Be the Light of Your Dreams

I decided to post a draft of the first chapter of a book I have been working on to help college students succeed. I’m posting this to inspire my current students and any students who may be struggling with the sudden change to online classes because of Covid-19 and social distancing practices.

If you have already finished college or achieved a different life goal, maybe this post will be a reminder of what inspired you to not give up on a dream.

Chapter One: Don’t Give Up

“Resilience is a muscle. Flex it enough and it will take less effort to get over emotional punches each time.” – Alecia Moore (Pink)

If there is one piece of advice that I can give to college students, it is to feel deep gratitude for your life and to not care too much about failure. Don’t let a momentary failure define you because anyone who has reached a major goal will tell you stories about paying their dues, receiving rejections, being mocked for their ideas, and encountering jealousy, or even betrayal from those closest to them. Many inspiring people have faced injustice, setbacks, and deep moments of despair, but they found the inner strength to persevere.

One of my favorite quotes about resilience comes from Nelson Mandela.


Setbacks and failures are often part of the process of eventual success. No matter what happens, access your strength, even if you have to sit on the floor and cry or go outside and scream. Don’t turn back, and don’t quit. Keep moving in the direction of your dreams.

As Gary John Bishop puts it, “You change your life by doing, not by thinking about doing.”

I’ve been humbled more times that I can count, and I know pain intimately—deep physical, emotional, and psychological pain. I write openly about these struggles in my memoir Angels in the OR: What Dying Taught Me About Healing, Survival and Transformation. However, I also know that if I can transcend pain and face tough odds, then you can as well.

Carl Jung, founder of analytic psychology, tells us that “We are not what happened to us, we are what we wish to become.”

There is always a choice to become the best version of yourself!

As I was writing this book to support and motivate college students, our beautiful community college switched all face to face classes to online classes in one week because of the Covid-19 Pandemic.

The majority of my students are finishing their classes, despite their dismay at this sudden change. Many students are adjusting to online classes with ease, but some are struggling with procrastination, motivation, or even depression and anxiety. Luckily, counselors are providing sessions online, and tutoring services have worked diligently to connect with students virtually.

I am grateful for video conferencing capabilities, and it is joy to see my student’s faces these past weeks. I have been reminding them that now, more than ever, resilience and creativity are crucial skills for navigating challenging times.

Community is also important. Community helps us prosper and feel supported, even if this community is an online community. Several of my students have told me that they are grateful that they have classes to focus on because their friends who aren’t in college and are unemployed are struggling. For the most part, my students are able to stay on track with their goals, and they are witnessing firsthand which careers are more flexible and necessary during shifting times in society.

Though online classes may not have been my student’s first choice, they are grateful to stay on track with their degree plans, and I am proud of their resilience. They are not giving up on their dreams, but they are willing to adjust and look for inspiration no matter how the journey unfolds.

My overall message to students is a simple one—don’t give up for any reason.

Don’t give up on college if you fail a couple of classes. Retake them. Don’t give up if you face a physical illness or face the grief of losing a loved one. Your loved ones would want you to succeed.

Don’t give up if you go through a difficult break-up. Even if the love of your life (who you believed was the answer to your prayers) destroys your relationship and treats you horribly, know that someday you will be wiser and see interpersonal cruelty as immaturity. In the future, you will know yourself as kind and honorable. Committing to your growth as an individual will ensure that you resonate with healthier people.

You can make yourself the CEO of your own life and hire and fire people as you deem necessary.

Don’t give up on college because of a mental health issue. Find a free support group if you don’t have health insurance. Know that there are others who have walked through similar situations and they can help you. Most colleges offer free counseling sessions.  Even during a pandemic, our counselors are taking appointments with students in video chats and in phone calls.

Don’t give up because you have lived through childhood abuse. Learn to retrain your brain and embrace all that you can learn about creating a better life than you had as a child. This takes many years of therapy and dedicated work, but it is worth it. Your parents want this for you even if they are unable to articulate it.

You might change and grow beyond your parent’s world views, and this might change your relationship with your family members. Do it anyway.  Learn to communicate differently, learn to parent yourself, and search out mentors who can help you create the life you want for yourself.

Be an explorer in the realm of what is new.

