“To experience thinking outside the brain is to enter a world of instantaneous connections that make ordinary thinking (i.e those aspects limited by the physical brain and the speed of light) seem like some hopelessly sleepy and plodding event. Our truest, deepest self is completely free. It is not crippled or compromised by past actions or concerned with identity or status. It comprehends that it has no need to fear the earthly world, and therefore, it has no need to build itself up through fame or wealth or conquest.Physical life is characterized by defensiveness, whereas spiritual life is just the opposite….Narratives of (Near Death Experiences, NDE) of passing through a dark tunnel or valley into a bright light and vivid landscape – ultra real – were as old as ancient Greece and Egypt.The sense of being able to see in all directions simultaneously; the sensation of being above linear time – of being above everything, essentially, that I had previously thought of as defining the landscape of human life; the hearing of anthem-like music, which entered through one’s whole being rather than simply one’s ears; the direct and instantaneous reception of concepts that normally would have taken a very long time and a great deal of study to comprehend, without any struggle whatsoever…feeling the intensity of unconditional love. Over and over again, in the modern NDE accounts and in spiritual writings from earlier times, I’d feel the narrator struggling with the limitations of earthly language, trying to get the entirety of the fish they had hooked on board of human language and ideas.”
Just shy of Heaven
I just completed reading this book and it is a marvelous read. Dr. Eben Alexander is a Harvard trained neurosurgeon. And before his NDE, was someone who followed the typical Cartesian, mathematically deterministic model of existence and world view most people in the pure and applied sciences usually do. Basically nothing exists except those things you can experience through your five senses and those things which can be quantified using the scientific method. His NDE experience changed that completely when he slipped into a potentially fatal seven-day coma and lived to tell the tale. His story is a fascinating one. He has many people trying to debunk his story but unless you’ve been there, it’s hard to disprove what he says.
To anyone who has had genuine spiritual experiences, not the New Agey contrived, sort, but those who have experienced the Eternal Now, those who might have slipped into deep Samadhi or Satori or stepped outside of Maya for even a split second, this book is an indispensable read.
I too have had my encounters with the other side, but nowhere near as deep or vivid as Dr. Alexander’s.
The first time something went off was when I was 9 years old. It sounds trite but at the time I thought algebra was this horrible monster lurking in the horizon at school which if I did not master, I’d be a failure in life since it would close off many career options (I know, I was a nerd.). Determined to understand it, I took down my dad’s copy of “The new Book of Knowledge” the “A” edition and started reading the chapter on algebra.
The second I understood it, I can’t describe it only that it was beyond a light bulb going off, it was a total whiteout in my vision, but in my inner vision. I didn’t suddenly just understand algebra, I suddenly understood everything. I suddenly felt like I was a part of everything. The sensation lasted no more than a few seconds and at the time, I didn’t understand what was happening to me given my 9-year-old mind. All I remember was pure joy and a pure sense of aliveness and that I suddenly wanted more so that this feeling could last.
The second time was when I was 20. I was at home one Saturday morning in my room doing some studying for an upcoming test, my dad was in the kitchen reading the newspaper and my brother must have been watching TV. Quite suddenly and without any explanation my body temperature skyrocketed and within seconds I was drenched in sweat like never before. I had read about spontaneous human combustion so that was my first thought as to what was happening to me. I struggled to walk over to the kitchen to tell my dad something was wrong.
The last thing I remember was telling him to call the ambulance, before I blacked out completely and fell to the floor. Suddenly I found myself in a black space, but not a threatening one. Instead, it felt warm, safe and like complete bliss. Imagine that you’re in a pool and underwater and people above you are talking, their voices sound muffled, close but far. That’s what my father and brother sounded like while they were trying to revive me and calling 9-1-1. I felt like I was in the most amazing, welcoming cocoon and wanted to stay. Suddenly I heard a gentle voice saying I need to go back, and there was almost a gentle pushing upwards and I found myself back here, coming to, it felt almost like surfacing out of the water. When I opened my eyes, I found that I was sprawled out on the floor and my brother was on the phone with a 9-1-1 operator. When I asked how long I was gone he said “Maybe about 20 seconds”. In that space, there was absolutely no sense of time or place, just a pure sense of feeling and awareness. I felt like I had been there forever. It felt like home.
Days later when I went to have everything checked out with my family doctor, I told him of the episode which he patiently listened to. My family doctor is a very, very wise man. A fellow Indian, a Gujarati from Durban, South Africa, he did his Ph.D at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine back in the late 1960’s but he is also very aware of the spiritual dimension to life. A lifelong vegetarian, yoga practitioner and follower of Hindu Vedanta, my visits with him always end up being very stimulating long discussions on spirituality, religion, life and the stupidity of our modern times. Not a lot escapes his penetrating gaze and he’s no one’s fool. When I finished telling him my episode, he was silent for several moments and then finally said,”You have had a genuine spiritual experience. You understand this reality is but a dream and you’re going to be on a very long and interesting journey now.”
I had a few other bump-ins. Once when I spent time at the grave of St. John the Divine at Ephesus, Turkey on the eve of the millenium. Another time when I escaped with my life at gunpoint in Washington DC and yet another time when I met a certain gentleman who is a software developer-turned-filmmaker in California. It’s always accompanied by a certain knowingness, a certainty which is anchored in joy and gentleness which leaves you more alive, more alert and with an ability to live and see things with more vividness and clarity.