Conversations on Healing

Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor

Using Brain State Activation to Create Presence

Harvard trained and published neuroanatomist

After experiencing a severe hemorrhagic stroke, Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor lost the ability to write, talk, and recall any of her life. She wrote My Stroke of Insight to document her eight-year recovery and experience. She regularly speaks to various different audiences of all academic levels on the brain’s ability to recover from trauma. She has been chosen as “100 Most Influential People in the World” by TIME Magazine and was the premiere guest for Oprah’s “Soul Series” web-cast. Additionally, she has a new book Whole Brain Living: The Anatomy of Choice and the Four Characters That Drive Our Life is now available.

In today’s episode of Conversations on Healing, host Shay Beider welcomes Dr. Taylor to talk about her experience recovering from a stroke and the power of choice in activating different states of your brain. She talks about the 4 characters at the neuroanatomical level and their impact in daily life. Additionally, Dr. Taylor describes the different roles of the left and right hemispheres of the brain, and how people can bring consciousness to the present moment by remaining right brain dominant. She also speaks on the importance of sleep for cell rejuvenation and information integration. Dr. Taylor shares the concept of Brain Huddle, which helps our brain to integrate all four characters on the neuroanatomical level in order to take power of our lives and create peace.

Show Notes

Introduction (00:02): Welcome to the Conversations on Healing podcast, where host Shay speaks with renowned healthcare leaders, practitioners, and thought leaders to explore the world of wellness, the incredible powers of self care and what it truly means to heal today. Join us on this journey to become more whole healed and connected.

Shay Beider (00:31): Hello to our new and loyal listeners of the Conversations on Healing podcast, Shay here and I’m so happy to be able to share with you our very well known guest for today. Taylor is a Harvard trained neuroanatomist who experienced a very severe hemorrhagic stroke in 1996, after which Dr. Taylor brought awareness to her experience and recovery through her memoir, “My Stroke of Insight”. While spending 63 weeks on the New York times, nonfiction best seller list, Dr. Taylor’s work has evolved beyond the written word. She delivered the first Ted talk to ever go viral that, now has more than 25 million views. She was also selected as one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World and was the premiere guest on Oprah’s soul series. In today’s episode, Taylor explains that we have an immense capacity to choose our emotional state and turn our emotional circuitry on and off by choice. She shares why it is important to consciously choose to be right brain dominant and live fully in the present moment through communication with the right hemisphere of our brain. Dr. Taylor and I discussed topics from her most recent book, “Whole Brain Living: The Anatomy of Choice and the Four Characters that Drive Our Life”, which is now available in stores and online. She leaves us with a truly terrific explanation of her concept called a “brain huddle”, which she calls our power tool for peace. This tool supports our capacity to integrate the four characters in our brain and make very different life choices as a result. If you’re looking for a more full, vibrant, engaged, and present moment life, this conversation is definitely for you. I’d like to welcome you Jill to the conversations on healing podcast and thank you so much for joining me today.

Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor (02:47): I’m thrilled to be with you today. Thank you.

Shay (02:50): So I wanna let you know, personally that I’m really honored to have you on the show. I have followed your work for years. I saw your Ted talk way back when, when it was released early on, and my work focuses a great deal on supporting people in the hospital. And I felt like so many of the insights that you have, and that you have shared are so beneficial to the approach that we take towards how we work with patients and families and people when they’re going through serious health crises and so I just wanna personally thank you for all of the work that you do.

Taylor (03:33): Thank you.

Shay (03:35): So I want to start with that now, very famous Ted talk that has more than 25 million views, um, on your stroke of insight. And you know, this talk really recounted what you had learned from having a stroke that significantly impacted the left hemisphere of your brain. You were in this unique position, as a neuroanatomist, who had this very kind of academic training, and then personally went through such a massive, you know, life changing experience. Um, and then you went on this journey of recovery for more than eight years. And I was very touched. I was reading your most recent book, “Whole Brain Living” and just thoroughly enjoying it, I have to say, and as I was going through it, I was very touched by something you said. So I’m actually gonna read that. You wrote that one thing you hoped to accomplish with that Ted Talk was for us as human beings to recognize that we are connected as part of a whole, and that you wished for us to treat one another with a higher degree of respect and kindness. And then you go on to say that our civility towards one another has declined over this past decade. And so I’m very struck by like what your original intention and kind of mission was in giving that talk and in sharing your personal story. And then, in a sense, you know, your concern over where we are today. And so I I’m interested to hear what you feel would be most helpful for us to move closer, to recognizing our interconnectedness with one another as human beings.

Taylor (05:24): You know, we have this absolutely gorgeous brain inside of our head and anatomically your brain is built virtually identical to mine and this whole right hemisphere, it’s not about me. The individual, the right hemisphere is about the present moment, the experience of the present moment, and is busy processing in information from its entirety, from the collective. And then we have this wonderful skill set on the left hemisphere that is specifically designed to take all that information of the present moment and make sense out of it as it relates to me an individual. And so, you know, when I experienced that stroke and it wiped out that left hemisphere me, the individual, all I had was the energy dynamic of the present moment that was as big as the universe and the collective whole. And so, helping people relate to both of these worlds is kind of, was certainly the goal of that, that Ted talk. Because when we allow ourselves to shift out of who am I, the individual, I’m the focus of the universe to really recognizing no, I am an individual and I have an ego because I have a group of cells inside of my brain that tells me who I am and where I live and all the details about me, but in the absence of that tissue, I still exist as a conscious being that is as big as the universe. And, I think knowing both halves of ourselves is the road to peace. And it’s not knowing and understanding this relationship is the road to internal conflict and discomfort. So many of us in our society are suffering from high levels of anxiety, high levels of fear. Um, and peace really is just a thought away in understanding that I have the capacity to bring myself into the present moment and that that’s where I am perfect, whole and beautiful. Just the way that I am and life, is this incredible blessing.

