AngelicView: Many thanks to the contributor of this NDE and thanks to IANDS (International Association for Near Death Studies) for facilitating the mode for people to share their experiences. This will be a 2 Part Series.
My NDE occurred in 1973 during childbirth while I was living in Madras, India. After the experience, I wrote down everything I could remember, but it was years before I shared the account with anyone, and then it was only with a few family members. For many months preceding the birth, I had had a prolonged illness that was eventually diagnosed as a rare tropical parasite. I had dwindled to some 90 pounds and was quite weak when I went into labor. After many hours in labor, fatigue had begun to set in.
When the time came to deliver, the doctor told me to push, and I began the process with each contraction. This went on for a long time. I kept expecting the baby to come any minute. However, after extended efforts, it seemed I was not making progress and I began to lose my strength. I continued to push, but after endless rounds still yielding no results, I finally fell back in exhaustion. The doctor instructed me to keep going but my body, in its weakened state, refused to cooperate, and I began to feel panicky. It was clear that my prolonged efforts had failed to further any progress towards the birth. As my muscles went flaccid, I felt my entire body tremble violently. Realizing my battery had gone dead and I had no control over my body, I was overcome with fear and felt as if the last drop of blood had seeped out of me. I thought, “I’m going to die.” I could barely speak. Seeing that I had no strength left, the nurse turned to the doctor and said: “She cannot push anymore.” At that point, there was a sudden change in the room. The previous sense of alarm seemed to turn to crisis. Everything happened very fast. I had no idea what had gone wrong; only that it seemed to be an emergency. My last hold on myself started to go, and I could hear urgency in the doctor’s voice. This was followed by an acute wrenching sensation, as if I had been split in half, and then I went unconscious. The light went out and I slipped away.
There was a moment of darkness. Then part of me rose and floated up to the corner of the room. I hovered there briefly, observing the scene below. I saw my body lying on the delivery table, surrounded by people in white coats who seemed to be in great commotion.
Slowly I floated upward, out of the room and building, above the trees, and up into a black, star-filled sky. In this studded darkness, I was carried gently into the distance like a petal drifting on the surface of a stream. Eventually I came to rest in a dense, velvet-black space that enveloped me in tranquility, and I had no fear. I became aware that there was no time. There was no yesterday or tomorrow. There were no boundaries. There was no pain. While I floated in the darkness, the Earth appeared far below me and gradually came into my vision. Suddenly I knew without a shadow of doubt that I had entered another existence that was neither a dream nor a hallucination. I knew it was real: as true, as palpable, and as certain as had been my life on Earth.
I then became aware that although I had left my body behind, whatever constituted who “I” was still alive and remained unchanged. I sensed that this other form in which I existed was like a transparent encasing for my soul, or the consciousness that was the essence of myself. In this body-less state, I was suddenly struck by the realization that I had been here before my life on Earth. I was remembering something I had forgotten; something that had been erased from memory when I was born. This was where I had originally come from. I had come home. Some invisible, silent source of infinite knowledge seemed to surround me, with answers to things like “where do we go when we die?”, “how was life and the world created?”, and so on. It was never clear to me why I became separated from this source and its infinite knowledge at birth.
Looking down, the Earth came clearly into my vision as if I had telescopic sight. I saw a dark vision of suffering and entrapment that was like a distillation of the human condition over millennia. It seemed this condition led history to repeat itself in an endless cycle of war, bloodshed, torture, deprivation, insanity, illness, and alienation. It seemed as if all the pain mankind had suffered through the ages had been distilled to its essence and funneled into one collective cry to be released from this prison. From the chaos of destructiveness, faces advanced into the darkness, then receded back into their private hells, calling: “Help me!” I felt like I was looking directly into peoples’ souls to the raw fear beneath their protective shells. I felt great compassion for all those in pain.
I wanted some miracle to release them all from their misery, but I perceived that nothing could deliver them from it as long as they remained there, separated, through ignorance and fear, from their source. I sensed that the only thing that would release them from that condition was to break through the shield of separateness that divided them from themselves, from others, and from the infinite creative power behind this vast universe of space in which I now found myself floating. I was deeply troubled by this dark vision, for it appeared that humans were destined to remain imprisoned in their suffering as long as they inhabited the earth, and that only death would release them from this condition. Yet a thought passed through my mind: “If they could break through their sense of separation, look, and see this other realm here that exists beyond them, they would be released from bondage.”