Understand the basic needs of the human spirit and get plenty of relaxation, time in nature, and support. Learn to nourish yourselves. Invest in your health in ways that are simple and affordable. Exercise, play, take daily walks, meditate for at least 10 minutes a day, drink plenty of water, and eat as many whole fruits and vegetables as possible.

Think about the ancient ways of being healthy, and don’t forget these truths.

When faced with a complicated problem, look for simple, common sense solutions and begin there. Even if you have compounding, stressful life issues, know that greater healing is always possible, and education often points in the direction of healing and greater success.

Realize that many of us are somewhat addicted to technology and this has a negative effect on our emotional and intellectual capabilities. Technology can be a force of great creativity and connection, but it can also be a waste of precious time and hamper our ability to emotionally connect with those closest to us.


In order to achieve goals, you will have to limit the time you spend on entertainment and socialization online. Consider reading the book Alone Together by MIT professor Sherry Turkle who talks about how technology has changed the landscape of families, education, and communities. Hopefully, this pandemic will help us realize as a culture how little we need, how much we have, and the deep value of human connection.

If you are not overwhelmed by personal tragedy, but you are concerned by tragedy in society, know that education is a great place to learn the skills that can help you restore greater peace, understanding, and unity in society. Focus on a career that works toward finding solutions to problems in society.

You become an inspiring leader when you focus on the solution, not the problem.

Don’t give up because of injustice. Education has traditionally been a place where new ideas are formed about how to make society safer and more equitable for everyone. Consider the work of Bryan Stevenson and read his book Just Mercy. His book has also been released as a movie. Stevenson is considered one of the most inspiring and influential people working for greater legal justice and mercy in the United States.

While in college, part of your growth is to learn how to make rational decisions for your future. Seek out those who can point out a path that you can’t see in the moment. Reach out to your professors, academic advisers and others who are there to help you.

Volunteer to help others because this will help you get ‘out of your head’ and ‘into action’ which generally will make you feel better. Service learning and volunteering not only looks great on your resume, but service also teaches you how to understand the journey of others. Even in a time of a pandemic and social isolating, I am encouraging my students to form friendships and support one another in the online environment.

Empathy is an important life skill that can be strengthened when you take the time to see what life looks and feels like from the perspective of another person.

Leslie Jamison, author of a collection of essays titled The Empathy Exams writes that “Empathy suggests you enter another person’s pain as you’d enter another country, through immigration and customs, border-crossing by way of query:  What grows where you are?  What are the laws?  What animals graze there?”

When you help another student succeed by taking the time to share information or offer support, you are in the process of becoming a successful, empathetic leader.  Good leaders want success for everyone around them. And, being a part of a community is one of the quickest ways to deepen your understanding of why you are here and to journey closer to your purpose.

On the other hand, if you are the type of person who is highly empathetic and often taken advantage of by others, realize that deep empathy without personal boundaries is self-destructive. Take advantage of counseling services on campus and learn about boundaries. Read and watch videos on this subject matter.

Also, know that the pain of your past has nothing to do with your worth as a person.

There are many online experts who talk about how to heal from relationships with narcissistic people, and I hope you experts who give you new skills for taking care of yourself.  All abuse is narcissistic in nature because those who are capable of understanding and empathizing with others would never abuse them.

I know you would like for your life to go smoothly and easily, but if you are facing any kind of challenge, know that life is asking you to grow. Try not to look as growth as a punishment; instead, look at it as an opportunity to do more good in this world than you thought possible. Your life can move with greater ease the more that you continue to learn.

Also, realize that people flower at different ages, and your time will be the right time for you.

College can be a beautiful time in your life because of the possibility of exponential growth. Years later, you might look back at a moment in a college class and realize how this moment shaped your life in miraculous ways. When you are present and soak up all that is offered to you, growth becomes easier. Although growth may be challenging, the product of growth can be glorious.

C.S. Lewis, an author and theologian best known for The Chronicles of Narnia, reminds us that “Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.”

If you have suffered greatly in life or if you face great challenges at some point in your life, know that your destiny is one that can offer extraordinary hope to others. The darkest moments make the stars shine brighter.

The greatest stories are often the ones of overcoming the greatest odds.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind  is one of my favorite books. It is about a young man named William Kambwamba who overcame incredible odds because of his curiosity and love for learning. His story can be heard on a TED talk and has recently been made into a Netflix film.

