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Sally L's Experience

Experience description:   

As an adolescent and young adult, I regarded myself as an agnostic -- not believing nor disbelieving in God.  However, when I was 19 a friend challenged me to read the Bible and, after doing so, I was stirred and began to wonder about the possibility that there might be a God after all.  One evening, after reading the Bible, I decided simply to ask, "God, if you are real, can you please let me know?"  That was the extent of my prayer/question, and I proceeded about my evening -- washing dishes, tidying up the house, putting my son to bed, etc., and soon forgot all about it.  That night, as I lay in bed, just before I drifted off to sleep, I felt myself rising out of my body!  By "myself," I mean my consciousness, because I was in fact fully conscious, yet I felt myself rising up toward the ceiling of my bedroom, while my body lay beneath me. 

As I rose, I perceived what was at first a faint white light in the distance in the direction of the ceiling.  The light rapidly grew brighter as I advanced toward it, and I remember being worried that, because it was so incredibly bright -- much brighter and far whiter than our physical sun -- it would burn my eyes.  Thus I was a little fearful as I approached the light.  To my delight, however, when the light seemed to be almost right before me and nearly at its full radiant brilliance, my "eyes" were not uncomfortable in the slightest -- in fact there was no physical feeling at all involved in the encounter.  I was further delighted to discover that the light was not some inanimate physical object, like our sun, but a Being, with intelligence and personality, that distinctly communicated to me (without words) the feeling that it "liked" and loved me intensely -- it seemed to adore me in fact, like a mother or father adores its child, but magnified by a factor of  millions -- and that its love for me was absolutely without condition or judgment. 

As I continued to approach the light, I basked momentarily in this intense love and acceptance, this being a fairly unfamiliar feeling for me.  I had had an extremely difficult life up to that point -- a lonely, chubby, illegitimate child from a totally dysfunctional family with an abusive, raging, alcoholic adoptive father who deeply resented my existence, a distant, submissive, defenseless mother who allowed him to denigrate and abuse me, and a younger brother who generally ignored me; myself growing into a socially isolated unwed teenage mother who dropped out of 10th grade to get a job after the birth of my son. 

Even though I know now that my parents and brother have always loved me, they never showed it back then, so I just didn't know much about what it felt like to be genuinely loved at the time of this experience, thus the awesome sense of adoration emanating from the light proved too much for me -- actually, I think I was somewhat afraid, which made me want to retreat from the light.  It's difficult to explain -- I loved this new feeling of being loved, but at the same time, it scared me a little --I think I was fearful subconsciously that this love was only temporary -- that the light would soon grow not to like me, too, just like my family.  But then again, the light was somehow making it clear to me that it adored and accepted me just as I was, right then and there, regardless of everything.  In all, however, it was rather overwhelming. 

I remember ultimately feeling unworthy of such intense and perfect love, and I wanted to retreat from it.  I recall perceiving that the light understood, and was not offended in the least, being so gentle that it would never want to make me uncomfortable for a moment. At that moment I began to return to my body.  Amazingly, I think this entire experience transpired over the course of a moment or two, although it felt like a much longer period of time.  After I was back in my body, I lay awake for hours contemplating the experience, giddy with the knowledge that there was in fact a God -- He had certainly made that clear -- and that He loved ME!!!  HE loved ME!!!  He had answered my prayer almost instantly, and WOW!! what an answer! 

Over the next month or so, I was ecstatic from the experience, and my family and acquaintances noticed a major change in my demeanor.  I remained "high" from the knowledge that there is a God who loves me! for many months, but eventually, life difficulties eroded this feeling somewhat.  Over the 30 years since this experience, however, it is this single incident which has kept me going during my darkest hours.  I have had many low points and lonely hours during this time, however, whenever I reflect back to that night, I am instantly refreshed and reinvigorated -- ready to continue on in meeting life's challenges, sustained by the knowledge that God is real, and He loves me.

Any associated medications or substances with the potential to affect the experience?     No      

Was the kind of experience difficult to express in words? Yes     Words are inadequate to describe the experience generally, but even more the overwhelming sense of unconditional love I felt emanating from the brilliant white light I saw -- a love so overwhelming that it was almost unbearable and from which I initiated a retreat back to my body.

