Category Archives: Near Death Experience

On Turning into a Wacko, Woo-woo Believer

How did this happen?!  How did a normal, smart, practical atheist like me end up believing all this crazy shit? If consensual reality – that is, the one our culture calls sane – was good enough for all those years, why have I dumped it in favor of this half-baked scheme of spirits and a spirit realm?  When did I deviate?

Sometimes I still turn on myself in shock.  The old, skeptical me rallies, rejecting everything I’ve accepted in the past few years, and tries to win me back.

It goes something like this:

SKEPTICAL ME: Louisa, you can’t be serious.  Do you mean to say you actually believe in the other side?  That there’s some kind of non-physical, energetic plane that we enter when we die?

ME: Yep.  Cause I went there, and I remember.

SM: But wait.  Louisa, please.  Be rational, here.  What about this energy of the spirit that you seem to think exists independently of the body.  You say it’s somehow unique to each person but also connects us all?  What makes you think that something exists if science can’t measure or substantiate it?

ME: Because I’ve accidentally read people’s thoughts many times, and it feels really weird.  You wanna know how it feels?  Like you’re going along with the Monkees’ ‘Daydream Believer’ stuck in your head, singing it to yourself mindlessly, and then all of a sudden, into your head pops Nirvana’s ‘Lithium.’  You’re like, ‘WTF? The Monkees sucked but I am so not in the mood for “Lithium!” Why did I just do that?’  Then your friend walks in, or gets out of an elevator or car or someplace. You say, ‘How’s it going?’ and they say, ‘Okay, but I’ve got “Lithium” stuck in my head!’  Okay?  That’s just a hypothetical, though.  That never really happened.

SM: Duh…

ME: Eventually, you begin to recognize subtle differences in thoughts that aren’t your own, even when no person shows up to claim them.  Some soundless “voices” will steer you.  They  e tell you to love.  To give and receive love.  Even when you’re angry, or maybe embarrassed, so you’re not in the mood for loving kindness, yet your anger or embarrassment gets booted from you.  Who’s doing that?

SM:  I suppose you’re gonna say that’s your guardian angel

ME: Yep.

SM: And that we all have guardian angels, just like in It’s a Wonderful Life, only you can hear yours because you’re all special from having had an NDE.

ME: No, I’m a normal person who’s had an NDE.  Millions of people have had them, and most come back more open to the energies outside them, because for a little while, they joined that energy.  For most people, the openness gradually fades, but for some reason, I’m stilling picking up outside thoughts and voices.

SM: Stop it!  Stop it!  I hate when you talk like that – ‘open to the energies’ – !  Will you listen to yourself?!  You sound like a New Age idiot!  When did this happen to you?  We were atheist!  We were scientific!  We were logical!

ME: See, skeptical bitch, the thing is, I still am logical.  These phenomena happen to me – this knowing the future or dreaming the future or sensing warnings that have saved my life – I experience them.  Or little things like the face of the AA speaker flashing into my mind a few seconds before she’s announced, or knowing a friend’s getting her kitchen floor replaced just before she calls to ask for my help with it.  And they don’t stop.  They keep happening until I cannot deny that they’re phenomena, actual occurrences for which I have no explanation within the bounds of science as I understand it.  And so logic forces me to admit, there must be some explanation from science as I don’t understand it, as none of our scientific culture understands it.

SM: How about these?  You’re just imaginative!  You’re empathetic!  You’re intuitive!

ME: Is it intuitive to be working with an ESL writing client on conditional tenses, waiting for her to type a sentence, and think, ‘Maybe she should try putting in a participial phrase – just to make her sentences a bit more complex!’  Then, seconds after you’ve dismissed that idea as a ridiculous one you’d never use, the client types a participial phrase, right there on the screen, smiles at you and says, ‘I thought I’d try putting in a participial phrase.  You know, just to make my sentences a little more complex!'”

SM: I don’t know what that is.  That’s really boring.  Why would you even waste your time thinking about shit like that?

ME: The point is, it wasn’t my thought.  I focus my lessons on one skill at a time to keep them clear for the client.  That idea was totally foreign to me because it was hers.  My brain was relaxed, zoning out on the cursor, waiting.  My question is, what the fuck was it that passed from her….. to me?  From her mind, into my mind?  If ideas are no more than chemical patterns in the brain, that can’t happen.

