My husband and I were on our way to Santa Barbara to give a Primal
Breathwork workshop when the accident happened. I fell asleep at the
wheel, the car rolled, and we survived a devastating crash on Highway
101 south of Salinas, California, at a little place called Greenfield.
On that day, March 27th, we were destined for a brief moment of fame as
the "miracle couple" on the evening news telecast because as a witness
remarked, "No one walks away from an accident like this."
As I write these words now, some six weeks later, I am reliving the
event, this "wake-up call," and still assimilating its meaning and
purpose in our lives beyond the injuries (fortunately slight) to our
physical bodies, beyond the total destruction of one fourteen-year-old
Toyota Cressida sedan. To many friends who had observed the dizzying
tempo of our life with its ever mounting tasks and deadlines the
message was obvious: "Slow down."
And to us, yes, this was part of the message; but we learned and are
still learning that this "accident" was much more. In fact, the full
import is still unfolding in our lives. I feel thankful for this
opportunity to reflect upon it, for sharing these impressions has led
to more awareness and the sense that there is a cosmic design that is
breathtaking in its perfection–if we have the eyes to see and the open
heart to take it in.
The first "learning" was the kindness and support that immediately
manifested. Within seconds of the car coming to rest after several
brutal roll-overs, California Highway Patrol officers were reassuring
us, talking to us, calling in the support of paramedics and firemen.
The officers told me they had been right behind us when the accident
occurred–blessed timing indeed.
Although I was calm and totally aware of everything happening around me
in the aftermath of that violent event, I was also experiencing a sense
of vulnerability and almost hypersensitivity to the quality of caring,
support, and reassurance that was being focused on my husband and
myself. The officers, the paramedics, the helicopter pilot–each
exhibiting a total attentiveness to our condition, our needs, our
words; each going out of his or her way to comfort and to reassure, all
the while applying their particular skills with calm and confident
professionalism. I’d like to share a small but eloquent example of
this. Since there was concern over the extent of my husband’s injuries,
with the real possibility of a concussion or broken ribs, for example;
the original plan was to airlift him by helicopter immediately while
arranging for me to be transported by ambulance. I did not want to be
separated from him in this crisis and asked if I could accompany him.
When I found myself being lifted into the helicopter, I was still not
sure that he was with me, having been strapped down on a stretcher with
my head immobilized. However, the first thing the nurse-paramedic did,
after adjusting the IV drip on my arm, was to place my hand in
Mickel’s. Just this act of thoughtfulness brought blessed reassurance
and tears of gratitude.
As far as Mickel was concerned, the events of that day touched him
deeply. Amazingly, he had "slept through" the actual accident,
"awakening," as he told me later, from an intense dream to find
friendly faces looking down and asking him if he knew where he was,
knew his name, and so on. Later we realized that it was very likely
that his spirit had actually left his body at the time of that
traumatic event, and so he was spared the violent upheaval and shock
his body had been subjected to as it was thrown around during the
roll-over. Another blessing: He had actually placed his seat belt
behind him so as to rest more comfortably, and this probably saved his
life for he was thrown into the back seat away from the right side of
the car which looked, as he later described it, as if a gigantic
can-opener had ripped it totally apart.
And there was a second element–a blessing even more profound. Perhaps
it was his own vulnerability and hyper-awareness of the merciful
attentions he received that triggered deep feelings resonating all the
way back to his birth experience. By way of explanation, Mickel went
through primal therapy over twenty years ago and has had many
experiences ever since in processing and recalling the early traumatic
events of his life, and so I could readily relate to his interpretation
of that day’s events. He described it this way: It was as if a merciful
Universe had provided him with a "rescripting" of his original birth .
In the course of many primal experiences over the years he had vividly
recalled being roughly handled after his emergence from the womb;
memories of being treated like a "piece of meat" as he often described
it, and subjected to the callous treatment which today’s high-tech
birthing procedures routinely impose on newborns: being scrubbed
roughly, placed on a cold scale, having the jaw yanked open to remove
mucous, and removed to a sterile crib instead of being placed on the
mother’s breast, etc., etc. So many incidences of callous treatment and
utter indifference to his needs at the critical time of his birth, all
of which had created a traumatic imprint, a foundation of fear and pain
for his life.