Shay (07:51): Yeah, it’s, I was very struck in reading the book, how clearly you almost in my mind wrote it as a manual to help us to work with what we’ll talk about a bit here in our conversation today, these four characters in our brain, and we’ll discuss more, what that, what you mean by that, but almost like as a roadmap to being able to then create this peaceful life and interaction, you know, with others. And it’s quite beautiful how you’ve organized the content in a way that there’s kind of questions in the book that people can ask of themselves and these kind of different characters inside of their brain. So I think what actually might be very helpful given that is to discuss a little bit about these four characters and the sections that you’ve identified to discuss how we can work within our own selves to create this whole brain and more peaceful world.

Taylor (08:55): Perfect. So when you stop, and you think about, uh, the reptilian brain, we have a reptilian brain at the level of our brain stem, and these are pretty much on-off switches. So I’m hungry. I eat, I’m not hungry anymore. I’m thirsty. I drink. I’m satiated, this kind of thing. And the way that life evolves is to add new tissue on top of an old structure. So, we have the reptilian brain stem, and then the difference between a reptile and a mammal is the addition of new tissue on top of that brain stem, which is what we call the limbic system or the emotional tissue and it’s bilateral, it’s on the right and on the left, and they’re different. They’re separate from one another and they’re different. But then when it comes to the human, we actually add the Neo (new) cortex on top of the emotional tissue. So, we end up with these two modules of cells, one in each hemisphere, that is specifically for thinking, and then we have two modules of cells, one in each hemisphere, specifically for emotion or experiencing the present moment. So, as a neuroanatomist, when I lost my left hemisphere, I lost my left thinking module of cells and my left emotional module of cells. But I still had my right emotion in my right thinking without inhibition from that left hemisphere. So, I became unconscious at the level of the rational thinking brain, but I was still completely conscious at the level of what was going on inside of my right hemisphere. So, what that gave me was through the eyes of a neuroscientist, through a person who studies the brain an understanding about, well, what is going on in my right hemisphere when it’s not inhibited by the left hemisphere?

Taylor (10:58): So, I could not speak, I had no language. I had no individual Jill Bolte Taylor died that day, that group of cells was traumatized and died. I had no experience of my past, no projection into the future. All I had was the present moment right here right now. And the emotional cells in the present moment is experiential. What does it feel like to be in this present moment? What does it, how much humidity is there in the air and how can I detect that? Um, what does it feel like to have glasses on my face? What does it feel like the experience when I dive into the water and I feel the pressure of the water against my body, and what’s the temperature of the water against my body, the experience of the present moment, I had that. And then I also had the thinking portion of my right hemisphere, which is completely connected to the energy dynamics around me, without any inhibition of that beautiful left hemisphere. But what did I lose in the left hemisphere? I lost the left thinking tissue, which I call character one, which is, my rational thinking one plus one equals two. I know that because I have a rational brain that knows that. My character, one likes to create order in the external world because I, my character one, likes to control people, places, and things. Part of things is time. So this is the part of my brain that gets me somewhere on time. And it’s the one that puts my stapler back where it belongs so I can find it when I need it. So character one is going to be that left thinking tissue that I had lost. And I completely lost that part of me and a part of that part character. One is language that says, I am. I am an individual. I am Jill Bolte Taylor. I have an identity. I have likes, and I have dislikes. I have skills. I have language. I have a group of cells in the parietal region of my brain that defines the boundaries of where I begin and where I end, because if I don’t have that group of cells, then I perceive myself in the present moment to be literally as big as the universe. So as I lost the left hemisphere and I became really clear on the right hemisphere, then I had to use the right hemisphere skills to rebuild the circuitry and the abilities of that left hemisphere. And when that happened, the emotional pain from my past character, she came back online as did my left thinking brain came back online. So I became really aware that I have four characters at a neuro anatomical level. We all do. And if you look at the world of psychology, they lay exactly on top of Carl Young’s four archetypes, but in his world only that left thinking tissue is the conscious one. Everybody else is unconscious. And in my world, because I lost that character one, uh, character profile that was, he would define as conscious all I had was my unconscious mind, which then became conscious because that’s all I had. So I got to know it very well. Um, so those are the four characters inside of each one of us based on a neuro-anatomical model.

Shay (14:30): And I’m curious, Jill, how this might have changed your perspective or understanding of what spirituality means, because what you’re describing in some ways, mirrors a lot of the descriptions that you kind of hear from spiritual people who are doing different kinds of meditative practices. And, perhaps, you know, you see some of the studies of monks who apparently live in like a gamma state, much more than most of us, the 10,000 hour plus meditators actually spoke with Daniel Goldman about this idea, how they’re literally living in like a different brain wave state, much of the time apparently. And I find that fascinating. And I’m also curious how you think this connects to spirituality.

Taylor (15:20): Well, I think that that every ability we have, we have, because we have brain cells have performed that function. And my entire frame of reference is as a neuroanatomist the cells of the anatomy of the brain. So I think in cells, I think in circuitry, and if I’m going to have a spiritual experience, then I have to have cells that allow me to have that. If I’m going to have language, I have to have cells that allow me to have language. If I’m going to have motor and the ability to move my finger, I have to have cells that perform that function. So the experience, the ability to have a spiritual experience, you have to have cells that perform that function. And in our society, the left brain is so dominant and so loud that in order to have a spiritual experience or an experience of the present moment where one becomes vast and open and connected to all that is I’m personally more comfortable with the scientific language, uh, rather than the spirituality language, but use whatever language you’re comfortable with. But we have that ability because we have brain cells that perform that function. And in the absence of my left, the noise essentially of my left hemisphere, that thinking brain that thinks in language and the emotions that think in pain and in language from my past, and always bringing me in some time, other than the right here right now, when we bring ourselves into the present moment, that’s where God is. That’s where prayer is. That’s where love is. The present moment is where everything that is really happening is happening. So our ability to have a spiritual experience is to be able to quiet the noise in the left hemisphere, and to be able to open ourselves to that group of selves in our right thinking tissue that connects us to all that is.

