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More Must-See Videos: Stroke/Jill Bolte Taylor, Civil Rights/Dare Not Walk Alone, Self Portraits/Elephant Artisans, Documentary/Story of Stuff, Ellen/”This is personal to me.”

Deb’s House Concerts

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Talks Jill Bolte Taylor: My stroke of insight

[UPDATE: Related NYTimes article May 25, 2008. Click more at the end of this post.]

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Dare Not Walk Alone

“The civil rights story they don’t show in school”

…We’ve all seen the text-book version of the civil rights struggle, the stock news footage of people marching behind Dr. King singing songs of freedom. But what about the price those marchers paid, the beatings and the backlash their community suffered? Black children arrested for attending a white church; black youths attacked in broad daylight for stepping onto on a ‘white’ beach; white students cattle-prodded by police for supporting the cause of racial equality: this is our history America, this is Dare Not Walk Alone.

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Starving Elephant Artisans

Can your elephant paint? Watch this elephant, rescued from abusive treatment in Burma, now paint an amazing self portrait. You’ll be amazed at how his talent unfolds.

So touched by their horrific backgrounds and loving personalities, ExoticWorldGifts.com now supports, “Starving Elephant Artisans” by selling their paintings so they can continue to have a new life in Thailand.

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What is the Story of Stuff?

From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It’ll teach you something, it’ll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.

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A Tragedy That Should Never Have Happened

Ellen talked about 15-year-old Larry King who was murdered by a classmate for being gay. If you would like to volunteer your services to help gay and lesbian kids who are being harassed and bullied or if you are having difficulties because of your sexual orientation, here are some wonderful services that can help.

The Trevor Project
The Trevor Project operates the nations only 24/7 crisis & suicide prevention helpline for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth. If you or a friend are feeling lost or alone call The Trevor Helpline. There is hope, there is help. The Trevor Helpline: 866-4-U-TREVOR.

PFLAG -­ Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays
PFLAG promotes the health and well-being of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons, their families and friends through: support, to cope with an adverse society; education, to enlighten an ill-informed public; and advocacy, to end discrimination and to secure equal civil rights. Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays provides opportunity for dialogue about sexual orientation and gender identity, and acts to create a society that is healthy and respectful of human diversity.

GLASS – Youth & Family Services
Gay and Lesbian Adolescent Social Services (GLASS) is a private, non-profit 501(c) (3) social service agency dedicated to providing a wide range of social and health care services to children and youth who are in foster care, on probation, or who are homeless. We provide these services in safe, loving, supportive, non-judgmental living environments, while providing full access to all of the educational and vocational opportunities to which these youth are entitled.

GLAAD – Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) is dedicated to promoting and ensuring fair, accurate and inclusive representation of people and events in the media as a means of eliminating homophobia and discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

GLSEN – Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network
GLSEN, or the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established nationally in 1995, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. More than 3,800 Gay-Straight Alliance student clubs nationwide have registered with GLSEN. GLSEN also sponsors the National Day of Silence on April 25, which this year will be held in honor of Lawrence King.

Remembering Lawrence
Vigils in memory of Lawrence King, calling for an end to violence and harassment directed at lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in schools, are being organized in communities across the country. This website lists future and past vigils across the country and allows organizers to register vigils in their area. The more events we organize, the louder our collective voice. Please help make sure that what happened to Lawrence never happens again.

[UPDATE: NYTimes story May 26, 2008.

A Superhighway to Bliss

AJ Mast for The New York Times

Jill Bolte Taylor’s stroke led her to euphoria.


By LESLIE KAUFMAN

Published: May 25, 2008

JILL BOLTE TAYLOR was a neuroscientist working at Harvard’s brain research center when she experienced nirvana.

AJ Mast for The New York Times

Dr. Taylor says the right, creative lobe can be used to foster contentment.

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.

This story is not typical of stroke victims. Left-brain injuries don’t necessarily lead to blissful enlightenment; people sometimes sink into a helplessly moody state: their emotions run riot. Dr. Taylor was also helped because her left hemisphere was not destroyed, and that probably explains how she was able to recover fully.

Today, she says, she is a new person, one who “can step into the consciousness of my right hemisphere” on command and be “one with all that is.”

To her it is not faith, but science. She brings a deep personal understanding to something she long studied: that the two lobes of the brain have very different personalities. Generally, the left brain gives us context, ego, time, logic. The right brain gives us creativity and empathy. For most English-speakers, the left brain, which processes language, is dominant. Dr. Taylor’s insight is that it doesn’t have to be so.

