Michaela draws on near-death experience to create art
With her organs failing, Michaela Antoinette lay in bed and prepared for death.
Four years later she hasn’t forgotten the "sheer terror" she felt when her body started to "gently vibrate".
"It happened over the course of three days and three nights," she said. "As I was going through this gentle vibration it then intensified on the second day, and the third day.
"I got afraid because I started to physically vibrate and shake and I thought, 'Oh my God, I'm going to levitate.' I went into fear mode: I don’t want to get up off this bed; I don’t know what's going on. You can imagine the sheer terror."
She believes the experience started her healing process and steered her career as an artist.
The Infinity Collection: Part 1 is now on display at the Bermuda Society of Arts. Comprised of 13 pieces, Michaela describes it as "the first fine art collection to utilise augmented reality technology in Bermuda". A smart device and earphones are needed to take it all in.
"With my art I'm expressing what I felt and what I went through and the invisible realm that we're not always aware of; the realm that we can't see visually. Obviously we see on a spectrum of light, I paint what's beyond that veil.
"I paint beyond what we see with our two eyes. I paint what we see with our awakened third eye or the pineal gland."
Michaela had suffered from poor health since birth but was able to struggle through until she completed her studies and began practising as a lawyer.
"I was on a cane and started to have to wear a back brace, all sorts of things," she said.
Doctors couldn’t pinpoint the cause of her problems. When her mother also became ill Michaela decided genetic testing was necessary.
"I knew something was wrong," she said. "We were having so many symptoms and she had never been sick before."
It turned out her mother had an aortic dissection, a tear in the main artery leaving her heart. The doctors were content to make repairs and move on but, believing that the tear was a consequence of a bigger problem, Michaela insisted they track her family's medical history.
"They brought in a team of doctors [and] came up with Marfan syndrome as a possibility. The geneticist threw in everything you could think of and [my mother's test for Marfan] came back positive. About a week later I tested myself, same thing.
"Basically your connective tissues and everybody else's are like strong bungee cords; ours are like flaccid elastic bands. Connective tissues [make up] 80 per cent of your body – your eyes, your organs, everything. So at any point anything in my body could go awry."
Worried that practising law was delivering too much stress, she quit and was working out her next move when her health took a nose dive.
"I was making that transition into using art as a healing modality when I had my near-death experience, what was really a kundalini awakening."
The Sanskrit term refers to a specific type of meditation believed to have the energy to awaken the potential for awareness on a mental, emotional and physical level.
"This energy is in everyone. It's qi in China, it's prana in India. So this energy just spontaneously came alive within me and started to heal my body in a very gentle and calming way.
"After this awakening occurred I sought out information because I didn't know it existed. They don't teach us about it on this side of the world at all. I literally went from being bedridden for a year … I was in constant pain and my organs were failing. I literally said goodbye to my family."
As doctors did not seem to know what was wrong with her Michaela had been doing research of her own over the years. She had also gone on a spiritual search for something that resonated.
"I was aware of meditation and I was using sound as well because I know that we are electromagnetic beings, we're frequencies," she said, explaining that her knowledge was based partially on the texts of Royal Rife, an American scientist in the 1920s who created a machine that he claimed cured cancer using electromagnetic frequency.
"I did so much reading over the years so I was aware of meditation, of sound and energy healing and things like that but I did not know about kundalini awakening specifically because that’s something that, usually, a very trained guru would have to guide you through."
As such she was ill-prepared for her experience. When she later shared her tale with Rick Strassman, the author of DMT – The Spirit Molecule: A Doctor's Revolutionary Research into the Biology of Near-Death and Mystical Experiences, he described it as "something akin to a miracle".
"The nervous system is where this energy actually moves through our body and our organs. When those synapses start to fire, that’s when the electric currents come. I felt those energy centres within me, whirring like a turbine engine. It's unnerving," she said.
"Your chakras begin to break open so that they're able to vibrate at the frequency at which you can then heal yourself. As they were whirring within me, my hand chakras began to open on the third day."
She recalled hearing "beautiful" music similar to what, she imagined, a choir of angels would sound like.
Accompanying that was the feeling as if someone was pressing a very blunt object very deeply into the middle of her hand.
"Those energy centres in your hand, once your chakras break open and become able to vibrate at the frequency in which they're supposed to, you become, I guess what the gurus in the east would call enlightened. But it's just remembering more than anything. Most people are chasing this enlightenment but you awaken to different possibilities and different frequencies constantly as you learn more and go through life.
"At the end of the third day, by that time I was completely terrified from being electrocuted, feeling all these energies around me."
Without anyone to guide her through her breathing her nervous system became so overwhelmed that, six months later, Michaela was paralysed.
"It was overtaxed," she said. "You could imagine the electric shocks through the nervous system. It was like having an electric shortage.
"I actually went numb from my foot to my neck. That lasted a couple days and then the numbness subsided through my body but it remained in my hands. I'm still working on that. A lot of my art was painted with my partially numb hands."
Despite the trauma and her “miracle” recovery, she never bothered to see another "western" doctor for further tests.
"It's not something that can be measured. After this happened I was like, what are doctors going to say to me? They're just going to look at me and say, 'OK, that’s interesting.'"
Michaela was raised as a Christian but, in a quest to find a personal relationship with God "sought knowledge and understanding for almost a decade". Today she describes herself as an omnist.
Her days are devoted to her art and her work as a sound healer.
"I now help counsel people in a different way other than being a counsellor in law. I help people reach into their deeper traumas and help heal them, first through acknowledgement and then through meditation and other practices."
Infinity is her first exhibit following her entry in Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art's 2019 Charman Prize where John Charman bought her painting, Paradox of Free Will.
"My art really ties into my health and my healing. [I do it] to communicate that we have this inner power to heal that’s literally God-given, divine-given, a higher power, the universe – whatever you want to call it.
"It’s a power within us that we have been given by the spark of life, the source of creation – we can literally heal ourselves. So my art is a reflection of that inner journey that I took to come to terms with my health issues and any life lessons. I was at a state of peace and had accepted that I was going to pass. And in that acceptance that’s when the qi energy just rose and just healed me."
The Infinity Collection: Part 1 is on display at Bermuda Society of Arts until February 8. Visit www.michaelaantoinette.com; www.bsoa.bm. Follow Michaela Antoinette on Instagram @The.Infinity.Collection