Broken Knees

If I sit on a coach and put my feet up on a coffee table and each day I add an extra half pound of weight onto my knees — a book, a couple magazines, a newspaper — at some point my knees will buckle and collapse. It has nothing to do with genetics or biochemical imbalance. It has to do with that part of my anatomy is crutching something that over time becomes too heavy. That something is the collective materials that I have continually added on to my knees.

When that collapse happens, there is significant injury, and that is when a person’s biochemistry reacts and responds to that injury in the form of significant pain.

If you only treat the pain, i.e. with pain killers and suppressants, without dealing with the underlying injury, the chance that the knee will heal and recover and be able to regain full functionality is exceptionally low. And there is a very high chance that the person may limp for the rest of their life.

Yes. We all carry stress. We carry different amounts of stress and we carry it in very different ways. Some people become conditioned to carry significant weight and can do so quite well. Yet if that weight continues to grow without relief, it is much more likely that the continual strain will cause problems.

I have used this analogy of collapsed and broken knees since shortly after the breakdown / spiritual awakening I endured in 1998.  In my case, the sources of that weight were abstract and not visible to most people. My breakout was a result of a moral injury that woke me up to my toxic enabling of dysfunctional systems that I had become conditioned to. That is why a phrase like “spiritual awakening” is quite appropriate for my type of experience.

My soul “woke up” to the toxic conditioning that had been building in my life over several years. Other people couldn’t see the accumulation of weight because the sources of the weights burying my soul were not physical, concrete objects. The weights were abstract. The weights were a combination of past trauma and dysfunctional, even abusive, systems around me. My coping mechanisms and learned behavior from past experiences allowed me to tolerate a significant amount of stress, yet I didn’t realize I was walking straight into a stress breakdown.

The Game of Jenga

Jenga is a game made up of stacked oblong blocks that create a tower. The base is made up of three blocks laid next to each other which form a square. Then another three blocks are turned 90 degrees and laid on top of the first layer. Layers of three blocks are added to ultimately create a tower of 18 layers using 54 blocks.

Once the tower is built, each player takes turns to identify blocks that are “loose” in that they are not structurally holding much weight above it. The player can then push that block free and place it on top of the structure to start a new layer. As the game progresses, the initial structure has several blocks missing that have been used to add layers to make the tower taller. That is, the foundation is compromised in order to build a taller tower.

As the structure grows taller, the players know that the base structure is less stable. And at some point, the structure will collapse because the base support is weakened by the effort to build on top of it. That is, after all, the point of the game.

After the tower collapses, the blocks are arranged again to create a new tower as the starting point.

In a sense, as the game begins, that tower could be considered an established experiencebase. Some people may call it the ego, the mind or even the ego-mind.

  • The process of building the tower represents a child learning building their experiencebase. The child creates structure based on the world around them and how they feel, experience, interact with, and learn from it.

  • The lowest levels of the Jenga tower represent the foundations learned as a child with additional layers of experience and knowledge added as the child grows and understands more about the world around them.

  • As the “game of life” continues, there are times when we must rely on our initial resources to develop new things as we continue to grow.

  • If however, we pull too much away from the original base rather than incorporating new, additional resources to grow, we create vulnerable spots in the existing structure.

  • This can lead to collapse and can no longer support the new weight added in the form of growth.

Unlike Jenga, the blocks and pieces in an experiencebase are not equal. Some are based in health and accomplishment while others may be rooted in significant trauma and pain. In a sense, certain “blocks” in the experiencebase perhaps break or become rotted out and need to be removed and potentially replaced.

We often don’t understand those pieces and elements of how we structure memory, meaning, and significance in our own lives. We simply do the best we can. We may inadvertently add too much weight to an area that can no longer support it and BAM, that structure collapses.

This Jenga analogy does fall apart (pun intended) in that a person’s experiencebase is much, much more complex and multi-dimensional than the basic three-block layer in the game. Yet there are comparisons that may be of benefit:

  • A general understanding as to what kind of structure a person works from.

  • How does that person draw on their resources (each block) as they manage additional responsibilities (adding layers to grow the tower)?

  • Are sections of the tower becoming unstable as additional layers are added?

  • If so, how can those sections be reinforced?

  • Is there a point where sections of the tower fall or implode? (Maybe that’s a good thing in the long run.)

  • If the tower collapses, who can help the person create perhaps build a better tower for them to use going forward?

As with the game of Jenga, when sections of the experiencebase collapse, in order to continue, the tower must be rebuilt somehow. Unlike in the game of Jenga, when that collapse and implosion happens, there is a living, breathing, feeling entity that feels pain in that process.

Hopefully, as that structure is rebuilt, it can lead to a healthier future for the person involved.

Near-Death Experiences

With a near-death experience, life changes, love grows, and the universe moves into another world. ~ Petra Hermans

I have long been intrigued by accounts of death and near-death experiences.

