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    Understand Your Brain, Upgrade Your Life | Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor

    Balancing our left and right brain thinking can lead to a more fulfilling existence by focusing on what we want to accomplish and knowing when to say no to avoid stress and burnout. Evolving to a higher degree of peace should be the ultimate goal.

    enJanuary 30, 2023

    About this Episode

    The better you understand your brain – and the more effectively you can work with it – the happier and healthier you will be. This is the central contention of today’s extraordinary guest, Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor and she makes this assertion based on two levels of deep expertise. First, Dr. Taylor is a Harvard-trained neuroanatomist. Second, back in the ‘90s, she experienced a severe hemorrhage in the left hemisphere of her brain causing her to lose the ability to walk, talk, read, write or recall any of her life. She later recovered, but that experience, which you will hear her describe in riveting detail, gave her incredible insight into how the brain works. 


    She wrote a massive best-selling book called, My Stroke of Insight, which she has now followed up with a book called, Whole Brain Living, where she lays out exactly how to understand your brain and how to work with it.


    In this episode we talk about:

    • Dr. Taylor’s personal story and how her life has changed post-stroke
    • The marvels of the human brain
    • The differences between the brain’s two hemispheres 
    • How our society is skewed towards the left hemisphere and how living too much in the left hemisphere can burn us out
    • The brain’s “four characters” and how to work with these characters through a practice she calls “The Brain Huddle” 
    • The differences and similarities between “The Brain Huddle” and another practice we’ve talked about before on this show called, “RAIN”
    • And she describes a tool for understanding your emotions called, “The 90-Second Rule”



    Full Shownotes: https://www.tenpercent.com/podcast-episode/jill-bolte-taylor-552

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    🔑 Key Takeaways

    • Our brain has two hemispheres - the left is our ego center and the right is home to our sense of interconnection, present moment awareness, and awe. Practicing the brain huddle and Rain meditation can help us work with the brain's four characters to lead a happier life.
    • By understanding the specific circuits of cells responsible for various abilities and experiences, we can gain a better understanding of how our brains work and potentially enhance our lives.
    • Understanding the left and right brain, the blood-brain barrier, and the brain's functioning can lead to a greater appreciation of its miracle and aid in recovery from brain-related illnesses.
    • Balancing individuality and big-picture thinking is key to whole brain living for personal and planetary evolution.
    • To achieve a fulfilling life, accept challenges, prioritize the bigger picture, and utilize both hemispheres of the brain. Self-soothe, be present in the moment, and replace judgment with curiosity to find peace and contentment.
    • By embracing both the left and right hemispheres of our brains, we can experience greater happiness, energy, and contribution to the world. We have the power to choose how we use our minds and achieve whole brain living.
    • By quieting our left brain, we can access different parts of our brain and live more holistically. Mindfulness practices can help us connect to the present moment, tap into our creativity and connect with the universe.
    • By identifying and assessing the different characters within us, and choosing which one to exhibit in a given moment, we can have better control over our emotions and actions, and build a better future for ourselves.
    • Our brain's right hemisphere is entrepreneurial, seeking adventure and new experiences but lacks rational thinking, leading to dysregulation and trouble. We need the left hemisphere's logic to keep it in check.
    • By practicing brain huddle, we can identify which character we are embodying in the present moment, appreciate all four characters, and make conscious choices to work efficiently with each of them in different situations.
    • Balancing our left and right brain thinking can lead to a more fulfilling existence by focusing on what we want to accomplish and knowing when to say no to avoid stress and burnout. Evolving to a higher degree of peace should be the ultimate goal.
    • By practicing mindfulness and using the BRAIN acronym to train the mind, one can focus on their authentic self, achieve inner peace, and nourish their relationships with others.
    • By recognizing our current thought patterns and intentionally choosing ones that align with our intentions, we can develop whole-brain thinking and positively impact others.
    • By practicing the Brain Huddle and RAIN techniques, individuals can become more mindful and make wiser decisions. Being aware of the eight characters in every relationship and choosing how to respond can lead to better outcomes.
    • Learning to be present in the moment and practicing mindfulness can help us make better choices and lead to a more balanced brain. By being aware of our emotional reactions, we can allow them to pass and make wiser, more choice-oriented decisions.

