Experience Description

Shortly after my first few sips of my morning coffee on the day in question, I felt an odd discomfort in my upper chest, rather like one feels when one swallows something that doesn't quite ""go down."" I drank some water, but the sensation did not lessen. To the contrary, over the next hour or so it increased and I felt quite tired and physically ill-at-ease. However, I had a very important project to complete at work that morning -- one which one of my co-workers needed done as soon as possible for a critical case on which we were both working. So, despite feeling progressively more unwell, I decided to go to work, get the project done and then, likely, return home.

It was quite difficult getting to work. My usual ten-minute walk to the subway took nearly twice as long, and for once I actually rode the escalators rather than walking down or up them. When I reached my office I was feeling very weak, but tried to set about completing the project. Shortly thereafter, I simply became too weak to continue, and the pain in my upper chest had both worsened and spread to my right arm and my neck. I spoke with one of the attorneys I work with and he was immediately concerned by both my appearance and symptoms and said I should go to the hospital at once. One of my co-workers took me by cab to the hospital (I had refused to allow them to call 911). During the trip, I was extremely concerned that the project I had come in to complete remained unfinished and that I had left my co-worker in the lurch. (This is important to my particular case later on.)

After getting into a wheelchair brought by one of the hospital personnel, I passed out in the emergency room and awoke briefly, lying on my back with numerous people bending over me removing my clothing and pasting various little white tabs to my chest. I had been in moderate, but not agonizing, pain for approximately two and a half hours and was rather weary of the entire sequence of events. I remember saying to myself ""This is becoming very boring.""

Suddenly, I distinctly heard a very odd sound -- between a ""pop"" and a ""snap"" -- which seemed to originate “within” the upper rear area of the right side of my head, approximately one and one-half inches above and slightly behind the top of my ear.

My consciousness, I discovered, was now outside my body. I initially wondered whether I was dreaming, since the experience was somewhat similar to lucid dreaming, which I had practiced with some success for the past several years. However, I told myself that I could not be dreaming since I was not and had not been asleep. I simultaneously realized that the annoying pain was completely gone and, most surprisingly, that I could see my ""surroundings"" very clearly. I was amazed by this in that, without my glasses, I do not see too clearly at all. I also felt wonderfully alert and full of energy -- the more noticeable after the progressive lethargy I had been feeling for the past couple of hours.

I saw a number of people working on something to my left; I ""knew"" that I was the object of their concern and efforts. It appeared that they were wearing a dark but somewhat luminous red-colored clothing; I thought this odd in that the hospital personnel had been wearing a greenish-colored uniform. I could not hear their words, but sensed a low ""hum"" of what I assumed to be conversation, and I was aware that they were very diligently engaged in some endeavor in which I was expected to be of some assistance.

I was very strongly moved by a feeling of failure to meet my responsibilities by ""copping out"" and ""running off."" The sense also came to me that I was having a near death experience (""Aha! So that's what it is!"", I remember saying to myself) and also that ""it isn't supposed to be like this"" (the gnawing sense of having abandoned my responsibilities coupled with the lack of ""tunnels"" or ""bright lights"" or other paraphernalia from the NDE literature). I considered this for a few moments and decided that it might be wise to return to my body, lest the sense of failure increase. By this act of will (or so it seemed), I instantly returned to my body and the annoying pain. The ""guilt"" was gone, however -- as was the clearness of vision and alertness of mind.

Back in my body, I thought for a moment and wondered if I could get out again; I was very uncomfortable at that point. Instantly, I was back out, only now the working figures were in front of me instead of to my side. There was no noticeable sound accompanying this exit. Again, I could see very clearly and the pain was completely gone. However, the sense of failure in doing my duty was back again. This time I gave serious consideration to the value of staying where I was and dealing with the sense of failure, or of returning to my body. After some very serious consideration, I decided that it was extremely unfair of me to stay where I was when others were depending on me, and so returned. As a test, I tried to leave the body once more. This time, my efforts were unsuccessful.

In reflection, as I was on my way to undergo an angioplasty, I realized that during the entire episode, even the earliest moments, I had had no fear of dying nor did I consider any need or even desire to ""make it right"" with the Christian (or any other) god. Indeed, my overall impression of the entire experience and its related phenomena were extremely interesting, though physically unpleasant. My primary mental focus during the entire series of events had been on my regret for failing to accomplish the work project which I had been assigned and my desire not to put my co-workers out any more than I already had.

Background Information:

Gender: Male

Date NDE Occurred: November 1999

NDE Elements:

At the time of your experience, was there an associated life-threatening event? Yes Heart attack Clinical death I had a heart attack. The attending physicians stated that my heart had stopped beating and that it took ""the maximum number of electroshocks to restart it"" (they did not say what that number was, nor did I have the presence of mind to ask).

