It was Sunday evening, February 5, 2005. I had just started to watch the evening news with my wife JoAnn, and everything was as normal as could be.
Life was fine, as far as I was aware. I was quite happy, or at least I thought I was. Suddenly I started to feel a vague discomfort in my chest. It didn't feel life threatening, but I felt a strange dread.
"Would you like to lie down and I'll hold you?" said JoAnn. I remember climbing up the stairs, and lying down on our bed. I remember JoAnn's hands on my head. But very quickly I entered a space I had never been in before.
It was like a night in hell
I was only half conscious as I began shaking uncontrollably, tossing and turning, and sometimes feeling very cold and sometimes very hot.
We wondered whether to call 911, but instead called a friend who stayed with us on the phone the whole time. The only way to describe the two hours that followed is that it was like a night in hell.
Was I reliving past experiences?
I believe I was actually reliving earlier experiences, such as when I was a 7-year-old child in London during the early days of the blitz. Dad was away in the war, and Mom and I lived on the fifth floor of an apartment block when German bombs fell all around us and the entire building swayed back and forth like a brnach in the wind as fires flared all around us.
Was the fear of that long-ago night with me still? Perhaps it had hidden itself in me -- perhaps in my very flesh -- for so many years and now it wanted to be free?
I believe that other painful events and memories also broke surface, so to speak, as I writhed in anguish in my wife's arms.
A dam broke in me that night
It was like a dam broke in me at last. There was a lot to grieve, and come to terms with, for sure. For example, in 1988, my spiritual leader and mentor had died suddenly. And three years after his death my first wife, Joy, also died suddenly of a stroke.
Then there was the painful, devastating collapse of the spiritual community in British Columbia that had been my home for 36 years -- and the fear I felt when at age 63 I had no choice but to return to the world I had forsaken in my youth.
My ordeal was really just beginning
At last my "night in hell" came to an end. I stopped shaking and shivering, and told JoAnn I’d like to try to sleep. When I woke up next morning everything seemed normal. But it wasn't. Oh no, it wasn't at all.
For about nine months I spiraled day by day into deep depression and despair. I’m a lean, tall English fellow weighing about 150 lbs -- but at the lowest point of my depression I was down to 128 lbs in the doctor’s office.
Then a door opened in heaven
But then a door opened in heaven. Perhaps it wasn't really a "depression" so much as a spiritual crisis. Perhaps my heart opened in a way it had never opened before. In any case as I think I've mentioned before on this blog, I became aware of the most beautiful stillness and peace.
I realized that my past frailties and mistakes simply didn't matter -- because who I truly am and who you truly are is eternal love, and it is already whole and already free.
I believe that God -- the truth at the core of our existence -- wanted to do some major healing in me and decided the right time for that healing had come. It was time to balance the books, so to speak, so that I could move forward with new vigor and clarity and the door of true freedom could open wide before me.
Laughing more -- one of the joys of aging
One of the offshoots of this healing – and surely one of the special joys of aging – is that I’ve learned to laugh more.
It's kind of sad, but I don't think I used to laugh much when I was young. I was so eager to know the truth, so serious about it. And when I entered the community in some ways I was in a kind of cocoon. Laughter? I hardly knew what it was.
But that has changed now. I find I love laughing. I really do. I wish Dad was here in the flesh (he is with me in spirit) because I would laugh twice as much at his jokes. Perhaps you can even hear me launghing if, as they say, we can’t blink an eye without affecting the entire world.
I'm laughing because I'm happy. And I'm happy not because things have changed so much in an external sense -- I haven't bought a wonderful new car, for example, though I would like to do that one day and in fact went to an auto show in Denver last week -- but because laughter seems natural all of a sudden. God loves to laugh, I guess.
"Every day is a bonus"
"Every day is a bonus," my dad used to say, as he neared the end of his life, as cheerful and full of jokes as he ever was. He died at 95, within a stone's throw of his favorite pub in the little Sussex village of Pevensey Bay.
It's a good attitude to take toward life, don't you think? Be thankful for each day just as it is. And above all -- don't let despair hide the beautiful timeless truth at the core of your own being.
It's the one thing that never ages -- your own unconquerable spirit.
The second anniversary of this blog
As I near the second anniversary of this blog next month -- in which I plan to launch my new course on the true potential and promise of aging -- this is my simple message to you: We live in a loving universe. You are a Child of Light. You are a spiritual being, pure, timeless, and already whole. You are an ‘eternal soul’, as someone wrote to me so beautifully the other day.
I’d love to hear from you. How is your life going in these dangerous, troubled times? Though I’ve probably never met you in person, I am with you. Blessings to you -- and please watch out for my course on happy aging coming soon.