During April I developed what I now know to have been a neurological condition called Bell’s Palsy.
One Saturday I woke up with a strange sensation on my tongue. I thought very little of it and carried on with my day. By lunch time the left side of my top lip felt strange and was not moving as usual and by the night-time I noticed the entire left side of my face was affected.
During the day I hadn’t really paid too much attention. Maybe I have a trapped nerve? Maybe it will pass by tomorrow? There were several related thoughts, none of which grabbed my attention and so they came and went as thoughts do, without too much interaction with them.
During the early hours of Sunday morning, however, I woke up with some pain in my head and my face and couldn’t get back to sleep. And then my mind got really busy! The thoughts passing through looked like horror stories – my mind was creating the worst possible outcomes, and those stories looked real.
Until they didn’t.
And then they looked real again.
You see, that’s what minds do. They create stories; and when those stories look true to us, we experience all the emotions of the stories we innocently believe. Sometimes we go round and round in those stories and we feel the feelings for a long time. That doesn’t make them any more true or real, even though we often think it does. It’s just we are caught in a ‘thought storm’.
These thought storms are just minds trying to protect us. Ultimately, my mind was trying to keep me alive. Minds often respond to fear as if we are in a deadly situation, so maybe my mind was just trying to prevent death.
I went to the hospital on the Sunday morning and was told I had Bell’s Palsy. Interestingly, I didn’t experience relief for long. My fearful, insecure mind then jumped to a new story – ‘What if they are wrong?’ What if they have missed something?’ Again, trying to keep me alive in the only way it knew when it perceived danger.
However, somewhere within me, beyond my busy fearful mind, I knew to settle into the moment I was in, to listen deeply to what I needed moment to moment beyond the fear. And in that place, I experienced calm and peacefulness. Of course, my experience flowed constantly – feeling cross, frustrated, and fearful when I thought about what was happening and calmer, more peaceful and accepting when I listened in to my body and responded to what it needed.
Our bodies don’t always work perfectly, but they communicate to us when they are struggling. When I listened to my body’s communications, to what it needed, I knew to rest, to work less, to eat foods that were soft and easy to manage with only one side of my mouth moving. I had gentle warm baths to ease the tension in my muscles and I applied warmth to the pain in my head and jaw. Whether any of these things actually helped with the inflammation of the nerve that caused the paralysis, I cannot know, but emotionally I felt soothed and peaceful – back to ‘home’ – and from that place, I was not engaged in the fear and anxiety that my mind was creating.
As humans, we are blessed with the most incredible, creative minds. They are invaluable for learning and for retaining information we may need, like how to read, spell, and do maths. But what about what lies beyond thought and memory and intellect? What lies beyond is that moment to moment wisdom that gently guides us, without fuss, without force; The energy of life that flows through and connects us all and guides us back to our ‘home’, our default setting of calm, peace, love and trust. This is the place we all seek. It’s there for us always, it just sometimes gets hidden by minds creating storms that momentarily look real.
Even when those storms blow us far from ‘home’, know that place is always there for us to return to in a heartbeat.