SM: Okay, fine, fine.  But here’s my point: just because you can’t explain weird shit does not mean you should go spinning off onto this whole energy connecting us that’s part of god trip!  You were okay being stumped for years until you started going to those stupid IANDS* meetings.  They’re what turned you wacko!

ME: You’re sort of right.  I was afraid to dwell too much on what my weird shit might mean when I thought I was the only one.  It seemed way too egotistical, like I was claiming to be gifted somehow with a divine something-or-other.  When I went to IANDS, I found out I’m just an ordinary schmuck who died and left my body and crossed over–

SM:  I told you to stop that!

ME: –as myself!  Taking most of my Louisa-ness with me, but into a different realm.  First a realm of symbols, where I moved toward a house that eventually opened to the sun that swallowed me up in the Light and the infinite love of an unseen parent.  Even that, about the parent, I’ve heard in another share.

SM: Not listen-ning!!!

ME: I was still me – that’s the thing!  They were doing CPR somewhere on a body that had nothing to do with me.  I was my distilled self, except that my experience felt completely free, completely open to the wonder of everything.  Without our bodies, we don’t have any fear.  Sometimes I would wonder if I ought to be scared; I had thoughts like, is this gonna work out?  But the fear itself, that gripping sourness, had dropped away from me.  All that was left was clarity.  I had no self-doubt.  No self-criticism.  No shoulds or if onlys.  Nothing of that whole encasement I lug everywhere with my body like a clay set of coveralls, that I’m not enough and the world can’t be trusted.  That exists to help keep us in our bodies.  But without it, I knew the free innocence of a child.  I was so interested!  So glad about each thing I came across, with a feeling like, ‘Oh!  I know this!  This is wonderful!  I love this!’ – about each thing I encountered.  Not like a cocaine high, but like being three and seeing a marvelous toy in the sunlight, so that the feeling is pure love instead of the “I’m the shit!”of being high.  And I think that’s what it’s like for all of us when we die.

SM: La, la, la!  Jingle Bells!  ABCD…

ME: When I went to IANDS, I learned it’s like that for everyone who’s gone to the Light.  I listen to the stories of people who’ve had NDEs far more involved than mine, but just hearing their attempts to describe it, I catch some of the Light from them, some of the feeling from the other side.  (Except in the case of famous NDEers who’ve spoken a million times.  No Light comes from them.)  From their truths, and my truths, I put together my wacko ideas of god as the immense, incomprehensibly complex and intelligent power of Love.

SM: You’re nuts.

ME: Actually, I did have one instant of fear after I was told, ‘You cannot stay, you’re not done yet,’ and the Light cut like a breaker had been hit.  Everything went black, the parent was gone, and I seemed to be falling.  But soon after I was back in my body – though it took me quite a while to realize it, and  I was very bummed when I did.  For some reason, the two people I’m closest to at IANDS both had hellish NDEs.  Both had lived with a simmering, low-level anger at life, and they couldn’t shed that barrier.  It trapped them.  They say to be outside your body but cut off from the Light is the darkest, loneliest, coldest, most painful experience a spirit can undergo.  But it’s they who do the blocking, not god.

SM: Maybe if you’d just quit hanging around with these people, you could turn normal again.  Remember when life was just a matter of biology?  Like you can jump start a car, and you can defibrillate a person?  Same thing.  Either it’s going or it’s not.  Science tells us so.  Nothing…. leaves.  Nothing re-enters.  Because there’s no such thing as spirit.

ME:  You know what?  I think you’re gonna hate this the most.  I’ll never go back to thinking that way.  Because the fact is, life makes more sense to me now.  Even if I hadn’t had all the weird experiences, the scientific story of life in matter is missing too many pieces.  There’s more.  And every time I meet another NDE survivor, and every time we trade stories and relate and connect and, heck, rejoice in the recognition of what we both experienced, I know a little more – it’s true.  It’s exactly like showing up at AA and learning you’re not the only one.

SM: I’m holding out.  One of us has got to stay sane.

