Where were the birds?

I received a most interesting email from my old friend Jerry Posner yesterday….

I was looking at the sky yesterday. It was a beautiful, clear day in North Carolina, and I saw sparkling lights everywhere. I thought that this was an optical illusion but then one of the sparkling lights turned into a bird flying very high in the sky. This lasted only a few seconds and disappeared. Its trajectory was not visible on the physical plane.  It was if it came from nowhere and returned to nowhere as abruptly as it appeared.  The only trajectory I noticed was that associated with its appearance which lasted only a few seconds.

Wondering if I would be too hasty sloughing it off as imaginary or illusory — there goes that materialist predisposition again — I thought “What if it wasn’t an illusion or, perhaps, a weird form of retinal shock that took the form of a bird in flight?” Perhaps it was indeed an actual insight into another dimension. My attention was poised and meditative. Insights and intuitions seem to happen when the attention is focused as mine was at the time. Although I had been having an anxious day, by this time, I had relaxed a bit and just sat looking intently at the sky. I wondered if the bird really disappeared or was it that I was unable to sustain the insight into what might have been another dimension. Perhaps, the bird hadn’t gone anywhere but it was my attention that wavered and my consciousness could no longer be in sync with the bird. If this had happened only once, no doubt, I would have succumbed to the idea that it was simply an illusion. To my astonishment, though, it happened three times!

For me, it was an absolutely new type of experience. The only aspect of it which seemed familiar to me was that it seemed to take place in the same focused attention state that I am in when I do object reading, or when I am very still, say, when I am meditating and see an inner blue luminescence. If it was another dimension I was being exposed to, I have to say that the insight was actually present to me simultaneously as I was aware in this familiar dimension. I could see how another dimension could be woven into ours. There was no real separation, just a sort of invisible curtain between dimensions, which parted momentarily thanks to my state of mind at the time. I have to say that I could not separate this experience from what I generally consider real, despite its non-ordinary aspects. It was all subsumed under what I call reality. I have taken some pains to describe this and I hope that it seems clear.

My response?

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Cool, Jerry! I think the wonder of life is manifesting!

We “normally” run around in our stories, our preoccupations, all the time, but sometimes there are moments when we’re using our attention differently, and then……


  1. Thanks for sharing this. I think it makes it easier to be OK with such experiences when we see others that take such events in stride.

    I’ve had a similar experience of being at that sort of boundary between places. In truth, it was a pretty good experience. But I got very concerned not just because I had the experience, but also because I kind of enjoyed it at the time. I was pretty convinced that made me certifiable.

    I emailed a description of my experience to the counselor I’m seeing expecting to convince him that this time I really was nuts. I thought of all the weird stuff that I’ve shared with him, this would be the one experience he would have to see as pathological. It didn’t work out that way. He seems to think I’m OK, although he does agree that graduate school is probably not the best time in my life to be having these experiences.

    Of course, maybe my counselor is the nutty one? Hmmmmmmmmm…

    1. Hi Sandy!

      Why are you having a hard time accepting your experiences? Is it that you feel so different from the average person, or maybe that you don’t feel that you are in control?

      I’m wondering since I’d love to have more of these experiences. I’ve only had a faint trickle compared to what you have described. But, and this an important point; I want to be in control of these experiences. By that I mean that I wouldn’t want my mind to be invaded or flooded by new impressions or information that I can’t handle, or not being able to shut out impressions that are disturbing to ordinary functioning. As an example, having a strong telepathic ability wouldn’t be of much use if I mistake every crazy emotion or thought out there as my own.


  2. Hi Tor! It’s nice to see you.

    I know that you’ve expressed an interest having these sorts of experiences, so it must seem strange that I try not to have them. I am getting better about it, but I have my moments either way. I’ll be OK for a while, then I’ll spend a week begging my counselor to approach my situation as a pathological medical condition, something that he strongly disagrees with. But overall, I have longer periods of being OK and less of a craving for a cure. Oddly enough, during the last few days I’ve actually felt like this might even be a gift. But I can’t tell you how I’ll feel about it tomorrow.

