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Monday, August 26, 2013

Shamanic Conference: Healing & Transformation

Hi, my name is Had Walmer and I am going  to present
the Gold Mind Meditation Project.

This is my experience of transformational rehabilitation from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), using Mindfulness and Insight Meditation.

This  project is to verify how I can both
end my suffering from a serious TBI and embody the Bodhisattva role of making this transformation available to others that have TBI, contributing to their healing.  I teach students with TBI to practice meditation themselves and experience benefits resulting from their own practice.

I have serious traumatic brain injury, from an auto accident over thirty years ago and have been drawn to meditation for over 25 years. 'Serious TBI' is the medical term not mine (defined as being in coma a week or more).

Those of you who know meditation can relate directly to the possibility of this practice, if you don't please hear me out and listen what I have to say.

The Brain can get damaged and traumatized, yet the Mind is malleable with mindfulness, gold is here to be found here.

For brain injury survivors I offer Introductory Classes in Mindfulness Meditation. Up to this point I have done this for classes of self-selected students at Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital in Portland, OR, under the auspices of  a TBI support group called BIRRDsong (
That's 'brain injury rehab & resource development', with a song! And a 501C3.

I have lived 35 years with TBI and have 25 years of meditation practice under my belt. I started my meditation practice in 1988 at Sprit Rock Meditation Center, which is just next door to San Rafael, over in Woodacre.
( ) It was taught by Jack Kornfield and a stream of visiting teachers there.

Has anyone here sat there?

Living in Portland, OR for over twenty years now my practice has continued.  I am a student of both Robert Beatty founder of Portland Insight Meditation Community and his teacher Ruth Denison, who I met through Spirit Rock. I Sit also with monks from  Abhayagiri Monastery,
and their branch, Pacific Hermitage near Portland.                             (
Mindfulness meditation can provide deep healing for the wide array of damages caused by TBI.

Before going into the benefits of this Gold Mind Meditation Project I want to address the magnitude and increasing growth of  Traumatic Brain Injury in our world.

Medicine gets better and better at keeping us alive despite traumas that previously killed us and now head injury survivors grow in number.


TBI is caused by car crashes, falls, assaults, and by any number of blows to the head, severe and otherwise. Many cases have been caused internally by aneurysm, encephalitis and stroke.

TBI is the 'signature wound' of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Difficult to recognize, diagnose and treat Centers For Disease Control estimates that over 1 million people each year sustain TBI in this country alone.

This is actually a small number, because of the many cases where TBI is not even recognized - due to damage in the survivor's own self evaluation system, the brain.

Survivors often say, "I was only knocked out briefly, it's nothing, I can just shake it off." and life goes on, differently. Damaged brains cannot continue life as before or even recognize the extent of what has happened for a long time.

How many of you know someone who you suspect has TBI/PTSD or some acquired brain injury?

It is prevalent.

Here's my Story:

I was riding in a car with friends, returning to Oregon from California after college’s winter-break.

Traveling north on the interstate we crashed into a car ahead of us that had missed its exit and was backing up on the freeway at ten o'clock on a clear morning. College express.

The Police report says that at 66 mph we impacted, crushing the right front of our car where I was seated.

My head, with reading-glasses on smashed into the car's dashboard and Jaws-Of-Life were required to free me from the confines of this vehicle.

I was the most severely hurt of three passengers.

This was before our present state seat-belt laws.

I was rushed to the Intensive Care Emergency Room in a coma. All the while my brain swelled adding to the initial crash damage.

After six days, with the bedside help of my parents and formal medical care, I regained consciousness.

I came to in a week, having amnesia, diplopia/double vision, and severe TBI.

In the short instance of this accident I was not who I used to be.  My life was dramatically and forever changed.

From then on I was often submerged in a mental haze and only aware after the fact when occasional periods of mental clarity arose.

Though seeming like impending recovery this clarity was brief and a false recovery. The fact of TBI's existence and persistence would become revealed to me in my life's subsequent activities.

That following Fall I went back to college thinking my life would be much the same as my previous time there.  Not so.  It wasn’t.

I had great difficulty learning and social relations were now in a disarray that I couldn't correct.

Though I was unaware at this time of it's impact, TBI was now ruddering the ship.

I struggled with a range of new and unfamiliar cognitive deficits.

TBI was only vaguely recognized by me or any others around me.  I just knew that things were different.

New frustrations of memory, speaking, thinking and paying attention arose to surprise me.

My romantic relationship split up, as I would often rage out of control within and outwardly. I couldn’t figure it out.

