Carolyn B's Experience
PRIOR TO THE EXPERIENCE
I was in the midst of another episode of debilitating depression. Every moment was so infused with psychic pain that I wanted to end my life. A friend recommended enrolling in a 3-day confrontational encounter group intensive, and I did so as a final resort before going ahead with my plan to pull the plug during a sky-diving event the following week. I was 29 years old.
At the time of the experience, I was standing in the centre of a large room. There were 35 other participants, plus 1 or 2 'facilitators'. It was not a spiritual or religious group, but more along the lines of group therapy. The facilitator switched on the theme music from Jonathan Livingston Seagull, and asked me to put my arms out. I felt stupid. But then the room disappeared...and I flew.
A few years ago I penned the following in an attempt to describe what I eventually discovered was an experience very similar in kind to accounts of Near Death Experience, even though I was in a state of relative physical health at the time.
'Why are you here?' the leader asked
of each and every one...
We'd gathered in a special place
to see what could be done
about our lives. There were some
whose faith had faltered, many souls
no longer favored living out their
lives in full, desperate for any chance,
any reason to advance.
'Why are you here?' he said to me,
'and please be candid here'.
'I fear I've lost my heart' I heard me say.
'I see no reason why I'd stay another day.
I've lost my way. I've failed in life,
I have no love. It hurts with every breath,
and though I love this earth the worth
of living drives my soul to death'.
At once the room began to fade
and there in place of chairs and table
stretched an ocean far beneath my feet;
my body lost its gravity
and I was flying free.
Day transformed to night
and I was soaring in the body
of a graceful bird in flight...
You know, you always think a bird
would sweep its wings in weightless air,
a miracle it hovers there.
But I can tell you how
a bird remains aloft:
the air is neither thin, nor soft.
It's rather like a runner on an earthen track,
a great beast threshing through the snow,
a turtle through the ocean's flow
for solid wind supports the wing -
she does not fly, but swim.
I flew, this bird of me,
I flew above the white-washed waves,
swift and fast and effort-free.
I swam above the great blue sea
until I reached the end of earth.
And still I flew beyond its girth.
Then, upward now - I don't know how.
And, though the night was black and clear
within that bird I flew, sans fear,
toward a single light that shone
far brighter than the brightest sight
a soul could bear.
This wingless creature headed there.
Nearer to the light I flew,
I left the earth, I left my life,
I left the inner seas and met
that Light that cannot be,
where Love itself, the Love of All might dwell...
And here I pause.
There is no clause to tell
the miracle of Being
except it was the living breathing
opposite of 'hell',
the very light a hue I'd never seen.
It might have been a quiet blue,
so soothing was the spirit there,
or gold, or silver-green.
What are the words to make
one see that quality of empathy
that emanated endlessly?
Indeed of Love there was no ration,
light itself was Pure Compassion:
'Love that passeth understanding'.
All my petty thoughts demanding
answers faded clear away,
They were as naught before this Being,
Knowing All, Timeless Seeing.
On I soared toward the core,
and as it loomed I knew that if I entered
through that door
my life on earth was set to end.
I prayed to God.
This UNBELIEVER said:
'My Lord, don't send me back!
Don't leave me as before!'...
the whole of me, my deeds, my ills,
my petty life exposed - and still
the Light emitted nothing less
and Love, unending...
when I heard, without the word
a 'being' speak inside my head:
"We've led you to the Light Eternal;
Yes, we've seen your pain,
but now is not your time to go,
your work on earth is incomplete.
The choice is yours to make -
but, bear this, Child:
what seems to you much trial indeed
and fathomless travail,
is nonetheless the key to peace
and Wisdom will prevail."
This voice without a voice then said,
"In Life itself, rejoice,
for there is something each must do
before your time on earth is through"
And though I sought to keep my place,
to keep the body in this space,
I knew the life I'd undertaken
was the motive I'd forsaken all
in darkness and unknowing,
there to find the reason
for the stream of Life,
endure each season of the soul,
and through it all to let unfold
these things of heaven and of hell,
and know that everything is well.
Then back to earth I fell.
That was 37 years ago. For some days after the experience I had the sense of viewing the world from above. The powerful, life-changing experience initiated a search for the meaning of life in general and the meaning of my life in particular - to find the purpose of one's life on earth. I cancelled my plan to commit suicide. The depression I'd been suffering at the time disappeared, although it was a long journey before these episodes left me completely.
