As I look back over the years and the many people who I had the grace to introduce to meditation, there are so many, and some of which I learnt so much. Among them is a woman who means the world to me. I am speaking of my own mother and I did already mention her practicing in another earlier post about her, but this story has a particular aspect to it which I did not previously talk about. I am taking the time to speak about this, simply because it may be able to be of help to others.My mother was seventy_ five years of age when I taught her meditation. She suffered from an illness which she inherited from her mother. There was very little known about this illness at the time. In her late fifties after my father passed away suddenly from a heart-attack, the illness began to appear more visibly in mom. Some thought it was due to arthritis and some thought it was Parkinson’s disease but little did we know how severe it really was. The name of the Illness is Huntington’s disease which is a disorder which can be inherited from one parent and passed down in the family. The nerve cells in certain parts of the brain literally ‘waste away’, or degenerate. there may be, in some cases, behavioural problems. More of the details of this illness can be seen on the web, for those particularly interested. (see footnote)
After the death of my father, my mother came to visit. I was shocked at how painfully she walked. No one seemed to know what her illness really was. She said to me, “Son, you know that since your dad passed away, I have not been sleeping. I have not been sleeping well over two years and so this doctor is treating me.” I was disturbed at the quantity of pills she had to take. I remember taking note of what was written on the bottle and showing it to a friend psychiatrist. By the time he got back to me,my mom’s holiday here was over and she was back home. This doctor said to me “How on earth could any doctor prescribe such a drug for a human being! Its like giving her ‘horse tranquilizers’! I was shocked. This medication was no help, on the contrary, it must have dome added damage to her poor brains! Up to this day, I have no faith, sorry to say, in doctors prescriptions!
There was a Prioress of a community of nuns who was a woman who grew up in my neighbourhood and she found out of my being a teacher and in those days, there was no internet but news got around of the good effects that meditation had on people and also the benefits to help people on a spiritual path, so after some correspondence I was invited to go to the island and teach the nuns, and I accepted. I was a young teacher then and full of fervour and I obtained permission from my Order and was able to fly down to Trinidad. It was at the same time, a wonderful occasion for me to be with my mom and the family.
One of my sisters was involved with the TV media and I was invited on a talk show where I was asked all about meditation and it effects. I must have made an impression because when I came back to the house my mom said “Son, that was a great interview and you were so convincing, I want to learn!”
We arranged to go over to the little paradise of an island at the time, called Tobago and rented a cottage near the beach. Some members of the family came with us. This was an ideal place to teach mom.She would be away from all the hustle and noise of the city and at the same time it would be a lovely holiday for us together.
I will never forget the day when I sat with mom in a little room and with the sea breeze and the sounds of the waves and the tropical birds and there she received her mantra and instructions and we meditated. She had difficulty, in those days, to sit still. Her frail body swayed from side to side and her head was unable to be quiet. We spent a good twenty minutes in silence and I noticed she settled down and the movements stopped. After the twenty minutes when I asked her to slowly take a few minutes and come out of meditation, she was smiling and she very excitedly told me that she loved it because it was so soothing.
There was a beach just beside the cottage and later that morning we took her down to the sea. There had to be two of us, one on either side, otherwise she would surely drown. She was like a child and told me that she felt so good after meditation that she sure it was good for her. ‘Maybe it will add years to my life” she said. she was right! I went back ten years later when she was eighty five and in a nursing home and as I mentioned before, as soon as she saw me, she asked if we could meditate.
From what my sisters tell me, as they went to see her regularly till she died, my Mother never suffered from dimentia. She never had tantrums nor screams at night. she never complained. The nurses loved her and said that when she died, ‘her life went out like a candle’. She died at the age of 87, two years after my last visit.
From all these reports, one is baffled at how is this possible with someone who suffered from Huntington’s disease. I have read a lot about this illness. I have been myself, to the research dept. of the University where they study hereditary-transmitted diseases and I have given blood samples and been examined myself as a precautionary means. Luckily according to my genetic count, I do not have it, thank God but it gave me a chance to examine further my own mother;s illness and it is a bit of a mystery. a mystery how she was so above it.
I have been getting often, the strong feeling that my mother loved meditation so much that she practiced it regularly and this is what was her main source of comfort and survival.
Among the reading I did on the internet concerning this illness, I have come across an article which suggests that my feeling was right! See the article below.
One morning after prayers, in our little chapel, I stayed to meditate. It was about ten minutes later I was called to the phone. It was from my home and my sister announced the news that mom had passed. I thanked God for relieving her of her sufferings. Three days later I had dream which awoke me. In my dream, mom had come to visit. She stood near my bed and she looked so lovely. I never saw her so lovely. I called out and told her how lovely she looked. she smiled and said, “Son, I have come to say good-bye and now I must go to see Jacqueline” (my sister near Montreal) “Dont go there, mom, she will be afraid”. “I have to go now” she said “I only have three days to visit” and with that she left. I awoke.
That day at noon, I phoned home and my sister said, “its so appropriate that you phoned. We just came back from the funeral!” (see foot note and link to see mom’s favorite hymn)
June 26th, 2010 Posted in Lifestyle and HD
The practice of meditation is often viewed by Westerners as merely a form of relaxation. Many people assume that the benefits of meditation are limited to stress relief and decreased blood pressure. Brain research, however, is beginning to produce concrete evidence for something that Buddhist practitioners of meditation have believed for centuries: that mental discipline and meditative practice can physically change brain functioning and preserve and enhance numerous cognitive functions. Because it is often associated with transformed states, meditation has traditionally been understood in transcendent terms – as something outside the world of physical measurement and objective evaluation. But over the past few years, through the use of advanced new technologies, scientists have been able to come up with biological explanations for meditative phenomena. The results of several innovative studies reveal that the human brain has the ability to adapt and change in ways that were previously unimaginable. For a person with a neurodegenerative disease such as HD, these results suggest that it may be possible, by engaging in some sort of meditative practice or mental discipline, to maintain motor control andcognition and possibly delay the onset of many neurological symptoms. The following chapter examines the practice of meditation and its effects on the circuitry of the brain, as well as how this practice may potentially benefit someone with HD.