Excerpt after the Angels from Healed, A Memoir (Part II)


After the Angels:  I love talking about the angels I saw during surgery and how they helped facilitate healing of my body.  I uploaded an excerpt from my memoir in progress in an earlier post and stopped the story at the point I began to leave the hospital.

Recently, I made my first YouTube video about my NDE because I wanted to tell the story plainly and unedited. I know some people prefer audios and videos to written accounts.   I contacted A&E about using my portion of the show I Survived:  Beyond in Back in a video, but technically people are breaking copyright laws by posting portions of various shows on YouTube.

One of my hopes in writing this memoir, blogging, and making videos is that the more accounts of NDEs there are, the more seriously doctors and surgeons will take these experiences.  I verified my death with my surgeon, but it would have been fantastic to talk in greater depth about my experience, check details about the surgery I witnessed, and have greater support from the hospital.  In the future, I see this happening more and more frequently for patients who have these experiences.

Here is the continuation of those life-changing experiences outside of my body.

Excerpt from Healed:

…..Though I realized I was leaving a lot of people behind, I felt free, happy, and more peaceful than I had ever felt in my body.  Death wasn’t scary, but rather like international travel or childhood—a liberating, fun, new, freedom-filled reality.  My spirit body sped quickly through the hospital and into the night sky above Austin.  I thought of the half-hearted prayer I had offered while being transported into the ambulance.  I thought about how I was free and flying now, much like the bird I had seen before the door to the ambulance shut.

In this space of freedom, I experienced a quick life review, as if flipping through a book I’d read before, seeing only the beautiful highlights. The light didn’t want me to relive any pain others had caused me or I had caused myself.  All self-harm, self-loathing, insecurity and confusion were forgiven by the most loving force I have ever encountered.  Fear and worry became invisible, like a cloud that evaporates during the next bright day.  These concepts were simply washed away.

After this brief analysis, I felt a growing understanding and oneness with everyone I had ever known.  I had not been a particularly unkind person at the age of twenty-two.  I was rather shy, insecure, and spent a lot of time reading and lost in my own thoughts and daydreams, opening up and connecting with others only after several drinks.  I had disappointed a few people, but I had not hurt anyone very deeply.

I saw into the minds of a few of the people I waited tables with at Tres Amigos earlier that year.  They wondered why I did not speak openly with them.  I had thought that they were not particularly cool because they were single moms or married and older instead of a university student like me.  Our only interactions happened around the margarita machine as we filled up 16-ounce Styrofoam cups disguised as soda and laughed about how the night became more bearable and the tips flowed more generously the more we and our customers drank.

I realized that I shunned people who were not like me, and that I was failing to notice a world of connection.  Many times their beautiful hearts were concerned for me, wondering if I might be depressed or sad for reasons they couldn’t fully understand.  Their kindness was a form of love.  I saw that I had been missing out on, at the very least, a more pleasant working environment because of my cliquishness and pride.  Many times, the loveliest people imaginable might be working or living right beside us and we ignore their struggles, their hopes, and their light because of our own insecurities or arrogance.

After experiencing this connection with a few of my co-workers and others, the light took me back to childhood.  I was a sweet child (as most are) and deeply in tune with nature, even able to coax wild rabbits near me as I played in the bushes outside my house.  The light showed me that everyone needs to spend more time in nature to heal and become more whole, more loving and joyful.  I saw that most people disconnect from their souls and focus on survival instead of enjoyment and play.  Nature can help people to reconnect with their sense of delight and wonder.

If I had to sum up the main lesson from this part of the near-death experience, I would say that God, or the light, is a loving force that doesn’t want people to harm each other and truly desires that we feel joy and happiness in our lives.  Love and kindness are the greatest gifts we can give to one another.  We are all a part of that light, but we often forget how to love because of fear.

We forget how to walk through this world as the light.  We are all closer to God as children because in our innocence love comes more naturally for us.   We are gleeful in our interactions with pets, watching a bird in the sky, or gazing into our parent’s eyes.  We are in love with the world, and the world is in love with us.  Most of us breathed easier as children; we lived with a more open and extended awareness, and therefore felt things more intensely.

