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Dying for a Change


Without warning, a wave crashed over the top of the seawall, hitting me full in the face. The water was ice cold, and I was thrown backward off my bike by the force of the wave. I banged my head on the wall that separated the coastal pathway from the railway line. Shocked and dazed, I scrambled up on one knee. I was soaked and shivered violently. Embarrassed, I looked around. Thank goodness nobody was there to see me. I laughed and imagined what I would say to Alison.

Suddenly, a second wave slammed into me and caught me off balance. Thrown backward by the force, I was knocked against the wall again and landed on my back. With nowhere for the water to go, it hit the back wall before rushing back into the sea. My bike was scooped up and disappeared over the edge. Panicking, I scrabbled frantically at the hard ground, desperately trying to grab something, anything to hold, but there was nothing. Then I knew for sure: I would be next. In that instant, I was swept over the edge of the seawall by another wave.

Those next few seconds seemed like an eternity. Falling twenty-something feet, I imagined the worst. Directly below me were jagged rocks. Then I hit the water. Every muscle flinched. My left leg thumped into the bike frame, sending a shudder through my whole body. The shock of hitting freezing water was like an electric current. A putrid stench overwhelmed me. I had landed close to the sewage outlet pipe. Coming up and gasping for breath, I instinctively punched the air. I was okay, at least for the moment.

My elation was short-lived, though, and I knew I was in trouble. Frantically paddling water and struggling to breathe, I instinctively stretched out and touched the menacing seawall, which was covered in algae. I had no way of seeing over the wall, and I was in the shadows. Nobody could see me. Nobody would find me. I started yelling, but the crashing waves drowned out my cries for help. I soon gave up. Shouting was useless. As I turned to look at the dying sun, a huge wave hit me full in the face. Gagging, I struggled for breath again. My lungs filled with contaminated water, and I threw up. The smell of sewage was overpowering. Then another wave threw me hard against the wall. And then another. And another.

Still swallowing sewage and seawater, I couldn’t stop being sick. I wondered if I were drowning. The waves were powerful, relentless. The noise was deafening. The smell disgusting. Wave after wave pummelled me against the wall. My eyes were stinging, and everything was a blur. Thrashing around, I was struggling to stay afloat.

Shaking violently in the bitterly cold water, I began to convulse. Crying and whimpering, I felt weak and pathetic. Pumping my legs madly to keep my head above water, I could feel them giving way beneath me, as if heavy weights were attached to them. I wondered how much longer they would hold out. All I wanted was to be at home and warm, with my wife and children. Safe and in the company of those I loved most.

For a brief moment, I considered giving up, but the thought of my family lifted something deep inside me. In a split second, I knew I had to keep fighting. An unexpected surge of optimism raced through me. It was an energy surge like I’d never felt before. My whole body felt lighter, stronger. I actually believed that somebody would find me and save me.

I stopped crying and tried to pull myself together. I let wave after wave belt me in the back of the head, which was now throbbing. I rubbed my stinging eyes and cleared seawater from my nose. But rationality soon returned. I knew it was hopeless and sank back in despair. Nobody would be out walking around here after dark. For the briefest of moments, I held onto the fragile belief that my wife Alison would raise the alarm. Perhaps she’d realize that something was not right, and then call someone out to search for me. But I soon realized it would be useless. After all, I could be anywhere along my five-mile bike route. And even if the emergency services were alerted, I’d be dead well before they could find me. It was up to me to save myself.

Battered up and down with the waves, I desperately tried to kick myself away from the wall, but I was barely moving anywhere. I stared up again at the high, oppressive seawall. It felt like my prison. Is this where my life would end? I had never been so afraid. Never been so cold. Never felt so utterly alone.

The thought of dying petrified me.


Swallowing more and more water, I began choking. I put two fingers into my mouth and made myself sick. I’d only been in the water for a few minutes, but the back of my throat burned, and my nose was blocked. I couldn’t see clearly, and I was gasping for breath. If I was going to live, I knew I had to think quickly. But I couldn’t think. Fear paralyzed me. I considered screaming out again, but I couldn’t. I was losing my voice. My heavy clothes were dragging me under. I was gradually being pulled farther out by the tide and drifting into the mouth of the estuary.
When I realized that the waves were less fierce away from the seawall, I knew with utter clarity what I had to do. Ignoring the waves, I took in long, drawn-out breaths. With each in-breath, my optimism grew.

I lunged forward, desperate to reach the break in the seawall. I used every last possible ounce of energy to move, but it was hopeless. I was going against the tide. My fleece coat was saturated, and every bone in my body ached. Gasping for air, shivering, I collapsed and gave in. The waves could take me, I thought. It was easier than fighting.

