I’m torn between a strong inherent belief that everything happens for a reason and the flip-side that in fact sometimes, life just serves up a big old plate of stinkin’ shit. In fact I’ve come to believe that in many ways the two work in parallel and every so often, collide.
I’ve mentioned before that I look at the stars with wonder; a belief in various notions of existence and some kind of serendipity or destiny – if I’m losing you at this point, read on – this post isn’t so much about belief as it is about intuition and trust.
We can’t deny that our minds and body’s are phenomenal pieces of equipment but there is still a lot we don’t know, there is more to us. It’s something that is exceptional, unexplainable, something magical – it’s intuition, the sixth sense, it’s in our gut, and heart, it’s the coincidences that are just to the right of being completely random.
If you follow my blog, you’ve heard me speak before about Vedic Meditation, which I started practicing late last year. My teacher is Kate Cliff (pictured above), and her story is one that I feel I have to share.
Last week was the 5 year anniversary of the accident that nearly took Kate’s life – in more ways than one. Paradoxically it’s also the 5 year anniversary of “the best thing that ever happened” to her. THIS is why you have to read on, because it’s NOT a fluffy story about ‘what to do when life gives you lemons’ it’s a lesson in listening to the world around you and taking the god damn hints.
“Five years ago today I was hit by a car (at 60kms). I was a pedestrian. On a pedestrian crossing. Doing all the right things. Doing the same thing I’d done day in and day out – leaving Lawyer Life one night in the city to catch the bus home…
A taxi came around a corner, and cleaned me up. The impact was intense and I travelled on the bonnet screaming for him to stop. It took some time, but when he finally did I was thrown off, launching at speed like a rag doll in a Calvin Klein suit towards the tar…
Onlookers, and at this point there were many, had thought that was it for me. No way of surviving the impact of either initially connecting with the car, or subsequently with the road. But my handbag landed before I did, and my head landed on top of it “like a pillow“, witnesses would later report, leaving my skull perfectly intact…
But my brain had rattled around in my head, literally shifting within the skull, and the subsequent constant dizziness and nausea were unmanageable. The discs in my neck had bulged into my spinal cord causing constant chronic pain, and my mind re-played the whole thing over and over again…
People want to tell you that you’re lucky to be alive. But I didn’t feel lucky.”
As I sat on my computer one night in November of last year feeling completely helpless after a solid 12 months of things going to shit, I typed in Kate’s url and sent an her an email. I’m not quite sure what made me do that, in that moment, but it was the start of a chain of events which has lead to something amazing.
Our Christmas present to ourselves was Kate’s course, and within a few days I was doing something I NEVER thought I’d be capable of. Switching off.
Kate’s explanation of how it all works is a fascinating mix of science, history and culture, backed up with extraordinary evidence. Coming from a background in Law she explains that it’s in her blood to seek out the cold hard facts, and there’s lots. The biggest most undeniable fact of all – her recovery.
“13-months post accident things were getting worse. The pain was getting worse and painkillers were no longer an option, I could barely eat or sleep, I was being told I needed a lifetime of surgeries to my spinal cord – I was living an inner and outer HELL. And so, it was at this point, that I took the advice of many and learnt to meditate…
The technique, to my surprise, provided relief instantly. And let me tell you, I was the least likely person for this to be successful…
Up until that point I was doing my best to tightly control every aspect of my recovery. I wasn’t willing to let go of control of my life. Or my identity. I was A Lawyer. That Was Who I Was. And I was tackling this like I would a legal brief…
Meditation is all about letting go. And I had to let go. Turns out for 20 minutes, twice a day, I could!
Kate started meditating at a point when she was told she had no other option but to have spinal surgery, surgery that had many risks including paraplegia. 5 years on Kate is healthier & happier than she’s ever been… she never had the surgery. She also never expected that the process of meditation would ultimately resolve a number of other pre-existing health conditions she thought she’d be living with for the rest of her life, including a rare auto-immune disease. Realising the power we all have to take control of our health and our lives led her to learn to teach meditation and after completing her studies in Rishikesh, India, Kate set up her practice in our home town, Kiama.
It sounds too good to be true, right? It’s literally unbelievable. But then, it’s not, because science joins the dots and when you open yourself up to the idea of it, it just makes sense.
Meditation is the act of allowing your mind to rest & process; this meditative ‘state’ is equivalent to the deepest sleep you could ever achieve (again, lab tests have shown this). For 20 minutes you sit down, throw away the reigns and say ‘go for it bod, i’m just gonna sit here so you just go ahead and do your thing’… and if you give your body that opportunity, that 20 minute window, my god does it do it’s thing. And what is that thing exactly? It is processing all of the shit we’ve stacked up over the years (fyi it’s the stuff that a 2 week holiday isn’t going to resolve), it’s years of fatigue from living in a constant mode of fight or flight, it’s the pressures and stress of everyday life, it’s the stress of events past. Kate’s words sum it up perfectly:
“Stress, tension and fatigue accumulate in the mind and body and this has a detrimental effect on us physically, mentally and emotionally, and on those around us. As the body heads into stress mode the first three things that shut down are digestion, reproduction and memory. Rest provides the mind and the body with the opportunity to perform much needed processing, repairs and maintenance and prepare for further demands. We need to release stress, tension and fatigue at a greater rate than we are putting it in… When we release stress, tension and fatigue from the nervous system we are able to access more of our higher qualities, more of the time, and naturally come to life more patient, more resilient, calmer, and more dynamic”.
That 20 minutes is an unexplainable experience – although what we know through science is that the act of meditation causes an actual biochemical change in the body. It works. Meditation works. And after a difficult year myself, and with countless other people in my life experiencing symptoms of life’s overload and their own versions of ‘being hit by a car’ it felt like the right time to write this piece.
Being hit by that car was The Best Thing That’s Ever Happened. Don’t try it. Lying in hospital not being able to feel your legs is terrifying. But I needed to have that experience. I was forced to stop. I was forced to go within. I wasn’t going to stop otherwise, I wasn’t going to slow down. I certainly wasn’t going to re-evaluate my life, despite the quite spectacular series of events prior to the accident suggesting I do just that. No, I pushed and I forced against life. Life had already tried to subtly move me in a different direction. Life is persistent. But so am I. It was time for my almighty punch in the face…
Being hit by that car taught me to live. I was forced to work out how to have a better life. How to thrive. How to choose to thrive. It pushed me towards something that matters to me. And I’m a better person for having had the experience.
Things in life are meant to try us, of that I’m sure. You’ve heard the line before about us needing to experience pain, sadness, anger, frustration in order to gauge what happiness, joy, love and excitement feels like. It’s true, but there’s certainly a better way to manage the bad stuff and ways to cultivate the good.
I still believe that sometimes things are void of meaning, void of reason… sometimes things happen that are just devastatingly unfair. But we all have an option. The ability to take control. To stop saying ‘why me‘, and start saying ‘why the Fu*k didn’t I do this sooner‘…
And sometimes, one thing leads to the next thing, leads to something else, somewhere else, and you find that in some mysterious manner you’re exactly where you’re meant to be. There is energy all around us, and occasionally something sparks. I hope that reading this has sparked something for you. Take heed of life’s little signals, after all they’re the real mystery.
There is more to Kate’s story, and her sense of humour and relatable energy is infectious. I encourage you to visit her website and enjoy her full post here.
And, if you have any questions or your own experiences you’d like to share, pop them in the comments or contact Kate directly.