Act 2 : With a valiant heart, nothing is impossible
This article is a follow-up to Act 1 : A storm in my meninges, in which I tell the story of how I lived and survived a meningeal hemorrhage. Here I give a second level of reading, where mental, heart and presence come into play.
Presence is a state. A singular state of consciousness. It lives beyond words. Therefore, these can only help us to identify what presence is not, that is, non-presence, mental. What is mental ? A simple definition tells us that it is « the totality of the activities of the mind including thoughts and emotions » . This is an interesting starting point, which is in line with Eckhart Tolle’s vision :
« In the sense in which I use the term, mental does not only refer to thought. It also includes your emotions as well as all the unconscious reactive patterns that connect thoughts and emotions. Emotions are born at the meeting point of body and mental. An emotion is the reaction of your body to your mental, or the reflection of your mental in the body. » 
To understand how Eckhart Tolle came to write this, one has to look at his story. In his book The power of now, he tells of having been depressed and even suicidal for a long part of his life. At the age of 29, he underwent an inner transformation such that he spent several years in a profound state of peace, away from society. He finally returned to the world as a spiritual teacher. He describes his transformation as the result of intense depressive suffering that caused such pressure on him that it eventually forced his consciousness to disengage from his mental.
At the heart of identity : mental
Eckhart Tolle also claims to have been influenced by Jiddu Krishnamurti. The main teaching of this Indian-born philosopher is based on a transformation of the human being, and more precisely of the « old conditioned brain of man » . A transformation that can only take place by freeing oneself from all conditioning, be it religious, political, social, family, cultural…
This man was also the initiator of the opening of several schools whose vocation was to promote alternative education. He wanted to make human beings who were freer to explore their own thoughts and behaviors and to detach themselves from them.
An unconscious dynamic
At first glance, mental may appear as a confused and nebulous subject. Probably because it is based on a dynamic that is all the more complex as it has become, over time, unconscious. However, by drawing inspiration from Eckhart Tolle and Krishnamurti’s teachings, it is possible to bring more awareness to the heart of this dynamic. It is based on four main axes : emotions, knowledge, thought and time (see the article on the dynamics of mental).
Their teachings about mental are not really new to me, strictly speaking. I didn’t discover them after December 2013, I’ve been trying to put them into practice since I started a personal development process, that is to say for more than 20 years. Eckhart Tolle and Krishnamurti simply state them in a different way, one that resonates particularly with me, in relation with what I have experienced.
Essentially, they ask this big question : « Who am I ? ». And, essentially, they bring this realization : « Probably not the one I believe ». Indeed, in a very basic way, I could describe my marital situation, my professional situation, and everything else I think I can define myself. Except that once you start doing personal development, the answer can no longer be so basic…
From one identity to another
Thus, this question has already received different answers in my life. Indeed, I rather consider myself as a being in search of evolution, I seek to broaden my perception of myself and life. For example, a few years ago, when I saw myself as a very uncreative person, I discovered that it was just a limited idea I had about myself. The reality is that I can fully express myself through art and that gives me a lot of joy.
But even though, in a similar way, I have later found new definitions of myself — so to speak — it ended up becoming a new mental vision of who I am. A new identity that I’ve become attached to. In fact, the very process of « seeking to become someone else » belongs to the dynamics of mental. So even though I know I can move from one definition to another, « I » remains fundamentally identified with itself. In other words, « I » can have several aspects. But does it have an existence of its own, apart from these aspects ?
That’s what I think. Precisely, my belief for years has been that I don’t limit myself to this or that vision of myself. I have learned through various books, teachings and workshops that I am more than my identity. I’ve forgotten who I really am, I’ve forgotten that I’m One with Everything. And I’ve been looking for years for a way to remember that so I can touch that unit again.
My belief is that I am fundamentally not my mental, which thinks, analyzes, evaluates, remembers and anticipates. I am not simply my thoughts, which constantly define and redefine my identity, or what I take for such. I’m not just this ego, which was built with and around these parameters. I am, in essence, more than that.
Consciousness and unconsciousness
When mental absorbs consciousness
But what am I ? Consciousness, did I heard and read. What is consciousness ? What are the links between mental and consciousness ? Let us first consider what happens to the vast majority of us : we function on a very limited mode of consciousness, because in reality our mental absorbs all our consciousness.
It is as if consciousness is levelled by mental, as if it completely identifies with it. In other words, we live in unconsciousness. We believe that we are only our thoughts, senses and emotions.
