Today I’m delighted to offer an interview with Natalie Sudman. We met in college, carried on a brief correspondence afterward, and then lost contact with each other. We reconnected a few years ago and I learned then that she’d been seriously injured by an IED in Iraq. I was delighted when she announced the publication of her book Application of Impossible Things, which explores her out-of-body/near-death experience that resulted from the explosion. Thank you, Natalie, for taking the time for this interview!
In your introduction, you make a solid case for “internal authority,” that is, standing by what you know to be true in the face of skepticism. The authenticity of individual experience has some resonance with early Protestantism’s idea of “the priesthood of all believers.” Yet individual authority is constantly subsumed under umbrella belief systems–religions, New Age trends–what do you see as the force behind this tendency?
First of all, thank you for saying that I make a solid case for internal authority. I don’t feel like I did anything but own my experience in the face of my fears, but I’m glad if it works beyond myself – !
From an expanded awareness point of view, it makes sense to me that people would want to and choose to draw together in the creative process of living within the physical world. Sharing in creation is fun, and often multiplies the possibilities within that creation. We are all part of and within and create the All That Is – we’re all one, so whether we cooperate or not, we’re joined. It makes sense to work together.
The implication that I read into your question – which may well be me, not your question – is that there’s something less than desirable about umbrella belief systems because of their tendency to subsume individual authority. Individual authority MAY be subsumed, certainly, yet individual authority can also find lovely expression, expansion and support within those belief systems.
On pages 65-66 you discuss the mistaken beliefs that can hold us back in what our Whole Selves are hoping we’ll do with our lives. You call these “contraries.” Do you receive the “hints, clues, or reminders” that you asked for to become more aware of these beliefs in the physical life?
Yes, I do. I’ve been dredging around in a problem when suddenly I see it in a completely new way that reveals how my thinking was fighting itself. I don’t know what to call these moments – it feels like a download into my consciousness, or an instantaneous infusion of knowing. A light bulb goes on.
I’m sorry, I don’t want to give a specific example of this from within my personal life. It does happen pretty frequently now, whereas pre-blast it might have happened once every ten years.
Do you have any suggestions for those of us trying to get at the roots of our own “contraries?”
Find amusement within the search and within the contrary, would be my first suggestion. If you think of it as a problem, chances are it will be a problem. If you think of this contrary as a fun discovery, an amusingly absurd or silly state of affairs, it will be easier to move out of your life, to re-think it, or re-shape it. Having fun with change brings it about more effortlessly.
Fighting the contraries sets up competition within yourself. The contraries will look as if they’re vying with each other, when that’s likely only you vying with yourself. Own the two (or three or four – ha!) sides of the contrary as your own, acknowledge that each was useful in some way at some time in your life, then choose the one you want to keep and nurture it. Let the other go.
I’d also encourage people not to think that because you’ve addressed a particular contrary last week (month/year) that you won’t run across it again … clearing contraries can often feel like one step forward, two steps back. One (or all) sides of a contrary are often based on something that’s right in line with the mainstream culture, and since we do operate within the culture it may be inevitable that we pick up the beliefs again and again, a contact infection. I think of it as cultural programming. We may get relentlessly and subtly programmed toward the belief that we’re trying to loosen. Keeping the roots of contraries clear may be more like maintenance than a one off.
In Chapter 7 you discuss the healing of your body that took place while you were still out-of-body. Is there any way that we who are in the physical plane can access that sort of healing?
Sure. As above, so below, or as I’d think of it: As between, so through. This is the place that “miracle” healers access. There are people on earth now who are adept at this sort of healing.
My understanding is that this kind of healing looks miraculous to us because of our beliefs about what is real. Those limiting beliefs curtail our ability to turn our focus, consciously, to the place from which this healing takes place. It’s not a place “out there” – it’s here, between or within where we are.
There may be other reasons that we have difficulty accessing this type of healing. From within the physical, it’s often difficult to focus intently upon another “plane” or focus level. That may be because it can take such an intense focus to stay present in the physical body in the physical world.
