A Near Death Experience: Back from the Brink

A Near Death Experience: Back from the Brink


Cognitive Dissonance


In an odd sort of way I am familiar with death, having danced around its perimeter all my life. A few of those waltzes can be attributed to close calls, near misses and other assorted near fatal brushes with death. But those were different from what I wish to describe in this piece.

A head on collision at 50 MPH (before the era of airbags and mandatory seat belts) unintentionally riding a motocross bike off a forty foot cliff, accidentally walking off the roof of a two story building or nearly having my arm swallowed by a whirling roaring mechanical beast, to name just a few, is just not the same as cardiac arrest and cessation of respiration.

While they all might have scared the hell out of me, with a few leaving me severely wounded or scared for life, they are not comparable to the near death experience(s) (NDE) I’m about to discuss in this article.

As a young boy I experienced my first remembered NDE while playing with several other boys my age behind an old barn. I say remembered because of my distinct and substantial feeling I have experienced many more NDE’s during my lifetime and simply don’t recall them. Anyway, there was a huge pile of old leaves dumped back there by my father and older siblings after raking the yard of the recently fallen fall foliage.

It started out innocently enough, several boys horsing around throwing leaves at each other. But quickly it turned rough, with tossed leaves morphing into debris forcibly jammed into mouth, nose and eyes. The mob turned on the boy nearest me and I briefly joined in. Horrified by my behavior I began to defend the boy, pulling others off of him. Suddenly the mob was me, including the boy I just defended.

I lost my footing and fell backwards onto the pile. In an instant the others were on top of me, my mouth, nose, eyes and ears quickly jammed with leaves and other debris. It was a scene pulled directly from “Lord of the Flies” and I was the next sacrifice.

I couldn’t breathe nor hear nor see. I was being pummeled by small fists and feet and the weight of several boys on my chest prevented me from expanding my lungs even if my air passages were clear. In a panic I began to push back, but was quickly overpowered. Any resistance of mine was quickly met by overwhelming force.

So I decided to play possum and stopped struggling, pretending I was dead. The problem was that at this point I already nearly was. Then I did something that upon much later reflection was pivotal to my NDE.

I let go.

Most people are familiar with the concept of ‘fighting’ for life. It has been popularized by TV medical dramas and books where the heroic doctor or surgeon valiantly attempts to save a life. Either the doctor brushes aside any praise for saving the person, attributing to the patient the will to live, or the doctor tells the next of kin the deceased gave up the fight since there was no compelling medical reason for the death.

I understand both of these concepts.

There appears to be a life ‘force’ in everything on Earth, something that compels that green sprout to erupt from the freshly cut tree stump, that weed to push through six inches of overburden, that calf to survive birth in an open field frozen solid in the middle of January or that human to survive severe trauma or deprivation.

Normally this force is involuntary, a fundamental element of all living things, requiring no thought or direction to be active and vibrant. The will to live appears to be a basic component of life with no apparent on/off switch to toggle. I suspect this is why it takes an act of will to commit suicide, for the desire to cease living is alone normally not enough to accomplish the task.

But I found the switch and flipped it. This was my first NDE.

Granted, in this instance at least, some would argue my switch might have simply been a psychological coping mechanism in response to the physical trauma and oxygen deprivation. Those who believe my feat impossible will grasp for esoteric explanations or simply dismiss it as a figment of imagination or hallucination. And I would be unable to present a competent or satisfactory defense, other than the fact I know what happened to be true.



Knowing Rather Than Seeking External Proof

These days, knowing without any accompanying proof accepted by, or promoted by, a designated authority is summarily dismissed as nonsense and folderol. In an age of scientific high priests and strict technical dogma, information gleaned from any other source, particularly from within where no (modern) science can penetrate, is heresy and blasphemy. But personal experience and experiments later in life inform me otherwise and I have learned to trust my inner knowing.

