense. It has managed to create life. And even if you’re looking at a microbe, there is a fine membrane between what’s inside of the microbe and then the universe outside of it. And yet there are that membrane is semipermeable. Some things can move in and out. There are receptors on it. And that microbe is attracted towards some things, let’s say photons, light, atoms, or rejected, pushed away by let’s say hydrogen atoms. As soon as you have life, there is a this and a that, there is a within and there is an outside of.
So is there a consciousness? Well, personally I think that if there is a drive toward making sense out of nonsense or order out a disorder, I’m going to give that a level of consciousness. Now, does it have language? No. I have to have a left thinking brain in order to have that language. Does it have me, an individual? No. I think you have to have the cells of the left hemisphere to have me the individual. Does it have an experiential? Well, it does. But does it think about it? Does it have a past, does it have a future or does it process experience in the present moment? I think that the complexity and the beauty of being human is that we have connection to that consciousness. And that is what I call our character four, which is the thinking tissue of our right hemisphere. We’re wired for peaceful bliss. We meditate to get there. We pray to get there. We do whatever we do to find that blissful, peaceful euphoria, but we’re wired to have that experience.
And then add on top of that, an impetus toward, and then we have that character three, emotion, experiential tissue, but it’s all still all right here, right now in the present moment. And then you add a left hemisphere and you add in an emotion over a past and a future. You add thinking, so you have linearity of time. And then you end up with a complexity of a human. Do we have the power to choose of those four groups of cells where we put our energy? I believe 1000% absolutely we do. And to me that is whole brain living.
I love it, whole brain living. I have one more question for you. The generation that I’m seeing for reproductive health at the time of our recording are the millennials, they’re born between 1980 and 2000. So they’re between age 22 to 42 at the time of our recording. And in your book, I found it really fascinating. You went through all the different generations, the G.Is, the millennials, generation Z, X, alpha, whatever. And you talked about how our brains were being wired. I really thought it was a lot of fun. I love the line where millennials show up and they expect to get rewarded. And it wasn’t fair how their brains were wired, because that’s not how society works right now.
But I’m working with millennials. And so I’m just wondering, can you talk a little bit about how their brains are wired and how we can work with this group? Because this is the next generation that is going to be parenting, right? Many are. I just want to talk about that group today if you’re open to it, just about how you discuss how their brains got wired based on how they were raised by the generation before. And so the way their brains are functioning. Because as a parent, I’m trying to make them function the way my brain was wired. But obviously after reading your book, I’m like, they have a different wiring circuitry than me. So of course they’re different. Can you share a little bit, and it’s not a judgmental way, you’re just saying they’re wired differently.
And so I want to know how to work with my staff and this new generation, because when I read your book, I was like, I just want to interview on that. Tell me how their brains work so I can understand them better, work with them better, collaborate.
Jill Bolte Taylor:
Lorne, how old are you?
I’m born in 68.
Jill Bolte Taylor:
Okay. So you’re a full boomer. Okay. I’m 63. I’m the tail end of the boomer. Okay. So we, you and I, when we were young, when we were in elementary school, we learned for example, that a two symbol plus a two symbol equals a four symbol. Right? We learned all of our multiplication. We learned about language and words and spelling and all of this by drawing it out, we wrote it out and we trained our, these are left brain skill sets and we trained our left brain using symbols in order to learn fundamentally. We used left brain skillsets, we trained our left brain skill sets through a process of actually educating our left brain. Okay, that’s great. So then we end up with our left brain, very strong skillsets and our right brain, very strong skill that are different from one another.
So what happened then across time and with technology is that we boomers, we gave our children, our millennials a little Teddy Raspin. Remember that little rascal that we stuck in the crib with them. Their very first relationship in the crib ended up being a symbiotic relationship with this machine. And across their lifespan, as young people, they learned through iPads and different kinds of computer skills, that two plus two, wasn’t a symbol plus a symbol equals a symbol, but that two giraffe plus two elephant equals four animals. And that’s a pictorial. An a pictorial is a very different skill set and way of learning than simply abstract symbolism. We ended up training our millennials. We taught them left brain skills, which is mathematics through the tools of their right brain, because of the way that we train them on these games and on these apps. And it’s still going on now.