How do you consider the content of your experience? Positive

The experience included: Out of body experience

Did you feel separated from your body? Yes I did not see myself. However, I had a total sense of continuity of self-identity. Or, to phrase it differently, whatever was outside my body was me, though I did not have the opportunity (or inclination) to examine what I looked like in that state. In fact, I had no concern whatsoever as to what my appearance might be.

At what time during the experience were you at your highest level of consciousness and alertness? I believe the above gives a fair idea. However, during the events leading up to the heart attack itself, I had felt progressively weaker and less clear-headed. An important concern had been on not getting nauseous in the cab (the poor cab driver was horrified that I might throw up in his taxi, a contingency which I tried to assure him was quite unlikely), and I was concentrating very hard on not deceiving the fellow in that regard. During the NDE itself, I felt myself to be very clear-headed and alert. There was also a dispassionateness that was quite clear and real, though the sense of failure to meet my responsibility was over-riding. But there was no sense at all of ""compulsion"" or that I ""had"" to do something. Only a realization that I would be responsible for the results of my decision, for good or ill. This, however, was not a cause for fear or other strong emotional reaction; rather it was a simple realization of fact.

Did time seem to speed up or slow down? Everything seemed to be happening at once; or time stopped or lost all meaning I did not really have any sense of time at all, but space seemed quite different. There was me, a space (which did not seem to have limits) and the group of people working on my body. Or, perhaps from a different perspective, that I was on the edge of two entirely different ""spatial constructs"" -- one ""behind"" me and one which I could see ahead of me or to my sides. In considering the matter, I might say that my sense of time and space became for the duration of my NDE more internal rather than external.

Did you pass into or through a tunnel? No

Did you encounter or become aware of any deceased (or alive) beings? Yes I believe that the individuals I perceived on the two occasions and from two different angles were the hospital attendants who were trying to revive me, though for a moment that also subsumed and represented to me my co-workers as well. I did not see or in any way sense other ""beings"" and certainly no ""supernatural"" ones. To the contrary, I had a feeling of personal solitude (which is one that I prefer when I am engaged in serious matters) and a sense that I was in a position to make my own decisions and judgments as to how the matter would proceed. I did not particularly want to meet anyone as I was quite absorbed in my own thoughts at the moment and would not have welcomed such an interruption.

Did you see an unearthly light? Uncertain To clarify: Not in the sense of the ""bright light"" so often described in NDE literature. However, as already mentioned, the hospital workers appeared to glow slightly in a dark or dull reddish hue. My visual sense was one of clarity, but there was no ""bright light."" I am curious whether the reddish hue might be described in some more or less reliable book regarding the human aura (if such exists) and perhaps represents a state of excitement or anxiety or some similar emotion?

Did you seem to enter some other, unearthly world? A clearly mystical or unearthly realm Unless you would call a realization of continuity of self-identity outside the body to be a ""beautiful dimension."" For me, it was and remains so, albeit a very personal dimension. I believe, however, that I could have created such a dimension in my own perception had I decided to do so. (This may sound very odd unless one is familiar with practices in lucid dreaming wherein one regularly modifies the dream construct in which one finds oneself to suit one's fancy.)

The experience included: Strong emotional tone

What emotions did you feel during the experience? I believe these are covered above. But, I can add that there was a sense of freedom, but one greatly influenced by my state of mind at the time. I sensed that my ""guilt"" for not completing my project could tie me down in some unpleasant way or be a hindrance of some sort in my out-of-body state. I weighed the possibilities that the sense might increase or eventually be conquered. I did not come to any definite conclusion, but decided that it “might” increase, which I felt would be undesirable. I would add that I did not feel either fear or exaltation. It was merely a continuation (or culmination) of the preceding events and seemed entirely natural and reasonable. I was rather surprised that I was not afraid.

The experience included: Special Knowledge

Did you suddenly seem to understand everything? Everything about the universe I felt a confirmation of my own personal ideas of the after-death state to be present, at least in part considering the limitations of the experience. I also felt that my questions as to the likelihood of continuity of self-identity to be at least somewhat answered (though whether I would have ""continued"" forever or for a greater or lesser period of ""time"" I do not know). To me, a confirmation of such, even to a limited degree, is definitely a form of ""special knowledge"" which not too many people have the opportunity to experience personally. For me, ""faith"" is no longer necessary and is not even desirable; indeed, faith strikes me as a sort of child's toy. I do not say this to be arrogant; merely that to me, faith is no longer of great personal interest or relevance.

Did scenes from your past come back to you? My past flashed before me, out of my control

Did scenes from the future come to you? No To the contrary, I had a profound sense of "now-ness" where there really was no time to be divided into past, present or future. What would (or might) happen was so closely linked to the "now" of what was happening that it seemed to be an integral part of it, rather than as a time divided from it.

