My Stroke of Insight

I had this uncle, who had stroke. I have two very different images of him; tense and gentle.

Before the stroke, he was a very tense guy. He always looked angry at something. Whenever I am in his presence, I was screaming in my mind “HOPE IT’S NOT ME WHO HE IS ANGRY AT!”. One day, my mother told me that he had a stroke.

Since then, he was a different guy. Yes, he was sick. He was either on wheel chair or bed all the time. He could not talk like before. Communication became one-way. However, what I remember most was, he became gentle. He was often smiling. Still feeling little uncomfortable around him, but at least, I was not scared as much. I felt better being around him, although he was sick.

One day,  I went to see him to report that I was going to US for university. Noticing I had no idea how to talk to him, my aunt explained to him for me, and told him that I was going there to study, do all those wonderful thing, and make him feel all proud. He held my hands and started crying. I didn’t care about him that much back then (stupid teenager I was), but that moment, something really touched my heart.

It’s been years since he passed away, but I wish I had this book when he was still alive. Reading this book really made me miss him.

This is very good motivational book (new-thought type). If you ever read Napoleon Hill’s book, this would be great supplemental book. Practical and instructive.

At the same time, this is a great how-to book on care-giving. Now I know how I should take care of people who had stroke. I would make a better caregiver. I start feeling that having stroke, or even final death, might not be such a terrible thing.

I have to wonder, if she was destined to have stroke, to deliver this message to the world.

Some of my favorite lines:

My stroke of insight would be: peace is only a thought away, and all we have to do to access it is silence the voice of our dominating left mind.

What a wonderful gift this stroke has been in permitting me to pick and choose who and how I want to be in the world. Before the stroke, I believed I was a product of this brain and that I had minimal say about how I felt or what I thought. Since the hemorrhage, my eyes have been opened to how much choice I actually have about what goes on between my ears.

Learning to listen to your brain from the position of a nonjudgmental witness may take some practice and patience, but once you master this awareness, you become free to step beyond the worrisome drama and trauma of your story-teller.

Neuronal loops (circuits) of fear, anxiety or anger, can be triggered by all sorts of different stimulation. But once triggered, these different emotions produce a predictable physiological response that you can train yourself to consciously observe.
When my brain runs loops that feel harshly judgmental, counter-productive, or out of control, I wait 90 seconds for the emotional/physiological response to dissipate and then I speak to my brain as though it is a group of children. I say with sincerity, “I appreciate your ability to think thoughts and feel emotions, but I am really not interested in thinking these thoughts or feeling these emotions anymore. Please stop bringing this stuff up.” Essentially, I am consciously asking my brain to stop hooking into specific thought patterns. Different people do it differently of course. Some folks just use the phrase, “Cancel! Cancel!” or they exclaim to their brain, “Busy! I’m too busy!” Or they say “Enough, enough, enough already! Knock it off!”
Simply thinking these thoughts with my inner authentic voice, however, is often not enough for me to get the message across to my story-teller, who is invested in performing its normal function. I have found that when I attach an appropriate feeling to these phrases, and think them with genuine affect, my story-teller is more amenable to this type of communication. If I’m really having trouble getting my brain to listen, I add a kinesthetic component to my message like waggling my pointed finger in the air, or standing firm with my hands on my hips.

I whole-heartedly believe that 99.999 percent of the cells in my brain and body want me to be happy, healthy, and successful. A tiny portion of the story-teller, however, does not seems to be unconditionally attached to my joy, and is excellent at exploring thought patterns that have the potential to really derail my feeling of inner peace.

I’m a devout believer that paying attention to our self-talk is vitally important for our mental health. In my opinion, making the decision that internal verbal abuse is not acceptable behavior, is the first step toward finding deep inner peace. It has been extremely empowering for me to realize that the negative story-teller portion of my brain is only about the size of a peanut!

I have found that just like little children, these cells may challenge the authority of my authentic voice and test my conviction. Once asked to be silent, they tend to pause for a moment and then immediately reengage those forbidden loops. If i am not persistent with my desire to think about other things, and consciously initiate new circuits fo thought, then those uninvited loops can generate new strength and begin monopolizing my mind again. To counter their activities, I keep a handy list of three things available for me to turn my consciousness toward when I am in a state of need: 1) I remember something I find fascinating that I would like to ponder more deeply, 2) I think about something that brings me terrific joy, or 3) I think about something I would like to do. When I am desperate to change my mind, I use such tools.

I have also found that when I am least expecting it-feeling either physically tired or emotionally vulnerable-those negative circuits have a tendency to raise their hurtful heads. The more aware I remain about what my brain is saying and how those thoughts feel inside my body, the more I own my power in choosing what I want to spend my time thinking about and how I want to feel. If I want to retain my inner peace, I must be willing to consistenntly and persistently tend the garden of my mind moment by moment, and be willing to make the decision a thousand times a day.

The healthiest way I know how to move through an emotion effectively is to surrender completely to that emotion when its loop of physioloogy comes over me. I simply resign to the loop and let it run its course for 90 seconds. Just like children, emotions heal when they are heard and validated. Over time, the intensity and frequency of these circuits usually abate.

Listening to music that you love, in the absence of cognitive analysis or judgment, is another great way to come back to the here and now.

I have found that my mind is easily distracted by too much auditory stimulation, so I often work, or travel, with earplugs. I believe that preventing stimulation overload in my brain is my responsibility, and earplugs have been a true sanity saver on my occasions.

Walking in nature, singing, creating, and playing music, or getting lost in the arts can \easily shift your perspective back to the present moment.

Listening to a verbal meditation that guides me into a thought pattern with emotion and physiology is another great way to shift my mind away from unwanted loops.

Most importantly, howerver, our desire for peace must be stronger than our attachment to our misery, our ego, or our need to be right. I love that old saying, ” Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?”

I’ve often wondered, if it’s a choice, then why would anyone choose anything other than happiness? I can only speculate, but my guess is that many of us simply do not realize that we have a choice and therefore don’t exercise our ability to choose.

“I must be willing to give up what I am in order to become what I will be. ” – Einstein