After experiencing a greater sense of oneness and understanding with people, I then spent a few moments in childhood with my grandfather, Clyde.  He was the only person close to me who had died before my NDE.  A poor country man, he had nevertheless always spoiled me to the best of his ability.  I hopped on the back of his blue Chevy truck and he drove us slowly towards the light of God.  My feet dragged the ground through bright clover and grass, light-filled and greener and more intense than any grass I had ever encountered on earth.

Grandpa was younger and healthier than when I knew him, and he leaned his head out the window to ask if I wanted to keep going.  I nodded yes.   The truck lifted off the ground, and I headed toward the light.  At some point, I was no longer in the truck and my grandfather was not with me anymore.  I was very close to a love I can’t describe with words.  I have tried to write about this experience so many times, but I break down and can’t find the language.

I miss the love.  I miss the light.  A large part of me never wanted to leave the safety of that place.  There I felt no stress and more love than I ever imagined possible.  I felt more joy and contentment than even the brightest moments this life ever provided, and I didn’t really want to return to my body.  If a soul could smile, then my soul smiled, and I drowsed comfortably without worry.  I felt complete and utter trust in this experience, a full surrender.

As I got deeper into to the light, I actually felt the prayers of my mother, father, grandmothers, and a couple of my aunts.  I especially experienced the prayer of a great-aunt who lost a daughter in a car wreck.  I very clearly heard her pray and beg God that my mother not suffer the pain she had when she lost her daughter.  This touched me, and I almost wished to return because of her sweet prayer.  I found it amusing that I could not feel any prayers from the most pious and religious of my aunts, Aunt Jackie.  I think what I felt more than prayers was their love.  I knew who loved me and didn’t want me to leave the earth.  I also knew who didn’t care if I died, but I didn’t judge this information.  I understood the wholeness and completeness of experience.

One of the most important lessons transferred to me by the light is that love is all that matters.  Though this seems like a hippie slogan or a paraphrase from the Beatles, the message saturated me on a deeper level.  Every interaction is meaningless if love is not attached to it in some way.  A prayer is meaningless without love.  A sermon is meaningless without love.  A religion is meaningless without love.   Life is meaningless without love.

The prayers of those who loved me felt like a gentle wind, slowing down my progress towards the light.  Though the love felt sweet and reminded me of my life on earth, their entreaties did not quell my desire to keep going deeper into the light.  I’ve always been an adventurous soul, and this was the greatest adventure I’d ever been on.

As I journeyed more deeply into the most profoundly benevolent force imaginable, the light told me to look down and revealed a river.  Next to the river were thousands of other lights that were somehow connected to me.  I looked down at my own spirit body and saw how large and light-filled it had become.  I knew I had become someone different from the wild, fearful, jaded young woman who entered the ER earlier that day.

The light then suggested that I should return to earth and work as a teacher.  Actually, the light didn’t merely suggest that I might become a teacher, rather that there were no other options for me.  I wanted to argue.  Surely this light, a force that loved me this much had to know how I hated growing up poor and wanted a career more lucrative than the teaching profession.  Surely the divine light knew I was shy and petrified of public speaking.  Surely the light understood I was a feminist and wanted to avoid all traditional careers for women.  Though I hadn’t planned on law school immediately after graduation, I pictured myself going into tax or bankruptcy litigation, any type of law that wouldn’t require me to speak frequently in court.

I had so many questions about the reasons why the light needed me to return to my body and teach.  However, this message would be my very last moment in the presence of God, and I wasn’t given a second more near a love that is greater than all comprehension. The idea of my life as a teacher was now etched deeply into my brain; it was a strangely joyful image, though I didn’t understand why at the time.  The truth is, I would’ve preferred to stay on the other side, but I didn’t have a choice.  The decision was made for me to return.

