It isn't often that you hear someone describe what it's like to die – that's an experience rarely reported; but I have the dubious qualification of having survived three distinctly different "Near Death Experiences," and I'd like to pass on what I learned from them in hopes that you'll never find the need to try this at home. They weren't much fun, but they were very informative.
We most often think of Evolution with a capital E, as in the theory or transitioning movement of successive generations, species adapting across expanses of Time, and so it is. My experiences lead me to consider it as a personal process, largely because of realizing the importance of the Eternal Moment (in which everything alive is always living), and because the evolution of the whole spreads out from the evolution of each individual. As that phenomenon of personal experience, my life's evolution is more directly related to my NDEs than to all but a few of my "conscious" life lessons. It's like peeking behind the curtain...
So here, preceded by brief circumstantial descriptions, are the lessons I learned, set down short and sweet as possible:
I was in a serious single car accident (I'd like to say through no fault of my own, but it wouldn't be true) and instantly found myself suspended in mid-air over the crash site, observing the wreckage, my body, and the ministrations of people who rushed to my aid (God bless'em). Awhile into all the hub-bub, I was gently shepherded off by a kind entity that remained out-of-view into what I can only describe as a soft, warm, cotton-wool cloud, to a place of great ease and comfort where I was sat down in a congenial but serious conversation regarding the true nature of things, and my position within it.
The space was idyllic, like a very nice summer's cafe. There was no sense of Time or of gravity, and certainly not of any want or necessity.Thought operated in a non-sequential, undemanding way – all at once easily, as it were, rather than in any urgent, serial way, like after a good meditation. Here's what I learned:
We are avatars living spiritually within these physical bodies, very much like driving around in a car (...I wish I could afford a new one). Of course, our bodies are us, here in this place we call The World; but they aren't really us – they're the means to experience this sensory experience, "good" and "bad," and to gain as much from it as we can in the service or our own, and our greater collective Self's evolution. That's the job, should you choose to accept it, Mr. Phelps.
"The fundamental, simple, and great mystical realization is that by which you identify yourself with consciousness, rather than with the vehicle of consciousness. Your body is a vehicle of consciousness."
There is a much greater, very different but also infinitely rich realm of conscious experience, very closely connected to the one we experience here and now, that we transition into seamlessly and effortlessly when we die; like walking from one room to another. It is a world of experiencing here and now as well – The Eternal Moment we will always be alive within.
In a fairly unconscious earlier stage of my life, as the result of living in a riotously self-destructive way, I just "keeled over" one night, from one or another of the awful things I was doing to myself (what Dr. Jung would call "a low-level search for God") – or more likely, from all of them. I was paralyzed on the floor, breathless, and unresponsive to the efforts to revive me. The world, as we witness it, disappeared from view, filled-in by a dense bright white cloud – again all easy and comfortable. My invisible host beckoned me watch a "screen" that appeared from the center of my vision and showed me not the most auspicious highlights of my life so far, but instead some moments of profound (nearly obscure) significance. Here's what I learned:
Our lives are woven together with moments that may already be known in this invisible, timeless dimension that enfolds our present world of experience. These moments, these lessons serve to inform and define the quality of our spiritual evolution, and transfer from Life to Life throughout our existence within what's been called "The Akashic Field." Our role is to surmount this human form's inherent obstructions and bring conscious awareness sufficient to learn from these moments, as we can only experience them through our remarkable sensory vehicles – our "selves" in this material dimension. Joy, pain, pride, desire, struggle, surrender, tenderness, realization – these are learning moments within the larger medium of Love that carries us from life to Life.
"Though it is hidden in all things, the Self shines not forth."
Katha Upanishad, 3.12
Kind of heavy stuff, right? ...but amazing and fun. If you think it all sounds rather crazy, may I remind you that we are all on a planet in outer space.
In my last NDE (I hope...), I was attacked by a gang of "skinheads" away out west, who mistook me for a hated homosexual, knocked me out from behind (again the left side of my head), and kicked and stomped me "to death." I'm sure they had their reasons, God bless 'em (I'm sure I gave them some, unconsciously). I was propelled into a much darker place that, while safe, was nonetheless scarier than where I had been in my two previous experiences. I wasn't quite free of my physical struggle, and though I protested and did not want to return to the "world of hurt," a number of loving entities gently forced me back into this (slightly messed-up) being. I awoke with a team of EMTs working on me. Here's what I learned:
We are on a kind of mission. We are here for a reason, not just for "ourselves," but for ourself – our greater collective being. This life is not easy. It's not supposed to be easy, we're here to learn some of our harder lessons, and can't just quit because we feel like it. "Not feeling like it" is something we're meant to learn to master. Service to ourselves – to one another and to our living world – is our means to evolutionary progress. Discovering compassion and Love as the medium in which the Eternal Moment exists is our goal; and recognizing, overcoming, and transmuting the obstructions of sensory self-obsession (the evils of Ego) is a viable necessity – an appropriate calling, in fact. It's a propriety defined by Love and the act of loving all Life.
So I give this to you because being here ain't easy (though it sure can be a lot of fun). Because I want you to know as much joy and as little pain as possible, even though I know I can't do that for you...and I'm not supposed to.
But I would like to meet you there – here – if I can... my sisters and brothers:
"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing
There is a field. I'll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase "each other" doesn't make any sense."
Jalal al-Din Rumi
Read about this and much more in the new book: How to Get to Heaven (Without Really Dying), Wisdom From a Near-Death Survivor, from Llewellyn Worldwide; and this, partially excerpted the first book: How to Survive Life (and Death), A Guide To Happiness In This World and Beyond. Both are available everywhere – but ask for them at your local bookstore!