Remember that it is possible to have a fresh start at any time that you choose. You can simply walk out into your world and choose not to let failure, setbacks, injustice, or any type of defeat define your future.

You are more powerful than you know, so believe this and create what you want to see in this world.

joe dispenza

Truths I Learned from Dying

truths from dying picture

Coronavirus has changed the way many of us live our lives.  In quarantine time, many people may be spending more time confronting their thinking. This is a GREAT time to think happier thoughts for yourself, to connect to the timelessness inside of you, and to grant yourself greater love and more peace. Much inner work and healing can be done now.

There is plenty of time for reading, meditation, and prayer. There are no more excuses (unless perhaps you work for an essential business).

Try not to overthink or worry about worst case scenarios. But, if you do take this time to confront your mortality, know that the the process of dying is sacred. While you live, remember to live with love and kindness.

These are the Truths I Learned from Dying

1. Love is all that matters and all that we take with us.
2. Nature can heal us.
3. We are all connected energetically.
4. Joy brings us back to our true self.
5. At the soul level, we care about goodness, honor, nobility, love, and altruistic acts of kindness.
6. At the soul level, we are more godlike than we care to acknowledge. Our light is eternal.
7. Our ancestors, guides, and angels are there for us whether we feel their presence or not.
8. What makes sense in heaven isn’t always translatable on earth, but know that beauty, love, truth, and goodness last forever in heaven.
9. God/Universal Consciousness loves us all deeply.
10. You are personally loved more deeply than you can fathom.

May you be blessed!  The audio book of Angels in the OR is on sale right now if you are interested.  Pretty good price!

My Message To You

Hello Everyone,

I have had requests to respond to the current situation on a spiritual level.  I can’t make a video at the moment because there is a lot of work to be done for the community college where I work.  We are switching completely to a virtual online environment.

However, I want to remind everyone that if you need spiritual inspiration and comfort there are countless podcasters who have offer amazing shows and wonderful interviews with uplifting people.  You can check out my media list and browse through their shows.  I’m sure you are familiar with my story by at this point:-)

Thanks so much for your support of my YouTube channel.  Obviously, I will continue interviewing near-death experiencers and spiritual teachers as soon as my new work load normalizes.  In the meantime, meditate, exercise, breathe deeply, and know that there is more love available to you that you realize.

Let this love flow through you as you reach out to others and encourage them.  And, if you are bored, check out the many zoo tours and museum tours that are free online right now.  Now, is a also a great time to start your own YouTube channel or learn some dances on Tik Tok 🙂  Joy and being childlike in this joy is contagious as well!

On a more serious note, I want to share what was shared with me as a faculty member. I am extremely proud of our nursing faculty for passing along the most accurate and straight-forward information about why we are social distancing because of the Coronavirus.  Special thanks to Cindy Mask, our Faculty Association President. I am sharing with you what was shared with me.  I hope this clears up any misconceptions about why we are social distancing.

cascade creek environment fern

Photo by Pixabay on

From the Tarrant Count Community College Faculty Association: “We present the information below factually and bluntly. The hyperlinks are to reliable sources of firsthand information or reputable news sources citing those primary sources.

This is a once-in-a-century global health crisis (e.g. 1918 “Spanish flu”) and certainly the greatest public health challenge the world has faced since that pandemic. As you also probably already know, many people can be contagious, not have symptoms or have mild symptoms and pass the virus on to others.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) some people, even young healthy people, can then develop life-threatening disease if exposed. The data suggests most people will contract the COVID-19 virus!

Happily the majority will experience only mild symptoms. However, a substantial subset of up to ~20% will experience a more severe form akin to a very bad cold or to typical flu-like symptoms; another smaller subset of ~10% will develop a severe form requiring medical care with the worst cases requiring hospitalization. Most importantly, there is a ~2% chance of death overall in the population with that figure skewing heavily towards the older part of the population and those with underlying medical conditions.

This is not “like the flu” because there is no evidence that anyone anywhere is immune to the infection. It is a newly emergent zoonotic virus and humans are naïve immunologically. Neither immunization nor an equivalent to Tamiflu as a treatment has been found. The flu has about a 0.1% mortality rate for the fraction of the population that does contract it each year; ~34 thousand Americans died last year. 2% of
330 million Americans is about 6.6 million people.

