On November 3, 2004, I arrived in Durary, a rural town near Auckland in northern New Zealand. I came here to take an advanced cross-country glider training program. November 9, 2004, the sixth day of the training program, was a sunny and beautiful morning. I jumped onto the glider PW5 excitedly. It was my first solo trial flight on this high performance glider model. I completed the safety check systematically as usual, and then sought permission from the flight traffic controller for the take-off.
Permission given. As I moved the handle, the glider began to rise. Before me lay the clear blue sky with light scattered clouds. What a beautifully clear day with excellent visibility.
When the glider quickly soared to 110 m high, I noticed that it was lifting way too fast. At the same time the glider began to shake and tilt to the left severely. It just kept climbing, reaching a dangerous climbing angle. I was losing speed.
I was alarmed by the danger. I tried to keep my wits and to stay calm and focused. I tried to break the glider from the ropes, hoping to stabilize the glider and prepare for emergency landing. However it didn’t work. The glider was lifting too fast and losing control. The wings could no longer support the weight of the body, and just as sharp as its ascent, the glider plummeted down like a broken kite.
In about ten seconds’ time, it crashed to the ground, falling from over 100 meter high.
As the glider hit the ground, the whole compartment was smashed into pieces. Though the seat belt prevented me from falling out of the compartment, it went up and underneath my ribs. Some hard objects from the backside knocked the backside of my head…
Before I was able to feel any pain, my five senses seemed to shut down simultaneously. I was swallowed by a world of silence and darkness.
As if the power went out…
All of a sudden the light switched on again. I felt being re-connected. My vision was somewhat fuzzy from that sudden change of brightness in the first second. Then a glimpse of light came into my eyes, bright yet warm and gentle, just like the first ray of the sunrise.
“The darkness is over. Welcome to the brightness.” the golden light said to me.
I found myself bathed in a sea of golden light, so peaceful and calm. I also found my body dazzling, reflecting rays of golden light. I felt complete and infinite. I was composed of lights in that realm. I was a part of the light. I still had a body shape, but there was no boundary, like how we can see the sunlight, but cannot tell its boundary.
It was incredible!
The second thing I noticed was that I was not breathing and my heart had stopped beating. I found myself floating in the vacuum. As I was wondering if either my own weight or the gravity was lost, I looked down and saw the trashed body of the glider. Fragments of glass and metals were scattered all over the ground. The glider wings and tail were completely ruined. I looked closer, and saw a broken young man lying there dying inside the compartment. His shirt was covered in blood. His wounds were bleeding badly. His forearm was broken. A white bone jutted out from his wrist. Even worse, the right ankle joint was horribly smashed and distorted. In horror,
I realized this man looked just like me! That’s my body!
I knew I was dying.
I could see that the dramatic crash from over 100 meter height caused multiple fractures throughout my body. It was all covered with blood. I had been knocked unconscious and my heart trembled weakly. The brutal pressure from the tightened seatbelt on my ribs stopped air from going into the lungs.
While my body below showed no sign of life, no consciousness nor feeling, interestingly, I felt completely well and comfortable floating up above. All that I felt was joy and peacefulness. In that spilt second, my soul had come out from my body, floating up on top of the glider in the air, watching myself dying. That was an incredible feeling! At the point of death, my body and soul separated. “I” was in dual existence.
I was captivated by how the cognitive experiences of our body differed from that of the soul. The soul works in a way similar to telepathy. In that different state, my vision and hearing actually followed my changing mind. I was in active rather than passive cognitive processes.
That was a brand new cognitive experience to me.
Apart from the cognitive, my emotional responses were also significantly different. I had no fear, worry, grief or any bad feeling, but only absolute peacefulness and harmony. My emotional responses were disconnected to the outside circumstances and environments.
“But where am I?” I couldn’t help wondering. In that sea of golden light, all that I felt was a gentle and incredible warmth and peacefulness, that which I had never experienced something so pure and divine in the physical world. There was neither an enchanting heaven nor a terrifying hell that I had grown up hearing, but only peacefulness and calmness.
Wait! That felt familiar. Did I experience this before?
Suddenly, a memory flashed through my mind. I recalled the moment when I was a fetus, nurtured and protected by the amniotic fluid in my mother’s womb. I remembered feeling her warmth.