    Why it’s so difficult, I don’t really know. Maybe in part because I’ve never believed in religion, and I think that as a scientist I shouldn’t have to be bothered by spiritual concerns. Having to acknowledge that I have a spiritual component kind of sucks, but how can I experience the world as I do and deny that component? It seemed like my only option was to insist that I was crazy, and that my experiences were just delusional fantasies. Dr Tart’s latest book addresses such concerns. The thing is, my brain understands that it isn’t unscientific to be spiritual, but my gut still feels pretty queasy about this stuff.

    I have other concerns as well. This world is where my husband and family are, and I want to feel connected to this existence. I’ve talked to other NDErs and we all feel a little bit lost here, so much so that the other reality is very appealing in many ways. But this existence is important too. This place is important. I’m afraid that acknowledging the other stuff will take me away from the people and life that is so important to me. And it isn’t easy to live with experiences that can’t be discussed in polite company.

    As for control, I don’t really have much of a handle on that. If you can figure out a way to control this, please let me know. The best I’ve managed is to allow myself to be open to odd experiences at a time and place of my choosing. That seems to act as a pressure valve. A way of getting the weirdness out of my system for a while. Being unhappy can act to suppress these experiences, but I find it pretty difficult to stay unhappy for long. I wouldn’t really want to anyway.


    1. Nice to see you too Sandy 🙂

      I think I understand this about the struggle between the intellectual and the emotional. I have it myself, and it was one of the things that suddenly appeared and triggered anxiety and depression at the end of my master degree. I was aware of it before it turned into a problem, but that didn’t help much. I have learned much from it though, and even though these emotions surface at times still they don’t have power over me like they used to.

      When it comes to control I don’t have much experience myself with the sort of things that happen too you. The method I practise is supposed to open up abilities as part of the natural progression as it helps you develop, and these abilities are then supposed to be under conscious control. I have heard about people that had uncontrolled abilities (in China) and got help from teachers of our method to “shut them off” since it didn’t really help their life. I have no experience of this myself though. But I do suspect that some methods would be able to help. The problem is that there are so many, and few can document any effect like this. In fact, few have any documentation at all. So I can imagine finding such a method is difficult.

      The only method I have any personal experience in, and thus feel I can recommend is Zhineng Qigong. It have been studied scientifically but most of these studies are in Chinese and hard to get hold of. Some effects have been documented here in the west, and what I can say about it’s effect on the mind is that it seems to have a general stabilizing effect, reducing depression and emotional problems. I do think it could help in your case too, but unfortunately outside China this QiGong method is only taught in Scandinavia and England (as far as I know).


      1. Hi Tor,

        I recently came into contact with an individual I found through IONS who has had very similar experiences to mine, but started having them more than 30 years ago. He has made some helpful suggestions in learning to be OK with how I am. I’ve actually had quite a lot of support lately from both normal and unusual sources, and have tried out a few things that seem to help.

        One thing that seems to be helping comes from http://www.shiftinaction.com/discover/audios/charles_tart/mindfulness_101 (My thanks to Dr Tart for his work on this). I was very reluctant to try anything even remotely like meditation because I was afraid it would trigger anomalous experiences. But I did try the mindfulness thing. It has only been about a week, so I can’t really say if this is the answer for me. I’ve been playing around with it trying to figure out what works best. Sometimes I fall asleep when doing this. And other times I have had anomalous experiences. What I’ve noticed is that I don’t panic as much when the weird stuff occurs. I just notice the weird stuff happening in the same way that I notice how my foot feels. I manage at least a bit of detachment (I’m still working on the curiosity part) instead of the usual stress reaction. Sometimes I can go through the whole thing and nothing really odd happens at all, which is such a gift.

        It isn’t a cure, but I have been feeling better lately. I don’t feel so much like I’m being besieged by too much unwanted information all the time. I’m still aware of odd things, but I’m much more OK. 🙂


        1. Experience will tell I guess. If you can experience what happens and have a kind of detachment and not get too emotional involved then it sounds good. I experience this myself at times when I encounter issues within while practising. These issues don’t seem that dangerous when one can look at them and not “be” them.

