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Recollections on Life:
by Suzanne V. Brown[Note: This EHE autobiography was originally submitted to the Exceptional Human Experience Network in 1994 for the 7th Alexander Imich Contest on EHEs. It won fourth prize and later was revised slightly and published in Exceptional Human Experience, 1995 (Dec), 13(2), 1-9.]
EHE AutobiographySome Background
To this day, they still continue. These experiences may not be all that exceptional, such as a near-death experience or a personal visitation from a holy figure. Nor are they so frequent that I proclaim myself an enlightened guru charging $500 per stage show ticket or that I hide away from the world to contemplate full-time at some esoteric mountain retreat. Yet, I have experienced many significant and meaningful events over forty-three years that cause me to pause and reflect with wonder on life’s mysteries.
Take, for example, last month. Somehow, I "knew" that a friend I had not seen in eight years or talked with for over a year was in trouble. We have always had a strong link and can laugh at our ability to keep in touch telepathically—it’s so much cheaper. He lives with his family in California, while my husband and I live across the country in North Carolina. So, for about a week, I kept waking up with a strong sense that "James" was in trouble. Something felt very wrong. I queried back intensely with my mind, "James, what’s going on with you? Call me!" The next day, I found a message on my recorder, "Suzanne, call me! I’m in big trouble."
I telephoned back immediately and asked him what was wrong. He stated that yesterday he had finally given up. He was beyond fighting a medical-legal battle for quality-of-life-saving back surgery. There was no more fight left in him and he had placed a gun to his head. He fully intended to shoot. At that moment, he heard me say "Call me!," and put the gun down. He called to thank me for saving his life.
Cross-continental telepathic suicide rescue? I do not know. However, it was a sobering experience to think that literally out of the blue, I could have sent a directed thought message that was received just in time on the other coast.
Yet these types of events have occurred throughout my life. Curious and motivated from an early age, I continue to try to understand their nature:
How did I envision a huge, white "jumbo jet" with hieroglyphic letters looking like LASA explode in the air, causing much sadness to many people, the day before the Challenger explosion?
How did I dream of a major earthquake in Buenos Aires two days before it happened and then "know’" to select that particular dream as an example of precognitive, lucid dreaming for a stranger I met later that day who had family living in Buenos Aires?
How did time slow down so much that I could be in total control of my tennis game and win the local county championship?
With the house drapes tightly drawn, how did I know to warn my mother late one night before she went outside that a man was in the process of stealing my bicycle parked 40 feet away from the house?
How could I envision a young woman’s face so detailed that I could draw it, show it to friends, and then later see her face on the next night’s news as the most recent serial murder victim?
How did I know that a missing person was located in a tiny North Carolina sea town seven hours away from where he was last seen by a friend many years before?
How was I able to take control of a dream so that I could read a street sign and obtain other location information of a house where a murder took place during the time I "slept"?
Why have the two times that I have "talked" to my deceased parents yielded physical confirmation that they had "heard"—by being led to find my missing diamond earrings after six years (the earrings arrived on my mother’s date of death, were lost ten years later, and then spontaneously were found on my father’s anniversary of death) and to uncover my baby nickname (known only to my family and me) written on plaster under 25 years of layered wallpaper in a house I was renovating 2,800 miles from my birth home on my 38th birthday?
It seems that it would be easier to note exceptions to White’s listing of exceptional human experiences (EHEs) rather than list those types I have experienced. Although it may be flattering for people to hear that they may be exceptional in any way, including their EHEs, I do not believe that this is the case. I have found that most people, when given a safe, supportive environment, will share all sorts of similar stories with me. Perhaps one of the most telling symptoms is the phrase, "Well, I didn’t know what you would think of me if I told you about [xyz story]." It makes me wonder about the untapped stories behind so many people.....
My parents were scientists. From an early age, I was treated to regular chalk-talks by my father. One talk I remember most vividly was a line-drawing of the electromagnetic spectrum. It was incredible! The range of human perception was so small! And indeed, in the 1960s much of that spectrum had not yet been accounted for. Then, my father really surprised me. "Do you see this area," he said, pointing to somewhere I recall as being between radio waves and human auditory perception (or was it cosmic waves?). "No one really knows what it represents. I think this is where the psychic stuff occurs."
Psychic stuff. By the time I was in high school I was very curious about this unseen world. My physics teacher had even touched on other space-time dimensions in class. Yet, few people really wanted to talk seriously about the "psychic stuff" within the realm of science, or within the realm of anywhere else for that matter.