My ability to be a ‘fast study’ was gone; explosive anger would grab my sensibilities.

Boundary issues and very slow mental processing made for a whole new mix in my social and personal world.

I now had a memory that was effectively Teflon for new facts.  Frustration was a persistent undercurrent in my entire life.

Things had changed, and who was I now?  In retrospect  I needed to learn to befriend this new me.

I was a newcomer to the strange land of TBI.

As you can see, many of my descriptions of my life at this time overlap somewhat with what could be called 'typical college life experience'. Trust me it was college life with traumatic brain injury.

So, given these new conditions, as you can see I was desperate for mind control and aching for inner peace.

Mindfulness Transformation For TBI

Ten years after the accident, My family and I lived near Spirit Rock Meditation Center and a friend said to me, “I’m going out to this evening to sit with Jack Kornfield in meditation.  You might like it.”

Curious - I went and followed the instructions for meditation.

In a matter of weeks I had beautiful experiences of peace and energy which appeared  in great clarity. This was a hint of freedom from suffering as laid out in the core meditation teachings. This arose in my direct experience.

I had just finished the previous decade participating in the transformational workshops & seminars of Werner Erhard in est, in San Francisco.

These classes included a large element of mindfulness - learning to be in the present moment and with "This is IT", as Werner had learned from training in Zen meditation, with Alan Watts.

I appreciate and value that work to this day.

At Spirit Rock I was inspired and had entered a conversation and weekly practice of intentional awakening that I followed with the loving support of my wife and family.

Familial and friends' support is critical and essential at all levels of recovery.

I saw clearly that I was capable of learning the beneficial qualities I heard spoken of in  Dharma Talks.

I meditate daily now. (Often encouraged the well designed for tablets and smart phones. It's cyber sangha, worldwide)

I know the difference it makes for me.  Meditation is a very forgiving practice.  It’s ‘win win’; you practice skillfully and learn what’s needed by your direct experience. What needs to be healed will be revealed.

This process is a positive feedback loop, of practice and learning. This direct awareness is a fire for awakening and a source of deep peace within.

I savor being mindfully present with various occurrences in life experience, the pleasing and the unpleasing – both poles, accepted with equanimity.

With mindfulness it is possible to accept and gently hold whatever states arise in consciousness or know when I’m overloaded (‘flooded’ in TBI talk) and then to back-off, choosing not to get entangled before I 'go under' the swirl of stirred up mental activity.

The brain can be a crazy beast.  This training grounds us in a sense of dignified inner wellness and peace of what I call the "Gold Mind", allowing the damages of TBI, not totally victimized by them.

Mindfulness practice isn’t about changing me into a better me, rather it’s about befriending, allowing who I am, now.

It's like this. "Work with what you have", says Tan Geoff.

Healing (processes now known as neuro-plasticity) is a long process.  Mindfulness and meditation opens me to energy and the choice I have in this moment to see the effects arising from my TBI,

Please be clear this rehabilitation is the result of well learned practice and may simply override the disability temporarily.

TBI is still very much a part of my daily life.  It hasn’t gone away or been miraculously cured. I do know it honestly now.

What is permanent is your knowing of the very real possibility of transformation and how you can have that with commitment to regular practice.  

I have learned to live skillfully with poor short-term memory and the use of cognitive prosthetics such as the program on this iPad called My Bionic Brain.

Emotional outbursts pass more quickly as I can recognize them in the present moment, stop denying them, and know they will pass.

Now I identify with the symptoms of TBI much less and see that as unskillful behavior.  This transformation in my self identity gives me peace and ease, knowing that stuff is only part of who I am.

Gold Mind Meditation Project has the purpose and intended result of having you transform your relationship with this persistent condition and really have a life you love!

This is transformational rehabilitation – you choose to do this practice intentionally.

Many deficits and damages can be fixed, you are healed by being with things as they are, not demanding them to be some way they cannot be.  Here and now is the experience of peace.

Mindfulness can have you be satisfied -  strong in the present moment, able to be with so much that previously overwhelmed us. This is teaching a skill of mind and thinking that can be learned with regular practice.

This a path of supreme optimism for survivors of TBI, a basic tenet is that no human life or moments of experience are to be wasted or forgotten.

We can engage and live our one precious life intentionally, awakening fully.

It is with energy and joy I now work on actually teaching and using this extraordinary
practice with brain injury support groups in Portland, OR.

I invite you to contact me to further the use of this practice for TBI.
Are there questions at this time?