In our holiday episode, we’re highlighting some of my favorite conversations from this year, in hopes that you hear what you need. The holiday season can be a hard one for many of us, for so many different reasons. We revisit conversations about ritual, everyday awe, talking about end of life wishes with family, love and saying goodbye, and even the most recent science that explains how our brain works. If you need soothing words or something to talk about at the dinner table, we’ve got you covered.
Sarah Cavanaugh: [00:00:00] Hi, I'm Sarah Cavanaugh and this is Peaceful Exit. Every episode we explore death, dying, and grief through stories by authors. Familiar with the topic. Writers are our translators. They take what is inexpressible impossible to explain, and they translate it into words on a page. We are doing something a little different today.
I know the holiday season can be a hard one for many of us, myself included. You might be grieving a loved one or know that it could be the last holiday with someone you care about. My mother died 21 years ago and I still think about her all the time. I miss her. Especially in a season that is so focused on family and gathering and togetherness, there are many faith and cultural traditions that occur this time of year.
This year is an extra heavy holiday season with elections covid, [00:01:00] world events war. It can be difficult to find some joy when there is so much grief. I think we all need some extra rest and care right now to sit with our grief and process. So this is a special choose Your Own Adventure episode of Peaceful Exit.
I'm going to point you to several different episodes of our podcast from the past year based on what you might need right now. And even if you've heard all these interviews before, stick with me. A funny thing happened when working on this episode. As we were pulling these clips together, something new jumped out at me from each one and landed a little bit differently.
Maybe it's a different season, different things happening in my life. I've listened to these many times, but I still find new insights. So do you need to talk to an aging parent about advanced directives and making end of life plans? But you're dreading it. There's no easy way to say it. You know, you need to have this conversation [00:02:00] and you'll feel much better after you do.
This is the time while we're all together in the holidays to talk about declining health and making plans while everyone is still able to. I encourage you to use this podcast as a door into this conversation. If you have a family like mine who didn't talk about death or doesn't talk about death, never has, never will, unless you start the conversation.
Take a listen to an episode that appeals to you. Like my conversation with Kristi Nelson about gratitude or the episode about. Everyday awe with Dacker Keltner. Just put it on in the car with your mom or dad while you're doing airport runs. It's not gonna be a downer. This episode is just as much about living as it is about dying.
Dacher Keltner: The things that make us feel awe, or what you might call this sublime, are vast in terms of their size. You're near a redwood tree. They're vast in terms of time. [00:03:00] You know, you can think about the origin of the universe and be awestruck. They're vast semantically, right? Like you think about a big idea like, oh my God, you know, we're, we're all evolving out of these incredibly complex adaptations.
And you know, there was one finding that really shook me, which is everyday awe that people in different parts of the world feel awe two to three times a week. That tells us it's easy to access. And so knowing that what I, what I did, I discovered everyday awe, you know that if you pause for a moment. Take a deep breath and put away names and categories and expectations and kind of think about the vastness of things and the smallness of things and the origin of things.
You know, you can be awestruck by the, the light in the sky, which I look at every day. Clouds which stand near trees. I take a moment to make eye contact with other people. Just the remarkable quality of. Eye [00:04:00] contact, how it links to minds and the physiological processes. Um, think about ideas and people who've inspired me morally, you know, that, that their character and sacrifice.
So listen to music, you know, just take a moment, take three minutes and listen to a song that brings you goosebumps. You know? And why is that? And ask yourself. So I think a lot of people initially thought in the scientific field of emotion that like, oh, you can't study awe, you know, that's when you go to the mountaintop and have the spiritual epiphany.
But in fact. It's all around us.
Sarah Cavanaugh: It is. It is all around us. Who's a person of moral beauty that is a moral compass for you. My brother
Dacher Keltner: was and is, uh, he and I had this unusual childhood and we spent a lot of time together. We're kind of raised in the wild, if you will, of
Laurel Canyon and the foothills of the Sierras, where it was a pretty wild time, you know, and we had counterculture parents.
But the thing, you know, I actually think temperamentally, I [00:05:00] was a pretty uptight, anxious, greedy, narrow-minded human, and just watching my brother as a kid, he always stood up to bullies. Didn't matter if they were bigger than him, he just always did. He broke up fights. He always made sure that the least privileged person, the mo, you know, the person who really was on the outs of this group was always included.
