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Just to warn you, I’m going to make a bold sweeping statement immediately after this colon: In mainstream Western culture we are suffering from an epidemic of mental and emotional numbness.
I see it manifested in the people around me in their everyday lives. “There’s nothing on telly.” Wow. Really? Well then that’s it.
Your night is totally fucked. Because there is literally nothing else to do. Damn that gogglebox. How dare it not entertain us permanently.
I hear it manifested too many times to count in one of the most common phrases I hear, in and outside of my work: “I don’t know”. Which usually means you do know, you just don’t want to uncover it, process it, say it.
There’s a dangerous lack of awareness of what’s really happening in the world, and it starts from within.
Recently I was in a car accident. Bad enough that the car will probably be written off, bad enough that I’m still feeling the shock in my body the next day, but not bad enough that blue flashing lights needed to attend.
As I was slowing to approach a roundabout, a car approaching from my left (we give way to oncoming traffic from the right at roundabouts in the UK) failed to stop, in fact the driver sped up, not because he was a boy racer trying to pull a sneaky manoeuver, risking it for a biscuit to get over the roundabout before me, but because he was totally oblivious to my presence on the road. I braked and hit the horn hard, but there was nothing I could do to avoid the collision.
I crashed head on into the drivers door, caving it in and giving the driver what looked like the shock of his life. The look on his face spoke of being struck down by a bolt of lightning from the heavens, rather than being inevitably involved in a car crash because he had failed to notice and give way to oncoming traffic.
Now I can’t say, and won’t proclaim in anyway to know, what was going through the other drivers head. I have no idea what he was thinking. But you would think, that in theory, when you are in control of a ton or so of metal and your own and your nearest and dearest’s lives, just a mile from home (so not a long, tiring journey) you’d be aware enough to notice another ton of metal coming towards you.
However, I know from other smaller accidents I’ve been involved in that were my fault, that when we’re not being conscious, when we’re not actively aware of our thoughts it wouldn’t matter if we were flying a 747, numbness to reality sets in, and the Ego has the opportunity to take hold and take you somewhere away from presence.
I’m certainly not judging the other driver for his lack of awareness. I’ve done it, too. I used to live my whole life in that space of going through the physical motions without much conscious awareness of myself, my reality, my thoughts. I was someone who “stuff” just happened to. I was the kind of person who would be hit by oncoming traffic with right of way “out of the blue”.
But ever since last summer, my level of awareness has changed so drastically that I was shocked at how un-shocked I was when the events of yesterday unfolded.
After the impact, I sat, for what must have been 30 seconds but it seems like far longer. I scanned my body for pain, I scanned my mind for shock, I took deep meditation style breaths and decided the traffic piling up behind me could wait. I took a moment to gather my thoughts. Remember all the things you need to do in this situation Westy – take photographs, exchange insurance details, call your recovery service.
So I did all the practical things and as I watched the driver sit in utter shock, unable to move, not only because the collision had pushed most of his door about 2 feet closer to his body, but because he was mentally stunned light a rabbit in headlights, I watched his wife parade around on the roundabout head in hands, screeching at her husband calling him an idiot, apologizing to me and telling anyone who wouldlisten how she felt bad that she couldn’t call Mrs. So-and-so who she was on her way to work for and how they had only just bought this beautiful new car and now it was ruined.
In that moment I was so glad to have the energy and the clarity to gather my thoughts, take care of me, do what needed to be done and even have enough left to comfort the other people involved.
A passing ambulance stopped at the scene to help out and I recall the look of surprise and confusion on the paramedic’s faces as I calmly walked around checking out the damage, taking photos and telling the other folks that is was ok, there was nothing to worry about. In the grand scheme of things we were all fine, despite minor injuries and shock. We all still had our lives, nothing else really mattered.
Conscious awareness: Difficult when you’ve got a Jackson Pollock haemorrhaging out of your brain.
In hindsight I, too was more shocked at how un-shocked I felt by it all at the time, than by the actual event.
I’m still trying to make sense of it. I’m wondering what the bigger lessons are for me. Right now it feels like I may have manifested something big enough to slow me down, but small enough to keep me going.
The night before my accident I had been up until 11pm planning, finishing off lots of jobs, multitasking like a boss and filling up my diary for the next couple of months. Then the next morning I woke at 5am and in the cold, dark and drizzle I squeezed in a run before what was set to be a jam packed day.
When it happened I had to wonder was this a divine note to self: stop trying to be wonder woman, there are only so many hours in the day and you’re doing just fine without the military operation act. Or was it my Ego: you’re on a roll so what could possibly stop you in your tracks?
I tuned it. Honestly right now it feels like it was a warning to slow down, chill out and know that everything that needs to happen will happen in due course and without me working like a crazy and burning out in the meantime.
When I finally got home after waiting two hours for recovery and I checked over my diary, I saw that all the things that got cancelled, bumped or rescheduled weren’t actually as essential as they’d felt at 11pm the night before anyway. Funny that.
And the truly awesome thing about this ability to hold my conscious awareness throughout a mildly traumatic life event?
Whatever the lesson is that comes from it, I know because of my spiritual practice, because of my awareness, because of my choice to be conscious I will be able to move through it in minimal time with maximal effect. I know I won’t spend days, weeks or months heading in the wrong direction, getting burned out, worrying or staying in pain.
Heroines, put the remote down!
That’s why I’m super passionate to bring spirituality to the UK in a super easy to understand Brit friendly way. It’s time to end the epidemic of numbness. It’s time to put down the TV remote, the booze, the junk food, the cigarettes, whatever your anesthesia and start getting truly aware, from the inside out.