I know it is strange to post this experience as a near-death experience. The only people that I have been able to relate to about this account are near-death experiencers. My experience has similarities to NDE accounts that I have read since having the experience and while trying to figure out what had happened. I was perfectly healthy, taking no drugs, or sleeping. I was wide-awake in a perfectly normal state of consciousness until the experience.
At age 22 I broke up with my boyfriend who had no intentions of ever getting married or having children. I knew I wanted both. I was absolutely devastated by this, as I loved him deeply. Sundays were the worst days for me. I was taking classes Monday - Saturday but on Sundays all I had to do was laundry, folding socks alone in my apartment. I remember sitting in deep depression while folding my socks and then hearing a church bell ring down the street. I had been raised without any religion. I had been a self-determined atheist since the age of five when I found out there was no Easter bunny and my Mother was Santa Claus. I put two and two together and concluded that the tooth fairy was a hoax and thus so was God. I remained an avid atheist until about junior high when I began to read about theoretical physics and ESP. I started to think that possibly there might be something beyond what my physical senses could determine but still I had serious doubts and I found most religions laughable.
The ringing church bell that I mentioned earlier reminded me of visiting my Grandmother as a young child. She lived in an apartment across the street from a church. My grandmother was also an atheist (a former Anglican) so we never went to church. However, I remember looking out the window and being fascinated by the people going into the church. I attended church a few times with friends as a teenager, including a Catholic church where no one could understand what the priest was saying, even though he was speaking in English. He had a very thick French accent. My friend's mother would read a novel hidden in her missal during the Mass. I also went with friends to a synagogue and a Protestant church. Somehow the church bells made me think, maybe I would go to church and see if there's anything there for me in that religion stuff. It was something to do and it seemed to work for a lot of people.
The church nearby was a Catholic church. I mustered up the courage to go the next Sunday to check it out. I went to the mass and really was quite confused with all the standing and sitting. I felt uncomfortable as everyone seemed to know what to say and I didn't have a clue what to do. I was particularly taken with the emphasis on the Trinity, wondering why it seemed a central focus of the church. For example, everyone kept crossing himself or herself father, son and Holy Ghost. I attended services for several weekends, mostly out of a lack of anything else to do; it kept me from sitting home and crying. I remained perplexed by the emphasis on the Trinity. I knew that it meant father, son and Holy Ghost but I wasn't really sure what that was. It just didn't make any sense to me that they would worship a God that was three things. How was that possible? If God was transcendent, all-powerful, all knowing, how could God also be a human? Humans were limited and did not know everything. Humans were not eternal. How could God be both of these at the same time? And what in the world was the Holy Spirit (ghost)? This was really a mystery to me. Finally, my curiosity got the best of me and I made an appointment to see a priest. I told them that I was interested in maybe becoming Catholic but I needed to understand something first.
When I entered the priest's office on a Saturday I was surprised to see a rather young priest in his 30s. I hadn't noticed him at the mass. I told him that I was trying to understand Catholicism and that it seemed to me that the most important feature was the Trinity, as they seemed to focus so much upon it in the service. I asked him to explain it to me. How can God be three things at once? He waited for what seemed like a long time and then he answered. He said that it was something that you just had to born a Catholic to understand. I thought, what a cop-out! That was it and he ushered me out. I was very disappointed with his answer and really rather indignant! The next day was Sunday. I decided to go to church anyway despite thinking the priest was a jerk and that the religion probably had no substance to it as he couldn't even answer a question that seemed so central to their faith.
The mass was the same as usual. When it ended I got up to leave and the woman seated behind me smiled and asked if I would like to stay after the service for testimonials. I really had no idea what she was taking about (or how unusual this was for a Catholic Church) but she was very kind and I really didn't have anything else to do except fold socks and cry at home. After a short break the testimonials started. I had moved to another pew on the other side of the church and didn't see the lady anywhere. People took turns going up on stage (it was really an altar space but I didn't know what to call it) and speaking about how Christ had entered their life and change it. Again, I had no idea that this was completely strange for a Catholic church. I was actually quite moved by the speakers. I began to really feel something emotional welling up in me. However, after a while, the stories all seemed to be the same and my mind began to wonder. I started to think about the Trinity. What was it? I just couldn't accept that it was only something a Catholic could understand. I thought if I think about it hard enough I should be able to figure it out.
