Chapter 11: Dreams, Prayer, Out-of-Body Experiences and Meditation
You Have Chosen to Remember: A Journey of Self-Awareness, Peace of Mind and Joy by James Blanchard Cisneros.
In the mid nineties, I began preparing myself for a Master of Business Administration Program (MBA). I applied to four schools, and after submitting the application packages I began planning my interview schedule. I had four trips to make to programs all over the United States. Anyone who has ever gone through this process can tell you that there’s a lot of work to be completed for each school. It can be a confusing time because you don’t know where you’ll end up or even if you will be accepted to where you wish to go.
One day I had had enough of worrying and wondering which school would accept me and I decided to lie down, meditate and pray about the situation. I laid on my bed, meditated for a few minutes, prayed for clarity and fell asleep. About an hour later, I woke up in the sleep paralysis state. I had been through this before and understood what it was. Understanding the situation, I decided that this was a good time to meditate and ask for guidance. Soon enough, I felt the vibration in my body changing. At that time, I was aware of the vibrational shift that usually precedes my leaving my body. I had read about out-of-body experiences (OBE) and had even had a few semi-conscious experiences, but I had only had one totally conscious OBE.
In my first totally conscious OBE, I answered for myself two of the deepest questions a human being can ask himself: “Can I really exist without my body and can my soul actually curse?” During the experience, I remembered the vibrations quickening in speed and raising in volume. Fear had stopped me so many times before, but this time, I was ready. The vibrations quickened to the point where it felt more natural to leave my body than to stay in it. I gave the okay to go and I was gone. Immediately, I found myself shooting out of my body and ended up five feet over it. I must say that the first phrase that I ever uttered while out of my body was not “this is one small step for me and one giant leap for mankind.” I just looked around in total awe, and when I realized what was really happening, I yelled, “What the [expletive] am I doing up here?” After that now infamous first phrase, I shot myself right back and, with one big thump, re-entered my body and the experience was over.
So, overcoming fear was still very much a major part of the out-of-body experience for me. Now, once again, I found myself in the meditative state that allows for conscious OBEs and once again I had to fight the fears which I now know are not real, but I had made them real because of my belief in them. I again felt the vibrations in my body quickening. I had read about this, but it was definitely very different to read about it than to actually experience it physically. Not only was I feeling a very real vibrational quickening inside my body, but there were also a lot of strange and loud noises that accompanied this shift. I had read that this was totally safe and I believed it, or so I thought. I kept telling myself to keep it together, to stay strong, that it was all right. I kept telling myself that all the fear I was experiencing was simply an illusion I was creating. So I stayed on course, yet the vibrations seemed to quicken and the noises got louder. It was literally like an earthquake occurring inside my body, yet I somehow understood that there was no physical movement occurring. I knew that my physical body was completely still, and yet I felt I was traveling at 200 miles per hour in a ’72 Land Cruiser, on a bumpy dirt road, during an earthquake measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale.
I then felt like my spirit wanted to shoot out of my body. I kept telling myself to keep it together, that I was creating all the fear I was experiencing. I literally felt myself wanting to leave my body, and that all I had to do was give the okay. The feeling was similar to traveling in your car at a high rate of speed, sticking your hand out the window, and creating a cupping shape with your hand. You would feel intense wind pressure against your hand, making you use the strength in your arm to keep your hand upright. At some point, there would be too much pressure against your hand. That was how I felt – like I was literally keeping myself inside my body. All I had to do was to let go, and I would have been released. At that point, it felt more natural to leave my body than to stay in it.
Just as I finally got up the courage to let go to see what would happen, I remembered that my mother was in the house. My first thought after that was, what if the books that I read were wrong? What if I somehow leave my body, and can’t find my way back? What if I die and my mother is the first one to find my lifeless body in my room? Death was really not as big of a deal as my mother being the first to find my dead body. Although I felt I had the courage to leave, I did not want my mother’s pain on my conscience. At least that’s the excuse I used at that time. So there I was, ready to physically leave, but not emotionally secure enough to let go and too worried about coming back. I remember telling myself, “Okay, if someone can guarantee me a ticket back, I will be more than ready to leave.” I then asked my spirit guides to give me a sign that I would be okay, that it would be safe for me to leave. Suddenly, at what seemed to be 50 yards above me, there appeared a white bird, and behind the white bird there appeared to be the sun. For a moment, I became mesmerized by the beauty and realism of this scene. The white bird flew in a figure eight pattern, yet it stayed in front of what I thought was the sun. It had the brightness of the sun but it did not at all hurt my eyes. Then again, I was not using my physical eyes to see this, but I could still “see” it. Although the bird flew in a figure eight, the sun was always its background. I say background, because I could always see the entire bird, and it always seemed to fly in front of this bright light.
