Being Of Light
by Richard Bolstad.
Modelling Transformational Change
How do new NLP change processes get developed? Richard Bandler explains how he used modelling to create processes such as the NLP Phobia Cure. "I went out and found two people who had a phobia and who got over it. Then I found out what they did." (Bandler, 1993, p 7). If we want to model lifestyle transformation, we could do the same. That's what Dr Kenneth Ring has spent the last twenty five years doing, and in this article I want to translate his results into NLP terms
Dr Ring's studies concern people who have had their pulse and other vital signs stop during some medical crisis, and then been revived, and who then claim to recall these events. In 1980, while people were still debating the first five years of anecdotes about such "near-death experiences", he completed the first of a number of scientific studies into the phenomenon (Life at Death, 1980). Since then, he has focused on the dramatic lifestyle changes that result from such events. In nine separate research studies, the long term personality changes brought on by the near-death experience are consistent and include: (Ring, 1998, p 124-127)
- Enhanced appreciation of everyday life
- Greater feelings of self-worth and self-acceptance
- Increased compassionate concern for and desire to help others
- Increased reverence for planetary ecology and compassion for the suffering of animals
- Reduced interest in material accumulation
- Reduced interest in social prestige and competition
- Reduced interest in formal religion and increased interest in inclusive spirituality
- Increased thirst for knowledge
- Strong sense of mission or unique purpose in life
- Loss of fear of death
- Conviction that life continues after death
- Conviction that a spiritual power (such as God) exists
My aim in this article is to present an NLP process designed to replicate these changes.
What Is The Near-Death Experience?
According to Gallop Poll research (Ring, 1998, p 305), over 8,000,000 people in the United States alone have had the experience first called by Raymond Moody a "Near Death Experience" (1976). These people believe that, during a medical emergency, they have "left their body", re-evaluated their life and made contact with a "being of light". For the present, whether they have actually had such an experience, or merely hallucinated it while their brain was in crisis (as is claimed by Susan Blackmore in her book "Dying To Live" for example), is immaterial. The point is that we now have decades of careful research on tens of thousands of these people. Those who recall the moments which would usually precede death consistently report the same kind of experience, whichever culture they come from, whatever their previous beliefs, and whatever their age (eg see Ring and Valarino, 1998; Bailey and Yates, 1996; Morse and Perry, 1990; Eysenck and Sargent, 1997, p 205-206). Brain researchers have found that stimulating a specific area in the temporal cortex will produce feelings of spiritual transcendence and a sense of a mystical "presence" nearby, and many attribute the whole Near-Death Experience to the final activation of this brain structure (Carter, 1998, p 13-14). Those who go through the process and recover seem adamant that what they contacted was more.
The first step in their experience tends to be a shift in perspective, from inside the body to outside and above the body. Often the passage to this perspective occurs through a tunnel and is accompanied by an odd buzzing sound. At times the person simply finds themselves there. A high school student, Neev, describes his March 1988 experience after being severely injured in a baseball game: "The next thing I knew, the world as I knew it was gone. I realised that I was not in my physical body. I felt no pain or discomfort. I felt totally at peace with myself. I was standing behind my coach, and the father of one of the other players. They were both kneeling over me in the infield, where I was lying on my back. The first thing I checked was if the ball stayed in my glove. It did." (in Ring, 1998, p 21). Cardiologist Michael Sabom was completely sceptical of such claims until he completed one of the earliest studies into the reports of such "observers", showing that they were able to provide complex details of medical procedures that occurred while they were comatose. Such details could be verified by medical staff and records (Sabom, 1982). Kenneth Ring investigated twenty totally blind people (often blind from birth) who were able to do this, describing things such as the pattern on a doctors tie, which they "saw" while in a coma (Ring and Cooper, 1997).
The second step of the NDE (Near Death Experience) process involves the meeting of a personal being composed of brilliant but undazzling light. The being of light has the person review their entire life from three perspectives simultaneously (as they experienced it originally, as others experienced the effects of their actions, and as an observer supported by the light). Many experiencers find this life review shocking. Not just the "big" stories of their life, but every little impulse to help or hinder others is revealed with all its implications. And yet the aim of this life review is neither punishment nor judgement, but to enable the person to learn how to more effectively express love in each action. (Ring and Valarino, 1998, p 145-198). Neev, the high school student described above says "It was like watching my life from start to finish on an editing machine stuck in fast forward. The review took me from my conception, which felt like the blackness I experienced after my out-of-body experience, through my childhood to adolescence, into my teens and through my near-death experience over again. I saw my life. I relived my life. I felt everything I ever felt before. When I say everything, I mean every cut, pain, emotion and sense associated with that particular time in my life. At the same time I saw the effects of my life on the people around me... I felt all that they felt, and through this I understood the repercussions of everything I did, be it good or bad." (Ring, 1998, p 22).
