Own Your Power

MY STROKE OF INSIGHT Jill Bolte TaylorI define responsibility (response-ability) as the ability to choose how we respond to stimulation coming in through our sensory systems at any moment in time. Although there are certain limbic system (emotional) programs that can be triggered automatically, it takes less than 90 seconds for one of these programs to be triggered, surge through our body, and then be completely flushed out of our blood stream. My anger response, for example, is a programmed response that can be set of automatically. Once triggered, the chemical released by my brain surges though my body and I have a physiological experience. Within 90 seconds from the initial trigger, the chemical component of my anger has completely dissipated from my blood and my automatic response is over. If, however, I remain angry after those 90 seconds have passed, then it is because I have chosen to let that circuit to continue to run. Moment by moment, I make the choice to either hook into my neurocircuitry or move back into the present moment, allowing that reaction to melt away as a fleeting physiology.

The really exiting news about acknowledging my right and left characters is that I always have an alternative way of looking at any situation – is my glass half full or half empty? If you approach me with anger and frustration, then I make the choice to either reflect your anger and engage in argument (left brain), or be empathic and approach you with a compassionate heart (right brain). What most of us don’t realize is that we are unconsciously making choices about how we respond all the time. It is so easy to get caught up in the wiring of our pre-programmed reactivity (limbic system) that we live our lives cruising along on automatic pilot. I have learned that the more attention my higher cortical cells pay to what’s going on inside my limbic system, the more say I have about what I am thinking and feeling. By paying attention to the choices my automatic circuitry is making, I own my power and make more choice consciously. In the long run, I take responsibility for what I attract into my life.

Nowadays, I spend a lot of time thinking about thinking just because I find my brain so fascinating. As Socrates said, ‘The unexamined life is not worth living.’ There has been nothing more empowering than the realization that I don’t have to think thoughts that bring me realization that I don’t have to think thoughts that bring me pain as long as I am aware that I am choosing to engage in that emotional circuitry. At the same time, it is freeing to know that I have the conscious power to stop thinking those thoughts when I am satiated. It is liberating to know that I hae the ability to choose a peaceful and loving mind (my right mind), whatever my physical or mental circumstances, by deciding to step to the right and bring my thoughts back to the present moment.

More often than not, I choose to observe my environment though the nonjudgmental eyes of my right mind, allowing me to retain my inner joy and remain detached from emotionally charged circuitry. I alone decide if something will have a positive or negative influence on my psyche. Recently, I was driving down the road singing at the top of my lungs with my favourite Ginger Curry CD, ‘I got JOOOOOOY in my heart!’ To my chagrin, I was pulled over for speeding (apparently there was way too much enthusiasm going on behind the wheel!). Since recieving that ticket, I have had to make the decision at least 100 times to not feel down about it. This little voice of negativity kept trying to raise its ugly head and bum me out. It wanted to mull the drama over and over again in my mind, from every angle, but regardless of my contemplation, the situation would have the same outcome. Frankly, I find this sort of mental obsessing by my left hemisphere story-teller to be a waste of time and emotionally draining. Thanks to my stroke, I have learned that I can own my power and stop thinking about events that have occurred in the past by consciously realigning myself with the present.

With that said, however, there are some occasions when I will choose to step into the world as a single, solid, ego center seperate from you. Sometimes it is just pure satisfaction for me to bump my left hemisphere stuff and attitudes up against your left hemisphere stuff and attitudes in argument or passionate debate. More often than not, I don’t like how aggression feels inside my body so I shy away from hostile confrontation and choose compassion.
For me, it’s really easy to be kind to others when I remember that none of us came into this world with a manual about how to get it right. We are ultimately a product of our biology and our environment. Consequently, I choose to be compassionate with others when I consider how much painful emotional baggage we are biologically programmed to carry around. I recognize that mistakes will be made, but this does not mean that I need to either victimize myself or take your actions and mistakes personally. Your stuff is your stuff, and my stuff is my stuff. Feeling deep inner peace and sharing kindness is always a choice for either of us. Forgiving others and forgiving myself is always a choice. Seeing this moment as a perfect moment is always a choice.

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