While my parents accepted the psychic stuff and tried to provide answers within the boundaries of the current scientific worldview, I also knew that this was a vast, uncharted territory ready for exploration. And, because I had already experienced these events for myself, I did not feel the need to "prove" them to anyone. Yet, given the prevailing attitudes in science and with the public at large, my parents prudently cautioned me to keep these experiences to myself, my journals, and only a few close friends.
This was good advice. It allowed me to excel in future traditional education and business arenas. Seldom did I mention anything about metanormal experiences to anyone. When I did on occasion, teachers and colleagues would often smirk. I learned quickly to demur and close the subject. If nothing else, sensitive people learn early to detect the body language and metacommunications of others.
Then my father died suddenly when I was eighteen, the week after my high school graduation. There was just enough money to send my distraught mother and little sister to the west coast for necessary family support. I was on my own now—responsible for locating an apartment, a better-paying job, and earning funds for my future college education. My father had warned me three years earlier that he and my mother would not be with me much longer. How did he know? I never saw my mother again. She had an accident a few years after the move back West, leaving her a quadriplegic, and then died shortly thereafter from complications. Relatively speaking, our family time together was brief, yet the lessons that my parents taught me were so very special. They gave me that rare gift for both the practical and wondering mind.
My informal psychic study and exploration had to be tabled for awhile. It was not because these experiences were not occurring—they still did on occasion. However, my energy would now have to go into working and saving for college, which I then completed in three years. One of the greatest joys in my life was to be one of six people accepted for a Ph.D. Fellowship at a major scientific university. The good news was that I learned how to conduct and supervise publishable research and lecture in several areas of psychology. The bad news was that any conceivable project I proposed or class information that I requested, if related to the psychic stuff, was usually regarded as merely amusing to my colleagues and professors. Therefore, I respectfully followed this 100+ year old university’s lead and concentrated on more safe areas of study.
Today, many years later, armed with an education (Ph.D dissertation completed 14 years after an ABD), corporate business experience, and additional EHEs, I can finally pursue those areas which as a young girl I had wanted to pursue. It is a funny thing. As I get older, the smirks don’t matter that much anymore. I now feel more free to pursue these types of experiences also because of a marvelous "coincidence." We now live close to a parapsychology research center where other motivated, curious, and rigorously trained professionals explore the psychic stuff. Perhaps the greatest lesson of this autobiography is that these EHEs, in one way or another, matter, and they factor decisively in my life. There is no escaping them nor their influences. Whether they cause me to review life’s meaning, to reevaluate religious training, or to question the given worldview, these experiences have changed my life and have redirected it in significant ways.
Connections and Insights
As the years go by, I am amazed to look back at just how much my life, sense of wonder, and curiosity continue to be centered and connected by these experiences. Perhaps the first epiphany was that, as my father’s chalk drawing illustrated, I learned that there is so much more to me and the universe than is readily or easily apparent in day-to-day life. I learned at a young age that adults often have no clue about how to answer a young girl’s questions. Most adults and teachers either passed off the questions as ridiculous, or provided pat answers from religious or scientific books, or even threaten me, rather than admit they did not know answers.
So, as with many people experiencing metanormal, psychic, or transcendental events (i.e., EHEs), I learned to keep these experiences to myself. However, this holding on to the experiences may have, in the long run, been more healthy and fruitful. Over time, I saw that these experiences started to form patterns, which were grouped and connected in meaningful ways. I began to see certain themes and parallels recurring that were central to my own external and internal life events. These basic themes or archetypes seemed to center on specific areas for contemplation such as: death/transition, transcendence/awakening, birth/creativity, joining/merging, and disaster/sudden change.
I have learned through these EHE reminders that, as a human being, I actually live and play out these archetypal themes on different levels. And, I have learned to listen when other people describe a personal EHE, because they too may be moving through a significant time of their lives.
Often, these EHEs are based on synchronicity. According to Carl Jung, synchronicity is the acausal correlation of two or more events, usually close together in either time or space, which evokes a sense of deep meaningfulness for the individual. EHEs seem to resonant within a person’s very being—not unlike the big "Aha!" of discovery or insight. In my life, synchronicities have often pointed me in some new major life direction. Today, I choose to see them as guideposts or markers for those times when I need to pay attention. It seems that when I am ready for or making a significant change in my life, synchronicities center around an archetypal theme. It is at those times that the surrounding external events emerge to reflect what is going on within me.
