I experienced my NDE as a 19-year-old university student, during a particularly strenuous and exam-laden part of the semester. I had been stressing and studying, and had neglected to eat or sleep much that week.
I was outside one night with my boyfriend of the time and another friend, to unwind and take a break from the books. We were having a pleasant and commonplace chat between us. We had smoked a bit of marijuana, which was something for which I had quite a tolerance, and had smoked a few cigarettes. I used both of these substances on a frequent basis, with no negative effects. But that night, I suppose, due to the combination of mental and physical stress with the substances, I suddenly began to feel very faint.
In a whirlwind, I felt my blood pressure plummet and my vision began to be interposed with black dots ringed around the edges by a sickly green. I was leaning against a car beside my boyfriend, and tried to reach out for him and call his name, but I was unable to at that point. As the black dots multiplied and filled my vision, I knew that I was going down. There was an intense buzzing in my ears. This was my first time fainting, and the impression I had was like film running through a projector, which has ignited and started to be eaten away at spots, finally to be consumed by darkness.
All was perfectly black and quiet at this point, I had no awareness of my body, and felt nothing. It was all just blank and silent. No thoughts, just blackness.
Very soon after, I suddenly found myself in the middle back seat of a car. There were four other people in the car, one in each of the other seats. This phase of my experience is hazy; I did not look closely at the people or my surroundings, but it was a place with a subtle brightness to it. I was frightened and confused, but not overly so, because I felt that these people were there to protect and help me. I am an only child, but I felt as if these people were my four brothers, people I had known my whole life. I have the notion that they were all male, and a little bit older than I was at that point in my life. I was aware that they were communicating amongst themselves, debating on where to take me. I did not perceive the specifics of their conversation; I just caught the general gist. I trusted their judgment, and kept quiet. I did not have to wait long for them to make their decision.
Next thing I know, I was barreling down a pristine white enamel canyon at breakneck speed, wind whooshing through my ears. I first thought that I was riding on the back of a brilliantly colored bird, as I found my vantage point to be right above it. It was white, with a very faint tinge of lavender, and its feathers were swirling with moving iridescence. Everything, including the bird, emanated a pure, otherworldly white light. It was all etched in sharp, clear colors. It was the most beautiful place I have ever seen.
There were stately green trees growing up from the canyon floor, and a small, crystalline stream ran through it. The bird lowered its flight to tree level, and was weaving in and out of the tall trees, going faster than I have ever felt myself move. I worried that the bird might accidentally connect with one of these trees, pummeling us both. At this point I realized that I was the one controlling the bird's actions; I actually was the bird. My vantage point switched to the eyes of the bird itself. I confidently navigated between the trees--right--left--right--as if it were second nature.
I knew at this point that there was somewhere I had to go, that it was the most important thing I have ever had to do. I somehow knew that at the end of that canyon, toward which I was straining with my every fiber, lay perfect bliss, love, and acceptance. I've never wanted something so much as I wanted to reach my destination in that place. Faster--FASTER!
A voice started to call me from behind; I ignored it. It persisted, and eventually started grabbing at me. I was supremely annoyed that anyone would think to bother me at this, the most important moment of my life! In a fury, and physically sickened by the interruption, it seems that I momentarily glanced back, as if to say, "WHAT!? GO AWAY!!"
That's when I woke up in my old body, in my old life. It felt like someone had hung the shabby, moth-eaten drapery of reality around me again, blocking that beautiful place from my sight. I was profoundly dejected. I had been so damned close! As I lay on the cement, head throbbing, gut churning, I couldn't help but think that I had been dropped back into the dreamworld. This place, this 'reality,' seemed so much foggier and darker than the other place. So much less real.
I was informed at this point that I had fainted, took a pretty good hit to the head on the pavement, remained unconscious for a time, then had a seizure. I had perfect recall of the reality that I had experienced, and spilled it out enthusiastically to somewhat uninterested ears.
(I think it is pertinent to note that my NDE timeline seems to match up with what happened to my body in the physical world, namely, I was in the car while passed out cold, and was flying through the canyon during the syncope. The actual timing of these events seems to line up, about two minutes out cold/in the car and one minute seizing/flying.)
In any case, my disillusionment with reality did not last long at all, maybe a day or two. More than anything I felt a profound gratitude for being shown something which most people are not permitted to see in this lifetime. It has given me a bolstering sense of confidence that the universe is good, and that it is constantly ready to take us up in its embrace of perfect love. We are not alone, and there is no reason to fear death, as it is not an ending, but a beginning. I think about and draw strength from my NDE every day.
I was not raised with any sort of religion, and I still mistrust it as an imperfect human invention, prone to manipulate people for worldly ends. But if it brings you comfort and peace, go for it. I now believe in God, if I may call it that. God, for me, is the gentle light which imbues Everything with being, and which loves us all. I think that if such a thing as Hell exists, it must be your own conscience temporarily making you suffer for your misdeeds, because the Light that I felt had no taint of judgment.
My very personal experience of and relationship with this Light brings me untold comfort, and motivates me to do good in this world. I feel more empathetic with others than before, and less judgmental. I realize, now more than ever, that kindness and helping others is a direct manifestation of the Light, and the best we can do in this world is to multiply the incandescence of God here on Earth. It feeds our soul, and the souls of others. Why else would we be here, in this flimsy and imperfect place? Suffering exists to give us a chance to overcome and to grow. To create something beautiful out of something ugly is the ultimate gratification.
A few comments on my health related to my NDE. I suffered from periodic migraine headaches before the incident, but have not had one since then, almost 13 years ago now. I had never had a seizure before the event, and have not had one since. Epilepsy has been tested for and the results were negative. An MRI was also performed after the event, to assess the extent of any brain damage, and none was found. I am afraid of having a repeat fainting episode, and I have the feeling that I could just "fly out of my body" at any time. (Ironic, as I have lost my fear of death. I guess pain and suffering still scare me!) This is a source of anxiety, but one that I have learned to dampen. I seem to be more sensitive to loud noises and pharmaceuticals than before, and have lost interest in certain superficial things like popular television and the accumulation of material possessions. I continue to struggle with lifelong self-esteem issues, but I feel that I am finally beginning to come to terms with them, not in any small way because of my NDE and the insights that it has given me. Insights which seem to become even more powerful as the years go by.
As a last thought, I do not doubt that the details of my experience were specific to me. This is not to say that it was unreal. Rather, that we embellish, or someone else embellishes this experience for us, to be as personally salient and comforting as possible. For me, being a passive passenger in the car was relevant because I had not yet learned to drive at that point in my life, and struggled with self-esteem issues. The age and gender of my helpers would represent the demographic in whom I could have trust and confidence at that point in my life. Also, more helpers equal more confidence, which I was seriously lacking at the time. The bird can be seen as a stylized version of my cherished pet parakeet that had died about one year before the event. Taking control of the flight of the bird is an affirmation of ability and self-worth, which I have struggled with in my day-to-day life. The trees were deciduous species similar to those native to my birthplace. I have always been fascinated with streams and creeks, and would haunt these places as a child. The white enamel canyon resembles the edges of the bathtub that we had in our house when I was growing up.
Notwithstanding all of these personalizations, certain elements of my experience resonate with the NDEs that multitudes of other people have had. So, it seems to me that the pith is essentially the same in most cases, but the details are specific to the person having the experience. The universe without matter exists, and is malleable to our thoughts. Not only is it more real than this contrived world, but more magnificent.