I was born with a congenital heart defect and flatlined after heart surgery ten years ago. I specifically remember floating above my hospital bed and being able to hear the nurses talking to one another saying to “grab the paddles.” It went on for what seemed like a minute and I felt calm the whole time, just observing while the nurses worked frantically. Then it just ended and the next thing I knew I woke up in my hospital bed with my Dad and my girlfriend there. I talked to a nurse later and told her what I’d seen and she kind of chuckled and said this was actually really common among cardiac patients who flatline. I was your classic gruff atheist who didn’t believe in that kind of stuff just so you know where I’m coming from. So, this was pretty hard to explain or understand. I’m still not religious but I definitely know that there’s something going on in the universe that’s bigger than me. I just don’t know what it is.
When I was a girl in elementary and middle school, I repeatedly had an experience where I could fly out of my body and float above myself after going to sleep. I could even go downstairs and go through doors without touching them. The first couple of times it happened, I remember thinking it was a dream but I was actually able to observe my parents sometimes when they were still awake watching tv together. The experience wasn’t scary and I never dreaded it or anything. The only spooky thing about it was that my dog, who used to sleep in my room, used to wake me up out of it whining like she was in distress. She was usually very very calm and so this was an odd thing to happen. This stopped happening to me after my parents divorced my Freshman year in high school. It hasn’t happened since and I haven’t tried to pursue it. It makes me a bit sad to think about now because it only happened when my parents were still together. It’s the most vivid collection of memories of them together that I have.
I’ve experienced a kind of what I’d call ‘out of body’ experiences during sleep but it was always momentary and a bit scary. I’ve also been able to induce it somewhat during meditation by visualizing my ‘self’ hovering above my body. It’s almost like you’re slipping out your body attached by a spider’s thread, always connected but still separated. I mainly got interested in meditation because of these sleep induced OBEs and wanted to see if it was ‘real’ or just part of some dream. I’ve come to feel it’s definitely real and I think it’s useful for getting a kind of cosmic perspective on what we as people know and don’t know. I’ve heard lots of explanations for out of body experiences and what they are from books and from a couple of my meditation teachers but none of them really have satisfied me. I just get the feeling that there’s a big chuck of existence out there that we don’t have a handle on and that we’ll never be able to explain.
I never believed in anything having to do with the paranormal or anything like that until I started doing meditation regularly to stave off stress (I used to have ulcer problems). The cool thing about meditation besides the stress relief was that I met all these super weird hippy people that believed all this stuff I didn’t believe about ESP and astral travel, all that new agey kind of thing that I used to think was garbage (honestly, most of it really is). However, there was this one man from Nepal who had some kind of relationship with the meditation center and he’d come into town like four times a year and give lectures on mindfulness and that kind of thing. He also talked about astral travel a bit. Of course, even in that group of pretty open-minded people basically everyone was at least somewhat skeptical and I didn’t believe it was real at all.
He seemed to know this and so at the very first talk on this that I went to he handed out Post-It notes to five of us, myself included (yay for sitting up front) and told us to each write down a number between 1 and 100. We all did that and he told us to put it in our pocket. At the end of the talk he lay down on a blanket at the front of the room and told us he was going to enter an out of body and said for us to take the notes out of our pockets and place them on the floor in front of us. He said he would enter this state, read the notes, and then recite the numbers to us when he “got back.” He seemed almost gleeful about it.
It took about a half hour of silence in the room but he eventually sat up and told us to put the numbers back in our pockets. He then pick up some notes of our own, wrote something on each of them, and then, smiling from ear to ear, he handed them to each of us saying “these are your numbers.” Sure enough, my number, ’15’, was written on my note. It was the single most unexplainable event of my entire life and I tried every way I could to explain how he could have done it. To this day I still can’t.
I have no way to explain this but one time in college I was lying on my back on my couch. It was a very quiet Spring day, a very gentle kind of day. I remember I was feeling good generally, just very relaxed but not sleepy. I did have my eyes closed though and was listening to the breeze in the trees which is one of my favorite things to do. As I lay there I felt like I was very slowly moving upward like I was getting up without getting up and suddenly I felt like I was in two places at once with one ‘me’ sitting up and the other ‘me’ lying down. Even weirder was that I could see even thought I know I had my eyes closed. It was completely disorienting and I threw my arms out slammed my left hand on the coffee table trying to catch myself because I was afraid I’d fall off the couch. It hasn’t happened since.
When I was fourteen I had what I thought was a dream where I was in my grandmother’s kitchen and she was telling my grandfather that she wasn’t feeling well and he just started crying and crying and wouldn’t stop even as my grandmother told him it would be okay. I woke up crying and had this enormous feeling of grief but I chalked it up to just being a really bad dream. Two days later my mother got a phone call from my grandfather (her dad) saying that my grandmother had had a massive heart attack in their kitchen and had died. Three days later my mom, dad, sister, and I all went down to my the Gulf Coast of Alabama where my grandparents had moved a year earlier. The kitchen looked exactly like it had in my dream but I’d never been there before and hadn’t ever seen any pictures of it before.
I didn’t told my mother about this until last year and I’m nearly 30. She didn’t seem surprised by it at all and just said “you were always close to your grandfather. It wouldn’t surprise me if you somehow went to him because he was so sad.” At this point I definitely believe I was there with him somehow when my grandmother was sick even though the time frames don’t match up all the way. It’s like in my dream I went into the future and went to their house as this happened. What it’s made me realize is something that some people might think is really cheesy, namely that we’re truly connected to people we love in a way that’s completely beyond the physical.
When I was seven I remember climbing a tree by myself in the back yard and I either grabbed a branch that was too little or my foot slipped or both and I fell from probably around ten flat on my back and hit my head hard on a root. The next thing I knew I was getting up off the ground and dusting off my clothes and could see my mother running down from the back of the house yelling for my dad. I opened my mouth to tell her I was okay and looked down to see that there was actually another me lying on the ground. These days I would probably would have been like ‘what the f**k’ but at the time it just made me want to cry cause it was so confusing. When my mom got to me I watched her lean over me and gently start patting my face and then I woke up with her standing over me. I don’t know if it was like a head injury induced hallucination where my mind put together the pieces later or what but it felt amazingly real.
As a result, I think I grew up being a lot more open to ideas that other people might reject outright simply because a part of me feels like there might be a whole world out there that we just can’t always see.