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I was always waiting for things to get better, knew that something great was just around the corner. Fulfilment, though, has always been just out of reach, seemingly a privilege only others are entitled to. I yearned for it, but didn’t know in which direction to go to find it. Then, when I saw a quote, I suddenly realised what needed to be done:
“You are today where your thoughts have brought you. You will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you”. James Allen
It was clear to me – I must seize control of my mind, to pilot it towards fulfilment.
I sought out psychotherapy, enlisted a psychologist, bought self-help books, spent hours challenging my fundamental beliefs. It soon became apparent that nothing external needed to change. I had to change my mind. And that meant truly seeing what was around me, not what I expected to see. It meant ripping myself away from being controlled by my “autopilot”, which runs on an internal model stored in your mind, built from your interpretation of life. It works relentlessly on solving perceived problems, often focussing solely on them at the expense of awareness. Although it does have its uses, there is a time and a place for it. Left unchecked, it can automatically try to solve life, which is a futile and consuming exercise. I’ll give you an example of “autopilot” in action: Have you ever made a journey somewhere and upon arrival, thought, “How did I get here?” You may as well have been asleep, as you had no conscious involvement. Meanwhile, the “autopilot” was busy solving the problem at hand – how to get to your destination.
I needed to wake up to what was happening around me – LIFE!! I had been searching all around for fulfilment in life, when instead I should have been taking fulfilment for being in life, and appreciating the potential fulfilment already within me. I worked out that all you need is a slight shift in perspective to transform your world into a thing of wonder; a shift in your focus from what you don’t have, to what you do have. It’s truly liberating when you realise that although you can’t control this volatile substance we call life, you can control your reaction to it, and so reclaim the purpose to your existence.
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes”. Marcel Proust
Lately, I have spent more time in my head, than in this wondrous world around me. I developed a meditation to help re-establish my connection with reality, and appreciate who I am within it. I am sharing this meditation in the hope that it may help someone. If you want to give it a go, please spend as much or as little time on any part of it as you see fit. It is specific to my personal problems, so may not be completely relevant for you. It usually takes me around 15 minutes.
- Sit on a firm seat, with your eyes closed and in a dignified position.
- Don’t try to change anything – you and all your faults have done amazing things to get you this far. Be proud to be you.
- Listen to what propaganda is playing in your mind. Acknowledge it with endearing amusement, as if it were a child that doesn’t know any better. Realise that your mind is just constantly generating ideas based on it’s experiences; whether you choose to pay attention to them is entirely up to you.
- Ground yourself in this moment. Feel any sensations in your body – notice the contact with whatever is supporting you, your clothes/any wind against your skin, any aches and pains, smells etc. Come home to the body. If your mind wanders, gently escort your attention back to the here and now.
- Appreciate that this moment will never happen again, and that every time you do this meditation, it is closer to the end of this “extended holiday*”. Don’t be annoyed about any distractions; instead, embrace them for helping make part of your moment. Apply this to life – after all, it is nothing more than a moment in existence.
- Now focus on your breathing, on your abdomen changing on the in and out breaths, any pauses between these.
- Feel the life around you. Breath it in as pure bright energy. Synchronise it with your breathing like waves in an ocean. On every in breath, imagine the life flowing to each part of your body, leaving it glowing with energy, feeling any sensations intensely as if for the first time. Feel it revitalising and regenerating everywhere it goes. It should eventually fill every fibre of your being. At this point remind yourself – you ARE life!
- Alternate between thinking of past / future achievements:
Think of an achievement, one which made / will make, you feel proud of yourself. Go back/ forwards to that moment. Imagine you’re there, feeling all the sensations, within and without. Especially focus on the emotions.
- Keep that emotion in the forefront of your mind. Now, on every in breath, repeat “I love myself”. Feel the contentment and security, knowing that you will always be truly loved on a level that transcends reality. Remind yourself that you’ll always be looked after by someone who has achieved amazing things; who knows everything there is to know about you. That you will never be alone if you just listen to your “higher self” / soul calling out his help.
*When I went on a holiday to Tenerife, I was so much more motivated and enjoyed what was around me, much more than usual. I thought how much I’d dearly love to replicate whatever had so much of a positive effect on me, so asked myself, “Why was this?” It was because I was seeing this place for the first time, so my “autopilot” wasn’t engaged. Plus, I was acutely conscious that I was only there for a limited time so had to make the most of it. By looking at my normal life back home as just a longer version of my time in Tenerife, an “extended holiday” in England, I gain a much-needed shift in perspective.