He was really wild and courageous. You know, I remember we used to go to the Yuba River in our teens and it's this really wild river and and it kills people every year 'cause it's just wild rapids. And we used to jump into these, off these high rocks into the pools and he would just like, get up, look at it and jump.
And I was like, wait a minute. Don't we have to measure this? And how deep isation, yeah. Right. Can you chat, test that again. And he just jumped. And I was like, well, that's how you do it. You know, so he, he was, um, my moral compass [00:06:00] very deeply so as siblings often are. Yeah. And then just recovering that after his loss was really
Sarah Cavanaugh: key to me.
I. You were really able to be present with him when he was dying. Yeah. Which is not something everyone can do. 'cause I think this culture so removed death from life, but we're working on pulling that back together again. Um, how did you know what to do? My brother
Dacher Keltner: passed away because of colon cancer and it was about two years of real dramatic, you know, near death experiences, ER visits.
And I'd say for the first 18 months I was really trying to over control it, trying to make sense of it with science. I mean, anybody who's been really close to a really hard cancer knows, like this thing, this is way stronger than science. And my brother had a, a sense that he was passing earlier than the rest of us.
And then how I, I really learned to really open to the mystery in awe of this [00:07:00] was. Frankly in reading Joan Halifax's book, being with Dying. Mm-Hmm. And she said like, let the person who is passing guide you and then focus on being there kindly and be open to mystery. Mm-Hmm. And the minute I absorbed that, it changed everything and I would go visit my brother every
week or two and just sit there and be open to where he wanted to take the conversations.
What he really thought about the end of life and it just transformed everything, thankfully. 'cause, uh, it's incomprehensible to watch somebody who's you, you love dearly go. Yeah. It's just incomprehensible. Yeah. But being open and to where he wanted to guide me, opened it up and transformed that experience.
Sarah Cavanaugh: Maybe [00:08:00] your family openly acknowledges death, and that can look different from family to family. Maybe your family is like my guest, Rebecca Wolf, her family has found humor in the inevitability of dying. She and her kids celebrate dead Dad day every year and say things like, good thing Dad isn't here for this.
He would've hated it. Or when they passed, like a cemetery and wave like, hi dead people. Or you could have grown up like my guest, Dr. Nita Sanchez, in a community that honored, remembered, and called upon her ancestors regularly. Death
Dr. Anita Sanchez: was a, it was a part of everything and it was something that there was sadness.
There was never denying the physical loss, but there was also very much at the same time. Is that in some ways that person, that energy was even closer to you all the time. Ever present that you could call on it. And we actually were taught and how to, you know, ask for the ancestors, ask for those who passed [00:09:00] to be with you, to bring the, their wisdom, to bring you courage to deal with what might be coming up.
To know that you're never alone, that their
Sarah Cavanaugh: many relatives. Even families that embrace death still need to have the conversation if your family is open to it, but they don't know where to start. Take the advice of my guest, Valerie Kur. Start a Google Doc.
Valarie Kaur: I lost my grandparents all within a few years of each other. I, I think in inevitably we started opening up around. Mommy, you know, I don't think I can be strong enough to live in this world without you. And she says, you know, you will be. And then we, and that was the entryway to talking about death for, for both my parents.
Since then, uh, I've created a document, a Google. I created a Google doc because you know what happens after so many family deaths is that then there are multiple [00:10:00] children that I saw this with all my grandparents, is that there's, there's a little, there's the children start to argue or fight over, like, yeah, no, they would've wanted it this way.
No, they wanted it, they would've wanted their ashes over here. No, they would've wanted it in the mountain, no, in the sea. Like, so, so if, if there's, if there's. If there's documents, legal documents that capture one's desire for where their wealth or resources go after they die, then surely there should be like an ethical will.
Spiritual will. Um, so I created a document, says that, that said, when we go to the stars, because that's how we describe it in our family, it's like we come from the stars, we return to the stars. And uh, and in this document, I actually have it in my desk right now, we, we outline, it's like, when I'm dying, what, what do you wanna hear?