Re-entering my physical body was like being swallowed up by a dark wind. I had felt more alive while dead.  Most of the magic, light, and beauty disappeared, and my body felt heavy, drugged, and painful.  I didn’t want to be stuck in the limited experience of my corporeal form with my history, my stories, my psychological and childhood wounds, my powers of reasoning.

Outside of my body, I was both myself and greater than myself, connected to an incredible download of information.  During that time, I knew so much more than I could ever know living in this one, limited perspective.  The experience of a more expansive and connected universe made my individual experience seem boring and inadequate.  I had been inside the minds of so many others, and now I only had my mind to process life….

Copyright © Tricia Barker  2016

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. All rights reserved.

Takeaways from The Afterlife of Billy Fingers: Part II


Higher Beings/Angels:  Annie Kagan’s translations of Billy’s experience in the afterlife makes for a moving and uplifting book.  Billy’s descriptions of the Higher Beings/Angels ring true for me.  As an NDEr, I have struggled to translate the experience of coming in close contact with two of the most intelligent, large, amazing beings I have ever encountered.  By default, I have called them angels, but Higher Beings seems an accurate term as well.  I got the sense that other people might have different Higher Beings as their guides, but the qualities that my protective angels/Higher Beings exhibited most were intelligence, compassion, and healing powers.  They healed me through the backs of my surgeons with their light, and I had complete faith in their healing abilities.

Perhaps at different times in our life, different angels and guides show up for us.  In Kagan’s book, Billy describes the Higher Beings as, “Whatever qualities come under the heading of benevolence, that virtue is right there in the light.  It’s different with these Higher Beings.  They’re more specific, more personal, like the Divine Presence is focused through a prism.  And the colored rays that come through the prism—these are the higher beings.”  I resonate with that description because my Higher Beings were indeed specifically focused.  Perhaps at different times in our lives we might require differently focused Higher Beings.

Toward the end of the book, Billy says, “There’s an impersonal quality to these Supreme Beings, but that’s not a negative—it’s a big plus.  There’s a pureness to it.  This is what I’ve imagined being in the presence of God would be like….They are pure Spirit.  Just as our bodies are the carriers of our souls, our souls are the carriers of our Spirit.”  For me, this description helps add clarity to my interactions with my angels during surgery.  They were pure Spirit, pure benevolence, and put me at ease outside of my body immediately with telepathy and strength.  I knew I would be fine whether I stayed in the environment outside of my body or returned.  For me, all signs pointed to returning, but I got the sense that everything would have been beautiful, pleasant learning experience for me had I not returned.

Nature:  One of my other favorite lines in this book is a simple but true message reading, “Nature has more light than anything else on your planet.”  In the book, Kagan takes Billy’s advice and returns to nature for healing, inspiration, and connection.  All of us need the healing power of nature in our lives.  Technology is a powerful connector, but not healing in the way that being in nature is healing.  When I am broken, I go to the mountains and let the mountains give me their strength.  When I am stressed, I go to the ocean and let the waves wash away my pain and troubles.  When I want fun, I head to nature.

At another point in the novel Billy says, “The best cure for suffering?  An enlightened experience of it all.  What does that mean?  It means finding the invisible within the visible.”  Nature is a great place for people to experience enlightened moments.  Looking down from a high peak at a city helps us put everything in perspective again.  We are a small part of the whole, but our enjoyment of our life is key.  Nature keeps us present and helps us enjoy our lives more fully and even sometimes catch a glimpse of the invisible within the visible.


Addiction:  (Spoiler Alert) Billy’s struggle with addiction and even his death as an active addict did not prevent him for any of the bliss, compassion, or benevolence on the other side.   Life’s purpose and a particular soul’s purpose can be grand on the other side while looking rather shabby on this side. One of the more important lessons I took away from my NDE was that the shadows I danced within during that time in my life (the drugs and alcohol) only prevented me from living more fully and connected to others at times.  I wasn’t judged by the light.  I was met with deep compassion and love.  Maybe if I would’ve stayed in the environment outside of my body longer, I might have seen how my life looked from a musical perspective—the ups and downs, the crescendos, and the drumrolls.

