Bonnie D's Experience

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Experience description:   

It was in the afternoon. I had come down with influenza on Christmas morning, the previous day. Since I am allergic to antibiotics and basically healthy, my doctor was trying to see if I could just shake it off on my own. Despite the holiday, he was checking in by phone every few hours. But the fever kept climbing.

Then suddenly I was in another place. It was a place of light, almost like a mist, but not quite. It was a calm place, a place of immediate belonging, but without the attachment that usually accompanies such a feeling. There were five beings of light in a semicircle. I could not see faces. I could not tell you if they were seated or standing. They were just there. It was as if they were wearing monks robes with hoods, as the closest analogy. They were beyond personality, and although they had form, they were also beyond form.

I recognized and realized them to be guiding entities that had been with me all my life. They didn't speak in words. There was an instantaneous transmission of thought back and forth. But had they spoken, it would have gone like this: "You've finished just about everything you set out to do in this life, and if you want to go now, we can increase the stuff in your lungs and you can come to be with us."

I was a teacher, so I wanted to know how well I had done on my assignments. "About a B-minus," they said. Afterwards, I was both chagrined and amused. I like to get "A's," and here in the most important assignment, my very life, I just barely escaped the ignominy of a "C!" I had known from the time I was young that I would die around the age of fifty. So it was logical to take the invitation. But for some reason, I replied, "I have a husband and a son; I think I'll stay." "That's no reason to live," they said, "go back and think about it."

I opened my eyes and was fully awake in my bedroom. The sun was shining in through the window onto the bed covers. My soul made the decision for me. I closed my eyes and I was back. "I am a determined person," I said. "Whatever I start, I finish. I started to be a good wife and mother, and I want to finish." They said OK, but then they said, "It will be hard." I said, "All my life it has been hard, and you've been with me. You'll still be there to help me, won't you?" They said "Yes, but this will be different." I asked what they meant, but they said nothing, and I was back in my bedroom, terrified.

The significant part of this experience was not the experience itself, but what happened in the ten years following. For the next few years, there was a devastating emptiness. All my life, even as a baby, I always knew why and where I was; a sense of purpose filled every moment. I went to the right places at the right times and met the right people for whatever I had to do. There was a sense of mission and I lived what I felt was a life of service. But I didn't know that I had this confidence in my life direction until the moment it was gone. I missed that feeling dreadfully. Every day after that I felt like I was just improvising from moment to moment. I could sense no purpose or direction. It was just random.

I knew that I would be working on new things, so I was surprised to find that I was not at all personally transformed by the NDE. That was to come much later. In the two years following I was privileged to be part of an innovative attempt at education reform. Then in 1994, after a bout with the new mutated whooping cough, everything was suddenly taken away. I think there was some kind of brain damage. I couldn't speak coherently, or write, or read. I couldn't count or remember my phone number. I couldn't sit without support, or stand or walk. The pain was beyond anything. Diagnoses came and went over the years. As they found that my condition would not respond to any mental illness drugs, doctor after doctor dropped out. The final labels are: CFS, FMS, PTSD and asthma. Cancer popped in and out.

I would work hard to rehabilitate myself, and then be leveled again. There was a debilitating fall with many injuries, and many more grave bouts with illnesses, including one last invitation to leave just last year. As I got better, I tried to re-train in computer animation, but the cancer surgery ended that. In other words, after a lifetime of ambition and activity, now no outer achievements were allowed.

In 1998 I fell into Buddhism. Through a set of miraculous circumstances, I met my first lama and took refuge. There was a dramatic change for the better overnight. Slowly over the last two years, through Buddhism, my life has opened like a flower. Everything that happened after the NDE led up to Buddhism entering my life. And although there is still a long way to go before my body will be a fit servant again, I am so very glad that I didn't leave. Had I known the joy that was ahead, I would not have wasted all those seven years grieving for the old ways and the old days.

Experiences as retold a year later:  In 1992 I was a dedicated inner city high school teacher, so consumed by my job that I had no time to care for my family or for myself.  I caught influenza on Christmas Eve.  On Christmas Day, I was too ill to participate in the festivities, and by the 26th, pneumonia had set in, although I didn't know it at the time.

In the afternoon, I could feel the fever increasing.  Then certain things began to happen that I later recognized when my lamas lectured on the Tibetan theory of the process of dying.  Out of five stages, I had progressed to stage three, where everything is a haze.

Suddenly all awareness of my body and surroundings was gone, and I was in a place of pearlescent light.  Five beings of light were there.  Their appearance is described in the questionnaire. In their presence, I felt so at home, and there was a happy recognition that these beings had been with me and guiding me all my life.  Until that moment I had never believed in guardian angels or "guides," so it was a surprise as well as a joyful reunion.

From childhood, I had known that I was going to die relatively young.  So, it was not a surprise to be in that space.

