In 2006, following an MS exacerbation that left in a wheelchair and being bathed every day, my doctor gave me the prognosis, “nursing home within five years”. Twelve months later, after another exacerbation following a general anaesthetic another neurologist left gauge marks in the soles of my feet trying to get a plantar reflex response – he could not accept that there simply wasn’t one. In another similar Incident, a doctor put a stick down my throat trying to illicit a vomit response but again, there wasn't one – I could neither swallow, vomit or cough.
That was then and this is now. I teach yoga and meditation, I have written and published a book, recorded relaxations and meditations, learned to ski, this year I plan to learn how to scull and run, and launch an online studio for people in crisis or wanting to engage in a non-pretzel yoga practice. If those doctors could see me now, I wonder what they would think.
So what enabled this seemingly miraculous recovery and what set me on this seemingly impossible path?
Well, to answer the second question first – madness set me on this path, or at least the alleviation of madness. I had experienced life as feeling bullied, disempowered and illness – in short, I had become addicted to suffering. Then one day in a hospital bed in 2004, in the midst of this addiction, I experienced bliss … peace and a meditation practice was borne, which led me back to a spasmodic yoga practice
Then three years later in an electric wheelchair, again I felt peace. After a lifetime of felt madness, experiencing peace in the midst of suffering was extraordinary and very magnetic. That was a decision in a moment, a decision that was to change the path of my life – “I am done with suffering and I want to learn how to live in this state, and teach other people in crisis how to live in peace, regardless of circumstance.”
According to Eckhardt Tolle, any individual experiencing pain (pain in the general sense of suffering, not just physical pain), has to reach a tipping point where they are ‘over’ living in pain before they can really set upon the path of transformation. For me this was that point, “Enough now”.
Decision made I headed off to a yoga teacher training course … in my electric wheelchair and learned how to develop a personal yoga and meditation practice that has seen me through a marriage breakdown, multiple surgeries, MS exacerbations and the growing of a new life, with increasingly less mental and physical suffering.
There have have been so many times during my recovery when I have thought of people in my past (peers from school, doctors, family) and thought, “if only they could see me now”, or its partners in crime, “I’ll show them,” and “if I do [fill in the blank] maybe ill be good enough”. Yet despite the initial lift to my ego, these thoughts were always ultimately diminishing to my actual self-esteem, and disturbed my equanimity.
And then recently I had an MRI scan on my brain and spine to check the status of disease progression. The images were available immediately following the scan, so of course as soon as I arrived home I opened the envelope and pored over each scan.
The number, size and spread of the scars on my beautiful brain were much worse than I remembered. My disease had progressed. I was shocked! Once again I felt the grief of having chronic degenerative disease.
My physical condition had been continuing to improve over time, I was more resilient and more confident than at any other time of my life. Beware of hubris. Somewhere in my consciousness I had beaten the progressive aspect of MS. I was different”, “I was going to show them”, “if only they could see me now”, all came crashing down in an exposed and tangled mess.
Time for reflection. I had never thought I had cured MS but I had imperceptibly slid into the hubris of victory over progression but there it was, undressed in my shock. I wasn’t superwoman after all. I was still proving myself, only worthy to the people I was ‘showing’ while I was superwoman.
Then I started to reframe, with the help of my partner. Yes, I have MS. Yes, I have damage to my central nervous system. How amazing that I was able to do all these things with the scarring in my brain. How amazing that my brain was able to find so many alternative routes. How amazing that my practice had brought me to a place of such resilience.
I have spent so much time proving my ‘success’ to others in order to gain legitimacy for my thoughts and teachings that I had forgotten the most important of my lessons: “I am not just my body, I am not just my emotions, I am not just my mind”.
Maybe it was time to show myself. Maybe it was time to see myself. I had given so much power away by wanting other people to see me, I hadn’t seen myself. Each time I thought “if only they could see me now”, or “I’ll show them”, I was giving the external world with all its judgements and insecurities, legitimacy over my own sense of self.
I started this journey of recovery to learn how to live in the peace I found in meditation, now it is time to question why I feel such peace in meditation. It's a work in progress but I think we experience peace in meditation because there is no reference point of comparison, all of our layers are peeled back and we are invited to sit with our true self and the scars of our consciousness are no longer relevant. When I sit in meditation I am not thinking “if only they could see me now”, I am basking in seeing and being in my Self.
Lynnette Dickinson is the author of A Journey to Peace through Yoga, and teaches yoga, relaxation and meditation in Canberra and via Skype or phone. Classes, personalised programs and yoga therapy. Visit www.splendouryoga.com. Listen to Lynnette telling her story click on www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8pNE2Qpul0 for Part 1 and www.youtube.com/watch?v=5SatGo9hV6I for Part 2, and be inspired.