As an example, if you’re threading a needle, you are applying very specific concentration to get that thread through the needle. Anything that takes your focus away from that action will cause you to abandon the thread and needle. You have to look and feel and pay attention to accomplish this task. The focus required to maintain the physical body in the physical world can have that same requirement of attention, in my experience. If you shift all focus to the healing place, what will happen to the physical body? I don’t know. I suspect it will be fine, but I think the visceral fear is that upon gaining and maintaining pinpoint focus on something other than the physical, we will lose our place, so to speak. We may have to move through that fear to be effective from the healing plane.
This is not to say that it can’t be done. People have learned to be healers and are learning to be healers. Or perhaps more accurately, have and are remembering how to be healers. I think everyone can remember how to get to this healing place and use it – it may just be a matter of practice makes perfect.
From another perspective: in our collective conscious experience, we’ve chosen a path that took us away from this sort of healing. In doing that, we’ve expanded in other directions – manipulating the physical from within the physical (conventional medicine and science).That was and continues to be a valid creative direction. It’s not the only direction, and in the end may not offer the range of possibilities that dimensional healing offers, but it is our choice and it’s valuable to the whole, the All That Is, God, Creation, however you label that mystery.
If you’re asking me how to learn to access that healing, I don’t know. I can return to this healing place at will, but I haven’t been able to affect physical healing on myself from that state. I don’t know why.
Your discussion of the consciousness of everything within the physical world made me wonder how a lamp, for example, holds consciousness. Are there entities who use their focus to be lamps and bookcases and the other apparently inanimate objects in our lives?
This could get esoteric and difficult to explain. I’ll see how far I get with it …
First, it’s critical that a re-interpretation of consciousness is understood. The lamp is not conscious in the same sense that you and I are conscious. That’s not to say that its consciousness is less valuable, only that it is so different as to look to us like something other than consciousness. That’s a function of our (mis)understanding of what (our) consciousness is.
We perceive ourselves as individuals, yet from another perspective we are not only individuals, we are also groups – just as we are individuals yet we are a group of Americans, a group of women, a group of artists, a group of humans. We are individuals and we are groups of souls or spirits in a sense. We have or are group consciousnesses, whether we’re aware of it or not. Think of the individual being a point on a cable, many strands running through the individual point. That point exists as a point separate from every other point on the cable, and it is intrinsic to the cable.
Entities are simply consciousness. Are there entities who use their focus to be lamps or bookcases? In a sense, yes, just as there are entities who use their focus to be a fingernail or a strand of your hair. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that they use their focus to be part of what we perceive as a whole object, and in doing so they create a community, and that community has a collective consciousness that appears as one personality: a chair.
On another level, you are the creator of that consciousness that is the lamp. You have dreamed it into the world and it has become, and in becoming, it necessarily becomes conscious because it is organized thought, organized energy – consciousness.
Can you talk to a chair or a lamp or a bookcase the way you talk to a dog? Yes. Will it respond? Yes. Will it respond in a way that you can comprehend? That’s up to you – how will you listen to it? What senses are you willing to train in yourself, or explore or enhance or discover or remember in yourself in order to experience that chair’s consciousness?
You mention tasks that you agreed to perform for the Gathering once you returned to your body. Was writing your book one of them?
Not necessarily this book, but an action that essentially carried the same energy imprint that the book carries.
On page 90 you mention the account you wrote of your experience while still an inpatient at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Did you know right away during your recovery that you’d be writing a book?
Yes, although I didn’t think it would be this book. As I described in Chapter 1 (p. 2), I hoped to write a book about living and working in Iraq – a book that “faithfully described the fine and wonderfully wild condensation of humanity with its rich complexities and paradoxes, ending up somewhere that mattered.”
I would still like to write that book, though doubt that I’ll be able to reach the goal as stated. I might be able to take people somewhere that they’ve never been though. Maybe I can do that much.