"You have accomplished almost everything that you set out to accomplish in this life," they said.  (They didn't "say" anything. There was just an instantaneous thought transference that took the place of speech.) "If you want to go now, we can increase the stuff in your chest and you can be with us."  Always the teacher, I asked, "How well did I do?"

"About a B-," they said.  I was chagrined.

"I have a husband and a son," I replied, "I think I would like to stay."

"That's no reason for living;" they said, "go back and think about it."

I opened my eyes, and I was in my bedroom.  The winter sun was shining on the blue sleeping bag I was using as a quilt.  My perception was lucid and although I was still too weak to move, the mental fogginess that had led up to the experience was gone.  I closed my eyes and I was back in the light with my preceptors.

"You know that when I make up my mind to do something, I finish what I start.  I started to be a good wife and a good mother, but I have not finished it," I said.  They understood.  "It's going to be very hard," they warned me.  "You have always been with me before, and you will be with me now," I replied, with complete confidence.  I could feel how at all the dark times in my life, they had been there.  "Yes, but this will be different," they said gravely.

I said I still wanted to stay and I awakened with the sweat that comes along with a fever breaking. I was terrified.  I had no idea what had happened or what it meant.  And I couldn't find anyone who could explain it to me in a way that felt correct.

After I got well, I joined an innovative educational team in my high school, and we did some ground-breaking work together for about a year and a half.  I worked harder than ever.

In the summer of 1993, I caught the new, mutated whooping cough, but tried to continue working.  At the end of the year, a complete breakdown ensued, with crippling asthma and Fibromyalgia syndrome, and I left the classroom on January 4, 1994, never to return. 

There had been some brain damage.  For a year I was bed-ridden.  My whole life had been centered around what I could do and accomplish, and here I could do nothing.  I could not cook a meal, dress myself, or even sleep; I could not walk by myself more than 20 feet; I could not read, speak or write a sentence.  I felt so lost.  Take away the "A" from a type-A personality and what do you have left?

And the pain was staggering.  Constant and beyond comprehension.  It really was "different."  Slowly, with the help of my family, friends, and good medical care, I started to get better.  I got a scholarship to an excellent art school, even though at the time I could not sit or stand for more than 20 minutes.  It took a lot of ingenuity, persistence and flexibility from myself and my instructors for me to complete classes.  But in 1997 I was diagnosed with cancer, and after the operation, which apparently was successful in stopping the cancer, severe Chronic Fatigue Syndrome set in.  So, my life is still one of learning to overcome physical limitations and pain.

In November of 1998, a Tibetan lama visited our city.  By a string of very odd coincidences and circumstances, I ended up at the lecture.  As the lama spoke, I had visions that I later saw in Tibetan paintings.  He "gave refuge" afterwards, and I felt the top of my head opening, and every cell in my body began to twinkle with light.  The next morning I woke up 70% better physically, and I was in a state of happiness and calm for almost three months.  My heart center felt warm and open.

For several weeks, my husband was furious.  "I don't know you anymore," he would say, and he would rail at me for hours.  But I didn't care, I just felt compassion.

But there was no lama to teach me, and although I begged that visiting lama by long distance phone calls to take me as a student, he put me off.  I got some books and started to cobble together a practice as best I could by myself.  One day in early 1999 when I was sitting, I felt my guides with me.

"You had better meditate a lot," they said.  "You don't have much time."  I was so afraid.  Day after day, I pestered them in prayer.  "What do you mean?"  After a few days, they came again, and they were very amused. "Let's just say that the amount of work you have to do and the amount of time you have to do it in don't quite match," they said.  That didn't soothe my fears at all!

Then I met my lama, in the Spring of 1999.  He was a close friend of the lama who gave me refuge, and he was everything anyone could ever want in a teacher!  I recognized him from a vision I had in 1972 when I first got a mantra in the Hindu tradition.

In June another friend of my teacher came and gave lectures.  My husband and my best friend, impressed by the changes in me, went to the lectures, and they had experiences similar to mine, although, since they were not sick, there changes were spiritual and emotional.  After that, we all attended lessons with my lama.

In November of 1999, I encountered my guides a third time.  I was very ill, and the asthma was so bad that my life was slipping away.  "So this is what death feels like," I thought.  Then the faces of my guides appeared in front of me right there in my bedroom, very small and yet full size at the same time.

"There are some very bad experiences ahead for you," they said.  "We would like to offer you the chance to go, if you want.  But it will be harder for you to go this time; it will take you about three days to die."  I replied, "I have just met my lama and I have just begun to practice dharma; there is no way I can leave now."

They indicated that there were terrible things ahead for the world, things I could "not even imagine," and they wanted to spare me that suffering. I wondered if they meant earth changes, and they said, "No."  They also said that I would not get any more chances to leave if I didn't go then.