ME: Yeah, but you’re pretending to talk to yourself on some blog, so you’ve gotta be pretty far gone, too.  You know all this rings true!  You’re just scared, trying to stay someplace the teacher told us was safe.  And that’s okay.  Loving you, loving this experience of being human and trying to connect the few dots we have – it’s not easy. So you’re struggling to hang onto something.  You’re trying to help me, and I love you for it, skeptical bitch.”

SM: Oy…


PLEASE NOTE:  I do have an essay, God Evolved, that expands on these ideas in a semi-argumentative form.

*IANDS: International Association of Near Death Studies.  Local chapter: Seattle IANDS.

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The Ghost Scene: excerpt from A Spiritual Evolution

WoodsCoverFinalIn 1987, as a newly married Jewish housewife living outside Boston, I had never heard of Near Death Experiences, let alone the fact that people who return from them are prone to run-ins with the world of spirits.   Already a restless, irritable, and discontented drunk despite my husband’s wealth, I was consumed with infatuation for a 23-year-old Chinese-American instructor from the spa, Fitness Unlimited, where I taught aerobics.



Few people could have been less interested in the paranormal than I was at this point.  Not only was I a staunch materialist atheist who had managed to cram whatever surreal drug trip she’d experienced at the Peppermint Lounge five years earlier into the most remote corners of her mind, but I was so self-absorbed, so focused on pulling Janie into my world, that I had no attention to devote to anything else.  I did not believe spirits walked the earth.  I did not believe in the other side, the realm of spirit.  And I’d label anyone who did a loony.  Nonetheless, into my experience came another paranormal event, something even less explicable to me than whatever had happened when I “died.”

The FU bookkeeper, Edith, had a beach house in Gloucester to which she regularly invited the FU crew for weekends of “partying” – i.e. getting fucked up.  As I’ve said, my husband eschewed these gatherings, so when Edith invited us all out there for a winter visit, he didn’t come along – although he came to pick me up there on Sunday, as we had to be somewhere.  Janie’s boyfriend, Jerry, came down that weekend with her, and luck put them in the bedroom next to mine, where I could hear their springs rhythmically squeaking as I tried to sleep.  The sound was torture to me.  I loved Janie.  I had no earplugs.  I was filled with jealousy and despair – how would I ever win her away from a man?  All my clandestine hopes seemed foolish, and I cried.

I woke very early the next morning to their voices, a soft exchange of tonalities coming through the wall.  I would endure no more squeaking.  I got up and went downstairs.  The living room was filled with sleeping guests.  Since it was only about seven o’clock, I couldn’t so much as whistle the kettle, what with people passed out on all the sofas.  Outside, a winter storm was casting sheets of rain at the large picture windows.  Inside me was a turmoil of frustration and despair over Jerry and Janie’s lovemaking.  To me it seemed perfectly fitting to venture out alone in the storm à la Wuthering Heights or  King Lear, to rage against the gods who denied me what I so poignantly longed for.   I bundled up in some of Edith’s family raingear and went out.

The clouds hung so low I could see only a hundred yards ahead of me.  To my left were beachside houses getting pelted with rain, and to my right, wind-whipped waves pounding the beach.  I walked for some time, immersed in rain and wind, feeling hopeless and empty.  Gradually the row of houses gave way to grassy sand dunes that stretched back for some distance.  There was some kind of estuary behind them, some place no one could build.  And out of these dunes came a man.

He emerged from the tall clumps of grass about fifty feet in front of me, walking straight toward the water as if intent on some business, with a purposeful stride in high black boots.  I could see from this distance that he was stocky, maybe in his sixties, with a beard more grizzled than not.  But what I admired about him as I got closer, him coming down from the upper sands as I approached him perpendicularly, was his boss raingear.  It was vintage yellow, just like the old Mackintosh raincoats and rainpants my parents kept in the front hall closet when I was a child, their rubber half rotted.  His hat, too, was old school Mackintosh – which I admired.  Now I felt a kinship with him in two ways: not only were we the only two people crazy enough to be out at this ungodly hour in horrific weather, but we both appreciated the good, old fashioned value of vintage stuff.  In New York, I’d made many trips to the Alphabet streets to find quirky old garments.  Clearly, this guy did the same for rain gear.