There’s a lot of talk in New Age circles about human consciousness being in the midst of a huge evolutionary leap right now. Do you see it that way?
I’ve sat here for ten minutes trying to figure out where to start with this question! I’m going to break it down into other questions, hopefully in the end answering your question.
Are there large scale energy shifts happening? In my understanding, yes.
Is human consciousness affected? Yes, of course. From my perspective or understanding, human consciousness is always in the midst of a huge evolutionary leap, but this leap is unusual in that its effects have the potential to be deeper and broader than many shifts and leaps.
Does 2012 have anything to do with it? In my understanding, no.
My understanding of what’s going on comes from a non-physical perspective. When this subject comes up, I find myself focused beyond time/space and watching enormous energy flows making some interesting new junctions and relationships. The movement might be seen as flowing toward a tipping point. Seeing that doesn’t give me any specific sense of an outcome though. Tipping points can be dramatic, or flow so smoothly that you hardly realize you’ve crested the peak and are well past the crux.
I don’t get the sense that this is solely an earth shift. Any shift will affect other dimensions, but this shift appears to me like a symphony of shifts originating throughout dimensions, or from between dimensions, or from within all dimensions.
How will the shift manifest on the physical? I don’t know. When I ‘read’ this subject, I’ve seen many different outcomes, one of which is that there won’t be any obvious effect at all (‘obvious’ being the key word). There are infinite potential outcomes available. From what I’ve seen the collective consciousness of humanity – the group ‘we’ – has not necessarily chosen which creative possibility it would like to manifest or follow.
The short answer of how I see it: we have free will. How the shift will manifest in our lives is our choice. We are participants in creating it, so how would you like it to look? Which potential or possible future would you like to follow? Thought creates, so personally I’m imagining beautiful and interesting things.
It takes a long time for a manuscript to become a published book. Are there ideas in this book that you see differently now or with greater understanding than when you wrote it?
You and I corresponded briefly a couple months ago and this came up. Since we exchanged ideas, I’ve thought about this a little more. Whereas a few months ago I would have liked to go back into the book a change a few things, now I don’t feel that way. It is what it is, and if I have more to say or want to some clarify ideas, then I think those would belong in a new book.
You discuss in the introduction the reasons you hesitated to tell your story in such a public way–fear of ridicule and scorn of certain friends being primary. Has the reaction been what you expected?
All the feedback that I’ve gotten so far has been positive, I’m pleased and grateful to say. I haven’t encountered any ridicule or scorn. It recently occurred to me that my friends who are skeptics will probably be too polite to face me with their feelings if they think this book is a bunch of junk – who knows what’s going on in the back room, though!
I do still deal with the fear. Some of my personal security men from Iraq have recently ordered Application of Impossible Things. I’m guessing they didn’t read the description of its contents. I’m pretty sure that they think they ordered a book about my living and working and getting blown up in Iraq (and they’re hoping they’ll be in it!). I was flustered by their eagerness to order the book and did some head spinning: do I ‘warn’ them about its contents or let them find out on their own? In the end I didn’t say anything, choosing to surrender to my weird sense of humor – part of me is giggling, part of me is still a little nervous because these men guarded my life with their own for sixteen months and I’m still a little baffled and awed by that, and still a little in love with all of them. I want them to like me and think well of me, Insha’allah.
I sit myself down and have little talks with myself about this sort of fear. After all, if these men (or friends, or strangers) think the concussion must have caused hallucinations or brain damage, well, then it is what it is. Best case scenario, though: some of them will have had similar experiences or know a friend who has, so they’ll connect with the book in some way. I suspect that there are quite a few military and ex-military men and women who have had near death experiences but don’t talk about it.
Do you have any other books in the works?
Yes, I have a fiction novel called Bare Bones coming out later this year, e-published by Hearthbright Books out of St Paul. I wrote Bare Bones about twenty years ago and it’s finally found a home. I’m hoping to set aside time this coming summer and fall in order to get back to writing more fiction.