          I think you will get a handle of these things Sandy 🙂

          Oh.. and if you want to share some of your experiences, I’m one of those that listen with an interest 😉


  3. @Sandy:
    >But I got very concerned not just because I had the experience, but also because I kind of enjoyed it at the time. I was pretty convinced that made me certifiable.<
    Just returned from a conference where a psychiatrist colleague gave several depressing examples of where certain kinds of experiences were indeed listed as clear signs of major mental illness in psychiatric handbooks – and where it later turned out that much of the population has them! A prime example: feeling of real contact with a deceased love one. Turns out that over half the normal population has had that. Now the criteria have gotten more "liberal." It's OK to experience this in the first few months of bereavement, but not later. I think this says a lot more about the narrowness and inadequacy psychiatry can get into that about people's experiences, sadly…..

    1. Dr Tart,

      I have these very interesting arguments with my counselor about what constitutes “crazy”. He agrees that I could find information in medical books that would support the argument that I’m certifiable, but he insists I’m just unusually perceptive. “Nuts but OK” is how I describe it.

      When I was first trying to figure out what was happening to me, I searched medical journals and found some really scary terms describing the pathology of my condition. Those words have haunted me more than any ghost ever could.


  4. @Sandy:
    >The best I’ve managed is to allow myself to be open to odd experiences at a time and place of my choosing. <
    I've known a number of people who've worked out something like that, and it can definitely help!

    1. Dr Tart,

      Letting myself be open to odd experiences at times of my choosing has helped quite a bit.

      I’m still working on the mindfulness thing as well. That has produced some really surprising results so far. I finally understand what being “grounded” feels like. I’ve always felt a bit disconnected from my body; maybe that’s a NDEr thing. I find that paying attention to what my body feels like when I’m also enjoying colors, sounds and stuff helps me stay grounded. I know where I stop, and the other stuff starts. That’s very comforting.


  5. Tor,

    I haven’t really felt like writing about the weird experiences lately, but this experience feels kind of important somehow. It isn’t a very exciting experience by weirdness standards, I suppose. But I think something about these experiences may have changed for me. I think that perhaps the mindfulness exercises are helping me be OK.

    Last night my husband and I went to see the movie Wolverine. We got there early, so the theatre was completely empty when we went in. My husband went to get popcorn, so I had the whole theatre to myself for a while.

    I could kind of notice ghosts in the room. They didn’t seem solid; they were more a feeling of ghosts. But I found out that I could tune them in and see them if I wanted to. They were a bunch of young nerdy guys, the sort of guys that have heated discussions over every discrepancy between the movie and all the old comic books. A happy/nerdy place memory.

    There was another young guy who appeared beside them. He didn’t interact with the others; he looked at me and disappeared. I don’t think he was a place memory, but he didn’t say anything to me so I can’t be sure. My husband came back with the popcorn and the theatre started to fill up after that. I tuned out the nerds and enjoyed the movie.

    This was really the first time I’ve ever felt like I had any conscious control over seeing the weird stuff. It didn’t even occur to me until afterwards that I could feel the difference in how I was when I could see them, and how I was when they were barely noticeable. Maybe that’s from doing the mindfulness stuff, as silly as that seems. I’m still trying to process what happened. Something is different now.


  6. @Sandy:
    >I tuned out the nerds and enjoyed the movie. < There you go, Sandy, the key to success in life , selective perception when needed. Take ordinary life as an example. If you pick up a newspaper or turn on the radio or the TV, a million bummers come your way. A very few we really should know about as we might be able to do something about them, but the vast majority would only depress or anger us if we paid much attention to them. So just as you can tune out most irrelevant impressions from our ordinary world, ditto for the unusual world.
    This sounds inconsistent with my usual emphasis on the importance of developing mindfulness, but the mindfulness I think we should develop is an ability to be mindful as needed, not an automatic overload habit….

  7. This sounds great Sandy!

    Seems like the mindfulness exercises is quite useful for you now. To me it seems like you are progressing with a scientific experiment on you own mind, now gathering subjective empirical data on the mindfulness technique as a method for controlling this type of unusual experiences. So far it’s a thumbs up 🙂

    The experiences I’ve had while practising my own method have made me think of a newborn baby trying to control it’s body. At first there is only chaotic movements, but slowly, gradually, and backed up by a persistent intention to gain control, our limbs start to obey.. It’s hard at first.. It takes a lot of effort.. But we all do succeed in the end.

