“But first I would have to transform my own terror of dying.” That’s how I ended Part I of My Nuclear Life, written only three days ago, on March 16. A lifetime ago! — given the relentless press of dire events.
This part of the tale of My Nuclear Life begins one autumn morning in 1971, when I told my little boys, then five and seven years old, that I had flown out of my body the night before. Told them that at breakfast, before shooing them off to school.
They both looked at me, dumbfounded. Finally, Sean said, “What? Oh Mom, you can’t fly,” and bit into his toast.
Only seven years old; already enculturated.
That night, I had gone to bed as usual, and while falling asleep was subliminally aware of being in the hypnogogic state between sleep and wakefulness, where images flowed through and my senses, except for hearing, had shut down. I distinctly recall the clanging of a fire engine racing down a nearby street, when suddenly . . .
. . . how to describe? Like a trap door opened in the middle of my brain (pineal gland? I wonder now), a pandora’s box that unleashed a bolt of lightning flashing static, the hissing so loud that it overwhelmed the fire engine’s clang. A millisecond later, the static storm flashed through my entire body.
It was as if I was on the launching pad, engines roaring, preparing for take-off.
And indeed, it turned out, I was!
Suddenly, “I,” as pure, detached awareness, shot through the top of my head up to the ceiling, and circled there. My “ego,” the part of me that had been formed into an identity, was present too; dazed and disoriented ego looked down at my body; then, with no thought or intent, “I” as pure spiritual awareness shot through the closed window and up above the rooftops of the neighborhood, up over the Charles River, up above Boston and Cambridge, out, out, out into the black black night lit with millions of what looked like fireflies, the stars so far away and apart.
Shooting out, further and further.
Suddenly, “I,” my ego, had a thought: “Oh! I must be dead! This must be what being dead feels like!”
And exactly at that juncture, “I,” my spirit stopped, reversed course, and shot back, back, back down from where it had come, through the window, circled the body, then zipped back in through the top of the head.
If the beginning of this adventure was strange (the sudden strong hissing static that began in the brain and quickly flashed throughout the body), then the end was even stranger.
“I” was back in my body. Not dead after all.
I was back, but I couldn’t move.
The experience had been so far out of the ordinary, so “other than” what I had thought possible, that my body was completely paralyzed. I couldn’t move a muscle, not a finger. I could barely breathe. I don’t know how long I lay there paralyzed. It must have been least an hour, during which I remember a strong desire to be touched by another person, to be held, thinking, “If only someone would hold me I would be okay.”
I had never felt so all alone on this earth.
What . . . was . . . that?
Whatever it was, I knew it was real. More real than a dream. In fact, more real than waking life. Even then I knew with utter certainty, that as dreaming feels “less real” than waking life, so waking life feels less real than this, this what? This flying out of my body!
That same morning, after breakfast, I went to the library and almost immediately uncovered the phrase, now famous, “out of body experience” (OOB), and Robert Monroe‘s first book about it. As I write this, I notice that this book, Journeys Out of the Body, was published in 1971, the same year as my OOB experience! How wondrous, that the universe should offer, right then, a way to understand what happened to me, or at least, a realization that I wasn’t crazy.
As Gertrude Stein is said to have said, “I write for myself and one other stranger.” In other words, as long as there is one other who understands, you’re not alone, you’re not nuts. What we call “sanity” is both a social experience and socially defined.
To those who might think that this website is crazy, just know: I’m not alone. There are plenty of others who think like I do, who have had experiences like mine.
Since that time, I have remembered a repeating childhood experience that foretells what happened to me that one autumn night in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
I used to carry my sleeping bag out into our suburban back yard, and sleep there, alone. I liked it, because I could lie on my back and “whoosh” out to the stars. Back then, I just did it, and though the whooshing was strong and strange, it was also familiar, an experience that, though not part of the rest of my life, ran parallel with it. I remember enjoying these flights very much, though I have no memory of where I went, just the sensation of whooshing out of the body. A great rushing energy, an expansive release from the body’s prison.
It’s odd that I should have had those childhood experiences of flying and yet have been so afraid of the Bomb that I was afraid to go to sleep for fear that the Bomb would fall during the night and I’d never wake up!
I think my double life, my disassociated life, one conditioned though nuclear-based trauma, and the other unfettered and free, may be one that many people share.
It’s another version of the “Above” and the “Below.” And the need to heal the “Below” and remember its union with the “Above.”
Though the experience of flying out of my body showed me that “I” am not my body, and that therefore, there is no death, it is not the end of the story of my nuclear life. The third, and final, installment concerns an experience that began almost three years ago and is, apparently, culminating now, with the ongoing Japanese catastrophe. Stay tuned.