Again, my ego struck, and I told my guides, “Gee guys, this is great. It is a very beautiful sign, but what I really need is a simple yes or no answer to the question ‘will I be able to come back alive?'” I know my guides are very spiritual beings, but I often wonder if they ever think, “Man, this guy is a real pain in the ass!” Here I am, being offered one of the most awe-inspiring experiences I have ever had, and I keep asking for more assurances.
My friend, I’m sure some of you have wondered if your guides can actually be patient enough to handle the way you choose to grow. Well, let me tell you that if my guides have been generous and patient enough to handle me, then I’m sure your guides are generous and patient enough to handle you.
So after a few moments of waiting to hear a yes or no answer, I simply let fear take control and decided to abruptly end the session. The white bird made me feel that it would have been okay to leave the body, but for whatever reason, my ego needed to hear a yes or no answer. When I did not get a clear yes or no, I simply ended the session. Later, I felt bad about not leaving my body and joining the white bird, but in the end I chose to chalk it up as a learning experience. Although I knew I did not have to, I apologized to my guides for letting such a wonderful opportunity pass me by. I promised that I would not forget the experience, and that next time, I would be more physically and emotionally prepared.
With mixed emotions, I opened my eyes. On one hand, I felt bad for allowing such a wonderful experience to end so abruptly. Yet on the other hand, I was proud of getting to the point I had, past all those fearful thoughts. And so the experience ended, and I still had no clue why I experienced what I experienced. I had asked for clarity regarding which MBA program would be best for me, and what I got in response was a white bird in front of a sun. I did not think anything else of the experience. I thought to myself, “Well, this time I did not get an answer, maybe I’ll try asking some other day.” So I simply put it away in my memory. I was very grateful for the experience, yet I felt that the whole experience did not bring any more clarity to my concerns. Or so I thought!
My number one choice for the MBA program was the University of Notre Dame, a well known Catholic institution. Although I was raised as a Catholic, I had gone to church only a small number of times. The topic of religion was never really discussed in our house, and I did not begin thinking about religion until late in my college years. I slowly began to respect what I had thought Jesus tried to teach the world, and yet I also felt extremely uncomfortable with the constant judgment from the Catholic Church and its leaders. At the same time that I judged the judges for judging, I began to respect Catholic institutions such as Notre Dame for their dedication to ethics and community service programs. After college, I told myself that if I ever got a post-graduate degree, I would seriously consider going to Notre Dame. So, when the time came to apply to MBA programs, Notre Dame became my first choice because I liked the idea of balancing business and ethics courses along with the opportunity to be of service to the community. No other program offered that kind of balance.
Three months after my white bird experience, I took a trip to interview at Notre Dame. I landed in Chicago and drove two and a half hours east to South Bend, Indiana. It was early February and it was windy and cold. If you had lived near the equator for most of your life as I had, “windy and cold” would be considered a very kind description. As uninviting as the weather was, once on campus, I felt like I was on sacred ground. I had not yet interviewed at any other school, and I felt apprehensive and a little uncomfortable. Although I did not have the proper coat or the proper shoes to be walking around in the snow, I decided to take a walk around campus to try and calm my nerves. As I was walking around campus, a large basilica drew my interest. Although my knowledge of churches was limited, I believed this had to be one of the most beautiful Catholic cathedrals in the country. I walked inside and was awed by the magnificent glass murals. Each one depicted a story from the Bible. As I neared the pulpit at the center of the church, I turned to my right and was shocked by what I saw. I simply could not believe what I was seeing.
There it was on a glass mural – the white bird in front of the sun. Below the bird stood a woman surrounded by a group of men. Like a child, I ran around inside the church trying to find the nearest church supervisor. I found an old man in his seventies who looked like he had worked in the basilica forever. Excitedly, I grabbed his arm, and asked him to come with me. I remember him staring at me like I was crazy. But I was also twice his size and a third of his age, so he must have found it prudent not to resist. When I finished dragging the man from one side of the church to the other, he sighed with relief that the journey was over. I pointed upward, hoping to get a wise biblical answer to what was being depicted in the mural. The old man looked me and said, “Yeah… what?” I responded with “the bird and the sun, the bird and the sun.” He backed up a little trying to get a better picture of what was going on with me (or he might have been trying to get a head start on his escape). I didn’t think he understood the importance of the occasion for me, so I started telling him the whole story.
“Listen man,” I said. “You have to hear this. I had this incredible vision where this white bird was flying in front of a sun, just waiting for me to leave my body and join it!”
