It happened 35 years ago and for the first time I try to write down my experience. It had been facilitated by a hallucinogenic drug. Therefore I don’t know even if it fits into your studies and interest at all. Certainly I’d be very curious of how people studying NDEs see my experience and hope that this letter will lead to any kind of exchange.
Full moon night January 1984, on a remote beach near a holy but small Hindu pilgrimage town south of Goa in India. There were a total of 5 or 6 foreign “hippies,” including me, and we decided to take LSD for the occasion. Before sunset we hiked up a small hillock that divides two beaches to take our bills there. After the moon rise my friends walked back down to the beach to light a fire and celebrate while I sat down, right at that spot, and started to sit practicing Vipassana meditation. I had learned that Buddhist practice of attention to and experiencing “what is,” without judging, 1 or 2 years earlier, in India, and had started to try to practice every day.
Telling by the position of the full moon, midnight was nearing when I got up, looked around and down to the beach some 400 or 500 feet away. I was amazed that I was able to see individual water drops glistering in the moonlight when they separated themselves from the tips of the waves just before hitting the beach. I found the sight irresistibly attractive, walked down to the beach and continued to walk right into the ocean to merge and become one with the elements and the universe.
First thing I did, while swimming out into the ocean, was taking off my “loongi”, Indian style cloth and vest that carried all my money; merging with the elements I wouldn’t need any of that worldly stuff anymore. I started, quite emotionally but also ecstatic, to say good bye to anybody or anything that I loved, at last also from my parents but then was startled because there was a single thing left that I was not able to say good bye to or to leave behind: my own breath!
It kept on coming and going but somehow I managed not to feel disturbed by it and started to sink. While sinking my body curled up into an embryo position, all became peaceful and quiet until suddenly something happened, booom! My body exploded into a fully stretched position, my arms straight up, and into a channel of light through which my body got pulled up, with high speed, until my body popped up again at the water’s surface.
I was ecstatic, loudly screaming out some Sanskrit sayings that were meant to say (maybe I got them partly wrong ;) ) that the ocean, the moon above, god, the universe, me, all are but One and the same. After a while in this ecstatic state it dawned on me that the rather strong waves had brought me dangerously close to sharp rocks that divided the two beaches, below the hillock where it all had started. It occurred to me in a flash that I better try to save me, swim back on shore to go back “to earth” and to, this time, go there consciously and purposefully to do something good, something meaningful.
The actual experience that night had been that I actually did die! Whenever I dared to recount this experience to close friends, at least during the first 10 or 15 years after this night, I used to say something like: “I had died once, during this life.”
Much more, quite amazing, happened during the rest of this night and the following months, a summary:
Once I reached the shore I did not at all feel like walking over to the campfire of my friends down the beach but went back up the hillock where it all had started. I was utterly exhausted and tried to relax but lying down proved impossible because of intense pain in the chest. I ended up inside a small Hindu shrine that’s located up that hillock, overlooking both beaches, sitting cross legged hanging on to a heavy brass chain with an oil lamp that dangled over the Shiva lingam that I sat in front of. Exhausted I tried to lie down again and again but if I tried the pain in the chest proved unbearable, I had to continue sitting, clinging on to that chain while I was spitting out salt water, more and more, for many hours.
Once I was able to walk again, after sun rise, I went back down to the beach to finally lie down (by now it was possible) and then mostly slept for over 24, rather 48 hours.
The following 3 months:
First my “friends” (remember I had given up all my money) paid my bus fare and took me along to a mountain area in south India where they started to compete who was making the best “hashish” out of the famous “weed” there. I found their competitiveness and pride involved rather disgusting and soon, with the equivalent of maybe 10 USD that I had been given, hit the road down to the capital city of Kerala state. Earlier I had sent a letter to a brother of mine in my home country asking him to send some money to a local bank there.
From when I appeared in that bank the first time, asking if the money had arrived, until it actually arrived it took another 10 to 14 days. During that time I was roaming the area between the city and a nearby beach, usually managed to get one simple meal a day and slept in the open. Often I sat in meditation, not trying to “produce” myself but rather hiding, nevertheless it happened that people came up to me to bow down. Even while walking it happened that locals would stare at me, folded their hands in reverential greetings or even, as it seemed to me, stunned, fell to their knees. I experienced that as a danger to take that reverence personally, to develop pride but had to take on that challenge.
Once the money arrived first I went to a city with a famous Ayurvedic institute that I had visited before, actually I do not remember what had been the actual reason why I went back there, could have been because I had started to feel sick. Doctors there must have considered that I’d rather needs spiritual, not medical help, anyway I was connected with and ended up staying at a small “ashram” In the outskirts of that city. It was a very poor and simple place consisting of a few primitive huts, led by a young but very enthusiastic Hindu scholar who specially was working with the local youth.
My health deteriorated, I had very high temperature and very strong headache. Luckily there was a poor, local lady with two young daughters that came visiting me, sitting next to my bed and holding my hand while I was prepared to finally really die. I had not been able to take food for a while and had been down to weigh 128 pounds though I am over 6 feet tall.
I had fever dreams during which the people that mattered most to me, above all my parents, appeared. Somehow I survived and became better again. Once I was able to move again, first thing I did was I bought a ticket to fly back to Austria, after having stayed a few years in Asia, to meet my parents. Soon after I had arrived my father fell ill. He still was young, in his early 60s, but very soon I understood that my father was dying. He died a year later, and I was there with him.
It all made lots of sense.