Shay (17:24): Yeah. I noticed you had written in the book that the most frequent question that you’re asked is how do I quiet the brain chatter in my left brain that people are, um, you know, really in search of a way to embrace peace and not be, you know, constantly caught up in those that monkey mind or those thoughts. And you also share that the better that we’re able to understand various groups of cells inside our brain, the more power we have to choose, which of those neural networks we want to run. So, um, I’m curious if you would be open to sharing. I really loved the idea of the power of choice in the book. How much of it you feel like we really do have the power to choose our states? And you talk about this specifically in relationship to our emotional circuitry, how we can turn that on and off. And you, I think you came up with this term, I believe the “90 second rule.” Um, and so I thought maybe you could share what that 90 second rule is and how we can use that in our lives to benefit ourselves and others.

Taylor (18:29): Perfect. Um, you know, at any moment in time, there’s pretty much only one thing going on in our brain. Now, some of us, our brains work very fast and we’re just shooting all kinds of thoughts or all kinds of different emotions through ourselves, but still we’re focused on something. The, just the ability of the human brain to focus on a circuit. But every thought, I think every emotion I feel is the byproduct of, or specific product of groups, of cells that are running in circuitry. So again, my ability to have language, I have cells that are running in circuit, and right now they’re running my ability to get angry. When I get angry, I’m running a group of cells, specifically designed for me to get angry as part of my fight or flight so that I can protect myself from something that I perceive as a threat.

Taylor (19:26): So based on the idea that every ability we have, we have, because we have brain cells that perform that function. Number one, we have the ability to observe what’s going on inside of ourselves and what we are putting out into the world. So my guess is Shay that when you get angry, you know, you’re angry, right? And you probably feel yourself cranking up. I’m gonna get mad. I’m gonna get mad. I’m gonna get mad. Boom. I reached my threshold and now I’m mad. So from the moment we think a thought that stimulates an emotional circuit. So let’s say, um, I hold a grudge against somebody from 30 years ago. And every time I think about that person, I still run my anger circuit because I haven’t forgiven them. So I think the thought of that person, it stimulates my anger circuit. I feel it crank up. I feel it trigger. I run a physiological response to now what I’m thinking and what I’m feeling, circuitry. It floods something through me. It flushes something out of my bloodstream, the physiological response to that specific emotion. And then my blood is clear. And from the beginning, from when I think the thought until my blood is clear, takes less than 90 seconds. So the next time you feel yourself angry or sad or even happy, when was the last time you had a good belly laugh? It doesn’t last for more than 90 seconds. If you do stay in an emotional circuit for longer than 90 seconds, it’s because you’re rerunning the loop, you’re rethinking the thought that’s, re-stimulating the emotional circuit. And then you’re having that physiological response. And again, we can stay angry for 30 years.

Shay (21:14): Yeah. It’s incredible. How just choosing to retain and replay that thought, then re-triggers the emotion and just continues and perpetuates that cycle. And so again, that’s a choice point, right?

Taylor (21:27): Can, that’s a choice point. We first, we have the ability to observe what circuits we’re running, and then we have the power to say, okay, I am mad right now. Do I wanna stay mad? And I might really wanna stay mad because let’s admit it anger. It’s delicious, right. Feeling sadness. It can be delicious. Grief is delicious. Laughter is delicious. So the emotional circuits are delicious and if they’re delicious and we decide, okay, you know, uh, we wanna break that cycle. You know, how, when was the last time, you know, here you are your tip for tatty, with somebody then they come in and you’re back and then the telephone rings right. Then what do you do? You answer the telephone. “Hello?” Right? You’ve already whacked yourself out of the hostility. Now you’re into the character one part of your rational brain, if you’re being appropriate, right. Some of us aren’t appropriate, but if you’re being appropriate and then you have a conversation, then you put that phone down. And in that moment, that’s the moment you do your work. Do I choose cause I’m not done with you. Right I wanna go right back into that cycle or I can literally say I was saved by the bell. Uh, I don’t wanna fight with you. Uh, let’s take a break and let’s separate. And then let’s come back in a little bit. These are mature choices. We don’t always choose to make mature choices, but we always have the ability to make a mature choice and um, paying attention to how you are wired and how you like to be wired and what circuits you run versus what circuits you’d like to be running. You have a whole lot of choice in them.

Shay (23:15): Yeah. And how important that each one of us remembers that how much choice we have in all of these moments, even when we feel very triggered. I’m curious, I had heard of brain researcher say this was a new idea to me, but that in his research he’d found that the emotion of anger appears to be the only emotion that lives exclusively in one hemisphere. And as I recall, he said it lives seems to live exclusively in the left hemisphere of the brain. And I was curious about your thoughts around why that would be.