This year has been emotionally gruelling for me. From within a situation, you can become overwhelmed, not knowing which way to turn. I needed to take a step back and reassess my priorities. So, I booked a flight to Tenerife. I cast my mind back to my wish to go travelling so decided to see this as a test run. I deliberately didn’t make plans, no itinerary, no expectations. Was I going to find myself? Lose myself? Only time would tell…
I was waiting for the taxi early Monday morning, around 2 AM I think. I was “bricking” it. I have never been out of the country on my own, much less in an electric wheelchair, which is in itself, quite restrictive already. I’d not slept for some time, so the stress was already starting to take its toll. I only became more nervous when I saw Stansted airport looming. To say I was daunted would be the mother of all understatements. It reminded me of venturing into the corporate world when I had only been a factory worker. I asked myself am I biting off more than I can chew? When I had checked in and was waiting to board the plane, a helpful member of staff came over and informed me that it was unlikely I’d be able to transport my cumbersome electric wheelchair, being that it doesn’t fold down. Brilliant, my test run had potentially crashed before it had even taken off. He explained that he’d see what he could do, so I boarded the plane hoping that my wheelchair would be waiting for me in Tenerife.
When the plane landed four hours later, I got off the plane and my wheelchair was indeed waiting for me. Happy days! I pointed at it to the Spanish staff member who didn’t understand much English. He understood enough, though, to inform me that it wasn’t mine. I had quite a compelling argument as to why it WAS, but he couldn’t understand it. I sat in the wheelchair and firmly refused to budge while he had a debate with his colleagues. I’m not sure what the outcome was, but I managed to “steal” it and get out of the airport, and waited for a bus. For some unknown reason, I’d decided to stay in Santa Cruz at the other side of the island. The right bus came but wasn’t equipped to take my wheelchair. I waited for the next bus and had the same problem. And the next, and the next. I decided to call the local bus station and enquire. They explained that there are only two accessible buses for this long journey, that I’ve missed the first and the next is in a couple of hours. Looking at the hundreds of people going about their adventures freely, and me not even being able to get out of this airport, I was feeling lower than low. Couple that with the tiredness and stress, and I was a mess. When the accessible bus finally came, the driver had to drop everything, holding everyone up, to operate a complicated lift system. He got me onto the bus and strapped me in like a useless piece of meat. This wasn’t what I’d envisaged his trip to be like at all! I got to the hotel after having a meltdown and feeling about as upset as you could possibly be. I was cheered up immediately when I got there and got a much-needed early night.
I did a bit of research and found out about a local beach which had been made accessible. I took a bus (all of the inter-urban buses are accessible) and went to the nearby beach. It was lovely and I sunbathed for most of the day. I got chatting to some people who are employed simply to help the disabled visitors. They explained how they can take me out into the sea. I expessed how I would very much like this and they dumped me in the sea and left. THIS was more what I had in mind!
I went back to Santa Cruz in high spirits and sat “people watching” outside with some rum. I then went back to the hotel, did some more research and made some enquiries. The rest of the holiday became a bit of a blur. I know that I went to see the new Star Wars movie a day before UK release.
I also went on a tour of Teide National Park. I was able to take some great photos.
The tour guide said, “Hey, I’ve got a gift for you.” He handed me a piece of obsidian. I don’t know if this is merely coincidence, but from here the holiday became amazing and I managed to make some tough personal decisions. Since looking at the symbolism of obsidian, it is told to remove negativity and help cut attachment cords. This great day was rounded off when I went to take a closer look at the National Auditorium. I thought wouldn’t it be cool if I could see an orchestra play here?
I went in to see if there were any tickets available for anything during the duration of my stay. The girl behind the desk explained that there was only the gospel choir playing within the date range I’d given her. Then added, “The Symphony Orchestra are playing tonight…” Amazing! And they were just that.
I got a reply back from one of the enquiries that I’d made; I’d explained my mobility issues to a company who specialise in paragliding from Teide. They told me it would be entirely possible. I arranged to be picked up from my hotel, armed only with a walking frame. The lead up to this experience yielded this beautiful picture:
Here is me doing the jump:
Feeling a sense of elation, I went back to Santa Cruz and found out just how generous this Spanish are with their glasses of rum. I woke up the next day regretting having made this discovery. With the state that I was in, I resigned to just get a replacement case for my sunglasses and go back to the hotel to feel sorry for myself. As I was rolling up the street, I thought I’d heard English sounds emanating from a couple up ahead. Having only spoken to Spanish folk in the manner that you would talk to a baby, I was missing exercising my vocabulary. I stalked them for some time until they sat down by the side of the road, on a shop window ledge. I approached them and we got chatting. They were a couple, Taciana from Argentina, Joe from New Zealand. They explained how they had just travelled across Europe, paid for only by music. They fascinated me, living a life I had dreamed of.