Her message, that people can choose to live a more peaceful, spiritual life by sidestepping their left brain, has resonated widely.

In February, Dr. Taylor spoke at the Technology, Entertainment, Design conference (known as TED), the annual forum for presenting innovative scientific ideas. The result was electric. After her 18-minute address was posted as a video on TED’s Web site, she become a mini-celebrity. More than two million viewers have watched her talk, and about 20,000 more a day continue to do so. An interview with her was also posted on Oprah Winfrey’s Web site, and she was chosen as one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world for 2008.

She also receives more than 100 e-mail messages a day from fans. Some are brain scientists, who are fascinated that one of their own has had a stroke and can now come back and translate the experience in terms they can use. Some are stroke victims or their caregivers who want to share their stories and thank her for her openness.

But many reaching out are spiritual seekers, particularly Buddhists and meditation practitioners, who say her experience confirms their belief that there is an attainable state of joy.

“People are so taken with it,” said Sharon Salzberg, a founder of the Insight Mediation Society in Barre, Mass. “I keep getting that video in e-mail. I must have 100 copies.”

She is excited by Dr. Taylor’s speech because it uses the language of science to describe an occurrence that is normally ethereal. Dr. Taylor shows the less mystically inclined, she said, that this experience of deep contentment “is part of the capacity of the human mind.”

Since the stroke, Dr. Taylor has moved to Bloomington, Ind., an hour from where she was raised in Terre Haute and where her mother, Gladys Gillman Taylor, who nursed her back to health, still lives.

Originally, Dr. Taylor became a brain scientist — she has a Ph.D. in life sciences with a specialty in neuroanatomy — because she has a mentally ill brother who suffers from delusions that he is in direct contact with Jesus. And for her old research lab at Harvard, she continues to speak on behalf of the mentally ill.

But otherwise, she has dialed back her once loaded work schedule. Her house is on a leafy cul-de-sac minutes from Indiana University, which she attended as an undergraduate and where she now teaches at the medical school.

Her foyer is painted a vibrant purple. She greets a stranger at the door with a warm hug. When she talks, her pale blue eyes make extended contact.

Never married, she lives with her dog and two cats. She unselfconsciously calls her mother, 82, her best friend.

She seems bemused but not at all put off by the hundreds who have reached out to her on a spiritual level. Religious ecstatics who claim to see angels have asked her to appear on their radio and television programs.

She has declined these offers. Although her father is an Episcopal minister and she was raised in his church, she cannot be counted among the traditionally faithful. “Religion is a story that the left brain tells the right brain,” she said.

Still, Dr. Taylor says, “nirvana exists right now.”

“There is no doubt that it is a beautiful state and that we can get there,” she said.

That belief has certainly sparked debate. On Web sites like evolvingbeings.com and in Eckhart Tolle discussion groups, people debate whether she is truly enlightened or just physically damaged and confused.

Even her own scientific brethren have wondered.

“When I saw her on the TED video, at first I thought, Oh my god, is she losing it,” said Dr. Francine M. Benes, director of the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center, where Dr. Taylor once worked.

Dr. Benes makes clear that she still thinks Dr. Taylor is an extraordinary and competent woman. “It is just that the mystical side was not apparent when she was at Harvard,” Dr. Benes said.

Dr. Taylor makes no excuses or apologies, or even explanations. She says instead that she continues to battle her left brain for the better. She gently offers tips on how it might be done.

“As the child of divorced parents and a mentally ill brother, I was angry,” she said. Now when she feels anger rising, she trumps it with a thought of a person or activity that brings her pleasure. No meditation necessary, she says, just the belief that the left brain can be tamed.

Her newfound connection to other living beings means that she is no longer interested in performing experiments on live rat brains, which she did as a researcher.

She is committed to making time for passions — physical and visual — that she believes exercise her right brain, including water-skiing, guitar playing and stained-glass making. A picture of one of her intricate stained-glass pieces — of a brain — graces the cover of her book.

Karen Armstrong, a religious historian who has written several popular books including one on the Buddha, says there are odd parallels between his story and Dr. Taylor’s.

“Like this lady, he was reluctant to return to this world,” she said. “He wanted to luxuriate in the sense of enlightenment.”

But, she said, “the dynamic of the religious required that he go out into the world and share his sense of compassion.”

And in the end, compassion is why Dr. Taylor says she wrote her memoir. She thinks there is much to be mined from her experience on how brain-trauma patients might best recover and, in fact, she hopes to open a center in Indiana to treat such patients based on those principles.

