Accidental Clairvoyance

louisa P_2013Here’s a passage from later in the book – Weird Thing #10.  At the time I was unaware, as are most people, that having had a Near Death Experience often entails after-effects of a psychic nature.  I didn’t learn this until I started attending a NDE group (Seattle IANDS).  So when this happened, I could only wonder what the heck was up with me….


In the fall of 2004, I landed my dream job directing the English Department Writing Center at the University of Washington.  If I thought you were interested, I’d write pages on the joys of working with brilliant, gifted students with a natural philanthropic bent toward their peers and the world in general – but I doubt you are.  Briefly, I got to choose my tutoring staff based on writing samples and the capacity for empathy I detected in interviews, then teach them via my own class to conduct writing center work, and finally mentor them for years as they tutored in the center.  I learned so much from these students, who wanted to be of service to others, even though their lives didn’t depend on it.  I was “out” in the Writing Center as both an alcoholic and former lesbian, and from my desk I offered an “ask me anything” service something like Lucy’s psychiatry in Peanuts.  They claim, to this day, to have learned as much from me as I did from them.

So… more about overcoming fear and sickness, but first, here comes a Writing Center Weird Thing.

Before I developed the online sign-up system, students used stop by in person to reserve tutoring appointments, which we scheduled on an ordinary clipboard.  One day a girl came in requesting an appointment.

“Your name?” I asked, hovering my pen over the time slot.

“Wendy…” she said, and then paused for me to write it.

I wanted to write ‘Wendy,’ except something jammed up in my brain.  I felt her waiting, but for the life of me, I couldn’t remember how to make a ‘W’!   I tried, and pushed, but nothing came out.  I did know how to make an ‘L,’ however, because my name began with that, so I just went ahead and wrote, ‘Lee.’

The girl pulled back a bit.  In an alarmed voice she demanded: “How did you do that?!”

“Oops!” I said, reflexively crossing it out.  “I don’t know why I wrote that!”

“No!  That’s my last name,” said the girl, her voice flat, “but I hadn’t said it yet.”  She stared at me accusingly.

I felt embarrassed, confused.  “I’m sorry!” was all I could think to say.  “Lucky guess!”  My primary feeling was not amazement that I’d just read this girl’s thoughts, but embarrassment that I’d been caught doing so.

She pointed insistently at the crossed out ‘Lee.’  “That’s how you spell it, too, with double E.  I’ve never been here in my life!  How do you know my name?!”

“I don’t know…. I couldn’t think how to make an ‘W,’” I faltered, now writing ‘Wendy’ after a comma and tracing over the crossed out letters, “so I just wrote ‘Lee’ instead.”  I laughed uneasily as if to say, ‘you know how it is!’ and imagined if I could just get her appointment set, she’d let it go.

“That makes no sense!”  She stared at me, irate, as though I took her for a fool.  I suppose she was thinking I’d been spying on her somehow.

“I’m sorry!  My mind just must have just picked it up because you were about to say it!”

That answer – the truth – did not satisfy Wendy Lee.  She left visibly angry.  I told some of the tutors what had just happened and showed them the clipboard, but we could only laugh and shake our heads at my rude telepathy.  When Wendy came in for her appointment a few days later, she stared at me across the room as though I were either a witch or a spy.  I felt amused that someone could not accept a simple case of telepathy, though, at Wendy’s age, I’d have been equally insistent that I must be hiding some logical explanation.

Though I still had no idea why so many Weird Things happened to me, I was beginning to feel comfortable with the fact that they regularly did.  It was just my lot.


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Another Near Death Story

At today’s meeting of Seattle IANDS (International Association of Near Death Studies), we heard from a guy named John, a laser show artist, about a Near Death Experience he had over a decade ago.  John is a no bullshit, non-religious guy.  He remains non-religious today, because he feels no religion adequately captures the nature or intensity of the spiritual experience he had while dying.

In short form, John had been ill with flu for a week before he took a trip to California to attend a fancy catered party.  His appetite had just come back, so he ate a ton of the fancy food without realizing there were slivered walnuts in almost everything, to which he was violently allergic.  The party was at a house near Big Sur, right on the ocean, and after eating he and his girlfriend went down to check out the beach.  There he began to have trouble breathing and to sense his muscles “locking up.”  He told his girlfriend to go for help and, just before she was out of earshot, added with some of his last breath, “run.”