What music, what do you wanna see? What, who do you wanna make sure you talk to? And then at the moment of death, like how do you wanna feel and what do you want? Your loved ones to do with the body and then memorial, like what should from what should be [00:11:00] served, like I have specified the brand of chocolate I want served at my memorial to the, the kind of flowers, to the poetry you want to, the songs you want to, the stories you would love.
I mean, just really imagining into fully without holding back what you want that experience to be like. And every person in my family has received this document. Most have filled it out. Not everybody, but most have filled it out and mine, I mean, I, I, I, I printed mine out and put it in the top drawer of my desk so that just in case if anything unexpected happened, my husband, my, they would just would know exactly where to find it and there wouldn't.
It was almost like a gift that we're giving everyone. Right. Here's a
Sarah Cavanaugh: blueprint. Absolutely, a hundred percent.
You might also need a blueprint for how to express your feelings and say goodbye. I've got two love stories for you. They are very different, but both give you an intimate portrait [00:12:00] of marriage and family and saying goodbye. Here's Barbara Ascher. Tell me about Bob. What happened when he received his cancer diagnosis?
Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor: It
Barbara Ascher: was
Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor: oddly very.
Barbara Ascher: He called from the office, which was just around the corner from our apartment, and he said, looks like pancreatic cancer. With those words, we both knew that probably we had three months and that night when we sat down for dinner, I said, this.
un. Are there any grudges? Has there ever been love that hasn't been expressed? Anger, [00:13:00] disappointment,
Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor: any of that? Let's take this
Barbara Ascher: to think about that. Then I laughed and I.
Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor: So we
Barbara Ascher: came to the table a week later and I looked at him and I said, so, and he just shook his head and he said to me, so, and I just shook my head.
Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor: He reached out
Barbara Ascher: and we held hands and we knew, we knew that.
Fierce energy of love that transpired
Sarah Cavanaugh: in that moment. That was Barbara Asher. Her book is Ghosting A Widow's Journey Out. She writes so poetically about her relationship with her late husband. I have this image of [00:14:00] her arranging his body to be carried out in his favorite hat in the middle of the night in New York City, um, with such grace.
The second love story comes from Rebecca Wolf, who I mentioned earlier, her book, all of this, A memoir of death and desire might surprise you. It was hard. She and her husband were on the brink of divorce when they got his terminal diagnosis. Um, and they had about four months together. She stuck around to take care of him.
This is not a story of reconciliation. Instead, it's nuanced, it's honest, it's a vulnerable look at how deep and complicated relationships can be. I wasn't sure if
Rebecca Woolf: he would want me to be his power of attorney. I wasn't sure if he wanted me to make all the decisions for him. He didn't flinch. He's like, of course I do.
And I think for all of the troubles we had in our marriage, it also speaks to the strengths that we had. And, and then he, he knew [00:15:00] me. He knew me. Yeah. Yeah. We knew each other better than anyone. Right. That doesn't change the fact that we had conflicts, but I knew him intimately and deeply, probably better than anyone.
And same with him for me. So he knew what I was capable of and the kind of. Partner, I would be for him even though we had our shit. Yeah. And I think because of that, my book is sort of a love story. You know, you, you can have all of these things at once. You can have this. Shattered marriage and also have this beautiful love story and they're, they're all wrapped up in each other.
Mm-Hmm. So, and there was love there, there was love throughout his death. And I still feel like there's love. I'll always love him, obviously, like, you know, it's complicated. Yes. But it's, it was, it was not, again, like I, I don't feel like anything that happened between us. While he was alive through his dying and now is unusual, [00:16:00] I think my experience is probably like.
Pretty standard. It's just not, again, like we're not talking about it. It's, it's so much easier when someone's on here just to remember all of the things that, you know, we loved about them. And we, we do this with everybody. We make them saints and we, we speak only to their good qualities and the good memories, but there's a lot of pain in life and in relationships.
Sarah Cavanaugh: why do you think we're supposed to represent people as good after they die? I think
Rebecca Woolf: the idea that they're not here to speak for themselves and or to grow and to change and to get better means that we sort of leave that up to us to do that
Sarah Cavanaugh: for them sort of writing their legacy. For sure. I mean,
Rebecca Woolf: I, I think there's survivor's guilt.