So, it is no wonder that people over millennia have looked to nature for signs. These signs might later be correlated with significant personal or even tribal events. For me, something unusual happened late one night several years ago and began a series of coincidences....
I was very tired and driving back from a regional sales conference with my sales engineer. Suddenly, there was a blue-green ball of fire flashing across the dark night sky in front of us. It filled the windshield with light and then raced downward toward the wilderness on my left. Amazed, I had expected to hear an explosion nearby—it looked that close. I said nothing and continued to drive. The engineer paused, looked over at me, and finally he said, "Did you see that?"
Past experience had made me very wary to say anything, so I asked him to explain what he had seen. Yes indeed, it seemed that we did share a similar perception. Always looking for a scientific explanation, I made calls to the observatory but they yielded no comments regarding the "blue star." Meanwhile, the engineer had told the story to our sales group. My nickname became Blue Star for the next few weeks. Yet, neither one of us could account scientifically for what we had seen.
One week later, while driving home from work alone, I again saw a large blue-green ball of light falling through the twilight sky, this time disappearing directly behind my apartment complex. Then, within a day or two, a car with a vanity plate of "BLUSTAR" bolted directly in front of me in traffic. It seemed that, for over the next two weeks, blue stars were everywhere!
Challenged, I tried to learn all that I could about the possible significance of blue star, including learning about meteors, the Hopi Blue Star Kachina, and various metaphysical correlations between planets and events. In retrospect, I now also see that my personal world was rapidly changing at that time: My marriage was in the last stages of amicable divorce and I was on my own again. In addition, I had just been selected for a prized National Accounts’ Sales Manager position with the top telecommunications/ computer company in the world. I have concluded that when the blue star clusters, it is a symbol coinciding with inner and outer changes and transformation—and a meaningful symbol reminding me that I have choices in life.
This is just one example of synchronicity. Each cluster of these events usually offers nice surprises and puzzles to decode. They have led me to look more seriously at the psychic stuff. Often it is that very coincidence of knowing before I know, or seeing before I see, that gives the greatest "Aha!"
Synchronicity often shares another parameter with psychic events—both seem to be independent of time or location. Today with the benefit of satellite news, I can receive validation for a dream or insight about events that occur often great distances away from me. Here is a way to compare objective events with the subjective contents written in my journal. This makes me think of the difference, just fifty years ago, when a person may have had a psychic or lucid dream about a remote location and there was no such opportunity for this level of validation available.
With the blue star synchronicities many questions still remain. How did I coordinate being at a certain place and at a certain time with these blue stars? Did I know at some unconscious level where to go or where they were? Could I have manifested or created these incidents by the power of my mind? Or, did I just lower my selective attention threshold for that particular symbol?
Many contemplative people have a symbol, animal, or phrase that is a key to them, based on experience with synchronicity. Some may have several. These types of coincidences evoke a smile inside of me, and can be reassuring. They provide a great sense of cosmic humor, and at times, an incomparable sense of wonder for the magic of the universe.
It seems ages ago when a little girl stayed with friends in the majestic Sierra mountains. It was a soft twilight and I was alone. The fading light played a rhythm on the infinitely stretching meadow and shadows danced off the surrounding, sweet smelling pines. Everything had connected into one world of peace and sublime tranquillity. Suddenly, all around me there glowed an indescribable brilliance of light. Although this sense of transcendence passed over within a few minutes, that particular memory of connection and perfection has stayed with me throughout my life.
I have found this perfect balance at times again over the years. It brings a wonderful sense of perspective and priority. At some level of my being I know that this feeling of connection is "Reality." It has helped me to learn that day to day strivings are only small tactics in the larger strategy of life.
Transcendental experiences also seem to mirror reflections between innerworld and outerworld. They leave behind a sublime state of quiet assurance. Whether my physical and mental states create what I sense, or whether nature outside creates my state of mind, or whether we all work as one, I do not know. It is so difficult to bring back that feeling to the everyday world as the everyday world depends so much on separation of self from everything else. I gave up long ago trying to explain this sense of oneness to other people. Indeed, this is special treasured knowledge, closely cherished and never forgotten. Each person must experience his/her own transcendence for him or herself.
