‘My Stroke of Insight’ author to speak on Compassion and the Brain


by Deborah Bowman, Ph.D.

My Stroke of Insight: Compassion and the Brain by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor – October 7th in Denver!

Susan Joy Paul recently interviewed me for the Colorado Springs Gazette about a keynote address that Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor will give for a conference in October sponsored by the Transpersonal Counseling and Psychology department at Naropa where we offer programs such as: Nature Based Counseling, Creative Arts Counseling and Mindfulness Based Transpersonal Counseling.

Susan did a great job of quoting what I shared with her regarding Dr. Taylor’s discoveries and the connection of her work to emotional and spiritual healing.

Below are excerpts from Susan’s informative article:

In 1996, Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor had a massive stroke. A blood vessel burst in the left hemisphere of her brain, leaving the 37-year-old neuroanatomist partially paralyzed and unable to speak, understand language, or even recall her own life. As the hemorrhage spread and logical reality slipped away, Taylor was cognizant enough of her situation to ask herself, How many brain scientists have the opportunity to study their own brain from the inside out?

Deborah Bowman, Dean of the Graduate School of Counseling at Naropa University, talked about why the school asked Dr. Taylor to speak at this event.

“Brain studies have come to the forefront in the field of counseling and psychology,” she said, “and there’s so much new wonderful research happening. Understanding how the left and the right hemispheres work together is critical in our work and here we have a scientist who had the amazing mindfulness to observe her own experience. She found that when we don’t have all this mental chatter, we feel connected and have this overwhelming sense of oneness with everything – a sense of not being separate from others, but connected to the entire universe. That’s an experience that can heal people, and it has healed people who have had major trauma to the brain.”

Taylor’s work, according to Bowman, is especially relevant as the university celebrates the 25th anniversary of the founding of its Transpersonal Counseling and Psychology program.

“Transpersonal psychology understands the spiritual experience is part of the human experience and it honors that.  Somebody could come to that experience in the context of their religion, but they don’t have to have a particular spiritual alignment to have these healing experiences. It is our birthright to have this sense of oneness and knowing that we are not separate from others,” she said.

_MG_7005Bowman noted the opposite of that oneness is the “root of a lot of mental illness. The feeling of being alone, disconnected and isolated spirals down into depression, anxiety, obsessive behaviors, and addictions. We’re not meant to be alone and that’s why counseling is such a powerful healing tool. You have the presence of another that can offer calmness, loving kindness and insight to help you to get through these problems. The connection of her work to what we’re doing is so significant.”

“We are all curious about how our minds work for a good reason, because the more we understand ourselves the better we can function in the world, the happier we can be, and the better we can serve others. Our mission as human beings is not only to serve ourselves and our own happiness, but to serve the happiness and well-being of other people.”

“That may be on a personal level, such as understanding your partner better, or it may be professional such as teachers working with students, doctors and therapists working with patients, or anyone who is in a helping field, working with people who need support. Anyone who is not dealing with brain injury will benefit as well, because they will begin to have a better understanding of how the brain works and what they can do to achieve better balance between the two hemispheres.”

Bowman has both personal and professional interest in brain trauma and how it relates to the field of counseling and psychology, her specialty.

“I had a climbing accident that led me to this profession 35 years ago,” she said. “I had to stay calm, and the experience taught me I had resources that I didn’t know I had. We don’t have to have those experiences to train our minds and open up more to what is in a sense and be available in ways to other people that is more resourceful. You can access that part of the brain that is logical, and also access that part of the brain that is accepting and appreciative of what is, even in difficult situations.”

Compassion Without Limit:

Mindful Paths to Transforming the World

Friday Oct 7, 7 pm. Conference Keynote Address in Denver:
My Stroke of Insight: Compassion and the Brain by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor
Oct 8 & 9, Saturday & Sunday Conference events in Boulder:
Compassion Without Limit: Mindful Paths to Transforming the World

Deborah Bowman is the founder of the Transpersonal Counseling Psychology and the Wilderness Therapy programs at Naropa University. She is a licensed psychologist and certified Gestalt therapist and also a trainer with the Boulder Psychotherapy Institute, offering post graduate education and supervision. Deborah has served as president of Boulder Graduate School, worked for Boulder County Hospice and Boulder County Social Services, and instructed with the National Outdoor Leadership School. She is a meditation instructor with Nalandabodhi Boulder.

Deborah is author of The Female Buddha: Discovering the Heart of Liberation and LoveThe Luminous Buddha: Images and Words and co-author of When Your Spouse Comes Out, published by the GLBT Family Series with Haworth Press.


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