What if you could have a conversation with your younger self? What experiences would you share? What advice would you give? Drop in on the unfiltered conversation between Annie Younger, aged 25, and Annie Older, 35 years her senior. As references are made to prior episodes, the conversation is best understood if followed sequentially from the beginning. Click here to read the first installment.
Annie O: So, Annie Younger, you ask how do you write your NLEN—your Near-Life Experiences Narrative. Did you notice that my pronunciation—en-len—of the acronym I use for Near-Life Experiences Narrative rhymes with gremlin?
Annie Y: Well, Annie Older, now that you point it out, yes.
Annie O: I wanted to make a point of it because, as you’ll come to see, gremlins are the antagonists in your NLEN. You know what gremlins are, right?
Annie Y: Actually, no.
Annie O: Oh, once again, I forgot. The movie called “Gremlins” won’t come out for another few years yet from where you’re at. You’ll enjoy it though, when you see it. I don’t want to spoil the movie for you, so suffice it to say that gremlins are malevolently mischievous monsters causing destruction in people’s lives.
Annie Y: Okay.
Annie O: In the context of your NLEN, they’re the things that destroy your self-confidence and self-esteem. They disempower you. We’ll get into that more in a bit. Right now, I’ll try to explain how you write your NLEN. As I said earlier, an NLE—Near-Life Experience—is when you’re in flow, in the zone. You’re so caught up with what you’re doing you’re unaware of the passage of time or what’s going on around you. Each NLE holds a clue as to what it is that makes you feel nearest to experiencing life at its fullest—without the help of mind-altering substances. The first step in writing your narrative involves identifying such occasions without making any inferences about them.
Annie Y: So, do you start back early in life and work your way up to the present when recording these occasions?
Annie O: Not necessarily; there’s no one right way of recalling NLEs. It may be helpful to chunk down your search for NLEs by focusing your attention on one phase, or period, of your life at a time, starting at the present and working backwards, or visa versa. Or perhaps it will work better for you to let the NLEs randomly rise to the surface of your consciousness from whenever in your life. It may have happened at play, at school, at work. An NLE may be blatant or subtle, of short or protracted duration. Don’t attempt to force the NLEs up out of memory; invite them to surface as they will. When an NLE comes to mind, record it on your tablet, in a scrapbook or on a sticky note.
Annie Y: My tablet?
Annie O: Never mind—yet another futuristic, science fiction-like device, as you call them. Anyway, in your note taking, firstly, briefly describe what the NLE was and, secondly, how you felt while experiencing it. At what age in your life you had the NLE is not critical. Take as much time as needed until you feel satisfied with your capture. It may take a few days or weeks. The NLEs may arise in a flurry or intermittently.
Annie Y: Hmmm. Can you give me an example?
Annie O: Sure. What always comes to mind was that time I was—you were—skating alone on a frozen pond in the field behind the house, performing, what was—to my, I don’t know exactly, say, 10-year-old mind—a perfectly choreographed ice skating routine. I did the routine over and over for my imaginary audience until I suddenly realized mid-afternoon had given way to dusk.
Annie Y: I remember that so clearly! The sun had set and I hadn’t even noticed it going down. It was such a shocking feeling coming back to reality. I remember feeling so energized, by delivering those beautiful performances to my adoring audience filling the arena. I was sad when it ended.
Annie O: Exactly. Can you think of another experience that stuck with you because of the sensation you experienced?
Annie Y: Let me think. Okay—here’s something from just a few years ago, in university. I used to spend way too much time in the lab for my university cartography course producing maps. I loved map-making—the challenge of creating the most effective, useful maps, professional-looking maps possible. Same thing—hours would go by before I’d even realize it.
Annie O: Yepper, I certainly recall that. And what were you feeling in that situation?
Annie Y: Well, you obviously know. Greatly satisfied! Here I was creating practical works of art.
Annie O: So, that essentially all’s that’s required in capturing NLEs. You note the experience and what you were feeling in the moment.
Annie Y: That’s kinda fun. But what’s next? What’s the narrative part?