When consciousness starts to emerge, it gradually emerges from unconsciousness. In fact, it would be more accurate to say that it is moving to another and more subtle level of unconsciousness. But, essentially, it remains unconscious. Why ? Firstly, because it is still more or less caught in the mental nets and its derivatives, namely conditioning, causality and determinism. Thus, by seeking to evolve and detach from mental, it only maintains itself in a mental process of becoming. Secondly because the ripple effect of mental is such that it continues to drain consciousness into the processes and dynamics it knows and masters.
« Keep talking » could be the motto of mental, because it still holds the reins. And because the dynamic of cause and effect that it induces remains, in fact, always present. This is certainly the reason why after all these years of personal work to try to define mental and go beyond its limits – at the heart of unity – it all remains a bit hazy for me and, somewhere, distant.
When consciousness seeks to free itself
If I am unable to really experience unity, it is precisely because I still unconsciously believe that I am my mental, and I am trying to find this forgotten unity with my mental.
« And when I say that you forget, I mean you can no longer feel that state of oneness as a reality that flows. You may believe it to be true, but you no longer apprehend it as such. A belief can certainly give you comfort. However, only experience can set you free. » 
How to live such an experience ? Is deciding to experience a state of unity enough to experience it ? What a complex issue ! Because it brings into play, among other things, the notion of choice. This notion is discussed in depth in the article Does free will exist ? Here, to simplify, I would say that deciding to live in a state of unity presupposes at least the belief that it exists. That is what makes it a necessary condition. Without this belief, what can motivate us to want to live the experience ? Without this belief, what will the mental do with an experience that is totally foreign to it on the day it perhaps presents itself ? It could simply miss it, or worse, deny it. Thus, we can consider this belief necessary for the very creation of the conditions of the experience.
However, it would appear that this is not a sufficient condition. Otherwise it is likely that many people, including me before my stroke, would have already had this experience. Add to this the fact that this belief can become a mental quest – « I » is looking for a way to live the experience – and it loops again and again and limits itself.
When experience is the only way out
The experience of unity in question is precisely beyond belief, beyond the thought process. Thought has usurped the place of true perception, which only takes place when thought stops. But even if thought decided to end its own process, it would still be a decision of thought. So what could stop this process if thought itself cannot ? Can we ever get out of the movement of mental ?
« The blade of the knife cannot cut itself » Buddhists say. By analogy, trying to get out of mental by using mental is not only impossible, but it turns to be as absurd as counterproductive because in the end it only strengthens it. Mental sees itself as an entity separate from everything and it feeds on this separation, whatever it may be. This is why wanting to separate it from itself by using it in vain gives it more importance. Secondly, to actually experience unity is not in the interest of mental at all. If there is unity, there is no more separation and therefore no more space left for it. And this is too great a risk for the identity it defends no matter what.
If it is not possible to leave this process by force of will, if the very nature of this process prevents it from going out of itself, are there conditions under which it can simply be suspended ? In other words, can presence just happen ? Eckhart Tolle tells us that danger or beauty can put the mental on hold.
Altered state of consciousness
Unawareness of danger
When the mental freezes, what is left then ? Consciousness ? Is mental just a small aspect of consciousness ? Could the brain be able of another activity, an activity that is independent of any mental process, but which could nevertheless act on it ?
It would seem that considering all of this questioning has been the challenge I set myself on this evening of December 2013.
« If you’ve ever found yourself in a life or death situation, you know it wasn’t a problem. In fact, mental has not had time to palter and make it a problem. In case of real emergency, mental freezes and you become totally available in the present moment. Then something infinitely more powerful takes over. » 
So, what was at play between my mental and my consciousness that night ? Let’s go over the course of events again.
8:00 pm — The break of an aneurysm has just caused bleeding in the right hemisphere of my head, in the meninges. I feel a violent and sudden headache that warns me that something unusual is happening. The intensity of the pain completely focuses my thoughts on this state of affairs.
Although my body doesn’t send me any other worrying signals, I prefer to sit on the little sidewalk right next to it to wait for James : if I have to faint, I’ll fall from a lower height. It occurs to me that I may have the first migraine in my life, but how do I know since I’ve never had one ?
A limited database
My mental, unable to be satisfied with the approximation of this possibility, seeks another hypothesis. It must be said that in some unexpected situations, such as the one I was in that night, it can be as useful as it sometimes is in everyday life. Thanks to it, I quickly assess my other symptoms : at this stage, none. I don’t have paracetamol in my handbag and even if I did, I have a hard time convincing myself that such a drug could stop this acute and seizing pain.