Love is the highest value embodied in the entire Near Death Experience. While the life review is happening, the being of light makes it clear that the experiencer is loved and forgiven beyond human expectations. Consider the following archetypal descriptions by "Peggy", whose Near Death Experience occurred in an automobile accident in 1973 (before any of the wave of literature on Near Death Experiences). "The light told me everything was love, and I mean everything! I had always felt love was just a human emotion people felt from time to time, never in my wildest dreams thinking it was literally EVERYTHING! I was shown how much all people are loved. It was overwhelmingly evident that the light loved everyone equally without any conditions... I can remember looking at the people together and the light asking me to "love the people". I wanted to cry I felt so deeply for them... I vividly recall the part where the light did what felt like switch on a current of pure undiluted, concentrated, unconditional LOVE. This love I experienced in the light was so powerful it can't be compared to earthly love, even though earthly love is a much milder version." (Ring and Valarino, 1998, p 45-46)
The third step of the process involves recognising that there is a border of some kind, beyond which there will be no "coming back". Since the research is on Near-death experiences rather than death itself, those studied have chosen to or been told to come back to this world. This is often after being reminded what their "original" goals for living this life on earth were (their "mission"). Neev explains, "I felt like I now had a purpose, which was to help people and share my positive perspective... I was no longer interested in what society had to say about how I lived my life. I was no longer interested in what people thought or how they felt about me, or if I looked good or not. I learned that I am much more than my body. In doing this, after the NDE other people around me began to accept me for who I was. My feeling of warmth and love flew through from my body and brought me many new friends." Like most people who experience an NDE, Neev found that his encounter with the "Being of light" and the life review had healed him in a number of ways. He says "Physical problems that had haunted me all my life disappeared afterward. These problems were chronic migraine headaches, for which I had to take pills for years, cramps, and a terribly anxious stomach, which would act up before school every day, soccer games, tests, and in just about all social situations. Before my experience I was the most klutzy, accident-prone fool you could ever have met. All these problems were solved through my NDE."
Can The Experience Be Modelled?
Psychology researcher Hans Eysenck, usually a sceptic when it comes to psychological studies, says he is convinced that, despite the absurdity of the claim, existence beyond death is the best hypothesis accounting for the evidence of this research (Eysenck and Sargent, 1997, p 209-213). But the importance of NDEs to us as living human beings does not depend on this belief at all. In study after study, the NDE experience is followed by profound life changes, including a shift in values towards self-acceptance, compassion, shared happiness, mission and open spirituality. Whether the NDE is a result of real spiritual experience, or of the brain dying in a precisely replicated way each time, these longstanding personality changes are intrinsically of interest.
These changes spread out to those who come in contact with the person who had the NDE. Firstly, most experiencers want to share their new world-view. Carl Jung, who had a NDE at age 70, urged others to vicariously experience this, saying "A man should be able to say he has done his best to form a conception of life after death... Not to have done so is a vital loss." (Jung, 1961, p 302). In his book The Omega Project, Dr Kenneth Ring reported his study of 74 people who had an NDE, and 54 persons who did not have the experience, but studied it. The shift in values and beliefs in the "control group" was almost as powerful as that occurring in the NDE group (Ring, 1992). Psychiatrist Bruce Greyson published a study of 89 NDE survivors and 175 members of the International Association for Near Death Studies (IANDS). He showed again that a parallel rise in the importance of altruism, self-actualisation and spirituality occurred as these people integrated the meaning of the NDE (Greyson, 1983). Some studies suggest that just reading this article will be enough to produce values realignment in many people (Ring and Valarino, 1998, p 204-215). What this tells us is that, if we model the Near Death Experience and offer it vicariously to others, they will benefit in extraordinary ways. That is what I have done in the script which follows.