But what was he so intent on?  We were almost going to bump into each other, I saw, if we both kept to our current paces.  His face carried some kind of intense apprehension about whatever he was looking for out on the horizon.  Reflexively I checked in that direction, too, though there was nothing to be seen out there but tumultuous waves and mist.  I decided I would compliment him on his duds.  I made those inner preparations we make to address a stranger.  But even within a yard of me, he kept ignoring me to stare fixedly toward the horizon.

“How’s it going?” I shouted cheerfully over the wind.

At that his head rotated just a few degrees in my direction, but he still refused to look at me and didn’t alter his pace a bit, even as he passed so close that I could have grabbed his shoulder.

Which was just plain rude, I thought as I walked on.  Here we are the only two people crazy enough to be out in this weather, I make the friendly effort to say, “how’s it going,” and he blows me off like some too-cool teenager?  What the hell?  He couldn’t even smile or nod or anything?  Anger burbled up.  Excuse me, Mr. Fucking Fish Sticks!  I turned to look at him in disgust—

– and there was no one.  The beach was empty.

I looked out at the breaking waves.  Had he sprinted down and dove straight into them?  The water curled and churned without a trace.  Was he determined to drown himself by staying under?  Was that why he’d seemed so tense and absorbed, because he’d been suicidal?  I’d wait him out.  No one could keep even their back from breaking the surface; it wasn’t possible.  Surely I’d see something – his hat?  It would float.  It had to float.

Nothing.  My eyes swept the beach.  Weird!  There was no place to which even a young guy could have disappeared so fast.  Even if he’d booked full speed, there was no way he’d make it back up all the way to the dunes.  And the beach itself offered no hiding places.  He’d simply vanished.

I took a few more steps….  and then I stopped again.  Vanished…like a ghost.

But ghosts were an absurd and corny notion.  An old fisherman ghost, too, that was just ridiculous.  Fuck that.  I’d get to the bottom of this right now.  I went to look for his tracks.  I followed mine back to about where his should cross them.  There were none.  The sand was undisturbed but for my footprints.  Maybe I’d walked further than I thought after we crossed?  So I went on, I kept looking.

Mine were the only tracks on the beach.

Help!  What do you do when something completely inexplicable needs to be explained?  When something categorically impossible has just occured?  This was no hallucination.  The panther I’d seen in my half-wakened panic attack, that had been like a dream, indistinct and more about feeling than physical details.  This was a human being.  An individual man.  I’d been calm.  I’d seen his crowsfeet, the broken capillaries of his skin, the way his eyes shifted when his head turned just a bit toward my voice.  He’d walked at a continuous pace, as mundane as any squat older man.

Except for the vanishing part.  The zero tracks part.  Human beings did not do that.  Yet it didn’t matter how long I searched; every track bore my imprint.  I, Louisa P–, had seen a ghost walk the earth.

I hurried back to the beach house where I found a few people now awake.  I babbled out what had just happened.

“Fuckin’ A!   Awesome!” everyone said.  “That’s so rad!”  “A seafaring ghost?  Right on!”

Nobody understood that this not awesome.  There was nothing rad, right on, or righteous about it because it had actually happened to me.   To live an experience you can’t understand is an upheaval, a deep disturbance.  I did not, would not, could not believe in ghosts!

“Oh, there’s all kinds of ghosts around Gloucester!” said Edith, who was mixing scrambled eggs.  She spoke as though I’d spied the state bird.  “So many ships went down, so many men drowned.  They have a monument at the esplanade – there’s, like, a thousand names.”  Then she concerned herself with cooking breakfast.

Everyone acted as though I should just marvel, shrug, and let it go.  What they didn’t understand was, while you can do that with something unlikely or remarkable, you can’t do it with something impossible.  Impossible requires a rewrite of reality.  And, once again, I was not prepared to go there.   Now I didn’t give a crap about Janie and Jerry’s screwing.  I didn’t care if Janie and I never got together.  All I wanted was for the world to behave itself – according to my rules, my dad’s rules, the rules of anyone who knew how reality worked.

