Posts Tagged ‘Migraines’

Concussions, Brain Injury and Spirituality

Jill Bolte Taylor’s popular TED video, best-selling book, and interview on Oprah have really started people talking. Suddenly, the silent experiences of millions of stroke and brain injury survivors have entered mainstream consciousness! As a TBI (traumatic brain injury) survivor and Intuitive Life Coach, I receive so many questions from people wondering if biochemistry and trauma awaken spirituality in everyone, or just them. While I certainly cannot speak for everyone, I do recognize higher than average interest in spiritual growth and intuitive awareness in people whose brains have short-circuited. The process both excites and terrifies, so here are a few hints for handling the Awakening:

1) Know that you are not alone. Yes, it might feel like no one in the world has had this experience, but people have had mystical encounters for millennia. Some, like Hildegaard von Bingen or Fyodor Dostoyevski, are now thought to have suffered from severe migraines and/or epilepsy. Many Medical Intuitives such as Carmen Bell and Tiffany Snow trace their gifts to a near death experience. My own Medical Intuition dramatically increased after a moderate concussion.

Does a biochemical component negate such experiences? Far from it! Scientists have recently studied long-term meditators, locating areas in the brain that show greater or lesser activity than in “normal” brains. Yoga offers a four-to-eight-thousand-year-old tradition of balancing biochemistry in order to relax the body, quiet the mind, and awaken more profound Spiritual Consciousness. If you suddenly sense the veil has parted, you might need to look around for people who share similar experiences, but rest assured: they’re out there!

2) Stay Open. When a stroke, brain injury or other neurological condition suddenly opens pathways you never knew existed, you might feel tempted to “turn things off.” Indeed, many people contact me because they don’t know how to handle the onslaught of psychic awareness. “How do I tune stuff out?” they ask. “I don’t wanna know these things!”

If you lived life from a rational perspective and suddenly see into the future, read minds or know your neighbor has cancer before she tells you, this information initially seems like way too much to handle. But I learned something ironic about both sight and insight when a brain injury destroyed my visual system; if you feel overloaded, embrace more information instead of running from it.

Here’s why this works: physiologically, our eyes are designed to scan the horizon for food and/or predators. Although most of us now spend more hours on the computer than hunting or gathering, our visual system remains quite similar to that of our ancestors, for whom any information equaled valuable information. If a saber-toothed tiger crouched to their left, or a buffalo wandered in the distance, they needed to know! A loss of peripheral vision meant a loss of overall awareness, which could spell death. Hence, a narrowed visual field still leads to fight or flight response.
In today’s world, we can easily develop tunnel vision. If you spend eight hours on a computer and then go home and watch TV for a few hours or relax by reading a book (without looking in the distance or practicing eye exercises) you have effectively narrowed your visual field. As the saying goes, “use it or lose it.” Consistently ignoring our peripheral vision can result in degradation, so that we become less and less aware of our physical environment. Anxiety, irritability and fear quickly follow-and no wonder! Our bodies are hard wired to fear a lack of visual input!

Eighty to ninety percent of the information we absorb comes through the visual system. The health of our visual system directly affects our thoughts, emotions and ability to “see the forest through the trees.” As humans, we also have a Third Eye or intuitive center, which resides in the space between our eyebrows. According to yogis and long-term meditators, focusing awareness on this area heightens intuition. This Visioning Center remains closely connected to our visual center, because so much of memory, imagination, and insight rely on visual cues. If you suddenly find your visioning or insight center (your Third Eye) overloaded with information, trying to shut out guidance will only increase your anxiety, just like going blind as a hunter-gatherer would have made your heart race.

Humans instinctively fear darkness. If you sense too much intuitive awareness, turning your inner light up will help much more than trying to turn it off.

3) Learn to develop calm Awareness. OK, so you’re not supposed to censor information, but it still seems like too much: how do you find a balance?

Try centering yourself, either alone or with a guided meditation. Repeating a mantra or listening to chants like those sung by Deva Premal or Krishna Das can help your mind relax without zoning out. Ideally, you want something that pulls you into your heart instead of playing hide and seek with thoughts. Concentrate on your Heart Chakra (at the center of your chest) and imagine warm, golden, pink or green light pulsating in a slow, radiant beat. As impressions fly into your head, bring them into your heart to feel and hear a response tempered with loving-kindness. In the Christian tradition, Jesus says, “Perfect love casts out fear,” and you know what? It actually does! Experiment and you will find that saturating yourself with unconditional compassion instantly banishes worry.

Consider that the words “scared” and “sacred” contain all the same components, just slightly rearranged. We do not need to remove things in order to make them holy. We need only shift perspective. On her Awakened Heart Meditation CD, teacher Sally Kempton observes that in Sanskrit, the word for the Heart Chakra, hridaya, is also the word for “the highest gateway to reality.” Let your heart balance your head’s information overload.

