This article by Barbara Whitmore was first published in 1993 by The New Times, Seattle, Washington, USA. Healing Awareness was a form of meditation Ajayan taught at that time, which later evolved into effortless mind™.
In 1984, I made the acquaintance of a woman at work, an attractive, caring, talented person, with whom I soon became friends. Shortly afterwards she was involved in a serious auto accident that resulted in brain injury. Visiting her in the hospital, it took my breath away to see my beautiful, open, enthusiastic friend practically removed from this earth, if not in body, at least in consciousness. She was unable to sit up in bed because her balance was so off that she would fall and become ill. She could hardly converse for a few moments without drifting. Once she came home from the hospital, I found that she could not distinguish clearly between dreams and reality. She could not remember numbers in a series longer than three and experienced tremendous confusion and fear over the simplest tasks like deciding what to wear for the day.
If it is true that certain people and situations occur in our lives for a purpose, then it is certainly true that this friend came into my life to prepare me for the challenges that I myself was destined to face. That destiny was delivered on a dark and rainy December morning in 1987.
It was 5:15 am and I was driving from my farm in Tenino to Boeing on I-5. An 18-wheeler following me pulled into the left lane to pass; he crept up beside me, then the driver seemed to change his mind and backed off. As he veered back into my lane behind me, the front of his truck clipped my rear bumper. This sent me and my Honda into uncontrolled 360’s on the slick road, across the median directly into oncoming traffic. My 360’s came to a halt as I was broad-sided by a Bronco doing 60 to 65.
I was pulled out of the wreckage and rushed to the hospital, where doctors removed glass from my head. The next day I was sent home. “Miraculously,” I had escaped serious injury, or so it seemed.
Once home, I suffered severe nausea, dizziness, and drowsiness, which lasted for about four days. For a few months after, I didn’t realize anything was wrong. Looking back, that was a symptom of the problem, not the truth.
Now it was my turn to discover that the very basics of living had become mysteries: what to wear, what shoe to put on first, or even how to tie my shoes. I would get mad and throw my shoes across the room. I would get too frustrated to even bother going out. I had no concept of left and right. I couldn’t cut my meat because I wasn’t sure what hand the fork should go in and what hand the knife. Attempting to shower was especially frustrating, because I had no method. I could not figure out what to do first. Getting the towel behind me to dry my back was an impossible feat. I’d get so frustrated and mad that I’d just throw it.
My short-term memory was also shot. A friend would ask, “Would you get me a glass of water?” I’d say, “Sure,” but by the time I got to the kitchen, I had no memory of why I was there. I didn’t even realize I had forgotten anything. I wouldn’t ask, “what did you say?” I would just forget that there was ever anything mentioned. They’d say, “Are you getting me the glass of water?” and I’d say, “what water?”
Grocery shopping was the worst. That is a very high organizational task involving constant decisions between size and price and whether you need it or not. That was totally impossible. Many times I’d get in the car to go shopping, and if I could remember where I was going in the first place, and actually got to the store, I’d get so frustrated searching the store aisles that I would leave in tears, without buying anything. I didn’t know what I needed anyway. I had to have someone else do it.
In fact, anytime I had an idea to do anything, it would fall apart in the execution stage. I’d be cooking, and I’d cut the vegetables and then leave without realizing that I was cooking. I would just forget why I ever wanted to do something in the first place. I became constantly frustrated about my failures, because I was failing all the time. If you can’t tie your shoes, what can you do?
I couldn’t even watch TV or follow a story. I used to love country music, but I couldn’t listen to it anymore because it didn’t make sense. Nothing was very sad or happy; I never got a joke. I didn’t quite get what people were saying. I had no mind of my own; I did whatever anyone else wanted to do. I went into debt because I had no sense of responsibility. I couldn’t do numbers, so I charged everything. (I didn’t know I couldn’t do numbers; I just knew it was uncomfortable.) My checkbook became a royal mess. By Spring of 1988 I got the message: I wasn’t the same. Probably I never would be. I changed jobs to one requiring less organizational skill, and leased my farm so I could live closer to work.
Anytime you lose a part of your body, you may feel depressed. With a brain injury of any consequence, you are almost sure to feel depressed. I gained 80 pounds. Suicide became an almost constant preoccupation. I would slip into daydreaming about it. I’d mentally work out all the details of it; I’d get so far, then come to the moral issue: “but who’s going to identify my body?” That’s rude to do to your parents.
That was the one catch. I got insurance on my MasterCard so that when I croaked, it would be paid off, but it always came down to that darned parent problem. Somehow, I had to redesign my plan to get around that. I had one plan where if I went up on top of the mountains down by Tenino, and shot myself, the wolves or the mountain goats would probably get me, and they would never find me. Then my parents would not have to go through the trauma. This sounded reasonable to me at the time.