And then there is the question of world peace. No, Dr. Taylor doesn’t know how to attain that, but she does think the right hemisphere could help. Or as she told the TED conference:

“I believe that the more time we spend choosing to run the deep inner peace circuitry of our right hemispheres, the more peace we will project into the world, and the more peaceful our planet will be.”

It almost seems like science.

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http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/03/13/when-a-brain-scientist-suffers-a-stroke/?scp=2&sq=jill%20bolte%20stroke&st=cse

As a Harvard-trained neuroanatomist, Jill Bolte Taylor has always known more about brains than most people. But when a brain hemorrhage triggered her own stroke, she suddenly had a front-row seat on the deterioration of the brain.
Dr. Taylor recounts the details of her stroke and the amazing insights she gained from it in a riveting 18-minute video of her speech at the Technology, Entertainment, Design Conference in Monterey, Calif., last month. Her fascinating lecture includes a detailed explanation of the differences between the left and right sides of the brain, complete with an incredibly cool prop — a real human brain.

On a December morning in 1996, Dr. Taylor woke up with searing pain behind her left eye, the beginnings of a hemorrhagic stroke. As the left side of her brain shut down, she began to feel disconnected from her body and entered an almost-euphoric like state. It took her a while to make sense of the experience, but as her right arm became paralyzed, it dawned on her that she was having a stroke.

“How many brain scientists have the opportunity to study their own brain from the inside out?,’’ she said. “In the course of four hours, I watched my brain completely deteriorate in its ability to process all information. On the morning of the hemorrhage, I could not walk, talk, read, write or recall any of my life.’’

Her account of the experience of stroke is vivid, and at one point, she recalled, she felt like someone had taken a remote control and hit the mute button. “I was shocked to find myself inside a silent mind,’’ she said.

What is so surprising about Dr. Taylor’s story is that she experienced a sort of euphoria as she was left with only right-brain functions. She lost her sense of self, but she also shed the stress of her life and, as she puts it, “37 years of emotional baggage.’’

“Imagine what it would be like to be totally disconnected from your brain chatter,’’ she said. “I felt a sense of peacefulness.’’

Dr. Taylor’s lecture is challenging and thought-provoking, and I’d encourage you to take the time to watch it in its entirety. It took Dr. Taylor eight years to recover from the stroke, but she said she was motivated by a desire to share her experience of stroke and recovery, particularly her increased awareness of the right side of her brain. “I realized what a tremendous gift this experience could be, what a stroke of insight this could be to how we live our lives, and it motivated me to recover,’’ she said.

To learn more about Dr. Taylor, visit her Web site.

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5 Responses

  1. I’ve been recommending a book by Jill Bolte Taylor called “My Stroke of Insight” to everyone I know. It’s an amazing story, both uplifting and powerful on three levels: physical, emotional, and spiritual, but the spiritual aspect alone makes this the best book I’ve read all year.

    How often do you get to hear a neuroscientist describe having a stroke, nearly dying and finding Nirvana, and then making a miraculous recovery so that she’s back to teaching medical students!?!

    I came away with a renewed sense of understanding, wonder and hopefulness about the capabilities of the human brain. I give “My Stroke of Insight” highest marks!

    You can get the book for just $16.47 with free shipping from Amazon!


  2. The New York Times Sunday Newspaper on May 25 had a great two page article on Jill Bolte Taylor and her book, “MY STROKE OF INSIGHT”. Her book is a must read and this NY Times article – called “A Superhighway to bliss” is worth checking out too.


  3. I read “My Stroke of Insight” in one sitting – I couldn’t put it down. I laughed. I cried. It was a fantastic book (I heard it’s a NYTimes Bestseller and I can see why!), but I also think it will be the start of a new, transformative Movement! No one wants to have a stroke as Jill Bolte Taylor did, but her experience can teach us all how to live better lives. Her TED.com speech was one of the most incredibly moving, stimulating, wonderful videos I’ve ever seen. Her Oprah Soul Series interviews were fascinating. They should make a movie of her life so everyone sees it. This is the Real Deal and gives me hope for humanity.


  4. MY STROKE OF INSIGHT was ranked #5 in all books sold on Amazon today and #1 in Memoirs above even Barbara Walters’ memoir. Babs had been promoting her book for months in advance and Dr. Taylor’s book was self-published.

    Then Oprah recommended it. There’s the Power of Now, and then there’s the Power of Oprah!!

    “My Stroke of Insight” is out in Hardcover now for less than the old paperback edition.


  5. on June 20, 2008 at 5:36 am | Reply children's portraits

    children’s portraits…

    A thinking person’s site; this one gets an enthusiastic bookmark for future visits!…



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