My husband and I were on our way to Santa Barbara to give a Primal Breathwork workshop when the accident happened. I fell asleep at the wheel, the car rolled, and we survived a devastating crash on Highway 101 south of Salinas, California, at a little place called Greenfield. On that day, March 27th, we were destined for a brief moment of fame as the "miracle couple" on the evening news telecast because as a witness remarked, "No one walks away from an accident like this."
As I write these words now, some six weeks later, I am reliving the event, this "wake-up call," and still assimilating its meaning and purpose in our lives beyond the injuries (fortunately slight) to our physical bodies, beyond the total destruction of one fourteen-year-old Toyota Cressida sedan. To many friends who had observed the dizzying tempo of our life with its ever mounting tasks and deadlines the message was obvious: "Slow down."
And to us, yes, this was part of the message; but we learned and are still learning that this "accident" was much more. In fact, the full import is still unfolding in our lives. I feel thankful for this opportunity to reflect upon it, for sharing these impressions has led to more awareness and the sense that there is a cosmic design that is breathtaking in its perfection--if we have the eyes to see and the open heart to take it in.
The first "learning" was the kindness and support that immediately manifested. Within seconds of the car coming to rest after several brutal roll-overs, California Highway Patrol officers were reassuring us, talking to us, calling in the support of paramedics and firemen. The officers told me they had been right behind us when the accident occurred--blessed timing indeed.
Although I was calm and totally aware of everything happening around me in the aftermath of that violent event, I was also experiencing a sense of vulnerability and almost hypersensitivity to the quality of caring, support, and reassurance that was being focused on my husband and myself. The officers, the paramedics, the helicopter pilot--each exhibiting a total attentiveness to our condition, our needs, our words; each going out of his or her way to comfort and to reassure, all the while applying their particular skills with calm and confident professionalism. Iíd like to share a small but eloquent example of this. Since there was concern over the extent of my husbandís injuries, with the real possibility of a concussion or broken ribs, for example; the original plan was to airlift him by helicopter immediately while arranging for me to be transported by ambulance. I did not want to be separated from him in this crisis and asked if I could accompany him. When I found myself being lifted into the helicopter, I was still not sure that he was with me, having been strapped down on a stretcher with my head immobilized. However, the first thing the nurse-paramedic did, after adjusting the IV drip on my arm, was to place my hand in Mickelís. Just this act of thoughtfulness brought blessed reassurance and tears of gratitude.
As far as Mickel was concerned, the events of that day touched him deeply. Amazingly, he had "slept through" the actual accident, "awakening," as he told me later, from an intense dream to find friendly faces looking down and asking him if he knew where he was, knew his name, and so on. Later we realized that it was very likely that his spirit had actually left his body at the time of that traumatic event, and so he was spared the violent upheaval and shock his body had been subjected to as it was thrown around during the roll-over. Another blessing: He had actually placed his seat belt behind him so as to rest more comfortably, and this probably saved his life for he was thrown into the back seat away from the right side of the car which looked, as he later described it, as if a gigantic can-opener had ripped it totally apart.
And there was a second element--a blessing even more profound. Perhaps it was his own vulnerability and hyper-awareness of the merciful attentions he received that triggered deep feelings resonating all the way back to his birth experience. By way of explanation, Mickel went through primal therapy over twenty years ago and has had many experiences ever since in processing and recalling the early traumatic events of his life, and so I could readily relate to his interpretation of that dayís events. He described it this way: It was as if a merciful Universe had provided him with a "rescripting" of his original birth . In the course of many primal experiences over the years he had vividly recalled being roughly handled after his emergence from the womb; memories of being treated like a "piece of meat" as he often described it, and subjected to the callous treatment which todayís high-tech birthing procedures routinely impose on newborns: being scrubbed roughly, placed on a cold scale, having the jaw yanked open to remove mucous, and removed to a sterile crib instead of being placed on the motherís breast, etc., etc. So many incidences of callous treatment and utter indifference to his needs at the critical time of his birth, all of which had created a traumatic imprint, a foundation of fear and pain for his life. In contrast, what Mickel experienced in the aftermath of our accident was the total caring, attentiveness, kindness, and immediate responses to his needs, of all the professionals involved, from the California Highway Patrol officer asking him about his state of consciousness, to the paramedics administering the IV drip, to the emergency room doctors carefully explaining what surgery would be needed. (He had suffered a laceration on his right arm and also required stitches under his right eye). And as a specific example, at one point lying on the gurney, feeling agonizing pain in his lacerated arm, he asked for some relief. The nurse immediately responded: "Thatís not an unreasonable request" and promptly produced the medication he needed.
