A Moment of Forgiveness and Understanding

In his book Travels the author Michael Crichton (1942-2008), screenwriter of films such as Jurassic Park, The Lost World, Sphere and Disclosure, describes one of his out-of-body experiences under the guidance of a friend named Gary. In this session he finds himself moving upward to stand in a peaceful and misty yellow astral realm.

"Do you see anybody here?" Gary asked.
I looked around, but didn't see anybody.
"Stay there a minute and see if anyone comes," said Gary.

Then I saw my grandmother, who died while I was in medical school. She waved to me, and I waved back. I wasn't surprised to see her up here. I didn't feel any particular need to talk to her. So I just waited; this astral plane was rather featureless. There weren't any palm trees or chairs or places to sit down. It was just a place, a misty yellow place.

"Do you see anyone else?" Gary asked.
I didn't. Then: "Yes. My father."

I felt worried. I hadn't had an easy time with my father. Now he was showing up while I was vulnerable, in an altered state of consciousness. I wondered what he would do, what would happen. He approached me. My father looked the same, only translucent and misty, like everything else in this place. I didn't want to have a long conversation with him. I was quite nervous.

Suddenly he embraced me.

In the instant of that embrace, I saw and felt everything in my relationship with my father, all the feelings he had had and why he found me difficult, all the feelings I had had and why I had misunderstood him, all the love that there was between us, and all the confusion and misunderstanding that had overpowered it. I saw all the things he had done for me and all the ways he had helped me. I saw every aspect of our relationship at once, the way you can take in at a glance something small you hold in your hand. It was an instant of compassionate acceptance and love.

I burst into tears.

"What is happening now?" Gary asked.
"He's hugging me."
"What are you feeling?"
"It's all over," I said.

What I meant was that this incredibly powerful experience had already happened, complete and total, in a fraction of a second. By the time Gary had asked me, by the time I burst into tears, it was finished. My father had gone. We never said a word. There was no need to say anything. The thing was completed.

"I'm done," I said, and opened my eyes. I had bounced right out of the trace state.

I couldn't really explain it to Gary, I couldn't really explain it to anyone, but part of my astonishment at the experience was the speed with which it had occurred. Like most people who have had therapy, I had an expectation about the pace of psychological insights. You struggle. Things happen slowly. Years may go by without much change. You wonder if it is making any difference. You wonder if you should quit or hang in. You work and you struggle and you make your hard-earned gains.

But what of this experience? In less time than I took to open my mouth to speak, something extraordinary and profound had happened to me. And I knew it would last. My relationship with my father had been resolved in a flash. There hadn't even been time to cry, and now that it was over, crying seemed almost after-the-fact. I had no desire to cry. The experience was already finished.

This made me wonder if my ideas about the normal speed of psychological change might be incorrect. Perhaps we could accomplish massive changes in seconds, if we only knew how. Perhaps change took so long only because we did it the wrong way, or perhaps because we expected it to take so long.