They were currently busking to raise money for a guitar for Joe, which he normally played while Taciana (or Tash) sang. They had a speaker and microphone but the adapter for these broke, so Joe went in search of a replacement. They said I was welcome to stay and watch Taciana sing a cappella while he was gone. I did this.
She sang a Spanish song, and it was beautiful. I could hear her passion for life in her voice. I can hardly comprehend someone going to such lengths, simply to enjoy this world. I then got thinking about how I am only where I am, because people have helped me. It’s time to give back. I approached Tash and told her that I would buy them the guitar. When she’d finished telling me that I didn’t have to do that, she was over the moon and couldn’t wait for Joe to get back. She excitedly managed to give him the good news and he disappeared yet again, this time to procure a guitar. Upon his return, wearing a smile like the Cheshire Cat, we set off so that they could buy me some drinks to say thank you. Joe’s smile didn’t fade, apart from when he started beat boxing and playing his guitar while walking; he had so much music pent up in him. They are my kind of people; we had the best conversation about life. They played me a few songs, some of which Joe had written himself, one which he dedicated to me as it resonated with me. It was called I’m Not Stuck in the System; I’m sure most reading this know that I indeed should be, should have been written off with no hope of life. Of THIS! We went back to the spot where we had met, and they sang with their new guitar, to raise enough money so they could buy me dinner. I loved watching passers-by taking joy from these two, a woman even grabbing the guitar and singing a song! We had dinner and agreed to meet the next day.
When I met them the next day, they were with Bart, a nice Polish chap who was travelling in the same manner. I saw the Law of Attraction at work, as these sort of positive people seem to group together. We all went for a drink and everybody passed the guitar around and laughed (apart from me, I just laughed).
Then the “guitar grabber” walked past and did her thing. She grabbed and sang. She is filled with an immeasurable energy and love, which is highly infectious.
She said that she was having a party in the mountains tomorrow, and that we should all come! I said that I would get us all a taxi up there, but the next day she was to turn up at my hotel having procured the use of her friend’s minibus. I went off to the mountains.
That night I saw a side of life I have not yet had the privilege of knowing. It was a group of people, many of whom had never met, whose only motives were to make sure that everybody had as good a time as they did. It was like I had known them for many years, and it was an honour to be accepted in this way. I stayed up till 5 AM, drinking and singing and laughing, enjoying more happiness than I have done in a long, long time. They next day, I was sat on the porch, overlooking spectacular views while the fiesta continued (minus the drinking!) Joe started playing with some beats he’d made from scratch with an app on his phone, which was connected to a speaker. I got excited and asked him to play my song, which I promptly recorded. I can’t believe that this music sprang out of nowhere without warning, most of it being improvised “on-the-fly”. This sort of thing has been happening constantly, but I was too busy enjoying it to be recording. Caution, the following video contains some naughty words (the picture is the amazing view I was looking at):
P.S The guitar get’s amazing!!
My only regret is that I didn’t re-book my flight and stay for longer. I have taken a lot from this holiday. One of the main things I noticed was my differing reaction to the two amazing events of the previous day. I have been recording the summary of the days events using a dictaphone. When describing the epic paragliding experience, I was quite calm and reserved. However, when I was describing the invitation to the party, it started, “OH! MY! GOD!” So, it appears that I get much more fulfilment from amazing people than I do amazing experiences; that amazing people to me are amazing experiences! The other main thing I took from this holiday is a note I wrote to myself, to be repeated to me every day:
Look at the things people overcome to experience this beautiful world. They mainly contend with money, you don’t have to. Instead, you have mobility problems. Swings and roundabouts. You owe it to yourself to not waste this opportunity.
This trip lifted my spirits beyond belief and reinforced that there are endless possibilities if you can only dream them.
I know I haven’t been on here for a while. But once I’ve explained why, maybe you’ll forgive me.
It’s been quite liberating, brutally selling all my possessions through car boot sales and eBay. I hope to soon have nothing but dreams and freedom to pursue them.
I’d been forward in stating my intention to go travelling. But let me show you why; I was shown the most profound 5:30 video I have ever seen. Here it is:
It spurred the thought process where I asked myself, “Have I really worked hard to make the most of this miracle I have been blessed with, to sit here and stare at these four walls?” This got me thinking, about how I was surrounded by nice materialistic things. All the things that I have been led to believe that their attainment would lead to certain happiness. But I have them and am not happy.
