In the glow of an aura

24 December 2016

In a mountainous region in South Africa, in the province of Natal, there exists an acre of paradise. Perched upon a raised plain, it beholds the rolling hills descending into the valley below. This place, remarkable in its rugged beauty and natural splendor, is home to the Buddhist Retreat Centre (BRC - ). Seamlessly woven into its natural environs, the Centre is a World Heritage Site, home to the Blue Swallow and listed by CNN as being in the top ten of such retreats in the world.

I have the privilege of facilitating two weekend Retreats every year at the BRC and have done so for the past eight years. Although not a practicing Buddhist in the religious sense, I do nevertheless identify with many of the fundamental philosophies and applications of Buddhism. And without fail, every time I make the pilgrimage to the mountain Retreat and drive through the entrance, I feel that exhilarating lightness of being and vitalizing energy, flushing out the toxins of the big city enclave.

The theme of my workshop/retreat is ‘consciousness’. The concept is developed from a neuroscientific space integrated with psychoneuro-immunology (PNI – the mind-immune connection) and evolves over three days, culminating in perspectives of consciousness in a quantum physics space – quantum consciousness. We usually have a lively group of forty retreatants ranging from the devout Buddhists to atheists and the like, from tree-huggers to the captains of industry and from artists and muso’s to heads of academic departments. Participation is encouraged and invariably a unique collective energy is generated which is more than the sum of the parts. Seamlessly integrated with this ‘hard’ curriculum are Buddhist practices including meditation, periods of noble silence and mindful walks. These aspects contribute powerfully and meaningfully to the overall experience.

The Saturday night session is referred to as ‘the fireside chat’. Here we literally seat ourselves around the large fireplace and chat – about anything. During one such chat a young woman indicated to us that she was able to see people’s aura’s. I nodded in acknowledgement. But she continued. ‘I saw your aura today after lunch’ she said, which was directed at me. ‘What did you see in my aura?’, I responded. She related how initially the two sides of my head had different colors. The right side was blue and exuberant while the left was flattened and red. Slowly, over about a half an hour, the blue gradually spread over from the right side to the left until my entire head was uniformly exuberant blue. I was initially stunned and speechless. Something literally mind-blowing had just occurred.

Approximately once every year I experience what is termed an atypical migraine. In my case it begins with flashing of lights in a field of vision followed by a temporary loss of vision. This usually lasts for about half an hour. Thereafter it resolves, leaving me with a dull headache. Now since each half of the brain provides function to the opposite side of the body and since higher function such as speech in right handed individuals resides in the left brain (hemisphere), it follows then that if visual loss occurs in the right field of vision, speech may well be temporarily impaired in the process. And as luck would have it, while having an idyllic lunch outside, under a tree on the Saturday, I began to develop right sided visual symptoms! It was probably precipitated by the angle of the sun. But I immediately slipped into anxiety mode – right sided visual loss meant speech loss for at least a half hour and I was due to present the afternoon session in twenty minutes time. I excused myself and headed to my room. Along the walk back I monitored my function and as expected, gradually lost expressive speech.

The afternoon session started late. I deliberately took a little longer to set up my computer and projector. By the time I was ready to start, most of my speech faculties had returned, bar specific words. So I was in fact able to start the presentation without anyone detecting the preceding unfortunate event. Perhaps all that was perceptible to the astute attendee was that I appeared a little long-winded. I was in fact compensating for unavailable vocabulary. It should be emphasized however that I did not make mention of my temporary affliction to anyone.

Which brings us back to the Saturday night fireside chat. I was indeed speechless for the second time that day because the young lady that could see people’s aura’s had just seen the aura of a person (me) having an atypical migraine. The timing had been deadly accurate as was the laterality (left and right sides of my head). This was real. And wow the Universe has a weird sense of humour! An atypical migraine affecting a neuroscience guy facilitating a neuro-based workshop in a Buddhist Retreat, is accurately diagnosed by a young woman who saw his migraine aura ......

It becomes obvious that much is happening beyond the realm of the five senses and beyond the neatly packaged scientific space. In seeking authentic clarity we need to accept that there exist unexplained and inconvenient truths in the context of a mechanistic-reductionistic space, that we need to acknowledge, respect and integrate. That takes a bit of courage and a generous helping of humility!


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