I think we all have it. I think when you feel guilty, you automatically sort of paint or push or edit [00:17:00] people to be better than they were, or kinder or Mm-Hmm. Sort of go back and edit your own experience. It's, it, it makes you feel better about yourself. I mean, I think really all it, it comes back to that we don't wanna feel shame, we don't wanna feel guilt, we don't wanna feel pain.
So we tell a story that keeps us from those
Sarah Cavanaugh: things. Switching gears, my interview with Artisan Author Day. Rett is all about integrating rituals into our daily lives. I agree with day that our modern lives are severely lacking in ritual, and I love how accessible he makes them. My favorite is the story he shared about his dad.
Day Schildkret: Rituals. Help us to remember, like for instance, autumn Equinox. Oh yeah. Change of season, different needs, different focus, different purpose. Or, my father's death anniversary was [00:18:00] just here recently. Oh yeah. Renew that relationship. Remember him, because during the year, I forget, it just happens. Something very, very important that I have to share about the function of ritual, which is all ritual has symbolic action to it.
Meaning you break something, you bury something, you rip something, you tear something, you submerge something, whatever all ritual has that you can't think a ritual, you have to do something with your hands, your feet, your mouth, your belly, and y, especially with my art symbolism, externalizes, the internal.
So that you can see what's going on in your inner landscape externally, and therefore it's a sane making device. Wonderful and rituals need to be done. That's how we keep 'em alive over and [00:19:00] over and over and over and over
Dacher Keltner: again.
Sarah Cavanaugh: So what is the ritual look like for you now, um, and how you remember your dad?
Day Schildkret: So last week was my dad's birthday, and you know, I tend to make art out of nature and leaves and flowers and berries and bark. And so I said to myself, what, what did my father love? And I was in a very whimsical mood. And so I thought to myself, well, he really loved these like little Debbie treats, these like Swiss roll little Debbies.
And so I went down to a creek. I brought a, a bunch of those little Debbie rolls and I created a bunch of circles with them. I put them in a circle and I put more in a circle and I kind of did my art, but with little Debbie rolls and I lit a candle and I burned a little sweet grass, and I spoke to my dad [00:20:00] as if he was right there and as if I made him a beautiful dessert.
For each one I put down, I remembered a different thing about him and not something that I, you know, remember easily. I tried to really remember the parts of him that were just an everyday thing, you know, the way he used to hum in the car, or the really bad way. He played guitar and tried to sing Beatles songs or, you know, the, the, the episodes of Seinfeld that made him laugh really hard.
And each role I put down, I put down a memory too, and that was it. You know, and it doesn't have to be fancy, and it doesn't have to be inaccessible. It actually could be something just like that, which was, I, I'm for me, I'm an artist, so I like making art. My brother ordered a, a pizza. My dad loved pizza with his wife.
Every year on my dad's birthday, he orders a big pie and they raise a glass to him, and that's a ritual
Sarah Cavanaugh: too. Dan and his family are pretty close, but that's not the case for everyone. I. [00:21:00] The holidays can be a tough time. If you have a strained relationship with family of origin or you don't have a relationship with 'em at all.
Family is just as much the family you make as the one you were born into. Have a listen to Justine Mastin and Larissa Garske. They talk about chosen kin and the idea of an emotional legacy. Let's talk about family. Yeah. Because you have really helpful language in your book and it helped me think about it.
You wrote, we, the authors do not consider the romantic relationship to be the center of emotional life as many societal norms suggest. Rather, we believe that it's the families and communities we choose in all their varied forms around which we center our narratives. What does that mean to each of you?
Larisa Garski: that means to me is I'm a big believer in inner species chosen family. So I'm like looking out in front of my desk and in front of my desk I have [00:22:00] my, my cat Katsu, who's like basking in the sun. And then I
have my dog Marlin, who's like utterly asleep on the brand new sofa. And like that's very sort of emblematic of how my husband and I move through the world.
And foster and create relationships that it is about honoring and connecting all the different beings that we feel like lucky enough to
Sarah Cavanaugh: be in community with. Yeah. I love how you navigate, like who to tell that you're taking time off to grieve the loss of a pet. Yeah.
Larisa Garski: When Marm died. Yeah. Who we partially dedicated the book to.
