Monday, January 30, 2012

Cami R. – brain injury leads to psychic opening

Sixteen years ago, at the age of 22, Cami R. was in a severe car accident.  (Thanks to for the story.)  Her car landed on top of her, her sacrum was shattered, her skull fractured, and she had many other broken bones.  She lost consciousness, had an OBE, and an NDE.  In the days after her return to her body, while still in the hospital, she worked diligently on her breathing to address her pain, and began experiencing prolonged states of expanded consciousness. 

While focusing on her breathing in the hospital -- “Between breaths, I simply slipped from one form of consciousness into a much more spacious and connected and powerful one. From this state I felt honored to keep the body breathing and endure this particular blazing burden. It wasn’t suffering, it was fuel. I was filled with the sheer joy and gratitude of experiencing this particular delicious incarnation, this body and personality….I recognize a little inherent kinship with…the path of using everything in life — including the dark within us, those things we like to stuff into the shadow — as fuel for burning off the veil."

The initial trauma recovery was followed by years of chronic pain.  She took a multi-modal approach to healing including nutrition, homeopathy, changing her thinking and movement patterns.  She had a lot of neuroendocrine and electrical disruption.  She couldn’t wear a watch, and other people were drawn to her and commented on energy and light they perceived around her.

She continued to experience expanded consciousness and mystical visions, as well as episodes of spontaneous healing.  She began to sense other people’s emotions and physical states, experienced a spontaneous, intuitive increase in her understanding of healing, and began channeling healing with her hands, as well as developing herbal remedies.  Memories and information from her NDE are still coming to her years later.

Her two children, who were conceived after her injury, and with whom she believes she communicated before their births, have precocious healing abilities and expanded consciousness.

So, here is another person who had a neurological incident that precipitated a psychic opening.

Monday, January 23, 2012

OCD & psi

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) can be a primarily psychological problem which represents an attempt to create security and control in the face of anxiety.  The causes of the anxiety may be unconscious.  The age of onset is usually by young adulthood.

OCD can also be a symptom of neurological injury that can appear in an older adult who had no prior signs of it before the neurological injury.

Neurological injury can sometimes precipitate a psychic opening.  When people have a sudden, unplanned psychic opening, they sometimes worry that they are actually having a psychological breakdown of some sort. 

So, I wonder if neuro-OCD might be, in part, a misinterpretation of or reaction to a sudden psychic opening.

Interestingly enough, there appears to be an Internet meme linking OCD with psi, but I can’t find the origin of it.  It’s a cruel conundrum that so many OCD thoughts are dark and feel like premonitions but are *not*, while at the same time OCD might be related to psi in some as yet undefined way.

I developed mild OCD (stove and door checking) in my mid-30s *after* I started taking an antidepressant, and it got much worse in my 40s when I found myself with severe neurological damage after painstakingly withdrawing from the antidepressants.  In the last six years, I have encountered dozens of people with the same story of drug-induced neuro-OCD.

My experience is that I am looking at a stove knob or door lock and just can’t *believe* my eyes.  I don’t feel entirely convinced I’m conscious, present, or accurate.  My memory -- both long- and short-term – also was damaged by the meds.  This has been slowly improving.  Interestingly, as I try various tricks to get through the OCD, I will often have one of my lost long-term memories return to me.  I’ll also have spontaneous insights about current events.

I had a neurofeedback session with the consciousness researcher Anna Wise in September 2009, and she said she had rarely seen anyone with so much waking delta in her decades of experience.  Unfortunately, she has crossed over since then, but she has trained many people to do her type of neurofeedback analysis and I would love to see research done to determine whether other survivors of psych med neuro damage have a similar profile.

She was not sure how to interpret this waking delta, but one usually has more delta when asleep, so this might contribute to explaining my OCD, and why I don’t feel convinced I’m completely conscious when I’m really trying to be sure of what I’m seeing.  Apparently, one can get through much of the day in a chronic, mildly derealized state, but it becomes more of an issue when you really want to be sure you’re seeing accurately.

Anna Wise theorized, in general, that delta waves are the signature of the brain scanning the environment at the instinctual, intuitive, primal level – a kind of radar.  How ironic if increased delta and its super-duper, non-sensory radar effect is getting in the way of quotidian perception about something smack dab in front of your face like a door lock.  But maybe this is a clue to the relationship between OCD (at least neuro-OCD) and psi.

Part of the neurological substrate for OCD appears to be irregularities in the striatum.  The striatum responds both to rewarding and aversive stimuli.  It seems to be involved in judging what’s salient in a given situation (Wiki).

