I was diagnosed with childhood epilepsy (grand mal seizures) at 7, and that continued throughout my childhood until I was 11. I was then re-diagnosed at 15, during puberty, with a different type of seizure called “absent seizures,” a kind of seizure where I was still conscious.
I have always been fairly detached from the label of “epileptic” because as a child I was unconscious during seizures. Most of the experience was through the eyes of my parents, family, and friends. Twenty years ago when I was first diagnosed, the prevailing stigmatization and the limited technology of the available anticonvulsant medications were more the challenge. When I was 7, my parents were told that I would have learning difficulties and never be able to have children—the medication was a foreign and potent substance and I was fearful of the long-term side effects.
Hiding from Being “different”
When I was re-diagnosed as a teenager, I began to hide my condition. It was a very intimate part of me. I would ignore the seizures or would apologize for having them. I put up a mask of strength, control, and independence. I couldn’t communicate how I felt because I truly didn’t understand this part of myself entirely. I adapted and compensated, not wanting to be “different” from others or perceived as a victim.
As I grew older, I worked out that I was triggered by stress and sleep deprivation. I discovered the power to regulate my own body and that my mind was a huge contributor to stress. I began to ask questions. Who am I? How can I be the best version of myself? I knew that there was more to this existence than this label and that was something that I wanted to discover and enter into a deeper journey of who I was.
A Yearning for More
I had an inner yearning and motivation to remove myself from my day-to-day life. I knew stress was a construct, it wasn’t real; it was a creation of my mind. So, I decided to go to travelling. India, in my eyes, was a multi-dimensional challenge and an opportunity to face myself completely. I had an intuition that there I would find this “moreness” that I was seeking.
After India, my travels led me to Mexico, where I found Hridaya Yoga. I followed my heart and found an inner spiritual revelation that was stronger than any physical or egotic limitations I had on myself at the time. The language and techniques of Hridaya resonated so deeply within me.
Healing Epilepsy with Meditation
When I entered my first meditation retreat January 2013, I decided to take myself off medication. It was the most natural feeling in the world. I recognized how “foggy” and clouded the medication had made me. I could almost feel in my physical brain that there wasn’t that disconnect anymore; that this condition wasn’t a label of abnormality.
As I continued with my meditation practice, there was a direct causative effect, i.e. the consistency of not having seizures. The awareness of the physical, emotional, and intellectual bodies was expanding and purifying. The Hridaya Teacher Training course in 2013 was truly a deeper journey into dissolving the ego. I witnessed “Tamara” and the insights into who I became because of this condition revealed themselves. I discovered the many attachments I had around epilepsy. I noticed the Western limitations that had certainly shaped the ego and the decisions I made consciously and unconsciously at a young age. I had formed a lot of who I was without consciously knowing it. Ultimately, there was a shift of perception and I could witness this part of me with light and sacredness.
Clearing the Label
When I came back to Australia after the HTTC, I returned to my neurologist with the intention of clearing the “label” on my medical history. My neurologist was dumbfounded. He reported that although he could not provide the “evidence” that meditation cures epilepsy, he did support my decision to stay off medication. He reported that if I have another EEG (measuring brainwave activity) it will more than likely demonstrate abnormal brainwave activity. Basically, now I just have a lower threshold to trigger a seizure. It doesn’t really change anything, it just is…
The Moral of the Story
The openness of the heart is within us all. We limit ourselves with labels of who we “think” we are. I revealed within myself that this condition/illness is a gift, an opportunity to let go and rest in our True Nature, the Spiritual Heart.
I am teaching and sharing the teachings of Hridaya Yoga in Newcastle, Australia. This journey is about revealing the radiance of our being and understanding that we are all expressions of Divine Consciousness, of unconditional Love.
By Tamara Coughlan
Tamara teaches Hridaya Hatha Yoga and Meditation in Newcastle, Australia.