Posted tagged ‘left brain/right brain’

‘My Stroke of Insight’ Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor

September 13, 2009

        I have not read this one yet, but it is on my ‘must’ list.  Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor is a neuroscientist by profession who shares her insight into the illness of stroke.  Her book is titled ‘My Stroke of Insight.’

        She knows, and both from a right brain and left brain perspective, because she suffered a stroke herself a few years back.  Like many of us as medical professionals, prior to her stroke she was a left brain human.  Logical, organized, driven, time pressured etc.  I am not judging.  Lord knows I have plenty of ‘Type A’ to go around.

        When she had her stroke she knew it was in the left side of the brain, because she began to lose the use of her right hand, and her speech began to get garbled.  As it progressed, an odd thing happened.  Her right brain took over, and she began to experience an unexplained tranquility.  It was like she was able to step outside herself and look at the situation with near bemusement.  She began to think, “Well, isn’t this interesting?  My, my.  It sure is peaceful over here.”  (Paraphrased)

        The left side fought back.  “What are doing?  You are a scientist.  This is a stroke.  Call 911!”

       She never forgot the feeling, though.  Her full recovery took years, but as her left brain came back to normal, she was still able to tap into the right side and access all those warm fuzzies.  Even after the resolution of her stroke she did not lose that ability.  I think her book is very important.  If we read it with passion we might learn more about how to access both sides of our brain with equal ease.

        I am reminded of the early days when I began to write my book.  Some days I’d come in from work and start to type.  I was still in left brain mode.  I’d send it to my agent and he’d say, “You wrote this like a doctor.  It’s terrible.  Do it over.” 

        He thought about how to break this pony for a while. One day he called.  “I don’t want you to ever write a word until you have strung your mandolin around your neck and played until you have logged into your right brain.”

        It worked.  In fact, what few times I tried to get speed up the process and get it by him he’d notice right away.  “Tear it up.  Go get out your mandolin.”

        The last time I saw Wayne and Kristin Scott Benson we got into a discussion about Ms. Taylor’s book. I told Kristin that I looked forward to the read, but at the same time I had a notion I understood what the doctor was trying to say. 

        Kristin looked at the mandolin case at my feet and smiled.  “That’s how you get there, Doc.”

        How come woman are so intuitive?  She 100% got it.  The mandolin and writing has always taken me over to the tranquil side.  I just didn’t have to suffer a stroke to get there.  I bet there is a lot to learn from Dr. Taylor as to how to access it with more efficiency.  Or maybe I am just too danged left brain-ed analytical about it all, who knows?

      In my next post I plan to share some about the Wayne Benson left-brain right brain balanced mandolin method.  One time I told Kristin it seemed to me Wayne understood the why of how he played better than any great player I’d ever worked  with.

       She just smiled and nodded.  I’m sure she must have wondered how old Doc could be so slow to understand.  To her, as a woman, an artist, and as Wayne’s wife, that understanding was second nature.  It takes a community to make a right brain artist out of a left brain doc, but with the help of ‘The Mandolin Case,’ I’m getting there.

Dr. Taylor’s web site is:

Dr. B


Army Golf

September 11, 2009

        First off, let me update you on Australia Sam. They had to put his surgery off till Monday.  I think it was due to exhausted surgeon syndrome.  As much as I know they hate to wait, I’m glad the surgeon was up front.  If he’d been up all night, it’s best to rest and then go again Monday AM.  Y’all keep up the prayers and I will update you then.


        There’s an old joke in golf.  When a man has a bad day and can’t keep the ball in play, we often call it ‘Army golf.’  (You know; “left, right, left right.”)  With that concept in mind I want to open discussions about the human brain.  What makes us work off the left vs. the right side?  More important, how can we learn to tap into both?

        This will take more than one post, but I’m gonna start with golf.

        Once I had a patient who was a brilliant man. He was a true rocket scientist.  I had all respect for him, but he was a hemi-hypertrophied left brain man if there ever was one.

        He’s forever bring me complicated mathematical formulas he’d derived to adjust his Coumadin dose.  The only problem was they didn’t work.  Coumadin adjustment has always been more art than science, a fact that distressed the man to no end.

