Kate Cliff is finding a new calling

Kate Cliff teaches meditation, which she says changed her life after being in chronic pain following being hit by a taxi in Sydney. Picture: GEORGIA MATTS

Kate Cliff teaches meditation, which she says changed her life after being in chronic pain following being hit by a taxi in Sydney. Picture: GEORGIA MATTS

LAWYER Kate Cliff's star was on the rise when she was hit by a taxi on April 28, 2011.

The now 29-year-old was being mentored with a view to a job at the United Nations.

The former Kiama High and Wollongong University student had an "incredible day", presenting a rewarding discrimination and bullying project, and had left work about 8pm.

She was going to catch public transport in Sydney's CBD when a taxi hit her while she was on the middle of a pedestrian crossing.

"It was dark, raining a little bit I guess and a taxi came round the corner and just didn't stop at the crossing," Ms Cliff said.

"It did take him a little bit of time to stop, so I spent some time on the bonnet and I remember it . . . screaming 'stop, stop'. Witnesses said they thought my brain was going to crack on the ground.

"I had a lovely handbag and witnesses said that it went down and my head just landed on my handbag like a pillow."

Ms Cliff's most significant injury was a disc bulge into her spinal cord, but she experienced a multitude of other debilitating side effects.

"Those nights I spent in hospital, not being able to feel my legs. It was a terrifying time. They thought my neck was broken. My whole body had been hit by a car.

"I spent months on my back in a neckbrace."

Thirteen months after the accident, despite the relentless chronic pain Ms Cliff was enduring, she took a promotion as an industrial officer at the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet.

"I was doing the best that I could and I was seeking every treatment that I could," she said.

"Acupuncture, remedial massage, neurologists, neurosurgeons, physios, chiros and my body was just shutting down."

As she tried to manage the pain, Ms Cliff was often encouraged to meditate.

Until that point she had been open to, but underwhelmed by, meditation.

Advised by journalist, television presenter, blogger and author Sarah Wilson, Ms Cliff booked in to see a practitioner of Vedic meditation.

On the day of her first session Ms Cliff had seen her neurosurgeon, who had told her that "last resort" surgery was now unavoidable.

The risks of the surgery were no improvement at one end of the scale and death at the other - with quadriplegia or paraplegia in between.

"At that point, I was barely sleeping three hours a day, and barely eating," she said.

"I had been told I couldn't have children. My life was a living hell. I was not coping.

"It took me six weeks to book into the meditation and, as the timing would have it - serendipity - I went straight from being told 'you need surgery', to a talk about meditation."

The improvement was so stark and swift that Ms Cliff decided to sideline her law career, put UN aspirations on ice and began teaching meditation.

The decision to alter her career path so radically was not one that Ms Cliff took lightly.

Professor Ron McCallum AO, United Nations delegate for the rights of people with disabilities, had been nurturing Ms Cliff in her career.

Prof McCallum was the first totally blind person to be granted a full professorship at an Australian university.

"He was an incredible, incredibly knowledgeable man and I was just a sponge," Ms Cliff said.

"We got to do some great work together."

After experiencing an incredible improvement in her health as a result of the meditation, the desire to make a difference that had led Ms Cliff to study law, now shifted to something on a more personal level.

Ms Cliff said she was conscious of not making outlandish promises to people who may be desperate for hope, and stressed that she was naturally sceptical about meditation.

"[My teacher] just said 'let's get you started and see what happens'. He did not promise me anything and I have so much respect for that.

"The reason I teach is that I don't want anyone to feel the way I did. It's about sharing knowledge of a technique that changed my life."

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