By now, the last rays of sunshine burned the back of my head. I knew this was my last sunset. Another wave hit me straight in the face, and I gagged. This time the water went deep into my lungs, and I was immediately sick. I thought about taking off some clothes to make myself more buoyant, but I suddenly heard an insistent voice in my head telling me to keep them on. I ignored it and started to pull off my fleece.

“No!” the voice boomed emphatically. It was authoritative. “Keep it on.” The tone startled me.

Then my entire body convulsed. Shock had kicked in. My arms and legs were moving wildly in one last, frantic scramble. I couldn’t seem to control them. I was losing the fight, going under. Swallowing even more water, I became light-headed. My chest was tight, on fire.

A cramp in my forearms reminded me of when I was learning to box as a boy. Keeping up my guard in the last round was always sheer agony, and now I was going through a similar experience. Only this time, it was life or death. This was my last round.

Crying hysterically, a clear image shot into my mind. It was my wedding day. Alison and I were coming out of the church, laughing. The air was filled with confetti. It was the happiest day of my life. Then, a wave slapped me in the face, robbing me of this happy image. Coming back to my present reality, I remembered that I was only one week away from my tenth wedding anniversary.

But the memory of Alison had renewed my resolve to stay conscious, connected to life. I didn’t want to die. Not without saying good-bye. At the age of thirty-four, I wasn’t ready to give up on life.

More images began to flood my head. Snapshots. Memories. I could see Alison again. My girls. Then my mum, dad, brothers and friends. I pictured holding my oldest daughter, Jenna, at the very moment she’d been born. That thought made me sob uncontrollably. It had been the proudest day of my life.

Then, bizarrely, I recalled the contents of a television program that had featured a life or death rescue. The images were vivid. A man had been washed out to sea and survived. He’d said that even good swimmers drown because they panic and forget to breathe properly. I could hear him saying that the first thing to do is to stay calm. Not to panic.

Although I was certain I was going to die anyway, I felt compelled to follow his advice. Snatching air between waves, I built up a rhythm. In. Out. In. Out. Every breath injected me with renewed confidence. Breathing slowly and deeply made me more alert. I was more conscious of my thoughts. Of my feelings. More conscious of myself.

My body began to feel different somehow. Lighter. Energized. All of a sudden, I felt my body lift up higher in the water. I wondered if I was dreaming. Floating horizontally, I moved on top of the waves. I was now moving with the waves, not fighting them. It felt surreal, yet more real than anything before. The more deeply I inhaled, the lighter my body became. The calmer I remained, the more positive I felt. All tension ebbed away. I wondered what was happening to me. Was this the end? Was this what it was like to die?

Every cell in my body was communicating with me. Every muscle, every atom of my being, seemed to be talking with me, encouraging me. I wondered briefly if I was going mad. I pinched my arm hard. It confirmed what I already knew. I was still fully conscious.

My senses were heightened. I was tuned into everything around me and everything inside me. Something was communicating with me, guiding me. Telling me not to panic. Reassuring me that I’d be fine.

I knew that I was infinitely more than just my body. I don’t know how I knew; I just did. A calming presence washed over me, and all fear evaporated. I was no longer freezing cold. Nothing ached. I couldn’t feel anything but a complete sense of freedom and peace. Even the waves hitting my head were now only a minor irritation. I was in a state of sheer bliss. All loving. Unconditional. There was nothing left for me to do but relax and go with the flow, to be at one with this awesome, incredible power. This presence. I didn’t want this sensational feeling to come to an end.

Lying on my back in the water, with my arms stretched wide, I waited to see what would happen next. Looking up, I watched the white vapor trails of planes against the darkening sky. It was an uncomfortable reminder that nightfall would soon arrive. Would this be the last setting sun I would ever see?

My thoughts drifted with the waves. I remembered what Alison and I had told the girls recently. We’d always promised them that when they were old enough, we would take them to Florida. To Disney World. The holiday of a lifetime. I had only recently booked that dream trip. It was to be our first big vacation abroad as a family. The first time in many years that Alison and I could both get the same two weeks off.

But then an overwhelming, crushing feeling suddenly filled my chest as I realized I would never be there to see that dream through. And I’d probably never see my family again. That thought alone horrified me. It felt as if someone had just pulled the plug on my life. All sense of serenity dissolved. Clenching and unclenching my fists, I tried to keep the blood circulating in my fingers. They were blue. I felt so helpless and stupid. How the hell did I ever put myself in this fatal position?