In contrast, what Mickel experienced in the aftermath of our accident
was the total caring, attentiveness, kindness, and immediate responses
to his needs, of all the professionals involved, from the California
Highway Patrol officer asking him about his state of consciousness, to
the paramedics administering the IV drip, to the emergency room doctors
carefully explaining what surgery would be needed. (He had suffered a
laceration on his right arm and also required stitches under his right
eye). And as a specific example, at one point lying on the gurney,
feeling agonizing pain in his lacerated arm, he asked for some relief.
The nurse immediately responded: "That’s not an unreasonable request"
and promptly produced the medication he needed.
My own experience after the crash, interestingly, also resonated with
my birth. As a cesarean-born I had been roughly and summarily lifted
from the security of my mother’s womb into the cold, seemingly
boundless space and harsh lights of the operating room. I had not had
the "initiation" of the vaginally born, who, by struggling through the
birth canal–with all of the stresses and strains of that process–at
least gain a sense of achievement upon emerging from the womb. In
contrast, the cesarean-born’s first experience is one of victimization
and disempowerment. I had released in the course of my primal Intensive
the previous summer some of the rage and feelings of impotence and lack
of self worth that resulted from my birth.
And as I reflect upon our accident, I now realize it was part of a
larger therapeutic design that I would insist on extricating myself
from the wreckage of the car. Fortunately the attending helpers were
willing to let paramedic protocol go by the board as I explained calmly
that I was well aware of where my body was hurting and that I knew
exactly how to brace myself, twist and turn, and push with my feet,
etc., in order to free myself from the wreck. And so, after some
hesitation, they allowed me to do so. I had the satisfaction of "doing
it myself" and later realized I had done some positive "rescripting."
It was as if I had been given the chance to weaken and even replace
some feelings of impotence and helplessness that I had experienced
during my birth with a sense of my own competence. Perhaps this analogy
may seem farfetched, but when a person in a deeply altered state
accesses the feelings surrounding the original birth trauma, he/she
becomes aware of the value of later experiences that life provides in
order to heal that painful event and replace those early negative
feelings with more positive ones.
This is especially significant when we realize, as pre-and perinatal
psychologists are now informing us, that the experience of our birth
contributes to a subconscious foundation that can affect our behavior
for a lifetime. If our birth and womb experiences have been painful,
the resulting imprint will drive many of our thoughts, feelings, and
reactions in ways that we may never even be aware of if we do not at
some point choose to face our subconscious pain and heal it through
The kindness, mercy, and caring that Mickel and I received at the hands
of dedicated professionals that day continued in other forms. A dear
friend from Santa Barbara drove three hours to the Salinas Valley
Memorial Hospital to transport us to a nearby motel and arrange for our
stay. There we could continue our healing in privacy without incurring
the additional heavy expense that an overnight hospital stay would have
entailed. This was especially helpful since we had no medical insurance
to help us defray these costs.
And this part of the sequence of events would be deeply significant as
well. Continuing the birth metaphor I’ve already mentioned is
appropriate here. Our motel room would become another "womb" in which,
with the help of this dear friend I was able to process and release
some of the physical trauma I had suffered. And that was just the
beginning. It became clear that God as radical therapist was using this
release as an opening to deeper levels of "shock"–the fear, feelings
of vulnerability, impotence, and lack of self worth that had
crystallized in my very cells at a critical time during gestation in my
mother’s womb. These fossilized records of early terror (my mother had
considered abortion when she was four months pregnant with me) in
addition to the shock of my cesarean birth, had contributed to the
subconscious underpinnings of my life. And now this wounded self was
finding voice, releasing a full range of feelings and with them the
unconscious shackles of life-long codependency and pent-up life force.
Indeed, on Easter Sunday morning, with my friend providing gentle
pressure to my head, back and feet–a "container" as she called
it–felt the sense of safety and security I needed to access the
deepest hurts of all–in fact to vomit up the last vestiges of that
As I stood over the bathroom sink, I heard myself crying: "Yes, God,
take it all, every last shred of fear. I want to live!" and in doing
this I was reinforcing that lesson of surrender the accident was
teaching us. Vomiting was the physical expression of my giving up of
ego, a final "letting go" of those defenses which had imprisoned my
life force for so long , and I knew that it was required of me. And
somehow I did let go in wave after wave of retching. I cried and
cried–tears of relief at first, then tears of joy at the knowledge
that I had persevered, I had plumbed the depths of my own terror and
had retrieved a precious part of my self that had been lost to me.