Taylor (23:50): So when you think about what is anger, what does, what does anger do? Anger results in an immediate eruption. It’s gonna be my amygdala. It’s gonna be a group of cells in my brain. That is a part of my fight or flight, flee, play dead, uh, natural response to a threat. And if I erupt with anger, generally anger is a push away and I am programmed throughout my entire past to, I mean, just think about this is one of the most beautiful, amazing things that I can think of about the, the human brain Shay. We have the ability to have our brain in the present moment right here, right now we have that capacity and that’s where animals tend to function. But we have the ability to remember why we chose what shoes we put on this morning. Oh my God. I have the ability to remember the last conversation I had with my mother years ago. I have a history. I have the ability to project my mind into the future. I live on a boat on a lake six months out of the year. So I’m communicating with you from a boat. And as soon as we’re finished, I’m jumping in the lake and I can imagine what the temperature of the water’s gonna be like. And oh my God, it’s gonna cool my head down. So my whole body goes down, but this is one of the miraculous things of the human brain is we have the capacity to choose what time our brain is actually functioning in. And all of that then is to say, I have a history and it is my left hemisphere that holds my history. And so my history is designed so that I can remember when I was five years old and I was trying to ride a bicycle and a little dog was nipping at my heels, trying to bite me. And I was terrified and I was angry and I was pushing it away. And now, you know, 55, 60 years later, I see a little dog like that. I get an automatic, angry, push-away response because I have, I have learned, I don’t have to relearn rebuild the wheel in every present moment in the present moment is everything that is present. And so we have to have that ability for the brain to step out of the present. Give me my history, give me my past so that I can learn along the way so that I can grow. Because the only way that I can grow in the present moment is by looking back into the past and adding to it. Otherwise, all I have is the experience of the present moment, which is peaceful, blissful euphoria. For me. Anyway.

Shay (26:44): I’m curious if you are familiar with, and if you wanna comment on at all, um, Lisa Feldman Barrett’s work. She’s written extensively around how the emotions are basically predictions. And so, very similarly to what you’re saying in that we have the capacity to change those, um, because they’re based on history and that there are things you can do in the present moment to shift or adjust your emotions by creating new behaviors in the present moment. So she gives very specific things like you get up and physically move when you feel very depressed and you’re feeling very heavy, like you literally like force yourself to get up and physically create change. Cause you’re trying to disrupt those past predictions and patterns that maybe you learned in childhood that are telling you how you should be feeling in this present moment, but that aren’t really allowing you to feel something new and fresh like right here. Right now.

Taylor (27:44): Sounds to me like she’s, uh, encouraging people to bounce out of the circuitry of the character two left emotional tissue into the present moment right here, right now, character three present moment, emotional experiential. And that’s that, you know, that’s the beauty of emotions is they will run their 90 second circuit, but once they’ve come and gone, it’s like, well, what choice do I have and where I wanna be now. And so for me, the better, you know, each of these four different characters inside of yourself, then you can actually say, okay, right now for another half hour, I will be in my character one: I will sit, I will speak. I will communicate. I will do what I’m supposed to do. Right. My little, A-type personal’s gone to work. And then as soon as we hang up, boom, clothes come off and I’m in the lake, little character, three is gonna come out and play. Right, but we have that ability and the better you get to know each of these different parts of yourself, then you get the power to choose. Okay. Which one do I wanna be in? And it also then starts making more sense out of these voices inside of your head. If I’m experiencing conflict, it’s like, oh man, it is hot. I’ve been sweating. I’m in a heat way for 10 days. I don’t wanna be here. I don’t wanna do this. That’s my little, you know, now I’m whining and it’s my character one is saying, okay, we’re gonna do this for an hour. And then we will reward. You go play. And it’s like, okay, it’s like a negotiation inside of our own heads. But if you don’t know what your parts are, you don’t know how to conduct that, that negotiation in a way that really brings true peace and true meaning into your life.

Shay (29:26): Yeah. And I had heard you, um, say that you’ve consciously chosen to remain kind of right brain dominant and I’d love for you to share with our listeners why you feel that’s an important decision.

Taylor (29:40): Yeah. When you start, when you think about what’s the left brain good at it’s fantastic. I mean, we are totally non-effective uh, and non-functional human beings without a left brain. We have to have language. We have to be able to communicate with one another. We have to have a relationship with the external world. We have to create a certain level of order in the external world, or we’re just functioning in chaos, which is pretty much dysfunctional for any of us who have lived that way. Uh, so the left brain is this, this miracle tool it’s, I would never wanna, you know, leave home without it, but the left brain in all of its glory, glorifies me, the individual, me, Jill Bolte Taylor. So I then become about me and my pack and my family and my job and my bank accounts and my size of my house and the size of my toys and compares my toys to your toy and we’re all on the hierarchy and you are where I wanna be. So I’m gonna lie and scheme and do whatever I need to do to get around you because this is what the left brain does so well. It’s beautiful tool, but the right hemisphere, isn’t about me. The individual, the right hemisphere is simply about we’re in a present moment. Everything is atoms and molecules. Oh my God. The miracle of life somehow happens so that the energies put together, not just a single cell where I’m a single microbe, that that is a semipermeable membrane between what’s inside of me. And what’s outside of me with little receptors so that I can stimulate and be stimulated by. Oh my gosh, I am 50 trillion, molecular geniuses. I’m a human being. Wow, wow. To me, that’s just a big, wow. I have eyes that can bring in information for sight. I can speak, I can move my body. All of it. I, I have bladder capacity. Oh my gosh, what a gift? You know, that’s a miracle, right? And so being in that present moment, experience of awe and wonder. That is the collective consciousness of life. And to me, that’s, what’s important. What’s important is that life exists on this planet. And would it be wonderful if we better understood that as human beings who are skewed to the dominance of our left hemisphere, where it’s all about me and mine, and now it’s mine versus yours and the polarity of what we’re living in our social economic world of reality. But there’s still this present moment, blissful euphoria connection. You are my sister, people who are listening. It doesn’t matter where they are around the world. We are one human family. It is a miracle that we exist at all. And that’s a beautiful way to, to exist in a peaceful consciousness. And so, yes, I have chosen to remain a right dominant person who has an extremely functional and useful, effective, left brain tool to work with. I wanna go to healing because, uh, it’s a good segue from where I just was. We are this magnificent collection of cells and my wellness, your wellness is 100% dependent on the health and the wellbeing of the cells that make up your form. So if I have a disease, if I have a disorder, if I have a problem, whatever it is, I have cells that are not well. And so for me, healing, isn’t about, well, how do I heal from this disease? Or how do I heal myself from that problem or that injury for me, it’s about how do I help those cells become well again, so that they can then perform their function again. And for me, I mean, when you consider, I could not walk, talk, read, write, recall any of my life, half my brain was completely disabled. My ability to bring those cells back online, it took eight years of concentrated effort loving, supportive I was in a hurry cells are not in a hurry. We need to remember that healing takes time, but to be able to focus in a loving way on the cells that are at the core of the problem, I think it’s really important because they’re like little children and they’re listening to what we say. And so I think that as we self nurture or I love what the organization of people as you go in and you touch and you bring that loving touch, you’re not just bringing touch. You’re bringing in this healing energy that says I am with you. I am being supportive of you. I believe in your ability to heal, take my energy, use my energy for your healing and let’s work together in order for that healing to happen. And the ability and the capacity of the human, to recover and to heal itself. I believe all of that power is in that consciousness of the right hemisphere and any of the self doubt that just shuts it down. Any of personal negativism, just shuts it down any yaba, yaba, it just shuts it down, just open your heart and let the energy flow so that those cells can regain their healing. And I believe they will.

