This week is an anniversary. A year ago I got up one morning, and felt a little light headed in a way that was unfamiliar. For some reason I wondered at the time whether it might be a stroke, and so spoke out loud and touched my nose with a finger from each hand. No problem beyond a slight hesitation in my speech. But that intuition was to prove on target.
I did my morning prayers and thanks givings, and walked up to the living room in the house where I was temporarily renting a room. I mentioned to Richard and Nathaniel, who were watching the tube, that I felt “strange,” and went in to shower.
I almost fell down in the shower.
Alarmed, I finished, dried, and walked shakily back into the living room. I sat down and told them I really did not feel right. I hoped the symptoms would pass if I just sat a while. After a brief conversation, my friends suggested I go to a nearby clinic in Occidental, a small village in Sonoma County. The clinic was about four miles away, a beautiful drive through some redwoods and vineyards.
I decided to take their advice, and got up to go to my car and drive there. “Can you drive?” they asked.
Only I stumbled while walking across the living room.
“You’re not driving anywhere” my friends said. “We’ll get you there.”
With that Nathaniel took me to his truck, stuffed me in, and off we went through the woods to the Occidental clinic.
By the time we got there I was feeling much worse. Worse yet, the clinic was filled. No room. Nathaniel turned around and we drove to the emergency room in Sebastopol, about ten miles away.
By the time we got there I needed a wheel chair to get into the hospital. When the nurse asked me to sign my name, I found I couldn’t do it. My incoherent scrawl spilled across the entire page. When I tried to speak it was almost impossible. Nothing seemed to be working anymore. Overwhelmed, I gave up trying to understand what was happening, and let myself be carried away by events and the staff.
“So this is what having a stroke is like” I thought. For the first time in my life I had absolutely no control over what was happening, and a very real fear I never would again.
I could hardly walk, and that only on a smooth surface, like the hospital’s linoleum floor. I could hardly talk, could not carry on a coherent thought for longer than a minute or so, could not sign my name let along write, nor do much of anything else, though I was not a vegetable. It turned out the stroke was from clots in my lower brain, and so both hemispheres were affected. The classic symptoms were absent.
My situation was not immediately life threatening, and so beyond tests such as a CAT Scan and MRI, little was or could be done. The medicines they could give were blood thinners that might themselves cause additional strokes, and I fell outside the range where the doctor felt the risk was worth it. “Take an aspirin and see a neurologist.” were my final instructions from the ER physician when I left. People tried to cheer me up by telling me how friends of theirs had recovered within a year.
I was not cheered.
But a few days later I noticed significant improvement, and that improvement continued very rapidly for some weeks. People remarked on how rapid my rebound was proving.
I wondered what there was about me that might make for a faster than normal recovery.
Over 20 years ago I began intensive work with a Brazilian shamanic healer. For six years I worked closely with him, and my healing knowledge expanded substantially, as did my capacity to work with energy and with the spirit world. Sometimes I and others who worked with him would spend several days every week working in his ‘healing circle’ and sometimes we would take long retreats. I told friends afterwards that those years were as difficult and demanding as was getting a Ph.D. at Berkeley.
After leaving my articipation with him I continued my work, ‘retail’ as I put it, whenever the opportunity presented itself. One thing I noticed about doing this work was that it seemed somehow connected with nerves. One dimension of what we did seemed to involve either healing them or enabling new neural connections to replace old ones.
Perhaps that’s why I had made such progress in recovering from my stroke, I thought. I could walk, sort of write my name and peck away on the computer. Speaking was a problem, but not an ordeal. In my eyes I was still a mess, but I was no longer as crippled as I had been. But the rate of improvement was slowing. It appeared that if I were right in my analysis, I had reached the end of my body’s ability to respond rapidly to the damage that had been done.
On the other hand, if my guess as to why I had been improving so rapidly was correct, perhaps having a friend who had also worked with this healer, but who was now a Tai-chi/Xigong teacher and healer in San Francisco, could add enough additional “juice” to speed up my rate of improvement again.
Once I contacted him, he drove up and worked with my chi for an hour or so. “Energy,” “chi,” “prana,” it all appears to be the same thing within different cultural contexts. But as I joke, he benefits from a tradition with a 4000 year learning curve behind him rather than my 20 year one. I had contacted the right guy.
Once again my rate of improvement rose rapidly, and soon I even began to drive a little on back roads. It was like learning to drive again, regaining the subtle adjustments we make continually when on the road. Initially I always over corrected because I no loger made those adjustments. That was sometime in July.
In early August I was confident enough to take a test drive to Los Angeles, to see how it would go over long distance, and towards the end of August I drove to Maine for three months. By then my rate of improvement had slowed again, but I could do most of what I had once done, even if not quite as well. What symptoms were noticeable only to friends. Some said I talked more slowly, and some said they preferred it that way…
Now, a year later, for all intent and purposes there are no symptoms left, beyond a strange thickness of tongue when I initially speak with strangers. Go figure.
Why Am I Posting This?
And now my reason for this post. I suspect that serious energy work might either help minimize the damage from a stroke, and/or speed up the healing should one occur. Learning Tai-chi/xigong, especially from someone able to do healing, would enable anyone to help friends – and perhaps be of enormous personal benefit to them as the years pile up. Other forms of serious energy work would also likely be very beneficial as well.
If you have dithered over learning this kind of modality, I hope my example might encourage you to take the plunge. There is a wide range of levels of expertise, and I suspect even initial levels will help a person to strengthen their awareness of chi, with beneficial effects for themelves.
There is also a cool research opportunity for anyone with connections in China.