In the distance, I could see the lights coming on in town. I could just make out the church spire close to my home. The girls would be fast asleep by now, and Alison would be watching television, or catching up on paperwork for the tea shop she owned. Nobody had a clue where I was or what I was going through. I felt so utterly desperate and alone.

My children would grow up without me. I wouldn’t see them graduate. Or learn to drive. I wouldn’t watch them leave home, lead their own lives. I wouldn’t be at their weddings to give them away. Someone else might even be in my place, standing in my shoes. What if Alison was to meet someone? My girls would have another father. Someone else to call Dad. And, as time passed, they would remember less about me. They would forget how much I cared for them. How much I loved and cherished them.

I tried to remember my last words to Alison, but I couldn’t. Then I realized I hadn’t said anything. Not even good-bye. Just a quick peck on the check, a kiss that meant nothing. I had dashed off, rushing as usual, and had only waved half-heartedly as I’d passed the window. I loathed myself for that. What sort of husband was I? Useless and pathetic. Forever busy and rushing around. Permanently exhausted. I had barely allowed myself any time for my family throughout the week, and even when I did spend time with them on the weekends, I couldn’t relax. I would feel guilty, preoccupied or stressed that I wasn’t doing something for work. I’d be concentrating on what I had to do Monday morning. My mind would be someplace else.

If I died, Alison would be able to cope without any problem. She was used to me being away and having the girls on her own. It was Alison who usually read the girls a bedtime story. She was the one who held their lives together. Not me. I just turned up and paid for it.
I had recently taken out a large life insurance policy. It would cover everything, all of it. Alison and the girls would be well-provided for. The mortgage would be paid off, the credit cards cleared. At least my debts would die with me.

For a brief moment, there seemed to be an upside to this mess I was in. I was worth more dead than alive. In that second, I knew I had to put “my house in order.” Satisfied that my family would be taken care of, I submitted. I gave in. I was gradually coming to terms with the inevitable. This was the end of my life. A deeply unfulfilled and unappreciated life.

Submerged between a twilight zone of acceptance and self-pity, I suddenly sensed that the world around me was evaporating. At first, it was as if someone had turned down the contrast on a television screen. All of my physical senses began falling away. Colors blurred. Noise faded. I was no longer in touch with my feelings, my body or my environment. I couldn’t hear the crashing waves or the squawking seagulls. There was no sense of the water, the biting cold or anything else. It was as if my mind, body and consciousness were shutting down. They were in another time and place, somewhere in the past.


I knew that I was nearing the end of my life. I closed my eyes and waited for death to overtake me. I had dreaded this moment, but now that it had arrived, I actually welcomed it. Alison and the girls would be taken care of financially, and they would be looked after by family and friends. The love I had shared with Ali and the girls could never be taken away. I instinctively knew that unconditional love was constant and eternal.

I no longer feared death or what awaited me. I was totally at peace. Drifting in and out of consciousness, I held on to all the love I’d been blessed with throughout my life. I imagined myself to be soaring upward with the wind. I knew that I was outside of my body. I was more than my body. Higher and higher, I was flying like a bird. All I could feel was the spray of the waves below me. I was without physical limitation. I was free, detached from everything, and yet part of it all.

I could no longer smell anything, and I could barely hear the sea. It was nothing but a distant hum in the background. My senses were failing, and I knew this was a sign of the end. I began crying as the full realization of what was happening engulfed me.

I managed to force my hands together even though I could barely feel my fingers. I prayed with all my heart and soul once more for forgiveness. The urge to pray was instinctive even though I had little belief in the existence of God. I knew in my heart that this was my last chance to redeem myself. I didn’t care who or what I was praying to. I needed to release all the negative emotion that I had carried with me for years.

“God, forgive me,” I sobbed. “Forgive me for not being the husband or father I should have been. And forgive me for taking my life for granted.”

I knew without question that I had not lived up to my potential. I definitely hadn’t given it my best shot. That hurt more than anything. Like driving a stake through the center of my heart, the pain was unbearable. So many of my hopes and dreams, promises and aspirations had been left unfulfilled. I had wasted so much of my life. I didn’t deserve to live.

Filled with self-loathing, I drifted with the waves. I wanted it all to be over.

I was ready to die.

In your heart, do you honestly and truthfully imagine your life to have been a complete failure?

Shocked by the softly spoken male voice, my mind stopped. All thoughts of dying suddenly emptied from my head. My mind was devoid of everything else—except the voice. I was mystified. The voice and the words that I heard didn’t belong to me. It wasn’t my voice. They weren’t my thoughts. The words were authoritative, controlled, but loving. For a fleeting moment, I wondered if my mind was playing tricks on me. But I knew it wasn’t. There was an absolute knowing. I had heard that voice. The words had been whispered, as if spoken inside my head. Too petrified to reply, though, I kept my eyes firmly shut and tried to ignore the voice. Maybe it wouldn’t come again.