I indicated that anything was worth enduring if I could have even one more day of dharma teachings from my lama.  My guides disappeared.  In their place was the face of my lama.  He was saying a healing mantra, and I felt wonderful.  I fell into sleep, and every time I woke up, that mantra was going in my mind.  The next day I was better.

Since that time, I have steadily gotten better mentally.  Although there have been some physical setbacks, my body is generally getting better.  My mind is coming back, so I can start meditating after all this time.  Unfortunately, in August of 2000, my lama stopped teaching classes because of illness.  He left the body by the end of the year.

Any associated medications or substances with the potential to affect the experience:  Uncertain; No

      Explanation:  I had a fever

Was the experience difficult to express in words?  Yes

      What was it about the experience that makes it hard to communicate?  The affect was different, beyond emotion, and on a thought level that was different from anything I'd experienced before.  And as for the location, it was unique and indescribable.; The first time, the sense of rightness, belonging, familiarity with the beings, and the space in which they existed, which had no features, except for the presence of light is hard to express clearly.  Also, the way the communication was non-linear, instantaneous, without words, pure thought.  The second time, how the beings could be there but not be there.

At the time of the experience, was there an associated life threatening event?  Yes

      Describe:  rapid onset of pneumonia from influenza; First time, sudden onset of pneumonia in reaction to influenza, second time, asthma in reaction to a respiratory virus.

What was your level of consciousness and alertness during the experience?  High, for both.; High.

Was the experience dream like in any way?  I can't say.  It was much more congruent and real than a dream.; No.  It was more real than either a dream or a normal waking state.

Did you experience a separation of consciousness from your body?  Uncertain, No response

Describe your appearance or form apart from your body:  In the sense that I was in one place and then anther and then back again, yes.

What emotions did you feel during the experience?  None. I was utterly calm.; Aside from the sense of love and recognition when I came into the presence of the beings, none.  It was just matter of fact and calm.

Did you hear any unusual sounds or noises?  No.

Did you pass into or through a tunnel or enclosure?  No

Did you see a light?  Uncertain

      Describe:  It was light. There was no sense of "a" light.; The place was a realm of soft, pearlescent light.  But I did not see "a" light.

Did you meet or see any other beings?  Yes

      Describe:  This was described above.  I recognized them when I saw them, that I have always known them. I continue to feel their direct presence and guidance in my life since the NDE.; There were five beings of light. They had no features.  They were neither seated nor standing; they just were there. They were robed, with hoods, like monks, but they were neither male nor female.  They were in a place of light.  I recognized them immediately as beings that had been with me all my life, although I never knew before this experience that I had any guiding or guardian spirits.  I was happy at this discovery.  What they said is in the narrative.

Did you experience a review of past events in your life?  Uncertain; No

      Describe:  Just that I had mostly finished things up.

Did you observe or hear anything regarding people or events during your experience that could be verified later?  No

Did you see or visit any beautiful or otherwise distinctive locations, levels or dimensions?  Yes

      Describe:  As described above.  There was nothing distinctive about it except for its absolute neutrality.;       Describe:  As described in #10.

Did you have any sense of altered space or time?  Yes

      Describe:  Just in the rapidity of thought transference and in being in my room, then there, then in my room, then there, with each being equally real.  There was no sense of travel.  Just change. ; I am used to the usual spatial dimensions of height, width, depth and time.  In the encounters with my guides, none of these usual forms of perception applied.

Did you have a sense of knowing special knowledge, universal order and/or purpose?  Yes; Uncertain

      Describe:  In the sense that we were discussing the end of my life tasks and the possible ending or continuance of life in the body.

Afterwards, there was an ABSENCE of knowing, special knowledge, and purpose.  My time was up.  There was no longer any inner imperative.  I just started doing whatever was to hand.

Well, despite disability, I did feel a real mission to care more for and about my husband and my son.  So it was personal rather than universal.

Did you reach a boundary or limiting physical structure?  No

Did you become aware of future events?  Uncertain

      Describe:  Not really. They said things would be hard, but I had no idea.  I'm glad I didn't and still don't know what's ahead.; In a sense.  When they told me "It will be hard," I did not know that such disabling physical illness was ahead.  The second time I was gravely ill, they came to me, instead of me to them.  They said that really difficult times were ahead, things that I "could not even imagine."  Now I know that they meant the changes that would come after the world trade center attack and my husband's seemingly permanent loss of job.  And perhaps other things to come.

Were you involved in or aware of a decision to return to the body?  Yes

      Describe:  Yes.  But when you say "you," it was not me per se that made the decision.  It was my soul.  No emotion.; There was no emotion.  I just knew the first time that I had not finished my work.  And the second time that I would undergo any difficulty just to spend a few more sessions with my newly found teacher.