One archetype that was difficult for me to deal with was death. Since early in life it has been a frequent companion. There have been a few times when I would also dream, envision, or feel a sense of dread about the horrific events occurring in my city and the world. It was frightening to dream of murders and disasters and have nowhere to turn. Often these dreams or visions would come true within two days to two weeks. Because of my earlier childhood experiences, I understood that this foreknowledge happened to normal people who were not necessarily evil or crazy. On the other hand, my desire to understand once and for all how they worked became reignited. By that time I had completed eight years of formal training in psychology, with heavy emphasis on research design and statistics in areas of the mind, perception, and physiology. However, except for an occasional book I found on parapsychology, lucid dreaming, new physics, or Jungian psychology, I was at a loss.
So I eagerly consumed anything and everything I could find on the subject. I studied Gurdjieff’s theory of awakening, Ramtha’s channeling, Cayce’s prophecies, star seed theories, Bohm’s implicate order, transcendental metaphysics, and so on. What a wide variety of information and opinion! But always, I had to go back into my self. I had to sense whether an explanation felt "right" to me. Just as with the Fool’s Journey, or Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, I visited many "knowledgeable" people over the years, looking for answers. One parapsychologist who taught at a nearby university told me that I had a lavender aura. Another eighteen-year-old boy "psychic," who channeled an ancient man, called himself a parapsychologist and taught at a local community college. I learned that he was more interested in merchandising his channeling tapes than providing credible information. Then, there was the psychologist friend who became visibly frightened of me when I told him about a dream marking an event that appeared two days later in the news. I finally came to a conclusion: Just as the little girl learned that adults really had no clue, the thirty-something woman learned again that same lesson.
I am challenged to find my own answers outside the realm of common opinion. The death/transition archetype often signals a time of personal change. Right before the blue star clusters, I had a burst of death and destruction precognitive dreams, occurring at a time in my life when my former marriage was dissolving. We had just moved to a beautiful, newly designed house and my computer sales career was lucrative and peaking. Interestingly, our city was experiencing a huge increase of violent crime at that time. Inside of me was transition—outside of me was death. Change simply in itself seemed to became a focus during this time.
One of my big challenges has been to learn to gain control of painful precognitive and clairvoyant dreams. I had to learn to be an observer to the information I was receiving, rather than feeling the pain or fear of the other person. Later, I told myself that I did not want to dream or envision this stuff at all and could replace it with more pleasant dream motifs and themes. These were difficult lessons. Yet, I believe precognition is possible because I know that there is really nothing that I can do to change outcomes on a larger scale. This is not a feeling of impotence, but rather a deeper knowing that all will be as it should be. I am basically a rational optimist without the desire for Cassandra theatrics. Today, I just tell my husband or a close friend or my journal, and let it go at that. I try to understand what it means for my own growth within the world around me. In the long run, I believe that this strategy keeps me sane.
More rarely, some events are closer to home. Those which include family and friends are harder to let go. I have learned to call a friend when I dream about her, not necessarily to tell the dream, but more to see what is going on in her life. Often just some words of concern, such as, "How is your mother?," can provide me all I really need to understand why I dreamed of her mother or family the night before.
Amazingly, many answers are reflections on and of what is going on in my life as well, even if at a symbolic level. I don’t have to die to know that I am letting go of something important in my life; and I don’t have to have a baby to know that I am creating a new project. It seems that the spontaneous psychic stuff and the transcendental moments may at some level be the outer world confirming my inner journey.
Another story: Right before a client-friend died, we had a talk. He was experiencing a number of synchronicities at that time and was curious about them. Since he had asked, and I felt comfortable talking with him, I cautiously explained that these may be signposts asking him to pay attention to something. Perhaps change was on the horizon. Within the month, he was laid-off from his senior management position, captured a great new job with a super company, and then died suddenly of a heart attack the day before his new job started. The day he died was my birthday. I’ll never forget the chilling feeling I had when I learned what had happened. He was so happy with his fifty-something life, his wife and son, and looking forward to the fresh, bright opportunity ahead with this new company. The synchronicities had caused him to really question some of the deeper topics within himself. His death was totally unexpected. Yet, right before he died he found himself looking more deeply into the meaning of life. And, perhaps this gave him some peace and fulfillment.
On the other hand, I have learned that when synchronicities are lacking in my life, things may not be going as smoothly as they could. It is usually a very frustrating, head-beating time. One cannot force these experiences, and the best remedy may be to take more time and try to be clearer within myself. When no clarity comes, I must be patient. Life can sometimes teach patience to the extreme.