I began to meditate on its meaning, what was the Trinity? How can God be three people at the same time? I mulled this over and over in my mind. Then something very strange happened. I must have ceased having vocalized thoughts and my mind seemed to go blank and in front of me I saw a person, a giant huge person. He was seated right at the spot of the altar but his head was touching the ceiling of the church. I instantly recognize him as Jesus though I had never seen an image of Jesus seated. He was robed and his hand was raised up making a gesture that I would now call a blessing gesture but at the time I didn't recognize it. I moved toward him though my body didn't move at all out of the pew. I was either pulled toward him or went toward him. I can't really say which. As I got closer I was really able to see how absolutely huge he was. I was at the bottom of his feet but my movement didn't stop there. I began to move up through the air toward his face.
When I had risen to the level of his face he said something but his lips didn't move. I just heard the word inside me, but not as an audible sound, more as a knowing. He said, "I am the way, follow me." I seemed to agree as I continued to move up and the ceiling of the church dissolved. I moved right up and out of the building up into the sky. Then I began to move at lightening speed. I rushed up into the heavens. At some point way up in outer space I met the Holy Spirit. It wasn't like an introduction. All of a sudden my consciousness burst out in all directions at once. My mind opened up and expanded until I could see, hear, feel and know everything in all directions simultaneously and throughout all time. It was a feeling of complete omniscience. I knew that this was the Holy Spirit. It was really me that was doing this and the Holy Spirit was showing me. The omniscience had a great power to it that spread throughout the universe; it held it all together and at the same time was within it, the energy that holds all of reality together through out all time and all space. I had glimpses of all knowledge -- all things that would come to pass and all that had already taken place. I don't remember any of the details now but rather I recall experiencing the Holy Spirit and had this great expansive knowledge.
I continued to move upward. I passed beyond this omniscient spatial and knowledge awareness toward a great light. The closer I got the larger it grew and it was drawing me into it with the most joyous love I have ever known. When this great light enveloped me I realized that he was the father. I knew him and he knew me. He loved me beyond anything I had ever imagined. It was an overwhelming feeling to realize how much he loved me. I moved all the way into his being and was completely surrounded by his love. I merged with him and his love until I was barely aware of my individuality but at the same time I still retained awareness of myself and that he was the father. I really can't explain how I could be one with him and at the same time by myself but it was so. The love I felt was indescribable. There are no words available to explain it. No earthly love of mother, father, sibling, husband or even child that can compare. It was all of those combined and even more. The light was everywhere. I could have stayed there forever. However, I didn't.
I began to slowly become aware of my body. It was as if I was still enveloped in this blazing ball of God's love but superimposed upon the scene. My body began to appear and then the room, the church and the pew where I was sitting. I then realized that I was sobbing uncontrollably and that a lady sitting next to me was holding my hand out of concern for me. Finally, I completely regained consciousness of myself back in the church. I was there in my body. I was sitting on a pew. A stranger was holding my hand. The testimonials were done and people were getting up and starting to leave. I turned to the lady next to me and she handed me a Kleenex. I still felt myself enveloped in the loving light of God. I wasn't separated from him. I could still feel him but I no longer could see him, nor was the light everywhere. I was back in normal lighting. I got up and walked home in a trance.
The feeling of euphoria lasted for months but slowly faded. Now, 25 years later, I can only feel it when I meditate deeply on the experience. At moments I have thought I have heard a voice say to me..."I am always with you." I can't say over the past 25 years I have always felt blissful. In fact, I have had some very difficult times -- even times when I have felt that God had abandoned me. I don't think he ever did. It's me not being open to him and thus experiencing darkness and confusion.
I joined an RCIA program right after my experience, but ended up not joining the Catholic Church as I reunited with my boyfriend (who decided that he just might get married after all). However, he was pretty anti-Catholic and actually anti-Christian, so I wasn't a Christian for many years. We married and had two children and have been together ever since.
Four years ago I felt called to enter a Catholic church again. I picked up a bulletin in the narthex and saw that an RCIA program was starting that night. I went. I came home and told my husband that he might want to come with me as I was going to become a Catholic. He did come. We went for a year. At the end of the year on Easter Vigil we both became Catholic. I was baptized, confirmed and had first Eucharist. When I was baptized I felt the overwhelming presence of the Holy Spirit and felt myself completely bathed in that wonderful loving light of God. I have now been Catholic for three years and continue to be amazed and pleased at all the truths that I have discovered in the theology. I believe it is the church established by Christ and know he showed me the way to it.
I now study Carmelite Spirituality, specifically the writings of Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, Therese of Liseux and Elizabeth of the Trinity. I feel that I have found my spiritual brothers and sisters. I don't know why I was fortunate enough to have had this experience but I am forever grateful to Jesus, the way-shower and to God for it. I have not had any other out of body experiences since this one. I have no fear of death. Actually I rather look forward to it as I know I will reunite with the loving light of God, the Father.