4) Have fun! Your attitude towards these newfound gifts determines much of your experience. Approach intuitive hits with fear, and life becomes a series of dire predictions and forebodings. On the other hand, recognizing nudges from the universe can save you a lot of time, energy and heartache. Many people find that heightened intuition coincides with increased manifestation ability. If you’ve read or heard of “The Secret,” then you already know that your thoughts influence your reality. Why not have fun creating more of the life that you desire? Practice intending abundant, joyful days. Ask for synchronicities. Align your intentions with the highest good of all and watch beauty unfold before you.

They say God is in the details, but they also say that God has a wonderful sense of humor. Supposedly, the ability to understand jokes in another language marks fluency. When you start getting Spirit’s punch lines, you get to giggle with the universe. Life becomes a comedy, and in theater, comedy always means a happy ending. Lighten up!

5) Ask for guidance. Just because you suddenly access more information doesn’t mean you’re on your own. When you go to graduate school, you still have professors. Life offers endless opportunities to learn and discern. If you feel unsure of the guidance, then ask for clarity. If something stretches the bounds of rationality, you can request signs tailor-made to activate your faith.

The Biblical story of Gideon reminds us that we can pray for interactive lessons. God told Gideon to save the Israelites by leading them into battle against their foes. Gideon felt inclined to believe God, but because others’ lives were at stake, he asked for a sign. Specifically, he requested that if the Israelites were supposed to go into battle, then the wool he placed on the ground would be wet while the ground remained dry. The next morning he found the wool wet and the ground dry, so he felt God had answered his request. Still, he wanted to feel certain, and so he asked for another sign. This time, he asked for wet ground and dry wool. The next morning, he found dry wool on wet ground, and he knew he could confidently lead the Israelites against their foes. Just as Gideon intuited, the Israelites won.

You can ask for any sign you like, but don’t be surprised when events respond. Eventually, you will gain experience and more easily sense which nudges come from intuition and which are disguised projections of the ego. If you catch yourself clinging to an intuition and trying to manipulate it, consider it a sign to reread the suggestions in this article, beginning with Number 1. Ego breeds fear, competition, anger, attachment, obsession and anxiety. By contrast, fruits of Spirit include: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Awakening your intuition takes courage, but you will also learn to love your life. Many blessings on your journey!

Laura Bruno is a Life Coach, Medical Intuitive and Reiki Master Teacher. In addition to private coaching and intuitive sessions, she teaches Intuition workshops and Reiki Certification classes around the country and in Northern California. For more information on classes, raw food coaching, transitional coaching, animal communication, and letting your gifts shine through your career, please see: http://www.internationalrenaissancecoaching.com

Laura also wrote the book, “If I Only Had a Brain Injury: A TBI Survivor and Life Coach’s Guide to Chronic Fatigue, Concussion, Lyme Disease, Migraine, or Other ‘Medical Mystery,'” available at http://www.ifionlyhadabraininjury.com and other online retailers.

Superfoods for Migraines

Migraines and cluster headaches: whatever the label, the pain and side effects can be intense! In addition to traditional treatments, including more of the following “superfoods” can help.

What are superfoods? Well, they’re not exactly supplements–although some supplement companies have begun to market “extracts” of various superfoods. By definition, superfoods are whole foods or oils that offer exceptionally high doses of nutrition. People call them “super” in part because of their benefits and in part due to their origins. Most superfoods are not new; rather, they’ve been used by powerful ancient cultures and only recently rediscovered by the West. Although some scientists and many raw foodists credit superfoods with amazing regenerative and protective abilities for almost any health issue, this article discusses superfoods for special consideration by those who suffer migraines and/or cluster headaches.

Cacao (kuh-COW): Commonly marketed as raw cacao or raw chocolate, this “food of the gods” actually became monetary currency in the Aztec empire! Conventional wisdom tells those with migraines to avoid chocolate as a major trigger food. While some people do have sensitivities to chocolate, most people actually react to the typical dairy and refined sugar in cooked chocolate bars. Raw cacao, by contrast, offers seven times the antioxidants of its cooked version, without the offending dairy and sugar. More importantly for those with migraines, raw cacao contains one of the highest sources of magnesium in any food. Magnesium acts as the relaxing counterpart to calcium and helps to balance brain chemisty. In fact, many migraine sufferers manage to stave off headaches by consuming large quantities of magnesium supplements. Magnesium can also help with PMS, another known trigger of migraines. In addition to magnesium, raw cacao offers caffeine (which seems to affect the body less intensely in its raw form). Some people with migraines find that judicious use of caffeine can curtail a headache before it becomes a full blown episode. Most prescription migraine pills contain some form of caffeine. From a nutritional standpoint, raw cacao certainly beats a Pepsi! If you know for sure that chocolate causes a reaction, skip the raw cacao, but otherwise it could be worth a (delicious) try. Add cacao nibs or powder to morning smoothies, or make raw fudge by mixing the powder with coconut butter, raw agave nectar or honey, and some of the other superfoods listed below. As with any new food, start small so you can monitor your reactions.