It seems that some incidents can never be explained. My energy and enthusiasm were high one spring night in 1967. I had just returned home from an evening of folk-dancing and went to say good-night to my parents. My mother was already asleep, but my father told me that he had just heard on the news that Mao Tse Tung, the Chinese revolutionary leader, had been assassinated. He suggested that this would be a great topic for discussion in social studies class the next day.
Expectant, I went into social studies waiting for someone to bring up this new world-shaking news. Strangely, no one brought up the subject, and class proceeded as usual. Finally, after almost forty minutes of noting the silence on the subject, I raised my hand. After the teacher recognized me, I stood up and said, "Isn’t anyone going to talk about the assassination of Mao Tse Tung?"
The room became very quiet. The teacher asked me to explain, and I gave what information I knew. More silence. Then, he told me that my information was incorrect; Mao was alive and well. The class smirked and giggled. I was so confused and felt like a fool in front of my peers. How could this be?
My father denied ever having had that conversation with me. Where did I get that information? I was wide awake when I came home from folk-dancing that night. The conversation was so very real. I swear that it was not any sort of a dream, lucid or otherwise.
In the years since, I often think on this episode. There were many lessons here. Personally, I learned to keep my ideas and thoughts to myself. Scientifically, I wonder about alternate realities. It would be many years later before Mao would die of "natural causes." Most of my experiences are easily differentiated from waking reality. This sense normally allows me to make judgments about how much to say and to whom. To this day, the "realistic" Mao story remains an enigma for me.
Several times in my life I have received what I call "the touch." These are times when I am thinking about someone who has died. Most of these touches are not from deceased people I know. They usually occur when someone is grieving for a lost friend or relative, and just talking with me. All of a sudden the side of my face will tingle and the feeling will run up through my scalp. Sometimes the tingling will run all the way to my toes. At that point, I usually get impressions, symbols, or words that are meaningful to others. For example, recently I communicated in sign language at a time when a young friend was sad about the recent loss of her deaf mother. This was nothing planned; I was just trying to listen to her story. The touch came, followed by the unfamiliar gestures which were deeply meaningful to the girl. Were these telepathic impressions from her or sensory input from her mother? Again, I do not know. But I do know that it is possible.
Wrapping Up for Now
I continue to learn that there is so much more to life than the everyday perceptions of "reality". The search for meaning is so personal. It is apparent to me that the current scientific paradigm does not have all the answers, nor do force-fed religious dogmas. I alone am responsible for finding my own answers. Whereas many people are content to either deny or disregard their exceptional experiences, I want very much to understand them. Each experience provides one more clue to this great puzzle of life. Getting older offers additional life history of all types. Those enduring questions: Who am I, where am I going, and why am I here are not answered directly or easily. Yet it is a puzzle and a journey that I have learned to embrace. Choosing to recognize these experiences has changed my life in many ways, some more positive than others. At times I feel that through them I may have helped other people, whether by sharing an insight or saving a life. I try to listen to other people’s stories without judgment. It is satisfying to see their faces lighten with relief when they are able to share stories unconditionally. Everyone has a story to tell, if s/he could only tell it comfortably without fear of ridicule or damnation.
Although EHEs may be spontaneous, they are not random. I believe that each choice I have made, for good or bad, has moved me along in my life’s purpose. It seems that only now a level of clarity is dawning that shows me where all this may lead. It’s too bad that we don’t receive an agenda when we are born. Instead, each of us must live and blueprint our own lives, in our own way. This goes beyond EHEs to include the attention to and incorporation of all life experience. It is at these moments of self-review when wonderful transcendental moments can come. Exceptional human experience, life experience, curiosity, and a desire to understand have been and are still major driving forces behind my choices today.
On the other hand, I still have difficulty watching nice folks so easily grab onto the opinions of others, whether it is from a relative, friend, psychic, church, skeptic, or scientific institution. It is so much easier to embrace an authoritarian opinion, never questioning how an experience may relate to one’s own life. However, by the time most people reach adulthood, they have had at least one incident which cannot be explained. These types of incidents have made me an outsider ever since I was four years old. In our current society it is still best to keep these nontraditional experiences to oneself. Yet, there are ways to embrace both worlds.
Part-time substitute teaching of young people in high school has shown me that our future generations seem eager to question and explore their dreams, déjà vu experiences, precognitions, and athletic zoning. As usual, I cautiously walk a narrow line between the worlds, understanding that their parents may not be so enthusiastic. It is at this age when students seem curious about their experiences—before they are molded into adults with more traditional worldviews. Walking between worlds continues to be a delicate balancing act. On one hand, I desire to share the wonder about our larger universe through research, writing, and teaching. These pursuits have kept me moving forward, although much has been kept quietly in the background. On the other hand, I have been paid well by society’s standards with a science education, corporate careers, loyal friends, and so on.