About then, my attorney had me put through a battery of tests, which resulted in my admission to Good Samaritan Hospital as an outpatient. During one session, the psychiatrist there asked me if I thought about suicide much. “Yeah all the time,” I answered. He asked if I had a plan. “Yeah, lots of them.” He put me on antidepressants.
I noticed immediate benefits from the antidepressants. I accepted the need for them wholeheartedly: anything that would calm the fears, control the anxiety, give me sleep, give me some peace from the self-doubts and lowered self-esteem resulting from repeated failure to accomplish even the easiest tasks of living. I took them religiously for about four years.
Nevertheless, no matter how well I seemed to adjust to my changed abilities, personality, and tastes, nothing—no drug, not even the constant therapy and support groups—restored my comfortable inner dialog and life-long relationship I had with self. There was always a lonely, unnamed cloud within me. I knew I had to do something about it.
I began my search by reading a long series of self-help books. I read Chopra; I did meditation; I took the Course in Miracles; I joined the Church of Religious Science. I kept feeling that “I know this stuff; all this used to be incorporated into my personality and taken for granted.” It made me angry that I, of all people, had to learn life! “I used to have peace, I used to have a certain serenity, I used to have an inner grace and consciousness…” Then it hit me: above all else, it was the absence of these qualities that had left me feeling so alone and so empty.
That realization began a quest to remove medications from my life, especially the ones that controlled or altered my brain function. How could I recover that inner grace and consciousness if my brain was being controlled by drugs? Yet one drug that I was afraid to do without was the antidepressant that had nearly saved my life. Then, in early 1993, this life-saving drug seemed to stop working. Though I was taking it as religiously as ever, the familiar depression, lack of concentration, sleeplessness, anger, fears, aches, and pains returned. By summer of 1993, I didn’t want to leave the house. I felt sad all the time. I stopped having company. I spent all my time watching TV, which didn’t help at all. Whatever I watched made me cry, even comedies. Any show with animals was a real tear-jerker for me. I even cried at commercials. I also began having intense anger attacks, for instance, at my inability to get the toothpaste cap back on. In sheer frustration, I’d hack it to pieces. I’d totally destroy it. Then I’d be out of toothpaste. Again, thoughts of suicide began to creep in…
I doubled my medication. This created even more anger: explosive, instant flare-ups, without any warning. Finally, I came to the decision that I would have to find a way to allow my own mind do its own business. I would have to do it without a doctor, because a doctor would just change the medication, but that wouldn’t change my situation. I cut my dosage of antidepressants to one quarter of the prescription.
Shortly thereafter, in August, 1993, sleepless, depressed, and desperate for help, I scanned The New Times in front of me. I read an article on a man teaching a technique of “Healing Awareness.” What I read brought my metabolism up! It seemed to be what I was looking for.
Ajayan Borys is a gentle man that gives off an aura of genuine interest in each of his clients. When I met him, I found it difficult to stop talking rather than my usual need to remain self-contained and controlled. I discovered that the process of Healing Awareness is also gentle, caring, meditative, self-examining process that requires little effort and produces immeasurable treasures of self awareness. I found the process brought me instant relief from uncomfortable physical and emotional feelings. After my first session, I decided to stop taking the antidepressants. I did so without plunging into the dreaded darkness of fear, depression, and anxiety. My anger attacks disappeared. Within a few weeks, I even began sleeping well at nights. Before long, I found myself maintaining a connected and serene outlook on life.
This possibly sounds simplistic in light of the seriousness of my situation, and it was simple. I had read until I could absorb no more, I had found a church that created a sense of belonging and loving community, I had undergone endless therapy and completed the Course in Miracles, yet all of this information and support needed processing to complete the lessons. This simple form of Healing Awareness meditation was the glue that brought me closer to the end of my journey. It also allowed me to eliminate headaches, and control and eliminate foot pain from bone spurs, for which I had been receiving injections.
Now, five years after my accident, I look back and can hardly comprehend the strange, but illuminating quest I find myself on. I can gratefully say that I feel more integrated, conscious, and more in communication with my inner life than before my accident. I have been given the rare opportunity to reevaluate every aspect of my being and recreate that being within me, rather than being blown by the winds of life.
I would like to thank The New Times for providing hope-giving information at a critical time in my life. I have already thanked Ajayan, and I hope my journey will encourage anyone in need of peace and healing to investigate his techniques. Anyone interested in doing so can contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © Barbara Whitmore 1993. Abridged and reprinted by permission of the author and The New Times, Seattle, WA