My recollection of finding the conscious part of myself floating up near a ceiling one afternoon is as vivid today as when it occurred over forty years ago.
I can still see my youthful partner, Peter, peacefully napping in shirt and jeans on the velvety pale blue blanket that we used as a bedspread. Eight feet below me is the blond wooden chest of drawers near the bed, the dark linoleum flooring, the textured walls. Even today, I can visualize all of it in three-dimensional detail. I’ve never been a “napper,” but there my body lies, too—back-to-back with his—for the simple pleasure of lying in close proximity. I gaze down at the person who is apparently myself— resting, not asleep.
It’s when I shift my awareness from the mesmerizing sight below, up to the ceiling just above “me,” that I wonder if I might somehow move through this physical barrier into the space above it—afforded a bird’s eye view of the roofs of married student housing, the Yale campus, maybe even all of New Haven, Connecticut. What an awe-inspiring possibility!
But then I wonder—What if I float even higher and farther away? Will I find my way back to the room and the body I left there? I panic. And as soon as awe morphs into fear—whoosh—I find myself back on the bed, in one piece, so to speak.*
Separating from the material container of skin and bones and brain matter—the totality of which I’d always considered my whole self—to exist, however briefly, in the realm of the nonphysical was so un-dreamlike that I couldn’t dismiss it as one. Robert Monroe’s books, starting with “Journeys Out of the Body” in 1971 had yet to be published. William Buhlman’s how-to books about out-of-body travel would follow decades later, the first in 1998.
I told Peter about the incident, of course, and he felt as baffled by it as I did. Not until five years later, when we were living in the same town as a couple who had been friends since our college days, did I confide in the pair—perhaps because I’d always sensed that one of Pete’s fraternity brothers and tennis partners was open to such phenomena. It turned out that he, too, had had an out-of-body experience and didn’t know what to make of it. I welcomed the news with surprise, delight, and relief. Ha! This was definitely “a thing,” not just a delusion.
I thought of this direct inner experience in mystical terms. While it didn’t seem religious in nature, it did seem to fit in the category of God working “in mysterious ways.” Franciscan friar and priest Richard Rohr defines the word “mystic” as simply meaning “one who has moved from mere belief systems or belonging systems to actual inner experience.” He writes, “The most common temptation for all of us is to use belonging to the right group and practicing its proper rituals as a substitute for any personal or life-changing encounter with the Divine.”
From that standpoint, and looking back, it was certainly life-changing. I immersed myself in books about quantum physics and metaphysics, literature that proved useful when my kids came along with their decidedly “expanded human capacities” aka psychic ability. Defying logic, traditional science, and common knowledge, it freed me from being totally dependent on outer authority, whether religious tradition, scripture, societal convention, or the “experts”. I was happy to be a subversive—even bought a bumper sticker once with the words, “Question Authority.” Pushing the envelope became something I did as a matter of course. This focus was integral to my identity or “essence” as a change agent.
It reminds me of a fascinating video, sometimes referred to as “Monkey Business.” In it, a small group of college students—half in white shirts, half in black—slowly pass a basketball. The viewer is asked simply to count the times any in the white shirts throw the ball to a teammate. Focusing on this task, most viewers completely miss something of huge significance that also happens during the game. Similarly, my focus blinded me to another aspect of self. Highly intutitive? Psychic? Nah.
Start at the beginning, Team Tunie recently instructed via automatic writing. Go way back to the time when you had a form of amnesia about experiences that didn’t fit with the societal/cultural norm, the construct of how things work.
Digging and delving—which I highly recommend—I unearthed some forgotten incidents that put me squarely in the lineup, genetically, with my highly intuitive offspring. And one memory suggests that my dad was part of the lineage, too, which makes sense since I’ve been told that my paternal grandmother was psychic. More on all of this next time.
*Feeling fearful is a surefire way to interrupt any OBE when traveling out of the body, I learned years later.
Introductory photo: Ryder’s hands, copyright Tunie Munson-Benson, 2017