In light of some recent research that has verified a higher level perspective of the creative process that I’ve been intuiting for some time, I thought it important to relay an experience that occurred to me back in the early 1990s. Why it is important to do so is because aspects of this experience seem to closely mirror the descriptions I’ve recently read in a research paper. In effect, my life seems to be coming full circle and this experience seems to be a foundational moment to it.
Back in the early 1990s, I was living with my wife in Vancouver, having been together at least two or three years. While going to sleep one night, I feel asleep in an unusual sort of way compared to normal. I was lying on my back with my arms crossed in front of me and my legs and feet next to each other touching firmly. As I drifted off to sleep, I thought to myself that I felt like I was lying like an ancient Egyptian pharaoh being buried and passing on to the afterlife.
As I drifted off to sleep though, I also noticed my breathing was very deep and rhythmic. The blankets on the bed had been pulled up enough that they were close to my face and mouth but not close enough to be touching. So there was this gap, a space, where my breathing was channeled and focused, making it more noticeable. As I breathed and listened to myself breathing, this sense of being in between this space amplified. So I was not thinking of myself in bed, nor thinking of the room around me. I was in a sort of in between empty space between both.
When I finally drifted off to sleep, the locations within my dream seemed very apocalyptic. I was on an abandoned highway that was climbing higher and higher into the hills and into a mountain range (reminiscent of the California hills used in the TV series MASH). Destroyed cars and school buses lay strewn alongside the roadside. In front of me, an overpass lay broken and crumbled on the roadway, as I continued to slowly climb up and up.
Eventually I neared the top of the hilly mountain range and stepped up and onto its peak. When I did, something shifted profoundly in the experience. It’s like I was no longer in a dream but what was happening to me was now very real and vivid. As I stepped up onto the top of the hilly mountain range, my body just lifted up into the air and I began to float forward off the edge of the mountain. My gaze shifted to what was in front of me and what I felt was so vivid it is hard to describe.
Imagine being able to feel every single atom in your body and every single atom floating around you. That’s what it felt like. I felt completely naked, being able to feel everything at the tiniest detail. I could feel the air around me…the space, the emptiness, the environment, the flow (reminiscent of the Amy Adams scene in Arrival shown above, where her hair is flowing as she floats). In the background, I could still hear my breathing but it became a rhythmic part of the breath of this space. Small chimes could be heard in the distance as well.
After the feeling of the space, I looked up and experienced the visual grandeur of it. It was like seeing nothing and everything at the same time. Around me, the black emptiness of space engulfed me. It was enormous, beyond comprehension. And yet in front of me in the far distance was a light, so great it was blinding. So there I floated, between a space of infinite emptiness and infinite light. I remember someone telling me it must have been scary, yet I felt completely safe, like I was floating within my mother’s womb.
And then I “awoke”, if it can be called that. I opened my eyes and I felt like I was both back in my bed but also still in the space I envisioned at the same time. I could feel every cell in my body, hear the rhythmic breathing and chimes fading as I slowly looked around my bed room.
I can’t remember if I told my wife of the experience after it happened the next day. I don’t think I did until years later. Where it gets really interesting though is that I tried to replicate entering this “altered state” again later, lying and breathing in the same way. I always came close to it, to the edge of it, but failed to fully cross over though because of one primary thing. A fear of losing myself in the crossover.
It was like when I opened this space in between spaces, I felt like the stability of who I was started to vanish. In effect, to enter into this space, this state, I had to fully let go of who I was. I had to be nothing and everything at the same time. The fear that arose in doing this was never the fear of letting go, which I thought it was at first, but the fear of never coming back to what I was. So this fear of being lost in this void with no sense of self, no solid, stable sense of identity. That was the fear that prevented me from crossing over and experiencing this experience again.