Editor’s Introduction

This anonymous scientist has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and philosophy and a masters in developmental psychology. She is currently finishing her Ph.D. work. She has contributed three transcendent experiences, the second of which here involves a near death experiences. It happened on February 19, 1997 from 2am to 5am in a hut in a rainforest area in Central America when she was in her 50s.

Shocked into a Near-Death Experience

The near death experience, however, is the one I felt most impelled to describe for the purposes of this scientific inquiry. It happened in Belize, Central America, where I had been backpacking with the Sierra Club. After a few days in a baboon sanctuary, then caving near the Macau River, we had gone into a rainforest region. The sleeping quarters there were very primitive huts made of bamboo and thatch with a dirt/cement slab floor.

In the middle of the first night (about 2AM), having guzzled lots of water earlier, I left my hut in search of an outhouse. A serious rainstorm had extinguished any outside torches, making it impossible to find my way around. So I did what any hiker would do – I looked for a safe place to go au natural. Having been advised about highly poisonous snakes, I prudently avoided the thickly vegetated areas and found a clearing.

What had appeared in the darkness to be a safe clearing was actually a massive ant hill – and seconds after I bared my skin, I was attacked in the groin by an army of enormous tropical insects: biting, stinging red ants. I had never had a severe reaction to an insect bite before – but between the volume of stingings and the sensitivity of the flesh and blood supply in the groin area, I went into anaphylactic shock shortly thereafter.

I stumbled back (a few yards) to my solo hut, soon realizing I was acutely stricken, heartbeat pounding to a wildly rapid rate, but unable to call out for help. Having blacked out from a standing position, I regained consciousness sometime later, awakening face down in a pool of blood from my split open forehead. During the next 4 hours I was in and out of consciousness, each time crawling on the floor a few feet, trying to find Benadryl in my pack, blacking out, falling down, again over and over, alternately disoriented when “awake” and lucid when “unconscious”.

At times I was intensely aware of actually leaving my body, and viewing it from several feet above: sprawled on the ground, bloodied and still, near the woven bamboo walls and the primitive bunk, etc. The sensation of floating above felt completely natural, serene, and graceful – and had the incredible sense of a beautiful loving benevolence that I had only fleetingly experienced glimpses of before (e.g. toward the end of a ten day Vipassana silent meditation retreat, et al.).

There seemed a gentle persistent pull to gradually float farther away from my body, and with that a vague sense that I might have choice: although to keep floating away was very clearly the path of least resistance. But I found my self very forcefully choosing, pleading passionately actually, to return. I was so vividly aware of this, and began exerting tremendous effort to begin breathing again with full deep yogic breath, begging to come back to my body so I could continue the unfinished work of my life. I remember repeating over and over (to my spirit?): please don’t leave this body now, please stay here with this body, come back, come back.

It was a sense of breathing the lifeforce back into my body somehow, which I did to a point of exhaustion and then eventually sleep. When I next awoke at 6AM, I was then able to call out for help. There were several blood spills on the floor from various times I fell. I had a couple of gashes near my brow, a serious case of hypothermia and I had violent tremors. But I was amazingly alive. I could hardly believe it, having been where I had been: having seen how thin the thread was between this life and the next.

When the rescuers showed up they treated me for hypothermia in the hut and I was later taken to a jungle clinic where they examined the bites, cleaned stitched my head wounds and gave me various shots and pills. The medics there told me that I had had an acute case of anaphylactic shock from the massive number of stings to the groin – and that a reaction that severe was almost always fatal. Several subsequent doctors in the US concurred that given the severity of the shock, they could offer no explanation for why I simply was not dead.

Contributor’s Comments on the Experience

As far as the impact that this experience has had on my life, I would have to say absolutely profound. Talk about a shift in perspective! – you simply see the world so very differently, in terms of the miracle of life itself, the luminosity of every day, the stunning gift of being here, what matters most and what does not matter at all. I thought I was reasonably awakened in many ways before this happened, but this was quantum – I am more humble, more in awe, more in love with life, I have more reverence and gratitude, and more enjoyment of and curiosity for the unfathomable mystery of it all – the incomprehensible vastness of what exists vs. the infinitesimal sliver that is ordinary reality.