My earliest memory is a pre-birth experience. Indulge in an eye-roll, if you like, but discovering the source of this memory which I had always assumed occurred early in my first year of life, rocked my world. The reason I relate it here is that I think it is related to a number of other odd/paranormal experiences
including the NDE/OBE of 1986.
The memory is of being on the landing of a fire escape. I can see dark brick buildings parallel to each other with an open paved area in between. Washing lines extend from pulleys attached to the brick walls. I can hear a radio playing in the background. I can see in front of me a window and a door. Through the window I can see an old-fashioned ‘ice box.’ a wringer washing machine, and I sense a kitchen sink under the window. But what captivates my attention is the wallpaper. It has a yellow background, a red "grid" pattern and within some of the grids is a reddish-brown rooster with its head lifted and its beak open. At the rooster's feet is a tuft of green grass. That’s it. That's the whole (conscious) memory.
The memory wasn't something I gave much thought to apart from the fact that it was my earliest recollection. However, one summer I had an interesting conversation with my mother, one that rather shocked both of us.
We were sitting in the garden on a warm late summer day in 1990. We had been chatting about various family-related events when the image of the rooster wallpaper suddenly came to mind. I told my mother the complete memory in hopes of recovering some context for it. I knew it wasn't from the house I remembered from about six months of age but my parents never referred to living anyplace else after they married. My mother was shaking her head and looking a bit alarmed. "You can't possibly remember that!" Of all the reactions I could have anticipated that one was conspicuously absent. What did she mean? "What you described is the kitchen of the flat your father and I lived in immediately after we got married. You were conceived there, but we bought the house and moved into it three months before you were born!"
Of course, I questioned her further. Did they go back to the flat after I was born - perhaps to meet the new tenants, or retrieve some item that might have been left behind when they moved? The answer was a categorical no. My mother had hated the flat and couldn't wait to get out of it. They'd never been back there
and I could not recall them or anyone in the family ever mentioning the place. Their first house, on the other hand, was well documented with photos taken with a borrowed 'Brownie' camera used on the occasion of my 'Christening.’
Despite being professionally in a different field, my primary and abiding interest has always been in the relationship between brain, mind, and consciousness. Women doctors were as scarce as the rooster's hens' teeth when I was a child and no one took my aspiration to become a doctor seriously. My mother even went so far as to substitute a "nurse's kit" for the "doctor's kit" that I requested for Christmas when I was six years old. "Boys grow up to be doctors. Girls grow up to be nurses." Uh-huh.
The fact remained that I excelled in biology in secondary school and never lost the desire to understand the connection between brain, mind, and consciousness. I was confident that people like Wilder Penfield were on the right track so, despite being funneled into a "traditional field," I took every psychology course
I could get into, read medical journal articles in the university library, and searched out books written by scientists like Sir John Eccles, Hans Selye, Einstein's published letters, early work on right brain/left brain functions by Sperry, the work being done at SRI by Russell Targ, Charles Tart, Hal Putthof, etc. From a purely
mechanistic, physiological/neuro-chemical view of consciousness I was beginning to wonder whether consciousness is “in” us or are we “in” consciousness? Likewise, was the mind a function of the brain or was the brain the 'delivery system' for the mind?
After nearly 20 years, I left lecturing at the end of 1985. I was burnt-out, exhausted, and could not concentrate even on reading. For the whole of January 1986, I was of little use to anyone. For the first time since childhood I was sleeping 9 to 10 hours a night. Gradually over the next few months, my ability to
read and comprehend returned and I indulged it, shamelessly re-reading Hegel and Kant, Lacan and Derrida, Deleuze, Julian Jaynes, Capra, and others who were pursuing the answers to the mystery of consciousness. In light of my experience in the early hours of 15 June 1986, this sudden frenzy of reading and concentrating on the nature of consciousness that seized me made me wonder again about 'who is in charge here'−human will or some parallel reality to which we are in some subtle way attuned?
On 15 June 1986, I had gone to bed in usual fashion with a book. I don't recall when I fell asleep, but I had turned off the reading lamp, taken off my specs and set the book next to me on the bed. The next thing I knew I was in the throes of an Apnea attack. I stopped breathing and shortly thereafter felt myself lifted out of my body! I was aware of the ceiling of the bedroom above me and I was afraid of "hitting" it. The oddity of that made me "look" down. And there I was. Well, my body was there. Yet "I" was up on the ceiling! My chest was still and I wanted to scream "Someone help her!" It would be a while later that the oddity of referring to myself as "she" would register.