I’m going to throw one more ingredient into this stew.  When people have a psychic opening, they often feel overwhelmed by stimuli, and unable to decide what to pay attention to.  They often have to learn how to actively shut down the flow until they develop habits that will titrate or prioritize the flow automatically.

So, theoretically speaking, we have neuro damage; we have an unexpected psychic opening; and we have a somewhat effective, somewhat ineffective attempt to make sense of the psychic opening and cope with it.  The new flow of information has not been integrated consciously yet.  The brain and psyche are struggling to make sense of the new condition.  When you try to pay attention to something important having to do with safety, it becomes apparent that your attention already has been commandeered.  That’s when you realize you don’t feel quite awake, and lost memories come back, and insights pop up.  It turns out there may be too much going on to allow you to focus on a door lock.

I would like to see a study where they look at people in the throes of psychological OCD or neuro-OCD, record all their free associations, subtract the ones that are clearly based on personal fears and distortions, and see if there are any meaningful instances of clairvoyance, precognition, or telepathy left over.  There’s something about the OCD state that both contains and allows psi, both distorts and channels it.

(There are a few more stew ingredients I’m going to leave out so that the stew doesn’t become tasteless.  But for future reference, I think there are other factors involved in this neuro-psi-OCD, including neuro damage-induced nystagmus; and psychological issues such as doubting one’s own perception or fearing one is mis-remembering or making mistakes without even realizing it; and the experience so many people with neuro damage have of feeling like they have no walls, ceiling, or floor around them anyway so what good is a door lock.  IOW, the idea of checking for safety when you’re in free fall through the universe is like a bad joke.)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Terminal lucidity

You may already know that dying people who are comatose or delirious sometimes regain full lucidity in the last minutes, hours, or days before their death.  But, usually, the people being described were in the normal range mentally before their final illness.

What is even more amazing is when people who have been severely, chronically mentally ill, with dementia, or otherwise mentally disabled for many years become rational and lucid in their final moments.  This seems particularly remarkable in a brain whose architecture must have become pretty committed to a longtime dysfunction.

I don’t see how a neurological substrate for a clinical presentation of many years’ duration could change on a dime.  Especially when we’re talking about neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s where parts of the brain are simply destroyed.  It’s easier to imagine that the individual’s field of consciousness – intact and residing outside the brain -- becomes suddenly, temporarily more accessible.

This might be analogous to the proverbial mother who lifts a car off her child – without having developed the necessary muscles first.  It’s also reminiscent of people blind from birth who report having vision in their NDEs.

I try to understand the connection between the brain as transceiver and the development of psychic capacities.  But, it may also be the case that, under certain conditions, we can access our expanded capacities without having developed our "hardware."

If we can have consciousness without brain, then what is the point of going through neurological damage and subsequent remodeling both to regain functions and potentially add expanded capacities?  There must be some evolutionary advantage (see 4 Dec 11 post), a tertium non datur that is created by interaction between the spiritual and the physical.  Something brand new. 

Sources (thanks to Gerd Hövelmann):

Nahm, M. & Greyson, B.  (2009).  Terminal lucidity in patients with chronic schizophrenia and dementia: A survey of the literature.  Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 197, 942-944.

Nahm, M.  (2009).  Terminal lucidity in people with mental illness and other mental disability: An overview and implications for possible explanatory models.  Journal of Near-Death Studies, 28, 87-106.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Loss of left hemisphere followed by near-total recovery AND advanced artistic skill

In 2008, a young Russian woman Taisia Sidorova had a severe car accident that caused so much damage to her skull and brain, that surgeons removed the entire left hemisphere of the brain, and rebuilt her skull.  (Thanks to for story.)  She was in a coma and expected to die.  However, with a lot of support from her family, she emerged from the coma, and healed remarkably.

It sounds like her family put a tremendous amount of energy into prayer, massage, and talking to her.  It’s not entirely clear from the original Daily Mail article, but it sounds like she had to gradually re-build her speech and movement.  But that’s not all!

Ms. Sidorova had never had any interest in drawing before her accident.  She started to sketch as a form of therapy for fine motor skills during her recovery.  Three years after the accident, she also paints.  Her art teacher says Ms. Sidorova’s artistic ability before and after the accident is like comparing two different people.  She now has a natural talent, and is at the top of her class.

One of the doctors who treated her commented:  “The human brain is a remarkable thing — in her case the part that remains seems to have developed to compensate for the missing part — and at the same time given her a previously undiscovered talent for art.”