In March, 2020, I picked up a copy of Eben Alexander’s book, Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey Into the Afterllife. His book describes his near-death experience in the midst of a physical health crisis. His body was in a coma for a week. During that time, his soul / spirit / consciousness experienced intense realms which he describes in his book.

As I read through the book, I noticed that some of his descriptions about what he observed and felt while his body was in a coma reasonably matched my own surreal experiences from my spiritual awakening / emergency.

I had heard about “ego death” years before, though when I looked into it, ego death most often referred to experiences when people took psychedelics. The ego “dies” and the person experiences other realms and levels of consciousness without the ego limiting the experience.. In most cases, when a person finishes their “trip,” the ego revives from its “death” and begins to function again.

A few months after reading Proof of Heaven, I came across another book written by a anesthesiologist who had a near-death experience while undergoing surgery.

The two accounts described both difficult hellish realms and glowing, loving heaven-like realms — within the same near-death experiences.

In both accounts, the authors indicated that their near-death experiences were extreme, extraordinary, overwhelming, and even miraculous. Both men described significant difficulty in returning to this physical realm (what we call reality). Having experienced something so much “bigger” and so much beyond anything they had ever heard of and imagined, returning to this realm was quite difficult since what they experienced was so magnificent in comparison — and so much more real.

In the early 1990s, I read Betty Eadie’s book, Embraced by the Light, which describes her near-death experience, which happened while she was staying at a hospital after surgery. When I read that book, I loved the imagery of what she described. I embraced her book and the description of her experiences. She, too, struggled for many months after her experience in “returning” to function in this physical world.

Near-Death Experience While Staying Awake

Apparently, near-death experiences are often quite intense and much more “real” than what a person experiences in this realm. And it can be difficult for the person going through that experience to deal with the intensity of that experience when trying to function in this realm.


Typically with near-death experiences, the physical body is immobilized somehow, whether on an operating table or in a hospital bed or sometimes even in a bed at the person’s home. While the person experiences another, extreme form of consciousness, the person is not awake (conscious) to this realm. They are “dead” to this realm. Well, at least immobilized.

In a typical near-death experience, the person is not interacting with the sights, sounds, impulses, and stimulation of this realm. They don’t have to worry about feeding themselves, getting dressed, paying bills, interacting with other people, or other daily tasks. With the body and mind closed from this physical realm, the person’s soul or energy can experiences something exceptional, something that is often beyond description. Those experiences can be positive or negative, very intense, life-transforming, and highly insightful.

Now have that near-death experience without losing consciousness to this realm. That is, have the intensity of a near-death experience while still being active and conscious in the physical realm.

What does that look like?

If someone has a near-death experience without losing consciousness to this realm, that could be quite a mess — and even more difficult to navigate. A person would also have to deal with the intensity and surreality of a near-death experience. AND at the same time, the person would still have to deal with their daily activity of the physical realm. The person is still awake and conscious to this world while potentially experiencing the intensity described in near-death descriptions.

As a result, a person would have potentially clashing realms of consciousness to deal with. And one of those realms is extreme, foreign, and perhaps quite unsettling or even frightening.

When flooded with another, more intense level of consciousness, a person could see the same world through a completely different lens. With the flood of additional consciousness, a person could potentially see, perceive and experience something beyond the physical realm.

Comparing my experiences to a near-death experience clearly wasn’t my first description for my type of experience. In fact, it took over twenty years for me to make the connection to near-death experiences.

I knew my journey had specific elements related to death and the fear of death. Yet I never realized that the overall level of consciousness I experienced was comparable to what others have described while they were near death or immobilized.

As I think about it now, I do see that my type of “awakening” could be described as a near-death experience — yet I was still awake and conscious to this world also. I had to try to function in this world while experiencing something ridiculously intense beyond what I had experienced before.

Compassion and Assistance for Extreme Health Conditions

I have known since the summer of 1998, when I heard the song “Never Tear Us Apart” by INXS that in March, there were definitely “two worlds colliding” — the spiritual world and this physical world. And I was caught in the middle of that collision — and my friends were there with me from the other side to help me as I was buried in that collision

It’s interesting because people who face physical death situations typically receive a lot of compassion and concern. There is no disputing that the person faced some type of emergency. There is physical evidence of the danger. Though the person’s near-death experience may not be believed, at least there is compassion for the health crisis they endured and needed to recover and heal from.

Yet people dealing with an ego collapse and fracture and end up struggling with multiple realms of consciousness often receive no such compassion. Instead, too often, they face condescension, patronization, dismissal of their experience, and added trauma.

As more and more people understand the intensity of these other extreme forms of consciousness, maybe that will change. Hopefully, then people going through such a journey can be better assisted and acknowledged for the nature of their journey.