        When you’d talk to him about blood clots you couldn’t say, “Well brother, think of it like the difference in a river and a mill pond.  All that junk won’t grow on a rapid river but the water on the pond just sits there, and vegetation can fluorish.  Your circulation is slower now, and when that blood pools up it makes for a good place for blood to clot.”

        He’d look at me funny every time.  It was an indication he didn’t know whether to trust a man of science who talk such as that, so I’d proceed to go on and on about the latest theories on endothelial cell dysfunction and platelet aggregation.  Then he was satisfied.  As for me, I liked the mill pond analogy better, but the other was the latest hip thing he might have read in ‘Scientfic American’ and it suited his style better.  It is always best to know your audience, and play their tune.    The only practical value for me was it helped me fill in more correct bubbles on my Boards.

        Anyway, my rocket scientist patient decided he was gonna take up golf.  I advise most folks past fifty who are as left brain-ed as this man to take two weeks off then quit, but he was insistent.  He wanted to come out and watch me hit some balls one day, so I gave in.

        I recalled a surgeon friend who took a stab at the game in middle age.  He was very left brain dominant, and also a man I respected highly; one I would let operate on me or my family in a minute.  After a few tortuous years, one day he threw his clubs down and said, “I’m just too d@#^ smart to play this game.”  The man was right.  He just couldn’t let his right brain take over even for a day.

         My rocket scientist pal joined me on the range one Wednesday.  I was a beautiful sunny Carolina spring day.  A few clouds drifted overhead, and a pilot buzzed around in a Piper Cub.  Some birds rode the wind.

        “Let me warm up,” I said.  I tossed a bit of grass in the air, and made a very rough calculation of the wind, more out of habit than necessity.  I closed my eyes for a minute and tried to recall the old days with Snookers in  high school when we had not a concern in the world.  I began to hit  some wedge shots.

        After my back was limber, I moved on to a driver.  Trust me, I am no great golfer, but as a 7 handicap I can play enough to fool the uninitiated.  I hit a few draws.

       He watched intently for a while, then spoke.  “I notice as you project the ball it tends to ascend and then just before the the apogee it curves from the three o’clock positon back to the mid-line.”

       “Yes sir.  They call is a draw.  When Billy Casper hit the tour his shot was a big draw; more like a hook.  Sam Snead watched him and said,”I know a man can hit a ball like that, but I don’t know why he’d want to.”

       My patient didn’t even hint at a smile and remained in deep concentration.  “I notice the ball has a number of circumferential small indentations.” 

       “Yes sir, they are called dimples.”

       “My interpretation is to achieve the desired trajectory, and for it to be repetitive, one must impart the correct amount of spin by delivering the strike to the ball in a consistent fashion.”

        “Yes sir, something like that.”

        “Hm.  I notice your left thumb is slightly right of a vertical position, approximately three millimeters of deviation from midline.  I assume this results in a slight closure of the striking surface as it contacts the ball.  Is that how you generate the required torque to accomplish this repetitive flight pattern?”

       “Hm. Well not exactly.  I ain’t no great golfer, but I just try to set up a bit closed and think draw.  Sometimes the image of tossing a bucket of water over my left shoulder helps.”

        “Beg your pardon?” 

        Oh yeah, I thought.  I forget he wasn’t that big on a water analogies.  He came out of the space program.

        He stuck with it about two weeks.  The man was retired and had plenty of time on his hands.  I’d go by on my way to work and there’d he be studying that grip and doing his best to calculate a formula that might conquer an impossible game.

        I saw him a month later.  “How’s the golf going?” I asked.

       “I gave it up.  It is not a reasonable game for a man of science.”

        “I agree, John.  I think you’re too d#^%^d smart play that game.”

        He smiled.  We had connected.  He was my patient all the way until he moved to Florida, and brought me scientific articles to read just as regular as some folks bring tomatoes.  They were quite good, and my left brain and his got along fine.  I’m glad he didn’t take up the mandolin though.  Somehow I don’t think it’d a worked out.

Dr. B

Note:  I finished this post before I realized what day it was.  God bless all the victims of 9/11.  -Dr. B