So, I weighed up my options. Continue with my safe but unfulfilling life, and always wonder what could have been, or face soul crushing fear. Fear of the unknown. But I realised something at this point which made it all okay; if you’re in a situation where you can’t know all the things that can go wrong, equally you cannot know all the things that could go right.
I’ve been quite privileged to be able to look back over a group of extreme situations, condensed over the last few years, and clearly see what has transpired. Applying this life lesson makes me smile even when facing the bitterest, most painful situation. I have learned that if something isn’t going your way, keep in the back of your mind that “life” is steering you toward something better. Remember, though, that it is only steering; you still need to provide the momentum to keep moving forward. Always try your best and believe in your dreams. This mindset has propelled me much further than I ever thought possible, to the start of an unimaginable dream.
On the subject of propulsion, let me fill you in on the amazing discovery I’ve made this weekend. As you may know, I am confined to a wheelchair when “out and about”. Most people can push the rims of these useful devices to propel themselves. Frustratingly, I do not have the coordination to do this.
I am quite exhausted after a weekend of propelling myself through Ashridge Woods and Stowe Gardens. I have hired a piece of equipment to test its suitability and it is simply AWESOME. It can handle most terrains, hills, is transportable (on planes for instance…) and most importantly, I CAN PROPEL IT!!!
Enter the Mountain Trike.
This is my favourite picture from today. The beautiful catalyst responsible for showing me the life changing video pointing me to my dreams, sat on the equipment that can take me there.
There are revelations hidden within your inner Fortress of Solitude
It’s very rare to be able to remove yourself from a busy lifestyle, from the copious expectations associated with living. I was way too busy to even remotely consider solitude. But as it’s done so many times before, “life” steered me towards what I unknowingly needed, which differed completely from what I wanted. On face value, it would appear that my life was destroyed. However, I see now that I have been privileged to be able to take a step back from my life, assess it from a detached perspective and make a conscious decision on its direction. I am very grateful for the faculties I have been allowed to keep and enhance. I feel it is now my responsibility to fully utilise them.
Read the rest of this entry
I write predominantly about issues I’ve experienced. Although my situation is very unique, I have come to realise that the resulting issues I’ve faced are shared by many. I would very much like to hear if others have experienced similar ones.
It’s scientifically argued that You are defined by the composition of your brain. It’s therefore justified to feel that when you’ve had a brain injury resulting in parts of your brain not functioning properly, or at all, that the injury is to who you are. Basically, a brain injury makes You feel lesser.
A little clarification after a brain injury would go a long way in limiting this destructive thought process. What defines who You are is your mind, which is a product of the early structure of your brain. Once formed though, it isn’t fixed. As we use a very small percentage of our brains, our minds can utilise spare brain, developing new ways of operating.
In a recent blog post, I recognised the “social reflection” phenomenon. After watching the next documentary instalment from David Eagleman, I now know why this happens.
I’m sure everybody reading this has been in the following situation: a stranger smiles at you, and you can’t help but smile back. After finding out the reason behind this, I am absolutely fascinated!
This is because the human brain is always trying to understand what is around it. It is quite common that brains find their selves surrounded by like-minded creatures; the brain’s quest for understanding is no different when it comes to intricate social comprehension. To undertake this complex task, mirror neurons within the brain cause it to mimic expressions, “trying them on”. This is so you can experience this specific configuration of subtle facial expressions for yourself and better understand what they are intended to project. The same underlying principle relates to when we see people experience emotions, and is why we flinch, cry and smile etc at movies. Even though you know the people on the screen in front of you are acting, you can’t help but simulate what they’re feeling to understand them. This is empathy.
The brain is very good at avoiding pain. Therefore, it shies away from simulating potentially painful emotions it’s not prepared for. To block its automatic empathy, it dehumanises the potential source of pain. For instance, many brains will unconsciously dehumanise homeless people. It is manipulation of this mechanism which is the main purpose of propaganda. In extreme cases, empathy is blocked by dehumanisation on a wide scale, resulting in genocide.
I wish to see people who have just had an injury, live a better quality of life. This involves me leading by example. I have recently taken the first step in this, in acknowledging that my pride wouldn’t let me admit my self-image was governed by fear. Whenever I interacted with people, those that didn’t automatically dehumanise me (before being subjected to a painful simulation), would reflect my worry and self-consciousness. Until now, I had thought that all this negativity and subtly being treated as a “lesser being”, emanated from people around me. This strengthened my projected negativity, becoming an exponential vicious cycle. I understand now it was self-inflicted. To combat this, I need to give myself the following advice. These words are “one size fits all”, so apply to everyone who has problems to deal with:
No matter what you feel inside, face the world with a smile and truly believe you can achieve your dreams.
