Jill Bolte Taylor’s popular TED video, best-selling book, and interview on Oprah have really started 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 receive so many questions from people wondering if biochemistry and trauma awaken spirituality in everyone, or just them. While I certainly cannot speak for everyone, I do recognize higher than average interest in spiritual growth and intuitive awareness in people whose brains have short-circuited. The process both excites and terrifies, so here are a few hints for handling the Awakening:
1) Know that you are not alone. Yes, it might feel 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 Dostoyevski, are now thought to have suffered from severe migraines and/or epilepsy. Many Medical Intuitives such as Carmen Bell and Tiffany Snow trace their gifts to a near death experience. My own Medical Intuition dramatically increased after a moderate concussion.
Does a biochemical component negate such experiences? Far from it! Scientists have recently studied long-term meditators, locating areas in the brain that show greater or lesser activity than in “normal” brains. Yoga offers a four-to-eight-thousand-year-old tradition of balancing biochemistry in order to relax the body, quiet the mind, and awaken more profound Spiritual Consciousness. If you suddenly sense the veil has parted, you might need to look around for people who share similar experiences, but rest assured: they’re out there!
2) Stay Open. When a stroke, brain injury or other neurological condition suddenly opens pathways you never knew existed, you might feel tempted to “turn things off.” Indeed, many people contact me because they don’t know how to handle the onslaught of psychic awareness. “How do I tune stuff out?” they ask. “I don’t want to know these things!”
If you lived life from a rational perspective and suddenly see into the future, read minds or know your neighbor has cancer before she tells you, this information initially seems like way too much to handle. But I learned something ironic about both sight and insight when a brain injury destroyed my visual system; if you feel overloaded, embrace 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 remains quite 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 needed to know! A loss of peripheral vision meant a loss of overall awareness, which could spell death. Hence, a narrowed visual field still leads to fight or flight response.
In today’s world, we can easily develop tunnel vision. If you spend eight hours on a computer and then go home and watch TV for a few hours or relax by reading a book (without looking in the distance or practicing eye exercises) you have effectively narrowed your visual field. As the saying goes, “use it or lose it.” Consistently ignoring our peripheral vision can result in degradation, so that we become less and less aware of our physical environment. Anxiety, irritability and fear quickly follow-and no wonder! Our bodies are hard wired 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 our eyebrows. According to yogis and long-term meditators, focusing awareness on this area heightens intuition. This Visioning Center remains closely connected to our visual center, because so much of memory, imagination, and insight rely on visual cues. If you suddenly find your visioning or insight center (your Third Eye) overloaded with information, trying to shut out guidance will only increase your anxiety, just like going blind as a hunter-gatherer would have made your heart race.
Humans instinctively fear darkness. If you sense too much intuitive awareness, turning your inner light up will help much more than trying to turn it off.
3) Learn to develop calm Awareness. OK, so you’re not supposed to censor information, but it still seems like too much: how do you find a balance?
Try centering yourself, either alone 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 pulls you into your heart instead of playing hide and seek with thoughts. Concentrate on your Heart Chakra (at the center of your chest) and imagine warm, golden, pink or green light pulsating in a slow, radiant beat. As impressions fly into your head, bring them into your heart to feel and hear a response tempered with loving-kindness. In the Christian tradition, Jesus says, “Perfect love casts out fear,” and you know what? It actually does! Experiment and you will find that saturating yourself with unconditional compassion instantly banishes worry.
Consider that the words “scared” and “sacred” contain all the same components, just slightly rearranged. We do not need to remove things in order to make them holy. We need only shift perspective. On her Awakened Heart Meditation CD, teacher Sally Kempton observes 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 towards these newfound gifts determines much of your experience. Approach intuitive hits with fear, and life becomes a series of dire predictions and forebodings. On the other hand, recognizing nudges from the universe can save you a lot of time, energy and heartache. Many people find that heightened intuition coincides with increased manifestation ability. If you’ve 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 that you desire? Practice intending abundant, 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 that God has a wonderful sense of humor. Supposedly, the ability to understand jokes in another language marks fluency. When you start getting Spirit’s punch lines, you get to giggle with the universe. Life becomes a comedy, and in theater, comedy always means a happy ending. Lighten up!
5) Ask for guidance. Just because you suddenly access more information doesn’t mean you’re on your own. When you go to graduate school, you still have professors. Life offers endless opportunities to learn and discern. If you feel unsure of the guidance, then ask for clarity. If something stretches the bounds of rationality, you can request signs tailor-made 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 foes. Gideon felt inclined to believe God, but because others’ lives were at stake, he asked for a sign. Specifically, he requested that if the Israelites were supposed 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 God had answered his request. Still, he wanted to feel certain, and so he asked for another sign. This time, he asked for wet ground and dry wool. The next morning, he found dry wool on wet ground, and he knew he could confidently lead the Israelites against their foes. Just as Gideon intuited, 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 sense which nudges come from intuition and which are disguised projections of the ego. If you catch yourself clinging to an intuition and trying to manipulate it, consider it a sign to reread the suggestions in this article, beginning with Number 1. Ego breeds fear, competition, anger, attachment, obsession and anxiety. By contrast, fruits of Spirit include: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Awakening your intuition takes courage, but you will also learn to love your life. Many blessings on your journey!