For instance there was that time long ago when, while tripping on acid, I decided to stop my heart. The designated driver, the person in the group who was selected to watch over the others, informed me hours later that at one point I made a few noises and promptly stopped breathing. He claimed vigorous shaking and shouting on his part were required to revive me and restore my breathing, though I have no memory of this, only one of consciously deciding to restart my heart and continue my trip.

Several years later I remembered the incident and decided to try an experiment. I had discovered in high school I had some conscious control over the rate of my heart beat. This was revealed to me while participating in track and field events, enabling me to (relatively) rapidly return my heart beat to a lower level after each exercise or event.

The experiment was simple and straight forward. Since I could slow my heart beat, could I stop it? Over a period of several days I practiced the technique and succeeded in lowering my heart rate down into the 30’s. Then I realized I was going about it the wrong way. Rather than slow my heart until it stops, the trick was simply to stop it. That was when I first consciously searched for the switch.

And once I began the search I quickly found it.

We tend to think that in order to do something (anything) a force of mind or body (or at a minimum conscious and deliberate intent) must be turned to the task. But in this case, at least for me, the trick was to remove or temporarily disable the presence, the innate life force present in every living thing. Similar to before, I simply let go. I suspect part of natures secret sauce is the fact this switch is hidden from our consciousness awareness. Mother Nature would be a fool to create a life force and then provide easy access to the disabling process. It sort of defeats the purpose.

Several times I switched my heart off, only to turn it back on within 20 or 30 seconds. I did not wish to die per se, only to experiment with the process of stopping my heart. But at one point, either because of the cumulative effect of the constant stopping and starting of my heart or simply because I lost a proper sense of time, I lapsed into a near death experience.

In a somewhat related incident, back in 1990 I succeeded in shooting myself just above the knee with a nail gun. While you can click on the link to read about the affair (Scroll down to the subchapter “Fear the Nailman”) in a nut shell I discovered another hidden switch controlling fear which is directly connected to our sense of pain and suffering. Activating it uses the same technique, of letting go rather than doing something to counter the fear and/or pain. The method is proactive rather than reactive, of letting go rather than forcing.

There have been several other instances of NDE’s over the last five decades, but I wish to move on to the most recent three. Then I will discuss the actual near death experience.



Dancing On the Edge

Up until recently all of my NDE’s have been voluntary, with my explicit and willing intent and consent to venture within. Or more accurately, the intent to deliberately begin a process of letting go which then leads directly to the NDE. The last three were not of this nature, but rather entirely involuntary and of a complete surprise. This didn’t fundamentally change the experience or the process for reversing the NDE. But because I wasn’t fully aware of what was happening until it happened, it delayed my awareness of choice.

First some back story. Recently I was diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea and began using a CPAP machine. My physical recovery has been slow but steady and the cumulative improvements to my health over the last three plus months have been remarkable. Before the CPAP I suffered from decades of poor sleep and the resulting slow degradation of my overall health.

The most recent NDE was a few weeks ago, about four hours after undergoing an in-office medical procedure under general anesthesia. Unfortunately no one, not the presiding doctor nor the anesthesiologist, warned me it was critical to use my CPAP machine if I were to either nap or sleep during the next 48 hours, a virtual certainty to occur. And both were fully informed of my sleep apnea and my use of a CPAP machine, acknowledging the danger by applying a positive pressure oxygen mask during the procedure to guard against an occurrence while under anesthesia and in their care.

A few hours after returning home I went down for a nap and did not hook up my CPAP, assuming it would be a short nap and not needed. To be frank, up to that point I seldom used a CPAP for a nap since daytime naps were now rarely required. This was not always the case. Before the CPAP I nearly always napped during the day. After lying down I immediately fell into a deep dreamless sleep and remember nothing until well into the NDE event.

Later, after it was over and Mrs. Cog was assured I was on the road to recovery with most of my brain cells still intact and functioning, she did some internet research to understand what had just happened. It was then she found hundreds of references to well understood and widely disseminated information regarding the critical need to use your CPAP machine after general anesthesia or risk death from fatal obstructive sleep apnea.