In recovery, people are sometimes shamed for relapsing, and there is so much disappointment around the deaths of addicts.  As an NDEer, I sometimes have a different perspective and see the struggle for sobriety as more of a dance the way Billy described it. I see those who relapse as in need of more compassion and care, not less and definitely not condemnation.  The other side greets us with compassion.  Part of our lesson on this earth plane seems to be finding a way to take everything a little less seriously, to let go of resentments quickly, to forgive ourselves and others instantly.  As Billy says, “…there is no one to forgive, because we signed up to do this dance together before we were born.  We weren’t acting out some type of I-did-something-wrong-to-you-in-another-life-and-I’m-paying-for-it-now kind of thing.  It doesn’t really work like that… It’s more a kind of experiment chosen for soul-type reasons that humans have an almost impossible time understanding.  And not understanding is an important part of the experiment.”

If there is one criticism I have of the book, it is that there is not a lot of description of how the oneness occurs.  During my NDE, I saw from the perspective of others in my life review.  That part of the life review for most NDEers shows us where we have hurt and disappointed others, not as a form of punishment but as a way to fully understand our roles and the perspective of others.  I know that there is much compassion on the other side, but the ways we harmed or hurt others is something worth noting in the life review process.  The ways that we harm ourselves are only pitied, but in my experience the light seemed to wish that I could love myself more and open up to others more frequently.  I appreciate the compassion and benevolence described and know this is correct.  There is a bit of “relearning” about our roles that goes on outside the body.  Mabye this could have been explained a bit more.

However, this is actually a minor detail.  The book as a whole is a fantastic read.  I loved it and highly recommend this beautiful, unusual, uplifting book.


Response to Natalie Sudman’s Book Application of Impossible Things:  My Near-Death Experience in Iraq


“Religion tells us we’re fundamentally sinners, and science tells us we’re fundamentally aggressive survivors.  My experience in the expanded awareness environments, however, assures me that we’re fundamentally good, holy, cooperative, creative, and amazingly cool.”—Natalie Sudman, Application of Impossible Things:  My Near-Death Experience in Iraq

Natalie Sudman’s experience outside of her body allowed her to connect with a gathering of beings who communicated with her in that added reality in amazing ways.   Her book pays special attention to language and rather than narrating the events of her accident and recovery chronologically, she zeros in on specifics from the moments she spent in the environment outside of her body.

Reality of OBEs and NDEs:  There are many things I enjoyed about this book, including the line in her preface which reads, “…I know—not believe—that what I experienced was real.”   For years, I have said this about my NDE, unmoved and bored by what skeptics have to say.  Though normally impressed with degrees from top-tier schools, I give skeptics zero credit no matter where they obtained their degrees.  After all, skeptics are operating only with their five senses and current theories that very well might change. Mainly, skeptics did not see the added reality that I saw existing along with this reality.

Sudman addresses this topic as well, breaking down the debate from those who rely only on this reality to those who say this reality is the dream and the other reality is the one that is more important.  She says both realities are real, and I couldn’t agree more. Sudman beautifully addresses how much information and how complex and layered this information is when communicated outside of the body.

Communication:  One of my favorite descriptions in her book occurs when she describes how communication in that dimension occurs as a, “…transfer of information in the form of an inexplicable complex matrix.  The information was minutely detailed and broadly conceptual—at once layered and infinitely dense, yet elegantly simple.”  Although Sudman plays around with language, trying to find the exact word to describe the entities, beings, etc. and ultimately decides on personalities, I felt more comfortable calling the beings I met—who sent healing energy into my body—angels.   Sudman met a group of equals, but the angels I met during surgery struck me as filled with much more information, wisdom, and understanding than I had at twenty-one.   My angels were comforting, highly intelligent, and capable.  Perhaps, differing ages, experiences, and mindsets at the time of death might influence who and how we interact with on the other side.

