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A Shot in the Light
by Lion Goodman
During the summer of 1978 I was traveling through the Southwest as a jewelry and giftware salesman, selling a wide range of items from Austrian crystals to feather earrings. On the way to Los Angeles from Las Vegas, I stopped to help a motorist whose car had broken down in the middle of the Mohave desert. His name was Ray. He was down on his luck, and so I allowed him to travel with me. Over a three-day period, I grew to trust him, sending him on errands while I called on stores to sell my wares. The third night, we were camped out near Claremont. I was sitting on the floor in the back of the large van, moving things around to make more room for my passenger's duffel bag and travel gear.
Suddenly, there was a loud explosion. I felt a sharp, searing blow to the top of my head. Had the gas stove exploded? Then I looked at Ray, sitting in the driver's seat, and I saw the black gun in his hand. His arm was resting on the back of the seat, aiming the pistol at my face. A bullet had hit me! At first, I thought it was a warning—that he was going to rob me. That suddenly seemed fine. Take it all, I thought. Just leave me outside and drive away.
Another explosion shook me, and my ears rang with a high pitched whine. I felt blood dripping down my face and the top of my head throbbed. He's not warning me, I realized. He's going to kill me.
There was no place to hide. There was nothing I could do. I heard myself whisper "Relax. It's out of your control. Breathe. Stay awake." My thoughts turned to death, and to God. "Thy will, not my will, be done." I watched my breath, in and out, in and out, in and out. . . .
I began my preparations for death, reviewing my life, just as I had heard that dying people do. I asked to be forgiven by anyone I might have hurt, and offered my forgiveness to everyone who had hurt me throughout my life. It was a full-color fast-reverse movie reel of my entire 26 years. I thought about my parents, my brothers and sisters, my lovers, my friends. I said goodbye. I said, "I love you."
Another explosion shook the van and my body pulsed. I was not hit. The bullet missed me by a fraction of an inch. I relaxed back into my reverie. My luck could not hold out. Three bullets to go, if it was a revolver. Hopefully, the gun was not a semi-automatic.
Nothing was of any importance from that moment on except to be at peace. My van, my money, my business, my knowledge, my personal history, my freedom—all became worthless, meaningless, as so much dust in the wind.
All I had of value was my body and my life, and that would soon be gone. My attention was focused on the spark of light I called my Self, and my consciousness began to expand outward, extending my awareness in space and time. I heard my instructions clearly: Stay awake and keep breathing.
I prayed to my God, to the Great Spirit, to receive me with open arms. Love and light flowed through me. I was filled with a warm and welcoming golden light. The light grew inside me and expanded like a huge balloon until the van and its contents seemed small. A sense of peace and acceptance filled me. I knew I was close to leaving my body. I could sense the timeline of my life, both backward and forward. I saw the next bullet, a short distance into the future, leave the gun, jet toward my left temple, and exit with brains and blood through my right temple. I was filled with awe. To see life from this expanded perspective was like looking down into a dollhouse, seeing all the rooms at once, fully detailed, so real and yet so unreal at the same time.
The fourth explosion shattered the silence and my head was pushed violently to the side. The ring in my ears was deafening. Warm blood rushed down my head and onto my arms and thighs, dripping onto the floor. But strangely, I found myself back in my body, not outside of it. Still surrounded by light, love, and peace, I began looking inside my skull, trying to find the holes. Perhaps I could see light through them? I felt intact, and did a quick check of my feelings, abilities, thoughts, and sensations, looking for what might be missing. Surely the bullet had affected me, but I felt strangely normal.
I decided to look at my assassin – to look death in the face. I picked up my head, and turned to look into his eyes. He jumped up from his seat, shocked, and shouted, "Why aren't you dead, man? You're supposed to be dead!"
"Here I am," I said quietly.
He yelled, "That's too weird! It's just like my dream this morning! I kept shooting at this guy, but he wouldn't die! But it wasn't you in the dream, it was somebody else!"
This was very strange. Who was writing this script, I wondered? I began to speak slowly and calmly, trying to get him to settle down. If I could get him talking, I thought, he might not shoot again. He kept yelling, "Shut up! Just shut up!" He peered out the windows into the darkness. He nervously walked closer to me, gun in hand, examining my bloody head, trying to understand why the four bullets he had pumped into me had not killed me.
I spoke very slowly and quietly. My only chance to stay alive was if I could get him to talk. By asking questions cautiously, and listening carefully, he slowly calmed down, and we began a conversation. I kept asking him questions and I listened – to his story, to his feelings, to his wants and needs. I discovered that he had grown up in poverty, with a mean and angry alcoholic father. He had joined the Army to escape, but couldn't handle the authority, so he went AWOL. He got involved in drug sales. Things went from bad to worse. In desperation, Ray stole his father's gun and money, and tried to leave the area. But his car broke down in the desert. So Ray decided to attract help, kill whoever stopped to help him, and steal whatever they had.
He said plaintively, "Why were you so nice to me, man? No one's ever been that nice to me. I kept bringing the gun out when you were asleep, or weren't looking, to kill you, but you kept being so nice, I couldn't do it."
"What made you finally decide to kill me?" I asked. He replied matter-of-factly, "I decided the stuff was worth it." My stuff. The van and its contents could probably be pawned for no more than $5,000, I calculated. That's the value of my life. Good to know.
Since his was a life without options, I started to offer him some. "What would work for you, Ray, right now?" "Well," he stammered, "I'd take you to the hospital, but if I do that, you'll turn me in and they'll put me back in jail. I can't go back to jail."
Back to jail? I didn't ask. I began to offer alternatives, to show him other possibilities. Through that conversation, and through the light and love that filled me, we came to an agreement as the sun rose in the brilliant blue sky. He would let me go, and I would let him go. I agreed to not turn him into the police, and he agreed to never do anything like this again.
We drove to a place in Los Angeles that he was familiar with, and I gave him what cash I had and some jewelry he admired. He handed me my keys and my life back. We shook hands and said goodbye. I drove myself to the hospital. The ER doctor sewed me up and told me I was lucky. I already knew that I was lucky—or blessed. He told me that I had to file a police report. I know, I replied.
I walked out of the hospital, and spent a few days contemplating what had happened, and what it all meant. I realized that in my ecstatic god-filled state, my body's relaxation had been so deep that the fourth bullet had pushed my head over, allowing the bullet to glance off, rather than penetrate my skull. I received a great gift from Ray that night—I was reborn. I started my life anew.
I kept my part of our agreement, and I believe Ray kept his.
Lion Goodman is a "Evocateur" who coaches individuals and executives to live more successful lives through love, awakening, and integrity. He teaches workshops around the world, including "Manifestation through the Chakras: How to Turn Your Dreams into Realities."
A longer version of this story was first published in the book, I Thought My Father Was God . . . and Other True Tales from NPR’s National Story Project," edited by Paul Auster (Henry Holt, October 2001), and it was the basis for the award-winning short feature film, “The Kindness of Strangers,” by Claudia Myers.
Contact Lion by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
His website is: www.everydayawakening.com
© 2003 by Lion Goodman. All rights reserved
All contents of this page Copyright © 2003 by the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS). Materials may be excerpted, reprinted, or republished only with the express written consent of IONS.