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Traumatic Brain Injuries and Psychic Abilities: An Interview with Shawn Lerwill
Some people who have suffered traumatic brain injuries report increased psychic abilities. Shawn Lerwill had such an experience. Following is part of his unfolding story.
The Physiology of Psychic Experience
For most of history, psychic experience has generally been left to the spiritual realm; however, modern research indicates that the spiritual and physiological realms coincide.
In an article by Daniel Amen, M.D., “The Neuroscience of Psychic Experience,” Dr. Amen asserts “It (psychic experience) generally is associated with a decrease in frontal lobe function (disinhibition) and increases or decreases in right temporal lobe function (similar to seizure phenomena).”
Dr. Amen further states:
“In another interesting study, psychic-sensitive people were more likely to be single or divorced people, and people who had at sometime consulted a psychiatrist. They had experienced more head injuries and serious illnesses than the controls. Sixty-six percent showed evidence of right hemisphere and right temporal lobe dysfunction. Mystical experiences showed a trend toward being related to non-dominant hemisphere (usually right) dysfunction” (emphasis added).
It was certainly Shawn Lerwill’s experience that his head injury opened up new vistas of the mind, which some people would describe as newly found psychic abilities.
While on a skiing trip in Central Utah, Mr. Lerwill was standing behind his car unloading his skis when his vehicle was struck by a big mining truck. Shawn was struck by the lid of the trunk so forcefully, it was torn off of the vehicle. He does not remember losing consciousness, only being outside of his body. When he saw his body, he felt disconnected; he remembers thinking, “it just broke its neck.” The next thought was that he was glad that he was not going to be in his body when “it” hit the ground. He had the strange sensation that his body was not of him; in fact, when describing the unfortunate incident, Mr. Lerwill often spoke in the third person—in a very disconnected voice.
The next thing he remembers is being back in his body, and feeling “the weight of my eyes in my head.” He then reported that when he hit the ground, he felt himself leave his body again. Watching the blood come out of his nose and ears, Mr. Lerwill “concluded that it had died.” Elation was the next sensation. “It wasn’t until later that I felt bad for not being concerned because my ex-wife was injured in the accident, and my one-year-old was with the babysitter, and I felt no attachment to them.”
The doctors in the small Utah town were not equipped to handle traumatic brain injuries, and consequently mishandled Mr. Lerwill’s case prescribing over-the-counter medications to treat his pain. Over the next seventy-two hours, most of the damage occurred because the brain continued to swell. “The symptoms were excruciating,” Mr. Lerwill said.
His personality began to change, and straightaway there was an inability to hold a thought in his head, and severe memory loss—both long-term and short-term. The most significantly traumatic thing for Mr. Lerwill was, “I couldn’t remember who I was.” I remembered events of my life but it was if I was not present for it.”
Seeing the World Differently – Thoughts as Rolodex Nebula
Regarding his new perceptions following the accident, Mr. Lerwill stated, “I thought at first it was a symptom of the brain damage. I didn’t attribute the awareness to being psychic at all. It was as if all the radio stations were playing all at once and as if on a different plane; perhaps the spiritual plane was interlaced on this plane, so I could see things, and hear things.”
“For example, I began to notice that my wife’s thoughts looked like nebula coming out the front of her head like a Rolodex, and I began to notice that the patterns in the seemingly random nebula were actually thoughts. When certain patterns came up, say when she would talk about what to make for dinner, or what she needed to buy from the store—something as mundane as that would show up day after day as a certain pattern.”
Mr. Lerwill also began to notice that there is very little creativity within people’s repeated thoughts, though he could only see his wife’s patterns at the time. “I also began to notice that thought patterns were malleable—I had the power to change them. I think that everyone has that ability—we just need to be in harmony enough to notice the patterns.”
After the accident, it was frustrating for his wife because he was forgetting the children’s play dates, and other important events. “I didn’t remember ever having the conversation,” stated Mr. Lerwill.
“I noticed the Rolodex pattern when I was about to get in trouble. So I would change the card—as the card would come forward, I learned how to pull out a card and put in a new one as a mishmash attempt to change the card—it didn’t matter what was inserted—I just had to be quick about it.”
“That eventually backfired; it left a fingerprint and she got upset. There was a bit of a brain fog when I manipulated the card; my wife had to pause and lost her train of thought. She said, “You were in my mind.” I confessed and she got very upset. She was right to be upset—our thoughts sometimes are the worst of us—I had mistaken her thoughts as her beliefs—I thought her thoughts were real—sometimes they are not your beliefs. Mr. Lerwill boldly asserts, “We don’t actually control our thoughts—we are being thought.”
