Poetry is a fantastic medium for writing about spirituality, especially when these experiences are still integrating and peculating. I often encourage those who have recently awakened or had a near-death experience to journal and write poetry if that interests them. Years later, I know they will look back and appreciate the knowing of these moments.
Perhaps, all the wonderful IG accounts and YouTube accounts that focus on narcissistic abuse helped me better understand why empaths like myself can attract narcissists. In this collection, I use the Greek Myth of “Narcissus” to represent all the ways that loving people who are unhealthy for us can shift our focus away from that love of God. In my latest YouTube video, I read the title poem, “Loving Narcissus.”
The last half of the poetry collection focuses on the better choice of simply Loving God in all areas and at all stages of our lives. Here is the final poem of the collection. I’d love it if you pre–ordered the book. It is free on Kindle Unlimited.
All This Talk About Death
We go on folks…we go on. The credits are rolling, surgeons are packing up their tools, loved ones are falling to their knees, and there you are in spirit going on, finally aware of how your worries shouldn’t have been worries.
You should have loved them more, hugged them more frequently, reminded them to be happier, taken them out to enjoy the sunlight and moonlight.
You should have danced more, laughed more, praised more, and joked around a bit more.
You are excited though, hovering there above your discarded body because it makes more sense to continue than to become nothing when you are something— a spark of God that you dimmed and brightened depending on your circumstances and mood.
And, now, you can be fully who you were meant to be, who you too often limited in the realm of fear and time.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Are you thinking about writing a novel, essays, book of poetry, or nonfiction book? I would love to offer you guidance on your writing journey. No matter if you are in the planning stages or the revision stages, a supportive writing community can help you with inspiration, ideas, and revision techniques.
I have 20+ years teaching Creative Writing and recently sold my memoir which will be available in the summer of 2019. I am also happy to share this journey with you in the workshops. I needed many readers and editors on my journey to publication, and in one of these workshops you will surely meet connections who will give you the feedback you need.
These workshops will be held online in Zoom with no more than ten participants at a time. I would love to have you join one of my writing workshops in October and November. Each workshop is only $10, so that you can attend more than one.
Please see this link for more information. I can’t wait to hear from you. To sign up, simply donate to my PayPal account, and let me know which class you want to join. I will send you the zoom link for that class. The zoom link will only work on the day of the class.
Poetry, however, was my first love and focus in graduate school. My Creative Writing students sometimes ask to see my published poetry, and I usually wait until the end of the semester to show them any of my work.
I only sent out my poetry between the years of 2006-2008. Here are a few of those poems. These poems aren’t representative of some of my larger themes in my writing, but they are the ones that were chosen for publication.
COCKROACH BESIDE MY TOOTHBRUSH
There is meekness in the bow of your head
beneath your curved back,
but even humility and sensitivity
will not save you now.
Do you remember when you
raised your folded wings at right angles
from your abdomen, showing off
the white edgings of your thorax and wing pads?
You trembled for the mate you wanted,
and she looked back at you
as if the moon glowed from inside you.
You believed passion could last forever,
denying that all we have are flashes.
Still, you never imagined this ending—
an abandoned condo by a pond,
shadows extending like frail, human arms,
no food or even cereal crumbs in the kitchen,
and only my mint-flavored, disappointing toothbrush
The theme in this last poem is an important one for empaths. Recently, I have discovered the work of breakthrough life coach Lisa A. Romano. Empaths are often drawn to narcissists in many different capacities. They can also be the target of sociopaths, so it is important for empaths to learn to protect themselves. If you are interested in this topic, I highly suggest checking out some of Lisa A. Romano’s YouTube videos.
Images: The painting of the pond can be found at this link. I found the beautiful crows on Pinterest at this link.
I also made a video to accompany this letter from God. For years, I have required students to pick images to accompany some of their writing or another person’s writing on a video presentation. I enjoyed finally trying one myself. Here it is!
I’ve always enjoyed Mary Oliver’s nature based themes and spiritual themes. The last stanza of this poem with the lines, “…lights up the deep and wondrous/drownings of the body/like a star” is gorgeous. I think of the spirit like that–this beautiful light that lives in form, much to its dismay at times. The poem of mine is about finding love and peace in simple moments in nature. Magic happens in the now.
