In 1996, Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor had a massive stroke. A blood vessel burst in the left hemisphere of her brain, leaving the 37-year-old neuroanatomist partially paralyzed and unable to speak, understand language, or even recall her own life. In a now-famous 2008 TED Talk, Taylor recalled how her impaired, left brain dialog interrupted her euphoric, right brain existence during the harrowing initial hours of the ordeal. As the hemorrhage spread and logical reality slipped away, Taylor was cognizant enough of her situation to ask herself, “How many brain scientists have the opportunity to study their own brain from the inside out?” After eight years of recovery, Taylor wrote a New York Times best-selling book about her experience, and that same year she was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World.
Dr. Taylor will bring her personal and professional insights regarding brain injury and recovery to patients and their support networks in a presentation titled My Stroke of Insight: Compassion and the Brain on Friday, October 7, at the Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center. Tickets are on sale now to attend this keynote speech, part of Naropa University’s School of Extended Studies and Graduate School of Counseling and Psychology two-day conference, Compassion Without Limit: Mindful Paths to Transforming the World.
Deborah Bowman, Dean of the Graduate School of Counseling and Psychology at Naropa University, talked about why the school asked Dr. Taylor to speak at this event. “Brain studies have come to the forefront in the field of counseling and psychology,” she said, “and there's so much new wonderful research happening. Understanding how the left and the right hemispheres work together is critical in our work and here we have a scientist who had the amazing mindfulness to observe her own experience. She found that when we don’t have all this mental chatter, we feel connected and have this overwhelming sense of oneness with everything - a sense of not being separate from others, but connected to the entire universe. That's an experience that can heal people, and it has healed people who have had major trauma to the brain.”
Taylor’s work, according to Bowman, is especially relevant as the university celebrates the 25th anniversary of the founding of its Transpersonal Counseling and Psychology program. “Transpersonal psychology understands the spiritual experience is part of the human experience and it honors that. Somebody could come to that experience in the context of their religion, but they don't have to have a particular spiritual alignment to have these healing experiences. It is our birthright to have this sense of oneness and knowing that we are not separate from others,” she said. Bowman noted the opposite of that oneness is the “root of a lot of mental illness. The feeling of being alone, disconnected and isolated spirals down into depression, anxiety, obsessive behaviors, and addictions. We're not meant to be alone and that's why counseling is such a powerful healing tool. You have the presence of another that can offer calmness, loving kindness and insight to help you to get through these problems. The connection of her work to what we're doing is so significant.”
While the speech is aimed at brain injury survivors and specialists—including practicing physicians, clinical therapists, caregivers and family members of brain injury survivors—Bowman believes anyone could benefit from Dr. Taylor’s speech. “We are all curious about how our minds work for a good reason, because the more we understand ourselves the better we can function in the world, the happier we can be, and the better we can serve others. Our mission as human beings is not only to serve ourselves and our own happiness, but to serve the happiness and well-being of other people. That may be on a personal level, such as understanding your partner better, or it may be professional such as teachers working with students, doctors and therapists working with patients, or anyone who is in a helping field, working with people who need support. People can get trauma from a stroke but they can also be injured in car accidents, playing sports, and many other ways, and you never know when it might happen to someone you know or even to yourself. Anyone who is not dealing with brain injury will benefit as well, because they will begin to have a better understanding of how the brain works and what they can do to achieve better balance between the two hemispheres.”
As Taylor puts it in her TED Talk, “Who are we? We are the life force power of the universe with manual dexterity and two cognitive minds and we have the power to choose moment by moment who and how we want to be in the world.”
Bowman encourages people to register for the keynote speech or for the entire conference, which will include an array of transpersonal activities and experiences such as meditation, mindful chakra yoga, and contemplative voicework. “The selection is designed to satisfy people who are intellectuals that have been in the field a long time, and people who are just curious and not professionally or personally involved in brain injury,” said Bowman. A pre-conference offering titled Contemplative Learning with Horses is also available, taught by “one of the graduates of our program, Jean-Jacques Joris, MA, LPC,” said Bowman, “who started an equine therapy program. She will show how working with horses can heal trauma and emotional distress.”
Naropa University is a fully accredited liberal arts university located in Boulder, Colorado, and is an Approved Continuing Education Provider. Two National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) Continuing Education hours are available for full attendance to the event.
Bowman has both personal and professional interest in brain trauma and how it relates to the field of counselling and psychology, her specialty. “I had a climbing accident that led me to this profession 35 years ago,” she said. “I had to stay calm, and the experience taught me I had resources that I didn't know I had. We don’t have to have those experiences to train our minds and open up more to what is in a sense and be available in ways to other people that is more resourceful. You can access that part of the brain that is logical, and also access that part of the brain that is accepting and appreciative of what is, even in difficult situations.”
ON THE WEB
Buy tickets for My Stroke of Insight: Compassion and the Brain by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/my-stroke-of-insight-compassion-and-the-brain-by-dr-jill-bolte-taylor-tickets-25174132508
Buy tickets for the pre-conference offering, Contemplative Learning with Horses: https://contemplative-learning-with-horses.eventbrite.com
Learn more about Naropa University’s two-day conference, Compassion Without Limit: Mindful Paths to Transforming the World: http://www.naropa.edu/about-naropa/events/upcoming-events/tcp-conference/
View all upcoming events: https://www.naropa.edu/about-naropa/events/upcoming-events/index.php
View Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s 2008 TED Talk, My stroke of insight: https://www.ted.com/talks/jill_bolte_taylor_s_powerful_stroke_of_insight