Whenever things got too much I would say ‘hop on my liferaft Sal, and let’s just drift; let go for a while.’ And we were amazed how well things seemed to progress by themselves. But this was only one strategy; as we discovered more methods to make ‘letting go’ easier, we piled them onto our make-believe raft to use during the incredibly difficult times.
One of the key strategies we have used as a result of what happened is ‘meditation and mindfulness’.
I had discovered Transcendental Meditation around twenty years ago and had used it from time to time at certain difficult periods of my life, with mixed success. This was clearly one of those times when something was needed, so I returned to my practice as best I could.
Sally attended weekly classes at a local Buddhist centre she’d found in Carlisle. She became intrigued by the connections between mind, body and spirit and, as part of her mental and physical recovery, trained as a Pilates instructor. Up until then her way of coping had largely been to block out all emotion – when she could not cope with the pain she would try to control it by just blocking it out. This may sound like an effective solution but in reality she came to feel as though she was going insane. At her first meditation class she actually cried with relief; she had experienced her first 30 minutes of peace since the attack.
Together we were gaining so much from the limited meditation knowledge we had that we decided to explore it in more detail. We embarked on a 10 day retreat in Zen meditation and later trained as teachers ourselves to share the life-changing techniques we had learned.
There is no doubt in our minds that we survived the attack for a reason. Sally was stabbed 18 times around the head and suffered a punctured lung. And according to the two wonderful surgeons who worked on me, I had lost so much blood that I shouldn’t really be alive. By rights we should both have died and even today we still ask the question ‘why?’
As we lay together in my hospital bed (much to the amusement of other patients and annoyance of the ward sister) we felt that we had been given a chance to help other people. We decided that as soon as we were well enough, we would bring our make-believe Life Raft to life and start sharing the techniques we are so grateful for, and that have helped us so much.