Friday, March 7, 2008

Alzheimer's: A New Earth

A lot of people I know are reading A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle and discovering a new consciousness. Oddly enough, a number of people I know with Alzheimer’s have already discovered this new consciousness but not through A New Earth. They discovered it through Alzheimer’s.


Let me try to explain.

Following a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, you are no longer an engineer, a teacher, an accountant. You are no longer a tennis player, a chess player, a piano player. You are no longer good at math. You are no longer good in the kitchen.

You ask yourself, “Who am I now?”
You ask yourself, “Has my real self died?”

You are no longer the YOU you used to be. You are having trouble even remembering the YOU you used to be. Your FORMER Self is gone. Alzheimer’s has greedily taken hold of your former Self, is clenching it with both hands, and won’t give it back. The loss of this former Self is experienced like a death. You grieve the death of your former Self.

But once the grief has passed, you may be able to see what is left, no longer obscured by the former Self. What remains is the REAL self.


Here’s an excerpt from my next book, LIVING ALZHEIMER’S which speaks to this discovery and includes a quote from Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth:

I'm nothing short of awed by Jay's transformation. Here's a man who has been diagnosed with a disease synonymous with death, but the man before me, in this present moment, is not a dying man. He is not angry, depressed, resentful, blaming, jealous, fearful, or in denial. How is this possible? How can he not be angry about the loss of his successful career, his identity, as an architect? How can he not be resentful about the fatigue and the loss of cognitive capabilities that interfere with his days? How can he not be consumed with fear about his future? Why doesn't he feel lost?

Some time after our conversation, I read every one of the books Jay recommended. I will forever be grateful to him for introducing me to this knowledge that has changed the way I look at the world and inhabit my own life. Thinking of Jay's transformation, I'm struck still while reading Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth. And I get it.

"Whatever they had identified with, whatever gave them their sense of self, is taken away. Then suddenly and inexplicably, the anguish or intense fear initially felt gave way to a sacred sense of Presence, a deep peace, serenity, and complete freedom from fear....When forms that you had identified with, that gave you your sense of self, collapse or are taken away, it can lead to a collapse of the ego, since ego is identification with form. When there is nothing to identify with anymore, who are you? When forms around you die or death approaches, your sense of Beingness, of I Am, is freed from its entanglement with form: Spirit is released from its imprisonment in matter...You realize your true identity as consciousness itself, rather than what consciousness had identified with. That's the peace of God. The ultimate truth of who you are is not I am this or I am that, but I Am."

Lisa Genova, Ph.D., author of STILL ALICE,

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At March 7, 2008 at 10:45 PM , Anonymous Carole -- DASNI said...

Lisa, as one of the people you know reading Tolle, I am here to say that a New Consciousness is the best tool I have found to deal with the changes my vascular dementia has caused in me, and even more to confront the changes ahead.

I am told I spoke in full paragraphs at nine months. My nickname was "Chatter Box." And I've been chattering ever since. I chattered in journals throughout my lie, and as a teacher of English, I taught the classic chattering of others. As a teacher of writing, I taught students to chatter more fluently.

Chatter was my life. It was my strongest skill and my most relied upon coping strategy. Recently, I've used verbal mediation in order to cope with no visual memory.

Now, the paragraphs are less coherent. The sentence structure is less complex. Worse yet, the words have begun to escape me.

Words used to flow like spring water, even without my attention. Now, they can't even be trained to come like obedient puppies. The words act like prairie dogs, poking up nearly to awareness, and then disappearing back into the hole before I can capture them.

As I write this, I know that some day, words won't even inhabit the burrows in my mind. It is a terrifying thought. Only the idea that my essence--the awareness I have before words exist--will endure can comfort me in the least.

Thanks, Lisa, for noticing!

At March 26, 2008 at 10:59 PM , Blogger Shari said...

"The ultimate truth of who you are is not I am this or I am that, but I Am."

What a wonderful and profound sentence! It's so true. My mother, 88 years old and diagnosed with Alzheimer's several years ago, is a perfect example. She recently had a birthday and when I asked her what she wanted, she said, "Life." Can you imagine? She honestly still says she wants to live to be a hundred. I've wondered how she can possibly wish that, because all I usually see are the effects of the disease. Mom, on the other hand, doesn't even remember that she has it and simply loves being alive.

Thanks for your insight, Lisa. You're a gem! I'm going to check into the Tolle book, but I'm definitely going to get yours.

Blessings to you & yours!!

Shari W.


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Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

The Alzheimer’s Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer care, support and research. Our mission is to eliminate Alzheimer's disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health.

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