I have described my own loss of mental functioning (here) and have explored the deep physicality of our brain/mind interface in this blog. In a recent book, My Stroke of Insight, Jill Bolte Taylor writes about a brain hemorrhage in which she loses the left side of her brain due to a massive stroke. As a neuroscientist she watches the desolation of the brain’s functioning with a knowledgeable observer’s keen sense of what’s being lost. One by one she looses all the features we typically think associated with intentional thought (note: intentional here does not mean ‘an act of will’ or ‘on purpose’ like it does in common discourse. Here it means the ability of the brain to form categories, and parse the sensual input into chunks that are ‘about’ something.) As things like time–before and after–disappear, as the visual things in the world blend into meaningless splashes, as color itself loses gist, as numbers become devoid of all denotation, as the boundaries of self and non-self start to dissolve, there is still something there. She writes:
In the wisdom of my dementia, I understood that my body was, by the magnificence of its biological design, a precious and fragile gift. It was clear to me that this body functioned like a portal through which the energy of who I am can be beamed into a three-dimensional external space. This cellular mass of my body had provided me with a marvelous temporary home.
Since this experience, she as starting sharing the deep spirituality she has gained from this experience. This video is worth watching as she explores the meaning behind this rare glimpse of a different reality in an event that seems to have parsed out some the connections between the spirit and body. Even as a skeptical 21st Century scientist she interprets it that way. At the end she speaks about some of the choices we are given for the use of our mortal coil. Why is it that peace and kindness seem reoccurring themes in these sorts of experiences rather than justice and rightness?