Shay (35:17): And it sounds like in your personal healing process, that eight year period that you were going through in recovering from your stroke, that you were communing, I don’t know another way to say it, but with your own 50 trillion cells to, you know, be supporting them lovingly, just like you’re describing to kind of come back online. And is that correct? That that’s, that was part of your healing journey.

Taylor (35:42): That was absolutely my consciousness. And you know, to me, effort has to be perfectly balanced with sleep because these are cells and cells, 50 trillion of them. Oh my God. That’s like a lot of cells. That’s like 8,000, 500 times, all the people on the planet, you know, I mean, this is a lot of cells working together to be an individual. And so I come into them lovingly and I think to myself, I used to be able to do this. I used to be able to move my arm. I used to be able to have language. I used to know what a mother was and who my mother was. I mean, everything was wiped out of that left brain. And, so it was like, okay, you know, what does, what is it gonna take? How do I, how do I get from a to B to C to D to E, and then I’m exhausted because I’m working so hard on concentrating, trying to put the focus and the energy on those groups of cells so that they can recover their ability again, and it’s exhausting. So I had to balance the effort with the sleep and because sleep is time for integration. It pretty much blocks out the new stimulation coming in and it gives your brain cells an opportunity or your body cells, same thing as, if you’re suffering from something, somewhere else in the body, the cells have to be given the time to work and to pause, to work and to pause.

Shay (37:19): And I feel like your work has so many implications for how we could differently design our hospitals and our hospital systems. You know, one, what you just said, the importance of sleep. I think in many cases, we haven’t designed our hospitals to optimize sleep, right? There’s a lot of interruptions to sleep, a lot of machinery and human interruption. And that can be very distracting for a patient who’s trying to rest and heal and recover. Um, and then the other element which you’d spoken to in your first book that I remember is just how sensitive and aware you were of the energy of each person who came into your room. And so I feel like it’s such a message to our healthcare providers, to our loved ones who come in to visit us and to see us when we’re ill in the hospital, that their energetic presence, however you wanna define or talk about that matters. So I’d love to hear your, you know, thoughts on those issues of how we can show up differently in hospitals, in healthcare systems, to be able to convey a different energetic presence and maybe to respect more the need for sleep.

Taylor (38:33): Beautiful questions. Thank you. You know, we are matter, we are atoms and molecules being moved around by energy and to our, uh, Western medicine culture when I was in school, when I was working on my PhD and teaching at the medical school, the two things we could not talk about was one energy. It was taboo, unless we were talking about mitochondria, you know, the energy powerhouse of the cell, different kind of energy, uh, similar but different, and consciousness. And, you know, that’s been 30, 40 years now. And so now we are able to talk about energy, quantum mechanics, quantum physics. This is essentially the study of looking at how energetic modules work and work in synchrony with one another and become predictable patterns, et cetera, et cetera. But in much of Western medicine, this is still taboo and woo, woo, and people are uncomfortable with it. But the fact of the matter is our right brain is an energy processing machine. And if I have, if I am wounded and my left hemisphere is not functioning really well on processing all that data, then all I’m, I’m still picking up information. Well, we know we have the capacity to read body language. We have the ability to read facial language. We have the ability to read intonation and content, emotional content, a voice. Well, these are skill sets of that beautiful right hemisphere. So when we are not down out of my connection to the external world, which is pretty much gonna be that left brain, it more takes inhibition off of my skills of my right hemisphere. And I am experiencing my world. And I can tell you when you are desperate for energy, when you are desperate for any kind of connection, for any kind of order, for any kind of makes sense of the world, um, energy matters. And there are two kinds of people, people who bring you energy, bring you positive energy, bring you touch, bring you love, touch you appropriately, be with you, speak gently with you, but for small amounts of time, because still that can be overwhelming as well. And then there are people who are gonna come in and want something from me, my energy, and if they want me to squeeze their hand and I don’t even know what a hand is. And I don’t know what a squeeze is. I’m looking at them thinking, oh my God, this is an energy vampire, and they’re gonna suck me dry. And they don’t even know it. So it’s really important that people realize we are matter. And we are energy and take responsibility for the energy you bring into my space, because if you’re here to help me heal, then help me heal. And if you come into my room and you’re on your telephone, or you’re distracted, and I’m just a number and I’m just something you gotta do, and you don’t bother to connect with me, you’re communicating to me that you’re not a safe place, because you’re communicating to me that you don’t know how to find me. And I’m in this really vulnerable position. So if you want me to trust you and you want me to perform for you, then I need you to connect gently and lovingly, supportive of my energy to fuel me and fill me instead of to drain me.