As for Mr. Lerwill’s newly acquired state, his ex-wife felt that his energy had changed. She felt like she was lying next to a downed power line, and feared he would start a fire in the bed. The man she loved died in the snow, and she had to grieve that and let it go.
Broader Than the Moment of Now
“I noticed that time was broader than the moment of now—that I could see in a wider stance than the sheer present.” For instance, his wife lost a book and didn’t know where it was. She asked Mr. Lerwill to find the book. By looking at her, he could see the book. He knew that it had been in front seat of her car, and as she ran out to her car, he had seen it slide off the seat in his mind’s eye. He was able to start locating objects; he didn’t know why, but he could find things. However, in contrast, he would get lost coming home from work, and couldn’t remember where he lived.
Leaving the Confines of the Body
“It was easy to slip out of my body since the time I had slipped out from the trauma. Ever since then, when I am very sick or have been given laughing gas at the dentist, I tend to leave body and reside in the ambient space. My being is only limited by my consciousness, not by my sensory perceptions.”
When I asked Mr. Lerwill about traveling outside of his body, he replied, “To travel would indicate that there was somewhere else to go. I felt like I was already there; your sense of travelling changes. I was the trees, I was the stars, I was everything; there was no limit to my being. I wasn’t like Casper flying around; I was everything inside of my body and everything outside simultaneously.”
One of Mr. Lerwill’s boldest assertions is, “We’re being breathed.” “Being breathed” seems to indicate that a life force other than ourselves controls our existence, though Mr. Lerwill also paradoxically asserts a will. In fact, he states that he understood more clearly the Biblical declarations of “I am that I am,” and, “I am the light of the world.” According to Mr. Lerwill, Jesus was not even talking about himself; we could all make these assertions if we understood more clearly.
This experience put an end to all of his prior religious programming, and Mr. Lerwill “understood for the first what they meant by being all one.”
Mr. Lerwill has normal struggles, “but if I spend any sort of time actually looking at them, they disappear; they are facades. The problems are now the illusions. The things I used to worry about are the new excitements in my life. I don’t take fear seriously anymore. I don’t take problems seriously anymore.”
Changes Following the Accident
Mr. Lerwill changed careers: “Before the accident, I was rehabilitating special needs and handicapped people so that they could get jobs and be in the community, and now being a consciousness coach and a psychic feels like it’s in the most flow,”
Tarot Card Readings
I noticed that during a tarot card reading by Mr. Lerwill, he will actually purposely touch the cards—as if he is trying to glean some sort of energy from them. I asked him what his perceptions were when he did so.
“I didn’t start out doing cards; at first I read the energetic fields of people’s bodies. Sometimes for the client it was an invasive experience; I would feel all of their shadow and all of their light so I started to use the cards as a proxy. As they shuffle the cards, they leave an imprint of their energy on the deck temporarily, and I can read the cards as if I were reading their body and ninety-nine percent of the clients don’t see me lifting the hood.”
“When touching the cards, I am touching the person’s energy. The client is so focused on the card, he doesn’t know I am reading him. The card is like a Polaroid—no single card is the person. The reading on the whole is just a prelude.”
Mr. Lerwill uses the Thoth deck when reading simply because that was what he was taught to use, “and I became comfortable with that.” He identifies people’s guardian angels while reading for them. “It is an archetype that most people are comfortable with. In reality these angels are reflections of ourselves.”
Stroke of Luck?
I asked Mr. Lerwill if he ever had an MD attempt to explain the changes that happened to him; he said that one had never done so. However, the closest explanation/ experience with which Mr. Lerwill identified was an explication by Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroanatomist, who had a stroke. He first came upon her story in a Ted Talk (see below). Additionally, Ms. Taylor wrote about her experience in her book, My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey.
What struck me most about Mr. Lerwill’s perceptions following his brain injury was that he imbues everyone with the ability to be a psychic and with personal power, and paradoxically claims that there is a force greater than ourselves both “breathing” us and “thinking” us.
In a powerful, final statement, Mr. Lerwill said, “I do not regret that this happened; I think it was both the darkest hell I ever experienced that allowed me to see the truth of the constant unfolding miracle that is every moment.”
Psychic Reading by Shawn Lerwill
Poem by Shawn Lerwill
If you should find yourself over looking the vista of your life,
be still and breathe.
If you should find yourself at the edge of your own truth and confabulation,
laugh out loud.
If you should experience your being in both form and formlessness,
let go... and let go of that too.
If you should find your sense of the manifest and unmanifest,
rejoice for it's perfection.
And if you should discover you are awake in the dream and facing the everything in the nothing, the meaning in the meaningless...despair not.
Remember, you are your Maker... The Divine Creator.
Embrace the fact that it is your light casting innocent shadows.
And once more through tears of gratitude
...pour out your cup.