At the time
of your experience was there an associated life-threatening event?
The associated life-threatening event -
suicide - was scheduled for a few days hence.
Was the experience difficult to express in words? Yes I did not speak of what happened for a long time afterwards because it was an extremely strong event and I didn't have the vocabulary to describe it. Also I felt people wouldn't understand. But I knew what had happened had very important implications.
At what time during the experience were you at your highest level of consciousness and alertness? I was conscious and alert to the same degree from the moment of leaving my body until I 'crashed' back into it again. At the beginning of the experience I was aware of my body standing in a room on earth at the same time as I was experiencing being in the body of a great bird flying over the ocean.
How did your highest level of consciousness and alertness during the experience compare to your normal everyday consciousness and alertness? Normal consciousness and alertness No difference except for afterwards, when I had a peculiar sense of seeing everything from above.
Please compare your vision during the experience to your everyday vision that you had immediately prior to the time of the experience. My sight was dream-like. The Light was extremely bright, or vivid, not my sight.
Please compare your hearing during the experience to your everyday hearing that you had immediately prior to the time of the experience. The presences in/of the Light spoke telepathically to me.
Did you see or hear any earthly events that were occurring during a time that your consciousness / awareness was apart from your physical / earthly body? No
What emotions did you feel during the experience? While I was in the Light, I experienced a sense of love and compassion such as I'd never known previously. The Light was acceptance without any judgment whatsoever. I was intensely aware how much weight we carry in terms of what we think we ought to be doing, and with the petty problems and the struggles that take up our daily existence. All these concerns fell away from me in the presence of the Light, and I felt an indescribable sense of lightness, peace, freedom and love.
Did you pass into or through a tunnel? No
Did you see an unearthly light? Yes The light began in the far distance in the sky and I was drawn towards it. As I approached it became brighter and brighter, and eventually all encompassing. It seemed to be of a hue I wasn't familiar with in my earthly life.
Did you seem to encounter a mystical being or presence, or hear an unidentifiable voice? I encountered a definite being, or a voice clearly of mystical or unearthly origin
The Light had a palpable presence, and there was a being or beings from another realm. I was convinced the Light was God. It was like being in the presence of God.
Did you encounter or become aware of any beings who previously lived on earth who are described by name in religions (for example: Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha, etc.)? No
Did you encounter or become aware of any deceased (or alive) beings? No
Did you become aware of past events in your life during your experience? No
Did you seem to enter some other, unearthly world? A clearly mystical or unearthly realm
I entered a realm of extraordinary Light.
Did time seem to speed up or slow down? No
Did you suddenly seem to understand everything? No
Did you reach a boundary or limiting physical structure? Yes
I wouldn't describe the limiting structure as physical. There was a "crossing over point" at the core of the Light, which was the line between staying with the body on earth and relinquishing the physical body altogether.
Did you come to a border or point of no return? I came to a definite conscious decision to return to life
I was almost at the core of the Light. I had the definite sense that if I went any further I would cross a boundary...and I knew that if I did, I would die to my earthly body. I wanted to do that. I wanted to cross the line. However the presences spoke to me saying I had not finished what I had come to earth to do, that I must go back. They said the choice was mine, but it was clear the desirable thing to do would be to finished the job. I did not want to go back. But at last I made the decision to return and the instant I did, I was back in my body in the room.
Did scenes from the future come to you? No
During your experience, did you encounter any specific information / awareness suggesting that there either is (or is not) continued existence after earthly life (“life after death”)? Yes The experience was showing me there is life after death of the body.
During your experience, did you encounter any specific information / awareness that God or a supreme being either does (or does not) exist? Yes I reckoned I'd been brought into the presence of God.
During your experience, did you encounter any specific information / awareness that you either did (or did not) exist prior to this lifetime? No
During your experience, did you encounter any specific information / awareness that a mystical universal connection or unity/oneness either does (or does not) exist? No
During your experience, did you encounter any specific information / awareness regarding earthly life’s meaning or purpose? Yes I became aware of how small we are in what we do, how petty are our general daily trials and tribulations, that our minds are caught up in trivia.
