Life is forever
I have listened to others describe what it is they are looking for with prayer and meditation. They state such goals and objectives as, “nirvana, bliss, heaven, peace, serenity, one with everything, and the grand and glorious enlightenment.” It is with a sense of apprehension that I have come to realize that what they seek I have already reluctantly experienced and I am now trying to understand.
Walking down a short hallway from “the man-room” to my bedroom, I pass by the doorway to the living room. Out of the corner of my eye I see a young man sitting in a chair. The room begins to fill with a bright light. The walls become translucent, and I rush to my bedroom in order to escape. The entire event lasted only a few seconds; long enough for me to begin thinking that I had imagined the person I seen out of the corner of my eye.
I returned to the living room to confirm that nothing was there, but truth had settled in my mind…It resonated in my feelings, shattering, as it always does, my defenses. The figure I saw sitting in the chair was a younger Carlston. He was beckoning to me. Time stopped and I found myself at the veil’s doorway. The doorway, more to the point, what’s on the other side, is a place that for 20 years I have avoided. The place beyond the veil of physical understanding is a place of God and I have been there…More than once. I am a reluctant traveler of both time and space.
What is spirituality?
Part of it, is the realization that you are spirit; a consciousness of being…an awareness of one’s soul. In other words, to know that you are eternal. C.S. Lewis, in the Screw Tape Letters, describes human beings as “amphibians,” being one part physical and the other spiritual. Both worlds, physical and spiritual, are individually different, yet each, is one and the same. Most of us are deaf, dumb, and blind to the greater part of our nature; walking through our lives never realizing the spiritual universes in which we live. Indeed, many will perish never having listened, spoken, or seen as an awakened spiritual being.
So, once upon a time I died. My father had a near death event. His account finds itself in good comapny—you know white light, beautiful music, and the whole out of body experience described by thousands. My near death event was not so pretty. There was no white light experience, out of body traveling, or glorious music. Bad Dream, were my prophetic first words post death.
The words “bad dream” make so much sense when you know my story. That is, if you know the 25 year old Carlston. Until the age of ten, I lived on 200 acres in the country; running and playing in the fields of my parents. My world was turned upside down when we moved to a city of 200,000 and my acreage became a lot. I watched my father die from a heart attack when I was twelve. From the age of nine to the age of sixteen I drank and used drugs. I think drug addict is the word and I posed for a thug’s life. At the age of sixteen I began to follow a spiritual path. At twenty-five years of age, I had a job and girlfriend, which I intended to marry. Then there was death.
With chest-pains, I awoke at around 3am. I went to the ER with my mother and they immediately rushed me in. After a while, the nurse told me that they were going to give me a shot of morphine. I, being a recovering drug addict, said, “that is unacceptable.” After arguing with the nurse and hearing the pleas of my worried mother, I gave in. The morphine had been injected. I looked my mother in the eyes, told her I was sorry and promptly died.
Stage one: Enter Hell
I read somewhere that time is an illusion, but this meant nothing until death. The ER staff was rushing about trying to revive me. It was in this moment that I became aware that I was dead. I struggled to move. I tried to speak. Finally, I endeavored to take one breath, but I could not. Like drowning, all that remained was terror. Then came the Presence. It spoke to me. There were no words. There were no sounds. The Presence was the Word, and the Word was, “Let me know when you’re finished.”
I was aware of the Presence but It gave me no comfort. I ignored It and focused my will on living— to breathe. All became dark as the minutes turned to hours, hours to days, days to years’ and time lost continuity. I fought for an age in my struggle for life. The will ought not be underestimated, but it has its limits when unsupported. I don’t remember why, perhaps it was exhaustion, perhaps a lesson in futility learned, whatever the reason, I let go of life and fell into the void.
Stage Two: Soul to Heaven
I woke up in a place filled with spheres of a clear white-blue force, traveling in streams of pure energy; its hue was golden. The spheres would stop and look at me. Entire lives would swirl in my mind’s eye. Then, I was standing upon an alabaster sea— a sea without end. It was now that I realized there was no more pain; there was only peace. I felt the wind but none blew. There was warm sunlight on my face but none shined. There was nothing, and then again everything. There came a drop, of what I will call water, from heaven and it struck the alabaster sea. There was a great sound, which has no explanation. The sea lost its form. Then, the Presence said to me, “Arise Carlston.” I saw a black sun swirling in the heavens with a gold-red light, and it fell toward me. Then, I heard a doctor speaking to me and I said, “Bad dream.”