An image arose in my consciousness of being held tenderly, a
knowingness that together God and Mickel and I had engineered this
whole event; that among many other meanings it was also a response to
my prayers ever since my Primal Intensive, prayers that I be fully
healed and empowered–able, at last, to say "Yes" to life with a
passion that had been long suppressed.
And so on that Easter Sunday morning I felt that I, too, had been
resurrected. In a fleeting moment of rapture and tears of joy I
identified with my own Christ consciousness … "Free at last!" as Martin
Luther King had said. "God almighty, free at last!"
In the weeks that followed, our wake-up call would bring about
additional profound changes. We realized, my husband and I, that we had
a sacred responsibility to restore balance in our life, to take better
care of ourselves as we continued to serve and in this way to honor the
life which God had so mercifully preserved for us. We have begun making
changes in our diet and have initiated other facets of a health regimen
which we had launched many times before but had never managed to
sustain thanks to years of workaholism.
And, finally, we woke up one morning with the strong feeling that we
must pursue our dreams without further delay. For years it had been our
plan to establish a place of retreat, therapy, and spiritual community.
We had actually spent a year and more seeking out properties that would
fulfill our vision at an affordable price. In the fall of ’96 we had
finally given up the search, and at the time of the accident we were
renting a home in the northern California redwoods near the Russian
River. It was a beautiful place, but it was not our own, nor was it
quite adequate for our purposes. We did not have enough space to
accommodate our Primal Breathwork workshops adequately or our book
distribution business. And yet we had resigned ourselves to stay there
and were planning to continue renting indefinitely.
The accident, however, made it clear that now was the time. Yes, it
would involve taking a risk. We would be obliged to remove most of our
precious nest egg from the security of mutual fund investments in order
to buy property, and then we would be committing ourselves to ownership
with all of its joys and responsibilities. And yet we did not hesitate.
We called our realtor who had patiently escorted us on the previous
year’s long round of fruitless searches for an affordable site.
It was as if God said, "You’ve got it!" On the very first day of
looking for what had seemed to be our impossible dream we found three
properties, each of which was within our means. But one stood out. Like
the home we are currently renting, this one is situated in the peace
and beauty of the northern California redwoods with an almost-
year-round creek flowing by. Not only does it have a spacious living
room which is more than ample for our workshops, but also it has an
in-law unit and a cabana–actually a studio apartment–next to a
beautiful, large swimming pool; and there is even a well-furnished,
rather elegant Air Stream trailer which will function as an additional
rental unit. Not only will these rental units help us to pay our
mortgage, but more importantly they will provide the basis for our long
To wind up this tale of a wake-up call, we are now in the process of acquiring this property and actualizing our dream.
As I write these words I realize that sudden catapults into
transformation are happening to many of us in this time of accelerating
karma on Earth. The "data" streaming in from the subtle reaches of our
own psyche and from the collective soul, if you will, is manifesting in
more and more signs these days. Those of us who have "ears to hear" and
"eyes to see" are indeed experiencing a radical shift into higher
consciousness; one of greater love, a sense of greater connectedness in
our human family, and greater possibilities for our divine natures to
seize upon and actualize. The words of Jesus come to mind: "Have I not
told you ye are gods?"
In concluding our story what is the summation, what is the thought I
can leave with you? The Mystery is unfolding still, but I will share
two moments that may provide a glimpse.
A week after the event, I was in Santa Barbara for a few days of rest
and healing at the home of my dearest friend. Lying on her back lawn I
was aware of each tiny grass blade tickling my hands and feet; sun
flooding my face, the whisper of a breeze in the oleanders, sounds of
water plashing in the small pool, and feeling alive to my fingertips …
a sudden rush of tears, hot tears coursing down: "Thank you, God, for
this life, thank you, thank you…"
And the second moment I will share occurred at the onset of the
accident itself: The car rolling, the windshield shattering, time
stopping, and no "I" to experience fear or panic–only the "still point
of the turning world"1 and now my knowing that in the midst of all the
violence, even while my old car was crumpling on all sides and even
while the windshield was splintering into a million drops of rain, that
God was holding us ever so mercifully, ever so tenderly in His loving
1. From T.S. Eliot’s poem, "The Wasteland."