How do people who have experienced love, unity, deep inner peace, who have overcome their fear of death through a near death experience (NDE) keep that transformation alive in their lives, years later? What can we do to help them to do so? One way many do so is by sharing these life-changing experiences with others; another is by reading or watching the video accounts of others. My friend David Sunfellow has done a fantastic job of collecting both interviews and resources regarding NDEs at New Heaven New Earth (NHNE). Another method involves revisiting not just the memory of the NDE, but interviewing characters from it or the personifications of core qualities of the NDE. The application of this method, Integral Deep Listening (IDL), to NDEs, is the subject of the book I’m writing, called Fire From Heaven: Deep Listening to Near Death Experiences. Its purpose is to bring light, love and hope, not only in the lives of those who have had NDEs, but in those who are curious about them, as well as those who have had some other mystical experience.
The book concerns IDL interviews with seven people who had NDEs years before. What would happen if they interviewed either an element from their NDE or a feeling associated with it? Would the NDE come alive again in ways that would be of practical use in their lives today, helping them to address the day to day issues that they confront? The last chapter of the book is a summary, and although I had labored over it mightily, I did not like it. So I decided to use an IDL interview to write the chapter, in the hope that by doing so the book would be successfully summarized by the method itself. At the same time, my hope was that by so doing I could invite readers to come to their own conclusions by conducting such an interview themselves.
The resulting interview is designed to provide the reader with an example of the method, another way to apply it in their life, and a viewpoint on NDEs that is challenging and expansive. Here it is.
What is a fundamental life issue that you are dealing with now in your life?
I want to write a helpful concluding chapter to my book on NDEs. I will do an interview. However, instead of this one being about a particular NDE, an associated element and its recommendations, the interview will communicate the usefulness of IDL for keeping and growing the inspiration of NDEs in one’s life.
What feelings does this issue bring up for you?
Hope for the awakening, balancing, and growing the six core qualities (confidence, compassion, wisdom, acceptance, inner peace, and witnessing) and beyond them, of anchoring life in luminosity, abundance, and cosmic humor
If those feelings had a color (or colors), what would it be?
Hope: It’s a radiantly golden light. very rich, deep, magnificent
Imagine that color filling the space in front of you so that it has depth, height, width, and aliveness.
Now watch that color swirl, congeal, and condense into a shape. Don’t make it take a shape, just watch it and say the first thing that you see or that comes to your mind: An animal? Object? Plant? What?
The sun; a star; the multiple stars at the center of a galaxy; the love light of NDE reports; the clear light seen upon death of The Tibetan Book of the Dead and Tibetan Buddhism. It has elements of all of these; they are various facets or faces, like a diamond. For lack of a better one, I will use the totally inadequate term, “life-light.”
Now remember how as a child you liked to pretend you were a teacher or a doctor? It’s easy and fun for you to imagine that you are the shape that took form from your color and answer some questions I ask, saying the first thing that comes to your mind. If you wait too long to answer, that’s not the character answering – that’s YOU trying to figure out the right thing to say!
Life-light, look out at the world from your perspective. What do you see?
Ha! I see everything! I see nothing! I don’t have eyes; I have knowing. There is nothing out there to see because it’s all me; it’s all a part of me; it’s all within me. There is nothing that isn’t me. And yet I don’t feel like I am anything either. I don’t feel that I have an identity or a self because I am all identities and all selves. It’s like the facets of a diamond. Which is the “real,” “true,” or “right” facet? Well, they all are!
Life-light,, what are you like? What you are doing?
I am busy holding space. I am busy being present. I am busy being nothing. I am busy doing nothing.
Life-light, what do you like most about yourself? What are your strengths?
Because I hold space, I am everything: the three faces of God (nature, deity, consciousness); power, love, emptiness; action, empathy, centeredness; systems, others, self…whatever. Because I am unborn, I do not die; because I am no self, I have no fear; because I am all qualities, I transcend and include them all, yet can be whichever one you want and need right now. If you want a personal, I-Thou relationship with me as a deity, I’m there for you.
Life-light, what do you dislike most about yourself? Do you have weaknesses? What are they?
Likes and dislikes are preferences. I don’t have preferences in a particular sense, but I do in the sense that I want to expand my awareness of myself through you. You are a place-holder, like a figure in a dream or an interviewed character in one of these IDL interviews. From my perspective, you have the same substance and identity as a dream character. From my perspective, you are my dream, and I am attempting to wake up to myself by experiencing life through you.
Life-light,, you are in Joseph’s life experience, correct? He created you, right?
No. From my perspective, I created him. Because he doesn’t recognize that, he thinks it’s the other way around.
What aspect of Joseph do you represent or most closely personify?
It’s better to ask what part of me HE personifies! He’s a character in my dream! He is the face in my cloud, the arrangement of stardust within my solar system, the laughter that I make, the wave of me crashing against the shore of myself. He is the matter, dark matter, and dark energy I see when I look in the mirror you call the Kosmos.
Life-light, if you could be anywhere you wanted to be and take any form you desired, would you change? If so, how?
