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A Near(ish) Death Experience

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A Near(ish) Death Experience
Answer
7/7/19 7:08 PM
Recently I came close to dying. I won't go into too many details for the sake of anonymonity, but this was a medical event that caused me to come in and out of consciouness multiple times and ended up putting me in the ER. I call it a nearish death experience because my heart never stopped, but it had many of the same characteristics of an NDE. This thing snuck up on me progressively over the course of a day or so, and the whole experience was interesting enough I thought it would be worth posting here.

During the day leading up to the ER visit, my state of mind became progressively altered. At first I thought I was just tired or feeling off. Then I recognized how similar this felt to familiar mediational states. Out of interest, I let this happen for a bit, before deciding to come out of those states. However, at that point it was out of my hands. Discursive consciousness had gone entirely and directive consciouness had dropped to a bare minimum. The jhana sequence carried on by its own momentum and became extremely difficult to impossible to direct. There was no getting off the ride.

I made a comment to friends and family who were nearby that they needed to get me to the hospital, and then I collapsed. I was in and out of consciousness after that. At the hospital, things stabilized a bit, although I was still in a severely altered state of consciousness. Friends and family were obviously concerned, but I felt as though I could let go, if not for the grief this would cause those connected to me. Multiple things were going haywire with my body, and I felt moments of physical 'panic/impending doom' but I think due to meditational training I wasn't bothered by this at all. In fact it was amusing. These just seemed like another object, another phenomenon. I was simply playing with it as a meditation object while I was very close to dying. It felt like the last thing to go would be my concern for the wellbeing of friends/family.

At any rate, I was eventually stabilized and recovered. I will be fine for now. Looking back on this experience, I feel very confident that the jhana sequence does in fact correspond to what happens to the mind during the dying process. During NDEs, people often go through an experience appropriate to their individual spirituality. Suggestion could have played a role, but I'm leaning against it since I could no longer resist or direct the experience when I tried. This was a predetermined sequence of experience. Based on what happened, I'd say the jhana sequence is very close to the baseline experience of death and dissolution. There might be other features added (I saw the tunnel vision and light, for instance), but boy it is close. For me anyway, having practiced meditation made it feel as though I had practiced dying already. I had little fear.

Those who've had similar experiences, and also physicians and others who may have heard such reports from individuals undergoing death - I'd be interested to hear your own perspective on what you've experienced or had reported to you by others, especially as it relates to your meditation experiences. Thanks all.

RE: A Near(ish) Death Experience
Answer
7/8/19 12:40 AM as a reply to Milo.
Wow... First of all, I’m glad that you are still alive and that you have recovered. This world would be poorer without you. Second, this is very interesting and somehow reassuring, so thanks for sharing! Then I’ve got to say that this is the only context I know of where somebody shares the news that they almost died and frames it as a dharma experience, even though it totally makes sense. Respect for having the wellbeing of others as your primary thoughts throughout this.

_/\_

RE: A Near(ish) Death Experience
Answer
7/8/19 4:36 AM as a reply to Milo.
Wow, that is fascinating. Thanks so much for shaing, and very glad you are ok. Quite a test!

RE: A Near(ish) Death Experience
Answer
7/8/19 1:33 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Thanks Linda, that is very kind of you. I'm glad this is reassuring for you. It was for me as well.

RE: A Near(ish) Death Experience
Answer
7/8/19 1:40 PM as a reply to curious.
You are very welcome, Curious. I know Daniel has said that in his professional experience the death process is very difficult for many. I wonder if this is what they go through. If so, I could see why it would be, lacking meditational experience. It would be very intense and scary. If so, there would be a huge benefit for people approaching the threshold to practice meditation.

RE: A Near(ish) Death Experience
Answer
7/8/19 2:11 PM as a reply to Milo.
Thanks for sharing this expereince!

Seems like your meditational habits carried on on its own during this experience. I'm very curious though, if you don't mind sharing, what level of practice you have been at prior to that near(ish) death experience. Had you hit stream-entry, for instance? That could explain, perhaps, why the path unfolded on its own as your were nearing death.

RE: A Near(ish) Death Experience
Answer
7/9/19 7:17 AM as a reply to Milo.
Milo --
Suggestion could have played a role, but I'm leaning against it since I could no longer resist or direct the experience when I tried. This was a predetermined sequence of experience.

I'm curious about what outside influence you're hinting is at play causing the predetermined nature of this experience. Can you elaborate? I'm asking because most of what I "do" isn't consciously predetermined.

RE: A Near(ish) Death Experience
Answer
7/9/19 8:35 AM as a reply to Milo.
It definitely seems like familiarity with insight and concentration states really helps with understanding experiences that a lot of people run into but don't know how to make sense of.  One of my aunts has been in and out of hospitals and nursing homes the past couple years, and I think she's started slipping into jhanic states.  She was talking about having "head spins" when she was looking at the same thing for too long, and it really makes you wonder how many other elderly people run into the same thing when their mobility is reduced and they're down to a restricted set of things to look at.  Almost like an involuntary kasina retreat in some ways.

RE: A Near(ish) Death Experience
Answer
7/9/19 10:09 AM as a reply to JP.
Yup. The difference is that when elderly people or people with certain disabilities stare at things for a long time, people assume they have lost it - especially if they try to describe their experiences.

RE: A Near(ish) Death Experience
Answer
7/9/19 1:01 PM as a reply to Ben V..
Ben V.:
Thanks for sharing this expereince!

Seems like your meditational habits carried on on its own during this experience. I'm very curious though, if you don't mind sharing, what level of practice you have been at prior to that near(ish) death experience. Had you hit stream-entry, for instance? That could explain, perhaps, why the path unfolded on its own as your were nearing death.
Post stream entry for sure but I'm not gifted at mapping, so I wouldn't be able to say much other than I'm beyond the start and not at the end.

RE: A Near(ish) Death Experience
Answer
7/9/19 1:10 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
Milo --
Suggestion could have played a role, but I'm leaning against it since I coud no longeresist or direct the experience when I tried. This was a predetermine sequence of experience.

I'm curious about what outside influence you're hinting is at play causing the predetermined nature of this experience. Can you elaborate? I'm asking because most of what I "do" isn't consciously predetermined.

In my meditation there is some subtle non-discursive  direction involved even in absorptive states in meditation, i.e. direction of the mind to a particular meditation object. It gets very subtle and seems to dissapear at some point. During this experience though, it was happening truly on autopilot from the very start. I could not have stopped it if I had wanted to. Hopefully that makes sense. It's difficult to explain, but felt very different in terms of a need to focus on particular meditation objects.

RE: A Near(ish) Death Experience
Answer
7/9/19 1:16 PM as a reply to Milo.
Yet the same basic pattern was there. It lead me to suspect that that pattern of states happens regardless of whether you are a meditator or not. It just might be an intense, scary and overwhelming experience if you haven't already experienced it through meditation. Of course this is just an educated guess and I make no claims as to why those states happen.

RE: A Near(ish) Death Experience
Answer
7/9/19 1:17 PM as a reply to JP.
JP:
It definitely seems like familiarity with insight and concentration states really helps with understanding experiences that a lot of people run into but don't know how to make sense of.  One of my aunts has been in and out of hospitals and nursing homes the past couple years, and I think she's started slipping into jhanic states.  She was talking about having "head spins" when she was looking at the same thing for too long, and it really makes you wonder how many other elderly people run into the same thing when their mobility is reduced and they're down to a restricted set of things to look at.  Almost like an involuntary kasina retreat in some ways.

That would square with my experience.