Shay (42:07): Yeah. How extraordinary if we trained our healthcare providers to be very attuned and aware of whether they were bringing positive energy to the people that they were serving, or if they were taking and drawing from them and just a very conscious training process to develop the capacity, to understand when we’re giving to another and when we’re sort of taking and like how to mitigate that, how to develop more conscious awareness around that boy, that could be so beneficial.

Taylor (42:40): Yeah, no, but isn’t that true Shay for every relationship we have. Yes. I mean, you’ll go home and you’ll meet somebody in your family. And in that first exchange, you will either give them energy or you will take energy from them and vice versa. This is the dance we do as human beings, but when we are ill and we are really vulnerable and that’s all we have, and I feel like my vessel is, is almost empty and I need you desperately. I wounded, I need you to heal me, help me heal. I need that energy from you in a loving brief, I’m gonna go back to brief because I love what you said about, you know, wouldn’t it be interesting if we could design a hospital that I approved of? I mean, I would love that. And I have talked to hospital people about, you know, my number one complaint, why is it we have known literally for 30, 40, 50 years that a typical sleep cycle is between 90 and 110 minutes, but we take vitals every 60 minutes, which means you have to wake somebody up and break them out of their sleep pattern. When we already know that after, you know, just a few days of no REM sleep, a normal, healthy person will become psychotic. What are we doing? You know, just a little bit of consciousness could go a really, really long way. So you let me know when you’re gonna start that hospital.

Shay (44:02): Okay. I will let you know, cause I want your advice and wisdom and all of it.

Taylor (44:09): Perfect.

Shay (44:09): Yeah. I feel similarly, very strongly about this. And I think sometimes, I guess in my own life, I feel like we have these fundamental intelligences within our bodies and within our brains and within our whole system that really does know how to heal. You know, that there’s something fundamental in those 50 trillion cells that has a knowledge base. That’s probably been, you know, passed down from generation to generation that really knows what it’s doing. And, um, I’ll never forget when I, I first observed a tortoise giving birth. I saw this tortoise and it spent three hours giving birth. And I just watched the whole process. I had these three hours. It was just me and this tortoise. And I was just riveted by what was happening. And there was no one around that tortoise, no one explaining to the tortoise what to do, no one assisting the tortoise. It was all it was information contained within those cells. And it was precise. Like it knew exactly what to do, how to release those eggs, how to protect them, how to bury them. There was a ritualistic, almost process that went on for hours. All of that was an intelligence that was inherent to that being and contained within. And in that moment I thought, oh my goodness, there must be so much more respect paid for the intelligence in our systems. When it comes to healing, I really believe that each one of us, it’s not that we have some, you know, external healer that does it all. I really think that actually is a very limited role. I think so much of our healing is the ability to attune internally to that capacity that we each have. And so I have great respect for that. And I would love to see more, our medical system designed in a way to respect that inner intelligence? I don’t know what you think of that idea.

Taylor (46:10): Well, I, I think you’re absolutely right. I think that, you know, once again, every ability we have is because we have brain cells that perform that function. And for me, it was the consciousness of that character for that thinking tissue in my right hemisphere, that set me up at that vibration of energy that was completely taking in the power of the universe. We are the life force power of the universe. I mean, we are this amazing miracle of life with, you know, manual dexterity and two cognitive minds and language and mobility. I mean, we are, are incredible. And with that, we’re designed to be healthy biological creatures. And then we have this marvelous left brain that allows us to doubt and allows us to shame. Well, I feel less. I feel less than I was because I used to be a Harvard, you know, trained professor, doing research and teaching at the medical school. And now I can’t do that anymore because now I’m a victim. Now I’m a stroke victim. I don’t even know what a mother is, which less my mother is. I have no value. Well, I think that is gonna get in the way of my ability to heal. So fortunately, that got wiped out, but we have to think about what are we thinking? What are we feeling? What are the cells we’re running? What, which character are we given the microphone to? And for healing, I gave my microphone to character four and character four said, thank you very much. We’re gonna balance this with sleep. It’s not gonna be easy. It’s gonna take a long time. We’re not in a hurry, but be prudent and we’ll get there.

Shay (47:47): Yeah. I’m curious, Jill, you’ve shared that you grew up with a brother who had schizophrenia and that in large part ended up influencing you in terms of your career and why you wanted to study the brain and understand more about these things. And I would be interested to hear when you kind of look back on that relationship and how it’s impacted your life today, what you think have been some of the most important takeaway lessons for you from that relationship?