We actually taught left brain skills through the right brain. We as boomers, we are left brain dominant as a society. We are materialistic. We are about us in relationship to the external world. I am an individual. I am separate from you. It is about me and mine. We have this hierarchy. We’re willing to put in 70 hours a week in order to get up the next level of that hierarchy. Well, the right brain it isn’t like that because it has different values. And so our millennial children actually have different collaborative values. They value about the we, about everybody got the award. Well, we did this to them, right? But everybody got the participation award so that we all get rewarded. We grow up as this entity, different pedals of the same flower, as opposed to the boomers who saying, I’m a flower and you’re a flower and we’re different and we’re separate and we’re going to compete with one another.
The right hemisphere isn’t like that. The right hemisphere says, we are a team. We are a collective whole. We are a group. I’m going to take a job and I’m going to meld in and bring my skills to the collective whole, and then I’m going to learn and grow and we’re going to interact and we’re going to do things together. But then I want to have a different experience because I don’t like the boss, because he is crabby with me. And it’s like, why should I spend my time which is precious, listening to a boss that is crabby? While the left atmosphere, the boomers are going to go, oh my God, the boss is not happy with me, I need to change my behavior in order to fit into the box of what the boss wants so that I can get the next promotion.
We end up being extremely different in how we’re wired based on our experiences. And so now one of the biggest changes is conflicts, is I tell boomer parents, oh my gosh, it’s not just a generational gap, it’s a hemisphere gap. And we have to look at this in order to value them, in order to appeal to them, in order to actually parent them in a way that they can accept parenting. But it’s going to be through love and it’s on their terms, it’s not on ours.
Through love. Now, I remember reading about, listening actually, because I listened to your book. I have the audio. That the anxiety part of these children, because we helicopter parent them, we drove them everywhere, they were always there. We would never let them feel pain. Do you interpret this that they never got the chance to build resilience, because we never let them feel pain? If you’re always being helicoptered, does that send a message that you’re not safe because there’s always somebody taking care of you? It seems like there’s a little bit more anxiety in that generation as well.
Jill Bolte Taylor:
Well, I think that there’s anxiety for a lot of reasons. First of all, we did helicopter them. By helicoptering them, we protected their little emotions of their character two. Well, different groups of cells. The way that cells work is that the more often you run a circuit, then let’s say that’s pain, that’s emotional pain, rejection. I felt rejection. But I have to feel rejection in order to be able to use the rest of my brain to figure out, it’s okay, I can feel rejection. I can learn this is rejection. I don’t like the way that it feels. I don’t want to set up myself for more of it, but I’m okay. I can manage rejection. I can manage grief. I can manage I lost. Right? We didn’t just helicopter them. We said, okay, we’re going to treat you all like you’re one thing, we did this to ourselves.
We’re going to treat you like you’re one thing. We’re going to give everybody the award just for participating. So what message do they get? They get the message, well, all I have to do is show up and I get an award, whether I put in any effort or not. We have in some ways handicapped certain parts of their brain. And then look at the timing of the bigger picture of humanity. The millennials were born between 1980 and 2000, that’s what you said. I’m going to say it’s even a little bit more than that. But as you look at the conditions of society, it’s not been safe financially in the financial market, and it has not been a safe world. 2001 the Twin Towers came down. And then in 2008 we had a financial crisis.
So not only are we treating them like the world is not safe, things happen in the world that show us that we are not safe. And because of a lot of that, millennials then end up staying very attached to and in the homes of the boomers and we love them and we love having them around. We just want them to become independent human beings. All of these different dynamics of how we the boomers treated this population, what we did to them technologically from a brain perspective, as well as what the bigger picture societal did to them as far as having lots of anxiety. And yes, millennials tend to have some off the charts anxiety, because for one reason we didn’t train them to manage that anxiety.
There you go, that anxiety, those thoughts and emotions lead to electrical changes in the body, hormonal changes in genetics. And this is the invitation of doing conscious work to help rewire that circuitry so you’re not experiencing that kind of fear and anxiety. We also need these right brain children, these millennials because our left brain, we feel separate and that’s where we see competition versus cooperation. That’s where we see these wars. And so you agree then, from your background, what’s the parenting style, as a short version here, how do we develop the left and right brain then? Because we were left brain dominant, our children, the millennials were right brain dominant. Is there a balanced approach that you’re thinking based on the cells of our brain to help raise these conscious children?