I’m also working on the book about living and working in Iraq. I’ve started this book about fourteen times over the past four years. I recently scrapped all those drafts and am beginning it again from scratch. It’s a difficult book for me to write. The experience of Iraq was dense and intense; it’s taken time to be able to sort through such intensity to discern what has value for non-war zone readers, and what will never translate. Also, it may seem that after a near-death experience I should be free of post-traumatic stress symptoms but I’m not, and writing this book sometimes set those symptoms off. Working through that can slow things down. I’m hoping that this time next year I’ll have this finished book, though.
Is there a question you wish I had asked? If so, what is it?
You wrote a nice note to me just after Application of Impossible Things came out. In it you said that you’d mentally stuttered on the line “I don’t believe that there are universal dream symbologies … “ (Preface, pp. iv-v) I can’t remember how I responded to that, but I have thought about it quite a lot since we corresponded, since another friend stumbled somewhere in that paragraph too.
In listing what I believed and didn’t believe, I wasn’t intending to invalidate any of those tools, props or disciplines. I had specific reasons for listing those things that had to do with my (the Gathering’s!) intended audience. But aside from that, the list was setting up my point that they are “ultimately unnecessary. They can be invaluable starting points or training tools, but they are not requirements and can at worst become impediments to personal exploration, expansion and finding answers to one’s own best questions.”
In my understanding, dream interpretation is an excellent way to open up the mind and to invite an awareness of and communication between the conscious self and the whole or non-physical self. I wrote that I don’t “believe” in universal dream symbologies, yet that is probably not entirely accurate.
My understanding of universal dream symbologies is that they are a learned language. If you begin to record your dreams, then pick them apart, analyzing them and thinking about them and drawing correlations between them and your physical life, you will begin to either recognize or create a language of symbolism that allows the non-physical parts of the self (unconscious, subconscious, or other) to communicate with and be understood by the conscious mind.
If in the first three dreams you find a bluebird, and all three times you consciously interpret that bluebird to mean X, the bluebird will come to mean X. Because the non-physical mind is not stupid – if it didn’t mean X to start with, now it will learn the language that you have created. The non-physical will say “She thinks that bluebird means X, so now when I want to say X, I will use a bluebird.” And it’s a two-way street – sometimes the conscious you will understand that the non-physical means Y when it shows you A; sometimes the non-physical will understand that the conscious you will read Z when it shows you B. You are building a language.
If you are building that language consciously referencing a structure of universal dream symbology, your non-physical self will learn that “universal” dream symbol language and use it.
The universal dream symbology, then, exists. It works and it is accurate. Therefore you believe in it.
But my understanding is that you believe in it, therefore it exists, it works, and it is accurate.
My point then, re-stated, is that universal dream symbologies (and anything else listed in that paragraph) can be an invaluable starting point … but it is not a requirement necessary to communicate with your whole self, and if it ever becomes confining then that would be a perfect time to step beyond it and add another language to the mix.
Language structures our perceptions, so learning many languages is an interesting way to stretch (and often a good way to uncover surprising contraries – !)
Thank you for inviting me to participate in the First Church of Metaphor, Laura. It’s been fun to think about these questions and share my thoughts with you and your readers!
Natalie Sudman worked as an archeologist in the Great Basin states for 16 years before accepting a position managing construction contracts in Iraq. After being injured in Iraq, she retired from government service to concentrate on art and writing, both long-time passions. Raised in Minnesota, Natalie has lived most of her adult life in eastern Oregon, Montana, and South Dakota. She recently moved to southern Arizona where she has started a business making cremation and memorial urns (www.inyantraceartstudio.com), and continues to write. Her artwork is available through Davis & Cline Galleries in Ashland Oregon.
Application of Impossible Things: Out of Body in Iraq is available on Amazon and through Barnes and Noble – or ask for it at your favorite bookstore.