“We wouldn’t let someone we knew who was lost in the woods wander about for days or years without trying to help them find their way….The process method of coma work says that consciousness is a continuum, and that the person in coma is aware.” *
Usually the first questions families ask me when they contact me about coma work is what I can do for their loved one, and especially if I have ever worked with someone in a similar condition who came out of coma.
At this point in my career, most of the time I say yes: in my own tracking of my clients over 15 years, at least 35% of those I have worked with who were given little or no chance of recovery have come out of their coma.
Yet, I also have to be honest that my primary goal is to help bring awareness to the person in coma. Awareness is different than healing. Awareness means that what happens is out of my hands: I am there as a facilitator of process, so that the coma person can have the best chance of being with what is happening and gain something from the experience. This may lead to partial or full awakening, staying in the coma, or getting worse and possibly dying. Yet, at times, moving towards death can also be freeing from being trapped in coma forever. People who believe in God often will say something like, “I understand that it isn’t up to you, but up to God.”
Whether we call it following awareness or following God, it is clear that coma work is in a different realm from more mainstream medical or psychological methods. It is in the realm of the unpredictable, beyond the normal indicators of what is possible for recovery. Great learning and growing can occur if you or your loved ones are willing to journey into the realm of awareness.
And while it may appear that emphasizing awareness rather than healing per se leads the person in a different direction, in fact my experience is that by using this awareness-based method, we have the best track record of coma recovery I know of, compared to other methods. Openness to deep states of experience and learning, and the inner growth this brings seem to have a strong correlation with healing, from what I have gleaned in my working with clients over the years.
The most common descriptions of the person in coma are given in practical, or consensus reality, medical terms that describe the physical reality of the patient that indicates how they got into a coma, the type and severity of coma, and the possible chances for recovery. This is all crucial information, and without all of this care of the physical body, the coma patient would most often have no chance of survival.
However, our work with the person in the comatose state, and helping the person move through these states to possible recovery, includes much more of the inner worlds of dreaming and essence.
Because most medical interventions leave out attention to these aspects, it may be that they are only applying the beginning of the treatment, which is to keep the body alive, while neglecting the other levels which may actually hold the keys to recovery.
All of the current statistics on coma recovery rates are based solely on patients who received only physical treatment for their condition, so they only speak to what is probable in that circumstance.
When we go beyond this approach into the realm of psychological treatment, mind-body interventions, and sentient-essence work, which is in my view very much spiritual or transpersonal healing, then we are in a different kind of recovery program. So we need to collect data on how people recover when given both physical healing and these other methods together.
This is so important because it also gives a different framing to the starting place of working with coma, viewing these remote experiences not only as sickness but also as pathways and doorways to meaning and transformation.
As we move towards being able to present hard data on the differences this kind of work makes, it is also important to be able to present the human element for many reasons. First, we can find something of ourselves in these stories, since as humans we face similar challenges whether or not we are in coma.
Second, so often I get calls asking if I’ve ever had anyone who had a stroke come out, after being told they wouldn’t recover; or if I’ve ever had anyone come out after being in coma for six months. Stories of our work are meant to give hope to these families through knowing that others have traveled this journey and found deep meanings. Bodies and minds have healed; families and relationships have been transformed through the power of the coma and the healing journey it inspired.
* from Coma Work: Pathway to Transformation
Gary Reiss 2003