It’s so awesome! I’ve accidentally led myself down a trail of thought which has solved the major problems currently holding me back in life.
Yesterday, I was writing some notes about what to say in the short film I’ve been asked to do. This is for the charity UKABIF, who have asked me to talk about the daily issues that my brain injury has caused. I will share some of these notes:
I have been so focussed on making progress with my physical recovery and have had great success with this. People have often said, “You should live in the moment, make the most of now.” Although I agree with this in normal circumstances, I saw a better investment of my time being to improve my quality of life for years to come. All my hard work paid off, leaving me with so many options for my future. While my “re-ability” (my rebellion against disability) skyrocketed, I didn’t notice my self-esteem dwindling away. As I didn’t have time for a normal life or any social interaction, the prospect of this has become very scary. Where I’ve been allowed to spend the last few years alone behind closed doors, I now don’t have the confidence to go past them into the unknown, where things can go wrong and people can judge me. I’ve only just acknowledged this problem and desperately want a social life again, but where do I start?
I like to think that I can give quite good advice. To anybody else except myself! Realising this (after recently telling somebody here on WordPress), I decided to imagine that somebody else had written the notes above. Suddenly the problems which had swamped me, restricting me leaving my “self-imposed prison”, seemed like child’s play to overcome! I looked at them objectively and did a spreadsheet containing weekly goals. Things such as new places I have to see; I specified a minimum of three per week, but that more equated to “super happy fun time” (I did say it was child’s play!) I then imagined a “therapist” was giving me the spreadsheet, and saw it as a challenge to overcome.
It’s really funny how all this happens the day I post the paperwork for something I’ve tried to do to help people. Is this karma at work? When I was watching the documentary The Brain with David Eagleman, he talks about just how much neuroscience can learn when a brain operates outside of normal parameters. My brain lost the concept of normal parameters on 4th July, 2009! I got a call yesterday from someone representing Thomas Willis Brain Collection, explaining how they don’t normally get people volunteering to donate their brain, but how grateful they are and how this may help ease the suffering of hundreds of people to come. Apparently they’re even generous enough to wait until you’re finished with it! I must say, it does make me smile to know that I can continue to help people long after I’m dead 🙂
I have covered my wardrobe with motivational quotes to start the day with. One of my favourites (not just because of the scantily clad lady!), is:
I recently heard a tune that spurred some deep thinking about the influence of music. The tune that I am referring to is the perfect combination of badass and beautiful; electronic structure and unrestrained human expression:
I just cannot get bored of this song. There is one point which always makes the hairs all over my body stand up, my stomach knots up and I am filled with anticipation: exactly 3:08 in. I find it absolutely amazing that music can elicit such a physical response. Even if this music doesn’t appeal to you personally, I imagine that you could envisage how this might speak to me. Its uniqueness at least can be widely appreciated.
Some music however, holds a very specific meaning for an individual. Take this tune for instance:
I had just broken up with the woman I loved, because I had deep feelings for somebody else. The vocalist in this song reminds me of that somebody else. It speaks to me at such an emotional level as it prompts the memory of me walking out into the sea, under the influence of the crushing depression that enveloped me, unable to carry on.
Providing the tune’s loud enough, it conjures up such a strong emotional response that at exactly 3:16, I roar with raw passion every time I hear it.
Another tune with a very specific meaning, personal only to me, is:
It appeals to only a fraction of the audience that the first tune does, but to me holds deep significance.
A friend had DJ Gammer do me a mix, to be played while I was in my coma. This tune featured. Then, when I was in rehab, my Occupational Therapist randomly posted this tune to my Facebook. It was playing when I updated my status for the first time since my attack. This was when I wrote, “I refuse to lose”. This tune became the theme to my recovery, associated with the feeling of I’m gonna do this.
Nine months later, I was listening to this tune being played by DJ Gammer himself, in Spain. To top it all off, I then had dinner with him!
The physical response that this tune is now able to elicit is off the charts. I wrote a post recently about channelling anger. Imagine that you have a sea of anger in your soul, and carve rivers to channel this to serve as motivation in completing specific objectives. I find the right tune, such as this one, opens the floodgates to this sea, causing a tidal wave of passion. If you happen to get this mid exercise, you go into “beast mode” and temporarily cannot be restrained. It’s an almost “out of body” experience, where you are basking in euphoria, with almost unlimited energy at your disposal.