My own experience after the crash, interestingly, also resonated with my birth. As a cesarean-born I had been roughly and summarily lifted from the security of my motherís womb into the cold, seemingly boundless space and harsh lights of the operating room. I had not had the "initiation" of the vaginally born, who, by struggling through the birth canal--with all of the stresses and strains of that process--at least gain a sense of achievement upon emerging from the womb. In contrast, the cesarean-bornís first experience is one of victimization and disempowerment. I had released in the course of my primal Intensive the previous summer some of the rage and feelings of impotence and lack of self worth that resulted from my birth. And as I reflect upon our accident, I now realize it was part of a larger therapeutic design that I would insist on extricating myself from the wreckage of the car. Fortunately the attending helpers were willing to let paramedic protocol go by the board as I explained calmly that I was well aware of where my body was hurting and that I knew exactly how to brace myself, twist and turn, and push with my feet, etc., in order to free myself from the wreck. And so, after some hesitation, they allowed me to do so. I had the satisfaction of "doing it myself" and later realized I had done some positive "rescripting." It was as if I had been given the chance to weaken and even replace some feelings of impotence and helplessness that I had experienced during my birth with a sense of my own competence. Perhaps this analogy may seem farfetched, but when a person in a deeply altered state accesses the feelings surrounding the original birth trauma, he/she becomes aware of the value of later experiences that life provides in order to heal that painful event and replace those early negative feelings with more positive ones.
This is especially significant when we realize, as pre-and perinatal psychologists are now informing us, that the experience of our birth contributes to a subconscious foundation that can affect our behavior for a lifetime. If our birth and womb experiences have been painful, the resulting imprint will drive many of our thoughts, feelings, and reactions in ways that we may never even be aware of if we do not at some point choose to face our subconscious pain and heal it through therapy.
The kindness, mercy, and caring that Mickel and I received at the hands of dedicated professionals that day continued in other forms. A dear friend from Santa Barbara drove three hours to the Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital to transport us to a nearby motel and arrange for our stay. There we could continue our healing in privacy without incurring the additional heavy expense that an overnight hospital stay would have entailed. This was especially helpful since we had no medical insurance to help us defray these costs.
And this part of the sequence of events would be deeply significant as well. Continuing the birth metaphor Iíve already mentioned is appropriate here. Our motel room would become another "womb" in which, with the help of this dear friend I was able to process and release some of the physical trauma I had suffered. And that was just the beginning. It became clear that God as radical therapist was using this release as an opening to deeper levels of "shock"--the fear, feelings of vulnerability, impotence, and lack of self worth that had crystallized in my very cells at a critical time during gestation in my motherís womb. These fossilized records of early terror (my mother had considered abortion when she was four months pregnant with me) in addition to the shock of my cesarean birth, had contributed to the subconscious underpinnings of my life. And now this wounded self was finding voice, releasing a full range of feelings and with them the unconscious shackles of life-long codependency and pent-up life force.
Indeed, on Easter Sunday morning, with my friend providing gentle pressure to my head, back and feet--a "container" as she called it--felt the sense of safety and security I needed to access the deepest hurts of all--in fact to vomit up the last vestiges of that terror.
As I stood over the bathroom sink, I heard myself crying: "Yes, God, take it all, every last shred of fear. I want to live!" and in doing this I was reinforcing that lesson of surrender the accident was teaching us. Vomiting was the physical expression of my giving up of ego, a final "letting go" of those defenses which had imprisoned my life force for so long , and I knew that it was required of me. And somehow I did let go in wave after wave of retching. I cried and cried--tears of relief at first, then tears of joy at the knowledge that I had persevered, I had plumbed the depths of my own terror and had retrieved a precious part of my self that had been lost to me.