Slowly the voices faded, the faces receded, the Earth fell away, and again there was only soothing darkness. Then I felt myself drifting again, farther away into the beyond, gently lifted towards a light in the far distance. I seemed to be carried further and further out into the universe at the speed of light as if swept by a gentle current. I was drawn to the magnetic force of the light like a river is drawn toward the sea. Then I came again to a resting place.
I became aware of a compassionate presence that held me as I saw my life of 27 years on Earth unfold. I had lived and traveled extensively in India amid conditions of poverty, disease, destitution and death that were all-pervasive and inescapable. As a result of my exposure to these conditions, I had become seriously ill. I had also struggled with my own personal demons from a troubled childhood. As negative thoughts and emotions arose, they were simply acknowledged and held by the presence, without judgment, with complete forgiveness. Then I heard a voice. It was so gentle and tender, so full of love and compassion; I realized I had never experienced these qualities in my lifetime. The voice said: “If you had only known I was here, you never would have had to go through this.”
Hearing this, I felt suddenly free of all that had held me chained like a stone to a condition of human bondage. While the negative states of my earthly life played out before this presence, it surrounded me with total acceptance and loving-kindness. The next thing I experienced was being drawn into the Light itself. Now the Earth was so far away that it seemed to disappear from my consciousness. The intensity of this light and my direct experience of it transcends expression in words. It was a brilliant, white gold transparency, radiating warm and pure luminescence. It seemed to be a nucleus of energy that was the essence of life itself; that charged all matter, animating it with its life-giving power. Cradled in this Light, I was suffused with a sense of joy, calm, peace, and beauty that were, until then, unknown to me. Unlike the beauty I had experienced on Earth, this beauty was eternally renewing and all-encompassing. It seemed to synthesize all opposing elements, dissolving them into the whole of itself. I perceived this light as the essence of divine love.
Inside this presence, I felt an indescribable sense of freedom, a release from all the burdens associated with human life. I was like an invisible, permeable membrane through which the Light passed and flowed, transforming me into the Light itself. It seemed to possess a universal spirit that was the consciousness and creative force behind human life. Bathed in its luminous warmth, I felt no longer separate but enveloped by a feeling of unconditional love. Here there was no desire, no pain, no fear. This was the final liberation, an experience of pure bliss.
On Earth, I had feared death. Now I saw that death was not an end but a beginning. It was a return to the home from which I had come. My soul had entered the divine consciousness of eternal life, where all wisdom and knowledge resided. As I lay cradled in this loving light, a phrase came to me: “Now I know.” This was where my true self belonged. I knew I had come to my final resting place, back to the source from which I had come, and the end of all suffering. Then the light communicated again. The ensuing communication was like a sonic energy penetrating directly into my soul. Thoughts were transmitted without words, silently and directly as if an extension of the Light itself, passing through me by osmosis. The Light was both inside and around me. I was aware that I was both a separate, individual entity while being simultaneously subsumed by the presence of this other entity. Its voice was distinctly its own, separate from me, yet I heard my own unspoken thoughts expressed by it, as if it were inside my mind. A conversation ensued, transmitted like air passing through my cells.
Held within this Light, I saw the essence of my life experience in a flash. It had become dominated by a deepening depression: nightmares, guilt, shame, fear, self-recrimination, and illness. I had been conditioned by the concept of “original sin” to expect recrimination, judgment, and punishment for my sins; therefore, I had anticipated the same response from this spirit of Light. But there was no judgment. There was only unqualified acceptance and forgiveness. This came as a shock to me. It seemed impossible that I could be loved and accepted just as I was in that moment. Released from the burden of self-punishment, embraced in the wholeness of this forgiving presence, I was enveloped in joy. I seemed to become transparent, the light of divine love flowing through me. Then I heard the sound of soft, benevolent laughter, which felt like the wise and gentle smile of the Buddha. Again I was surprised and perplexed; I had not expected to hear laughter from a divine force. It rained over me like soft petals.
Then it said: “My child, you mustn’t take things so seriously. You are just part of an evolutionary chain, in which all life evolves at different stages of development. You are only human. You need not judge yourself so harshly. Be gentle with yourself.” I had gotten only the slightest glimpse of the limitless realms beyond the finite boundaries of the world we inhabit. I was eager to learn more. At the same time I was content to float in the peace and joy of the Light, where I had come to know the certainty of love.