At the time of this experience, was there an associated life threatening event?          No      

What was your level of consciousness and alertness during the experience?           The incident occurred before I began to drift off to sleep.  Although I was in a completely relaxed state, I was fully conscious and alert.

Was the experience dream like in any way?   No.  Although rather confusing at first, it was very real -- so real, in fact, that at first I thought I was approaching a sun like our physical sun.

Did you experience a separation of your consciousness from your body?     Yes     I was unaware of my appearance during the experience.  I was only aware that my body was beneath me and that I was no longer in it.  I don't think I had any particular form.  I was experiencing all this as a matter of conscious thought and feeling only, with no physical involvement.

What emotions did you feel during the experience?            At first extreme curiosity and some confusion -- What's going on?! -- Then anxiety that my eyes would be burned by the light -- then delight that they weren't -- then joy that I was loved and cherished by the light -- then fear that light might stop loving me -- then somewhat unworthy of the love of the light -- then, when I returned to my body, ecstasy for months over the knowledge that God exists and that He loves me, regardless

Did you hear any unusual sounds or noises?           No.  There were no sound or noises at all during the experience.

Did you see a light?           Yes     At first it looked like an extremely white and brilliant version of our physical sun.  As I approached, it grew increasingly intense in brilliance and whiteness, so much so that I was at first fearful it would burn my eyes.  Throughout the encounter, it remained an extremely brilliant, white, radiating light.

Did you notice how your 5 senses were working, and if so, how were they different?          Yes     I thought I was seeing through my eyes, but apparently I was not because the light caused none of the physical sensations involved in sight.  Further, my body was beneath me, on the bed.

Did you have any sense of altered space or time?   Yes     I thought the experience lasted a lot longer than it actually did.  I remember glancing at the clock when I returned to my body and being amazed that the entire experience had lasted only a  moment or so.

Did you have a sense of knowing, special knowledge, universal order and/or purpose?    Uncertain            During the actual experience, I came to KNOW, as far as it is possible for any human being to know anything, that there is in fact a God (or at least a highly spiritual Being), who loves us completely and unconditionally, and assumes the form of a brilliant, white light.  Since then I was amazed to learn of the phenomenon of near death experiences where others have also seen the bright, white light.  Although I was unaware of it during the actual experience, I now believe it had the definite purpose of leading me to the Baha'i Faith.

Did you reach a boundary or limiting physical structure?             Uncertain      I remember being vaguely concerned that I was not in my physical body, and wondering what would happen if I remained that way a long time.  However, this thought was in the back of my mind during the experience, as the appearance of the brilliant, white light was far more compelling than my curiosity over bodily separation.

Did you become aware of future events?       No      

Were you involved in or aware of a decision regarding your return to the body?       Yes     I felt unworthy of the love emanating from the light and wanted to retreat from it.  The light was aware that I felt this way, even though I didn't want it to know because I did not want to offend it.  However, the light understood, was not offended, and my unspoken desire to return to my body was honored instantly.

Did you have any psychic, paranormal or other special gifts following the experience that you did not have prior to the experience?         Yes     Too many to detail.  I found the Baha'i Faith in an extremely psychic manner and am dumbfounded every time I contemplate what I was blessed enough to "stumble upon."  I am almost completely in tune with my children (I have three) and know intuitively when things happen to them, when they are feeling distressed, or "low," to the extent that I completely trust my intuitions in this regard and act on them.  Although not as strong or as accurate, I am intuitively tuned in to my parents, brother and nephews. 

Very often, I am already aware of developments within the Baha'i community before they are officially announced -- it seems sometimes as if we (Baha'is) are spiritually linked with each other and other Higher Powers.  I have had many, many experiences of prayers being answered very directly.  I feel the constant presence of a Guardian Angel or Guide helping me out and communicating with me constantly.  I had one very real experience in this regard:  I never knew my biological father, although I did find out at the age of 14 that my "dad" was my adoptive father and that I had been illegitimate.  When I was 25, the day after Christmas, a couple of months after the birth of my second child, I had a strong urge to drive up the California Coast (I live in Los Angeles). 