He sat on a rock and hunched over with his head down – the way he had been taught as an asthmatic was the best way to draw breath.  But he could breathe less and less.  He got scared.  He shut out all else but his efforts to inhale.  Then he “heard” a message to look up.  He ignored it.  It came back more insistently: “LOOK UP.”

He raised his head reluctantly and saw the sunset had transformed to something of overwhelming beauty.  The light was brighter, the colors more intense than he had ever seen, and there was an emotional power to these colors and forms.  He loved them powerfully, and he forgot his pain and fear.   He saw someone far down the beach coming toward him.  As the figure got closer, which happened very quickly, he saw the guy had on his same shoes, his same pants, shirt and – it was himself.   And yet when he looked at the face, he realized it also looked like his mom.  And his sister.  And his best friend.  Until it began to look like “everyone I’ve ever known, or felt for, all in one.  And then I knew it was god.”

He felt toward god as if the two of them were the closest friends ever and had missed each other so much.  There was incredible love.  God showed him his life, not just scenes, not just sights, but the emotional flares and highlights of his life, the moments he had connected, had helped or hurt or hoped or suffered.  Yet none of these things felt sad now.  They were his life, and both he and god were happy about them.  He could express any thought, feeling, or question to god without words, and understand huge amounts of complex response from god in the same way.

But then god shifted the ‘conversation.’  He thought to John, “I know you’re having a great time, and I don’t want to bring you down, but there’s something really serious going on right now.”  John realized he had to choose whether he wanted to go back to living or not.  God showed him all the possible lives ahead of him.  He said it was like a — I forget the name — but like a contraption they have at the Seattle Science Center where a ball dropped from the top can bounce off pegs either way to go right or left again and again; but it was also like looking down the “tube’ of a tree branch that bifurcates again and again — the impact of every decision that would create different courses for his life.  He understood then that his life to date was the totality of all the choices he had made in the past, and that to alter even one of them would alter his whole life.

He could choose one of those ‘paths,’ or he could choose death.  He sensed that god was equally fine with any choice he made, and even any way he lived his life.  He thought of all the people who would be inconvenienced by his death.  He saw ripple effects around the globe to people who didn’t even know him, but also worried about ruining the party.  He told god, “I don’t know why you even offered me this choice, because I am so not choosing death!  In fact, I’m going to the beach trail right now.”  He got up, turned from god, looked back once at the amazing, heavenly beauty of the sunset that was still there, took two steps, fell on his face, vomited into the sand under him and sucked this vomit-mud into his windpipe to aspirate.  He died.   BUT what he experienced was “like when you sort of almost black out, but you just keep sending signals to your legs to keep walking or whatever until it passes and you can see again,” except that he stayed in total blackness.  To his left and above, a light began to dilate brighter and brighter, but he assumed it was the party and kept “walking.”

Then, he heard people arguing to his right.  He thought he was back in the room where he and his girlfriend had been staying, and was looking down from the balcony to the living room below where his girlfriend and her step mother were arguing loudly.  He listened and realized it was about him.  The step mother was a CPR instructor but was refusing to do CPR on him because of the amount of sand-vomit in his mouth and throat.  There was no balcony, though.  They were on the beach.  He dropped to their level and tried to tell them not to worry about him, that there was no need to do CPR – he just wanted them to be happy.   At first he thought they were ignoring him, but gradually he realized, they didn’t hear him.  He saw his body on the beach and began to realize he was out of it; yet he didn’t care much either way, so long as others were happy.  Eventually the step mother caved.  She scooped as much barf-sand out of his mouth as she could.  He watched her get ready, breathe in, and lower her mouth to his.  Then SLAM!  “It was like a car crash” – he was back in his body.