Did you have any psychic, paranormal or other special gifts following the experience you did not have prior to the experience?  Uncertain; Yes

      Describe:  Before my disability, I had two years in which I got to start a special innovative educational program in the high school where I was working.  That was a gift to me, to be able to go out with a sense of having contributed something to my field.

I was always pretty intuitive, but since the NDE, subtle things are more open to me. I have the sense sometimes now that other people's guides can communicate to me and through me.  And people call me now when someone has died, and the messages that come through seem to have significance for them.  On two occasions when I was in the vicinity of someone passing over, I saw and understood them. And now I can "read" auras, if there is a "need to know."

More intuitive.  More "channeling" of people who have passed over and have messages for loved ones.

Did you have any changes of attitudes or beliefs following the experience?  Yes; Uncertain

      Describe:  As stated before, the NDE initiated a significant chain of events.

All my attitudes have changed or are in the process of changing.  However, my character defects, I am sorry to say, are relatively unchanged. At least I can see them now, and being disabled prevents me from going out and actively making more mistakes based on my ignorance.

I have learned not to make a big deal out of pain or incapacity.  Every time it looks like I might get back on my feet, a new physical problem lays me low again, so I have had the opportunity to learn to be happy irrespective of what is or is not happening in my life.  I have learned to separate hope from expectation.  All of this is worth learning.

When I had burned off enough karmas, Buddhism came into my life.  To become a better wife and mother, I had to become a Buddhist.  And what joy has come of that!

I became a Buddhist, once I met my lamas from past lives.  And I have been led to know, from visions and from being directly told, that my interest in Tibetan Buddhism is not unique to this lifetime.  So, that was a surprise.

Has the experience affected your relationships?  Daily life?  Religious practices etc.?  Career choices?  It wasn't the experience, but the aftermath, that affected my relationships, daily life, and religious practices. After the whooping cough, I went from being a perpetually active, relentlessly creative, over-working, bossy, controller to a helpless infant.  My husband, who had handed almost all responsibilities over to me, had to now do everything himself.  This was very good for us both in the long run. 

My mind was too blasted to meditate.  I started to rehabilitate my mind through art.  A year of EEG neuro-feedback also helped.  And after Buddhism, doing intricate works of art in the Tibetan style really helped.

When I was young, I really wanted to be an artist.  So these endeavors have weakened the hold of this desire, and I will be free to do other things in my next human incarnations.

I think that it was originally my karma to leave this life without ever meeting my Buddhist teachers.  But when I decided to stay, then events were set in motion.  Several people who witnessed the changes in me have become Buddhists.  Buddhism has made it so much easier to meet the difficulties that were foretold.

Have you shared this experience with others?  Yes

      Describe:  My friends are new-agers like me, so they didn't have any reaction except to know that it was "true."  The end result of the decision to stay, becoming a Buddhist seven years afterwards, has profoundly influenced everyone close to me. How? They are all studying Buddhism!

No one could understand it.  My husband was hurt and unhappy to hear that I was so close to death. He did not know it at the time.

What emotions did you experience following your experience?  Terror, confusion, desolation, and eventually, peace.; Fear, confusion, bewilderment.

What was the best and worst part of your experience?  Best - it's nice to have a physical image in my mind when I think of my guides.

There isn't any worst.; Meeting my guides was the best. There was no worst.

Is there anything else you would like to add concerning the experience?  Yes.  I had another invitation to go, in 1999.  For about 14 months preceding that, I knew my time was short.  I asked my guides what this was about, and they said, with humor, "Let's just say that the amount of work you have to do and the amount of time you have to do it in don't quite match."

In the Fall of 1999, another virus, with asthma this time, put my life in jeopardy.  This time the guides came to me.  I sensed them in my bedroom. They told me that there were some really really rough times ahead, much worse than being sick.  My sense was that it has to do with tremendous losses, such as dire economics or earth changes, the loss of home and family and the like. 

I could leave if I wanted, they said, but it would not be instantaneous, as it would have been the first time. I sensed their love -- they wanted to spare me what was ahead.  But I had recently found my lama and I knew I could not practice dharma without a human body, so I asked to stay.  I won't get another chance to choose.  Next time they call, that's it!

I thought karma was unalterably set.  I did not know how much choices can influence outcomes and direction.

Has your life changed specifically as a result of your experience?  Yes; No

      Describe:  It was my destiny, as a result of the NDE, to eventually pick up on the activities and acquaintances from a life as a Tibetan monk.  If I had died nine years ago, this opportunity would have had to wait until some other lifetime.  Despite the continuing adversities connected with being disabled, everyone around me is happier since Buddhism claimed me.

I think I had to become a Buddhist in order to fulfill my wish to become a better wife and mother.

Following the experience, have you had any other events in your life, medications or substances which reproduced any part of the experience?  No

Did the questions asked and information you provided accurately and comprehensively describe your experience?  Yes