People’s accounts matter. The people who make the journey are the best to describe the landscape. With regard to these types of journeys, from what I can tell, the landscapes vary widely. Exceptionally so. In my opinion, that is all the more reason why people’s accounts matter, so that we can determine the different types of experiences to help people through them even better. Sure, each person can only describe their own terrain and path, yet it contributes to the overall cartography.


I’ve never been pregnant, which of course means I have never given birth to a child. I was going to say that I’ve never been through childbirth, but that isn’t really true. After all, I went through my own birth, though I don’t remember anything about that.

As I understand it, childbirth is many things.

  • First, it’s a process, a process of transformation, an exceptional and even miraculous transformation.
  • Next, it is ridiculously variable. I have spoken with friends who have given birth and collectively, a broad range of experiences and emotions emerge: exhilarating, frightening, even terrifying, chaotic, joyous, painful messy, gooey, long, frustrating, exciting and thrilling. In some cases, the process is even life-threatening for either the mother or the baby or both.
  • When a woman goes through the process, there is an astounding feeling of accomplishment and even pride. I recall one friend who told me on her daughter’s ninth birthday that after her daughter was born, how proud she felt. How she looked at that little baby and felt, “Look what I did. I created that!” And I remember the look of continued reverence that showed on her face.
  • if everything goes well with the process, the new baby emerges healthy, and the woman has something she would never want to give up. Whether the woman keeps the baby or gives the baby for adoption, her life is forever changed, and she knows it.
  • Tragically, in some cases, the process does not go well mother and / or the baby, which can lead to tremendous grief or loss and trauma. Long-term Impact may last a lifetime.
  • Afterwards, the woman remembers the events of the process, even that there was pain and chaos and perhaps even craziness, yet she isn’t still in that pain. It isn’t a chronic condition.
  • Ultimately childbirth is a significantly transformational process which changes a woman’s life forever.

What I just described isn’t unlike my transformational journey in 1998 — though there are obviously some glaring differences.

  • My transformational experience was much more abstract. Though I didn’t know it at the time, a decent description of what I was dealing with was the content of my shadow exploding and my ego structure collapsing and imploding. Ego, Shadow, and trauma are of course abstract and do not show up on things like X-rays, MRIs or biological tests.
  • Ultimately, I was waking up to the abusive systems and dynamics that I had become enmeshed in. I also woke up to my toxic enabling and codependent relationship with those systems and other people involved. Since the abuse was verbal instead of physical, it was also more abstract and subtle. Each individual event could be rationalized given the context. Yet damage was still done and those systems were not healthy in any way, shape, or form. Drat. None of that shows up in concrete physical form either.

Instead of the professionals evaluating my surroundings or even trying to assess the toxicity around me, I was assessed on my behavior and description of my thoughts while in the process. That is why I rejected the pathologizing label based on “illness” and “disorder.” If you don’t collect important information, it is highly likely that your conclusion is wrong.

My experience was an eruption, not unlike when the water breaks during a birthing process. When the water breaks, that is a sign of the next stages of the birth process.

At some point, there is no going back to earlier stages of the process. You must go through the remaining stages.

When I woke up to my own contribution to the unhealthy environments around me, there was no focus to help me through the process. Instead, I had a “disorder” and every effort was made to manipulate, coerce, and dominate (abuse) me back into the very same role that broke me open in the first place. As the person in that process, the attempts to manipulate, threaten, and shove me back into those abusive structures and systems was absolutely absurd. Even “crazy.”

Sure in the process or pregnancy, there are times when the birthing process starts too soon, so efforts are made to prevent the birth process from continuing. However, once the birth process has proceeded far enough along, the response by the doctors isn’t to try to shove that baby back into the womb. And I am pretty sure that if a doctor or midwife tried to do that, the mother would express some rather strong emotion about it. And she would be justified in doing so.

At some point, the rest of the birth process needs to happen.

Since 1998, I have considered March 28, 1998, to be my “spiritual birthday.” That is the anniversary of the crisis point in Banff, when I was sobbing on my knees next to the hotel bed, convinced that I would die in a plane crash the next day. And that is the night that I felt the miracle of my friends’ souls there with me, pressing up against my shoulders and back, supporting me, with Nikos even “coaching” me — telling me, insisting to me that I could do it. I could get out of it.

Since 1998, I have always honored my birthday, sometimes by going out to dinner or buying a special treat of ice cream or cake. Sometimes, I simply take a few moments and reflect on my journey and I thank Nikos and Kerin for being there when I needed their help.

It’s only been since 2020 that I have researched and learned more about spiritual awakening and spiritual emergencies. Apparently, some people go through the awakening process with minimal trauma and pain — that is, nothing like my own process.

I guess mine was a type of “breech spiritual birth.” Regardless, it was a beautiful journey, despite the pain. Though it would have been a lot easier had I been able to find people in the field who could have recognized that what I was experiencing was not an illness or disorder, but was rather a healthy and even beneficial process for my own mind, soul, and probably even body.

From what I can tell, there is still considerable misunderstanding related to this process.