I don’t care. I don’t need to be in any particular form. It would be best if my dream characters assumed that whatever form they were appearing in was a good and helpful form; it would be best if my dream characters would assume that the other characters in their common dream, along with their feelings, thoughts, and actions, are good and helpful, even if they bring a shitload of pain, confusion, irritation, and frustration. I am not talking delusional happy talk here. I am not denying pain, suffering, or the experienced reality of death. I am simply saying, take my perspective if you want death and suffering not only to make sense, but to be OK. Take my perspective if you want the hurtful actions of thoughtless or cruel people to not only to be OK but for them to transform you. Take my perspective if you want to wake up, to become enlightened, and stay that way.
(Continue, answering as the transformed object, if it chose to change.)
Life-light, how would you score yourself 0-10, in each of the following six qualities: confidence, compassion, wisdom, acceptance, inner peace, and witnessing? Why?
Confidence: 10 If you weren’t alive, you couldn’t die, could you? If you contained all life, you’d contain all death, wouldn’t you? If you couldn’t die and contained all death, would you be afraid? I don’t think so. If you didn’t have fear, you would be confident. This is not confidence in yourself, because I have no self to be confident in; I have all selves, and I am confident in all of them!
Compassion: 10 You would find my compassion boring, insensitive, and probably threatening. Does the sun care if you get a sunburn or not? Does the sun care if parts of the earth get so dry that nothing can live? Do you think the compassion of the sun is so petty that human emotions can cause sunspots or solar flares? No. My compassion is so great, so steady, so profound that it cannot be affected by you and your preferences. If it was, then it would waver; if it wavered it would not provide the stability you need from your inner compass, from your guiding light. I don’t do what you want because this is my dream, not yours; I don’t do what you want because my empathy so transcends your interests that you and your interests pale in insignificance, like a character in a forgotten dream. That doesn’t mean that you are insignificant at all; it just means that my compassion is beyond your comprehension, until you look at the world from my perspective.
Wisdom: 10 My wisdom arises not out of experience, like human wisdom does. It arises out of balance. I am balance; I am the principle of balance. When you become me, when you wake up and realize that you are me, you are balanced. When you are in balance, you are wise.
Acceptance: 10 Non-acceptance implies that there is something I am not big enough to contain. Since I contain everything, I accept everything. However, that does not mean that I don’t discriminate. This is because balance discriminates. If you don’t have discriminations, there is no balance. People see those discriminations as a lack of acceptance when they are actually expressions of balanced abundance, if they looked at life from my perspective.
Inner Peace: 10 I am the peace that both contains, like the sky, the most violent of thunderstorms, and like the center of hurricanes, massive clarity and balance. When you live your life from my perspective you don’t merely have inner peace; you are inner peace. There’s no you; instead, there’s peace. Therefore, whoever you choose to think you are, whatever you choose to do, happens within that context. That peace is then your reality; everything else is a dream.
Witnessing: I not only witness you, I witness myself through you. I both witness you and witness myself. I witness myself witnessing myself. Because I witness both objectivity and subjectivity the concept of witnessing no longer makes sense. Instead, there is only clarity, spaciousness, luminosity. That’s me! Glad to know you!
How would Joseph’s life be different if he naturally scored like you do in all six of these qualities all the time?
He wouldn’t need to prove himself; he wouldn’t need to go anywhere or do anything to find himself, because he would be home, now, wherever he was, whatever he was doing, whomever he was with. This would make him much more effective, because he would be out of his own way. He would still be here, but transparent, like dream characters, like the sky.
If you could live Joseph’s life for him, how would you live it differently?
When he’s thankful he’s not scared, worried, whining, blaming, or doing drama. It’s impossible to do both; you’ve got to do one or the other. So I’d start there. Many other things are important, but whatever he experiences, if he will experience it in the context of thankfulness he will move out of an adversarial position; he will be more open to solutions, to a bigger picture, to what to do next.
If you could live Joseph’s waking life for him today, would you handle his life issue differently – the one that created you? If so, how?
Ah – that was about how to approach writing that chapter about NDEs, right? So that means you want me to say something about my relationship to NDEs? OK…A lot of people think that NDEs are a means to wake up, to recognize the reality of life and death, to see through the illusions, to come to the realization of the oneness of all things, to move into a life of love and happiness. From my perspective NDEs are about me waking up. It’s something like becoming lucid in a dream, that is, waking up in your dream and realizing, “I’m dreaming!” But it’s different than that, because I am already lucid. It’s like the characters in your dream waking up within your dream and them realizing, “I’m dog shit in Joseph’s dream!” “I’m an angel in Joseph’s dream!” “I’m a purple potato in Joseph’s dream!” “And now that I’m awake, I can be anything, everything, or stay myself! I can be alive or dead! I can be present or not! It doesn’t matter!” And that realization changes everything.
What three life issues would you focus on if you were in charge of Joseph’s life?
There’s four, actually. The first is that thankfulness or gratitude I mentioned before.