Did you come to a border or point of no return? I came to a barrier that I was not permitted to cross; or was sent back against my will I believe this is described in far too much detail above.

God, Spiritual and Religion:

Did you have a change in your values and beliefs because of your experience? Yes I firmly believe that the Jewish-Christian-Islamic belief in one life/one death followed by an avenging/rewarding judgment is totally irrelevant to my particular existence. I feel as though I, personally, had been liberated from subjection to a subtly alien and (to me) vaguely repugnant belief system which I never really cared for but which I feared wielded some power over me. Conversely, I find a deeper respect and desire to learn more about certain Eastern belief systems, such as Buddhism and others which present existence in a context wherein the individual is the source of any "judgment" in the after-death state. This latter context seems more resonant with my own experience. All in all, I am much more confident in my own intuitions on such matters “as they pertain to me”. What may be the case for others, I do not know. And I do not believe it is of any great importance for me to know. I think the after-death experience may well be quite different for different people. Contrary to many NDE experiences of which I have read, I feel no overwhelming urge to greater compassion or charity or other expressions of benevolence. (Nor do I feel any urge to the opposites.) Unlike many who claim to have had such experiences, I find my own to be uniquely and intensely personal−a need for self-knowledge and improvement which does not involve others. I think that this may arise at least in part from a realization that I cannot really help another person in what is likely to be most needful until I learn to do so for myself.

After the NDE:

Was the experience difficult to express in words? No

Do you have any psychic, non-ordinary or other special gifts after your experience that you did not have before the experience? Yes Over the past two years, I find that I very often have dreams about my co-workers that have some relevance to what is going on in their lives at the moment, sometimes down to very unusual minor details. I first started mentioning this to them jokingly. But I have found that very often they are astounded by the dreams. I also find lucid dreaming to be much easier and more fulfilling. Most peculiar is a constant sense of being here (in this time and space), but also not being here. It is not an unpleasant feeling, nor a "schizophrenic" sense of being split in two. Actually, it feels somehow more "complete" than my previous sense of the division between what we call "life" and "death" or "this world" and "the next." I rather feel a comfortable sensation of having one foot in each "world" and a concomitant sense of equilibrium. However, I find the peace of mind that has remained with me from the experience and my desire to ensure an equanimity of mind (e.g., an avoidance of excessive feeling of responsibility) has been the most important "special gift." I believe that as some Buddhist philosophies teach, the final thoughts and "passions" of the mind at the time of death are the most critical. Therefore, I try to avoid "hindering emotions" which might result in feelings equivalent to the "responsibility guilt" which I felt during my NDEs

Are there one or several parts of your experience that are especially meaningful or significant to you? The confirmation of personal continuity of identity was, by far, the most spectacular part of the experience. The realization that my thoughts of the moment had such an impact on my mental state outside the body was the ""worst"" -- but perhaps also very good in that I learned (I believe) what I must work on to ensure a fully positive experience when I depart from my body finally without any option to return. All in all, the realization of continuity was frosting, I think. The cake was learning that my thoughts need working on. So, I suppose, there were only ""best"" parts to the experience.

Have you ever shared this experience with others? Yes I select my ""others"" with some care, since I don't think most people would even be interested, let alone believe me. The reactions have, by and large, been positive. However, I have a feeling that what I experienced may be of greatest importance to me as a learning experience rather than to others. I think that until other people experience the same, or a similar, event they can only react academically or emotionally, and not certainly experientially. And it is the experience, not the hearing of the experience, that I think is important. Those, for example, who are only titillated by hearing of such experiences probably garner more harm than benefit from the hearing.

At any time in your life, has anything ever reproduced any part of the experience? No I have, FYI, always avoided drugs because I do not like having my mind broken into and burglarized by foreign intruders. If I were told that I could repeat my NDEs by using this or that particular substance, I would avoid doing so. I am convinced, in my own case, that what I accomplish regarding NDEs or similar experiences must arise solely from myself or not at all.

Is there anything else that you would like to add about your experience? I have no sense that what I experienced must be universal. To the contrary, I tend to believe that what individuals will experience will be very much ""self-generated"" based on their beliefs, mindset, etc. There may be a ""god"" or ""gods"" who take some ""souls"" to their bosom; there may be ""bardo"" experiences similar to those described in the Tibetan Book of the Dead. I don't know, and I don't think it is important that I do know. I have the feeling that the moment of entering into the after-death state may be the most uniquely personal of all human experiences and that it is a realm where we voluntarily or involuntarily will create that which we find.

Are there any other questions that we could ask to help you communicate your experience? I think the questionnaire was very complete and I regret that I haven't the skill or wit to respond to it as it merits. Thank you for the opportunity to explain my experiences, however poorly. I appreciate the chance to do so and hope it may be of some use to you.