When Ethan came to get me later that morning, the weather had cleared enough that he was willing to come out on the beach and help me look one more time for tracks.  Mine were all over the place, smoothed by rain, and other people had added theirs since. None, however, originated from the dunes.  I wanted to cry with frustration: I had seen him!  A real person.  Eventually, Ethan pried me away.  He didn’t say anything, but I could tell he was guessing my “ghost” had been either a pink elephant or some kind of adolescent ploy for drama and attention.

Eventually I had no alternative but to leave the incident behind me as an inexplicable experience, not knowing it to be the first of fourteen equally explicable phenomena –i.e. my Fourteen Weird Things – scattered over the course of my life to date.  Why I experienced it, I wouldn’t learn for twenty-some years, when I at last attended the Seattle chapter meeting of the International Association of Near Death Studies (IANDS), and began to learn from fellow NDE survivors that they, too, had paranormal experiences similar to mine.  In fact, seeing spirits, prescience, and accidentally reading others’ thoughts are all common side-effects of having crossed over.  In the company of my fellow NDE survivors, they’re not even a big deal.  Today I wonder if I may have seen other dead spirits in passing but assumed, as I did with the vintage-rain-geared fisherman, that they were living.  In few places would a vanishing be so evident as on an open, sandy beach.

But I’m getting ahead of my story.  For now, I still refused to believe I’d ever crossed over anything, let alone come back with a rupture in my energetic capsule that occasionally let in spiritual phenomena.  What a bunch of hooey!


[If you have a woo-woo friend who might dig this, please share it.  :)]



Preview book at Amazon (first 4 chapters)


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Reading from A Spiritual Evolution

WoodsCoverFinalI’ll be giving a public reading from A Spiritual Evolution on September 30 at the bookstore, Unity on Union.  Please come!  There’ll be free food!
WHEN: Food @ 5:30; reading begins @ 6:00

WHERE:  Unity on Union Books, 2420 East Union Street, Seattle, Washington 98122

WHO: Louisa

WHY:  Because it’s a damn good book


POST SCRIPT:  Here’s a link to the preamble to the reading:

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What’s It All About?

NEW 2014 COVERI worked for three years writing of A Spiritual Evolution.  Why?  The answer came down to this: It’s a book intended to help people – particularly those with addictions – move ahead in their own spiritual evolution.

The strongest point of the book is its unflinching honesty.  I describe my alcoholic thoughts as they appeared to me to make sense, but with the insight since gained through sobriety and the spiritual growth the 12 steps can bring about.

Right from the bat my story discloses an obsessive compulsive disorder that acted out the bondage of self in a literal and bizarre way.  Unable to understand the contradictions of the alcoholic home where I grew up, I tried to navigate the world by counterbalancing my self-loathing with achievement and, later, acting out the role of a glamorous woman as best I could piece it together.

Early in this chaotic tug of war, I died.  That is to say, in a Manhattan nightclub, at 21, I snorted nearly a full gram of lidocaine that had been sold to me as cocaine.  Lidocaine is an anesthetic that can shut down the body’s respiratory and cardiac functions if ingested systemically.  As my heart slowed and slowed, my breathing became increasingly ineffectual until the lack of oxygen set off a full grand mal seizure followed by cardiac arrest, right there on the floor of the Peppermint Lounge.

A bartender worked to revive me with CPR, but I knew nothing of that: I’d left my body and traveled in a state of elation through an otherworldly landscape into the house of my ancestors, where I saw a brilliant sun dazzling a path across the ocean that – to my surprise – pulled me toward it and sucked me inside, into the most brilliant light you can imagine.

For years afterward I refused to believe I’d crossed over, because I’d been raised in a family that rejected god and all things spiritual. I’d never heard of Near Death Experiences, and I had no clue of NDE paranormal after-effects. As I went on trying to make my life work using the self-centered, manipulative, confused mindset of an alcoholic and rejecting all possibility of spiritual help as nonsense, paranormal things – undeniable ones – kept happening to me.  I had no idea why, except in the deepest part of myself, where I knew they were related to my experience in the light.

I went on drinking until, when the will to live had all but left me, god found a way to rope me into AA through a codependent relationship.  (Whatever works, right?)  The second half of the book relates my learning to live life all over again, learning from pain and the wisdom passed on to me, as the paranormal effects became more blaring and left me no choice but to acknowledge not only god but a complex spiritual world that can influence our human experience.

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