I spent weeks in the hospital. I was asked many times about what it was like to have been dead for three minutes. I responded to all inquiries the same: to the doctor who came by ICU, my girlfriend, mother, and to all my friends. I told everyone, without fail, that nothing happened. I wanted to return to my life. I wanted to forget. I didn’t acknowledge the death experience. However, my external life seemed to reflect my psyche, in spite of my will. My physical conditions required that I have a defibrillator implanted in my chest and my entire life style had to change. I suffered an infection after the surgery, which left me home bound for a month. My mother learned she had an incurable cancer. The girlfriend left me, and I lost the job. I became angry. I resented everything, and suddenly I knew my mortality. I rarely left the house.
Months later, this young padawan had an audience with his master, Bill. The meeting lasted all of 5 minutes and this is what he said, “If you want to kill yourself, fine, but I am not going to participate. If you want to live you know what to do.” Then he left, and I was left alone. There is a loneliness few know; a self-imposed prison of isolation, and mine was a dark fortress of bitterness and fear that kept me safe from my new reality. I used to joke that I wanted a tattoo of praying hands with an inscription that read, “Fucking Bitter.”
The gospels say, Christ rose from the dead on the third day and ascended to heaven…
During the time leading up to the “pleasant little visit” I had with my mentor there were a series of symbolic occurrences. Each instance took me back to the experience of death. Here are a couple of examples: While in the hospital I went to the chapel and found myself sitting next to a painting of the resurrection. In my neighborhood, while sitting at a stop sign, I saw, stalled in the intersection, a customized van with the resurrection scene painted on its side. There were many more. Always the same, an image of the resurrection, and it always took me back to the experience of death.
To say I was taken back to the death experience is more accurate than saying I remembered, reflected, or flashed back. I would suddenly be on the ER’s metal table, (I call it the slab). The walls melt way, and I fall through the void to the alabaster sea. Then, there was the great doorway or portal in the veil, which relentlessly called to me. I can see that there was a blank spot in my mind; something, which remained unseen. There was more to the death event than I remembered or saw. It was haunting.
The slab events last less than a second and more than a lifetime. I would simply ignore them. Having worked in the mental health field, I considered it dangerous to tell anyone about reliving my death event. I decided that well meaning friends would insist that I see well meaning doctors, psychiatrist, and therapist who would label, medicate, and treat it as a trauma or insanity. I was convinced that over time it would stop occurring, but to my dismay it was only the beginning. A cool breeze, warm sunlit day, a bird chirping, a shadow, a light bulb exploding, warm bath, a hot shower— all these, seemingly mundane experiences, have taken me back to the slab.
Following the pep-talk from my mentor, I found myself reluctantly inspired. I went for a walk (at the doctors request). And I prayed. The next day I called Bill and told him, “walked and prayed” then I hung up. I repeated that call every day for the next ten months. While walking in a rain storm, it occurred to me, “I had died and woke up someone completely different.” That, in effect, the Carlston that had lived the previous twenty-five years no longer existed. I had been reborn. I could see how my mind was different, feelings changed, and even my physical world had been altered. It was like all new software had been downloaded. I was struggling to maintain who I was in the face of altered beliefs and changing attitudes. I remember the first 25 years. I saw them as myself but there was a sense of separation, as if it belong to another man. I debated with myself, “Was it not the same when I sobered up? Did I not see the first sixteen years as time and space occupied by another person?” No, this was different; my core was transformed. I no longer needed the inscription, a praying hands tattoo would suffice. However, I would resist this new reality for many years. Hoping it was only a philosophical idea and nothing more, I fought the prospect that it was a true experience, but truth has its funny little ways.