Flattening the Curve: The increase in the number of people who have life-threatening disease can overwhelm our hospitals’ ability to care for them or others adequately—as we are already seeing in Italy. This is why the recommendations are for people to stay away from each other at this time. It is critical that you take this threat seriously and take every precaution you can to limit person-to-person contact. We must control the rate at which the virus moves through our population so that the maximum number of severe cases has access to a finite number of doctors, hospital beds and medical

Time is the ally here.  Please stay safe by staying away from other people.

Gratitude for the Beauty All Around Us

In a time of fear about the potential of the coronavirus, it is important to remember gratitude.  I have spent the last few days feeling grateful for all the amazing spiritual conferences, exciting concerts, stimulating lectures, and wild parties I have attended over the years. I’m grateful for my extensive travel, for loving deeply, and for meeting people from around the world.

I’m blessed by all of you who have taken the time to listen to one of my podcasts or send me a note after reading my book. I’m deeply grateful to all the people with uplifting shows and podcasts who have taken the time to talk with me.

Just recently I talked with a local radio host, Dr. Paula Joyce , whose work is inspirational.  She is a best-selling author, coach, speaker, and top-ranked radio show host, but most of all she is compassionate and deeply in touch with spiritual realities.  Here are a few of her empowering tips.

This past week, many of us have slowed down, traveled less frequently, and spent more time with our loved ones.  The added blessing of staying local is connecting with super cool people in my area.  This week, I met Natalie Jones, author of Awaken the Higher Self: Bringing Darkness to Light at a new metaphysical shop in town called Soutopia. Natalie is a pioneer of consciousness and light, and her beautiful book will help and inspire many people.

soultopia pic

As a near-death experiencer, my perspective on dying is unusual by many people’s standards.  I don’t fear it.  I’m not welcoming it or it encouraging it to happen soon, but I know that I will be greeted with deep love and compassion when I die.  I know that you will be too, and it only takes being open to that love to experience more and more of it in your life right now.

This time in history offers us all the opportunity to focus more on our connections with others and less on our “things.”  That includes the things that we have hoarded and what we have let go.  Open your heart to the people around you, and you will be blessed greatly.  It is through community that we will best survive.  It is the love that we take with us, not the toilet paper or hand sanitizer.  Stay safe everyone, but be kind and don’t let selfishness be your motivation.  Let love be your motivation!


Connecting With Divinity

I’m excited to meet you in Tuscon and Phoenix March 13-15, 2020.

Connecting with Divinity – Tricia Barker
Friday, March 13, 2020, 7:00 pm MST/AZ

Tricia Barker experienced a profound near-death experience during her senior year of college. She will share her experience and focus on the spiritual transformation of the wounds and struggles we all face on our journeys. Near-death experiences often show us that we all long to express the truth and love of our soul.  How do we incorporate this knowing into our lives in practical ways?

Speaker Bio:

Tricia has partnered with Dr. Raymond Moody and Lisa Smartt to produce The Second Annual Online Near-Death Experience Summit. She speaks to audiences nationally and internationally about unconditional love, healing, and consciousness. In her memoir, Angels in the OR: What Dying Taught Me About Healing, Survival, and Transformation, Tricia tells the story of her near-death experience, teaching mission, and eventual triumph over trauma in her past.


Attend in-person or online… the in-person event is at St. Francis in the Foothills, 4625 E. River Rd, Tucson, AZ. The online broadcast link will be emailed with the receipt and a reminder email is sent a day before the event start time.

ISGO registrants can attend the in-person event or join the online broadcast in a listen-only webinar with Q&A text chat mode. However, even if you miss the live event, as an ISGO registrant you can watch the recording of the event at your leisure after it is loaded to the ISGO Video on Demand catalog.

If you are an ISGO Subscriber (that is you have an active IANDS membership at the Supporting or higher level), this webinar registration fee is only $10; for all others, it is $15 to RSVP.

If this is your first time on the ISGO site, you will have to establish a user name and password prior to registering for your first ISGO event. See details at

The Impossible Now Between the Past and the Future

Here is a new interview with a near-death experiencer. Jim Bruton’s story is fascinating, but what I enjoyed most about this interview is the wisdom from his near-death experience that is applicable to us all. Jim Bruton ended up in “The Impossible Now between the past and the future.” He found himself standing in the eternity of a single moment.

