Beyond Death

IN THIS ISSUE JANUARY 2008

Interview with Dr Tony Cicoria
Author: Suzanne Nichols

In 1994, Dr. Tony Cicoria was talking to his mother on a pay phone when he was suddenly struck by a bolt of lightning. Abruptly, the 42-year-old orthopedic surgeon and man of science found himself out of his body, detachedly observing the efforts to save his life. Upon returning from this near-death experience, Cicoria discovered a new and insatiable desire to play the piano. Soon, he began to compose his own music, often working straight through into the early morning. Cicoria’s story is featured in Oliver Sacks’ new book Musicophilia: Tales of Music and The Brain. In honor of the book’s release, Cicoria recently performed his original composition, “Lightning Sonata,” before a live audience. SC Magazine’s Suzanne Nichols spoke with Cicoria about his perspectives on time, reality, and creativity.

SC: Is there particular insight into the nature of time and/or reality as you had known it prior that was significantly changed as a result of your experience?

DC: Sure. When I had the experience the thing that I was struck about was that time did not exist. I did not have any sense of time. I could have been gone for a week and there would not have been any appreciation of time as an entity, per se. But one of the things about the whole experience was the confusion I felt when I initially separated from my body. I knew that I had gotten struck, and I knew that I had gone flying backwards and then I was standing there, and I was confused. There was nothing that signified that I had left. It was a continuum of consciousness. There was never a microsecond where I wasn’t thinking and conscious of everything I was doing. But, the thing that was lacking was that there was no connection to this reality, whatsoever. You know, as I floated up the stairs and I went into the room where the big family gathering was, I saw my kids as I was passing through. And I had really no concern other than the fact that when I saw them, I just had the feeling that they’re going to be fine.

When I left my body and, the first thing that happened was I separated, and I was standing there and my mother-in-law came running down the stairs right toward me and she was screaming, and she ran right past me. I was kind of shocked, and I turned to follow her and that’s when I saw myself on the ground and I saw everybody around the body. And I thought, “Okay, now I understand.” The first thought that I had was, “Oh, shit. I’m dead.” And so, you know, the consciousness was going, and the consciousness was just incredibly mind-bracing.

For a brief microsecond the highs and lows of my life just kind of flashed in front of me, and it was, okay, that was that.

But I had no need to stay there. It was like, “Oh, well, so I’m obviously going someplace else.” For a brief microsecond the highs and lows of my life just kind of flashed in front of me, and it was, okay, that was that. Then when I left the building, that’s when I was surrounded in this aqua-colored, bluish-white light, for lack of something better to call it.

When I was in the light, I no longer had any connection to previous reality, but yet my consciousness was absolutely racing, and I was absorbing all of the feelings that I was having of how wonderful this was and there isn’t any negative thought, everything is positive thought and love and warmth and a great feeling. It was just incredible. Right about the time that I realized, “This is the most wonderful thing that anyone could experience,” boom, I was back! And I remember when I was suddenly back and I realized I was back, I was angry. I remember screaming, “please don’t make me go back, I don’t want to be here.”

SC: And so it was, what, maybe a month or two after that that the music, the passion to listen first began to happen?

DC: It was about that. It took me a couple of weeks to kind of get over what had happened. At that point I went back to work and I tried to get my hands on anything I could read that had to do with lightning. I was trying to understand what had happened to me. And then the music started. The first thing that came was just the desire to hear piano music. I started to listen and I didn’t question it all that much. It was shortly after that that I thought, “You know, I really want to be able to do more than that. I want to be able to play this music.”

So I just said fine, and I ordered all of this music that was on the CD. I ordered the sheet music. Right about the time that I ordered the all this music, the babysitter says, “I’m moving. [And I need a place to store my piano.]” And I thought, “Well, this works out for you and it works out for me because I’d like to have a piano to try to tinker with and you need a place to store it.” That’s one of those little god-winks . . . and so the piano shows up.

Beyond Death Interview with Dr Tony Cicoria

SC: Now, during this time, had you already started hearing what you refer to as “music from heaven” or original music, not the compositions of others?

Then every time I would sit down to work on whatever else I was trying to work on, this other music would just kind of muscle its way in and say, “I’m here now, and you need to listen to me.”

DC: That started fairly early. It was shortly after the piano came. I woke up, I remember, it was about 3:20 in the morning. I had woken up after having this vivid, vivid dream of standing actually outside my body and I was watching myself play. But the music I was playing was nothing that I’d ever heard before. And the realization that I had was that this was all my music, that I had actually written this. The dream ended when the piece ended, and I woke up with a start and I sat on the edge of the bed and I went out to the piano. I had an idea of lines and spaces and that I could write down at least the idea of what the music was. The only part that I could write down at that moment was actually the last part of it. I wrote that down in a rudimentary way, with no measures or anything else. But I knew I could at least write down the basic idea and in my memory, it was playing. Then every time I would sit down to work on whatever else I was trying to work on, this other music would just kind of muscle its way in and say, “I’m here now, and you need to listen to me.”

SC: Dr. Sacks (referring to you) says, “he grew to think he had had a sort of reincarnation, had been transformed and been given a special gift, a mission to tune in to the music that he called, half-metaphorically, the music from heaven.” Is that something that you would still say is applicable to how you feel about your experience now? This is kind of a new life for you?

DC: Yes. It has completely changed the way I look at life. So I think there has been a virtual rebirth in the way I think. And the music, as I quoted to him, it’s not something that I make myself do. If I sit down and I relax, I’m almost like tuning into a frequency, and it comes in blocks. It doesn’t come a little at a time, it comes in entire blocks. And I’ve had just pages downloaded into my brain at one time.

SC: I love that phrase – downloaded into your brain. I like that a lot.

DC: Yes. It has completely changed the way I look at life. So I think there has been a virtual rebirth in the way I think. And the music, as I quoted to him, it’s not something that I make myself do. If I sit down and I relax, I’m almost like tuning into a frequency, and it comes in blocks. It doesn’t come a little at a time, it comes in entire blocks. And I’ve had just pages downloaded into my brain at one time.

SC: How you would describe the change from how you thought before to how you think now? Are you still a practicing orthopedic surgeon?

DC: Yes.

SC: So that’s a continuum, in terms of your practice of medicine, that you’ve maintained throughout this transformation. Can you more specifically pinpoint how your thinking may have changed or how the way that you live your life has changed?

DC: If I had to sum it up, I would say that I have a very spiritual approach to the interactions that I have with people as a learning experience. Even when things are bad, I look at it as, okay, what am I seeing; what am I supposed to be learning; how is this supposed to enrich my experience in terms of who I am and applying that to people that I interact with on a daily basis. The point is that everything happens for a reason.

If I sit down and I relax, I’m almost like tuning into a frequency, and it comes in blocks. It doesn’t come a little at a time, it comes in entire blocks. And I’ve had just pages downloaded into my brain at one time.

What do you think really happens when people have a near death experience? - Tell us below!

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