As a bridge, crossing traditional with nontraditional subjects for research and communications, I hope to encourage others to investigate and find meaning for themselves. My background provides the credibility sufficient to help others feel "normal" about their metanormal and transcendental experiences. This journey seems to be honed along a specific path—one with personal familiarity of EHEs coupled with the social tools to make a difference.
I will continue to move forward, or at least try to pay attention. It was over two years ago when I started writing a personal narrative describing many of these feelings and experiences in detail. At that time, I was not aware of Exceptional Human Experience. The process of writing this EHE autobiography has offered me a sense of personal validity as well as a feeling of cleansing, clarity, and purpose. This is more than merely maintaining a journal of events. The critical difference is to appraise a whole set of experiences, and in the course of doing so, sudden insights may be revealed. Until this step is taken, precious insights are lost. There is a common thread connecting the "exceptional" with all experience running through our lives. And, it seems that each life unfolds according to its own unique timetable, offering ever greater gestalt patterns to decode for those willing to explore more deeply.
It is difficult to end this autobiographical review; the very process of focusing opens more windows. I began writing this paper three months ago. During this time, I have paid more attention to unusual events and to my feelings. In return, more events, remembrances, and re-collections have occurred—possibly because of this very act of attention. The question of scientific causality continues to remain important to my personal search for answers. Yet I have also learned to appreciate experience qua experience and the study of acausality. By doing so, I have been led to other, fresh perspectives and insights along the way. There is a sense of promise and aesthetic beauty in this approach to a personal search and to all levels of philosophical inquiry that balances current entrenched dogmas. For although it is not an easy road or area of study that I have chosen, nonetheless, I feel that I have made progress.—12/94
EHE Autobiography Update: December 1996
It has been two years since I wrote the foregoing EHE autobiography as my entry for the essay contest sponsored by Alexander Imich and conducted by Rhea White and the Exceptional Human Experience Network (EHEN). Except for some basic editing and clarification, the report above stands largely as it did at the end of 1994. It was important to me to keep the tone, context, and insights I had discovered by that time as a sort of barometric reading that I could reflect on in the future. By the time I had completed the original EHE autobiography with the often intense introspection it requires, I was well on my way toward a new way of thinking, feeling, evaluating, and integrating my life and gaining a major shift of perspective. Little did I know then, that over the next two years I would be more attuned to these events and by living so, more closely approximate than ever before, the wholeness of all that I am, and can be.
I hesitate to say that I have found all of my answers, largely because past history has shown me that EHEs denote a reiterative and ongoing process. At any time when we think we may know what we are all about, two things may happen: (1) we stagnate; (2) we are catapulted out of our comfortable slumber by circumstances seemingly outside of ourselves. Yet, I have also learned that in the exceedingly personal journey we call life, we are given all sorts of opportunities to pay attention, each in our own way and to our own paths, to move forward with calm joy and a sense of personal authenticity.
Personal authenticity was not necessarily the case when I completed my original report by December of 1994. Sure, the facts and the events mentioned were accurately stated. However, over the last two years, I have come to learn that composing this original EHE autobiography served merely as the tip of the iceberg. Upon completion I felt an incredible high, because I was given the opportunity to share who I was and what I was all about. That compilation and writing exercise, in itself, was so very liberating! Yet, I was to learn that by integrating what I had learned so far, I could then establish a grounding foundation from which to launch into further insights. By retrospection and ongoing introspection, a fresh perspective has emerged, one which I will try to share in words.
At the time I completed the autobiography, I still felt a major professional and personal conflict. On one hand, I was a trained scientist and had been taught to completely honor the scientific method to gain "Knowledge." I had just decided to re-enter the elite halls of science about a year earlier, making that critical decision to use my analytical training, teaching ability, and writing skills to support the efforts of parapsychology—or the formal study of anomalous psychic phenomena. Any researcher who has done this can understand just what a conflict that can be, since many respected scientists have little regard for parapsychologists, research funding is dear, and the public is just as likely as not to confuse parapsychologists with psychic hot-lines and Ghostbusters. In my naiveté, I had thought the parapsychological community of less than 50 devoted full-time scientists would embrace me, my enthusiasm for our inquiry, and my diverse background of formal and informal study and research, along with accumulated academic and business skills.