Most NDErs review their pasts, but Jim was able to consider what future choices might cause him the most pain and eliminate some of those possibilities. Awareness of how we are all connected might be the key to eliminating certain painful experiences from our own futures.

You can also listen to the episode on my Podcast if you prefer that to YouTube.  Subscribe to my podcast and YouTube Channel to listen to more interviews like this one.

Thanks so much for your support of my memoir Angels in the OR: What Dying Taught Me about Healing, Survival, and Transformation which is also available as an Audible.

I also appreciate the interest and support of my book of short poetry inspired by the InstaPoets. It covers the journey of loving the self, others, and God.




Focus On What You Want To Create

If you are like me, you might occasionally get depressed by what you see in the news or in this world.  It is vital to focus on creating the community and world that you want to see.  When I see people fighting, lying, and spreading propaganda, I work to create peaceful, supportive communities.  I give love, and I tell the truth in response to lies.

In fact, one of the main reasons I wrote Angels in the OR: What Dying Taught Me about Healing, Survival, and Transformation is because I desired to spread more healing to those who have suffered any type of trauma to and show others that a deeper spiritual connection is always possible, no matter how treacherous the journey.

Focus is important for a variety of reasons. When you focus on your innovative possibilities, your excitement for life expands. When you focus on pain from the past, your energy stays in the past.

Although healing and processing is important, creation is where excitement can be found. You didn’t come here for dissatisfying experiencers and pain. You came here to create the life you want. 

My video is a quick one—under a minute but meant to inspire! And, just in case you like my shiny earrings, you can get them here.

Thanks for your support of my memoir and new book of short, spiritually inspired poetry.  Here is a link to my Amazon Author Page.  It means a lot to hear from readers.

Meditation, More Love in Your Life, and Poetry

My aim is always to bring you videos to inspire a greater connection to divinity, healing, and unconditional love.  Check out my latest short video on how you can experience more love in your life.

One of my recent interviews is with Kelvin Chin who has over 40 years experience teaching meditation classes. Kelvin is an Ivy League graduate, a teacher of other meditation teachers, and participated in first medical studies about the benefits of meditation. Kelvin also taught the first meditation classes at West Point Military Academy, and in the U.S. Army on the DMZ (De-Militarized Zone) in Korea, and at Raytheon, AIA International, 1-800-DENTIST, Dartmouth College and Yale University.

If you prefer podcasts to YouTube videos, I have most of my interviews and talks uploaded to a podcast now.  You can find the podcasts on Apple, Spotify, and Anchor.

I also appreciate your support of my book of short poems inspired by the Insta-poets called “The Self, The Other, and God.”   Please stay tuned for future interviews!  May you be blessed!

Tricia Book 3


Spiritually Inspired Poems

Thank you so much for reading or listening my memoir Angels in the OR and asking me about my poetry.  I’ll be releasing a short collection of poems titled, ‘”The Self, The Other, & God” in 2020.

my redemption

These poems begin with a reflection on our relationship with ourselves. Others come and go from our lives, but we must learn worthiness of the unconditional love of God in order to experience more peace in our lives.


Bob Proctor says that fear and faith demand that we believe in something that we cannot see. Fear manifests in anxiety while faith manifests in well-being. May you all have more faith than fear. One of the reasons near-death experiencers continue to tell our stories is to strengthen the faith of others who have not journeyed beyond the veil.


Recent Interviews, New Book, and a Blog Post from Kenneth Ring

Hello Beautiful Light-filled Souls!

I was recently interviewed by Michael Sandler on Inspire Nation, and I really enjoyed talking with him about my near-death experience and memoir Angels in the OR.  Thank you for your letters and support.

Because so many readers have asked about my poetry, I will be releasing a book of spiritually inspired poetry in 2020 titled, “The Self, The Other, & God.” These short poems are meditations on moments of wonder, mercy, pain, grief, acceptance, bliss, unconditional love, and pure consciousness.

I’m also grateful to Path 11 Podcasts, Wendy Garrett, Grief to Growth Podcasts, and Karen Noe from The Angel Quest Show for their conversations.