    📝 Podcast Summary

    Understanding Your Brain for a Happier and Healthier Life

    Understanding your brain can lead to a happier and healthier life. Dr. Jill Bolty Taylor, a Harvard-trained neuroanatomist, has deep expertise in brain function. Her book, Whole Brain Living, discusses how to work with your brain for optimal outcome. The left hemisphere is our ego center, where the right hemisphere is home to our sense of interconnection, present moment awareness, and awe. Living in the left hemisphere can lead to burnout. Practicing the brain huddle can help work with the brain's four characters, and Rain meditation can further help. Finally, the 92nd rule can help you understand your emotions. Dr. Taylor shared her personal story about her stroke and how it gave her deep insight into brain function.

    The Fascinating Study of Brain Circuits Through Personal Experience

    Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor's experience of losing her left hemisphere due to a stroke provided her a unique opportunity to study her own brain. She was fascinated by the neurologically weird experiences she had and wondered which circuit of cells were responsible for each of her ability. The absence of her left hemisphere gave her a relaxed, peaceful and beautiful experience. As a neuroanatomist, she believed that every ability we have is linked to a specific circuit of cells. The experience of enlightenment also requires specific cells inside of our brain. Understanding the functions of different brain circuits can help us have a better understanding of various experiences.

    The Wonders of the Human Brain

    The human brain is a magnificent collection of neurons interacting with one another in delicate arrays allowing us to have a human life. Understanding the difference between the left and right brain is crucial as the left is responsible for language and analytical thinking, while the right is responsible for creativity, intuition and emotions. The blood-brain barrier is an essential collection of glial cells that separates the neurons from the blood. The author's experience with a stroke helped her learn more about the brain and its functioning, which helped in her recovery. Marveling at the brain is crucial as it is a miracle that any two of us can communicate as we are similar enough in how our cells organize their circuitry.

    The Brain Hemispheres and Its Influence on Our Perspective

    Our brain hemispheres influence our perspective of the world. The left hemisphere is responsible for our individuality and ego center, while the right hemisphere processes the big picture perspective. The absence of individuation in Taylor's case allowed her to experience a feeling of oneness with the universe. Our brain's natural duality causes an internal conflict, particularly when it comes to our value structure. While the right hemisphere places importance on humanity and the planet, the left hemisphere is concerned with individualism. Striking a balance between the two, or achieving whole brain living, is the ultimate goal for evolution.

    Balancing Personal Growth and Community Involvement for Success and Contentment

    Balancing personal growth and community involvement is crucial for finding success and contentment in life. The hero's journey involves accepting a challenge and being willing to set aside individual desires in order to step into the bigger picture. It's important to utilize the skillsets of both hemispheres of the brain to take care of oneself while also nurturing relationships and giving compassion. Self-soothing and being present in the current moment can bring peace and allow for refueling. Judgment and societal hierarchy can be replaced with curiosity and exploration, leading to a restful time of simply being present with oneself.

    The Importance of Whole Brain Living for Balance and Communication.

    Whole brain living is important for us to bring balance and communication inside our heads. Our challenge as humans is to build a bridge between time spent burning energy in the left hemisphere and refueling the machine in the right hemisphere. By dwelling in the right hemisphere, we can step out of the spinning stories of our mind, be happier, have more energy, and our actions may eventually benefit the whole. The four characters we lay out in the book are the reptilian, the emotional limbic tissue, the neocortex, and the specific modules of cells. We have the power to choose who and how we want to be in the world; we need to use different pieces of our magnificent head to achieve whole brain living.

    Cultivating Mindfulness to Access Different Parts of the Brain.

    Our consciousness is not filtered through our identity and likes/dislikes of our left brain. We can quiet the left hemisphere to have a wide open, big expansive experience of being alive. There are 4 modules of cells in our brain, each with specific skill sets and personality profiles: 1) Left thinking tissue that defines what is right/wrong and how we fit into the social norm, 2) Left emotional tissue that experiences present moment, 3) Right emotional tissue that connects us to the universe, and 4) Right thinking tissue that thinks experientially and is creative. We can cultivate mindfulness to access these different parts of the brain and live more holistically.