I’ll repeat what I have already said. Do you truthfully imagine that your life has been a failure? And do you really feel in your heart of hearts, in the depth of your soul, that your time on earth has been wasted?

This time, the voice was louder and more urgent. Now, it seemed to be spoken from every part of me, not just my head. Before I had time to think, I replied out loud.

Yes, as a matter of fact, I do.

Then please, please, think again and change your mind. For I tell you these absolute truths: No one person’s life is ever wasted. No one person’s life is deemed a failure, regardless of how long a lifetime is lived. If a human soul incarnates for but one hour, then its life has brought a profound meaning to the world. Your time on earth has not been wasted. Far from it. Your life expressed has had an enormous impact upon other people’s lives—more than you could ever imagine in your wildest dreams. And that is true for every single human being, regardless of how insignificant their lives may appear.

Before I could formulate a response, the gentle but clear voice continued to speak.

In your heart and soul, in the depth of your being, do you honestly believe that you are a complete failure? Do you truly imagine that fate has dealt you a cruel card? What if I told you that everything in life is being drawn to you, by you? What if I said that everything you are now experiencing in the sea—your present life situation—has happened for a purpose? Would you take on board that belief? Could you even begin to fathom what that truly means? I will share with you this undeniable fact: Everything that you have ever experienced, are experiencing, and will ever experience have all been created and manifested by only one person on this planet. You.

Me! Why on earth would I create situations in my life that draw me toward pain and suffering? And why would I ever wish to threaten my own life? I’d have to be out of my mind to intend that.

Exactly. That is exactly what you are doing right now. You are totally out of your mind. Put another way, you are in a place of “no mind.” And for the purpose of this conversation, that’s good.

Now, please try to keep a clear mind. Clear away all negative thoughts and judgments from your head because that’s how you, or rather we, are having this conversation—by your conscious choosing to be out of your mind. Only then can you create a gap in your consciousness wide enough for us to communicate.

Let me explain more clearly. When you are fully conscious (which really means, fully aware), and when you are not flooding your mind with fear, unnecessary thoughts or sensory data, you effectively create a clear space in your thinking. Let’s imagine that clear space in your head as a clean, white-washed board on the wall. Now, if the board is wiped clean, what can come in to fill the space?

Other thoughts.

Nearly right, but it’s not what you literally think. Yes, it is “thoughts,” but not those thoughts from your own mind because you are no longer thinking. Remember, you are now outside of your mind. You have side-stepped it. So what other thoughts are they? Where do they originate from? What is the source?

Perhaps thoughts inspired from other people?

Warm. You are half-right. They are the inspirational thoughts coming to you from four prime sources. In truth, there are many more sources than four, but for now, I will focus on these.

Number one is the most common. It is as you intimated—the thoughts that you pick up from others, especially those people you are emotionally attached to, be it work colleagues, loved ones, family and friends.

So we actually do pick up thoughts from other people then? Somehow, and I don’t know why, I’ve always sensed that to be true.

Your initial gut instinct was correct. Of course, you can tap into the energy of other people. Everybody can. Unfortunately, few people believe this, let alone use the wonderful inherent abilities they have within them.

For most of your life, you have made the most common basic error. You have assumed that your imagination is playing tricks on you. The moment an inspired thought suddenly enters your head, you immediately deny your initial instincts. You kill them off before they even have a chance to flower. Most of your life, you have ignored your first impression, your gut instinct. You have believed what life has taught you, rather than what your gut instinct demonstrates to you.

Nurture over nature. That’s what you are implying here, is it not? That we go with social conditioning rather than the characteristics that we are naturally born with.

Yes. Instinct, feeling and intuition are all natural gifts that everyone is born with. They are your “radar” in life.

Our radar? What do you mean by that?

Intuition is your true compass throughout life. It enables you to navigate your life journey. Intuition acts just as radar would when you are lost in the sea of life. It helps you to navigate through those tricky, narrow straits without hitting the rocks. Intuition helps you to find your way in the fog.

So intuition is a type of support system? It helps us to see what is coming up in our lives.

Yes. Intuition is a tool that gives you insight and guidance. It is your internal guidance system. You get to feel a situation and try it on for size before you choose to own it. Unfortunately, so few people accept that their intuition is real. If you knew the real potential of your intuition, you would never take it for granted. You would constantly use it to guide you through choppy waters.