Clearly my small town doctor and anesthesiologist were not privy to this information or they did not believe (or care) it to be important. Talking to my primary care physician ten days after the NDE (who was well aware of the danger) he remarked rather casually he was a bit surprised the doctor’s office in question had not ‘blown up’ already from a similar incident with other patients.

He also informed me if the procedure had been performed in a hospital, any hospital, on an outpatient or inpatient basis, I would have been properly warned and would have been required to present for the procedure with my CPAP machine in tow for inspection and use during the actual procedure.

Regardless, it is all water over the dam at this point. I doubt I will pursue this (these) incidents on legal grounds for various reasons which I won’t go into here other than to say I do not wish to victimize myself, but rather simply learn from the experience.

Not once during any of the many NDE’s during my entire lifetime have I ever experienced the widely reported and shared experience of a white light or tunnel, of floating above my body to witness my ‘self’ below (at least not in the manner often described) or any of the other classically reported symptoms and effects of a near death experience. The last three involuntary experiences vary from my more normal NDE’s solely by the lead up to the event and not necessarily the event itself.

But the most recent one varied from all the others by the extreme difficulty and reluctance on my part to return to the physical, mental and emotional now rather than moving on to the next realm/reality. And also by the aftereffects, which were severe and difficult to shake off quickly.

I begin with the most recent one because it was only after this NDE did Mrs. Cog and I fully realize not just what had happened, but why. Once this information was fully assimilated, we recognized the earlier two occurrences were similar, though not as severe. The prior two followed the same process, a medical procedure in the same doctor’s office under general anesthesia. The first was prior to my CPAP and the second occurred after two weeks of being on the CPAP.

As mentioned earlier, the most recent NDE was the most difficult. After quickly falling into a deep and dreamless sleep, my first memory is of being at the decision point with no awareness or understanding of arriving there. Normally this is not the case, at least for my remembered NDE’s, for usually I am deliberately letting go, then entering the NDE with a memory of the entire process leading up to it.



A Reference Provided By Physically Being

Always I have no physical sense of self in the manner we normally think of because our sense of our human self is irrevocably tied into, and interpreted by, our awareness and interaction with, and within, our physical being. I am my arms, my feet, my chest and head and fingers. I feel hot and cold, wind and rain, anger and love, jealously and joy.

I, as the person writing this article, am a sentient physical being. Remove the physical, but retain the consciousness, and how are we to actually continue to think like human beings when nearly the entire reference of being human is now lost. It’s like running something through Google translate via three or four languages. The underlying meaning will inevitably be lost in the translation.

Instead I possessed a knowing, an innate understanding that transcends our dependency upon a state of matter or being in order to think and know. Again, some understanding or comprehension is lost due to the lack of the only reference which brings it clarity and awareness, that of being a physical human. However, even in our physical state one can innately know something without understanding how or why.

I knew unequivocally and with no misinterpretation I was between states of being. I could continue on towards the next realm/state of being, though the feeling was one of returning, or I could go back to where I had just come, though again the feeling was more akin to returning. Both states of being or direction were vaguely familiar, though at that point nothing was known with absolute clarity, just an understanding or knowing of familiarity and comfort.

It didn’t feel as if I was leaving one awareness or state of being to go to another. The state of awareness was more like being on a train traveling through unnamed towns and cities, all of which look familiar and nonthreatening in a way difficult to describe, but seen with no distinction or definition. I just knew, but neither did I know how I knew nor was I concerned how (or why) I knew in the same way you just know the air is cold or warm and give no significant thought, care or concern as to how or why you know. You just know based upon sensory input.

I just knew because of my knowing.



Our Abandoned Ability to Know

Why and how I knew was of no consequence and immaterial since knowing was all I needed. As physical humans, we constantly occupy ourselves with who, what, where, when and why because we (believe we) must constantly judge the veracity and importance of information not of internal origin. When something is known, and that knowing springs from within, meaning it has an internal origin and is of known quality, all questions of authenticity are superfluous and immaterial.

