Frances Goodall’s story is an inspirational one. Once house- bound and diagnosed with ME and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, here she talks openly about her brave journey to wellness and the demons she had to face in order to recover.
I hope Frances’ story offers hope to many who may be suffering. She says:
“Prior to getting unwell in 2001 aged 19, I’d been travelling for a year. I taught English in Nepal for four months and then travelled around the world. I started at Nottingham University soon after my return home and in my first term at university I came down with what I later found out to be CFS/ME symptoms. Initially brain fog was my worst symptom, but gradually fatigue, muscle weakness, dizziness and headaches developed; I ended up having a constant headache for about six months.
Two years into the physical illness I had a peak experience in meditation, which was very intense and left me feeling high for two weeks, hardly able to sleep and overflowing with energy. In a way, it was quite an intense initial ‘awakening’ experience, which affected the undercurrent of my being thereafter. Later I attributed this experience to the rising of kundalini energy: spiritual energy stored at the base of the spine that facilitates spiritual growth. At the time this happened I was doing a loving-kindness meditation where we were being led to bring the Buddha of compassion, Amitabha, within.
I suddenly felt merged with a transcendental state of consciousness and enjoyed a blissful and deeply healing state of being. It was amazing to feel so much energy; I naively thought I was cured of ME/CFS. It was also a little disconcerting that I felt so high – surely it wasn’t natural to feel this high all the time?
The high settled down and for a while afterwards I felt considerably better physically and mentally. Yet a few weeks later I was just about to start my second term at University (my second attempt), and my health crashed. This time I felt worse than I ever had before, I could hardly walk, manage to look after myself and felt so weak it terrified me.
I feel the extremes I felt in this time ranging from feeling ‘cured’ to feeling flat out ill were in part a result of the kundalini energy on a body and mind that weren’t properly prepared. I believe that when I started meditating aged 18 it started the kundalini process which was part of what floored me with ME/CFS. I had many things to work out and change in myself. I know I had many of the ME personality tendencies such as a perfectionist, helper and achiever.
I began to get jolts in my meditation practice as the energy that was now very active in my system hit a block in the area of my diaphragm. At times I felt like I didn’t exist, I had to pinch myself to remind myself I was actually here. I had out of body experiences while lying in bed going to sleep, like I was rising up out of my body and may never come back.
On walking out in the woods once I heard a beautiful harmonic sound and stopped in awe. My body jolted in meditation as I felt the energy meet a block in my solar plexus and random sounds came out of my mouth- sometimes shock like sounds and occasionally more harmonic sounds. I had an involuntary muscle spasm in my tongue which made a clicking sound. I felt like I was balancing on the edge with enlightenment on one side and insanity on the other and felt a lot of fear as a result. Clearly these weren’t ‘normal’ experiences! Although they can be quite normal for someone undergoing a kundalini awakening, I later discovered.
I began to read up on this phenomena, when a friend found some material to try to understand what could be happening to me as I got into a really dark and fearful place for a while. Some of the articles only provoked more fear; reading about people ending up on anti-psychotics and suffering physical and mental difficulties for years afterwards.
I felt I had veered off my healing and spiritual path into a darkness I couldn’t escape from and had times of feeling there was no point in going on. Yet this would clear and a clarity, peace and acceptance would come again; like another level of my consciousness was being cleared, to leave peace and relief. I completely stopped meditating, focused on developing my therapy business and doing positive things. I began regular exercise; swimming, running and walking. My task now seemed to be to integrate the experience in to my life and being.
It was clear I had a lot of healing to do before I could open myself to spiritual development, and the illness was the way my body would force me to do this. Furthermore, in my daily life I never stopped ‘doing’ in an unhealthy way and so there was a huge divide between my newly formed Buddhist meditation practice, an interest that began the year before while on my Gap Year in Nepal, and the way I was living my life.
I was 19 when I got CFS/ME, and 21 when I had my initial ‘awakening’ experience so it’s not surprising I suffered the difficulties I have. I entered CFS/ ME after some chaotic teenage years of alcohol and drugs, and was taken on a journey of healing and transformation. I now see it is important to ideally have the roots right before one goes too deeply into spiritual practice: to be functional in the world, to have a job, healthy relationships and be in a healthy environment. Yet despite all the problems this energy caused within me, paradoxically I feel it was a central part of my healing. I had experiences of waking up in the night with the sensation that healing light was just pouring through me, each time I hoped I would wake up fully cured.
I was grateful to meet someone on a retreat I worked on who had undergone similar spiritual experiences and to talk to people with a lot of experience of meditation about everything. It gradually all settled down, and now for a decade I have felt much more balanced and grateful for the journey ill health and spiritual development took me on.
Now I’m no longer seeking ‘awakening’, only to continue the life work of moving to deeper levels of freedom, happiness, embodiment and wholeness. To live in the moment, and to integrate more fully the spiritual awareness into all areas of my life. That it may assist me in being of better service to others and the world.”