Imagine you are an explorer going on an adventure deep into the Amazonian jungle. You are inspired by previous trekkers, and excitedly looking forward to an incredibly rewarding, albeit, dangerous and challenging adventure. . . What will you need to take with you?
You will need to research what other trekkers have taken with them for supplies. Previous adventurers will also be able to give tips like “traverse the river at the narrowest point with the least current, which is approximately a two day walk. A small tributary joins the river from the east, and a large outcropping of orange-vine covered rocks create a series of caves”. Quite likely, you will also be passing through ancestral land, how do you honor those on whose land you are trespassing?
Most beneficial would be hiring a guide who can help assemble some well-paid locals familiar with the terrain. Their knowledge of tribal culture and language, as well as their assistance with packing all of the gear, will go a long way in reducing the danger.
Each of these support people are focused on your goal, on your path. You couldn’t complete the trek without them – they are essential to your success.
Moreover, your success is tied to their success. The more successful your adventure, the greater the accolades for them as support people.
Now translate this to an adventure in integrating a spiritual experience. You have had an inspiring near-death (NDE), out-of-body (OBE) or other spiritually transformative experience (STE). You are excited and looking forward to learning more about how and why it happened.
Is it as dangerous and as challenging as going deep into the Amazon? Many other experiencers (trekkers) would say “yes”. Why?
The dangers and challenges of the STE are varied, depending on your personal experience. A client I will call Darla shared her “dangerous” experience:
“As soon as I awoke in the hospital following my accident, I started describing another realm to which I had travelled. My nurse immediately insisted it was a fanciful dream while in a coma, and it would be best to keep it to myself.
My family whispered with each other “she’s had a mental breakdown. It must be from her injuries”.
My doctor suggested the divine light of love I felt and all the angels I met in the other realm were simply the result of brain chemistry. In other words, the state of both my body and my mind were playing tricks on me.
What I experienced was beyond real. More so than the hospital room, or for that matter, anywhere I had ever been in my life. Despite severe injuries resulting from the vehicle crash, I was in no pain, and required no medications once I was fully awake in this world.
What I was feeling was completely foreign to me: I was in an expanded state of euphoria. Oscillating in and out of this heavenly, divine euphoria over the next few months was an amazingly beautiful experience.
At the same time, it was difficult to maintain focus and functionality with routine activities. They no longer held my interest, and life began to get unruly. I had somehow lost drive and interest in my career which I had previously loved. Daily chores, and previously held interests like sewing or crafting felt immensely unimportant. People close to me could see something was amiss. My sister insisted I see a therapist. That therapist said: ‘You are experiencing a deep depression’. He sent me to a psychiatrist. During my first psychiatric assessment, I was diagnosed with depression, and prescribed medication.
Over the next year, and seven different medications, I floundered. I couldn’t reach the state of euphoria anymore.
My beautiful memory of the all-loving, all-knowing visit to the other realm was fading. Life felt numb, empty and purposeless. Life had no love and no meaning. I was still unable to engage fully with the everyday activities of life. This had become a full-blown existential crisis.
I finally refused to go back to the psychiatrist. My sister suggested I try a new psychiatrist. I refused to go to therapy or visit my doctor. As I pushed back and weaned myself slowly off the medications, I became more clear. I re-established my connection to the other realm. I could once again close my eyes and be there. . . in that place of divine love. Life was still a mess, and I knew I needed some help, but I was steering clear of the western medical establishment.
Shortly after this, I found a local chapter of the International Association of Near-Death Studies (IANDS). Here, they validated and honored my experience.
From this point on, I found my guides. I found my support: other experiencers, professional coaches, therapists, support groups, and organizations such as Spiritual Awakenings International (SAI). The challenges along the way served a purpose, which I was lucky enough to make sense of. Life is now manageable and immensely rewarding!“
All those who have trekked this path before Darla shared tips about ‘safely traversing the river’. They knew the terrain (after-effects), the culture (the phases of integration), and the language (consciousness beyond bodily death; aligning with an all-loving, all-knowing universe). Finally, she had escaped the dangers and immediate challenges, while still benefiting from the gifts of her integration experience.
Darla is one of many who have been medicated. Just recently I met two other individuals who spent time in psychiatric hospitals.
They both believed they would not have spiralled into a dark abyss if they had known about supportive individuals and organizations knowledgeable with spiritually transformative experiences. Keep in mind, there are times when STE knowledgeable medical intervention or psychiatric care is also appropriate.
After-effects of STE’s are one of the most significant and immediate challenges. The terrain of the physiological, psychological, spiritual and psychic effects can be very rough.
Newbie trekkers are helped greatly from experiencers and professional supporters who have already trekked this way.
Another example comes from a client I will call Andrew.
“My wife thought I was going off the deep end. In a way, it felt like I was. Many times in a day I could see myself lift off the ground and fly back to the place I had flown to in my spontaneous out-of-body experience. If we were out walking or hiking and I got close to the edge of a cliff, some energy was pulling me to launch into full flight.
When I was driving, I could see the energy of the trees, their evergreen aura exploding from their tops. I can see now it was a little dangerous really. Driving while looking up all the time, in awe of the giant energetic trees. It got so bad my wife insisted she drive for about 8 months after my OBE.
I couldn’t see it at the time, but looking back I know I was so “out of reality” I had trouble talking to people about life. I had trouble with the daily responsibilities. I just wanted to go back to that awesome place I had seen in my OBE. It wasn’t a place in this world. It looked more real than this world, and it was filled with colours, lights and sights I just can’t describe.
Anyway, I was having such a struggle, until I found a course in out-of-body experiences through an organization I joined on Facebook. It was a weekend course. And that weekend changed everything.
I figured out how to purposely stay here. Be able to drive safely. Be able to hike safely. It seems so stupid to say I couldn’t do those things, but I really couldn’t.
The best part was they taught me to purposely go out-of-body again. I could willingly go back to that place I had seen, and come back here safely. At first my wife was freaked, but eventually she saw that it was something I could control. After that, she was so happy I could come safely back, she took the course too!”
While there are fundamental differences between the types of spiritually transformative experiences, the reality is they share common after-effects. Looking for a list? Check out SAI.
If you are facing dangers or challenges as a result of your STE, you may be interested in my Integration Workshops. As someone familiar with the terrain, the culture and the language, I’ve helped many people process and unveil the gifts of their personal spiritually transformative experience in a safe, knowledgeable environment.
For more on after-effects, check out my blog entitled: 10 after-effects and what to do about them.