At the beginning of 2016 I travelled to the Indonesian island of Bali. From Europe this was a long and very tiring trip, leaving me utterly exhausted and jet-lagged when I finally rested in the surroundings of the beautiful jungle, and rice fields.
My partner and I had decided on staying somewhere more peaceful, away from the tourist sites. The tiny village we chose extended out from a large beach of black volcanic sand, past a stunning temple made of shells, and down beside numerous tropical gardens.
As my head hit the pillow for the first time since I arrived, I was aware only of the heat, and the subtle sound of the fan rotating above me, giving the scene the air of a classic film. My mind seemed to flow and expand as I lay there, unable to sleep as a result of the chaos into which the trip had thrown my body clock. I tried to let go of the thoughts, to flow into sleep, but it didn't work.
Instead I felt the energy expand and I began to lift out of my body. Moments later I was moving over lush green rice paddies, and the deeper greens, and rich colours of the jungle. I lifted high above the scene, noticing the light infusing everything around, gleaming from every living thing. Everywhere around me in nature resembled sunlight reflected off of a rippling stream. It seemed alive with energy, like the essence of life itself had become visible to me.
I drifted above bright green rice paddies, jungle alive with the sounds of birds and other animals. As I began to move back towards my body I paused in the air and looked out ahead of me to the majestic Gunung Batur volcano that stands in the North East, visible across the island.
I am not sure how long I stayed there, but the beauty of the scene captivated me, and I could feel the spiritual heritage of this island. There was a sense of history going back even further than the Hindu traditions of today.
Slowly I moved back towards my body taking with me a feeling of elation. As I became aware of my body again, I felt finally that I would be able to sleep. The next thing I was aware of, was a gecko scurrying across the wall, and the illumination creating beams of light through the shutters - it was many hours later.
I remember as I lay there how I thought of the times I'd experienced the energy of nature before. How early in my OBEs I'd looked into a single flower and saw the underlying life process unfolding through its form. Some friends and I had visited the New Forest during the day, an impromptu trip to get away from the chaos of London.
By the time we returned I was exhausted, and almost as soon as I laid down on my bed waves of energy grew from my solar plexus and lifted me out of my body. Initially it was as if my eyes were closed, so I attempted to open my non-physical eyes, or at least that's how it felt. The next thing I knew was overwhelming levels of light and beauty rushed into my senses, much like I would see in Bali many years later.
The vividness of what I was seeing left the biggest impression on me. I wanted to draw it into me, I had never seen so many shades and hues of colour before. I felt ecstatic, full of joy and a deep inner happiness beyond anything I could remember in my everyday life at the time. I realised I'd been drawn back to the area of the New Forest I'd visited during the day, yet now with a completely new depth to my perception. The plants seemed so captivating, pulling me to them, like knowing them or being close to them was changing something inside me.
I remember one flower in particular, a lavender coloured flower, with around five delicate petals. My awareness was drawn to this plant, and I felt my consciousness drift into its core. It is hard to put into words how wonderful this simple moment was, but I felt the cycles of the stem, and even the connection to the soil.
I don't recall how the experience ended, just that I opened my eyes with an overflowing feeling of peace and thankfulness. As I lay there in Bali, thinking back to that experience the link was undeniable. The light and connection to nature, combined with a sense of peace was so strong on both occasions.
As I walked out into the village later that day I looked at everything I saw with renewed eyes. The nature all around me seemed to have a hidden quality behind it, another level that we so often miss.
That feeling stayed with me, and when I visited Goa Gajah (or the elephant cave temple), I experienced another deep sense of energy and connection. the cave is dark, rich with the smell of incense, and illuminated by the flicker of small candles, or burners. I paused inside, allowing the tourists to quickly pass through, and waited until I was alone with the priest who was performing a puja, or offering, at the shrines set into the wall at each side of the cave.
Again the sense of something far deeper than the surface arose inside me, and the cave seemed to fill with a non-physical light. The darkness became rich with colour and light, first in my mind's-eye and then it seemed to become a vivid perception via my normal senses.
When I finally stepped out into the heat and intense daylight again, it was almost a struggle to adjust to the tempo of the tourists. During the days that followed I saw that colour and light reflected in the art across the island. When I watched the traditional dance of Bali at the palace in Ubud I saw in the dancers colourful costumes expressed those same qualities I have come to recognise in that otherworldly light.
Experiencing the out-of-body state allows us to reconnect with nature and beauty in great art and the temples of the world in a different way. A way that transcends culture or surface differences, and lets us see a shared human understanding that is apparent from the earliest cave art, to the most modern of spiritual experiences.