Like Sudman, I wasn’t interested in returning to my body if the injuries were too catastrophic.  Interestingly, Sudman participated in the healing of her own body, outside of her body, with assistance from the beings.  I communicated my wish to be able to walk, and my angels sent light through the back of the doctors, through their hands, and lit up my body, even ensuring that specific bone fragments would not press on my spine.  Whether they altered reality or ensured that the doctors would find these fragments, I do not know.  I only know they participated in my healing while I watched intently.  I have always felt that the angels were teaching me to participate in healing.  I liked reading about Sudman’s level of disconnection and even humor about the moment she and many healing beings worked on her body before she returned to it.

Free Will in the Environment beyond the Body:  Sudman discusses how she has read several NDE accounts, like mine, which feature a light or authority figure telling these souls they must return.  Her experience gave her the free will to return or not.  At first, she felt very tired and did not want to return.  She was given a brief moment of rest in another location, and then based on the communication she received from the gathering decided to return.  I often joke that I need a “thousand year nap,” and I’m a little jealous that it seems like she received an eternal moment of rest before returning to her physical form.

One of Sudman’s theories is that during NDEs with an authority figure telling them to return that “…these individuals retained some habits of perception carried over from the physical waking consciousness beliefs, and the authority sending them back was either a helper or simply their own voice of the Whole Self…”  In contrast, Sudman states that she knew where she was and trusted her experience within the expanded consciousness.

I wouldn’t say that I experienced judgement or superiority from the Divine Light on any level.  I do agree that the light deeply appreciated me.  My experience did contain a bit of compassion, and even though compassion implies a place of superiority or of knowing more that compassion was only a wish that I might love myself more in the human form, treat myself better, love others more fully and without fear.  The light didn’t want me to miss out on potential moments of beauty and saw that I shut myself off from others in college through introversion, fear, insecurity, childhood wounds, alcohol, drugs, and pessimistic views of the world.  My experience with the light did seem as if I had no choice in the matter but to return and teach.  If given the choice, I would not have chosen to return, and I would have missed out on great beauty and amazing moments in and out of the classroom.

Enjoyment of Life:  Like Sudman, I received information that enjoyment of our life experiences is very important.  The gathering of beings showed her this in a multitude of ways.  I was shown that life works better when we are like “little children” in that we deeply enjoy each moment without comparing it to other moments.  After my NDE, I certainly did deeply enjoy life.  Even a eating a candy bar slowing or stopping beneath a tree to listen to a bird singing might throw me into a deep, sensual, happy moment of complete beingness.   Sudman was surprised that enjoyment was an important criteria, but I can’t say that I was surprised.  The wonder of childhood made life all the more magical and enjoyment seems key.  The personalities or beings wanted Sudman to understand that she might enjoy the proposed tasks on the earthy plane.

Toward the end of the book, Sudman talks about how she knew that she would have some use of her right hand and that she would survive the skull fracture even though doctors and staff weren’t certain.  I understand that kind of certainty.  I knew returning to my body that I would walk.  I wasn’t promised a life without chronic pain though.  I was only promised that I would walk, run, and enjoy nature and many of the activities I enjoyed before the accident.  Sudman discusses how the whole self or the self outside the body is less concerned with this life, so detached in fact that the life that will be lived out seems quick from their viewpoint.  As she considers a life with damage to her eye and wrist and considers the many years that she might live with this condition in her body, time now seems much slower.

I especially enjoyed the descriptions of how life is viewed outside in the “blink environment” as she names it verses how it is lived within the human form.  Despite the new limitations, she focuses on enjoyment even of navigating life in a human form with new limitations.  I do that to a degree as well.  Whenever I have to move to a new home, I pack very light boxes since I can’t lift heavy ones.  I get more of a workout carrying more frequent small boxes.  There are ways to have fun, even with limitations. I liked that positive spin, and the realistic acknowledgment that living out this life seems much longer than how it seems on the other side.