    I feel it is the same with the mind. It is as we have to do the same as we did as infants. But now the challenge lies more within. And just as we can perfect bodily control to the almost supernatural, so we can do with the mind.

    I feel one thing is important though.. To be playful and relaxed in the practise and exercise of this control. Not stressed and hard. The infant seems quite relaxed, while still playfully intent, as arms and legs are racing. The same can be said for the toddler immersed in play with it’s toys. I think there is important lesson to be learned by looking at small children. It is funny that most of us adults have forgotten what we as toddlers just did by default 🙂


  8. Tor,

    Learning control over the odd stuff actually reminds me of learning to function again after the car accident that resulted in my adult NDE. I remember waking up in the hospital and nothing seemed to work. There wasn’t much of me that wasn’t broken.

    I had to constantly think about how to walk at first. I literally couldn’t walk and chew gum at the same time or I’d fall over. I could remember doing things like swimming before the accident, but I still had to figure out how to swim again. It wasn’t enough to just fix the damaged parts. It was like my legs had no memory.

    I even had to learn to do really simple things again. Minor annoying things that I was too embarrassed to admit I didn’t know. Like how to open a can. I cooked from scratch for months before I saw a can opener used on TV and I figured out how to open a stupid can. And “yes”, I could have asked someone, but I was so determined to convince everyone that I was still me after the accident that I couldn’t admit to anything that might be seen as evidence that I wasn’t OK. I sure could have used the internet back then if it had been available.

    I feel some of the same frustrations with learning to control the anomalous experiences. I didn’t ask for such experiences any more than I asked to be involved in a head-on collision. Although looking back, some of my most memorable experiences resulted from the accident. Not just the NDE, or how my life went in a new direction, but small things that kept me going.

    One evening when I was out for a walk, one of my first walks, I was in tears because I hurt so much. But I was determined that I was going to make it to the end of the street. When I got there, there was a Blue Spruce tree all covered in fireflies. It was beautiful, like an out of place Christmas tree all lit up in the middle of summer. It was awesome. I was so glad that I walked that far.

    It would be nice if someday I could relax and enjoy the self-aware light shows and ghosts as much as I would enjoy seeing another a bug covered spruce tree. :-))


    PS: Don’t worry about the grammar. I’m much more interested in your ideas than in your syntax.

  9. As a layman, I reckon “crazy” by any terms to be a condition where one can’t function as s/he ordinarily will, within reason. I think hallucinating may mean “crazy” only to the extent one feels victimized by it.

    Otherwise hallucinations can be inculcated deliberately, without bashing one’s biology with drugs. Huxley’s hypnosis experiment in Dr. Tart’s ALTERED STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS presented more of a point than has so far been taken on the whole.

    I took it. A second party, a hypnotist, is not necessary. Sitting quietly in a darkened room — generally, any twilight situation will do it — and relaxing the mind freely, the shapes of ordinary objects can take on another shape of one kind or another, and somehow seem alive or with a consciousness of its own.

    With a little confidence, one can take it much further, and into the daylight if desired.

    It’s important to stress that doing this deliberately makes all the difference in the world. Changes in brain, nervous system and senses can be felt with fascination, but also with a sense of ordinariness not prompting one to rush off to the dictionary of nut-case symptoms to find out what’s wrong. One can cease it at any time. One becomes used to the fact that s/he is using his inner senses, whatever clanky terminology may be laid upon those natural human instruments.

    After some time with this, should one persist, it becomes clear that there is a symbolism involved in it — it can be practical.

    A nice example from me: every now and then I “see” people out of the corner of my eye, so to speak, though I may be looking a little more directly at a given space, but not fully physically focused.
    Paying attention to reality over a period of time within seeing such, it will have turned out to be a precognition of visitors, usually people I haven’t met before.

    These occasions are like the consciousness of dreams, briefly imposed on or within ordinary physical perceptions of reality.

    I wonder why there’s no discussion of dreams among the threads I’ve searched here. Van Eeden’s essay in ALTERED STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS is why I’ve wound up here 35 years later. It’s been quite a trip, and it continues.

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