After a while, he opened his eyes.  He knew the people above him were asking him what his name was and how many fingers, but her heard no sound as their lips moved.  Instead he heard the pounding of the waves incredibly clearly.  And he saw “people who were helping the people that were helping me.  Lots of them.  And I know this sounds incredibly far out, but I don’t have any other name for them but angels.  And yet it wasn’t about me.  They weren’t helping to ‘save’ me specifically, but as part of what we’re all doing here — all of those people, me, the world, all of us.”

It’s about love, he says.  It’s about connecting, it’s about feeling those intense emotions of life.  John says it’s about love in every form – wistful love, sad love, love of beauty,  love of loved ones,  love of strangers. “That’s what life is; that’s what we’re here to do.”

He had episodes of clairvoyance for years to come that really “freaked me out,” because he had tried to shut down his memories of the experience.  “It’s like you’ve been to Mars and met the Martians, but you have no evidence, you have no proof.  Even my best friends said, ‘Must’ve been a dream…’”

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The Ghost Scene: excerpt from A Spiritual Evolution

louisa P_2013In 1987, as a newly married Jewish housewife living outside Boston, I had never heard of Near Death Experiences, let alone the fact that people who return from them are prone to run-ins with the world of spirits.   Already a restless, irritable, and discontented drunk despite my husband’s wealth, I was consumed with infatuation for a 23-year-old Chinese-American instructor from the spa, Fitness Unlimited, where I taught aerobics.



Few people could have been less interested in the paranormal than I was at this point.  Not only was I a staunch materialist atheist who had managed to cram whatever surreal drug trip she’d experienced at the Peppermint Lounge five years earlier into the most remote corners of her mind, but I was so self-absorbed, so focused on pulling Janie into my world, that I had no attention to devote to anything else.  I did not believe spirits walked the earth.  I did not believe in the other side, the realm of spirit.  And I’d label anyone who did a loony.  Nonetheless, into my experience came another paranormal event, something even less explicable to me than whatever had happened when I “died.”

The FU bookkeeper, Edith, had a beach house in Gloucester to which she regularly invited the FU crew for weekends of “partying” – i.e. getting fucked up.  As I’ve said, my husband eschewed these gatherings, so when Edith invited us all out there for a winter visit, he didn’t come along – although he came to pick me up there on Sunday, as we had to be somewhere.  Janie’s boyfriend, Jerry, came down that weekend with her, and luck put them in the bedroom next to mine, where I could hear their springs rhythmically squeaking as I tried to sleep.  The sound was torture to me.  I loved Janie.  I had no earplugs.  I was filled with jealousy and despair – how would I ever win her away from a man?  All my clandestine hopes seemed foolish, and I cried.

I woke very early the next morning to their voices, a soft exchange of tonalities coming through the wall.  I would endure no more squeaking.  I got up and went downstairs.  The living room was filled with sleeping guests.  Since it was only about seven o’clock, I couldn’t so much as whistle the kettle, what with people passed out on all the sofas.  Outside, a winter storm was casting sheets of rain at the large picture windows.  Inside me was a turmoil of frustration and despair over Jerry and Janie’s lovemaking.  To me it seemed perfectly fitting to venture out alone in the storm à la Wuthering Heights or  King Lear, to rage against the gods who denied me what I so poignantly longed for.   I bundled up in some of Edith’s family raingear and went out.

The clouds hung so low I could see only a hundred yards ahead of me.  To my left were beachside houses getting pelted with rain, and to my right, wind-whipped waves pounding the beach.  I walked for some time, immersed in rain and wind, feeling hopeless and empty.  Gradually the row of houses gave way to grassy sand dunes that stretched back for some distance.  There was some kind of estuary behind them, some place no one could build.  And out of these dunes came a man.

He emerged from the tall clumps of grass about fifty feet in front of me, walking straight toward the water as if intent on some business, with a purposeful stride in high black boots.  I could see from this distance that he was stocky, maybe in his sixties, with a beard more grizzled than not.  But what I admired about him as I got closer, him coming down from the upper sands as I approached him perpendicularly, was his boss raingear.  It was vintage yellow, just like the old Mackintosh raincoats and rainpants my parents kept in the front hall closet when I was a child, their rubber half rotted.  His hat, too, was old school Mackintosh – which I admired.  Now I felt a kinship with him in two ways: not only were we the only two people crazy enough to be out at this ungodly hour in horrific weather, but we both appreciated the good, old fashioned value of vintage stuff.  In New York, I’d made many trips to the Alphabet streets to find quirky old garments.  Clearly, this guy did the same for rain gear.