Preference of the Other Side:  Many NDErs and those who have had profound spiritual experiences report preferring the other side.  Sudman writes, “…existence beyond the physical is utterly lovely, delicious, and strange, infused with limitless love, richly fulfilling, and euphorically effortless.”  She goes on to talk about how physical life viewed from the other side requires “razor focus” and is also wildly interesting.  I understand the preference of being in the existence beyond the physical.  I have never and probably never will feel limitless love like I felt as I neared the light until I die again. I also understand the many reasons to enjoy this life, and to try to accomplish all that we can connected to the will of our “Whole Self.”  Some people call this the higher self, the self that is not limited by time, space, birth, or death, the self that is capable of calm wise decisions that benefit the self and others.  May we all access or higher selves and whole selves more frequently.

I recommend this book if you are interested in language, in NDEs, in OBEs, and in critical and creative thinking about these types of experiences.

National Poetry Month and Other Reflections


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.


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?

—Tricia Barker

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.

I am, You Anxious One

I am, you anxious one.

Don’t you sense me, ready to break

into being at your touch?

My murmurings surround you like shadowy wings.

Can’t you see me standing before you

cloaked in stillness?

Hasn’t my longing ripened in you

from the beginning

as fruit ripens on a branch?


I am the dream you are dreaming.

When you want to awaken, I am waiting.

I grow strong in the beauty you behold.

And with the silence of stars I enfold

your cities made by time.

–R.M. Rilke

Spiritual with Buddhist Leanings in an Evangelical Family: Part Two


“Because you are alive, everything is possible.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh Living Buddha, Living Christ

Humans are powerful spiritual beings meant to create good on earth. This good isn’t usually accomplished in bold actions, but in singular acts of kindness between people. It’s the little things that count, because they are more spontaneous and show who you truly are.—Dannion Brinkley

Since childhood, I have struggled with a few basic philosophies found in some Christian churches.  I don’t believe I was born sinful.  I believe I was born very close to the light of God. Reminding others of their basic goodness and divinity seems like a better plan than telling them they are born sinners.  I prefer Brinkley’s idea that “humans are powerful spiritual beings meant to create good on earth.”  This is what we should reinforce in ourselves and in others.  Peace is more than possible when the focus in on the power of the human spirit and one’s connection to source.

Recently, I’ve read arguments from Christians who dismiss the experiences of NDEers, saying that these experiences are merely subjective.  No single moment has ever seemed as real to me as the moments outside of my body.  Subjective or not, every moment in my waking reality pales in contrast to seeing angels interact with this reality.  Is that my personal experience?  Yes, but it is an experience unlike any experience before or after that experience, a vivid, multi-dimensional experience that granted me knowledge and understanding in a direct and powerful way.  I’ve spent decades trying to slow down those transmissions of light and information and decipher the meanings.  The main point is that I changed because of those transmissions.  Spiritual transformations happen in an instant.

Most people’s interpretations of the Bible are subjective.  Though I am grateful that my mom taught me to read before Kindergarten, mainly by focusing on the Bible, I remember questioning some passages, especially in relation to women’s roles.  Since I happened to be born a liberal, I suppose I was born a feminist as well, and St. Paul did not impress me, especially with lines like, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, she must be quiet.” in Timothy 2:12.  The boys attending my elementary school acted like idiots, and I thought they could benefit from listening to me for a while.  I knew how to read, tie my shoes, sit without fidgeting, play well with others, and write in cursive while they made fart noises, cried to get out of reading, and beat each other up on the playground.  St. Paul seemed like a sexist who wanted power for himself.

His writings and certain interpretations of a woman’s role in marriage harmed countless women.  Divorce started to ramp up in the U.S. when I was a child, and yet there were too many women who put off divorce, choosing to stay in horribly abusive relationships or loveless marriages because they bought into this idea that they were less than without a man.  Sometimes, they even believed that they must submit their will to their husband and pray for his healing, even as he took his rage out on her.   Only very small percentages of men who are abusive change.   This information only seems to have become common knowledge in the last five to ten years thanks to books like Crazy Love  and amazing researchers like Jackson Katz who remind us that women’s issues are really men’s issues when men are the ones committing crimes against women.

