By Russell Scott
From the 7th to the 13th of November 2011, Russell spent time in two hospitals diagnosed with a sub-arachnoid hemorrhage (burst blood vessel in his head) facing the possibility of dying. Out of this came some important realizations about life.
On the evening of November 7th, 2011, I went to emergency at Guelph General Hospital with the worst splitting migraine imaginable. On a scale of 1-10 it was about 100. I felt as if my head was going to explode and I would experience directly the subject of one of my public talks: “Headless in a Headstrong World”.
My head felt like it was like a huge gaseous pumpkin on fire yet the rest of my body was cold. It was the weirdest sensation. Everything below my neck was shivering and above I was sweating.
After the admitting nurse examined me, I spent 4.5 hours in agony without a nurse or a doctor checking in on me. Thank God for my partner Heather who asked for a towel and gave me cold compresses and her love for the whole time. I could have had a stroke unattended and died. (I won’t go into any of my views of our so-called advanced and compassionate medical system after this experience).
Somewhere in the midst of this trauma, while lying on a hospital gurney in the hallway, I noticed my mind.
I observed my mind doing it’s pasteurizing and futurizing: looking into the past for disastrous similar events and projecting them into the future. “Remember the time you were in the hospital when you were 2 years old, remember the concussion you had playing football, remember your friend who died when he got hit by a baseball bat. Russell you are going to die; you’ll be disabled for the rest of your life; you’ll be stuck in the hospital for 6 weeks and nobody will visit; you’ll be abandoned; no-body will ever love you again…”
It went on and on and on with the catastrophising.
I had woken up again to what I have seen so much of in life, the 3 fundamental components of any event: the experience, the mind and who we actually are.
I saw my mind for the nervous fool it actually was, making up everything under the sun it could possibly disastrously imagine: full of negative beliefs, erroneous points of view, and unproven conclusions with false evidence, randomly ascribing meaning to the experience.
I finally asked my mind: “Hey mind of this Russell dude, how do I know that anything you are predicting is true or will come to pass? The day isn’t over yet”.
My mind responded like a nervous witness with a false story interrogated in court, “Well sir, you see, well I, what I really mean is, golly gee, I know it could maybe be true, what I am thinking could happen is…ah, hum…well the truth be told I’m making it all up” and “POOF” like a stupid genie my mind vanished and all that was left was me and the pain.
I realized in that moment, I could make up anything I wanted about the pain because the future really was not set. I had no idea what would happen in the future because is not dependent on the past. The past and future are always interrupted by what happens in the present. (We’ve certainly seen this in our financial institutions of late. Mutual fund companies got this right “Past performance does not guarantee future results”).
Then it occurred to me that there is also an error in deciding to make up anything positive as well. Why impose a positive meaning on the reality of what was occurring? This is still involving the genie of the mind. That too would trap me in the mind. It is a subtler trap but it is still a trap. Maybe there is wisdom inherent in just being with the pain as it is without any imposition of positive or negative meaning.
So I chose to just be me with the pain…just be me with the bare excruciating experience of pain…with nothing in between.
And once again I had an experience of my true self.
I saw I am separate from the pain. I felt the pain but just because I felt it, it did not mean I was it. I was not identified with it. Pain did not define me. My body did not define me. The lack of attention by the nurses did not define me… nor did whatever my mind made up. In fact nothing defined me. Death or life did not define me. I may die but I would still exist…just me without a body.
And in all of this I had a choice independent of my mind. In this situation of possibly dying I could choose anything I wanted. Being at choice is fundamental to my true nature and I am free. I could choose to throw-up, trash the nurses’ station, fart just for fun, leave or die... whatever.
So I chose to live…to love my partner who loves me dearly and to base my new life from living and loving more in my heart than in my mind.
About a half an hour later the doctor came.
I am alive today…and almost back to normal.
And ain’t this life:
who we are, what we experience and our minds.
How much hell do we create with the catastrophizing of the mind?
When the mind first arises in us it’s like a genie with one wish. We think we have so outwitted the genie by asking with our one wish for unlimited wishes. Big mistake. Then we add all kinds of erroneous meaning on top of any event and then the genie creates that experience in the future. And here’s the craziness:
The mind does not exist.
It is not only made up but it is responsible for manufacturing all the craziness in our lives. It’s the falseness that makes up falseness. It’s what does not exist that traps us. All there really is in any experience is who we are and what we are experiencing. The meaning that we add may or may not be true. (Usually it’s not true.)
So here are my recommendations for life in case you get a broken blood vessel in your head or you’re the kind that likes a summary.
In any experience ask yourself:
“What’s my interpretation or belief about this event?”
“What is actually true?”
“What would I choose in this present moment if I didn’t have a mind to sabotage me?”
Find out who you really are, independent of the dude and dudess your ego tells you, that you are.
Don’t try getting a sub-arachnoid hemorrhage to get enlightened.
It’s too painful.
Retreat Leader, Speaker, Spiritual mentor and Author of Awakening the Guru in You
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