Right. But yeah, you're right. I referenced in the book that like I am, um, chief of clinical staff at a. Medium-sized practice here in the city of Chicago. And I could have said it was a family emergency, but I was like, no, we're gonna verbalize to normalize. And I emailed everyone and I was like, my dog is dying.
She's everything to my family. If you need anything, you're gonna need to like contact the practice owner for the next month. And, and yeah, I had, I had one person [00:23:00] reach out and be like, I really appreciate that you named that because non-human family members are family members. And
Sarah Cavanaugh: I was like, that's right.
How about you, Justine? Romantic relationships
Justine Mastin: not being the center of, uh, cultural life. Yes. You know, as folks who have created a very close chosen family. Mm-Hmm. It gets highlighted for us how that's not respected and it's one of those social constructs that's just not respected. Recently, uh, a friend of mine was killed in a hit and run car accident and.
I have spoken with friends of his who were, you know, closer. We, yeah, we were friends. But you know, I've spoken with like his tight people who couldn't get time off work. You know this, this is your chosen family. Mm-Hmm. Traumatic end to his life. Sorry. There's no time off work for that. 'cause there's no [00:24:00] language for that.
'cause HR doesn't know what to do with that. Right. And as a member of the queer community, which I am. So many queer folks create chosen family. That is still true. Mm-Hmm. It's better air quotes than it once was that families of origin might keep showing up, but more often than not, queer folks have chosen family that is the center of their cultural life.
And to not be able to take time off work, to not have that be respected like my friendship with Larissa. I've cultivated community who get it right. Yes. But there are certainly people who wouldn't get it, you know, well, oh, your friend's dog is dying. What does that have to do with you? Right?
Sarah Cavanaugh: And I'm like, whoa.
It has a lot to do with me. Yeah,
Justine Mastin: so we would love to see the conversation around what it means to have a [00:25:00] family, what it means to be in community, have that social construct, gets, get questioned and start to get deconstructed, right? Because when we put romantic relationships and blood family. Family of origin, above all other relationships we're really diminishing the value of chosen kin.
Right. That's so valuable. It literally saves lives.
Sarah Cavanaugh: Yeah. You're also restricting the amount of collective grieving we're able to do because if we're not able to take the time. To grieve together with the people that are closest to us. You know? Yes. When you question the systems that kind of get in the way of those communities, I really, Mm-Hmm.
Appreciate that about your Yeah. Your story. Well,
Larisa Garski: and even like, building off of that, like I think about there are so many ways that like human society functions at present, it doesn't honor. The like loving relational connections we have with [00:26:00] other humans, nor does it honor the loving relational connections we have with like other animals.
But it also doesn't honor like the loving relational connections that exist between trees and vegetation. Mm-Hmm. Everything on the planet is alive. And what that means to me at this point in my life is that they need to be considered.
Sarah Cavanaugh: On a lighter note, if you need some fodder for dinner table conversation, we've got you covered. Listen to my conversation with Dr. Jill Bolty Taylor. She's a Harvard trained Neuroanatomist who experienced a severe hemorrhage in her brain when she was only 37. She shares that experience and
her recovery in her memoir and her TED Talk from 2008, which was actually the first TED Talk to ever go viral.
I interviewed Dr. Taylor about her second book where she debunks the well-known left brain, right Brain Dichotomy. Um, and she [00:27:00] gives you a completely new anatomy of the brain, including two amygdalas, who knew? I have talked about her book and our conversation to so many people. Um, it's so interesting, uh, life changing really.
Uh, and if you talk to your family about it, you could spend the rest of your holiday calling out what character, the brain you're operating from at any one time. And if you're super adventurous, you could actually name them. Let's go. I mean, your book has been wonderful actually working in my life over the last month, really.
And you talk about getting something wrong, and that is so relevant to me in my life because I was raised as a right brain. I. Human and they didn't really nurture my left brain. And yet I love how you kind of debunk the myth of classifying our brain in two sides. And what do we need to know about our brain and their actually being [00:28:00] four parts to our brain.
Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor: Sure. So as we think about the fundamental difference between the right hemisphere and the left hemisphere's, linearity of time, then the right hemisphere, it's right here, right now, emotion and thinking in the left hemisphere is linearity across time. So there's a past and there's a future. So I'm gonna have character One is the, what I call character.