Jill Bolte Taylor:
Absolutely. That’s why I wrote Whole Brain Living. The only reason I wrote Whole Brain Living was because we have to know what our choices are. What are my choices? We say that was a bad choice. Couldn’t you made a better choice? And it’s like, don’t you think if I had a better choice, I would’ve made a better choice? We don’t know what our choices are. But these four different characters inside of our brain, these four different modules of cells, they each have these personalities and they will all want to have their needs met. It’s like, okay, well what are those four characters? And how can I recognize when I am exhibiting each of those inside of my own self? Because ultimately if I have four characters inside of my brain and every other person has four characters inside of their brain, no wonder relationships are so difficult, because there’s eight of us inside of every relationship.
How do I become conscious? I have to know what my choices are, I have to know who my players are. And once I get to know my own four characters and how they can communicate using that brain huddle, then I’m suddenly a more conscious human being. I’m decided to make a character three experiential decision instead of a character one, how do I come in and fix it decision? Different times, but that’s the power of the brain huddle, is bringing them all into consciousness at one moment and passing among them the microphone together. Who do I want to be? How do I want to be perceived? How do I want to behave? How do I want to feel inside of my own body in this moment, in this time?
And how do I take complete responsibility for who and how I am in the world? Because we all have that ability. And if I do that for me, then I start noticing, oh yeah, the reason why my mom and I are always fighting, and I think that her favorite child is my brother, because when they’re together they’re playful, they get together and they’re right. Emotional character threes and she’s just completely supportive of him. But boy, as soon as I bring her a problem, she turns into this analytical, yeah, let’s fix it. And it’s like, no, I just want to head cheerleader mom.
Brilliant discussion. And so this brings us to the idea that you share in your books and on your website, drjilltaylor.com, that we have the power to choose moment by moment. And how we want to be in the world is what we’re choosing. And this is how we short circuit the emotional reactivity and find our way to peace, to quote you. And this is that Victor Frankl quote, between stimulus and response there is a space. You talk about the 92nd pause in your book, which is what I think the notice except choose again. What I think the brain huddle does, it gives you that 92nd pause so the stress response can run through the body, you interrupt it and now you get to choose differently. And so the key here is conscious work. The key here is being awake, mindfulness, aware. So you don’t have to plan.
Like I was asking, what do we need to do? If you’re just awake, aware, then you can make your choice in the moment by moment. And rather than running from your habitual programming, subconscious beliefs and limiting beliefs. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. I invite everybody to check out Dr. Taylor’s book, it’s called Whole Brain Living: The Anatomy of Choice and the Four Characters That Drive Our Life, is now available. Also, if you go to her website, drjilltaylor.com. That’s drjilltaylor.com. She has podcast on there. She has video interviews on there. She has workbooks that you can download for the brain huddle. So lots of information there. Dr. Jill Taylor, thank you so much for this discussion today.
Jill Bolte Taylor:
Lorne, I am so grateful, and I just want to leave your audience with the idea of using that character one to set your body up for success and listen to that little character two, but don’t let the fear run that, oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh, I got to get pregnant. I can’t get pregnant, blah, blah, blah. Because that just sets up the fear. And move into the present moment, which is where there is peace. Allow the energetic, don’t forget about the energetic, let the energetic nurture the relationship between that egg and that sperm and fertility and conception do happen. But you have to be able to, it helps if you support it with that level of peacefulness. I wish your whole audience success. I really appreciate your conversation, Lorne.
Thank you. All right. Cut. I have a question for you that doesn’t need to show up there. This is off the cuff idea. Do you think that since out of disorder comes order, COVID, the whole world, conscious is an organism, the earth is its own little organism. There’s a part of me that thinks that this is another evolution and order is going to come out of whatever’s going through, although it’s painful and uncomfortable, it seems like something’s happening in the world beyond the 3D world, what we think of just materialism and selfish and blah, blah, blah. It seems to me that something that I don’t understand that I’m a part of is evolving.