Of course, as someone who has gone through neuro damage myself, I would never wish this path on anyone, but it’s so fascinating and heartening to see how neurological damage can make astonishing neurological development both necessary and possible that might not have happened otherwise.  This may be an aspect of what happens when psychic opening follows a neurological incident.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Consciousness and psi are the same thing

We don’t really know yet what creates consciousness.  Some people believe it’s an epiphenomenon of the brain -- an emergent property of the brain as complex system.  Other people think consciousness emerges from the quantum level of the universe and that the brain is a transceiver that interacts with this source of consciousness.

Within the second camp there are many theories about how consciousness gets into the brain.  For example, anesthesiologist Stuart Hameroff, MD and renowned physicist Roger Penrose, PhD think it happens at the level of the tiny microtubules within the neuron.  Physicist Hal Putoff, PhD points out that the zero point field pervades the universe, including the inside of neurons, so quantum mechanics is happening everywhere in the brain.

The “quantum” theories of consciousness are still very speculative, but, they might account for things that cannot be explained by theories that give primacy to the brain.  There are many normal human experiences that cannot be accounted for by the biochemical level of neurological processing or even the electromagnetic level of neurological processing. 

For example, it should not be possible for a human to hit a baseball coming at him at 95 mph given our neurophysiology, yet it is.  There is no known location in the brain for most memories.  Some people seem to produce elaborate narratives and good recall for periods of time when their brains had no activity (dead) or no apparent waking consciousness (coma).  And, just in general, as Deepak Chopra, MD has pointed out, the whole body responds to external and internal changes faster than can be accounted for by anything besides the quantum mechanical level.

We also don’t really know yet what creates psi – meaning clairvoyance / remote viewing, precognition, telepathy, psychokinesis, time slips, synchronicity, anomalous healing, etc.  Some of it may happen at the electromagnetic level – the brain and the heart have surprisingly huge electromagnetic fields that can convey information from one person to another outside of the expected sensory means.  Some people theorize that there are “subtle energies” that we have not identified yet, which allow transmission of information.  There are holographic models, including that of neurosurgeon Karl Pribram, MD and physicist David Bohm, PhD, which propose that any small part of the universe, including your brain, contains a representation of the whole universe.

Again, we’re still at the speculative stage of understanding how psi works, but these are models that might account for the overwhelming number of anecdotes ranging from knowing who is on the phone before you pick it up to correctly describing a machine in a Cold War secret Soviet facility from thousands of miles away to witnessing a tea cup levitate by itself, move to the left, and gently land again.

In March 2012, Psychologist James Carpenter, PhD will publish his book on “First Sight” which reconciles the false dichotomy between normal consciousness and psychic ability and says they are one and the same.  According to this model, psi “is the very earliest information-gathering process of our being…upon which all other perceptual and mental processes have become intricately overlaid (Sally Rhine Feather, review)”  In other words, “second sight” is a misnomer, because psi is not an additional skill; it is a how we do everything, but it has been developed further in some people.  Dr. Carpenter’s model is a psychological one, not a neurological one, but I believe it is a crucial building-block for a neuro-psychological model of consciousness and psi.

There may be another angle for seeing the equivalence of consciousness and psi and that is looking at the things that *interfere* with each.  Roughly speaking, there is a meaningful parallel between how neurological damage interferes with consciousness and how acculturation interferes with psi.

Just as a blow to the head or toxic exposure may interfere with accessing memories, so may deeply held cultural assumptions about what is normal or possible interfere with the natural development of human capacities.

Just as time, therapies, and exercise can cause neurological healing and neurogenesis which makes old memories accessible again, so can intention, therapy, and practice unlock native psychic capacities again.

Now, here’s the real twist.  One of the main purposes of this blog is to understand how neurological damage sometimes seems to unlock psychic potential.  What are we to make of this paradox?  That which obviously damages consciousness (even if only temporarily) sometimes also potentiates the aspects of consciousness we call psi.

One of the theories about this is that the acculturated, psi-repressive neural networks get damaged, which liberates psi.  Additionally, neuro damage tends to lead to a psi-friendly shift in how one relates to the world.  Also, all the healing activities that are good for neuro damage are the same ones that are good for psi development.  There’s probably a lot more yet to discover – maybe neuro damage tends to decrease beta wave production and increase delta.

I always like the idea that the illness is an attempt to heal something.  So, neuro damage may sometimes be orchestrated or enlisted by one’s higher self, Kundalini, the Tao to get one back on track to the true self, which includes being more fully conscious, which in turn includes what we call being psychic.