National Poetry Month: To celebrate National Poetry Month, I’m posting “After the Wreck,” a poem published by the Binnacle in 2007 which is inspired from moments during my near death experience. I’m also including a poem by Rilke from Book of Hours: Love Poems to God which I adore.
Writing on Morphine: I wanted to document my NDE as soon as I possibly could. I stayed in ICU for a few days after surgery, but once I was moved to a hospital room, I asked for a pen and paper. My surgeon confirmed that I had died, but she didn’t feel inclined to talk about the spiritual experience with me. The nurses were a bit more willing to listen to my experience but most seemed busy and hurried. Some people only nodded and looked at me strangely when I wanted to talk about the powerful experience of being in God’s presence.
While in the hospital bed and hooked up to a morphine drip, my greatest fear was that I might forget those beautiful moments outside my body. The pain and disorientation made it difficult to write in a straight line, and the words bled down the page. I persisted in the hope that a few lines would be salvageable and used later. The lines about the angels in this poem were lines I wrote days after the experience.
Memory: To this day, I remember the vividness of the angels, the light, and the love from the divine intensely. I’ve never forgotten the experience and the images. What faded a bit were the direct messages given to me by light. I remember a lot of what was communicated, but the information flowed into my spirit body so quickly that it was difficult to slow down the information and remember it as specific words. Mainly, I knew that I had immediately and forever changed in that moment.
Outside of my body, I remember feeling slightly worried for my body as I looked down at the operating table, wondering if I would walk or run again. The angels assured me that I would have complete healing. In fact, they assisted in that healing, and my questions were answered not only with information but with demonstration.
Trauma and Forgetting the Beauty of the Light: I have not forgotten the NDE in the way some dreams are forgotten, but there are times in life when the material world, when trauma, or when stress has overwhelmed me. When overwhelmed and burdened by life, I can forget the beauty of that moment. The memory though remains incredibly vivid.
Certainly, the actions of others have startled me, shocked me, and sometimes horrified me. In my memoir, Healed, I write about being harassed by friend in a writer’s group, raped while living overseas, and beaten up by my first husband. I thought my life after experiencing an NDE would be pure bliss, and I would live a protected, purely pleasurable life. This was not my experience, and I wasn’t prepared to write about these traumatic moments until years later. Though I had greater moments of intuition after the NDE, I didn’t always know how to trust or use this intuition. In those first years after the experience, I also had an almost child-like openness, trust, and belief in others and that trust sometimes put me in close contact with desperate people.
Service and Healing: When I examine all my experiences together, these experiences sometimes seem like more than one person should have to endure. However, I have survived and thrived, and I realize others have endured far worse events. Perhaps part of my legacy is to experience the horrors that many women have experienced and to report that what remains after harm has taken its best shot at me is light and hope. I heard Matt Kahn say something similar about harm in his latest video, and this idea seems accurate to me. What also remains after the harm is a deep desire to heal myself and to help others heal. At certain times, I certainly forgot the light and its message. At other times, I became angry at God on this journey, but I always came back to the belief that I should help others and should remind others of their connection to a loving, forgiving source.
Self-absorption and all too human wishes and desires vanish the moment I ask my students about their lives or when I am of service to others somewhere in this world. There is no greater way to make the world a better place than to offer help or kindness. We are freed of ourselves in those moments. Who knew that freedom from the self would feel so wonderful? It does though.
AFTER THE WRECK
How could I know that the world would have compassion
and that at the moment of impact my back would crack,
but I would retain the sensation of this body, first floating
away from it, then returning, silvered and open-mouthed
like a fish caught on the hook of a reoccurring dream,
struggling, flapping about, and jerked up to the surface
of a room full of florescence, tiny desires to survive
pulsing through my body in rivulets?
How could I know that the angels I recalled from paintings
would become bright, intelligent companions at the end of my bed
and that the torrential light from their eyes would answer my questions instantly?
How could I know that this peace would disintegrate like ice chips
in my mouth and this calming knowledge would drown in refills of morphine.
How could I know that I would forget specifics in the way we forget dreams?
In these bodies, we are often anxious, but I love how Rilke reminds us that God is around us and in us from the beginning. Certainly, the light on the other side of this life felt familiar. This light is the same light we have in our eyes as infants, and the same light that comes for us at the time of our death.