In May, 2019, I went to take a 7 day workshop with Peter Levine, the creator of Somatic Experiencing on working with near death experiences in clients. The seminar is called The Eye of the Needle. I have been tracking the answer to the question: Do babies have near death experiences? most of my professional life. Here are notes from the days I spent with him. Many people reported they loved these reports. Enjoy!
Day One Summary, Eye of the Needle. So many curious observers of near death experiences! Here are experiences that were presented as true near death experiences: anesthesia, surgery especially c-section, high fever, resuscitations, serious injury, drowning, poisoning, fetal birth experiences of anoxia, hypoxia. heart attack. He talked a long time about anesthesia and anesthesia medicine: Versed versus propofol. He read from Versid blogs. This drug creates a lot of problem. There was discussion of when people wake during anesthesia. We discussed states of consciousness and traumas from these difficult experiences, and practiced doing and intake with people. Peter says that the skills of helping people recover from near death states are very very delicate. He stressed that. And the person who goes into the singularity between life and death (eye of the needle) needs to be calm. I will see if I can find some of the studies he quoted and put them below in the comments.
I am here because I encounter near death states when working with birth. I have been tracking my own near death at birth for 20 years and have had a lot of wonderful and meaningful adventures doing so. My experiences are being channeled into my training for professionals. In my experience, near death puts us in relationship with our consciousness, and the universal consciousness. Babies are very close to that universal consciousness. John Chitty used to say that they are Royalty of Humanity. The portal to who we really are is near for them. As we grow, we get layered on by our experiences. That is something that is meant to happen. Then we start to remember all this as we get older (or maybe we don't).
Also, our difficult experiences and adaptation patterns to them carry a lot of energy and are a portal to blueprint states (Anna Chitty). This particular imprint of near death carries a lot energy.
Today is Day 2. I will give you another report tomorrow
Day 2: Eye of the Needle. We did a lot of observation of the sequence needed to work with these particular states in people. The work is very poignant, and my take away is the skill of the practitioner is in really seeing the essence of the person who has come for help, their strengths, their will to live, how they have managed, their beauty as a living being. Then skills have to help people stabilize in their body. The practitioner tracks skills of expansion and contraction of the energy in the body, the survival energy. There are many layers to a person. The use of sound, jaw, hand and arm movements are useful in particular.And it is important to really meet the person where they are with what they need, and keenly observe and understand what their physiology is doing.
Eye of the Needle Day 3: We practice on each other and did a lot of observing Peter work. It is really wonderful to watch him, feel with him, sense into the work he has designed, feel his patience, his humor, and listen with every sense how to take someone through the feeling of dying and coming back to life fully. Today, a gem from him: "Hear the signal in the noise". There are so many ways to go in to what is happening in the body. Peter is profoundly somatic. The physiology has his attention, but he listens to what the person says, reflecting strengths, essence, then he waits for the moment to just guide, catch, collect, turn around energy. He works with presence, then content, guides you as practitioner to help a person sequence and stitch their experiences, slowing the pace. Waiting, giving opportunities to build capacity. Supporting the bigger message for people, too.
Eye of the Needle Day 4: It is not just Peter who is teaching. There are many teaching assistants and the people here are all advanced somatic experiencing trauma healers who have made this big commitment. So the energy is positive, upbeat and hardworking. We are all so still and attentive during demonstrations. There are usually 2 demos a day, and sometimes more. Yesterday's practice was good for me as I took someone through the Eye of the Needle. In a Q & A, afterwards, one question about the name was a good topic. What is the Eye of the Needle? It is an altered state that we go into connected to a life/death event. Feedback from a TA was so good about the role of the diaphragm wanting to open and breathe while the body is containing so hard in reaction to near death, resisting opening, afraid that the body will fragment, hanging on for dear life so to speak. I was mentored to say to the person, your diaphragm is opening, and your body is having a memory. The TA said that sometimes raw sobbing can be the stitch that allows the body to open and integrate the experience. We work with breath here in so many ways. Encouraging the felt sense of safety and capacity, working with diaphragms throughout the body, calming, holding presence. The course includes sections on mythopoetic or archetypal material that is often connected to near death. Images, important figures, memories. Here are few questions, sayings that I like from Peter:
"Le'ts follow that."
"Let's take a moment with that."
"If your tears could speak, what would they say?"
"Can we stay a little longer here."
"I'm alive and I'm real."
"The body is speaking in its unspoken voice."
"I can sense your strength."
"Let yourself be with that feeling."
And So Much More .
Life and death are a polarity, and life happens in between, say Jaap Van der Wal. Perhaps we are dealing more with "near life" experiences as he says. My clients who have died and come back are very much at peace. The death experience is a resource. Perhaps, and just perhaps now, near life experiences are what William Emerson calls Divine Homesickness. It is a place of longing and self doubt. The person asks, why am I here? And there are many coping and adaptation patterns to manage the feeling state.
