A Superhighway to Bliss
By LESLIE KAUFMAN
JILL BOLTE TAYLOR was a neuroscientist working at Harvard’s brain research center when she experienced nirvana.
But she did it by having a stroke.
On Dec. 10, 1996, Dr. Taylor, then 37, woke up in her apartment near Boston with a piercing pain behind her eye. A blood vessel in her brain had popped. Within minutes, her left lobe — the source of ego, analysis, judgment and context — began to fail her. Oddly, it felt great.
The incessant chatter that normally filled her mind disappeared. Her everyday worries — about a brother with schizophrenia and her high-powered job — untethered themselves from her and slid away.
Her perceptions changed, too. She could see that the atoms and molecules making up her body blended with the space around her; the whole world and the creatures in it were all part of the same magnificent field of shimmering energy.
“My perception of physical boundaries was no longer limited to where my skin met air,” she has written in her memoir, “My Stroke of Insight,” which was just published by Viking.
After experiencing intense pain, she said, her body disconnected from her mind. “I felt like a genie liberated from its bottle,” she wrote in her book. “The energy of my spirit seemed to flow like a great whale gliding through a sea of silent euphoria.”
While her spirit soared, her body struggled to live. She had a clot the size of a golf ball in her head, and without the use of her left hemisphere she lost basic analytical functions like her ability to speak, to understand numbers or letters, and even, at first, to recognize her mother. A friend took her to the hospital. Surgery and eight years of recovery followed.
Her desire to teach others about nirvana, Dr. Taylor said, strongly motivated her to squeeze her spirit back into her body and to get well....
More reductionism (we like it don't get us wrong) from the Times.