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Concussions and Spirituality
Jill Bolte Taylor’s popular TED video, best-selling book, and interview on Oprah really got people talking. The silent experiences of millions of stroke and brain injury survivors have suddenly 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 them. While I certainly can’t speak for everyone, I recognize a higher than average interest in spiritual growth and intuitive awareness in people whose brains are shunted. The process is both exciting and terrifying, so here are some tips for coping with Awakening:
1) Know that you are not alone. Yes, it might seem that no one in the world has had this experience, but people have had mystical encounters for millennia. Some, such as Hildegaard von Bingen or Fyodor Dostoyevsky, are now believed to have suffered from severe migraines and/or epilepsy. Many medical intuitives, such as Carmen Bell and Tiffany Snow, derive their gifts from a near-death experience. My own medical intuition increased dramatically after a mild concussion.
Does the biochemical component negate such experiences? Far from it! Researchers 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 like the veil has split, you may need to look around for people who share similar experiences, but rest assured: they are out there!
2) Stay open. When a stroke, brain injury, or other neurological condition suddenly opens up pathways you didn’t know existed, you may feel tempted to “turn things off.” Indeed, many people contact me because they do not know how to handle the onslaught of psychic awareness. “How do I tune things up?” they ask “I don’t want to know these things!”
If you’ve been living life from a rational perspective and suddenly you can see into the future, read minds, or know your neighbor has cancer before she tells you, the information seems like too much to handle at first. But I learned something ironic about both sight and insight when a brain injury destroyed my visual system; if you feel overwhelmed, take in more information instead of running away from it.
Here’s why it 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 remains very similar to that of 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 had to know! Loss of peripheral vision meant total loss of consciousness, which could mean death. So a narrowed field of vision still leads to a fight or flight response.
In today’s world, we can easily develop tunnel vision. If you spend eight hours at the computer and then come home and watch TV or relax with a book for a few hours (without looking into the distance or doing eye exercises), you’ve effectively narrowed your field of vision. As they say, “use it or lose it.” Consistently ignoring our peripheral vision can lead to degradation, making us less and less aware of our physical surroundings. Anxiety, irritability and fear quickly follow – and no wonder! Our bodies are hardwired to fear a lack of visual input!
Eighty to ninety percent of the information we absorb comes through 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 the eyebrows. According to yogis and long-term meditators, focusing attention on this area increases intuition. This Visioning Center remains closely connected to our visual center because so much of memory, imagination, and insight depends on visual stimuli. If you suddenly find your center of vision or insight (your third eye) overloaded with information, trying to shut down the conduit will only increase your anxiety, as well as blinding you, as if your heart could blind a hunter-gatherer.
Humans are instinctively afraid of the dark. If you feel too much intuitive awareness, turning on the inner light will help much more than trying to turn it off.
3) Learn to develop calm awareness. OK, so you shouldn’t censor information, but it still seems like too much: how do you find a balance?
Try to center yourself, either on your own or with a guided meditation. Repeating a mantra or listening to chants like those sung by Deva Premal or Krishna Das can help your mind relax without zoning out. Ideally, you want something that tugs at your heartstrings instead of playing hide and seek with your mind. 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 rhythm. As impressions fly into your head, bring them into your heart to feel and hear the response tempered with loving kindness. In the Christian tradition, Jesus says, “Perfect love casts out fear,” and guess what? Actually yes! Experiment and you will find that being saturated with unconditional compassion will immediately banish worry.
Consider that the words “terrified” and “sacred” contain all the same components, just slightly rearranged. We don’t have to remove things to make them holy. We just need to change our perspective. In 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 your head’s information overload.
4) Have fun! Your attitude toward these newfound gifts determines much of your experience. Approach intuitive interventions with fear and life becomes a series of dire predictions and premonitions. On the other hand, spotting nudges from space can save you a lot of time, energy, and pain. Many people find that increased intuition coincides with an increased ability to manifest. If you have read or heard about “The Secret” then you already know that your thoughts affect your reality. Why not have fun creating more of the life you desire? Practice planning rich, joyful days. Ask for synchronicities. Align your intentions with the highest good of all and watch beauty unfold before you.
They say God is in the details, but they also say God has a wonderful sense of humor. Being able to understand jokes in another language is said to mean fluency. When you start gaining Spirit points, you start to chuckle with the universe. Life becomes a comedy, and in the theater comedy always means a happy ending. Cheer up!
5) Ask for advice. Just because you suddenly get 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 clarification. If something goes beyond rationality, you can ask for a tailor-made sign to activate your faith.
The biblical 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 felt inclined to believe God, but since the lives of others were at stake, he asked for a sign. He specifically demanded that if the Israelites were to go into battle, then the wool he placed 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 be sure, so he asked for another sign. This time he asked for wet ground and dry wool. The next morning he found a dry wave on the wet ground and knew that he could confidently lead the Israelites against their enemies. As Gideon guessed, the Israelites won.
You can ask for any sign you like, but don’t be surprised when events respond. Eventually, as you gain experience, you will more easily sense which nudges come from intuition and which are masked ego projections. If you find yourself clinging to your intuition and trying to manipulate it, consider it a sign to re-read the suggestions in this article, starting with #1. The ego breeds fear, competition, anger, attachment, obsession, and anxiety. In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit includes: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Awakening your intuition takes courage, but you also learn to love your life. Many blessings on your journey!
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