NDE and NLP
To those familiar with NLP change techniques, the Near Death Experience clearly has similarities with such models as Time Line Therapy. (James and Woodsmall, 1988) and Core Transformation. (Andreas and Andreas, 1994). As with Time Line Therapy., the participant reviews past experiences from both associated and dissociated positions. They generate learnings based on the experiences, and they let go of "negative" emotions (feeling forgiven instead of guilty, for example). As with Core Transformation., participants step into a profound transpersonal state and consider how just being in that state changes and transforms their possible responses to "difficult" situations. Is the "Being of Light" process just a modification of James' Time Line Therapy‒2 technique? Perhaps both James' method, and my own that I present in this article, are approximations of one fundamental neurological or spiritual truth.
The point of developing new NLP change processes like Core Transformation. and Time Line Therapy. is to more effectively enable people to change. The metaphors embodied in such techniques seem to work faster and more reliably than older metaphors such as Freud's model of Psychoanalysis of the "transference". In Connirae and Steve Andreas book "Heart of the Mind", Psychologist Dr Wilson van Dusen notes "I have observed the psychotherapy scene since the days when Freud was the main voice. Later brief psychotherapy took a mere 6 months. Now we have the 30 minute and even 5 minute cures of NLP. Speed is not the real issue. We must be closing in on the actual design of people." The Near Death Experience offers us an opportunity to do exactly that; to design a metaphor of transformation based on the actual design -either of the brain or of the universe, depending on your belief system.
In the following script, I have enfolded the Near Death Experience in the structure I use for NLP work (the RESOLVE model, see Bolstad and Hamblett, 1998, p 107-108) including pre and post testing. In the actual Near Death Experience, the participants report having infinite time to process every moment of their life even though this seems to happen at enormous speed. In this case, we are selecting one event, one moment, and the question arises as to how we will discover the most appropriate event to heal. Dr David Cheek, who with Milton Erickson developed the technique of ideomotor signalling, proposed using a simple set of questions to elicit an unconscious timing of the original issue (Barnett, 1989, p 141-142). His questions have the form: "Did this event occur at age five or earlier?", and after each question he waits for a positive or negative response before refining the question further. Tad James uses a similar set in Time Line Therapy., beginning with "Would it be before during or after your birth?" (James and Woodsmall, 1988, p 75). Alternatively, both authors also at times simply ask the unconscious mind to take the person back to the key event (eg see James and Woodsmall, 1988, p 67). In this script I have chosen to use a similar hypnotherapeutic questioning process.
As the Near Death Experience has already been described by tens of thousands of people over several decades, if not millennia, I do not consider it appropriate to trademark this process. I would appreciate your acknowledging this source if you use the script or some adaptation of it.
Guiding Someone Through The Ultimate NLP Process: A Script
Being Of Light
Summary Of Steps 1-9
1) Get into a resourceful state, and remind yourself that you too will one day face the Near Death Experience. You might remind yourself with amusement that a little extra compassion now will look good on your life-review.
2) Establish rapport with the person to be guided. Remember that they are human too, and they too will one day face this "for real". Explain the Being of Light process, perhaps giving an example of the NDE experience, as I have done in the preceding article. Tell the person "If you believe that Near Death Experiences are created in the brain, you know that the area of the brain that generates this experience and the feeling of total love is there right now for you to access. If you believe that Near Death Experiences are generated spiritually, you know that the actual Being of Light loves you and is here with you right now, and wants you to heal. The process will work, whichever you believe, and in guiding you through the process I'll talk as if the "Being of Light" exists in some sense."
3) Specify the outcome. "What is it that you want to change? What is the ongoing issue that you want to be different, and how does it need to be different?"... "As you think about that now, notice that you can feel the uncomfortable emotion associated with that old way of responding to it. You'd know if that changed wouldn't you?
4) Elicit the original event. "You can imagine that if you were watching a movie of the story of your life, there would be a time which was the initial event which led to the creation of this problem in your life, and which if healed would solve this problem. And somewhere deep inside your memory, you know that event. If you knew, is that event in this lifetime or before?" If the answer is "Before", ask if the person thinks of it as in another lifetime, in the womb or in their family history. Once you have established which life the event is part of, ask "And if you knew, at what age did this happen to you/that person?"
5) Get permission to heal. "You may know that people who have experienced physical death often report that such events are healed by the process they go through at that time, where a being of love and light guides them through a review of earlier life experiences. Is it okay for you to heal this event in that way now?" If the answer is "Yes" then go to step 6).
