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 Y: Annie Older, you said you’re going to explain to me something you call “Near-Life Experiences.” You said we can look into them to find Aha moments that reveal our authentic self. What are you getting at?
Annie O: Thanks for the reminder, Annie Younger. Yes, we were talking about finding our real self, because only when we’ve made that discovery can we feel comfortable in our own skin, no matter where we are or what we’re doing. When we get there, there’s no longer a need for pretense and we stop worrying about what others think of us. And in finding ourselves, we find our life purpose. It’s very liberating. Before I delve into NLEs—that’s the lazy way to refer to Near-Life Experiences—there’s something I want to ask you.
Annie Y: Fire away.
Annie O: Do you remember the little ditty you—I—wrote, I think two or three years back from where you are now? I have it in my scrapbook. It goes: As far as you must reach upward to touch the evening star, so must you reach inward to know who you really are.
Annie Y: Yeah, for sure. It’s another example of not necessarily understanding what I’ve written. I had a feeling when I wrote it that someday it would become clear and I’m guessing you’re going to do the clarifying now.
Annie O: Yepper. That “reach inwards” is what I’m going to talk about right now. And here’s a T.S. Eliot quote that complements our little poem, at least based on my interpretation of it. He says “We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” What that means to me is that with on-going self-discovery we unearth the person we were at the very beginning of our life—our real self, unencumbered by the limiting beliefs imposed on ourselves by ourselves or by others—and, for the first time, we come to know who we really are. And the best place to discover our real self is in our NLEs.
Annie Y: Okay, so what exactly are NLEs?
Annie O: I believe you’ve heard the term “peak experience.” Right?
Annie Y: Yeah, the counsellor used that term when I was describing to him that one summer night when I was sitting in the light of the full moon on the patio just outside the sliding doors, watching it rise above the forest, and I felt as if I was in a paradise, with no concerns or distractions or anxiety, totally immersed in my surroundings, a part of it all—not just seeing it. He’d said that was another description of being “in flow” or “in the zone.”
Annie O: You got it. Flow is described as the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, is fully involved, and finding enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does. Wikipedia–
Annie Y: Wiki what?
Annie O: Never mind. That’s another future thing I’ll explain later. For now, just think of it as a dictionary. Wikipedia goes on to say “flow is completely focused motivation. It is a single-minded immersion and represents perhaps the ultimate experience in harnessing the emotions in the service of performing and learning. In flow, the emotions are not just contained and channeled, but positive, energized, and aligned with the task at hand. The hallmark of flow is a feeling of spontaneous joy, even rapture while performing a task, although flow is also described as a deep focus on nothing but the activity–not even oneself or one’s emotions.”
Annie Y: And so are you saying what you call NLEs are the same as having a peak experience or being in flow, or in the zone?
Annie O: Exactly. I call them Near-Life Experiences as kinda a play on the term “Near-Death Experience.” You know that term? It was really just coined about 10 years before where you’re at now. But there’s been a lot written on Near-Death Experience in recent years. Very generally, it’s a powerfully positive experience described by people who have been on the brink of death, say while in surgery or something like that. They seem to get a glimpse of a bright and beautiful world that lies on the other side but then they’re pulled back into their life—which is forever changed for the better.
Annie Y: Yes, I have heard of them. Very fascinating.
Annie O: Well, Near-Life Experiences are those times when you’re in flow or in the zone and you’re feeling nearly at the peak of life. You’d like the experience to last forever, but then something pulls you out of the experience. It ends. And life returns to normal. When you investigate your Near-Life Experiences, you begin to understand the narrative they’re telling. It’s the story of you.
Annie Y: That sounds so cool! So, how do you get to the narrative?