Saturday, October 15, 2011

How it feels to have a stroke!
featuring Jill Bolte Taylor
on TEDtalks



Uploaded by on Mar 13, 2008 Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor had an opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: One morning, she realized she was having a massive stroke. As it happened -- as she felt her brain functions slip away one by one, speech, movement, understanding -- she studied and remembered every moment. This is a powerful story about how our brains define us and connect us to the world and to one another.


Over the past number of weeks in our "Music and Brain" class, we have been exposed to a whole new world of knowledge focused primarily on the brain and our obsession as humans to understand its mysterious qualities and ways. Jill Bolte Taylor takes you in, to her personal space, a narrative story of her moments before, during and after having a stroke. By the end of her story, you'll have a deep sense of the uniqueness of both the right and left hemispheres of the brain. Although a very serious medical situation for anyone, she presents her experience of a stroke using humour at her stories core. A spiritual person, she conveys a deep sense of grace and apprecation for the gift that life is. Towards the end of her presentation, she says that it was during her stroke that she found nirvana - that transcendent state in which there is neither suffering, desire, nor sense of self, and the subject is released from the effects of karma and samsara. In hope, she suggests that all of us can find this nirvana too, and that one doesn't need to have a stroke to feel it or find it.

While music isn't mentioned in this presentation, as a musician, I found her explanation of the right and left brain to be informative and 'eye-opening.' When I sit at the piano and compose a piece of music, for worship, for a wedding, an anniversary or a memorial service, I lose the sense of time and I am inspired and energetic throughout the process. My right brain appears to be guiding my creativity and sense of accomplishment. At times, what feels like 30 minutes, in actual time is about 4 hours. During this creative time, I believe that I sense nirvana - it almost feels like an out of body experience. Contrary to this feeling of freedom, is the frustration I feel when practicing on the 5-manuel organ at Metropolitan United Church. A late starter on this instrument, I have been studying for a short 3 years. For me, my time spent on the instrument is one of frustration, focus, fatigue, with few moments of feeling satisfied. I have no sense of nirvana! It is clear, that during the times that I spend studying the preludes and fugues of Bach, my left hemisphere is doing its best to manage my music-making; with feet playing the correct pedal notes, my hands on different keyboards articulating appropriately, my eyes focused on the complex page of Bach's notation and my ears evaluating whether I am playing correctly or not. It all seems very technical!

Jill Bolte Taylor, in her presentation for TEDtalks has brought some clarity to my understanding of how my brain works when I am making music! Her presentation really is a "stroke of genius!"

1 comment:

Renée Barabash said...

How inspiring that Jill Bolte Taylor can speak about her experience with humour and insight. I can relate to the transcendent moment you described at the piano - that sense of freedom and absolute absorption in the creative process, except that for me it happens on the stage, despite serious performance anxiety! I wonder if the right-brain is also involved in having a numbing effect on stage fright?