One is the left thinking rational portion of our brain that, uh, scientists think is conscious. Uh, this is the part that that fits me into the social norm of right and wrong and good and bad. It's my alpha personality in that it wants to get stuff done. It runs a list. Uh, it shows up in the office, it gets me punctual places on time.
Um, and we all have that part of. Who we are. Some that's, that's a hundred percent who we, we spend our, ourselves being. Uh, some of us resist that part of ourselves because we're just not very comfortable [00:29:00] with that part of who we are. Character two is left emotion, and this is going to be my emotions from the past and my emotions in the future, which means all the pain from my past, all my traumas, all my hard lessons learned, my, my self pride, uh, the day I got my PhD, the pride that I got.
From the past, but it is this linearity across time for my emotions.
Sarah Cavanaugh: Okay, so characters one and two are the logistical and emotional parts of the brain that see time as linear. Yeah. Got it. What about three and four? So character
Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor: three is what I call the emotion of the right hemisphere right here, right now.
Experiential. What does it feel like to have my clothes sticking to my back because I'm in humidity? What does it feel like to have my face sweat? What does it. Feel like as I dive into the water and feel the pressure of the water against my body and the temperature of the water, the experience of the present [00:30:00] moment, it's creative.
It's open to possibility, it's entrepreneurial. Because what goes, goes, it's collective whole. It likes to do things with others, and then character four is what I call that, right. Thinking tissue, which is all the capacity of being in the present moment, simply existing in an awareness of a sense of gratitude that I exist at all.
And oh my gosh. Wow. What a wonder. Life is. So those are the four modules of cells, the skillset that they exhibit, and they end up exhibiting four characters that we all have at a fundamental and neuro anatomical level. Yeah. And I, I encourage people to, uh, give names to each of your characters. 'cause they like being differentiated and
Sarah Cavanaugh: identified.
Yes. I wondered if you had any trouble naming your four characters, because it took me like a month to name my, my characters.
Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor: Yeah, it was really easy for me [00:31:00] because I wasn't hung up on it at all. For me. There was no right, wrong, good, bad. Oh, if I decide I didn't like that name, I could give it another one.
And who cared? Yeah. Right. Even though now it's out in a book and, you know, millions of people know none of those names. But yeah, no, I, I had no right, wrong, good, bad about it, but I wanted to embody it, um, like my character four, which is my blissful euphoria experience of the present moment. Well, she's called Queen.
She's as big as the universe for all of us. Our character four is connected to all that is. And uh, so I'm big as the universe 'cause I'm connected to all the energy
of the universe. So it's a queen. But I live on a boat, which is my lily pad named Brainwaves for six months out of the year. So I call myself Queen Towed and my character, three pig pen's, just a mess.
I mean, it's like, come on, it's. It's always a mess. Right? My music is a mess because it's creativity, it's possibility. My art is a mess Character too. I call her Abby, which is short for [00:32:00] abandoned because I feel like the moment I came flying out of my mother's womb, boom. Talk about trauma. Yeah. So you know that abandonment from being a part of her body and her collective whole to being my own separate.
Thing now that that's Abby and I call, uh, my character one Helen Short for hell on wheels. She gets it done because she does. Well,
Sarah Cavanaugh: so I struggled a little bit with one and three actually. And three is Sadie for sure. Character three is Sadie. She is always been my alter ego. She's the name I use when I order coffee.
She's my adventure diva. Yeah. Um, it was easy for character two because I grew up in. The Sesame Street ethos, and so Grover, the blue monster was very much a part of my growing up. Oh yeah. He's the one that always freaked out. He was always trying to do good. He had good intentions, but it never worked out for him.
Um, and then character one was a little harder for me, but I came to Twila and Twila. [00:33:00] I was sort of raised in the right brain creative space, but then I read Twila Tharp's book and she gets up every morning at five o'clock and gets in a taxi at five 30. And so her left thinking brain. Was getting her in that taxi every day on time.
And she said it's not going to the gym every day. It's getting in the taxi. And I think that that really Wow. Speaks to my character one, like how do you call forth that consistent, showing up on time, all of that, right? Yeah. And then the character four was easy for me. Because that's a place that I love spending time and character three and four is kind of how I, how I operate.