At that time I felt as if I was cradled in the womb of the universe. I was fully embraced by the sea of golden light. I was completely immersed with the universe. Through the light, I was fully embraced by the overwhelming, non-judgmental and unconditional love of the universe.
I understood how much the feeling of dying resembled that of being born. Perhaps life was a circle, departing and ending at the same point.
“Would you like to go or to stay?”
A question awakened me from my deep thought. Someone was speaking to me from the source of light. Our communication did not work through the voice but the mind, like telepathy.
I tried to look at the source of light, but could hardly see anything or any person other than the halo of light.
“To go or to stay?” I muttered. Does it mean I could choose between life and death?
“This is the last question of your life.” He seemed to be able to comprehend my thought.
I never thought that I would have an option. Should I stay? Should I go?
“Before making your decision, you may wish to see your life in review.”
As I was absorbed in a deep thought of this question, a tiny spot of light appeared suddenly. Then the light spread out in all directions, like a spider spreading silk to build an intricate spider web. Each of the individual webs was linked by silk threads, connecting our relationships with one another. By that moment in front of me, was a giant nest of webs. I found myself in a cinema, with thousands of screens around me. Playing on every screen were episodes of the different moments in my 30 years of life, from early childhood till the present. Some of which I remembered, some of which I had long forgotten.
The life review deeply enlightened and awakened me. I realized that my whole life was interwoven by one core value – Freedom. I strived to push beyond my physical boundaries or body limitations and to pursue greater freedom. Finally last year I realized my biggest dream of flying. I had accomplished all my dreams before turning 30. It was on my 30th birthday that I didn’t make a wish for the first time, and it was then that
I realized that I was contented with my life.
I stood still there, struggling with the last question of my life.
“Let’s go” was the first idea that flashed through my mind. All my dreams were accomplished. If I would die at the best time of my life, all that I left behind were bright and beautiful memories – wasn’t this perfect?
Just when I was ready to leave, all of a sudden I felt emptiness and pain. An overwhelming sense of emptiness and remorse saturated me.
I realized that I no longer had any dream. There was nothing in my life that held me back. I didn’t need anybody, and nobody needed me. I realized how lonely and empty my life was. I was never alive. I never embraced true freedom. In the past 30 years, I was only chasing after time. I created one dream after another to escape from my inner emptiness. All that I ran after was recognition. In my entire life I was living under other people’s values and expectations.
I came to understand that realizing a dream was less than having a dream. It’s the first time in my life that I was standing between two extreme feelings, contentedness and loss, joyful and sad.
“Is it the final judgement? Are we evaluating the good and bad, the moral and evil of life?” I asked. I didn’t know where that place was, nor did I know which decision I should make. Should I leave when my dreams were accomplished, or should I stay and truly learn to be alive? I honestly didn’t know how to answer this very final question…
“There is no such thing as final judgement, or evaluation for right or wrong, good or evil. All these things are purely human convention, existing in the world of polarized ideologies. We are now in a united world, everything exists in its pure and basic form.”
“If you choose to go, you may exhale your last breath, and walk towards the source of light. If you choose to stay, then close your lips and keep breathing. Just walk back from the light.”
I still kept my last breath. Some time passed and I was standing still, unable to make up my mind.
“It seems that you are not ready to answer your final question. Your wisdom and vision are not fully unlocked yet. Your heart is still enchained. This is your own question, so only you can answer. In that case, come back when you are ready to make the decision.”
“Will I come back to choose again?” I asked.
“When the time is right, you’ll find the way back.”
I was deeply torn by the extreme feelings of contentment and emptiness. I couldn’t make a decision.
All of a sudden, the screens dissolved and the golden light quickly vanished. I started to melt down. The “I” on the ground got back into consciousness again. I sucked back the last breath into my lungs. I couldn’t move my body, but could feel my heart pumping gently. At the same time, enormous pain flooded through every part of my body. It’s killing me. But pain also assured me one thing – I was alive.
“He’s alive! Come on! Hurry!” The rescue team found me in excitement. In the ambulance, I heard, “the accident occurred during the glider launch. He fell over 100 meters onto the grassland next to the runway. We ran there from the control tower at the first instance. He was unconscious for 11 minutes!”
In 11 minutes, I caught a return journey, traveling through life and death.