It was not necessarily important for me to know where I was going since I knew wherever or whatever that might be was already, or soon will be, known in total to me. Nor did I have any understanding, at least in the physical human sense, of where I just came from, only that I knew I could return if I chose to. Once again, I knew I would know in total once I returned.

I was not dependent upon external knowledge or stimuli to arrive at a decision. None of the normal parameters one would think were important when making a decision were required to make this decision. There was no need to flip a coin because either direction would be fulfilling and complete.

It was also not important to actually know what I did not know at that very moment because I knew I eventually would know. There was no sense of fear, insecurity or anxiety regarding where I was or the decision I faced. All I knew with absolute certainty was I could return by moving on to the next realm or return by going back to the prior realm. Both were familiar, known and nonthreatening.

Regardless of the direction in which I looked/sensed/knew, the overall feeling was one of knowing, though the details were obscured and lacked full clarity. Upon further reflection back on terra firma (and obviously back in human form, thus limited to human thought processes) I was struck by the observation that my sense of knowing while at that transition point also applied to being human in the physical world (we believe) we live in.

Meaning knowing can also be accessed while in human form and while in this realm. The question is not if, but of how. I have always suspected, based upon some experiences over the years, that just as I can leave this physical realm (die) by simply letting go, I can also access my inner knowing by similar means. I must simply let go of all the silliness, distractions and drama we accumulate as conditioned and manipulated humans and look deeply within for the knowledge innate within all of us.

This is the place we barely glimpse during our lives, but still identify as a gut feeling or instinct, intuition, sixth sense, hunch, perception, inkling or even divine direction. It is where reality is actually created. It is there, it is always there, and it is the source of our individual and collective power.

This knowing is so valuable and all powerful that even in our present co-opted and impotent state, where we barely scratch the surface of our knowing, those who recognize this power for what it is are constantly attempting to tap into it by controlling and manipulating us.

In all my prior incidences of remembered NDE’s I confronted a similar decision. And in all, or at least those I clearly remember, I did not hesitate to return to where I had just come from, back to my physical human ‘self’.

While within the NDE I never really understand, nor contemplate in the manner we physical humans do, why I make the decision each time to return to being human. There is no weighting of pros and cons, since that required either a human form to think like a human, or (I presume) the form I would take if I chose the other direction. I simply knew which direction I wished to take.

Mrs. Cog tells me it was love that compelled my return. Whom am I to argue with such clear and certain reasoning?



This Time Was Different

But during the last NDE the process was somewhat different, for in this instance I also knew I would experience great pain and suffering if I returned to this realm. I also knew the pain would grow in intensity and duration the longer I hesitated and/or refrained from making a decision and that at some point I would not be able to return at all.

Again, in this transitional state I did not know what physical pain was per se because that would require a physical point of view and a human reference. I only knew I would experience pain and it would not be pleasant in the same way we know/remember we felt pain from a broken arm or acute appendicitis from ten years ago, but we do not experience or ‘know’ (feel) pain just from the act of knowing about pain or remembering past pain.

After some significant hesitation, for reasons I do not understand, I made the decision to return from where I had come.

With no reference (or need) to measure time, I have no idea how long I remained in-between. Based upon the time stamp of a text I sent just before falling asleep and when Mrs. Cog heard me moaning loudly and came in to check on me, slightly more than an hour had passed. Where I had been, time had no meaning. So trying to measure something that did/does not exist is futile.

This makes perfect sense since dreams also exist in a distorted time and reality spectrum. It makes you wonder exactly what is going on when we dream. I have always suspected we exist in an alternative realm while we sleep and dream. When I wish to I can influence, change or even end my dreams to suit my desire. This takes practice and the ability is (temporarily) lost or greatly diminished if not used regularly, at least for me.

Once I returned from the last NDE, when compared to prior NDE’s it felt longer, that more time had passed. However, my sense of greater time might easily be attributable to the lingering aftereffects of the drugs administered by the anesthesiologist. But there’s no doubt about the pain, for there was a great deal of it.