This yearning of humans to be connected, to love and be loved, was so clear and profoundly felt that I could not face a return to a world in which this simple truth remained, to so many, unknown, unrealized, or buried. I wanted to stay forever in the presence of Light. The Light knew my thoughts and said simply, “You must return.” Upon being told I must return, I feared being sent back to the same world I had observed from afar, steeped in its suffering, sent back to my human form, where once again I would be bound by the same conditions and limitations I had left behind. “Please,” I begged. “Please let me stay. Don’t send me back.” A hand appeared in the Light, with beautiful, slender white fingers. “My child,” I heard it say, with a tenderness that would haunt me forever, “I have given you the gift of love.” I tried to hold on to the hand, but with a wrenching in my heart, I felt it slip away forever, as it said: “Your life is not completed.”
The next thing I knew I was back in my body. Unlike the long journey into reaches beyond, my return to earth was abrupt, like the shock of birth. I had taken a trip to another galaxy light years away, so far away I could not imagine ever coming back; and then, by some feat of physics, been instantly repossessed by my body. No time had been granted to make the adjustment of having traversed a span of time and space so immense it would affect me for the rest of my life. Having passed through stars, beyond planets and galaxies, into the far reaches of a universe in which time as we know it did not exist, my soul was not prepared to return to the limited confines of my body. It felt constrained and bereft of the freedom it had known, like a prisoner returned to a cell. I wanted desperately to hold on to what I had left behind, clearly to remember every sacred moment before I lost it. Then the world drew me back into it.
I found myself lying on something hard. Slowly I came into half-consciousness, into a glaring light. As I tried to adjust to my return, it seemed a hostile place. Someone was doing something to me, but I could not feel my body. Someone came to lift me and prop something soft beneath my back. Suddenly a woman appeared with a bundle, which she put in my arms, saying: “You have a son.” Then she was gone as suddenly as she had appeared, and I wondered why she had been so brusque and left so suddenly. I had barely had a chance to hold him before the nurse returned to whisk him away. While holding him, I had seen that his head looked mangled, swollen and bruised, with two red gashes that were like craters on each side of his crown. Shortly after, I was told that his badly injured head needed immediate surgery.
While my son was in surgery, I woke up in a dark room. In the deep quiet of the darkness I felt the presence of the Light. It was alive and palpable in the room, infusing it with the same supernatural aura of joy and love I had experienced in that other world that now seemed so far away, beyond my reach. Though I had left it and some part of me behind, it now filled the room with a sacred light.
Through the birth of my son, it had “given me the gift of love.” A connection existed between the experience of the Light I had left behind and the birth of my son. He was linked to it, as I had been, and he had brought it with him. I had gone full circle–from life, to what was like death, and back to life. I had revisited my home of origin. And he had made his journey with me from that home, bringing with him the gift of life and love. Lying in the room, I was afraid that if I moved, the Light would stop flowing into me and be gone forever. I wished I could sustain the joy and beauty of the love I had left behind, the radiant bliss from which my son and I had been wrenched. I had come falling like a meteor to the gravity of Earth, felt its leaden density and weight.
Back in the prison of my small self, I was constrained by my human limitations, never to see the light again. I was left for a brief time between two worlds. Already I felt the Light slipping away. Now there remained the problem of bridging the gap between the two worlds and trying to comprehend all that had happened. I only knew that it had changed my life forever and I would never be the same again.
During my stay at the hospital, I learned what had taken place during my son’s birth. The American doctor from the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi had flown down to investigate the case. He informed us that the doctor who had performed the delivery was unable to deal properly with the complications. The delivery had left two cavernous depressions on each side of my son’s crown, which had put pressure on the brain and had to be elevated to eliminate the possibility of brain damage. The doctor said it would be a year before we would know if the post-natal surgery had reversed the trauma and prevented serious repercussions.
A year later, when we returned to the United States to have my son examined for possible brain damage, we learned to our immense relief that the surgery had yielded perfect results. No damage had been done. We both wondered what might have happened if the neurologist, who was normally away on an international lecture circuit, had not been in Madras on that fateful day to perform the surgery. I give thanks daily for the miracle of that positive outcome and the blessing of my son’s life.