The second is closely related. Look for, feel the abundance and richness of this moment – the silkiness of your breath, the complicated but subtle tastes in your mouth right now, the texture of the air between yourself and these words you are looking at on this page, the aliveness of the world behind you right now, on the wall, through the wall, out in the world, in the sky, and beyond the sky. Its all watching you; you are part of its abundance.
The third is a certain reverence of stupidity, foolishness, ignorance, and failure. Don’t go through life fighting these things! They’re funny! You taking them so seriously and pretending you are not them is so funny it’s almost embarrassing! But it’s not embarrassing because I’m laughing along with you, laughing with you at the absurdity of your contraction, of you taking yourself and your dramas so seriously. This is called cultivating an attitude of cosmic humor, where everything is totally meaningful in its absolutely meaninglessness, absolutely important and significant in its absurdity; authentic, genuine, and intimate in its nothingness. Such humor means lightness and clarity. It creates space to go with the flow and be in the flow.
The fourth is luminosity. That’s being your breath being you right now instead of you breathing it. That’s you being the mountain you are climbing in your life. That’s you being your inner compass. That’s you being everything and nothing. That’s you being me.
In what life situations would it be most beneficial for Joseph to imagine that he is you and act as you would?
Only when he wants to feel good about himself. Only when he wants to feel connected to everyone and everything. Only when he wants creativity and energy. Only when he wants to be at peace. Other than that, never!
Life-light, do you do drama? If not, why not?
Dreams are generally thought of as dramas. I have said that from my perspective you are a character in my dream. But that’s not really accurate, because it implies a lack of significance or reality. It conveys a sense of delusion and inauthenticity. The act of dreaming and waking up both within your dream and to why and how you are creating dreams is just about as real as you can get. There’s nothing insignificant, unreal, delusional, or inauthentic about any of that. The act of waking up is about making a friend out of subjectivity, not fighting it or discounting it. Without subjectivity there can be no objectivity; without both there is no act of recognition, which leads to awakening. To say one is more important, more real than the other, is to say that your outside is more important than your inside or that universals are more important than particulars. Holograms disprove that. It’s just not true. So no; I don’t do drama, and while I understand it, I don’t live by its rules.
What is your secret for staying out of drama?
I refuse to take my seriousness seriously, my delusions as reality. I see others as myself, because they are. To be angry or scared of someone or something is no different from being scared of a dream monster. Why would I want to be angry at myself? Why do I want to scare myself? Don’t I have better things to do?
Life-light, you are imaginary, in that you are my personal creation, different from what someone else doing an IDL interview will create. Why should I pay attention to anything you say?
Don’t! Do I care? I focus on my agenda, not on yours. That’s what real compassion does, as I explained. I know it sounds selfish and non-empathetic, but figure it out. My agenda is to wake up in and through you, regardless of what you want, feel, think, or do. Forget about me! I’ll wake up through your forgetfulness!
Why do you think that you are in Joseph’s life?
Aren’t you listening? I’m not in his life! He’s in my life! This is all about him learning to look at life from my perspective, because evolution, growth, and life are all about me waking up through him, along with everything else, including all those cockroaches and mosquitos out there!
How is Joseph most likely to ignore what you are saying to him?
Joseph is hopelessly geocentric. That means he thinks the world revolves around him and his world view. By reflex he will snap back into thinking this is all about him. That’s the joke; that’s the cosmic humor. That’s why he needs thankfulness, a sense of abundance, and to cultivate that luminous ground within, beneath, and behind the figure of his thoughts, feelings, and activities.
What would you recommend that he do about that?
More specifically? He’s got great tools. Use them! The interviewing will cultivate objectivity and the six core processes. Naming meditation will break the flow of drama and also cultivate witnessing, or waking up. Observation of the six parts of the cycle of every breath will keep him in the here and now. As he balances the parts of his breath, that sense of the here and now will expand until he grows into my perspective.
Thank you, Life-light! And now a couple questions for Joseph:
If this experience were a wake-up call from your inner compass, what do you think it would be saying to you?
Let the book be what it is. It’s always going to be partial, flawed, incomplete, and confusing. Oh well. It’s also a lot more than those things. Also, it can always be improved – just like me!
Make a list of the recommendations in the interview. Read them over before you go to sleep. If they are action items, check them off if you’ve done them. If they are variable qualities, score yourself 0 – 10. Play a game: see what you can do to raise your scores half a point every day.
There is good reason to have hope that your effort in doing this research and writing about it is not a waste of time and effort.
Stay busy being and doing nothing. Be spacious.
Just because your true nature is fluid and non-determined does not mean that discrimination is not important and preferences do not exist.
Remember that I am a personification of life.
Become life-light when you don’t want the world or the actions of others to get under your skin.
Become life-light to feel a ten in confidence, compassion,wisdom, acceptance, inner peace, and witnessing. Also to grow your understanding of what each of those is.
Become life-light to become clear and transparent.
Cultivate thankfulness to move out of an adversarial position.
Cultivate an awareness of abundance.
Cultivate cosmic humor.
Stay out of drama by not taking it seriously. Hold it like you do a dream monster.
Outgrow your geocentrism.
Pass the book on for critique, then revise; then publish it.