As a child, I questioned many passages of the Bible, but I stayed quiet about my questions because it would have cost me a lot to speak my truth.  I would have compromised my safety and compromised being loved if I openly argued with the Bible.  I acted the part.  Being loved for a lie didn’t set well with me either.  I believed that many authority figures in my life were wrong for not fostering my inquisitive nature, for not encouraging me to think for myself and question the world around me.  Don’t get me wrong, there were and are many parts of the Bible I love dearly.  The teaching’s of Jesus are close to my heart, as are many passages from Psalms.  I only wanted the freedom to question religion and the world around me.  Growing up, I did not have the freedom to learn about other religions and other practices.  I wanted to believe in a loving God, not a vengeful one.  The God I met during my NDE was more loving than any force I have ever dreamed of or encountered.  I know that God is indeed a loving force.

Growing up, I never fit neatly within the box of one particular religion or way of thinking.  I never fully adapted to my culture, and I’m grateful I didn’t.  I saw it clearly for what it was. I detested the racism I saw growing up in East Texas.  I cared for all people, and it hurt me deeply to see teachers treat African American students differently from white students.  I knew these teachers were intentionally harming African American students by not giving them praise, attention, or awards.  I saw certain students visibly wither from the lack of attention from teachers.  I bristled when I heard comments like “women aren’t good at math and science,” dreaming of a different part of the country and a different time when these statements would seem archaic and outdated.  We are reaching that place now.  I sometimes felt crazy for my sensitivity as a child, but I am glad others had this sensitivity.  I am glad some things about our world have changed.

Loving kindness is the most important trait we can cultivate in ourselves and for the world.  We might fall on our faces, say horrible things to one another, but I hope each of us gets up, forgives ourselves and the world, and quickly and practices even greater kindness.  May we see ourselves as connected and not in competition.

I write because I can no longer repress and suppress my truth.  Any wisdom I offer is only with the intent to heal—to make everyone more aware of their essential goodness, more in touch with their ability to be a force of good on this planet.  We are alive, and the possibilities are endless.  Let’s not spend the time arguing and quibbling over details.  Let’s love one another.   I leave you with some of my favorite Thich Nhat Hanh quotes from Living Buddha, Living Christ

“When our beliefs are based on our own direct experience of reality and not on notions offered by others, no one can remove these beliefs from us.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh, Living Buddha, Living Christ

“Twenty years ago at a conference I attended of theologians and professors of religion, an Indian Christian friend told the assembly, “We are going to hear about the beauties of several traditions, but that does not mean that we are going to make a fruit salad.” When it came my turn to speak, I said, “Fruit salad can be delicious! I have shared the Eucharist with Father Daniel Berrigan, and our worship became possible because of the sufferings we Vietnamese and Americans shared over many years.” Some of the Buddhists present were shocked to hear I had participated in the Eucharist, and many Christians seemed truly horrified. To me, religious life is life. I do not see any reason to spend one’s whole life tasting just one kind of fruit. We human beings can be nourished by the best values of many traditions.”
 Thich Nhat Hanh Living Buddha, Living Christ

Excerpt about the Angels



Though my memoir is a work in progress, I wanted to share an excerpt about the first moments outside of my body.  The angels were a beautiful and comforting surprise.  I immediately placed my trust in their guidance.  To this day, I ask for angelic guidance, especially in the classroom or when I meet with a particularly troubled student.  Only recently have I begun to ask for their guidance in all areas of my life.  Though near-death experiences are profoundly life-changing, the human brain grapples with some of the meanings of the experience afterwards.  During my NDE, I saw that the angels worked through the surgeons because they were capable and ready to be of service in that moment.  I knew that I could be of service to the world as I worked and stayed in action, interacting with others.  Now, I know that I can offer that same healing to myself with the help of the angels.  May everyone be healed.  May everyone offer healing to others.

Excerpt from Angels in the OR:

No one, except possibly the most committed atheist, could have been more surprised than me at the onset of my near-death experience.   The first moments outside my body felt exciting and electrifying, and my spirit danced a bit of a jig realizing that there is more to existence than the physical.  I felt like a child again, happy to see what came next and glad that my spirit body retained the essence of who I am; though obviously I was a little concerned about the physical body on the table.