Stage three: Being Carlston
I continued having translucent moments where time would stop and I stood upon the alabaster sea staring into the veil’s doorway. I dreaded these moments the way one dreads having horrific nausea. Death became an inevitability that I no longer feared. If everything I had experienced was all a dream, there was one thing which stood out as true to me— it was painless. There were lots of procedures done to keep me alive over the years. But out of frustration and anger (though I knew it not) I did nothing to care for myself: I didn’t eat right, exercise, or take medication. The only positive element in my life was I maintained my sobriety. But at the age of thirty-four I weighted around two hundred and ninety pounds.
I got involved in an event that ended up being a two year service commitment. It was my association with others involved in this event, which lead to my changed perspective about the near death event. I began to see it as a spiritual event and not a traumatic experience. For the next year I went on a spiritual quest to improve my conscious contact with God. I began to eat right and exercise. Suddenly I wanted to stay on the planet as long as I could…I developed a healthy fear of death.
Shut Up and Listen Dude
I went to a seminar on meditation and the facilitator told a story about Mother Teresa. She was asked, “Mother, what do you say when you pray?” She responded, “I don’t say anything, I listen.” Then she was asked, “Well, what does God say? “ Mother Teresa replied, “He doesn’t say anything. He listens.” I decided this Teresa person must have been the best catholic India had to offer. So, the Pope sainted this simple minded peasant, because this was simple minded bullshit. (God forgive me!)
After the seminar I was traveling home and stopped at a store in the middle of nowhere. I was three persons deep in line, and the clerk was talking to the customer at the counter. As one customer paid he just continued the conversation with the next patron, as if we had all been listening. When I got to the counter he looked at me and said, “God wants you listen.” This, I thought, was an odd coincidence. So, I promptly told the clerk to mind his own fucking business.
I saw the word “listen” countless times, through many different mediums, and it meant nothing to me. Now, its important to take this in context. I live in the deep south. There are more churches than Starbucks down here! These signs were coming from some pretty wild angles. Two ladies arguing at a grocery store, one turns to me and says, “Jesus wants her to listen! He wants all of us to listen.” Random sign hanging on a wall, “God is listening.” The word listen began to stick out everywhere; it was a bright beacon flashing on signs, screens, internet, and books. I was hyper sensitive to the word, but the message, if indeed it was a message, held no significance for me.
At the age of thirty-six, I was walking across the lawn at my place of work. I abruptly became short of breath, broke out in a sweat, and experienced chest pains. The doctors told me I need triple bypass surgery. I laid in the hospital surrounded by concerned friends awaiting surgery and I was angry. I was angry because my healthy new lifestyle had come to late. I waited too long investigate my relationship with God. As sure as I knew my own name, I realized my time was over and the reaper was coming to collect. Bill came to the hospital long enough to tell me, “ There is a strong possibility you will die in the next few days and you are very angry. You don’t want to meet God this way.”
A young friend of mine named Ben stopped by my room. With great excitement, he explained that he had met an African-American minister named Charles who had also had a triple bypass. This Charles character went to hospitals sharing his experience with others. Now remember, you need to be thinking evangelical, because we’re in the south, and in the south evangelical ministers are a dime a dozen. Ben said that there are no coincidences and he wanted me to visit with Charles. I asked my well meaning friend if he had lost his fucking mind, to which he replied, “I don’t think so.” I told Ben that no self proclaimed messenger of God was going to come tell me about Jesus saving my soul or pray over me. No one is going to rub oil on my forehead and feet. To which my young friend replied, “You’re obviously ignoring God’s will.”
The night before the surgery, friends surrounded me. Ben entered the room and kicked everyone out. He said Charles was outside my door and that he had not called him. He said that Charles had gotten off on the wrong floor and happened by my room at the exact moment that he was coming in. He says to me, “Carlston, that’s God.”
This was obviously important to my young friend so I agreed to meet Charles for a few minutes. Charles had a grayish bread and he carried a large bible. I had gotten out of bed to meet and greet Charles. I was going to take control of the conversation and hopefully prevent the praying and oil. I stuck my hand out to Charles but he lifted his bible to his chest with his left hand and pointed to the heavens with his right. He then said, “Carlston, God wants you to listen!” I heard the great sound that has no explanation. It knocked me back into the chair.
