Waking up after the heart monitor has flatlined is the ultimate reality check.
Waking up after the heart monitor has flatlined is the ultimate reality check. iStock

The near-death experience that brought moment of clarity

As part of our work with teams or groups, we engage with people in storytelling. Stories are part of our inquiry into how people have developed into who they are today and they provide real insight into people's motivation, beliefs and behaviour.

When listening to the stories people share, the focus is on the tale, the choices made, lessons learnt and applied as well as the changes that occurred that were chosen or forced by the circumstance surrounding the event.

It's fascinating because we all have a story and if we can approach our listening without judgment and with a genuine curiosity for the storyteller, we can find out so much and give so much to people through a story well told. Given my background I choose which stories to share that are relevant to the group and the focus of the workshop.

One of these stories revolves around my second heart attack, death and subsequent resurrection. You know, the one you hear on the hospital shows on TV where the quiet beep, beep, beep becomes a constant beeeeeeeeeep as the patient goes into cardiac arrest and the hospital staff rush in to revive the patient using the defibrillator?

That's what I heard. I was kicking the end of the bed in excruciating pain, I'd been given every pain killer known to man and nothing was working. My heart basically said "Enough!” I heard the heart monitor flatline and in my head said, "I'm gone!” And I was.

While it is difficult to describe in writing, as part of this I remember some very weird stuff going on in my head, incredibly fast flashes and visions, brain-bending speed of thought and a figure over me first asking me who I was. My first thought was "Wow, if this is God, he's not that good looking!”, my second was a question to him "Who the hell are you?”

Immediately he asked me another question "What's going through your head right now?” What was happening was an incredible connection to everything and it happened in a nanosecond. It was an experience that I can only describe as something like you see on those sci-fi movies where there is an incredible expansion and contraction of time and space before the starship goes into hyper-space.

"A moment of absolute clarity,” was my response as I sat up and vomited all over the bed and over what I now know was the nurse leaning over me after hitting me with the paddles a few times. Checking in later with Rowena who'd been standing beside me, I'd been dead for about three minutes - something that I have no memory about. What I had experienced was what Kerry Packer described, "It's dark over there”.

However, it is impossible to accurately describe the sensation of that moment of hyper-clarity and what it has done for me, yet I know it fundamentally changed something within me and in my approach to the world that I live in and the time I have left. And that is often where our conversation will start with individuals we work with.

Nick Bennett is a facilitator and coach at mindsaligned.com.au