Also, thanks for staying plugged into my YouTube channel and for watching my latest interview with near-death experiencer Louisa Peck. I have also uploaded a recent video about why I think near-death experience stories should be made into movies. Our world is in need of reminders that we are deeply loved by God and worthy to receive this love.

I’m pleased to feature a guest blog post from Kenneth Ring whose latest book is titled Waiting to Die.

Notes from the Ringdom

by Kenneth Ring

Greetings, friends, and welcome to the Ringdom.  I wish I could promise you that you will find it the realm of magic enchantment, but I’m afraid it is likely to be only a source of occasional entertainment and distraction from our dysphoric Trumpian times.  Still, I will do my best to keep you interested enough to linger a while in the Ringdom and hope you will come to enjoy our time together.

Now, as Tonio, the clown in Leoncavallo’s I Plagliacci, who introduces the opera by saying (or, rather, singing) that he is the prologue, perhaps I should introduce myself, if in a less dramatic fashion.  Some of you may already be familiar with me if you were a part of Raymond Moody’s University of Heaven crowd since for some fifteen months or so until December 2019, my essays were posted on that site.  Well, I call them essays, but of course no one writes essays any longer, they blog.  I have always resisted the use of the term although these days it seems we are stuck with it.  I shudder to think of old Montaigne writhing in his grave in posthumous despair over the fate of the form he invented, which had such a long and glorious life in the world of literature.  But I suffer enough as it is from being what used to be called an “old fogy” (someone will have to tell me what old farts are called these days; the only suitable term I can think of is in Yiddish – alter cocker).  I don’t want to risk eliciting even more derision by using terms that are clearly demodé (oops, I seem to have done it again).

But as I have apparently drifted into a confessional mode, I had best own up to one of my most besetting flaws.

I am old.

Very old.

Let’s not get too specific but if I tell you I was born in the year that Babe Ruth hit his last home run, it will give you some idea.  Suffice it to say that if I were a piece of Chippendale furniture, I would be an antique.   But since I live in Marin County, perhaps a better sobriquet for myself would be that I am an ancient mariner (bad joke, I know – I can hear the hoots from here – but I couldn’t resist).

The thing about being old, in case you have never tried it, is that you are on a very short and uncertain leash toward the future, but have a very long tail extending into the distant past.  And in my case, where I find myself in the present is really in the epilogue of my life.  You see, I have had my life; it is over.  This is my afterlife, and it is from my afterlife that I am looking back on my life.  When I look into the mirror of my life, all I see is the past.  So that’s some of what I would like to recall for you here – who I was before I became a has-been.

Some of you will know that those essays I wrote for Raymond Moody’s website were on the theme of “waiting to die.”  As you will shortly learn, I had spent a good part of my life researching what it is like to die (it’s not bad, and is actually much better than you could ever imagine).  But what I was writing about in those essays was what it was like for me waiting to die.  (It wasn’t bad, and was actually much better than you could ever imagine.)  But the thing is, in the end, I was an abject failure at it; I just didn’t seem to have the knack for it.

But I digress.

I was going to introduce myself to you, wasn’t I?

Well, suppose I start by telling you how I first found myself spending a lot of time in the company of the once nearly dead.  I was young then – in my early forties – and I was about to have the time of my life.  Here’s the story:

It all began with two little purple pills.  But they weren’t Nexium.

They were two LSD capsules, but I didn’t know that then.

I had better back up and explain.

In the early 1970s, just after I had turned 35, I was a newly appointed full professor of psychology with tenure at the University of Connecticut.   And I was discontented.  Not with my personal life, but with the field of social psychology in which I had been trained and hired to teach.  I had recently published a critique of experimental social psychology, castigating it for the pursuit of merely clever and flashy research of the “can you top this” variety, which did not make me many friends.  In any event, I was suffering from a sort of early career crisis, having become disenchanted with this domain of psychology.

In March of 1971, when my wife and I went off to the Berkshires to celebrate our anniversary, I happened to pick up a book that my wife was then reading – Carlos Castañeda’s first book, The Teachings of Don Juan.  It looked intriguing and after she had finished it, I read it.

I was then a typical Jewish professor – wedded to rational thought, committed to science and atheistic in my worldview.   I had no interest in religion and very little knowledge of mysticism.   But I was open to new experiences, and what had particularly excited me about Castaneda’s book was his discussion of what he called “seeing the crack between the worlds,” which he had apparently effected through the use of mescaline.

