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Writing Accounts of EHEs and Why It Is Important
Rhea A. White
[This EHE Network flyer published in 1997 is a significantly revised version of an article originally published in Exceptional Human Experience, 1994, 11(1), 127-128, in an effort to explain why writing an account of an EE or EHE plays an important role in the full potentiation of the experience. Other ways of portraying the experience than writing can be useful, but as writing is the most common, it was chosen to write about. The technique described also explains how to reread and revise the account. The second edition was published in Exceptional Human Experience, 1997, 15(1). This is the third edition and appears here for the first time.]
Exceptional human experiences come in many forms, some of the most common being near-death experiences; out-of-body experiences; mystical experiences of oneness; meaningful coincidences or synchronicities; human-animal communication; déjà vu, or the feeling of having been somewhere before when you know you haven’t; falling in love; telepathy; having a creative experience of the "aha" or "eureka" type; premonitions; UFO encounters or abductions; and performing beyond previous limits, as in sports. We have compiled a list of over 200 types of exceptional human experience (or EHEs), and it is still growing.
What makes EHEs exceptional is that for a moment or brief period of time, each in its own way provides an awareness of a reality that is unlike that of our ordinary experience and transcends it in some way: the usual barriers of time, space, physiology, personality, species, and even death seem to vanish.
These exceptional experiences can be set off by almost any life situation, but commonly cited triggers are exposure to scenes of natural beauty; imminent or actual danger or death to/of self or others; or visiting sacred places, such as shrines, cathedrals, mosques, temples, etc.; watching performing artists and athletes; or attending to music, art, or reading. They also are associated with intense involvement in meaningful long-term repetitive activities, such as running or walking, meditation or yoga, or engaging in a craft, art, or sport, intellectual activity, or in the intensities of an intimate relationship.
Certain qualities of experience are often mentioned, such as the feeling that time has stopped; a hushed stillness, sometimes even in the midst of intense activity; a buzzing or ringing in the ears; a sense of deep silence that is almost a roar; raised hackles or goose bumps; temperature changes, such as chills or flushes; cool breezes, sometimes even in closed buildings; and a deep sense of peace and calm.
Many people have had these experiences when they were young, and they learned not to talk about them. They can be experienced at any age, but the reticence to share them remains. It is our contention that this is a grave mistake for the human race. These are the most important experiences a person can have. They need to be aired, opened up and opened to, shared, learned from, treasured, followed, studied, amplified, expanded, connected to the rest of life.
Even as each experience transcends ordinary life in one way or another, by the same token it provides a sense of connection. The living are connected to the dead; the experiencer is connected to others at a distance; the present is connected to the future or in some seemingly direct sense to the past; the experiencer is connected inwardly to other persons or animals or plants or even to the planet as a whole; and sometimes one can feel the very stars beaming within.
These are not experiences to be bottled up, hidden, kept secret. We encourage whoever is reading this to send accounts of their exceptional experiences to us, no matter how odd they may seem. Please provide as many details as possible about what the experience was, what triggered it, how it felt, and the possible aftereffects.
Perhaps the most important reason to give consideration to one’s exceptional experiences is their aftereffects, which sometimes are lifelong. An experience of one’s childhood or youth can lie fallow for many years and then come to life and be very important many years later. Or what was once felt to be a negative experience can later be seen as very positive, that is, growth-enhancing and consciousness raising/deepening. An important part of telling the story of an EHE is describing its aftereffects. Did you act on your experience? Did it change your perception of yourself, of others, of life, in any way? Did it affect how you live your life and what you do?
If, on the other hand, it had a negative effect, it is just as important to describe that. Sometimes these experiences, exceptional though they are, have no aftereffects, positive or negative. It is important in such cases to speculate on why this was so. Is it possible that some fear or other inhibiting factor may have prevented you from following the promptings of your experience or attuning your life to it? Any light than can be shed on such cases would be very helpful. They may teach us more about EHEs than even the obviously meaningful experiences because the meaningless ones may be like koans that must be worked on to uncover their meaning. This means work on yourself, which may be painful, boring, embarrassing, timestaking, even unnerving. The best way to begin is to write or tape an account of an experience and then, when it is fresh in your mind, ask yourself what the meaning of it could be. Then write or tape anything than comes to mind. If it is "nothing," write that, but also try to describe how the "nothing" feels. What does it remind you of? Don’t run away from "nothing"—run into it!
A few days later, slowly reread the account or listen to the tape and ask the same questions. Then try to associate to the experience, component by component. What comes to mind when you think of each element of the experience? Also give serious consideration to how the experience made you feel, both when it happened and now, as you ponder it. Is anything different? Record any images or ideas that come to mind.
If you still see no meaning in it, sometimes just the act of telling someone else about it, adding that you see no meaning in it, may suddenly bring new insights to mind. Although it is best to confide in someone you trust, sometimes telling an acquaintance or relative stranger can be even more productive. Keep in mind that what may be most important about an EHE is not the experience itself but what it leads to. It is well worth the time and effort required to uncover or discover its meaning for you, which may prove to be helpful to others as well.
It is very important that people who have had even one exceptional experience make a written record of it and send it to the Exceptional Human Experience Network (EHEN). We need to know more about these experiences and their aftereffects. Coming to understand one’s EHE almost always is personally a very meaningful activity. Not only is it potentially meaningful to the person who has had the experience, but it can be very meaningful to others who read about it or hear it. The spark from your fire can ignite another and another. And if any of these people tell you why your experience was important to them, this act could open new levels of your own experience, which in turn you can share with others. This will raise people’s awareness of the way in which EHEs help people who keep on sharing them to keep growing along with the telling. Please share your experiences with us.
It seems likely that EHEs are not simply one-time occurrences, but if acted upon, they can open many doors, both within and without. Ideally, an account of an EHE would include a description of how the experiencer (a) tried to incorporate it in his or her life and (b) how the person acted upon it. Attempts at incorporation include admitting to yourself that it is your experience; sharing it with someone you trust, then with people you know fairly well but not intimately; then with acquaintances; and finally, with strangers. In my experience, at each one of these stages you make the experience more your own, and this in turn allows it to take on new life. This can happen even if people respond by scoffing or deriding your experience. Then you will gain the knowledge that their response does not matter. You are still all right, and your experience may seem even more meaningful and important than before you shared it. A second approach is to try to think of other similar experiences you have had and to try to connect them to this latest experience in a meaningful way.
You can act upon the experience by trying to find out more about it from others, searching the Web, reading, movies, TV, lectures, retreats. You can form a group to share and discuss EHEs. You can try living from your EHE. It took me over 30 years to begin to consciously live from mine. Finally, I started talking about it at professional meetings or to acquaintances, when it seemed appropriate. I realized it gave me a great sense of interconnectedness, so I began to concentrate on being aware of that instead of the disconnection that fills the newspaper and TV and radio newscasts. It is a little like a dance in which the experience leads. Mine led me to feel that the same life that flows in me flows in plants, insects, and animals, as well as fellow humans, and it greatly increased my sense of reverence for life.
You can even try to act out and perform your experience, with or without the presence of others. This can take the form of going through the motions of what happened, but it is even better to try to live or move from the spirit of the experience, bringing its tone and quality into your life. Try to think of new ways of sharing and incorporating EHEs, and be sure to describe them in your account. Doing so will certainly benefit others, and it may benefit you.
If you would like to take the further step of writing your EHE autobiography, instructions and examples will be posted in the section on EHE Autobiography on this web-site. Also check out the 2001 Imich Essay Contents. It is being awarded to the best EHE autobiographies.
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