However, the possibility of having a stroke doesn’t cross my mind at all. My mental is probably simply unable of suspecting this diagnosis because in its database at the time, stroke is synonymous with : paralysis, numbness, disturbance of balance or vision, and difficulty expressing oneself ; however, I have none of these symptoms, I am thinking clearly, I feel able to understand what I am being told and express myself as I usually do.
Helplessness of mental
What I don’t know yet is that meningeal hemorrhage is a form of stroke whose main characteristic is a sudden, extremely intense and long-lasting headache, which is precisely the symptom that is manifesting itself in me at that moment. However, this symptom alone can lead to neurological deficits (speech, vision and hearing problems) depending on the location and projection of the aneurysm, as well as the duration and intensity of the bleeding. In fact, when a hemorrhage occurs in or around the brain, the entire brain is at risk because of the increasing pressure in the skull.
Knowing nothing of that, my mental continues its usual work, it searches, analyzes, compares… The truth is that it cannot relate this strange sensation to any other. No matter how hard it searches its database, nothing matches, no known condition that comes close to it, no equivalent experience to weigh up in order to know what to do… In the end, all it manages to find, in spite of itself, are its own limits.
A strange fear
Then, fear begins to win me over. Strangely, I also feel a certain detachment from this fear. I have an unusual awareness of it, so to speak. It’s as if I can observe my fear, as if I recognize that the fear is there, but it might as well not be. Like I’m not sure I understand why it is in me. As if, overwhelmed by this situation, I entered into this fear because I had found nothing else to do ; because it is the usual and rational reaction that manifests itself in such cases ; and because at this very moment I am all alone, sitting on a sidewalk, and I could potentially lose consciousness.
The fact is that not only will I not sink into unconsciousness, but the awarness I have of myself will somehow expand. The state of emergency in which I find myself is on the verge of tipping me over into an unfamiliar « time » : the here and now, the presence.
The power of the heart
Precisely, my consciousness swings from my head to my heart. Then I become unable to focus on the headache that assails me because that the powerful sensation emanating from my heart magnetizes all my consciousness. I can still feel my pain, but it’s like in the background, almost secondary.
Then, something that is not of the order of thought, something greater takes place in me, like a power of absolute serenity that emanates from my heart  and which, if it were translated into words, would affirm to me : « Whatever happens, it will be all right.” This feeling prevails without prevailing.
It is an energy very different from what I am used to, which does not try to be right, which is simply there. My mental has no hold on this feeling of presence because it is no longer there : presence has simply eclipsed it. In a flash, my thought flow and emotions are suspended.
« What actually happens when you become conscious of the Being is that the Being becomes conscious of itself. That is Presence. » 
The moment presence manifests itself, it simultaneously counterbalances my feeling of fear and stops my mental. At that moment, I am my consciousness out of sync with my emotions and thoughts. As if my consciousness is no longer focused on my mental. Therefore I am there, more than ever, conscious, present, but I am not my mental, I exist outside of it, in unity with Everything. I see myself as a larger version of myself. This state of grace lasts a moment, an eternity.
A shock to the brain
At this point, I don’t know anything anymore. My consciousness is no longer identified with my mental, time has no value or even meaning, my heart is open, the « penetrating vision », as Krishnamurti calls it, manifests itself :
« (…) When you perceive something in a complete and absolute way, this total perception is different from the fragmentary perception that has characterized the functioning of the brain until now. When there is total perception and total action, it inevitably affects the brain cells. (…) It’s a shock to the brain, which is confronted with a completely new situation. » 
In fact, this « experience in the experience » has simultaneously produced several new things for my brain :
- I had a dreadful headache, which literally besieged the physical space in which my mental functions ; there was a race against time between my mental which was trying to understand the situation in order to know what to do, and the permanent threat – if I lost consciousness – that it would have no physical support in order to be able to dedicate itself to this task.
- Feeling so threatened, it blindly sought to defend its survival, to prove that it was useful. The mental believes it has the solution to any problem. Whereas it only makes problems, which end up fitting into each other like a fractal process. Then it tries to solve them, but in the end only manages to make new ones. Thus, at that point in my experience, it was increasing its activity tenfold, and the intensification of its activity was crescendo : the more it tried to understand, the more it touched its helplessness, and the more it wanted to regain control.