If the person says "No", then use a variation of a standard parts reframe such as: "So I know there's a part of you that thinks it's not okay to heal this event. And if that part was to consider its higher intention in doing that, whether it is trying to protect you, or to make sure you learn from that event, or even to make sure you change the way you behave... I'd like you to realise that anything less than completely healing this event, in the way that the universe [or "your brain", if the person's belief system prefers a physiological explanation of NDEs] wants you to heal it eventually, is not totally enabling you to learn, to change and to be safe in the way you want to be now. Does that part understand that yet?"
6) Meet the Being of Light. "Great, so imagine that you float out of your body to being way up above it, and look down and see your body down there below. Can you see that comfortably now?"... "And beside you, you realise, is a Being of pure light and love. If you knew, you know, who or what is that Being?" Accept the person's name for this and use it in the script from here on. "Now I want you to allow that Being of Light to emanate that total love and acceptance through you now, until you actually feel love and acceptance now. Allow that light to fill your body, so you become totally immersed in a love that is beyond imagination. Can you feel that love yet? Take all the time you need." Use the reframe above if needed, and have the person listen to the Being of Light saying the reframe.
7) Heal the event. "And the Being can guide you so that you are comfortably way up above the specific event which was the initial event that you are healing now. And in a moment the being will play a movie of that event for you to observe, and it will go fast forward from before the beginning to after the end, so quick it takes no time at all, and yet you'll know at some level everything that has happened in that event, including all the effects of that event in your own experience and in the experience of others. While that happens, you will be bathed in the love that the Being of Light emanates. And the light is teaching you how to respond to that event with love. It is showing you a range of new possibilities, which you can choose to accept or leave. And your task is simply to know that you are loved beyond measure, and that it is love which heals this event now. At an unconscious level, you are learning from this event now, and the learning heals you. The learning is love. Just let me know once you realise that the event is now totally healed. Do you realise that yet?" If there seems to be difficulty, again, have the being of light use a version of the reframe above.
8) Recommit to mission. "Now the Being of Light knows that you're here for a reason. And healing this event is part of enabling you to fulfil that purpose more fully now. And the Being of Light can let you know and feel the importance of your purpose here in this life, and the ways in which having healed this enhances your ability to achieve everything you came here for. Take all the time you need to feel the Being of Light fill you with the energy you need to complete that mission, and once you know you are ready, feel yourself come back down into your body ready to begin living your new life. Welcome back."
9) Post-test and futurepace. "So now I'd like you to thank the Being of Light, knowing that it/he/she is there for you always. And I'd like you to feel that love flowing down from above and filling you as you try to think of that situation that used to be a problem for you. What is it like as you go to do that now?" As they recognise it has changed, say "That's right. It has changed. So notice that as you think of future situations where, in the past, that would have been a problem, they've changed too. Great work!"
Let's take an example. Andrew came to me because he felt a lack of motivation towards the things he considered most important in his life. When he thought of them he got an overwhelmed feeling. I explained the Near Death Experience to him, and invited him to begin the process. His sense was that this issue originated at age two years old, and he went back to that event with the Being of Light, which was for him a kind of "presence" rather than a specific person. As he healed the event, he felt a profound change in his internal state. Everything became calm and life seemed "simpler" somehow. He was then easily able to think of the kind of actions he wanted to take and feel like they too would be effortless. As a guide, I also felt this kinaesthetic shift, almost as if there actually was some "Being" that encompassed us both.
To say that guiding someone through this is a moving experience surely understates things. Near Death Experiences are real, whatever "real" means to you. And here we are tapping into something which is at the core of what it means to be human (at the core of the human brain perhaps, or at the core of the mystery of life). As a guide using this process, I feel my own "Being of Light" immersing me in love, reminding me that I, too, am loved, that the universe is grateful for what we do, and that one day I too will be welcomed home. What more can you ask than to serve such love. And every time you guide someone through this process, you are connecting with that transformative power of the NDE. Read through that list of personality changes which follow such experiences, and feel how easy life can be.
Dr Richard Bolstad is an NLP Master Practitioner and Trainer who has worked with clients individually and as a trainer of groups since 1990. He can be contacted at PO Box 35111, Browns Bay, Auckland, New Zealand, Phone/Fax: +64-9-478-4895 E-mail: email@example.com Website: http://www.transformations.net.nz
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