Concussions and spirituality
Jill Bolte Taylor’s popular TED video, best-selling book and interview on Oprah have really got people talking. Suddenly, the silent experiences of millions of stroke and brain injury survivors have entered mainstream consciousness! As a TBI (traumatic brain injury) survivor and intuitive life coach, I get so many questions from people who wonder if biochemistry and trauma awaken spirituality in everyone, or just in them. While I certainly can’t speak for everyone, I do acknowledge an above-average interest in spiritual growth and intuitive awareness in people whose brains have short-circuited. The process is both exciting and terrifying, so here are some tips for managing the Awakening:
1) Know that you are not alone. Yes, it may seem like no one in the world has had this experience, but people have had mystical encounters for millennia. Some, like Hildegaard von Bingen or Fyodor Dostoyevsky, are believed to have suffered from severe migraines and/or epilepsy. Many medical intuitives like Carmen Bell and Tiffany Snow attribute their gifts to a near-death experience. My own Medical Intuition increased dramatically after a moderate concussion.
Does a biochemical component negate such experiences? Far from there! Scientists have recently studied long-term meditators, locating areas in the brain that show more or less activity than in “normal” brains. Yoga offers a four to eight thousand year old tradition of balancing biochemistry to relax the body, quiet the mind, and awaken a deeper Spiritual Awareness. If you suddenly feel that the veil has been opened, you may need to look for people who share similar experiences, but rest assured that they are there.
2) Stay open. When a stroke, brain injury, or other neurological condition suddenly opens up pathways you never knew existed, you may be tempted to “turn things off.” In fact, many people contact me because they don’t know how to handle the attack of psychic awareness. “How do I disconnect things?” they ask. “I don’t want to know these things!”
If you’ve lived life from a rational perspective and suddenly see the future, read minds, or know your neighbor has cancer before they tell you, this information initially seems too much to handle. But I learned something ironic about sight and perception when a brain injury destroyed my visual system; if you feel overwhelmed, accept more information instead of running from it.
Here’s why this works: Physiologically, our eyes are designed to scan the horizon for food and/or predators. Although most of us now spend more hours on the computer than hunting or gathering, our visual system is still pretty much the same as our ancestors, for whom any information equaled valuable information. If a saber-toothed tiger crouched to their left, or a buffalo wandered in the distance, they needed to know! A loss of peripheral vision meant a loss of general consciousness, which could mean death. Therefore, a reduced visual field still leads to a fight or flight response.
In today’s world, we can easily develop tunnel vision. If you spend eight hours in front of a computer and then go home and watch TV for a few hours or relax by reading a book (without looking far away or doing eye exercises), you have effectively reduced your visual field. As the saying goes, “use it or lose it”. Constantly ignoring our peripheral vision can result in degradation, so that we become less and less aware of our physical surroundings. Anxiety, irritability, and fear follow quickly, and no wonder! Our bodies are wired to fear the lack of visual information!
Eighty to ninety percent of the information we absorb comes from the visual system. The health of our visual system directly affects our thoughts, emotions, and ability to “see the forest through the trees.” As humans, we also have a Third Eye, or intuitive center, which resides in the space between our eyebrows. According to yogis and long-term meditators, focusing attention in this area increases intuition. This Vision Center remains close to our visual center, because much of memory, imagination, and insight are based on visual cues. If you suddenly find that your center of vision or perception (your third eye) is overloaded with information, trying to close the guide will only increase your anxiety, just as going blind as a hunter-gatherer would have caused your heart to race.
Humans instinctively fear the dark. If you are feeling too much intuitive awareness, turning on your inner light will help you much more than trying to turn it off.
3) Learn to develop a serene Conscience. Ok, you’re not supposed to censor information, but it still seems like too much – how do you find a balance?
Try to center yourself, either alone or with a guided meditation. Repeating a mantra or listening to chants such as those sung by Deva Premal or Krishna Das can help relax your mind without distracting you. Ideally, you want something that draws you to your heart instead of playing hide-and-seek with thoughts. Focus on your heart chakra (in the center of your chest) and imagine a warm, golden, pink, or green light pulsing in a slow, radiant pulse. As the impressions fly into your head, take them to your heart to feel and hear a response tempered with loving-kindness. In the Christian tradition, Jesus says, “Perfect love casts out fear,” and guess what? He actually does! Experiment and you will discover that saturating yourself with unconditional compassion instantly eliminates worry.
Consider that the words “fear” and “sacred” contain all the same components, just slightly rearranged. We do not need to remove things to sanctify them. We just need to change the perspective. On her Awakened Heart Meditation CD, teacher Sally Kempton notes that in Sanskrit, the word for the heart chakra, hridaya, is also the word for “the highest gateway to reality.” Let your heart balance the information overload in your head.
4) Have fun! Her attitude toward these new gifts determines much of her experience. Intuitive approach collides with fear and life becomes a series of dire predictions and hunches. On the other hand, acknowledging the nudges of the universe can save you a lot of time, energy, and heartbreak. Many people find that a greater intuition coincides with a greater capacity for manifestation. If you have read or heard of “The Secret”, then you already know that your thoughts influence your reality. Why not have fun creating more of the life you want? Practice the intention for abundant and joyful days. Ask about synchronicities. Align your intentions with the highest good of all and watch the beauty unfold before you.
They say that God is in the details, but they also say that God has a wonderful sense of humor. Supposedly, the ability to understand jokes in another language marks fluency. When you start listening to Spirit’s jokes, you laugh with the universe. Life becomes comedy, and in the theater comedy always means a happy ending. Light!
5) Ask for guidance. Just because you suddenly have access to more information doesn’t mean you’re alone. When you go to graduate school, you still have professors. Life offers endless opportunities to learn and discern. If you are unsure of the guidance, ask for clarity. If something pushes the boundaries of rationality, you can request custom-made signals to activate your faith.
The Bible story of Gideon reminds us that we can pray for interactive lessons. God told Gideon to save the Israelites by leading them into battle against their enemies. Gideon was inclined to believe in God, but since the lives of others were at stake, he asked for a sign. Specifically, he asked that if the Israelites were supposed to go to battle, then the wool he laid on the ground would be wet while the ground remained dry. The next morning he found the wool wet and the ground dry, so he felt that God had answered his request. Still, he wanted to feel safe, so he asked for another sign. This time he asked for wet earth and dry wool. The next morning, he found dry wool on damp ground and knew that he could confidently lead the Israelites against his enemies. Just as Gideon sensed, the Israelites won.
You can ask for any sign you like, but don’t be surprised when events respond. Eventually, you will gain experience and more easily feel which nudges come from intuition and which are disguised projections of the ego. If you find yourself holding onto an intuition and trying to manipulate it, take it as a sign to reread the suggestions in this article, starting with #1. Ego breeds fear, competition, anger, attachment, obsession, and anxiety. Rather, the fruits of the Spirit include: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, and self-control.
Waking up your intuition takes courage, but you will also learn to love your life. Many blessings on your journey!