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.
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.)
getting into a wheelchair brought 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
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."
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
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.
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-coloured
clothing; I thought this odd in that the hospital personnel had been wearing a
greenish-coloured 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.
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 to the 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 essayed to
leave the body once more. This
time, my efforts were unsuccessful.
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
Any associated medications or substances with the potential to
affect the experience:
Was the experience difficult to express in words? No
At the time of the experience, was there an associated life
I had 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).
What was your level of consciousness and alertness during the
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
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
Was the experience dream like in any way?
As I mentioned, it had many of the aspects of a lucid dream but I realized
that it was not a dream as it had commenced while I was fully awake and in
physical distress. I am not totally
unfamiliar with the dream-state and the various mental constructs which can be
created or experienced in that realm of perception.
The experience had similarities to the state of lucid dreaming but was
not -- to my understanding or belief -- a dream state.
Did you experience a separation of consciousness from your body? Yes
Describe your appearance or form apart from your body: 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.
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.
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.
Did you hear any unusual sounds or noises? Please
see number 4 above.
Did you pass into or through a tunnel or enclosure? No
Did you see a light? No
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 meet or see any other 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 experience a review of past events in your life? No
Did you observe or hear anything regarding people or events during
your experience that could be verified later? Uncertain
attending physician said that they "had brought me back to life."
Thus, I assume, that I had been clinically dead, albeit rather briefly.
I understand from my co-worker that the attendants were extremely excited
and told her "we brought him back."
did not witness particulars of what was being done. The "sense impressions" of the moment seemed to be
in the nature of intent on the part of the individuals I observed rather than on
physical actions. My understanding
was that I was watching "interior actions" on their part, rather than
Did you see or visit any beautiful or otherwise distinctive
locations, levels or dimensions?
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.)
Did you have any sense of altered space or time? Yes
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 have a sense of knowing special knowledge, universal order
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 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 you reach a boundary or limiting physical structure? No
from the two different positions in which I found myself after exiting my body,
I did not find any need to move "physically."
I was busy thinking and considering my condition and my need to make a
decision. I did have the sense,
however, that if I decided not to return to my body in a somewhat expeditious
manner, then I would not be able to do so.
Thus, I think one might say that I had a sense of a "boundary"
and what would happen if I "crossed" it.
However, such would be a self-imposed boundary of decision and not an
external crossing from one place to another.
But there was a sort of a sense of being on a threshold, though again
this was one which was more internal than external.
Did you become aware of future events? No
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.
Were you involved in or aware of a decision to return to the body? Yes
believe this is described in far too much detail above.
Did you have any psychic, paranormal or other special gifts
following the experience you did not have prior to the experience? Yes
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.
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.
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.
Did you have any changes of attitudes or beliefs following the
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.
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
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.
Has the experience affected your relationships?
Daily life? Religious
practices etc.? Career choices?
I find that I take life far less seriously than before, but ironically, I
take the *value* of being alive far more seriously.
That is, I do not see that my daily life with its joys, sorrows, and
boring in-betweens, is all that important in any grand scheme; what happens is
simply to be taken as it comes and dealt with expeditiously.
But it is important to "take" what comes in a spirit of
equanimity and dispassion and use it to learn and grow.
This is an area where I find my thoughts (or mental impressions) very
difficult to describe.
guess what I would like to say is that I now see "life" (this life) as
a schoolroom filled with exercises to prepare me for a more valid expression of
my own personal existence as an independent entity.
The exercises are not, in themselves, important.
But they must be used for what is to come and for the experiential value
which they seek to imbue. I must do
my homework not primarily for the sake of the homework itself, but for the sake
of what it will teach me beyond its immediate "grading."
I must learn more about who the "I" is that popped out of my
body and how that "I" can express its will and mental constructs in a
way that will be positive. And I
must discover what "positive' really is.
Have you shared this experience with others? Yes
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.
What emotions did you experience following your experience? Great
joy. And inner calm.
And a sort of controlled excitement.
All rolled into one. It was
a very good experience, a supreme "learning experience."
I am still amazed by it, and I consider it and the implications I
perceive in it every day. I
sometimes think of it as the spiritual equivalent of puberty.
A whole new way of living.
What was the best and worst part of your experience?
The confirmation of personal continuity of identity was, by far, the most
spectacular part of the experience. The
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
Is there anything else you would like to add concerning the
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.
Has your life changed specifically as a result of your experience? Yes
alluded to above, I now concentrate much more on what I like to refer to as
"maturing my thoughts." I
also try to practice lucid dreaming much more seriously in that I believe that
as I gain more control over my "living" dream-state, I will be able to
"take charge" more effectively in the after-death state which in
certain schools of Tibetan Buddhism is linked very closely to the former.
also try to work diligently at distinguishing between the "me" of the
NDE and the "me" that is the product of my own bio-chemical processes,
my environment and my upbringing. The
latter, I believe, is merely a temporary persona that the real "me" is
currently using but which will pass away (rather like the "me" that
was once a two-year old child whom I no longer consciously remember).
I must work to learn the "real me" who is using this persona to
learn and grow, but who is not identical with that persona.
In a Buddhist context, I am trying to distinguish the genuine
"me" from the aggregates (perception, thought, etc.) which *appear* to
be "me" in this body and which I am somehow using to express my
"me-ness" in this life.
Following the experience, have you had any other events in your
life, medications or substances which reproduced any part of the experience? No
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.
Did the questions asked and information you provided accurately and
comprehensively describe your experience? Yes