Jill Bolte Taylor’s Story

by | Apr 2, 2019

From a circular perspective, there are two ways of knowing because that is what we experience. This is valid even without scientific study or expert advice. Linear thinking wants external, objective, repeatable evidence.


Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuro-anatomist, actually experienced her brain shifting between what she described as her left brain and her right brain during her stroke. Lucky for everyone, she lived to talk about and write about it in her book My Stroke of Insight. As a result, we have this example of two perspectives on the same event. One experiential, the other scientific. It is amazing to hear a neuroscientist describe these two radically different states of mind from first-hand experience. (Notice she didn’t feel herself shift between five or even three different states of mind. She experienced two distinct ways of being in the world.)

She was able to vividly describe the different sensations as the stroke completely cut off one aspect or her thinking, or the other. In one moment, Bolte Taylor describes caring deeply about the present moment. She felt connected to her body and the energy in everything around her. This flooded her with feelings of curiosity and love. The world made sense because we are connected, we are beautiful, and we are enough. She felt happy and just wanted to stay there.

Then it all shifted and she became very focused on finding details and more details to categorize and organize. This effort was in aid of a drive to increase the predictability of her environment. She wanted to take what she knew about the past and use it to navigate the future. She saw herself as separate from the external world and objectively driven to control it through goal achievement. In this mindset she focused on the goal of getting help.

This left-brain activity turned out to be lifesaving because just then Bolte-Taylor had moments left to figure out how to get help before she died. Fortunately, she achieved her goal.[1]

Jill Bolte-Tylor’s description of the experience of moving between her right and left brain is essentially describing what I call linear and circular thinking. There is remarkable similarity between what I observed and interpreted and her findings. We both recognized states driven by fear or love. We both saw the fear based world as objective, either/or thinking, and linear. The circular world is more subjective, focused on making connections (saying yes, and) and grounded in the moment with an interest in what is meaningful.