But what was he so intent on?  We were almost going to bump into each other, I saw, if we both kept to our current paces.  His face carried some kind of intense apprehension about whatever he was looking for out on the horizon.  Reflexively I checked in that direction, too, though there was nothing to be seen out there but tumultuous waves and mist.  I decided I would compliment him on his duds.  I made those inner preparations we make to address a stranger.  But even within a yard of me, he kept ignoring me to stare fixedly toward the horizon.

“How’s it going?” I shouted cheerfully over the wind.

At that his head rotated just a few degrees in my direction, but he still refused to look at me and didn’t alter his pace a bit, even as he passed so close that I could have grabbed his shoulder.

Which was just plain rude, I thought as I walked on.  Here we are the only two people crazy enough to be out in this weather, I make the friendly effort to say, “how’s it going,” and he blows me off like some too-cool teenager?  What the hell?  He couldn’t even smile or nod or anything?  Anger burbled up.  Excuse me, Mr. Fucking Fish Sticks!  I turned to look at him in disgust—

– and there was no one.  The beach was empty.

I looked out at the breaking waves.  Had he sprinted down and dove straight into them?  The water curled and churned without a trace.  Was he determined to drown himself by staying under?  Was that why he’d seemed so tense and absorbed, because he’d been suicidal?  I’d wait him out.  No one could keep even their back from breaking the surface; it wasn’t possible.  Surely I’d see something – his hat?  It would float.  It had to float.

Nothing.  My eyes swept the beach.  Weird!  There was no place to which even a young guy could have disappeared so fast.  Even if he’d booked full speed, there was no way he’d make it back up all the way to the dunes.  And the beach itself offered no hiding places.  He’d simply vanished.

I took a few more steps….  and then I stopped again.  Vanished…like a ghost.

But ghosts were an absurd and corny notion.  An old fisherman ghost, too, that was just ridiculous.  Fuck that.  I’d get to the bottom of this right now.  I went to look for his tracks.  I followed mine back to about where his should cross them.  There were none.  The sand was undisturbed but for my footprints.  Maybe I’d walked further than I thought after we crossed?  So I went on, I kept looking.

Mine were the only tracks on the beach.

Help!  What do you do when something completely inexplicable needs to be explained?  When something categorically impossible has just occured?  This was no hallucination.  The panther I’d seen in my half-wakened panic attack, that had been like a dream, indistinct and more about feeling than physical details.  This was a human being.  An individual man.  I’d been calm.  I’d seen his crowsfeet, the broken capillaries of his skin, the way his eyes shifted when his head turned just a bit toward my voice.  He’d walked at a continuous pace, as mundane as any squat older man.

Except for the vanishing part.  The zero tracks part.  Human beings did not do that.  Yet it didn’t matter how long I searched; every track bore my imprint.  I, Louisa P–, had seen a ghost walk the earth.

I hurried back to the beach house where I found a few people now awake.  I babbled out what had just happened.

“Fuckin’ A!   Awesome!” everyone said.  “That’s so rad!”  “A seafaring ghost?  Right on!”

Nobody understood that this not awesome.  There was nothing rad, right on, or righteous about it because it had actually happened to me.   To live an experience you can’t understand is an upheaval, a deep disturbance.  I did not, would not, could not believe in ghosts!

“Oh, there’s all kinds of ghosts around Gloucester!” said Edith, who was mixing scrambled eggs.  She spoke as though I’d spied the state bird.  “So many ships went down, so many men drowned.  They have a monument at the esplanade – there’s, like, a thousand names.”  Then she concerned herself with cooking breakfast.

Everyone acted as though I should just marvel, shrug, and let it go.  What they didn’t understand was, while you can do that with something unlikely or remarkable, you can’t do it with something impossible.  Impossible requires a rewrite of reality.  And, once again, I was not prepared to go there.   Now I didn’t give a crap about Janie and Jerry’s screwing.  I didn’t care if Janie and I never got together.  All I wanted was for the world to behave itself – according to my rules, my dad’s rules, the rules of anyone who knew how reality worked.

