Buddhist Cartography: “My Stroke of Insight.”
February 14, 2014 § Leave a comment
Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s book, “My Stroke of Insight,” provides insight into the brain’s central role in drawing the primary map of the self.
In 1996 Dr. Bolte Taylor suffered a stroke on the side of her brain that controls language, rational thought and time-oriented thought. Although the left side was severely damaged, the “now” oriented, unitary right side still functioned. In her book she reports on her experience of right brain functioning and her eight-year recovery from the stroke.
Dr. Bolte Taylor reported that when the left side of her brain shut down she could no longer perceive things as existing separately from any other thing. Without boundaries or edges she could not distinguish where one object began and another ended. “Instead,” she writes, “the energy of everything blended together.”
In this sea of energy Dr. Bolte Taylor no longer felt herself to be a single, solid self. It was then she realized that for all her life, “I really had been a figment of my own imagination!”
From these brief excerpts it is not difficult to imagine a time when our newborn brains experienced the world as Dr. Bolte Taylor described. In that pristine world the self is not yet drawn and the world is experienced as a pulsating, energetic sea of sounds, feelings and electromagnetic radiation. It is out of this sea that the left and right side of the brain map out a world of form that the adult knows as his or her self and reality. Yet, as Dr. Bolte Taylor noted, that map exists only in the imagination.