Soft rock music played on the radio, and my back had a long, bloody incision.  Surgery appeared more brutal and gory than I had imagined, especially from that vantage point.  My vision outside my body was 360-degrees, so I perceived the operating room differently than if I had been physically standing beside my body.  I could see above the doctors and the entire operating room all at once without blinking or relying on eyes.  There, in that space with the doctors, nurses, surgical technicians and others, I felt incredible joy and awe as I realized all does not die with the body.

After rejoicing for a moment, I noticed two of the most intelligent beings I had ever encountered.  They were very large, approximately eight or nine feet, androgynous with shoulder length hair, and composed more of light than solid form. I refer to them as angels only because I have no other terminology that befits what I saw.  These angels were part of an enhanced reality and nothing like a dream or a hallucination.

I’ve experienced thousands of dreams, but this was more real than any waking moment in my lifetime.  In dreams, the dreamer may be caught up in a scenario that feels real, but during the interval I existed outside of my body I felt like I was seeing the whole picture, or at least a vast intelligent connection that I had been missing while in form.  In college, I dropped acid on a couple of different occasions, and the hallucinations were minor, more shadowy; nothing like this vivid experience.  I had a complete awareness that this vantage point was more real than any reality I had ever experienced in my physical life.

People always want to know more about what the angels looked like. They ask, “Did they have wings?”  “Were they clothed?”  “How did you know they were angels?”

I don’t know if these two beings were angels, in the traditional, Biblical sense.  I only know that I immediately recognized them as unbelievably intelligent souls whose presence gave me indescribable peace.  My own awareness of this new dimension seemed much more limited than theirs. Most of what I realized outside of my body in the operating room came through immediate impressions, the way a child sizes up whether an adult is trustworthy or not.  The angels were trustworthy and there to help and comfort me, so I did not question their authority.

They sent me waves of intense light which transferred many messages all at once.  A light emitted from the eyes of the angels and into my spirit body, allowing me to access information faster than the fastest possible broadband speed.  Messages were given in the form of completed thoughts and feelings, not individual words. The knowledge they sent into my form not only calmed me down but altered the way I viewed everything about my life.

The angels, or messengers, were not only able to interact with my spirit body; they were also able to interact with the doctors, and more importantly, through them.  The doctors, most likely, did not realize this interaction.  I understood that my awareness, my sense of the world, and my ability to experience joy were growing exponentially moment by moment.  Just before the monitor started to beep signaling that my heart had stopped, the angels slowed down their communication, looked at me and intently, and said with force, “Watch this!”

The same light that they beamed into my spirit body, they sent through the backs of the doctors, through their hands, and into my physical body.  My corporal form was instantly altered and healed in ways that the doctors might not have been able to accomplish on their own.  By observing this light, I knew that I would regain my ability to walk, that the fragments of bone would be picked out of my spine, and that I would feel healthy, alive and even run again at some point in the future.  The angels turned back toward me, letting this knowledge sink in.

As the angels worked on my body, I realized that the surgeons were conduits of their energy and that the angels’ energy was an essential part of my healing.  Perhaps the surgeons’ egos wouldn’t be able to hear that or perhaps they would be empowered to recognize that angels worked through them.  I only knew that I needed to remember this moment vividly.  The angels wanted me to understand that they could work through me in the future.

While the angels and surgeons continued their efforts, my physical body shimmered with light and energy.  After a few more moments, the machine signaled that my heart had stopped.  Since it had technically died, I no longer felt any desire to observe my human form and sped through the walls of the hospital, pausing only because I caught sight of my stepdad James.  My mom married him while I was in college, and I hadn’t really gotten the chance to get to know him.  I did know he made her happy, so I was pleased that she had found him……

(For the continuation of the near-death experience story,  click here.    The next part covers the life review, a sense of oneness with others, and the love and surprising message from God.)

Copyright © Tricia Barker  2016

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. All rights reserved.