The best way to describe the pain I felt is to refer to the burning cramping exhausted sensation of severely overworked leg muscles and lungs after a long hard run well beyond your normal stopping point. It felt like every muscle in my body was screaming, every joint aching, every nerve ending inflamed. Interestingly my heart was beating normally and my breathing was slow and measured during the entire time I slowly regained consciousness.

I became physically able to hear my own moans of pain at nearly the same moment Mrs. Cog heard me. But I was coming to, returning to a state of full physical awareness, long before I was able to hear my moans and see Mrs. Cog’s face.

It was very similar to returning from a deep sleep where you are half in and half out, slowly transitioning from unconsciousness to conscious awareness. I was both a spectator of my awakening and also a participant. I felt the pain long before I began to physically moan. I’ve read of people who wake on the operating table in the middle of surgery and feel the pain of the surgery, but are unable to speak or move. In many respects this was my experience.

When I was finally able to speak, see and move, the worst of the pain had already passed. I suppose this was a blessing in disguise, though this could easily be a psychological and emotional rationalization to protect my psyche from the trauma I experienced during the return. I simply don’t know for sure anything other than what I am attempting to explain. Even finding descriptive words is difficult because I am trying to explain a non-human event in human terms.

One of the first things I said to Mrs. Cog as she hovered over me was that I had been ‘gone, really gone’, meaning not to the normal places we visit while sleeping or while awake. I repeated that phrase several times until I was certain Mrs. Cog understood something more than just a bad dream had occurred.

I was exhausted, in pain and extremely disorientated. Several minutes passed before I even attempted to rise from the bed, and then I was only able to move slowly. While the pain was steadily subsiding, it wouldn’t be until the next morning, a span of more than 15 hours, when both the physical and cognitive fog fully lifted.



Recognizing What Had Happened

After deep contemplation and some conversation with, and questioning of, my primary care doctor I’ve come to the conclusion that at some point during the hour I stopped breathing and my heart stopped. How long is up for discussion, though the muscle and joint pain speak to a significant period of time.

Upon regaining consciousness I had a body sense I’d been ‘gone’ for a significant period of time, meaning many minutes, possibly ten or more. Later I read of pain and cognitive symptoms matching mine of those who had been clinically dead far longer than the traditional 4-5 minutes considered the maximum before brain damage sets in. But after a sufficient recovery period, they too were not impaired from the longer than usual duration of death.

What was a bit shocking was the growing realization this had happened twice before immediately after the first two medical procedures were conducted under general anesthesia. While not as severe or deep, both times I awoke feeling I had traveled somewhere not of here and even said so the second time directly to Mrs. Cog. While there was no significant pain the first two times, the fatigue and disorientation was quite difficult though not as bad as the final NDE.

I think what threw off both of us off from investigating more deeply after the first two instances was that it was relatively common for me to wake from an overnight sleep or even a nap (and sometimes while ‘awake’) and express the feeling or knowledge of having traveled or ‘gone’ somewhere. The only significant difference between any of those and these three NDE examples was the intensity of that feeling, which usually rapidly fades within a short span of time.

I have long wondered why my NDE’s are markedly different from so many others I’ve read about. What seems obvious to me is nearly all other reported NDE’s are experienced in human perception terms, while mine are experienced in non-specific knowing terms. Almost like I’m skipping all the cosmic fireworks and moving directly to the transition and reformation.

It makes sense, especially when trying to understand and interpret something completely beyond our human experience, that our conscious mind would attempt to use familiar concepts to help us cope with the unknown. Our cultural conditioning tends to come to the forefront when we are confused or beyond the edge of familiarity.

Stare long enough at an abstract painting or stained knots and swirls in a slab of wood and eventually patterns, objects and shapes begin to emerge. It is our human brain trying to make sense of the unfamiliar and random.

I feel strongly our perceived reality is directly created and maintained by our strongest individual and shared beliefs. That rock is solid simply because we all believe the rock to be solid. There can be no other way for that rock to be, thus it is solid simply because we believe it is with such certainty and conviction that we never question our own perceived reality. To do so would be considered cultural heresy, even insanity.

