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Meaningful Life: Prison of Thorns to Sacred Enclosure (Part 1)

©2010 Mahala Mazerov

After my head injury I watched friends and activities from a distance where once I had been a fully engaged participant.

The simplest interactions fried my circuits. Being myself, loving what I loved, doing the things I did were suddenly invitations for disaster.

I didn’t know the severity of my brain injury was under diagnosed, as it would remain for 3 years. I hadn’t heard of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I only knew every day (every hour!) presented me with a new minefield, triggering explosions with the most innocent of steps.

I couldn’t understand why everything was so hard. I thought I would will my way through hospital rehabilitation, pick up a few coping and cognitive strategies, and everything would be normal again.

I had an image of Sleeping Beauty. A prison of thorns sprung up overnight when she pricked her finger on that poison spindle. She and her Kingdom fell into a deep sleep for a hundred years until the Prince came to rescue her. I felt I was inside that prison of thorns, fiercely removed from the world outside.

But my head injury was not a fairy tale.

Life in the Kingdom was moving along just fine and didn’t seem to notice I was missing.

No Prince Charming was on his way to free me.

Even my rehab therapists, for all their kindness, were not going to break down my thorny prison. They continually warned me my own efforts to “bulldoze my way through rehab” were destined to fail.

I watched life go on without me. Learned to catch the tell-tale sentences (We really should have you over for dinner. You look fine, are you sure you’re not wallowing?) that signaled my last contact from friends.

My life shrank until it was resigned to a very tiny circle of space. Five days a week, I road a disability van to the hospital. Sat for hours in an overcrowded waiting room filled with desperate, miserable, wounded people and their chirping companions. Then came hours of grueling speech, physical and cognitive rehab, and another wait for the van. Sometimes the van was crowded, too. Even though the hospital was 10 minutes from my house the ride home could take more than an hour as passengers were dropped off.

I wanted to be the perfect patient. I tried to be the perfect patient. The one that everyone says is so courageous, always smiles and never complains. But no one seemed to notice, and I was burning myself out on a lie.

It was a meaningless, exhausting life and I didn’t see a way out.

I thought of suicide, briefly, and not very seriously. I had a feeling I would only manage to make things worse rather than actually kill myself so the thought didn’t get much traction.

Still, as time passed I became increasingly certain I would die. I just did not see how I could possibly stay alive. I thought living with a terminal brain injury would eventually kill me.

I felt I had already died (a sentiment I’ve heard repeated from nearly every person with a brain injury I’ve met.) For some reason my body was still dragging itself around.

Instinctively I knew seeing my life as a prison, waiting to die, waiting for rescue that could never appear were prescriptions for bottomless despair. But pasting a fake smile on my face and relying on sheer willpower were not saving me, either.

Was it possible to create a meaningful life? A life I wanted to live in spite of everything?

Coming in Part 2 : The Sacred Enclosure.


I hope my story reads like just a story and you’re unfamiliar with loss like this.

Since you’re reading, you know I got through it. I not only survived, I learned to love this life of mine. And the way I achieved that was by being unflinchingly honest with what was true for me and becoming a Master Practitioner in the Art of Sacred Self-Care.

If you’re struggling with limitations, bulldozing through too much of your life or just missing a tender connection with yourself, I hope you’ll join us for the Sacred Self-Care program beginning October 7.

15 Responses to Meaningful Life: Prison of Thorns to Sacred Enclosure (Part 1)
  1. Rupa
    September 25, 2010 | 10:43 pm

    This is so beautiful, Mahala, like the flowers you photograph: unique, fragile, perfect. Thank you for allowing me a glimpse inside your luminous heart. xx
    Rupa´s last blog ..A Song of Letting Go- JoyfullyMy ComLuv Profile

    • Mahala Mazerov
      September 27, 2010 | 6:39 pm

      Thank you for your beautiful comment. It really means a lot to me. I write, I think I’m telling the story I mean to tell. Then somewhere in the space between editing and publishing the words scatter and I can’t tell if I’m saying anything at all.

      Thank you.

  2. Becky
    September 26, 2010 | 4:21 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story, Mahala! It’s inspiring to hear that you were able to create a beautiful life, when being faced with such overwhelming challenges; I’m looking forward to Part 2. One part I really identify with is: “Life in the Kingdom was moving along just fine and didn’t seem to notice I was missing.” For me it’s on a much smaller level, and I in no way want to minimize your experience; but, indeed, the feeling that the world is going by and moving on, and I’m just sitting here – oh boy, that’s the truth of it!