At the time, I had never considered using psychedelic drugs and my only familiarity with anything close was having smoked marijuana a few times.  But since I had never been a smoker, even that was difficult for me, and my experiences with it, though of the usual kind, did not have any particular impact on my life.

Nevertheless, since there was a colleague in my department at the time who I knew was familiar with psychedelics, I approached him to tell him about my interest to take mescaline and why.  He had read Castañeda’s book and knew what I was after.

I came to the point.  Could he provide me with some mescaline?   He could.

By then it was early May.  The semester was just about over.  He told me not to read anything further on the subject and just come to his apartment on the following Saturday.

That day turned out to be a rare beautiful sun-splashed day with everything beginning to bloom.   My colleague lived at the edge of a forest.   He suggested that I take the mescaline in his apartment, wait just a bit and listen to music and then go outside and into the nearby woods.

And then he gave me two purple pills to ingest.

I did not know my colleague well, and as I was soon to find out, he was not only impish, but embodied the trickster archetype.  While he gave me to believe I was taking mescaline, he had actually given me 300 micrograms of LSD.

I will not bore you with an account of the next twelve hours.  Suffice it to say that all the pillars of my previous ontological categories soon began to crumble into dust. I had the undeniable feeling I was seeing the world with pristine eyes as it really was for the first time.  At the time and afterward I realized that this was the most important and most transformative experience of my life – and nearly fifty years later, I still feel the same way.  Nothing could ever be the same.

The one portion of the experience I will allude to here   — because it eventually led me to the study of near-death experiences –- took place when I was sitting on a log near a stream in the woods.  I don’t know how long I was there, but at some point for a moment outside of time I – except there was no “I” any longer– experienced an inrushing of the most intense and overwhelming rapturous LOVE and knew instantly that this was the real world, that the universe, if I can put this way, was stitched in the fabric of this love, and that I was home.  However, again I have to repeat:  There was only this energy of love and “I” was an indissoluble part of it, not separate from it

I spent the next three years trying to come to terms with what had happened to me.

Before this, I had been very active as a young professor – I had published a fair amount, I had been promoted pretty fast and I was the head of my division of social psychology and served on important departmental committees, etc.

Afterward, I didn’t publish anything for three years.  During that time, I was engaged in a spiritual search for understanding, and there were consequences.

My wife could no longer relate to who I was and to the kind of company I was keeping, which eventually led to a very painful and traumatic divorce.  My departmental colleagues didn’t know what to make of me either.  A very distinguished clinical psychologist, who had always taken an avuncular interest in me, put his arm around me one day and said, “We’re just waiting for you to come back to us, Ken.”

I never did.

At that time, there was a graduate student in my department named Bob Hoffman who, I soon discovered, was engaged in a similar quest of his own – a search for a new identity since mine had effectively been sundered.  It was Bob who introduced me to the work of the English Theosophical researcher, Robert Crookall, whose books discussed phenomena that were, as I would only later realize, cognate to what would come to be called near-death experiences.  And in 1972, Bob drew my attention to an article by the psychiatrist, Russell Noyes, entitled “The Experience of Dying,” which recounted several examples of near-death experiences, though again that term was not yet in use.  I remember how much these accounts affected me – I think in part because I recognized that they were describing revelations similar to those that had come to me during my LSD trip.

Also in that same year, Bob told me about a conference that was to be held up in Amherst, Massachusetts, on something called “transpersonal psychology” of which I had never heard.

“I think we should go to this,” said Bob.   And since Bob was leading me by the nose in those days, I quickly assented.

It was then that everything started to come together for me.  As my LSD experience had been pivotal for me, so this conference would be.

I don’t remember all the speakers who gave presentations that day – I do recall Stan Grof and Joan Halifax, Jim Fadiman, and I think Ram Dass may have there as well, and maybe even Stan Krippner – but I do remember my feeling of joy at discovering all these eminent professionals had been through something similar to me (only of course in far greater depth and with a level of erudition that was so much beyond my ken – or Ken – that they were really intellectual heroes to me) and had built new professional lives for themselves which stemmed from their own psychedelic experiences.  And more – that I was, without having known it, a transpersonal psychologist!  I had contemplated leaving the academy and psychology altogether, but now I saw I could remain a psychologist after all.  Except I would have to teach a new way, learn a new subject and somehow undertake research in this emerging field of transpersonal psychology.