Maca (MAH-kuh): Also known as “Peruvian viagra,” maca is a root grown at 14,000 feet in the Andes Mountains. Despite its fame for keeping Peruvian men virile into their 80’s, maca actually functions as an adaptogen, meaning it balances all hormones. If someone has too much estrogen, maca works to lower estrogen levels. If another person has too little estrogen, maca helps the body bring those levels back to optimal levels. Maca also nourishes the adrenal glands, helping the body handle some of the stress that so often triggers cluster headaches and migraines. Maca grows in some of the most inhospitable conditions on earth, but it has learned to flourish where other plants die. Natives believe that the root transfers this strength and adaptability to those who consume it: “You are what you eat!” Metaphysics aside, maca’s high mineral content, B-vitamins, protein, fatty acids, and plant sterols allow it to rebuild the body wherever it most needs help–good news for people whose headaches come from stress or hormonal imbalance. Maca tastes a bit like radish, so you don’t want to add too much to sweet smoothies. It blends exceptionally well with cacao, though, and I always enjoy a morning glass of fresh squeezed lemon juice in water with about a teaspooon of maca. The lemon brings out maca’s hidden sweetness, making a surprisingly zesty lemonade.

Hemp: No, I’m not talking about marijuana, even though some people do employ cannabis for medicinal purposes. You can now find hulled hemp seeds, hemp butter, hemp protein powder and hemp oil at alternative health food stores and in many online shops. Despite virtually no THC content (the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana), the U.S. government prohibits the sale of hemp seeds ready for sprouting, so you can only legally buy hulled ones or hemp products, most of which seem to come from Canada. Nonetheless, hemp has experienced a major resurgence in recent years as people have rediscovered what ancient Europeans knew so long ago. Hemp supports the immune system and contains edestin, the protein most easily assimilated by humans–good news for people who react to protein powders made from soy or dairy (whey). Hemp seeds, butter and oil also contain the perfect ratio of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids, thought to help balance hormones and brain chemistry. In addition, the green color of hemp comes from chlorophyll, which differs only by one atom from hemoglobin. (Hemoglobin forms around an iron atom, whereas chlorophyll forms around that beneficial magnesium atom.) Purifying the blood with chlorophyll-rich foods like hemp, wheat grass and leafy greens can alkalinize the body, which, in turn, eases stress responses like migraines and cluster headaches. Hemp protein powder tastes a bit gritty, but the butters, oil and seeds carry a pleasant, slightly nutty sensation that combines especially well with raw cacao and maca. You can also replace the bulghur wheat (gluten is a major migraine trigger) in foods like tabouli with hemp seeds, or use hemp butter as a nutritious replacement for another common trigger–peanut butter.

Yerba Mate (YUR-buh MAH-tay): For those people who know they need to kick the coffee habit but simply can’t forgo their cuppa Joe, Yerba Mate offers a good substitute. Another highly mineralized South American food, Yerba Mate tastes somewhat similar to coffee, but instead of depleting the adrenal glands, it nourishes them with B-vitamins, 15 amino acids, 11 polyphenols (like in green tea and red wine) and, you guessed it: more magnesium and chlorophyll. Whereas coffee provides a caffeine jolt, mate’s energy comes from the B-vitamins, blood purifying properties and a component called mateine. Unlike caffeine, mateine gives a lift without the crash. Some independent coffee houses now serve soymilk “mate lattes,” or you can brew the tea at home. For best results, warm but don’t boil the water, then let the tea steep for 5 minutes. You can then add hemp milk and essential oils like peppermint with a hint of raw cacao powder, creating your own minty mocha. Yerba Mate also brews well as a sun tea, mixed with orange peel or traditional chai tea spices. A favorite of shamans, Yerba Mate offers a traditional, nutritional alternative to coffee, along with minerals and nutrients thought to support hormonal balance and alkalinity.

In short, these superfoods bring trace minerals, potent nutrients, and a bit of folklore. As foods rather than drugs, they gradually rebuild and support the body, instead of generating a “quick fix.” If you’d like a holistic approach to treating migraines or cluster headaches and haven’t responded to “newfangled cures,” you might want to explore some ancient culinary treats.

 

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