Well let’s just say that this statement did not seem to ease his concerns about my sanity! Later on, I laughed about it, but at the time I thought I was being perfectly clear. In my mind, this guy was seventy and a believer, thus he must have also experienced this same kind of vision sometime during his life. Yet, as I told the story of what happened to me, the old man seemed to be getting more and more nervous. Maybe he thought I was going to turn into Satan, create a hole in the middle of the church, and take him down with me! Obviously, he was uncomfortable with my story, so I stopped, took a deep breath and asked him one more time, “Could you please explain to me what is being depicted in this mural?” Finally, he told me the story. The mural depicted the story of the Holy Spirit descending on the Virgin Mary and the disciples. This scene had taken place after the death of Christ.
So there I stood, in total awe that the Holy Spirit, the spirit of God, would consider me important enough to even know who I was. All I knew back then was that to even believe myself to be in the same company as the Virgin Mary and the disciples was probably considered blasphemy at best. Now I know that those “higher beings” would never see another being as “lower.” We are all equally loved by God. In His eyes, we are all His children. Only in our confusion could we have made a God that could create any one being more beautiful and deserving of His love than another.
After this experience, I became calm about my upcoming interview. I simply knew that everything would be okay. When the time came to walk into the admissions office, I felt calm, collected, confident and cool. The office receptionist told me that the individual who was supposed to interview me had called in sick. At that second I thought, “I traveled three thousand miles to be turned away, and asked to come back another day?” She must have seen the disappointment on my face, because she told me, with what appeared to be a mischievous smile, “Don’t worry, the Dean of Admission herself wants to interview you!” Well, you might agree with me that this statement might make the average person a little nervous, but I actually felt at peace. I simply felt that the cards were being stacked in my favor. Before meeting her, I knew that this was the perfect person to interview me. And so I walked into the Dean of Admission’s office calm, collected, confident and cool. We talked for nearly an hour about everything from my work experience in Venezuela to meditation (excluding the little white bird story). The interview went as well as I could have hoped. The director and I seemed to get along very nicely, and the interview flowed. After the interview ended, I thanked her for her time and she thanked me for traveling three thousand miles (yes, you bet I used that fact). I got back into my car, very happy to have had such a positive experience, and started on my way back to Venezuela.
Over the next four weeks, I interviewed at three other schools. It was now mid-April, and it was getting close to decision time. I had received two positive responses, and one waiting list response, but I had received no response from Notre Dame. I was again getting a little tense waiting for their answer. So, on a Wednesday night, I headed to my “Course in Miracles” group. When it was my time to share, I went on and on about my concerns. The facilitator patiently waited for me to finish, and then asked me if I trust God. In shock, I replied, “What do you mean – of course I trust God!” Then she said, “Yes, but do you really trust Him?” Right then and there, I understood what she was saying: if I truly trusted God, I would not worry about where I was headed; for wherever I was headed would be the perfect place for me. Right then and there, I understood that worrying was the complete opposite to trust, and when I choose to trust I never need to worry. The facilitator asked if I was ready to release my worry to God and replace it with trust. With my whole heart, I said, “yes!” And when I did, I felt a weight lifting off my right shoulder and back. It literally and physically felt as though a weight had been lifted, yet not only had it been lifted off my back, but I could also feel the weight moving above me, and somehow I felt the weight moving through the roof. I felt like I had released it, and that it was somehow moving toward God’s light, where it would be dissolved.
I felt very blessed by the whole experience. I had so shifted my perception that, for a while, I felt like I was walking on air. From that moment on, I never worried about where I was headed, or where I was going to spend the next two years of my life. Regardless of how much longer I would have to wait for a decision from Notre Dame, I knew that I would not spend another restless second. Yet as God would have it, I would not have to wait long at all.
The following afternoon, I was headed out the door when the phone rang. Although I am someone who is not too concerned about answering phone calls, I figured I would just pick it up, say “hi” to the person and then politely excuse myself by saying that I was on my way out. I picked up the phone, and the lady on the line asked for James Blanchard. I told her that I was James Blanchard, and she asked me to please hold for the Dean of the Admissions Department of Notre Dame! I decided it was prudent to find the nearest chair so I could immediately sit down and catch my breath. Notre Dame’s Dean of Admissions came on the line, congratulated me for being admitted and welcomed me to the University. I believe my brilliant response was “Huh… what?” Thankfully she did not judge my brilliance and, after composing myself, I thanked her about seven times for the opportunity. Let’s just say that the next day I woke up with a sore face from having a permanent 18-hour smile.
And so the circle closed, from asking for guidance with regard to my MBA, to receiving what I thought to be a beautiful yet unrelated vision, to being awed by its message, to being nervous and apprehensive about the upcoming interview, to the absolute and immediate release of fear. Thankfully, I gained the knowledge that there was someone in the universe who knew that things would be okay. I went from being very concerned about a specific issue, to learning that if I choose to trust, I need never again worry. All this resulted from a simple but sincere prayer.
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