During your experience, did you encounter any specific information / awareness regarding earthly life’s difficulties, challenges, or hardships? Yes I became aware of how small we are in what we do, how petty are our general daily trials and tribulations, that our minds are caught up in trivia.
During your experience, did you encounter any specific information / awareness regarding love? Yes Love is unimaginatively powerful and life-giving.
During your experience, did you encounter any other specific information / awareness that you have not shared in other questions that is relevant to living our earthly lives? No
Did you have a sense of knowing special knowledge or purpose? Yes To the extent that I HAD a purpose in my life on earth.
What occurred during your experience included: Content that was entirely not consistent with the beliefs you had at the time of your experience At the time of the NDE I had no belief in any God, yet 'God' was being shown to me. I did not believe in an after-life, yet I was being given the option of leaving my body behind (dying to the flesh) and entering a realm of grace and love in spirit.
How accurately do you remember the experience in comparison to other life events that occurred around the time of the experience? I remember the experience more accurately than other life events that occurred around the time of th That weekend of the NDE has not faded in my memory. I have no idea what else was going on at the time, other than that I'd planned to end my life. I can't even remember where I was living. If I want at any time, I can still 'see' a toned down version of the Light and feel its grace.
Discuss any changes that might have occurred in your life after your experience: At one point I came across the recorded dialogues of J Krishnamurti, and was so taken by what he was saying I moved from Australia to England with the intention of meeting him. But he had died the previous year. Instead of returning home I joined the staff at the Krishnamurti Study Centre in the UK, and lived there for 7 years enquiring into the nature self and of relationship. My relationships with partners had been and continued to be fraught, and aged 50, upon the collapse of my third marriage, I had another complete breakdown. I was referred to a trauma psychiatrist who was a specialist in PTSD, and a few years later to a very progressive psychiatrist who was open to the teachings of the Buddha and other Eastern teachings. Together we pieced together an extremely fragmented childhood, the consequences of which wrought havoc in any relationship I embarked upon, and by the time I finished those meetings I had gained an entirely new outlook. I needed to put a lot of ghosts and monsters to bed before I could recognize that the story of my life was just that - a story. And now I'm free to look beyond the mind's distractions.
My experience directly resulted in: Large changes in my life
Did you have any changes in your values or beliefs after the experience that occurred as a result of the experience? Yes After the experience I believed life to have a value.
Do you have any psychic, non-ordinary or other special gifts after your experience that you did not have before the experience? Yes At different stages I have had conversations with beings from the compassionate, loving light. (I call them the Presences). I am never asked to take what is said to me as 'gospel', so to speak. I now believe that the Light and the Presences and human beings are all part of the same ocean.
Are there one or several parts of your experience that are especially meaningful or significant to you? The overwhelming compassion while in the Light was especially meaningful. It was an experience quite beyond words. Once one's egoic mask drops away, the 'weightlessness' of Being is just unbelievable.
Have you ever shared this experience with others? Yes I think it was about 10 years before I told a close friend of my NDE. She accepted what I said, she said I'd been 'graced'.
Did you have any knowledge of near death experience (NDE) prior to your experience? No
What did you believe about the reality of your experience shortly (days to weeks) after it happened: Experience was definitely real This experience eclipsed anything that ever happened in my earthly life then and now. No love affair, no pleasure, no experience, nothing has ever come close to the feelings and the impressions that were part of that NDE.
What do you believe about the reality of your experience at the current time: Experience was definitely real I seem to have come full circle in the 37 years that have elapsed since the experience. It seems that that original experience is currently being 're-validated'.
Have your relationships changed specifically as a result of your experience? Uncertain It was a long time ago, and though I was 29 at the time of the NDE, I continued to labor under quite a retarded capacity to engage successfully in partnerships for many, many years. Only recently have I experienced what actually love is in partnership. It is allowing one other to be who they are without judgment. After all, we are each other.
Have your religious beliefs/spiritual practices changed specifically as a result of your experience? Yes After the NDE I gained, then lost, and then regained a spiritual perspective.
At any time in your life, has anything ever reproduced any part of the experience? Yes Talking with "the Presences" provided great solace during later bouts of depression. I was able to sense again a 'cloud of compassion' that constantly surrounds us.
Did the questions asked and information that you provided accurately and comprehensively describe your experience? No