Jill Bolte Taylor:
Well, I think that that is true. And I also think I look at the virus as an energy being. And again like the left hemisphere, traditional world, as magnificent as they are in emergency situations, they are disease based and they put all the energy into the cells that are not well. I think we as humanity, we are the cells and we gave that virus an invitation. It resonated with the energy of what humanity has created as the terrain within which it could come in and feel completely welcome to grow here and to take over the host. I think that as we look at what was the energy dynamic of the planet at that moment in time, it was an invitation for that level of viral. I think as we become more conscious and more healed, then there will be less invitation for that kind of energy to come in and grow inside of us again. But I think you’re right, there’s a shift that’s happening.
Why do we care to be alive if it feels so good to not be alive, this near death experience when you don’t have the left brain, which seems to be in the body, why do we care?
Jill Bolte Taylor:
Well, we’ve got a left brain that is very specifically programmed for self preservation, because it doesn’t want to die. It does not want to die. Now, we might hear all these stories about it’s peaceful when you die, but it’s like, but I don’t want to be dead. And it’s like no, self preserve, self preserve and that little character two. That’s how it functions in that fear of, oh my gosh, I, I, me, me, me, mine, me, mine, mine, mine. I’m going to hold on as absolutely as tight as possible, because it feels like death. When you escape that consciousness of that left hemisphere like when you go to the gutter, as I lay in the gutter, I mean I can go there at any moment in time and I just feel myself pouring out in the left brain dissipating, so that me the identity, I don’t have a problem with death because I know that that is the consciousness that I will return to.
I know that this is the pain, this is the heaven. That’s the heaven. This is the hell, but it doesn’t matter. It’s going to grip and hold and grasp because it’s all it knows. It’s my identity. I’m not going to give up my life.
And you’re able to bring in the present moment. So you’re not suffering for those that feel disconnected or not, it’s available, but the switch isn’t on. They’re filling the survival. This is tough. I may die. They’re dominated by left one or two. This is maybe that expression heaven on earth, that if you can get whole brain living, then you don’t need to die because you can just access it, and it’s really fun being here, doing the other stuff as well. Is that kind of good idea?
Jill Bolte Taylor:
Well, and isn’t that the leap of faith? It’s the leap of faith. It’s the willingness to say, I can set me aside for this moment, but in this moment I’m going to go and get lost in something that I think is beautiful and amazing. And I’m going to go get lost in my art or I’m going to go get lost in a project or I’m going to go get lost in a conversation with a friend. I’ve only set it aside, I haven’t killed it. And the more I recognize when I’m already there, the easier it is for me to access that, because I realize, well it’s not a death. It’s simply I’m going to take the energy out of those cells and put it in these cells instead. And to me that’s the power of whole brain living.
I think you’re beautiful and amazing. And thank you for sharing all this information. This has been great. Thank you very much and thank you for your time.
Jill Bolte Taylor:
Thank you. I so appreciate it. Thank you, dear.
Jill Bolte Taylor:
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Jill Bolte Taylor
Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor is a Harvard trained and published neuroanatomist. In 1996 she experienced a severe hemorrhage in the left hemisphere of her brain causing her to lose the ability to walk, talk, read, write or recall any of her life. Her memoir, My Stroke of Insight, documenting her experience with stroke and eight-year recovery spent 63 weeks on the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list, and is still routinely the #1 book about stroke on Amazon.
Dr. Taylor is a dynamic teacher and public speaker who loves educating all age groups, academic levels, as well as corporations about the beauty of our human brain and its ability to recover from trauma. In 2008 she gave the first TED talk that ever went viral on the Internet, which now has well over 28 million views. Also in 2008, Dr. Taylor was chosen as one of TIME Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” and was the premiere guest on Oprah Winfrey’s “Soul Series” web-cast. Her latest book is WHOLE BRAIN LIVING: The Anatomy of Choice and the Four Characters That Drive Our Life
Learn more from Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor
Watch Dr. Taylor’s TED Talk here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UyyjU8fzEYU&ab_channel=TED
Hosts & Guests
Jill Bolte Taylor
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