An image arose in my consciousness of being held tenderly, a knowingness that together God and Mickel and I had engineered this whole event; that among many other meanings it was also a response to my prayers ever since my Primal Intensive, prayers that I be fully healed and empowered--able, at last, to say "Yes" to life with a passion that had been long suppressed.
And so on that Easter Sunday morning I felt that I, too, had been resurrected. In a fleeting moment of rapture and tears of joy I identified with my own Christ consciousness Ö "Free at last!" as Martin Luther King had said. "God almighty, free at last!"
In the weeks that followed, our wake-up call would bring about additional profound changes. We realized, my husband and I, that we had a sacred responsibility to restore balance in our life, to take better care of ourselves as we continued to serve and in this way to honor the life which God had so mercifully preserved for us. We have begun making changes in our diet and have initiated other facets of a health regimen which we had launched many times before but had never managed to sustain thanks to years of workaholism.
And, finally, we woke up one morning with the strong feeling that we must pursue our dreams without further delay. For years it had been our plan to establish a place of retreat, therapy, and spiritual community. We had actually spent a year and more seeking out properties that would fulfill our vision at an affordable price. In the fall of í96 we had finally given up the search, and at the time of the accident we were renting a home in the northern California redwoods near the Russian River. It was a beautiful place, but it was not our own, nor was it quite adequate for our purposes. We did not have enough space to accommodate our Primal Breathwork workshops adequately or our book distribution business. And yet we had resigned ourselves to stay there and were planning to continue renting indefinitely. The accident, however, made it clear that now was the time. Yes, it would involve taking a risk. We would be obliged to remove most of our precious nest egg from the security of mutual fund investments in order to buy property, and then we would be committing ourselves to ownership with all of its joys and responsibilities. And yet we did not hesitate. We called our realtor who had patiently escorted us on the previous yearís long round of fruitless searches for an affordable site.
It was as if God said, "Youíve got it!" On the very first day of looking for what had seemed to be our impossible dream we found three properties, each of which was within our means. But one stood out. Like the home we are currently renting, this one is situated in the peace and beauty of the northern California redwoods with an almost- year-round creek flowing by. Not only does it have a spacious living room which is more than ample for our workshops, but also it has an in-law unit and a cabana--actually a studio apartment--next to a beautiful, large swimming pool; and there is even a well-furnished, rather elegant Air Stream trailer which will function as an additional rental unit. Not only will these rental units help us to pay our mortgage, but more importantly they will provide the basis for our long dreamed-of community.
To wind up this tale of a wake-up call, we are now in the process of acquiring this property and actualizing our dream.
As I write these words I realize that sudden catapults into transformation are happening to many of us in this time of accelerating karma on Earth. The "data" streaming in from the subtle reaches of our own psyche and from the collective soul, if you will, is manifesting in more and more signs these days. Those of us who have "ears to hear" and "eyes to see" are indeed experiencing a radical shift into higher consciousness; one of greater love, a sense of greater connectedness in our human family, and greater possibilities for our divine natures to seize upon and actualize. The words of Jesus come to mind: "Have I not told you ye are gods?"
In concluding our story what is the summation, what is the thought I can leave with you? The Mystery is unfolding still, but I will share two moments that may provide a glimpse. A week after the event, I was in Santa Barbara for a few days of rest and healing at the home of my dearest friend. Lying on her back lawn I was aware of each tiny grass blade tickling my hands and feet; sun flooding my face, the whisper of a breeze in the oleanders, sounds of water plashing in the small pool, and feeling alive to my fingertips Ö a sudden rush of tears, hot tears coursing down: "Thank you, God, for this life, thank you, thank youÖ"
And the second moment I will share occurred at the onset of the accident itself: The car rolling, the windshield shattering, time stopping, and no "I" to experience fear or panic--only the "still point of the turning world"1 and now my knowing that in the midst of all the violence, even while my old car was crumpling on all sides and even while the windshield was splintering into a million drops of rain, that God was holding us ever so mercifully, ever so tenderly in His loving hands.
NOTE: This article also appears in the current--July/September, 1997--issue of The Rose Garden. [Information on subscribing to The Rose Garden will soon be available in the Primal Spirit Bookstore. Please bear with us and keep checking back.]
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