On the other hand, this would mean denying, once again, my experiential side. Proper science, as I had been taught and as I had advanced in my own classes, did not esteem personal experience with the object of inquiry nor espouse using any introspective methods by researchers. In fact, the watchword for good science as I had come to know it was experimenter "detachment." (This rigorous yet artificial experimentally manipulated separation of observer and participant peaked with the dominating objective behaviorist school of psychology of the 1940s-1950s, and it continues to serve as a fundamental tenet of contemporary mainstream parapsychology and cognitive science psychology. Laboratory methods to uphold detachment, such as random-number generators, video monitors, and computerized "observers" and/or "participants," literally employ the latest technologies to replace humans in the overall design.) This objective approach was familiar to me and was just one more continuation of the "either/or" life I had known so far. So when I began meeting with some of the inner circle parapsychologists three years ago, my strategy was to hide, and yes, devalue and even depotentiate my experiences—and to take the safe, comfortable road of objective psychology/parapsychology researcher.
In retrospect, writing the EHE autobiography and then winning an Alexander Imich award marked a significant turning point in my life story. They served as tangible touchstones and strengthened a then dormant idea that my experiences were important enough to share. Moreover, Rhea White and I began to communicate more actively during that time (I had originally "met" Rhea in the Spring of 1988 when I asked her for a Psiline database search to support my dissertation efforts and we had talked off and on by telephone over the next several years. Her total unconditional support and encouragement of all of me—the personal and the professional—would spark a steady stream of evolving insights.) Yet, because I had chosen to hide my experiences, I requested anonymity for any publication or notice of that EHE article. In 1994, the fear was still there... the major fear that my livelihood would somehow be diminished or even erased by my experiences, that the psychic stuff would be perceived as nonobjective, inflated, crazy, or malevolent, depending on who read about them. Whether in the academic or business arena, my mode of operation was to separate these personal experiences from my public life. The reminders of past emotional pains of sharing experiences with colleagues in school or work had molded me well, and this adaptation to hide under the circumstances was familiar and normal for me.
Likewise, I have no desire to be contacted for "psychic advice," which tends to be a common experience after I hint to any ability at all, along with invitations to "read" at psychic fairs, locate a lost loved one (alive or departed), check auras, or whatever. More importantly to me, these psychic events and synchronicities have provided a precious opportunity to understand myself, others, and the Universe better, deeper, and more widely—they serve as a means to understanding, but are not the end in themselves. Ever the idealist, I wanted to share my story to encourage others. And, as ever, I am still concerned that so many people would rather have someone else supply pat answers or substitute scientific, philosophical, and religious "truths" to mollify and placate those very questions that are our personal motivators to search in the first place!
So I went into the field of parapsychology whole-heartedly—studying reports, observing experts, discussing and designing experiments, teaching objective classes. I bought into the story that parapsychology was a hugely misunderstood field, that real parapsychologists don’t have psi experiences (or shouldn’t admit to them if they did), and that its investigators were embattled Davids against the Herculean Goliaths of traditional science. I learned that funding was competitive (i.e., almost nil), sadly because no one really understood the jargon or intricate theoretical structure, and that people who had actually experienced a singular psychic event or a range of similar phenomena were, more often than not, considered nuisances, flakes, or worse.
Wait a minute! I had had these psi experiences myself and from my own validity testing they were very real phenomena. I also talked with many, many others over twenty years who had had experiences and who were stable, reliable people not seeking notoriety. Most of them only wanted to understand their own experiences, and be reassured. So, while I was vigorously pursuing parapsychology as a means to understand these phenomena and to help to educate folks about the "hot off the press" findings, I became more and more disillusioned with the field: disillusioned with the elitism, the jargon-based walls, the cliques, the distancing from other scientists, the determination to reinvent the wheel along tired methodologies, the pervading fear and competitiveness, the reluctance to admit fresh investigators or theories into the inner circle, the snubbing of the public and their inquiries. And with that growing disillusionment came what I would call an EHE of the first order¾ an insight based on a series of inner and outer events which would redirect me along my life’s path—one that rang true to me.
