On Enlightenment

Excerpt from ‘An Interview with Michael Hutchison’ by Thom Hartman


Michael HutchisonMichael Hutchison has been a leader in the AVS / light and sound industry for many years. He has held workshops and seminars, produced recordings, and has written several books, including "Mega Brain Power: Transform Your Life With Mind Machines and Brain Nutrients" and "Megabrain: New Tools & Techniques for Brain Growth & Mind Expansion". But a couple of years ago he stopped writing.

Q: What happen to you?

A: Until three years ago, things were going great. I had returned from giving a series of workshops in Europe and Japan. I was 400 pages into a new book that I was optimistic about, because I thought it was original and offered new insights into the nature of peak states and how to obtain them, using reliable techniques, derived from new discoveries in the science of complexity and the mathematics of chaos.

Then I got hit by a quadruple whammy, along with a string of mind-boggling coincidences. One night I woke up, the house was filled with black smoke and my office was on fire. My computer, EEG machine, electronic equipment and mind machines were on fire. The smoke knocked me out. The only thing that saved me from burning up was that the firemen had an infrared imaging device which they had just acquired, that allowed them to see through this dense black smoke. They discovered my body and pulled me out of the fire. It was luck that a neighbor had been awake, seen flames, and called the fire department. In the intensive care unit they told me I'd almost died of smoke inhalation, not to mention almost getting burned to a crisp. Almost everything I owned burned up; the new book I was working on, my notes, research, past writings, journals, family photographs, my poems and short stories. After the hospital, I went for a two hour run, got caught in a snow storm, slipped on an ice patch and fell into a river bed. I broke my spine. Over a period of time I felt myself dying. I woke up in the operating room, having neurosurgery done on my spinal cord. My core temperature was so cold, they had to pump my blood out of me into a special warming unit and then back into me. Apparently, someone had been passing by the vacant park in the snowstorm and had seen my body in the river. The next time I woke up, I was the intensive care again, dying from pneumonia. After I recovered from that, I got it again, and again almost died. What I was dealing with were six near-death experiences in a short period. I was paralyzed from the neck down and had to wear a whole body brace.

The doctors told me I could expect to be a quadriplegic for the rest of my life. I was in the hospital for four months, my money had run out, Medicaid wouldn't cover any more, and I did not have any medical insurance.

My only course of action was to get admitted to a nursing home; dark, noisy, overcrowded; a warehouse for old people waiting to die. I was depressed and in constant pain.

I thought my life was over, thinking, "I feel young, but can't move. I'm a writer, but can't move my hands, I'm a father, but not with my son, I'm a thinker, but can't think clearly. I'm a lover, but I can't make love." Then it hit me that I had to do what I had been writing about in the new book, to live the spiritual processes that I had been exploring before the accident: the idea of spiritual awakening. I decided to look on being confined to the nursing home as the equivalent to undergoing a retreat in a Zen monastery.

While doing research in neuroscience in 1984 for "The Book of Floating", I interviewed scientists who were researching mind enhancing technologies. I had peak experiences with these devices but my real interest was my search for the experiences of awakening and pure being.

Paralyzed in the nursing home, thinking my life was over, it became clear that the driving force in my work and my life wasn't the brief periods of ecstasy you get from high risk, adventures, and peak experiences, but that I had been driven all my life by a deep longing to wake up to permanent enlightenment.

I became convinced that enlightenment was a real thing, available to everyone, like breathing. So, the whole point of these disasters was I had no choice but to become enlightened myself. I decided to look at being confined in my wheelchair as being confined to a Zen monastery or retreat. I started doing intense meditation. Months passed with interesting experiences-- visions, images, floods of white light, movies in my head, thoughts,-- but it was not enlightenment, because these were all "things". After months of frustration, it began to hit me and I knew it was time for the ego to let go. Like a fist opened up, all contractions disappeared; contraction of the mind, of the body, of the emotions. I began experiencing this upwelling of radiance and realized it was bliss which we could call Consciousness or Spirit. The simple beingness of being was bliss. It was fun to be alive. Every moment. Even though I was having a lot of pain, and was paralyzed, no matter what my external condition was, there was still this intrinsic joy at being alive. I had this sensation of bliss or consciousness as just being some transparent, invisible, all pervasive substance that surrounded and permeated and interpenetrated everything in the world, and I was swimming in it. In the past I had been looking for peak experiences, states of cosmic consciousness, and trying to find ways to induce them, whether with drugs, alcohol, mind machines, floatation tanks, running or relationships. It became clear that this kind of awakening-- of being lived through by Consciousness-- wasn't a peak experience, per se; it was just the condition of being, the nature of reality, the primary, innermost essence. Usually, we go through life, unaware of this pure Consciousness, because our minds are always active, and distracted by the things that are going on. Certain mind technologies, like the float tank, light and sound machines, and ganzfields, can help us shut off the things of the world, and then pure Consciousness arises naturally. Used in this way, mind tools can really become tools of awakening. The book that I had been writing had to do with synthesizing complexity science, the mathematics of chaos as tools for analyzing peak performance, optimizing the function of the human body, particularly the brain and mind, and ancient spiritual techniques for awakening.

Coincidentally, as all this was going on, I was getting better physically. I was able to spend time in a wheelchair, regained more movement in my limbs, and began walking with a walker. My physician called it, "a miracle".

After living in the nursing home for two years, I'm living in a public housing apartment on my own now with the help of an aide. The whole thing has been a great liberation. It's a miracle that I'm alive at all, but when you live with the constant experience of being lived through by Consciousness, you see that everything is a miracle. Being paralyzed forced me inward in a radical way-- something that never would have happened otherwise.

So, to sum it up: I'm a quadriplegic. I live in poverty. I'm the happiest man on earth.


Excerpt from www.thomhartmann.com/hutchinson.shtml, 2002