I "saw" the alarm clock on the desk next to the bed. It read 3:15. Despite the circumstances I noted that I felt "fine." I wasn't fearful. In fact, the experience had a peculiar familiarity about it that I couldn't account for. That too, would be a matter to explore later.
My next memory was of not being alone floating beneath the ceiling which is when I noticed the guy on the bed. It was a water bed and "she" was under the duvet whilst he was on top of it. He seemed to be weightless−which he probably was. But the really odd thing was that "he" was at the same time right in front of me, floating. When I "looked" at "him" I felt an indescribably blissful peace. I could get used to this, I thought. The being that was radiating this enveloping energy was communicating with me through it. I felt a great many things all at once. I felt, for the first time in my life, completely understood. I was transparent
to "him" and he communicated this sense of total, non-judgmental acceptance. I was aware for the first time in this lifetime of being completely, unconditionally happy. My reaction was totally spontaneous and unconsidered. I "asked" in consciousness "Is this what people mean when they say they are happy?” He said, “Yes." Pause. Then he said: "And, this time, I want you to remember it."
Remember it? Fat chance I'd ever forget this amazing feeling. But then almost immediately I realised the implication. "Whoa! This time? That means...Yes. Okay.” The next communication from him threw me for a loop: "I want you to remember this feeling and recall it if you ever again begin to doubt that the
purpose of your existence is happiness. Return to this experience and you will immediately return to this state. Draw strength from it."
This was beginning to have the distinct feeling of a good-bye about it. Hey, we had barely said "Hello.” I did not want this experience to end, not ever! Then he dropped the bombshell: "You will not see me again for a long while. But you will see me again eventually." Everything in me cried out no! Please, take me with you! Even as I thought it, I knew that would not be possible. Yet, I felt such human love for this being that my heart even now swells at the memory of him.
Several things then happened in quick succession. I somehow was back inside my body and struggling for air. In a second, I felt the release of my trachea and air flooded my lungs. At the same time I was aware that the wonderful Being was beside me lying on top of the duvet. He seemed ancient. I could only see him from the side but the image is engraved on my brain. He was extraordinarily tall, ethereally thin, and no heavier than a small bird. I could see his profile. His head was disproportionately large in relation to his body and his neck was long and disproportionately thin and delicate in relation to his head. Both seemed to be covered in "peach fuzz," like a baby's head. His "body" was covered from neck to toes in a garment of some sort
that seemed to 'sparkle' with light. His entire being seemed to be made of light and as I watched in stricken fascination, his form disintegrated and disappeared before my eyes! I could see a cloud of what looked like sparkling dust motes−and then, nothing.
I felt overwhelming love and gratitude toward him despite the underlying pain of separation from his presence. And yet, I was blissfully happy in the knowledge that not only was it okay to be happy; it was a sort of moral imperative. I realised for the first time in my life (this one, at least) that Happiness has a serious role to play in the destiny of humans. It made perfect sense! Look at who causes the trouble in the world: unhappy, usually spiteful, hate-obsessed or greed-obsessed people and power hungry egoists who want everybody to be under their control. The one thing these people are not is happy. And yet we are
born in possession of the one thing that bestows happiness regardless of external circumstances: consciousness.
Pure consciousness IS happiness. It is our refuge from the vagaries of the mind that churns with thoughts of all kinds and that reacts when "our buttons are pushed." None of that is necessary. We as a species have created the vast majority of the pain and suffering in life. As much as 97% of it is un-necessary. The rest is the result of living in a three dimensional world with volcanoes, droughts, earthquakes, cyclones, tornados, and tsunamis, etc.
We, as a species, are missing the point of our existence: to live in and from consciousness. Entering the state of pure awareness without thought is a blissful experience. It quiets the mind's neurotic obsessions and allows us to experience happiness' twin: freedom. Freedom from all manner of suffering, want and limitation is possible in the state of pure awareness. Buddhist monks trained in ancient methods of meditation are able to withdraw from and return to their bodies. This ability has been sorely tested in political prisons in Tibet in recent years. In one case after another the monks report surviving torture by withdrawing consciousness from the body until the torture session finished. And their recovery was also a product of secret meditation sessions conducted whilst others slept.
Consciousness IS. We need to pay attention to what it is struggling to tell us: we must step outside of time and thought in order to find the healthy state that enables us to solve the practical problems created by our ignorance of our real nature.
I am neither an apologist nor an evangelist for any particular view of consciousness. There are many schools of thought on what consciousness is. What I know from my own experience is that we control the extent to which we have access to the energy that is consciousness. We've exploited most other human capacities, why not the most essential one?