A strange paradox
- Then a strange paradox arose : my biology was concretely in mortal danger but my mental, in its frenzy of activity, took up all the space and did not allow the consciousness that was not completely identified with this process – thanks to the work of personal development ! – to access the information that my body kept sending it, so it put itself in danger.
- Eventually, just as the physical pressure of the blood ruptured the aneurysm and poured into my brain, my mental activity came under pressure and eventually gave way. Like the breach that has been created in one of my arteries, a breach has been created in my mental process. At the moment when my consciousness separated from it to emanate entirely from my heart, it made it perceive the vanity of its attempts to grasp and understand the situation. Even being afraid made no sense, as if it was really just an illusion.
End of mental, end of conflict
- At this moment, there was no more conflict. My mental wasn’t fighting anymore, whether it was against the fact that the situation was getting out of hand, against the fact that the evening was probably ruined, or against the fact that this sort of thing shouldn’t happen. There was no more conflict because there was no more mental. There was no more « me ». And that is why the heart, the authentic perception, the penetrating vision, manifested themself.
Paradoxically, the « detachment » of my mental occurred in a moment of danger, without my awareness of that danger. Or maybe I knew my life wasn’t really threatened, because in reality it never could be. Only the mental believes that it has a life and a limited life span when it has only living conditions. Whereas the Being is, in the words of Eckhart Tolle, « unbounded and indestructible » .
Consciousness of the heart
The first times after this experience, I thought that at that moment I had become aware of my mental. But if I look closely, I’ve been aware of my thoughts, my patterns, my mental constructs, my emotions for a few years now. I’m learning how to deal with them, how to stop being trapped and locked up by them. With more or less ease and efficiency, I am gradually detaching myself from all this. So it wasn’t really an awareness of my mental that happened that night.
In fact, it wasn’t until I read Eckhart Tolle’s teachings and then Krishnamurti’s ones a few months later, that I realized what really happened : my consciousness, through my heart, became aware of itself. And this is not the same point of view at all.
We function in a very limited mode of consciousness when our mental absorbs all our consciousness. It is this strange fusion that completely distorts our perception of life. To become one with the Being completely redefines the notion of fusion, or let us say that it is put back in its right place. Consciousness that fuses with Being is a healthy fusion, mental that takes over consciousness creates a permanent and insatiable search for fusion, because it is artificial and based on separation.
As close as possible to the point of no return
What I have experienced has made me really feel in my body and cells that I exist beyond my thoughts and emotions, « I am » something other than my mental, something that comes from the heart and is « infinitely more powerful ». I came as close as I could to the limit beyond which I could not bring the profound realization of this experience back into my incarnation, into my body, here and now. Finally, this experience led me to establish a new relationship with myself. Otherwise, continuing my journey on this Earth would probably have been too difficult for me.
So that’s how I can describe my « experience in the experience ». My inner experience at least. Because if the presence manifested itself inside me that night, it also literally manifested itself outside. In order to understand what I mean, we have to go back to the way things happened…
A larger version of myself
I am here, more than ever, conscious, present, but I am not my mental, I exist outside it, in unity with Everything. I feel in a larger version of myself. This state of plenitude lasts a moment, an eternity.
Then, through thick and thin, convinced that it was right and that it could not let anything but itself exist, my mental quickly took control again. It immediately identifies itself with the « whatever happens, it will be all right » emitted by the consciousness emanating from my heart. Then I tell myself that it can’t be very serious, that this headache will pass. At that moment, everything goes very fast, the urgency of my body pushes me to act, while already, I feel supported by grace.
Notes and references
 According to WIKIPEDIA
 TOLLE Eckhart, Le pouvoir du moment présent [The power of now], Québec : Ariane Editions, 2000, p.25, free translation
 KRISHNAMURTI Jiddu, Se libérer du connu, Paris : Le livre de poche, 1995, p.103, free translation
 TOLLE Eckhart, Le pouvoir du moment présent, op.cit., p.20, free translation
 Ibid., p.47, free translation
 See also the article on quantum biology to better understand the links between heart and brain.
 TOLLE Eckhart, Le pouvoir du moment présent, op.cit., p.63, free translation
 KRISHNAMURTI Jiddu, Les limites de la pensée, Paris : Le livre de poche, 2006, p.143, free translation
 TOLLE Eckhart. Vous n’êtes pas votre mental [You’re not your mental]. In : Eckhart Tolle’s teachings