I ended up on the beach in Santa Barbara and spent the day there, playing with my baby girl on the sand, and hanging out with the friend who traveled with me.  We spent the night a little further up the coast in Atascadero, then drove back home to L.A.  A couple nights after I returned home, I was laying in my bed and had a strong, overwhelming sense that my biological father was there with me.  I had never met him -- I didn't even know his name or anything about him -- yet I knew he was there.  It felt like a cool breeze passing over me, and I felt emanating from this presence a sense of extreme regret and sadness.  After that, I became obsessed with finding my biological father and commenced a search. 

Only two or three weeks later, although I didn't find him, I was successful in identifying and locating his sister, my biological aunt, who lived in Berkeley, California.  When I called her on the phone and disclosed who I was, she didn't question or doubt who I said I was, but sounded very sad.  Then she disclosed to me that my biological father had just died a couple of weeks ago.  He lived in Berkeley, a few blocks from her, but had spent the Christmas holidays with his mother in Los Angeles.  The day after Christmas, he drove to Santa Barbara, California, to do some fishing.  He passed away from a heart attack on December 26, in his motel room, which was right up the street from the beach where I had cavorted, that very day, with my baby daughter and traveling companion!!!  We were both there, in the same place at the same time, on the very day he died!!! 

I know now that it was in fact my biological father who "visited" me that evening a couple of nights later as I lay in my bed and he, perhaps, was revisiting his life, and I believe very strongly that he is the Guardian Angel who has helped to heal me over the 25 years since this incident.  Due to my horrible childhood and adolescence, I was a psychological mess as a young adult, even though I was a Baha'i and had wonderful spiritual guidance from the Baha'i writings. On several occasions, I had sought the services of various psychologists, with no success. Ironically, my biological father had a Ph.D. in psychology and was a psych professor at one of the universities in San Francisco. 

My aunt told me he would stay up until the wee hours of the night counseling various students and others in distress -- that he would never decline any plea for help -- not even a telephone call at 3:00 in the morning on a school night!!  Over the years, my Guardian Angel has given me such sound psychological advice (psychically and intuitively), and worked such wonders in healing me that I am convinced he is my ascended biological father, and that he may be doing his own "penance" so to speak, for his failure to participate in my life while he was here on Earth.  Nevertheless, I believe I have gotten to know him very well, and he has certainly been more than a father to me since his passing!  Also ironically, I believe my Guardian Angel/biological father is now helping to heal my adoptive father who, although he was abusive and terrible, really is a good, decent person suffering himself from the affects of an extremely abusive and deprived childhood.  I have prayed for this assistance for him for a long time, and I am now seeing definite signs that my adoptive father is "talking" to someone who is helping him heal emotionally, even though I know for a fact that he is not using the services of any "earthly" counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist!

Did you have any changes of attitudes or beliefs following the experience?   Yes     I changed from an agnostic to a firm believer in God, and have never wavered since.  I believe I KNOW God is REAL!

How has the experience affected your relationships? Daily life? Religious practices? Career choices?       This experience has completely defined my life.  It has influenced each and every life choice I have made since then.  I am a Baha'i because of this experience.  I am a teacher because I am a Baha'i, which is because of this experience.  This experience has been the most pivotal and significant moment of my life.

Has your life changed specifically as a result of your experience?         Yes     Please refer to all I have written above.  Essentially, this experience constituted my spiritual birth, or "rebirth," as some put it.  I was born through this experience, from the material world, into the world of the spirit, of which I had previously been totally unaware.

Have you shared this experience with others?         Yes     My daughters were inspired, and are a little envious that they have not had similar experiences.  My son was interested, but not totally convinced.  My mother was entirely skeptical.  I would never share such an intimate experience with my adoptive father, brother, or other acquaintances.

What emotions did you experience following your experience?  Complete and total ecstasy, as described above.

What was the best and worst part of your experience?      The best part was learning that there is a God and that He loves me.  There was nothing negative about the experience -- even the fact that ultimately I felt unworthy of God's love.  On reflection, I think this may be my task in life -- to learn to love and accept myself enough to relax, with confidence and without reservation, in God's tender and loving embrace.

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?               Uncertain      The actual experience cannot be adequately explained in words.  There are no words to describe such events.  I've done my best, but it's still inadequate.

Please offer any suggestions you may have to improve this questionnaire.    No.  This was a very thorough questionnaire.  Thank you for allowing me to share this experience with you.