When Ethan came to get me later that morning, the weather had cleared enough that he was willing to come out on the beach and help me look one more time for tracks.  Mine were all over the place, smoothed by rain, and other people had added theirs since. None, however, originated from the dunes.  I wanted to cry with frustration: I had seen him!  A real person.  Eventually, Ethan pried me away.  He didn’t say anything, but I could tell he was guessing my “ghost” had been either a pink elephant or some kind of adolescent ploy for drama and attention.

Eventually I had no alternative but to leave the incident behind me as an inexplicable experience, not knowing it to be the first of fourteen equally explicable phenomena –i.e. my Fourteen Weird Things – scattered over the course of my life to date.  Why I experienced it, I wouldn’t learn for twenty-some years, when I at last attended the Seattle chapter meeting of the International Association of Near Death Studies (IANDS), and began to learn from fellow NDE survivors that they, too, had paranormal experiences similar to mine.  In fact, seeing spirits, prescience, and accidentally reading others’ thoughts are all common side-effects of having crossed over.  In the company of my fellow NDE survivors, they’re not even a big deal.  Today I wonder if I may have seen other dead spirits in passing but assumed, as I did with the vintage-rain-geared fisherman, that they were living.  In few places would a vanishing be so evident as on an open, sandy beach.

But I’m getting ahead of my story.  For now, I still refused to believe I’d ever crossed over anything, let alone come back with a rupture in my energetic capsule that occasionally let in spiritual phenomena.  What a bunch of hooey!


[If you have a woo-woo friend who might dig this, please share it.  :)]



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Reading from A Spiritual Evolution

louisa P_2013I’ll be giving a public reading from A Spiritual Evolution on September 30 at the bookstore, Unity on Union.  Please come!  There’ll be free food!
WHEN: Food @ 5:30; reading begins @ 6:00

WHERE:  Unity on Union Books, 2420 East Union Street, Seattle, Washington 98122

WHO: Me.

WHY:  Because it’s a damn good book

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What’s It All About?

louisa P_2013I labored for three years in the writing of A Spiritual Evolution.  Why?  Because I had to figure out for myself why I was writing it.

The answer came down to this: It’s a book intended to help people – particularly those with addictions – move ahead in their own spiritual evolution.

I was terribly sick as a young woman.  Right from the bat my story discloses an obsessive compulsive disorder that literally acted out the bondage of self in an astoundingly bizarre way.  I hated myself, and the only way I knew to rise about all the floatsam of self loathing was through the ego-driven vanity of playing a part, chasing glamor, and manipulating lovers.

Then, in the midst of this chaotic tug of war – I died.  That is to say, in a Manhattan nightclub, at age 21, I snorted nearly a full gram of lidocaine that had been sold to me as cocaine.  Lidocaine is a local anesthetic that, ingested systemically, shuts down both respiratory and cardiac functions in the body.  My heart slowed and slowed, my breaths became shallower and shallower, until my brain and heart suffered such a lack of oxygen that I went into a full grand mal seizure followed by cardiac arrest, right there on the floor of the Peppermint Lounge.

While a bartender worked frantically to revive me with CPR, I left my body and, atheist that I was, traveled through a wondrous, otherworldly landscape in close connection to my dead ancestors, until I saw a brilliant sun dazzling the ocean panorama before me that – quite to my surprise – pulled me toward it and sucked me inside, into the most brilliant light you can imagine.

You can read the book for my full description.  But the way it figures into my story is this: I refused to believe I’d crossed over.  I refused because I’d been raised in an academic family that rejected god and all things spiritual. I’d never heard of Near Death Experiences, and I had no clue of NDE paranormal after effects. But over the next decade or so, my need for god would progress as my addictions grew more destructive, while the paranormal after-effects of having crossed would surface, and resurface – fourteen of them in total – until they became undeniable.

Very gradually, I came to understand that god is omnipresent, but certainly nothing like the bill of goods we’ve been sold as “God.”

It’s that story, and that vision of god, that I share in my book.

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