Taylor (48:19): When I was a little girl, I grew up in Indiana and in Indiana we have the Indianapolis 500, right. And I wanted to grow up to be a race car driver. I mean, I had no really high aspirations. I liked speed. And it was available, right. I was like right there in Indy and we knew Tony Holman and Tony Holman owned the Indianapolis 500 and I begged my mother, please, please, please, you know, let me learn how to drive one of these race cars. And she kept saying, no, no, no. And it was like, okay. So, then my brother, my relationship was clear, my mother, wasn’t gonna let me be more of a right brain, you know, race car driver, cause she was terrified I would die. And so we were really waiting patiently for my left brain, scholastic brain, to turn on on, because she was an academic. She was a PhD in history of philosophy of science, as it relates to mathematics. My father was a PhD in counseling psychology and it’s like, oh dear Lord is this child’s left brain ever gonna get academic? And so I go to college and I fall in love with anatomy. Oh my God, the cadaver lab. Oh it was so beautiful. It was so beautiful. My whole soul said, oh my gosh, this is delicious. And I wanted to know where every artery and every vein and every nerve and I wanted to know all the tissue and I wanted to see it at a tissue level and at a cellular level and at a neuro level and at a gross anatomy level, it was just like turn me on. And, it was clear that I really wanted to understand what was normal because something was not normal in my relationship with my brother. One of us was not normal in how we perceived and processed information because we could have the exact same experience and walk away with completely different descriptions of what just happened. So I became obsessed with what is normal. And then, you know, in anatomy, if you’re gonna do research, the only field really left to do much research in the brain. So I focused in brain anatomy and then he was with schizophrenia and then it was like, you know, he was the greatest gift there was to me because he was different from me. I became fascinated with, well, what is normal? And since my mother wouldn’t let me be a race car driver. Okay. That was my story.

Taylor (50:48): Yeah, it turned out pretty good. I think.

Shay (50:51): Well, I can join you in that effort because my lifelong dream is still to be a race car driver. I’m not given up on that.

Taylor (51:00): There you, I get it, speed!

Shay (51:03): If I win the lottery, the first thing I’m doing is buying a fantastic car.

Taylor (51:08): I love it.

Shay (51:10): Um, I wanted to ask you I’d read a long while ago, but that they had done some research. So the two hemispheres of our brain, as I understand it, um, you know, communicate largely through the corpus callosum right. And yeah. Um, I, they had done some research that they looked particularly at boys who’d experienced neglect and girls who’d experienced sexual abuse and they saw changes in the crosstalk in the brain and that ability to, basically, have the hemispheres communicate effectively through the Corpus callosum. And so it, it got me thinking a lot, um, about in your work and kind of some of the tools that you offer in your book, “Whole Brain Living” around like the brain huddle, which we can touch on before we wrap up our conversation today. But you have these very specific tools for how we get all the different parts of our brain working together effectively. And I’m curious about your sense of how this could maybe work with, or support or empower people who have experienced trauma. So I’d be interested about how you see some of your ideas impacting people. Who’ve experienced trauma like that.

Taylor (52:38): Beautiful. So, as you think about trauma, trauma is something that happened to me in my past or it’s happening in my present, but the long term developmental problems or shifts I’m going to say that you’re talking about is from a historical perspective. And, uh, so that’s gonna be the emotion. The, of my left hemisphere, that is me, the individual, this is trauma happened to me. Different people look at their trauma differently. Two people can have the exact same experience and one person feels traumatized by that. And they focus on that. And a lot of energy goes into that circuit and that circuit, they feel they cannot get escaped from, or say, for example, it’s PTSD. Let’s say I’m a veteran. I was in a war. I may even have been wounded physically traumatized. And so now whenever I’m in my normal life, again, I’m, I’m, I revert back to this flashback of a trauma. So we do have that, that tissue and the beauty of that tissue is again, it’s our ability to shift our minds out of the present moment, go into the past. So we can reflect upon that tissue with other healthier parts of our brain to look at that and say, that was a horrible experience. That was bad. That was dangerous. That was all these things we wanna say about it, but it’s not right here right now. And I can learn now that people who look like that, if it was some kind of a personal attack on something, or a dog that looks like that I can push it away. But I can relate now to that trauma so I can have a relationship with that trauma I can grow from that trauma. Trauma is important, but it’s also important that we don’t make our trauma, our lifestyle, because if we put all the energy into the trauma, then we just keep traumatizing, retraumatizing, retraumatizing ourselves. And that was one of the problems with, um, a lot of therapy. You know, when people go back into the same trauma for 30 years, they’re just retraumatizing, retraumatizing, but good therapy is when you go back and you have you revisit that experience, that trauma, and then you look at it through a new lens and you allow yourself to no longer be the victim or no longer be stuck there, but say, yes, this happened to me.

Shay (55:48): Well, I do wanna give you a chance to discuss a little bit, um, about the brain huddle and then the acronym that you use to help people to learn the steps required to do a brain huddle. And you call this a power tool for peace. So I’d love for you to explain a little bit about this.

Taylor (56:37): So as we, as we think about our own brain, and we think that we have these four characters, so the title of the book is “Whole Brain Living,” the anatomy of choice and the four characters that drive our life. And when, and in the book, it takes you into a chapter on character one, these are the characteristics that this cells, these groups of cells come up with and they package themselves together and they come out like a personality, like a character. So once you really get to know your character one, your character two, your character three, your character four. That’s great because then you’re looking at yourself and you’re saying, okay, yeah, I can do my character one. And then I can do my character three, or I’m really in my character two. And I need your character four to help me self soothe. You know? So the in intra dynamic inside of oneself is a good idea. And then you start looking at your spouse or at your children or at your parents or at your colleagues at work. And you, you really get to know, okay, well, this person is predominantly in that character. And,so I can work with them with this part of my character or this character three inside of me. Doesn’t get along with that character, one at all, where this person, I just can’t relate to that or whatever. Anyway, it allows you to build this neural network of understanding of your own personal life in a way that, wow, I mean, it just opens up your eyes to all kinds of possibilities. So the power tool here is called the brain B R A I N huddle, but you have to know all four of your characters before you can, can do the huddle, but B – stands for breath. Bring your mind into the present moment. Life is in the present moment. It’s not in the past and it’s not in the future. So bring your mind to the present moment. R – recognize which of the four characters call the brain huddle. And they all call ’em for different reasons. So once you get to know your four characters, then you’ll be able to recognize which one called the huddle. A – stands for, regardless of who called the huddle. Appreciate. A, appreciate that, that you have all four of ’em. You have instantaneous access to all four of them. I – stands for inquire within, okay. Which one do I wanna have come out next right now? And then N – stands for navigate, navigate your life moment by moment by moment. So, so this is just the power. This is the power of knowing who you are and having a say by calling a brain huddle. And I can tell you, as soon as you bring call the brain huddle in character four is present character. Four is love character. Four is God, call it whatever you want, but character four is our power connection to the universe. And as soon as we call the brain huddle and you know, character four is online, you will make better decisions in your life.

