AND Go Beyond to See Anew

February 22nd, 2015

I was listening to a talk by Jill Bolte Taylor, the Harvard brain scientist who suffered a stroke and wrote a book about her experience. She describes, with great excitement and enthusiasm, the experience of watching her brain, as it underwent a stroke. With the fascination of an explorer, she was caught up in what she was hearing and seeing, as the stroke was happening. And today she suggests that her training as a brain scientist probably did not advantage her over others who experience a stroke because she was so fascinated that it took a while for her to call for help.

One of the things that I found fascinating was the word choice she used to describe her experience. When the host of the show referred to her experience of watching herself have a stroke as “terrifying”, she quickly dismissed his description and replaced it with “remarkable.” Her level of insight and learning coupled with her sheer fascination with the whole experience fulfilled her dreams, as a scientist. And she readily admits that if she had the choice to have the stroke or not, knowing what she learned from it and despite eight years of recovery, she would choose to have had the stroke.

What I love about her story and her clarity is the reminder that how we approach our experiences has everything to do with how we perceive our lives and the events that touch our lives. If we don’t start from a point of fear, we don’t seek to control because the newness of the journey is simply too fascinating to be anything other than enlightening or awakening. If we are merely witnessing what is happening, open to discovering something new, whole worlds can open up to us.

Likewise, our ability to share the insights and perspectives of others who see and experience the world differently depends on our willingness to get outside of our own expectations for how things should be or should feel. What may seem foreign is simply new. When we label it scary or terrifying, we unconsciously build a wall around our own fears and attempts to control our world rather than freeing ourselves to witness what comes into our lives with open fascination.

Anyone who has ever practiced yoga knows that you may do a pose with ease one day then the body may not do the same pose easily another day. If we get stuck in old ways, we may try to force the body to do what it is signaling is not its desire today. If we stop to listen to what is happening in the moment, with no expectations or pre-conceived judgments about what is good or bad, familiar or uncomfortable, we can enjoy whatever the body tells us in the moment and detach from our own critical minds.

AND when we listen to stories, as others tell them with only the intention to truly appreciate another’s insights or experiences, we go beyond our own limitations and give ourselves the opportunity to explore our world anew.

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