The walls melted away and I stood on the alabaster sea. There was clarity in life and the universe. The struggle between who I was and who I am dissipated. I saw myself whole and complete. I understood the fear I felt at the veil’s great door. I knew it was the ego in fear of its own existence; for it knows it may not pass through the door. The death that haunted me for so long wasn’t the passing of my body, but a spiritual birth that is the death of the ego. Here was the blank spot in my mind. The place I could not remember. The place I could not see. I had passed beyond the veil on that fateful day so long ago, and not just stood before it.
When I was with Charles I was at the edge. All things physical were being stripped away. Most obviously my life. It is in these moments that I have nowhere to retreat. In these moments, I know that I dwell on another plane. I crossed over the first time, the slab event. I was faced with two choices: be the drowning man for eternity or face the unknown—oblivion. The visit with Charles was about understanding an ongoing truth not repeating the event. I came through the surgery healthier than I had been since I was twenty-five. I pondered in amazement that once again my exterior reflected my spirit.
To thy own self be true or just be.
I decided meditation would be how I learned to “listen.” So, when Ben Riggs returned from India I asked him to teach me how to meditate. It was my hope to reap the benefits of meditation within a short period of time. I was shocked to learn that there are old guys in mountain caves of lost countries that have been meditating for several thousand years, and still have not finished. And lots of them have had experiences similar to mine. I cannot simply sit on a mat and conjure eternity whenever I choose. It is as elusive as it is powerful.
I thought that I would be able to transcend the veil, but I have learned I am still a flawed human. I have become aware of how ordinary Carlston is. Meditation is a struggle for me. It is an on again-off again exercise, because on the one hand I have occasionally had moments on the alabaster sea which are terrifying. Even when I am consciously doing my best to go beyond the great door, I flee in fear when it manifest. On the other hand, it is during meditation that I discover and confront my fear of the spiritual plane. Learning all of the ins-&-outs of my mind causes great frustration and perplexes me. Often I retreat from mediation like a routed army from the field. Then of course life happens; bills, drama, ego, pride and I don’t have lunch with the Great I Am on any regular basis. However, I would be lying if I said “all is now normal.”
In the Good Book, Moses was not allowed to see God’s face, because to see the totality of God would have destroyed him. This seems to be true. I have been in the presence of God; “I” being my spirit or the true Carlston. That could have only happened if all things were left behind. However, I did not overcome myself. God must have burned the ego away.
At the end of all things, despite my best efforts to revive myself, the whole experience was revealed to be a choice: I could choose to move beyond the veil without ego and its tools or rest in hell.
Physical death was the initial event. It was but a transition. It initiated the second stage of death, where the ego—all the psychological things associated with my physical form—died, and my true being was born. For to see God, is to be without self.
After my visit with God (the meeting with Charles) I thought the two Carlston’s— the pre and post personas— would become one. But there aren’t two, there is only me— the True-Self. Obviously I am stubborn, for I still entertain my ego. Death gave me a dreaded gift; the gift of knowing the objective and knowing it’s not a destination. It is reality.
“There is action and more action. Faith without works is dead.”
There are moments when time slows and reality bends. My focus becomes supreme and I understand exactly what I ought to do. I can see the events clearly like streams of pure energy connecting dots of golden hue. I feel the certainty of the action and feel the Presence guiding me. Most often, it is in the service of others that such certainty manifests itself and I know that God is. They are the selfless acts we are all called to do and the sacrifices we are all asked to make. I feel the call of the Master and do my best to listen and know.
Perhaps, the next time the younger Carlston confronts me, I will go forward instead of retreating. Maybe I will be able to pass through the doorway…Crossover and dwell in the one true place; rather, than clinging to the illusion of two. The place beyond the veil of physical understanding is a place of God. I have been there and am there still. I progress forward at flawed human’s pace, in my own reluctant way, as a traveler of both time and space.
There is power in the knowledge that my life is not my own. It never has been. Its God’s.
Fair thee well fellow travelers
Life is eternal…
About The Author:
I live (and occasionally die) in Shreveport, LA. I thank the Lord of imagination for the gift of creativity, as I dwell in a universe that is grand and glorious. If I were a dragon I would be red and black. If I were a knight I would be a paladin. So…If you want to know more about me, check out my Facebook page. Or, if you would like to read more of my writings check out my blog about a day in the life of a non-practicing wizard.