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Through the Tunnel
Martin Brofman, Ph.D.
I was at the Episcopal Hospital in Philadelphia. I had just been
told that I had a "blockage" in my spinal cord, from the fourth
to the seventh cervical vertebrae at the level of the neck, that had been
responsible for the symptoms I had been experiencing. My right arm was paralyzed,
my legs were spastic, and there were sensations like electric shocks running
through my body when I moved my head
I was told that I had to have an operation immediately, and that if I lived
through the operation, I might come out of it a quadriplegic. When I asked
if I had time for a second opinion, I was told that if I coughed or sneezed
at that time, I might die. Naturally, I agreed to have the operation in
a few hours.
I realized that according to what the doctors had said, I might be dead
in a few hours. I went through the stages that many people go through when
they know they are about to die. First, there was the sense that this was
a movie set, and that these things were not really happening to me. I found
myself negotiating with what was happening, bargaining if I could, for something
different to happen. Slowly, the realization that it was real, and happening
to me, came closer and closer, until I had to emotionally accept that I
might very soon be dead.
When I accepted the unacceptable, my body shook violently as an intensity
of energy moved through me. I opened more and more to it, and after one
or two very long minutes it was complete. I felt a calm inside that I had
not known before. All my senses were sharper. My vision was clearer. Colors
were brighter. Hearing was clearer. Sensations were more alive.
I realized that I had released a perceptual filter that had been standing
between me and the experience of life, and ironically, it had been the fear
of death. Now that I had released that fear, I was experiencing more of
life, more of being alive, even if just for a short while longer.
I thought of the life I had lived, and the things I could have done but
didn't, and I found myself saying to myself, "I wish I had." There
were a lot of "I wish I hads." I thought to myself that it was,
in fact, a sad way to end a life, and that if I had to do it again, there
would be a lot of "I'm glad I did."
I had to decide what I wanted to do with the short time I had left. If I
spent my remaining time worrying or feeling bad about what was, in fact,
inevitable, I would have just wasted the rest of my life, thrown it away,
and it was too valuable for that.
I decided to spend my remaining time feeling good, and just thinking of
things that helped me to feel good - the color of the paint on the walls,
the smell of flowers in the room, anything positive. I knew I could always
Finally, the time came. I was taken to the operating room, and as I was
being given the anesthetic, I thought that this might be the last experience
I would ever have. I had no idea what might come afterwards. I had been
agnostic, with no beliefs, believing in nothing that I had not experienced.
Perhaps the next step after death was just oblivion.
I let go.
I began to experience a vertigo, a sense of spinning, and it didn't feel
good, so I stabilized myself in the center of it until I was still, and
everything else was spinning around me. I was moving through the spinning
scenes, which were memories from the life I had lived, memories which were
calling for my attention. If I put my attention on them, though, I felt
myself "pulled," because I was moving through these spinning memories,
like being pulled through a tunnel, or falling down a well, but discovering
that half-way down the well. Reaching for the walls would not work. My only
hope would be to aim for the water at the bottom.
I had to withdraw my attention from these scenes, then, these memories,
and put my attention on the place to which I was being drawn, aiming for
it. I was headed there anyway, but aiming for it gave me more of a sense
of being in the driver's seat, and that was a lot more comfortable for me.
It was a bit like riding a roller coaster in the front car, and pretending
that you're driving the thing along the tracks. It gives a totally different
ride, I can assure you, than being swept out of control.
The ride was long, but I had nothing else to do but go for it. Finally,
the end f the tunnel was in sight. I cam out into a kind of space, a stillness,
where there was a glow of energy addressing me. It was like a spark of life,
energy glowing with intelligence, not in a human form, just pure consciousness.
It seemed that some distance away, there was another spark just observing
I felt as though I were having an exit interview, something like, "Well,
your trip is over now, so complete things in your consciousness about that,
and we'll move on." I looked back and saw my life as I had lived it,
completed my thoughts about things that had happened, understood a lot of
things differently, and then expressed that I was ready.
The Being began to move away. I began to follow, and then I paused. The
Being quickly asked me what the thought was that had just entered my consciousness.
I had thought that it would be a shame for my daughters to have grown up
without their father in their life. I had spent a large part of my life
without my father in it, and I would have liked my daughters to not have
to have experienced that. Anyway, I was ready to go.
The Being said that because my reason for wanting to return was somebody
outside myself, I would be allowed to return. Before I had the chance to
express that I didn't really want to return, there was a rapid, confused
movement, something happened, the other spark which had been "observing"
was somehow a part of it, and then I was waking up in this body, in traumatic
pain, with intense drama going on around me in the hospital.
I felt as if I had just jumped into a movie that had been underway, but
that I had not been the one in the body before this moment. Because of the
trauma and the drama, my attention was directed to things happening in the
physical world, and the memory of what had happened before was somehow obliterated.
I had other things happening which were demanding my attention, and besides,
I did not have the belief systems that would allow me to accept what had
Over the next year, I began to explore ideas and philosophies I had no experience
of before. I read books like Life After Life, and Life After Death,
and other writings which described what people called, "Near Death
Experiences," and I began to remember what had happened. I saw the
similarities to what others had experienced, and I knew then what had happened
to me. I thought also of the similarities to what we consider the "normal"
birth process, where babies are born into bright lights and loud sounds
and being slapped, and perhaps, their attention is so much directed to outer
things that they forget their inner experiences just before the process
of being born.
From time to time, I meet others who have made the trip, and we compare
notes. "What was it like for you?" One woman said that before,
she was certain there would be a Being on the other side with a big book,
looking at what she had and had not done, and making checks and crosses,
good marks and bad marks. When she got to the other side, there really was
a Being there with a big book, just as she thought there would be. The only
bad marks she got, though, were for the things that she hadn't done. Her
only sin was self-denial.
My diagnosis on leaving the hospital was "Spinal Cord Tumor."
There was no treatment possible. I was given one or two months to live,
and I decided to do that living my new philosophy of "I'm glad I did."
I decided to work on myself, working in my consciousness to release the
tumor. Later, the doctors decided that they must have made a mistaken diagnosis.
But that's another story.
See also: Healing
and Transformation, and The
Institute of Technologies for Healing
and witchcraft Great
and present Beliefs People
and sects Rituals
and texts Shamanism