And so that is Aroyo and that's a very personal story that I'm probably not gonna share on a, on a podcast. Yeah. And I
Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor: have public and private names.
Sarah Cavanaugh: Well, do you think it's more difficult for you as a scientist to put aside that analysis? I think it is
Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor: impossible for me as a scientist to [00:34:00] not look at all of this through the lens of the brain cells.
Hmm. So my story was that, you know, I, I ha was a brain scientist at Harvard and at the age of 37 I had a major hemorrhage that wiped out my left hemisphere. And as it wiped out my left hemisphere, it wiped out my characters one and two, my rational thinking left brain as well as all my emotion from the past.
And in the absence of that, you know, I, I took this route the hard way. Yes, you did. And, and character three got wiped out because I was all but dead and I had no energy and I was just a lump of lead in the bed. Um, so all I had was a character four, but I still was alive. Yes. And instead of analyzing it through the lens of the near death experience or, or, you know, that whole framework, because I didn't have any of that.
What I had was. A loss of characters one, two, and three. And all I had was, you [00:35:00] know, life. Yeah. That's all I was. And in that sense of knowing that I didn't die that day, I had all possibility possibly, unless you, you know, look at the brain cells and saw the big hole in my head. Okay, well I wasn't gonna be that girl anymore, but I was still alive, so what could I build my life to be now?
Yes. And what insights could I gain because my whole framework is as a cellular neuroanatomist, who my area of, of specialty in education was how does our brain create our perception of reality? So, you know, the ironies here are just, you know, not lost on anybody that this experience happened to me. And then I ended up rebuilding the left
Sarah Cavanaugh: hemisphere.
Well, and that time in Character four really gave you a sense of abundance and a sense of the stars and the universe. It's all
Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor: I had. It's all I.
Sarah Cavanaugh: The importance of [00:36:00] emotions in our lives and how they work through the brain. Oh, absolutely.
Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor: You know, it took eight years before I declared myself a hundred percent again, and I declared myself a hundred percent the day that I realized that I was a solid.
My perception of myself was that I was a single, solid, separate from the whole. Yeah. So I existed for eight years through the filter of knowing I'm a fluid, I'm connected to all that is. I'm a ball of energy. There's no boundaries of where I begin and where I end. And yet my left hemisphere. And the construct of us as a society is that a normal person knows that the, you know, I end and begin where my skin hits the air and it's like, hmm, boy, are we really that naive?
Because I'm an energy ball on top of the physical structure. So I can't define myself simply as the the cellular structure because cells. [00:37:00] And matter. You know, the difference between being alive and not being alive is energy, and energy is, is in the flow and in the present moment and adding and subtracting and connected to everything.
So having lost. The left hemisphere definition of individuation and self gave me that connection to all that is and, and then it was my, my commitment to myself that I would recover enough of my left brain. I. To be perceived by others as normal, but it would never dominate my life again. Yes. And the values would always be about we, the collective whole, and not just about me, the individual, me and
Sarah Cavanaugh: mine.
Do you feel more at peace now? I live in peace. Love that.
Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor: Uh, my whole world is. Is designed for peace. I mean, I live in a boat out in the middle of nowhere for six months a year because I like it here. [00:38:00]
Sarah Cavanaugh: Yes.
Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor: Uh, you know, there's not a moment in my existence that I am not aware of the magnificence of what this life gives me.
Sarah Cavanaugh: I know everyone's experience is so nuanced, so if you didn't hear what you needed to hear during these holidays, uh, let me know. You can tag me on Instagram, leave a comment, I promise to respond with a book or an episode recommendation, and I'll be sure to share these because I know you won't be the only one asking.
I also wanna take a moment to say thank you so much for listening to Peaceful Exit this year. If you have liked what you've heard so far, please tell a friend and rate and review Peaceful Exit wherever you listen to podcasts.[00:39:00]
Thank you for listening to Peaceful Exit. You can learn more about this podcast and my online course at my website, peaceful exit.net. If you enjoyed this episode, please let us know. You can rate and review this show on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. This episode was produced by large media. You can find firstname.lastname@example.org.
Special thanks to Ricardo Russell for the original music throughout this podcast. More of his music can be found on Band Camp. As always, thanks for listening. I'm Sarah Cavanaugh, and this is Peaceful Exit.