Shay (59:35): Hmm. Yeah. That’s so important that recognition that when you’re really aligned with that character four, and bringing that consciously to the forefront, that you will make better decisions. And that leads me to, um, it’s kind of a personal question that I wanna ask, but I wanna ask it nonetheless, because I’d be very interested to hear your answer. So for some time when I, particularly when I wake up in the morning, but it happens to me at other times in the day too, but particularly first thing in the morning, I kind of go into a bliss state. Um, just naturally it might be that shift from sleep to wake the theta state. And I’ve kind of learned that I’ll, I’ll often just stay there for quite a while, sometimes for hours, you know, and it’s in the language of your book, it feels like it’s definitely in that right brain. , you know, right hemisphere um, and there’s not a lot of language and it’s not a space out of which I really wanna move. I’m just sort of experiencing a bliss and, um, but very different from kind of that, you know, left hemisphere, especially the left thinking, like, get it done. It’s not about time. It’s not about action. It’s not about achieving things. It’s and I’ve often wondered because it seems like now I have more increasing capacity to drop into that sort of bliss state. Like how much time do you spend in that type of a place, because we have a life that’s filled with all sorts of, things, right. And possibilities. And as you said, all four of the characters in our brain are each one is very valuable. So I guess I’m gonna put this kind of personal question to you. How do you determine sort of the balance of, of things? I guess

Taylor (01:01:38): I have the brain huddle and I think that that’s an absolutely perfect question because, you know, you’re lucky you wake up in the morning and you allow yourself to be present and simply shift into that. What I would describe as character four blissful euphoria, and I purposely put myself there, regardless of how I wake up, I always wake up and I say, thank you, thank you to those cells, cause they’re in the brain stem, thank you to those cells that woke me up today. Thank you for waking me up today because they did their job. That’s all they do. They wake me up when I’m asleep, that’s their job. And if they’re not there, then I’m in a coma. I don’t exist, I will not reach an awaken state. So I, that’s how I begin my day. I say, thank you for waking me up today. And I visualize them in there and they’re like, Ooh, mama recognized us. You know, we got a little sugar, you know, and it’s like, oh, she’s there. And so I do that, that too. And then, you know, every day is different, but it’s an ongoing negotiation constantly between my four characters. And it’s like, I listen to my right brain and anytime it says, that’s too much for a single day, don’t put another thing on that calendar. Right? Um, or do this or don’t do that. Or am I gonna do this or am I gonna be in the presence of this person? And if this person is an energy, that’s going to drain me and I’m aware of that. It’s like, okay, let’s protect me. We’ll make it a smaller amount of time. And then we’ll back me up with a block of time, big enough so that I can do something that’s going to allow me to really get the Juju, going to my character three, which is playful or my character four, which is holy, if you will. So it’s this ongoing negotiation, but I will not compromise the value of my life. And I would rather do nothing and then add little bits of things on it than have it all loaded up and then try to schedule in my little bits of bliss. You really have to find this balance between what’s going on in the right here right now, present moment experience and the obligations of being a living creature. And you know, somebody might be out there saying, yeah, but I’m a mom and I’ve got three kids and I’ve got a job and I’ve got a husband and I gotta do this… And it’s like, well, then figure out ways to make it fun. Figure out ways to go shopping as your own character three, instead of, as you are, gotta get it done, cross things off the list, character one. Figure out yourself, get to know your four characters and say to them, okay, brain huddle, board meeting, everybody needs to get together. How am I gonna make it through the day, and we’re gonna maintain our sanity? How are we going to do that? And let your characters talk to you, let your characters communicate their needs because we end up having conflict when we’re not satisfying the needs of all the different parts of who we are.

Shay (01:04:48): It’s a beautiful way to say that Jill, that we end up having conflict when we’re not satisfying the needs of all the different sort of characters or parts of who we are. Yeah. That’s so beautiful. Well, I know you have a lake that you want to jump in here.

Taylor (01:05:07): I do

Shay (01:05:08): I do not want to keep you from that experience. So yeah, I’ll just, in conclusion, just give you an opportunity. If there’s anything else that you feel the need to express that came out of our conversation today, then now is your chance before you hit the water.

Taylor (01:05:25): You know, I just wanna say we have so much more power over what’s going on inside of ourselves than we have ever been taught. And to me, whole brain living truly is a roadmap to our own sanity and how to live our best lives, defining our best lives as what we really want inside of ourselves in order to find our balance. So I am so grateful for you. I am so grateful for the, the, uh, the groups you work with. I’m so grateful for the healing. I’m so grateful for the conversation. So thank you, Shay.

Shay (01:05:59): Well, thank you. It’s just been an honor and a pleasure to speak with you.

Conclusion (01:06:05): We hope you enjoyed this episode of the Conversations on Healing Podcast. If you haven’t yet, please go to Apple Podcast, Spotify or your preferred podcast platform and subscribe, rate, and review this podcast. It helps so you won’t miss an episode. See you next time.