I know this to be true. From my own life experiences, my gut instinct has told me one thing, and my head another.

So which one have you always chosen?

It would be fair to say both. But sometimes my gut feeling seemed so irrational and off the mark that I ignored it and went with what my head was telling me.

The reason you continued with this behavior was that you didn’t wish to challenge your thinking. You didn’t want to contradict what your head and collective thoughts were telling you. Yet I shine this truth inside you: Always go with your intuition first. Listen to your body. Your initial instinct demonstrates, through bodily feelings, what your truth is. When you follow your head, you are following your collective thoughts, which have been assembled from the beliefs of others. Therefore, when any life situation arises, always challenge your own thinking.

Always challenge my own thoughts. I like that.

Challenging your own thoughts is the most important step to becoming more conscious.

Do you mean more aware?

Yes, more aware of what is going on inside you. Don’t just observe your outer reality. Give equal attention and awareness (consciousness) to your inner universe and what your body is showing you. Feelings always lead you home to the truth because they are your truth—manifested.

When you tune into the energy of another, you are using your emotions as a bridge. The emotional state of empathy enables you to feel what another is thinking and feeling. Empathy is the ability to tune into someone outside of you and literally feel his or her emotions as though they were inside you. By being open, you create a channel and tune into someone.

Similar to what I did with my mother when I was younger. I picked up her angry vibes, her repressed fury toward my father.

Yes. You tuned into her channel because the emotional frequency you dialed up resonated with you both. Your mother and you shared an important emotional bond—you both wanted your father to change his drinking habits. You wanted things to change. And here’s another fact about that particular situation. You both respected one another’s resilience. It is this respect that propelled your emotional connection. Dual respect creates a mighty emotional force.

When two or more are gathered . . .

Precisely. When two or more are gathered in the same passionate cause, an immeasurable force is unleashed. That can work in both positive and negative causes. When the energy of emotions bond together, the sum is infinitely greater than the parts.

So if we tune into someone we are close to, a strong emotional bond develops.

Not just emotional. A heightened psychic bond develops, too. You experienced this frequently with your mother.

I know, and I didn’t really appreciate what was going on when I was only eleven years old. I thought I was going mad.

You were most definitely not going mad. The madness is that these feelings and natural-born gifts are allowed to be continuously denied by most of society. That is the insanity of the situation. Know that this ability has always been present. It is part of what makes us all human beings. The madness is on humanity’s part to keep denying these beautiful gifts. They are real. They are not just a figment of our overactive imaginations.

Remember, to tune into another person and experience the glory of human connection, you have to concentrate. Clear your mind completely of any unwanted thoughts. Let go of the static, and then tune into the right frequency. Apply these childlike principles, and your life experience will multiply beyond comprehension. You will literally go beyond mind, and in doing so, tune into the real person.

You are heavily emphasizing tuning in. Can you please expand on that principle more fully?

Tuning in essentially means sensing fully what your feelings are trying to show you. Your feelings interpret what somebody else is thinking. That’s possible because emotion is the channel of communication. It is the glue, the bonding agent that connects us all together.

When we emotionally connect, we literally feel what others think. We cannot think what another feels because that is an objective action, empty of emotion. It is emotion-less. To be void of emotion means that you are disconnected from not only your own feelings, but also the feelings of others. And by others, I mean all other life forms on this earth, as well as humans.

You can only love others to the degree that you love yourself. The world is a perfect mirror of your innermost thoughts and feelings.

I think I get what you are saying. There have been many times in my life when I felt deeply disconnected from others, including those closest to me. I’ve felt detached and alone, confused and afraid. I’ve made the mistake of blaming others for this disconnection, this feeling of isolation and loneliness. I have accused others of being insensitive, unthoughtful, uncaring. Reading between the lines, perhaps I’m the one who was to blame. It is my fault that I haven’t opened up and been honest with my emotions. Perhaps I should have loved myself more.

Please do not cast blame on yourself. You did what you did—what most people do. That is life. To heap regret and recrimination on yourself misses the entire point of what it means to be human. We all fail at one time or another. We all fall short of our own teachings and beliefs. We all make mistakes. That is because we are all human. Know that you are normal to fall short of your own grand vision, and you will inherit a valuable life lesson. That’s what life is for. It creates a framework for us so that we can learn from our mistakes. Of course, there are no mistakes if we use these experiences wisely. Every mistake carries within it the seed of true wisdom. The mistake is that you give yourself a hard time over it. The mistake is that you don’t learn from your mistakes. The mistake is that you let fear stop you from trying to be more. If you do not fail, then you have not tried…