Eye of the Needle Day 5: I had my own Eye of the Needle experience on Day 5. Of course we practice on each other and it is not about the client, it is about the practitioner's experience. We were working with diaphragms. I had picked a practitioner I had worked with before at another venue. One I knew my body trusted. She had gotten me closer to integrating this near death place in me than anyone else.In some of our demos, Peter talked about finding people who could really take you there, and how hard it is. One of the intakes was getting the therapeutic history, like how many therapists the person has seen and what was their experience. I have had people try to help me with this place and very few really got me through, and quite a few didn't know what they were doing. The ones who have helped the most are quite well practiced trauma resolution therapists who deeply understand the nervous system. In my experience yesterday (Day 5), I went to the place where I blacked out because of the pain, but of course I was awake yesterday. My intention was to experience the gap between losing consciousness and waking up fighting. We did that. It was uncomfortable at first. The procedural memory is just faint now after working so hard on this place in me, but it was there. My near death is at birth. The breech birth. The ring of pain around my sphenoid bone was pretty bad. Made me wonder more about what that was. High forceps? Opening of the vaginal canal? The doctor's hands? I have seen breech babies with those imprints. Instead of blacking out this time, I went into the clouds, disembodied and encountered Jesus there. My practitioner was quite good at guiding me to have an experience. There was no pain. It was very reassuring. Then I emerged out of the eye of the needle. The pain returned again to my head. My poor head went through a lot there. Again, an imprint. A procedural memory, and a mythopoetic experience of near death. All tied up in a neat bundle. I was sore afterwards. I got a massage last night. With every part of my body that was massaged I imagined it was a therapist with the baby, saying, this is your foot. This is your arm. You made it. Embodied. Here. Planet Earth. I love this body. Thank you body. I am sorry body for all you have gone through. To be continued . . . This is the last day of class. Then tomorrow 4 case reviews of near death, however, I think these experiences are near life really, like Jaap Van der Wal says.Thank you for reading my blow-by-blow of my experience.
Addendum to Day 5 Eye of the Needle. Most of our demonstrations with Peter Levine have had a birth element. Difficult birth experiences of different kinds, so I asked Peter, How prevalent is difficult birth a part of Eye of the Needle, and what, in your mind would help humanity improve on this? While he didn't say, well there is high prevalence of birth difficulty in the work of EON, he did go on to talk about improving birth outcomes. Over medicalization of birth is the culprit, he says, but even in home birth there has been difficulty. He mentioned a few techniques he used to help with a home birth once. Sounds doable to teach birth staff what he said. Then he went on to say, work with midwives, doulas. They do a good job. Yes! That is what I am about, in teaching trauma resolution to midwives, doulas, and lactation. I am working with a midwife to integrate trauma resolution approaches into maternity care. I think postpartum doulas can really help moms, too, and families. The techniques these days are very refined. And like finding a practitioner who can help take you to where you need to go to heal, so, too, you need practitioners who understand these states. Birth is a mythopoetic journey. It is a transformational time. We are attracted or repelled. It is very compelling. Life and death. We are drawn to the light for those of us who feel called. My training is called Prenatal and Perinatal Dynamics. I invite you to study with me and make a difference for humanity. I teach skills, awareness, presence and the baby's experience too. I am in partnership with amazing midwife, Lois Trezise. My trainings are listed at ppncenter.com. Forgive my plug for my work, but also, join us. Let's change things around for a better humanity.
Finally, Peter said, have you seen, Call the Midwife? A show on PBS. Oh, he said, you have to watch that. I cried when it was over. Luckily they are doing more. Watch that and then come back
Eye of the Needle Postscript: We had 7 days of near death (near life). There were many gems and jewels Day 6, and then day 7 we had 4 case reviews. There were so many things to that happened. so many things to say. One of them is Peter had a way of recognizing the deep health. He calls it an inner rhythm, a deep self, like a flickering candle, a flickering flame that is always there and will always be there. To evoke this he puts people on something called a bellicon, so they can feel their on internal rhythm. Often he asks people to catch their symptoms before they flame, like just blowing on a coal before it flames. He uses interventions that gently evoke symptoms and then waits for the pendulation to happen, and even guides some of that. We expand, we contract. There were many other gems, including helping people who are attached to the blissful side of near death to integrate all of it, the hellish parts, too. While near death is a resource quite often, these people will still have symptoms. He says, often people will identify with one realm, heaven or hell realms. We need to integrate, otherwise we may just push and override to live as opposed to being in touch with our rhythm, and really thriving rather than just surviving. He works with the jaw, where he says it is about blocked aggression. He uses a main tool called a "voo", and deep vibrational sound. He uses squeeze. He connects well with people, and when asked how much he engages with the personality, he says, as little as possible, but not because he does not like the person, it is because he says the persona obscures the true identity. As I said before, the work is about state change and working to first stabilize then help evoke the change the person wants for themselves. When they change, the world changes, too. It can soften.
At one point, he talked about the work of Emmanuel Swedenborg, where there are 4 kinds of wounds: The physical, of which there are many thousands; emotional of which there are 3: regret for the past, fear of the future, and not feeling present. Mental wounds that end up in one: critical self judgment, and Spiritual where the wound is the illusion of separateness. He made a gesture with his hand like turning a combination lock and said, you have to get the right amount of healing from all 4 domains.
When working with story, he will say to the person, "Take me with you," or "Walk me through what happened," and will will really go with them into the experience, especially positive experience. He normalized the difficulty, and then intervenes with pauses, touch, phrases, and tools like his voo, smooveys, bellicon. For the difficult part, he says, just touch it and return. Go back and forth and make a bridge. In my work we call this the Leading Edge (Hat tip to Ray Castellino and all my students, class A and B.) He uses tools of posture, of noticing expansion and flexion.
I also loved his description of our sense of self and how that starts in relationship to the placenta and our mother. His detailed description of the anatomy and the experience of the placenta made complete sense to me. And how birth trauma or even inutero trauma sets up a pattern of sheer effort to live and how that can manifest as authentic achievement with an overlay of pushing.
So much wisdom in 7 days. And this was just some of it. I went through 3 pens taking notes. There were many more lessons learned, mostly around the art of the relational field and knowing our natural capacity for healing. It was very good!