Brain Injury, Mindfulness and an Owl

The first years after my brain injury were a time filled with an incredible amount of confusion and despair. I had suddenly lost my skills and abilities; the stuff that defined me, and had no where to turn.

Forty one years ago, when I had my injury, nobody knew anything about brain injury and I felt like a rowboat drifting on the open sea.

I realized that I needed some way to take care of myself and take control of my life. What would I have to do to put my deficits aside so I could move on?

I decided the way to go was to start over as if I were brand-new.

Starting over meant first, that I had to learn all about my new self and my power. Rather than fight it, I saw that I was going to have to learn to actually be the person I was becoming, and, in order to be that person, I was going to have to learn to trust myself and my instincts.

My instincts told me that even though there were things I couldn’t do anymore or do as well due to my brain injury, I was sure there were ways I was better than before.

I chose to focus on my mental power; exploring how the power of my mind had increased even as the cognitive and physical powers of my brain had decreased. I decided to approach my brain injury as though I had been given gifts, and I was on a journey to discover those gifts and use the power of my mind.


Yesterday I finished John Shearer’s book, “Mindful Actions.” John has a Facebook page, Mindfulness Coach, and his book clearly lays out the benefits of, and the ways to live, a Mindful Life. What makes John’s book really interesting to me is that he is a survivor of traumatic brain injury, and he speaks of the tailspin he went into after experiencing his injury and, in particular, how he was able to help himself by learning to live a Mindful Life and employ Mindulfness daily.

Reading his book made me think about the ways I had approached my brain injury forty one years ago, and had found ways to increase the power of my mind so that I could create a life for myself. John has a lot of great advice in his book, as well as ways to approach life so that we are actually living every moment, and building a life from the simplest beginnings.

In what was a great coincidence, the day I finished his book I saw an owl, a bird that, to me, symbolizes Mindfulness. An owl is a keen observer and assimilator of what is around him.

We all know the phrase, “Wise old owl.”

Seeing an owl in the wild is almost a spiritual event. The owl knows how to focus its energy and be powerful. The owl is purposeful; aware of what is going on around it, reacting to what is happening and doing everything for a purpose.

Discovering My Mind Power

I realized forty one years ago that I could approach my brain injury one of few of ways: 1) I could lament all I had lost, or 2) I could look at this as an opportunity to shape a new life. I chose the second.

I decided I could be whatever person I wanted, and I approached the world in a new way. This not only gave me a greater appreciation for my life, but also the ability to develop a more satisfying way of being.

I learned that I didn’t have to walk around multitasking or being super productive. I didn’t need a ton of money. Instead, I wanted to learn what it takes to be a human being, and I wanted to create a foundation for myself.

I may not have been able to do everything I did before, but I made sure that those things I did and who I was and had meaning.

I didn’t want to waste any actions and I wanted everything I did to have a purpose, so I decided to be very deliberate about how I conducted my life; there were benefits I could gain by learning to focus and simplify.


I was able to see a difference between the workings of my brain and my mind, and how my mind: the thinking and reasoning part of me, had not suffered the damage that my brain had. Just because my brain didn’t function the way it used to, it didn’t mean I couldn’t think or reason.

I had value, and my thoughts had value.

To maximize this value, I learned to concentrate on what I could do; I learned how to focus, and not waste any actions or thoughts so I could move ahead and discover my new life.

I equate mindfulness with personal power. Using the power of our mind is about being in action and being very deliberate about that action. Mindfulness starts with us being aware and acknowledging the important things around us, and comes from being purposeful about our life.

John’s book, and our lives, are about finding ways to use what we have been through to seize our power. Nothing is wasted. We can find usefulness in everything. We just need to be open to it.

Thanks for reading, Jeff

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Jeff Sebell
About Jeff Sebell 2 Articles
In 1975, Jeff Sebell experienced a TBI, during the summer before his junior year in college. He suffered frontal lobe and brain stem injuries, and was comatose for 30 days. Jeff returned to college five months after his car accident, and finished college one semester late, earning a BA in Economics. After college, he worked as a disc jockey and music director at a radio station in Colorado. Following that, he worked in a family manufacturing business for nearly 25 years. Jeff was active in supporting other survivors referred to him by the, just forming, National Head Injury Foundation in the early 80’s. As a result of his involvement, he was appointed to the founding Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Head Injury Foundation, and spoke at the first statewide brain injury conference in Massachusetts. Since that time he has continued to write and speak, focusing on “living a fulfilled life after brain injury”, and was credited in the book, “Brain Injury Advocates”, by Sue Hultberg, with the first use on the web of the term, “TBISurvivor”. His book, “Learning How to Live with Yourself After Brain Injury” is not your typical TBI survivor book. Full of new ideas, it is invaluable for those who have experienced a Brain Injury, or for others who want to better understand what their relative/friend is going through. It is now available through Lash Publishing. For more info, or to order, go to
  • Chola Viray

    love this