I recently went to the hospital for a ruptured appendix, and the doctors all remarked that it could have drastically gone another way. The chief of surgery told my wife that if we had waited an hour, he would have been having a different conversation with her. There were times when my blood pressure and heart rate were so low that later the technicians told me that they couldn’t believe I was alive and chatting with them, that I came through the worst of it without having a stroke.
I understand that that was a near-death experience, and I’m not taking that lightly. I often feel that we have these moments in life to shake us up, a way for our Higher Power/Universe/God to work through us so that we can be more in line with our destiny or the vision for our lives.
I’ve been pondering that a lot. Am I fulfilling my purpose? What am I here to do, and am I doing it? Pema Chödron, a Buddhist nun, refers to this as the “Big Squeeze.”
There’s a discrepancy between your inspiration and the situation as it presents itself, the immediacy of the situation. It’s the rub between those two things—the squeeze between vision and reality—that causes you to grow up, to wake up to be 100 percent decent, alive, and compassionate. The big squeeze is one of the most productive places on the spiritual path”— taken from the book Comfortable with Uncertainty by Pema Chödron
I know I’m not the first to question their direction or destiny after a near-death experience, but I also don’t want to dismiss these internal questions just because others have experienced it. Instead, I want to channel this energy to gain a deeper connection to my Higher Power/God. I want to use this experience as a compass to continue doing my work and be a conduit for good in the world.
Years ago, I worked with a former Tibetan monk who then turned therapist to guide me through processing some challenging life experiences. They took me through a four-part process that I still use today when presented with these moments of uncertainty. This is not their exact formula but one I have modified from our work together.
Step 1: Identify
Identify what is happening or happened. View it as though you are watching a movie about someone else’s life. Who was involved? What happened? When and where did it take place?
Step 2: Emotional Connection
What emotions did you feel during and after the experience? What emotions do you feel now? Identify the emotions to peel back the layers of why you feel the way you do about the experience.
Step 3: Go Deeper
This is the stage of true processing. Connect these emotions to past experiences. Have you felt this way before? What was the outcome? Are you associating that previous experience with this one because you are experiencing the same emotions? How can you look at it differently?
Step 4: Toolbox
Pull out the tools you have used before that helped you get through difficult experiences. If you are in recovery, that may mean going to a meeting or connecting to your sponsor—schedule additional appointments with your therapist or life coach. For me, it also means rolling out my yoga mat consistently to work through the emotions physically and within my meditation practice inviting the emotions into it and leaning in to become more curious as I continue to process all that I feel.
So often, I see folks get to step 3 and don’t want to do the additional work. But we need to go deeper and then get out our toolboxes and do the work so that we don’t continue hoarding this emotional baggage in our bodies. Trauma is like a frozen memory in your body that needs to be thawed and removed through emotional processing and physical movement and meditation. Numbing the feelings or pushing them aside doesn’t make them go away. They will come back up, but when they do, you won’t have the clarity to know what you are processing and why. Instead, it will feel like sadness for no reason or deep rage that isn’t directed at the right person.
I am now documenting and noticing my connection to all things big and small as I process my recent near-death experience. I don’t want to miss these signs of a deeper relationship with the universe. I believe that by continuing to do the work of emotional processing, I will move through this experience with a greater sense of living my true destiny.
If you need assistance processing a complex experience and want to create a plan to move forward, I will happily work through these steps with you to gain a deeper understanding of your life’s purpose.