02.10.2012 11 Comments

Lessons from a Heart Attack

As you have probably noticed, I have been offline for about a month now.  In case you haven't heard, I had a heart attack and a quadruple bypass operation.  I know it's a shoddy reason for being offline, but hey, its the only one I've got! 

Thank you to all the folks that have sent support, love, concern, prayers, cards and flowers.  It makes a difference, it really does, on the spirits and healing process.  I feel well cared for, well loved. And perhaps as a result, my healing has been reasonably quick and easy. 

Many have asked me about insights or reactions from a brush with death.  I'm afraid I don't have anything brilliant to tell you. 

But I have have one suggestive insight from that nearly-other-side…

If you're like me, you've often wondered about the Hindu and Buddhist thought that he who knows himself as the absolute escapes from Samsara, the cycle of death and rebirth.  For example, the Bhagavad Gita says: "having gone to that eternal place…they return not" (Gita 15:5-6).  "Having come to [that state], rebirth they do not attain" (8:15)  Buddhism teaches that the only way to escape the rebirth process that marks samsara is to gain Nirvana.

Frankly, I've never understood this.  I've always wondered, how can anyone who hasn't died possibly know?  And not having died, not even a near death out of body sort of moment, I still don't know. 

But as I watched my light fade the night before my operation, one thing that struck me was that though I sensed something of my life energy fading, the sense of consciousness, steady and open, inside changed NOT A WHIT. 

What or who I was simply remained.  Behind the whole process the sense of being "It" or "That" remained what it was.  I felt chest pain, and behind it that unchanging sense of "It."  I felt sensations in my left arm, and behind it that unchanging sense of "It."

And its presence seemed to provide in some quiet but real way, a sense that it's OK, that it's ALL ok. 

This "It" seemed to exist in a whole different realm.  No change, no matter what was happening to my body.  It didn't get louder or softer, or happier or sadder.  At times I felt scared, easy or confident, yet "It" never seemed to become different.  It just was, and continued with its quiet, subtle sense of confidence.  And me… I just remained "It", even as the sense of being alive in this body struggled to continue.

This is no proof of the escape from Samsara.  Not even close.  But it offers just the tiniest bit of evidence.  If it continues even as life fades, if it continues even as chest pain grows, then perhaps, just perhaps, it might continue in some way even through the great transition. 

Sometimes when I give talks people ask me about what enlightenment says about Samsara or rebirth.  People wonder if the silence beneath our minds may be God.  My stock answer is that such questions are beyond my "pay grade."  Then I explain that I'm serious, and that there are some things we mortal human beings are not in a position to know. 

I don't know that I need to change this general answer, but it'll be harder to say it now quite so sanguinely.  For this experience, small and subtle as it was, does offer something of a hint. Maybe, just maybe …

11 Responses to “Lessons from a Heart Attack”

  1. February 10, 2012 at 1:04 pm, Melissa said:

    Beautifully said, Bob. Maybe your pay grade's been upped…


  2. February 10, 2012 at 4:56 pm, fran said:

    As far as I know, no one can have the pay grade. You're not alone!


  3. February 10, 2012 at 5:53 pm, Margie Ann said:

    A lovely, humbling experience, this knowing of "it" in a different way.  When I coded I became aware of watching myself dead and being quite fascinated by the events and then fighting my way back into my body and back into life.  I didn't "go anywhere" but right where I was, but when I returned to consciousness, it was with a new consciousness, a more generous heart.  It's not anything I recommend, though, because the fear arrived after the fact, when I was good and living again.


  4. February 10, 2012 at 6:19 pm, Adam Blatner said:

    wow!  I too like the pay grade comment. I don't feel that I've "attained" the highest or even second-highest chakras. I sense my dharma is to support those coming up the axis of inspiration.
        I will make a point of visiting your website and even searching for your book. Blessings!   Adam in Texas


  5. February 10, 2012 at 9:10 pm, claire boskin said:

    you know, bob,  "heart ATTACK"  never made much sense to me …  i always
    thought of it as a heart breakdown.   after reading your experience it seems it is
    quite potentially a reality breakdown….  with all the perils  and rewards of the
    i am glad to know you came through with an upgrade.
    be well


  6. February 10, 2012 at 10:26 pm, Ted Phelps said:

    I feel everything you say, Bob. Once again, thank you for sharing yourself. I wanted to meet you after reading your book and all the more now, as I have the same type of experiences as you, was even on the same TM training course, and went through a killer heart attack six years. It is just as you say. And I agree with the small, hesitant, but significant ways "it" speaks to the big picture.


  7. February 10, 2012 at 11:39 pm, Janet Sussman said:

    Thanks so much Bob for sharing this with all of us. It's a powerful testament to the complexities of the ins and outs of body experience. What leaves and what stays and why….glad to hear that you are alive, made anew and able to bring this information into a public forum. You are making a beautiful contribution to Knowledge as always. with love, Jan


  8. February 11, 2012 at 12:57 am, Bert Parlee said:

    This perspective reminds me of Leonard Cohen's "attack as a crack".
    "There's a crack in everything.  That's how the Light gets in."
    Sending you much love for your next steps brother Bob,


  9. February 11, 2012 at 1:44 pm, Dan said:

    Thanks for sharing these precious insights.
    You might find the book, The Grace in Dying by Kathleen Singh —


  10. February 12, 2012 at 9:57 am, Les said:

    Beautiful words, Bob. Not sure about the pay grade, but I'm sure the bonus payments have been well earned.
    Wishing you the best in your recovery, and – yes – the hints are ever precious.
    Love from the UK, Les


  11. February 12, 2012 at 6:26 pm, suzanne maxwell said:

    You've been through it, old buddy and I was unaware this was happening.  Since time is only a figment of our collective agreements, please know that my love, caring and prayers are with you before, during and now, always now.  You, the learner, the mystic, have taken another of life's bumps and made it part of this sacred journey we all share.  Congratulations.  May healing and Grace continue to be yours every moment.


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