Jeannet, a Social Worker from Cambridge in the UK has had a multitude of NOTEs experiences. In this brave account, Jeannet explains how these, often inexplicable by logic experiences, have changed her forever. Like so many Experiencers recount, they have taken away her ‘existential angst’ and the common fear of death. We are so grateful to Jeannet for #EmergingProud once again to tell us more about her extensive ‘non- ordinary’ journey…
It is the night of 30 December, 1998. I am lying on the floor of a side-room in the star shaped church of a Santo Daime community in the Amazon rainforest. I am lost in terror, beyond words, whimpering. This is the first of two NOTEs, 20 years apart, which involved a sense of possession by what felt like a dark ‘entity’, wanting to take me over.
This is what I wrote after the experience, which occurred during an Ayahuasca ceremony:
“I started shaking badly […] so I went to lie down. I got terrified. It felt like an entity was trying to take over my body. It came in different ways, contorting my face and body. I mostly remember it like octopus-like tentacles, engulfing me. After some time, it got to my heart. It felt like it was trying to take my soul away. […] Inwardly I seemed to be told I should accept it, take it into myself. I was scared to, but said ‘I accept, for the love of God’, and for a while kept repeating ‘I accept’. At some point, I felt I needed to see what it was/look behind it. I really tried, and to hold love in my heart and remember everything is Light and terrors are fear of the light, but I couldn’t do it. This thing felt different […]. For a while I felt like it was strangling me, and I had a sharp pain in my heart. […] I started choking […]. There was […] a period when I felt myself sinking, going from rapid shallow breathing (like a bird that’s dying) to not breathing at all, every so often remembering to breathe again with a gasp. I wanted to go to the Light, and caught glimpses of it, but I couldn’t let myself go, as I felt this thing was trying to get back in, and so I couldn’t leave myself unguarded.”
Gradually the experience dissipated. As it was happening, I wondered if this was a split off part of myself, some part of my Shadow (as Carl Jung talks of it) that I should try to integrate, or if it was something bad with an independent existence that I should fight. I didn’t know. This thing felt external and evil, or at least very toxic/dangerous – like it would kill me to get my body.
Afterwards people told me I was facing my worst fears as often happens with Ayahuasca. They reminded me it’s part of a process, a death/rebirth struggle. I would get to a better place …
But how did I get here in the first place? I’d had an uneventful childhood. I did have a serious operation as a three-year-old which I can’t remember, but which I think has left me with a fear of fully being present in my body. I was a shy and awkward only child, often retreating into books. I remember the inner crisis I felt when reading a book about Taoism in our loft, which in one swoop destroyed the image of the Christian God I had been taught. Later in my teens I wondered if I should just kill myself – if there wasn’t more than material reality, I didn’t want to live!
I had some experiences early on which may have been small NOTEs – there was for instance a powerful dream which may have warned me of my father’s death (I didn’t know he was ill), and later heard a voice inside my head that wasn’t mine asking me if I could cope if he died. The first time the answer that welled up in me was ‘no’. The second time, 6 months later, it was ‘yes’. My father died within the year. I shelved those experiences, as they didn’t ‘fit’ with the materialist view of reality I grew up with.
There followed many years of longing to know there was ‘more’. There were periods of searching (reading, meditation, attending groups, etc.), and periods of feeling numb to it all. Once during a meditation I saw the lower half of my body as a dragon, which scared me and stopped me meditating for a long time.
I went through a range of life experiences – work, marriage and divorce, a complex, inappropriate relationship, bulimia, years of therapy, training as a counsellor and eventually training to be a social worker.
Then, in the summer of ’97, I tried Holotropic Breathwork (HB; Stan Grof) and had my first experience of full-blown NOTEs, including inner visions, a powerful heart opening and kundalini energy flowing through my body. I trained as an HB facilitator and experimented with psychedelics (or entheogens – substances which open you up to the transcendent). The main substances that expanded me inside were Ayahuasca and Psilocybin. Both of these, together with changes in perception at times when Kundalini was active, have completely changed my view of who we are as human beings. I now know we are infinitely more than most of us in Western cultures think we are!
Those words in ’98 that I would get to a better place came true. Some months later, in a mushroom journey, I had a NOTE that is hard to put into words. I experienced myself as a disembodied consciousness in a field of Consciousness, Love, Wisdom and infinite Compassion. I was part of it yet distinct, like a refraction in a crystal. I saw that there is nothing that is not that Light. I also found, to my surprise, that we are all completely known and deeply loved.
This experience has changed me forever. It’s taken away my ‘existential angst’ and the fear I had of death. The message I was given was that we are all this Light and we should reflect it back to one another, so we can come to know it in ourselves. This is now the touch-stone in my life.
That was the end of this phase of inner work, although over the following 20 years there were periods that Kundalini energy was spontaneously activated in me, perhaps triggered by challenging life events. These episodes, usually lasting 1-2 months, also gave rise to NOTEs, some terrifying and some blissful, mostly during the night.
In the last 2-3 years I have felt called to seek out further settings in which to experience NOTEs. I have done an Ayahuasca ceremony and a series of Holotropic Breathwork sessions. I would always hit on inner terror but couldn’t quite see what it was. Then came my most recent HB session…
Suddenly, there was the entity I had faced in Mapia. I felt terrified, but without thinking said “Okay, show yourself!”. I felt it enter my body and I had to fight my fear to not block it. Bit by bit it took me over until it reached my heart, causing sharp pain, and then my throat. I felt strangled and started wheezing badly. Finally, it took the whole of me. I was no longer thinking and just lived the experience as it took over my body. I felt my face contort into (what felt like) a daemonic expression as my eyes rolled back and my voice sounded unrecognizable. I heard myself growling loudly. Gradually my terror turned to deep grief. Eventually the experience dissipated, and I came back to the room to listen to the music.
I don’t fully understand what happened in that session, but I now trust more fully that (in a safe setting!) it is helpful to let a process run its course, even if you don’t understand it and can’t control what is happening. I have not felt anything ‘bad’ has lingered from it. I have felt more grounded and present in my body, and I have felt released from the sense, which had remained since that first experience, that there was something dangerous out there I couldn’t see.
Perhaps the question of whether something like that ‘entity’ is real or not cannot be answered – it was real for me. If it did have a degree of independent existence, it was also inextricably connected to me. We have both changed through this NOTE – maybe it’s fair to say we have both been set free …
Jeannet’s conclusions from her experiences of things perhaps being unanswerable seems to be a great guide to what helps us get through these ‘not- so- anomolous’ experiences… Sitting with uncertainty, not trying to analyse them, and trusting and accepting the process.
This is no easy task, but perhaps freedom comes when we learn to stop fighting and accept the darkness as an integral part of our human wholeness?
For more information on Holotropic Breathwork events in the UK: www.holotropicuk.co.uk.
For more information on the Holotropic Breathwork facilitator training programme: www.holotropic.com.
If you have a personal NOTE story that you’d like to share forNicole’s KindaProud book, #EmergingProud through NOTEs
Please contact us here