    Understanding and Managing the Different Characters Within Us

    We all have different characters within ourselves and it's important to be aware of them. Character one is the part that goes to work and likes to be in control, characterized by left brain thinking module. The emotional tissue is the part concerned about past and future and brings information in the present moment. We are not just present in the moment, but also have the capacity to learn across time and build our future. It's important to identify and assess these characters and choose which one to exhibit in a given moment. Naming these characters can help us identify and differentiate each one of them, and relate to them better.

    The Right and Left Hemispheres of the Brain and their Influence on Our Emotions and Actions.

    Our brain cells bring past experiences and compares them with present situations to decide if it's safe or threatening, which can lead to anxiety and addiction. The emotional and traumatic incidents of the past influence our present actions causing dysregulation in our calmness. The right hemisphere of our brain doesn't have individuality like the left hemisphere and only focuses on the present moment. It's entrepreneurial, collective, open, and wants to explore and find new experiences, which can lead to adventure but can easily get us in trouble. We need the rational thinking of the left hemisphere to keep this part of our brain in check.

    Understanding and Utilizing Four Characters within Us

    We have four characters - the doing, thinking, experiencing, and being alive. By consciously choosing our character in the present moment, we can work with them more efficiently and make better decisions. To do so, we can practice brain huddle by first focusing on breath, then recognizing which character we are embodying and appreciating the existence of all four. Finally, we can choose which character we want to be in that moment. Practicing brain huddle can help us work efficiently with character two when triggered and bring all four characters online, making it easier to choose the right character for each situation.

    Achieving Whole Brain Living through Differentiation and Informed Choices

    Differentiating who we are and making informed choices based on all four parts of our brain can help us achieve whole brain living, which involves knowing when to say no and focusing on what we want to accomplish in life to lead a fulfilling existence. Jill Bolte Taylor, the subject of the conversation, is an example of someone who shifted focus from being competitive and driven by left-brain thinking to being centered around the values of the right hemisphere. While it's essential to have interpersonal relationships and pay bills, relying on left-brain thinking entirely can cause stress and burnout. Instead, a balanced approach to living can lead to evolving oneself to a higher degree of peace.

    Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor's advice on achieving inner peace and emotional accountability through mindfulness and BRAIN training.

    Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor emphasizes the importance of living in the present moment and being at peace with oneself. By paying attention to moment-by-moment experiences, one can take emotional and cognitive accountability for who they are and evolve into a more beautiful space. To achieve this, Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor recommends training the mind through the acronym B.R.A.I.N - which stands for Breathe, Release, Attend, and Inquire. By doing this, one can bypass the characters that may bring tension and focus on their authentic self. By being true to their bliss and being at peace, one can bring nourishment and support to everything they love and have a good relationship with others who are in a peaceful and beautiful space.

    Practicing Whole-Brain Thinking

    Practicing expanding our perception and thinking processes regularly can help us become more fluent in it, like learning a new language. The brain's neuroplasticity allows us to create new circuits and habits that eventually become automatic, leading to whole-brain thinking. To integrate this practice into our lives, we need to take an instant pause, recognize which character we are embodying at that moment, and make choices that align with our true intentions. By paying attention to our choices and the time spent in each character, we can attract the right people and create a positive impact on others' lives.

    The Importance of Recognizing and Negotiating with the Eight Characters in Every Relationship

    In every relationship, there are eight characters: four in you and four in the other person. To make the most out of every moment and relationship, one must learn how to recognize and negotiate with each character. The Brain Huddle Practice is a way to tune in to the characters in the brain and make conscious choices. Similarly, RAIN (Recognize, Accept, Investigate, Non-Attachment/Nurturing) is a mindfulness practice that helps individuals wake up and move beyond their habitual mindsets. Both practices aim to develop the muscle of mindfulness and wise decision-making. It's essential to be aware of these practices and choose mindfully which character to bring into the situation to make the most out of it.

    The Benefits of Being Present and Practicing Mindfulness.

    Being present in the moment allows us to make better choices. Practices like yoga, mantra and prayer help us override the language center of our left brain, enabling us to focus on the present moment. Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor advocates for balance in the whole brain, not just the right hemisphere. The 92nd rule explains that our emotional reactive circuitry takes less than 90 seconds to flush through us. By being aware of this, we can let our emotions wash through us and get to a wiser, more choice-oriented place. Taylor's book, Whole Brain Living: The Anatomy of Choice and the Four Characters that Drive Our Life, will change the way you look at the world.

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