I just read "My Stroke of Insight," by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor. I'm not particularly recommending it — and will admit to skipping parts — but Taylor had some interesting thoughts about the brain. The book is about how she, a doctor studying the brain, survived a stroke.
What I got from her book was a reminder that no matter our circumstance in life, if we have a functioning mind and body, we are a walking miracle.
At the time of her stroke, she was at Harvard Medical School performing research and teaching about the human brain to young professionals. After her stroke, which affected the use of her analytical left brain, she wrote, "Programs that had been inhibited were now free to run and I was no longer fettered to my previous interpretation of perception. … With this shift away from my left hemisphere consciousness and the character I had been, my right hemisphere character emerged with new insight."
She felt the blessing from her experience was that "nirvana exists in the consciousness of our right hemisphere, and that at any moment, we can choose to hook into that part of our brain."
In other words, we can train ourselves to be happy.
Generally, it is thought that the left brain controls logic and language and visual and spatial information is controlled by the right side. There are many different opinions but all agree it takes both sides working together to function properly in life.
For Taylor, it was so pleasant living in her right mind without the judgment of her left brain she had to convince herself to leave the tranquility of her right brain. With awareness that her life needed balance, she worked hard to get her left brain functioning. Temporary nirvana is a good place to be, but it takes both brains to live productively.
I also learned from her experiences that even if we are in a problematic part of our life, the fact that we can wake up and work at taking care of business is a gift beyond measure. Life can change in a minute when our bodies and minds don't work well.
My friend Dean Jensen, from Mesa, Arizona, told me of attending a conference on the family in Geneva, Switzerland. The speaker was a doctor at a hospital in New York City who specialized in geriatrics. Dean still remembers him saying that from studies taken on longevity, two points stood out: Those who live longer had fond memories of the past and always had projects going forward.
I hear the phrase, "Oh, I'm too old to do that." I even say it myself sometimes, and I shouldn't think it or say it. The truth is as long as our bodies and minds are working, we are never too old. God gave us a brain to create a life out of the resources available to us.
If nothing else, work at telling your stories to your grandchildren. Their eyes may glaze over for a minute, but those stories are important and will live long after you do.
As I was concentrating on writing this article, my smart watch Christmas gift suddenly alerted me. It said, "Stand up and move a little for one minute." I got up and sure enough, I was pretty stiff from sitting so long. It made me laugh out loud.
The brain is complex, but can the technology catch up? Perhaps when the time comes when we may be too forgetful, a smart watch or some newer invention will do all our thinking for us — both left and right brain. Then we'll have nothing to worry about unless there isn't a teenager around to help us figure out how to use it.