    • Mahala Mazerov
      September 28, 2010 | 3:55 pm

      Thanks, Becky.

      Life in the Kingdom moving on… For me it was a feeling that no one even noticed I was hurt and missing. What’s it like for you?

  3. carolyn
    September 27, 2010 | 9:11 pm

    You are truly an inspiration Mahala! Thanks for posting.
    While in Prescott, I will circumambulate Rinpoche’s stupa for you.
    Unfortunately, I’ll be teaching during the self-care class . Be well.
    carolyn´s last blog ..By- Nguyet SantrizosMy ComLuv Profile

  4. Mahala Mazerov
    September 28, 2010 | 4:07 pm

    Wonderful! Rinpoche’s stupa is right next to the meditation hall. You can go inside it, too. — Take your shoes off ;-)

    There’s another, more traditional stupa a short walk away.

    I will miss you during the self-care calls. Hope you’ll be part of the conversation on the “secret course page.”

    <3 Mahala

  5. LillyAnn
    September 30, 2010 | 2:07 am

    Such a heartfelt soul. You sincerely are Luminous ;) Wishing you brightest blessing along your path!

  6. hazel colditz
    October 1, 2010 | 12:19 pm

    mahala…your Buddha nature is strong within you!
    “Then somewhere in the space between editing and publishing the words scatter and I can’t tell if I’m saying anything at all.”
    i love your honesty..however, you ALWAYS say something that resonates!!
    sending love….hazel
    hazel colditz´s last blog ..Wild Honey PieMy ComLuv Profile

    • Mahala Mazerov
      October 4, 2010 | 4:25 pm

      Thank you, hazel dear. Without a doubt my most visceral experience of “basic goodness” was when I was at my most wounded. In spite of all the hurt, emotions and confusion I had this very present sense of sweetness.

      It really is true that the words scatter and I’m afraid what I’ve written is incomprehensible. Thanks for your reassurance. and your love.

  7. laney
    October 2, 2010 | 7:07 pm

    thank you for sharing this story. very comforting & inspirational. i also pratice tonglen & it has helped me in so many ways. may you continue to heal & spread the light!

    • Mahala Mazerov
      October 4, 2010 | 4:28 pm

      Tonglen is a phenomenal practice, isn’t it? I don’t know how I’d make meaning in my life without it. I’m always happy to hear of other practitioners.
      Thank you for your kind wishes!

  8. Susan Gallacher-Turner
    October 15, 2010 | 4:22 pm

    You are courageous! Sharing your story, your will to thrive comes shining through and I look forward to reading part 2.

    Don’t know what tonglen is…sounds interesting.

    Blessings to you!

    • Mahala Mazerov
      November 30, 2010 | 11:58 am

      Susan, thank you. I appreciate your comment especially as “thriving” has been facing a lot of obstacles lately.

      Tonglen is a beautiful meditation practice from the Buddhist tradition. It involves breathing in the pain of others and sending out light, love, compassion. It loosens our hold — our clinging to ourselves as most important and cultivates extraordinary love.

      It’s on my list of things to teach at Luminous Heart ;-)
      Mahala Mazerov´s last blog ..Taking My Own MedicineMy ComLuv Profile

  9. Ben Tremblay
    February 3, 2011 | 1:07 am


    I came across “Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism” in 1978. Maybe 1978.
    What caught me was something about the language. I /loved/ reading philosophy, and had learned a sort of meditation via hatha yoga a a kid but ohhhh my I had (still have?) such an allergy to “light and love delusion” … mushy stuff triggered a very resentful gag reflex.
    But the Vidyadhara’s writing didn’t trigger that. “Iron hook of dharma”, ehh what? *grin*

    I play hard. I have heh rather un-spiritual personal habits. *shrug* That’s not the point.
    The point is that what you’ve written here really gets to the heart of it. (I could have said “cut through”, but your writing lacks /exactly/ that violent tinge.)

    What came to mind? A lotta vets come home with brain injuries. As well as deep personal injuries. That’s gotta be hell on earth.

    Ohhh they soooo have my sympathy …


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