Like a closed loop positive reinforcement feedback generator, we believe, therefore we are…along with everything else. We believe the rock to be solid because it is solid. The rock is solid because we believe the rock to be solid. Realty is conceived, formed and maintained solely by the force and energy of our collective and individual belief system. One simply doesn’t question the fundamental nature of our being; therefore our being is perceived to be real and therefore experienced.

We know without a doubt we are real because we feel we are real. Seeing, feeling, hearing, all our senses form the basis of, and therefore the proof of, our reality. Since all our senses which perceive reality communicate with our brain, supposedly the vessel of our consciousness, via electrical impulses which are then interpreted by the brain to form our perception of reality, is it really that silly to posit we are all experiencing a shared illusion?

Or as Albert Einstein is alleged to have said, “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one”.



Non Local Consciousness

What if our consciousness is not in fact ‘local’, meaning located within our perceived human reality, but rather unconfined by three dimensions plus a very strange concept called time? To know/believe our consciousness is NOT local with utmost certainty (therefore making it ‘real’) is to deliberately and consciously dematerialize our present reality, an altogether alarming proposition to the average Jane and Joe.

Our collective and individual reality is confined solely by our existing belief system. Expand our belief system and reality expands in direct proportion to the belief expansion. A perfect example was the firm belief no human could run a sub four minute mile until Roger Bannister did so on May 6, 1954. His world record time fell just 46 days later and within a few years dozens of people had also broken the barrier.

Once a new reality is conceived, then created, others quickly come to believe in this new reality, thereby affirming and cementing it into the overall prevailing reality, eventually to be adopted as ‘real’ by the general public. Similarly, propaganda is used to change, establish and reinforce alternative realities with the purpose of controlling a diverse and easily subjugated population. Most of what we think and believe is not actually real, but simply alternative memes and narratives promoted as truth and fact by various authorities.

We have been conditioned from birth to accept new realities promoted as truth by authorities, better known as people who author their (and our) own reality. In our mind, the very same mind which interprets and creates reality, truth is perceived to be reality for it proves our reality is real, i.e. anything that proves reality must itself be reality aka real.

This is why those of us unable or unwilling to create our own reality (aka expand our understanding of the true nature of reality) demand authorities dispense and affirm truth aka reality, even when we know with great certainty they are lying. Our desperate need for external affirmation of our shared reality, an egoic compulsion designed to defend our conscious mind from an inner knowing our shared reality is a lie designed to deceive us, overwhelms any repressed desire to actually know reality.

Either we create our own reality or we live in someone else’s.



Fundamentally it’s All Fundamental

My (personal) fundamental belief system is that our shared reality is not ‘real’, therefore I tend to more vigorously question any and all reality, especially any reality promoted by authorities attempting to control us through our manipulated perception of reality. I suspect my NDE experience is closely aligned to my belief system just as so many others who perceive bright lights, white tunnels etc. are simply perceiving an NDE reality (sans the comforting confines of the human construct) they have been taught to believe/perceive is real.

More simply, most publicly declared NDE’s follow (in form and function) popular shared beliefs and cultural/social conditioning. Those unfamiliar or practiced in seeking guidance from our inner knowing, meaning they seek external knowledge rather than inner knowing, once at the transition point common to all NDE’s, will use conditioned thought and established belief systems to comprehend what for all intent and purposes is an entirely alien experience.

When confronted with an unfamiliar experience, either we seek our inner knowing to understand or we use an external knowledge base not of our own making to interpret what we are experiencing.

I suspect my NDE reality was/is supported or interpreted by what I perceive as fundamental inner knowing while others more enthralled by externally perceived truths, aka realities, interpret the transition process differently. Sans the confines of the only reality we (think we) know, one defined and confined by our perception of being human, our consciousness, once untethered, will struggle to find form and meaning in a reality unlike any remembered experienced.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.



Cognitive Dissonance

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