My intent here is not to attack the field of parapsychology, but to share the personal trial and error experiences that led up to this particular EHE insight and integration. What makes this particular insight so strong for me is that I had thought, felt, and even believed that parapsychology was where I could make a difference. I guess I could, but that would be denying my own experiences and those of other experiencers and holding to a "party line," which upon closer inspection, was not one I embraced. It is stressful to live separate public and private lives, and I had done this way too long. Parapsychology was the closest approximation I had found so far in my career, but I found it seriously lacking—primarily because I finally realized that in pursuing it, I still was not being faithful to myself and my goals.
But I had also learned to pay attention to the patterns in life, and writing the EHE autobiography had reminded me of that. So while my efforts to break into the parapsychology circle were being thwarted, folks from a whole range of disciplines and areas of influence were being introduced to me—largely by way of refereeing their articles, interacting with them in seminars, and increased correspondence (especially e-mail) and phone calls. Even without lab research funding, I learned by mid-1996 that I could be productive and just be that information bridge between academia and the public that had been a calling or beacon throughout my life. As I became more fully and accepting of all of me, I began to meet some of the most thought-provoking, leading edge, wholly intelligent, and self-actualized people of my life. There was something else going on here; something beyond working assignments and meeting quality people. As parapsychology began to fade into the background, a deeper, richer, more colorful pattern of people and events emerged. On a larger scale, parapsychology reflected an old guard, a world stuck in fear and building walls within and across its members, issues, and service. It was a mirrored reflection of me, my fears. As I began to drop my boundaries inside, people and events seemed to converge and cluster around me often in the most serendipitous and synchronous ways. So that now, in retrospect, I can honestly say that the outer world mirrors the inner world. A whole host of clichés come to mind: water seeks its own level; you are what you believe; and even, we create our own reality. It is difficult to express this longitudinal insight without sounding corny, but we have come to learn that this cliché-talk is a common milestone of the insight stage in the EHE process.
The original EHE autobiography served both as a summing up and as a springboard. It took almost three months to conceptualize and then refine. By pulling together and connecting the dots over a lifetime of all experiences, EEs and EHEs, a pattern emerged—my core self, so to speak. I now wonder whether Rhea realized that by introducing this concentrated and very personal exercise she was in some way sharing a way for all of us to undertake a "life review" without undergoing a near-death experience? The task of composing and refining that original paper (and this one) reawakened memories and connections and motivations that are often lost in daily striving. As I recalled those events and feelings, I remembered more, and remembered myself and what I am here to do. These last words do not come easily from me to be published on written record. But there is a special joy in being authentic to oneself, and I have taken great strength from the hundreds of others who have had similar insights and the courage to publicly share their stories.
So, as the window to parapsychology became increasingly shrouded with political machinations, the door to self-discovery and purpose opened even wider. For those who have gone before me, you will smile when you read this. Thank you for your patience and letting me find this out for myself. For those who are in the process of awakening to greater insights and integration of self and All-Self, carry on! Each to our own uniqueness, each to our own path, and each to our own connectedness, we are woven fast and deeply into a fabric of Life where threads of personal meaning closely intertwine and are often delivered via synchronicity. The signposts are there when we are open to insight and discovery: They close down, or seem coincidental, frustrating, haphazard, and even blatantly "accidental," when we are not. We all have different "names" for this guidance, but at a metaphorical level we are all speaking the same language.
Now the challenge again is to live what I have learned. The EHE autobiography composition exercise helped provide closure to a stale way of life and habitual patterns, and gently forced me to take a personal accounting—a ledger of life, meaning and purpose. Whether we choose to share it with others or keep it only to ourselves or anonymous is a private decision, based on a myriad of personal factors. But, whatever the outcome, I hope to encourage others to write their story, in their own way. It is a method abundant with insights and continuing self-discovery that does not stop with the last printed word. Through the nuances, connections and insights, we find our own answers, encourage synchronicity, and rediscover our essence, and substance. These "findings" are immeasurably more meaningful than what can be scientifically proven, philosophically argued, or psychically divined by another. They are the seeds, growth, harvest, value, and wisdom of our own—our very own.
Currently, I am greatly enjoying the fruits of these insights. My path has led me to the Exceptional Human Experience Network, a refreshing, dynamic partnership with Rhea, and illuminating meetings/discussions with others who are working and living within the Experiential Paradigm. There is an honesty and integrity throughout this Network of fellow travelers. I trust that by hinting at, writing, and sharing just a fraction of what I have discovered, I can in some way communicate with others this feeling of grace, magic, and joy. [By the way, as this composition was being refined for publication, my husband Ed walked into my office bearing a gift he found while raking leaves outside—a girl child’s blue star ring.]—12/96
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