I returned to the university on fire.  I was starting over.

Fortunately, I had a fair degree of freedom to teach at least one course of my own design, so I put together a graduate course on transpersonal psychology and offered it the next academic year.  It attracted an unusual assortment of students and even a couple of professors as well as a Catholic priest.

Over the next few years, my involvement and investment in transpersonal psychology continued to grow, which did not please my colleagues, but since I now had tenure and was a full professor, there was little they could do but shrug their cold shoulders at me or look at me somewhat sourly as if I were guilty of having left “real psychology” behind as well as my senses.  They were, of course, right about that.

During that period, I made several extended trips out to California, then the epicenter of the nascent transpersonal movement.  It was then that I was able to meet and spend time with many of the luminaries of the field, including Tony Sutich, now no longer much remembered, but then venerated as one of the two progenitors of transpersonal psychology (along with Abraham Maslow).  I can still vividly remember when Tony, who suffered from severe rheumatoid arthritis, was once brought on stage at a transpersonal conference, still lying supine on a gurney of sorts, and placed behind a speaker who was giving a lecture.  It was during these years, the middle 70’s, that I also met and in most cases was befriended by many others who played significant roles in the development of transpersonal psychology – Stan Grof, Joan Halifax, Charley Tart, Jim Fadiman, Jean Houston, Stan Krippner, and others too numerous to mention.

And naturally as a result of these contacts and conversations, and my continued study and personal explorations of what Charley Tart had famously labeled “altered states of consciousness,” I began to publish some articles in The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, speak at conferences, the usual….

I don’t have the space here (and you won’t have the patience to read it) to continue to provide an account of my “spiritual adventures,” so to speak, and related professional pursuits over the next few years that eventually led me to the study of near-death experiences, so let me just fast-forward to the spring of 1976.  I was sitting outside my house, just after the spring semester had ended, and was reading a little book that I had come to my attention through a journal review by a new friend of mine.  The book had been brought out by a small publisher in Georgia and was entitled Life After Life.

Written by a psychiatrist named Raymond Moody, Jr., it was an anecdotal account of what Moody dubbed “near-death experiences.”

By the next year, after it had been picked up by Bantam Books, it was an international bestseller and the term near-death experience had entered the language of ordinary discourse.

I am holding a copy of the book now and I see all the excited marginal notes, exclamation points and underlinings that I made at the time.  What I remember thinking was:

“This is it!”

I knew that I wanted to find a way to do research that would help me understand what had happened to me during my LSD trip – and that my own spiritual explorations weren’t sufficient for me.  I had always enjoyed doing research and needed to find a way to satisfy that need of mine.  I also knew that I was not cut out to be a “druggie,” and that for a multitude of reasons psychedelic research was not an option for me.   And from reading Moody’s book, I could see, with increasing clarity, that his near-death experiencers had indeed encountered the same realm – and so much more – that had so shattered me.  I could learn from them.  They would be my teachers.

You see, I was never interested in death per se, much less with the question of life after death.  What animated me and drew me to study near-death experiences was my desire to understand the state of consciousness and the transpersonal domains that I had begun to experience when I took LSD.  Even then, of course, I could understand that NDEs were a kind of transpersonal experience in their own right since, according to Moody’s account of them, they clearly transcended space, time and ego.  Thus, researching NDEs, I immediately saw, could marry my spiritual search with my work as a transpersonal psychologist.

The rest, as the risible cliché goes, is history – for me the personal history going on two score of years now of studying, researching, thinking and writing about NDEs.  There’s no need to recapitulate that long sojourn in NDEland here.  All I really wanted to express was how an adventitious LSD experience was the critical turning point for me that led, seemingly inevitably, to my life’s work as an NDE researcher, which indeed has been the blessing of my life.  And for that reason alone, though to be sure not the only one, I will always feel supremely grateful for what I was able to see and understand on a certain day in May in the woods of Connecticut.

—Kenneth Ring, Ph.D. is a retired Professor Emeritus of psychology at the University of Connecticut and an internationally recognized authority on the subject of near-death experiences. He is the co-founder and past president of The International Association for Near-Death Studies