In­ter­pret­ing the world­wide spir­i­tual awak­en­ing

Peo­ple have long been hav­ing near-death ex­pe­ri­ences, now many believe they are part of a world­wide spir­i­tual awak­en­ing

Spirit and Destiny - - Editor’s Letter -

Are life-chang­ing near-death ex­pe­ri­ences teach­ing us to live bet­ter lives?

When the Net­flix show The OA hit screens last year with its dizzy­ing tales of near-death ex­pe­ri­ences (NDEs) and in­ter-di­men­sional travel, it be­came an in­stant hit.

Telling the story of Prairie, a young woman held cap­tive and ex­per­i­mented on by a sci­en­tist ob­sessed with NDEs, the show taps into our in­creas­ing de­sire to know more about what lies be­yond the mor­tal world, and cap­tured our grow­ing fas­ci­na­tion with whether NDEs can help us un­ravel the mys­ter­ies and very na­ture of con­scious­ness it­self.

Set to re­turn with a hotly-an­tic­i­pated sec­ond sea­son in 2018, the show’s co-cre­ator, co-writer and star, Brit Mar­ling, was in­spired by real-life NDE sto­ries, some­thing that, in re­cent years, have been on the in­crease.

With the ad­vent of such main­stream shows, and sci­en­tific re­search into NDEs, peo­ple are far more will­ing to speak up about their ex­pe­ri­ences. Not only do many claim that NDEs have trans­formed their lives but that they are hap­pen­ing in in­creas­ing num­bers as part of a world­wide spir­i­tual awak­en­ing.

Dr Penny Sar­tori is an ex­pert in NDEs and au­thor of sev­eral books on the sub­ject. Her lat­est, The Trans­for­ma­tive Power of Near Death Ex­pe­ri­ences, fo­cuses on how peo­ple’s lives have been pos­i­tively trans­formed af­ter an NDE.

What is an NDE?

A near-death ex­pe­ri­ence most com­monly oc­curs when some­one has a close brush with death. Typ­i­cally a per­son loses con­scious­ness and en­ters a higher state of re­al­ity by way of a vi­sion.

It can hap­pen to any­one, at any age, and what you ex­pe­ri­ence can vary greatly.

‘The most com­mon per­cep­tion of an NDE is of some­one trav­el­ling through a dark tun­nel to­wards a bright light up ahead,’ says Penny.

‘But my re­search has shown there’s far more to these ex­pe­ri­ences. Some­times peo­ple hear a dis­em­bod­ied voice or meet a be­ing of light, or find them­selves in a beau­ti­ful gar­den. I’ve also in­ter­viewed peo­ple who’ve re­ported that they've vis­ited crys­tal cities.’

Time also loses its mean­ing, with many believ­ing their ex­pe­ri­ence lasted hours, when only min­utes have ac­tu­ally passed.

Go­ing public

NDEs were first brought to the public’s at­ten­tion in 1975 thanks to Ray­mond A. Moody Jr, a philoso­pher turned psy­chi­a­trist whose book Life Af­ter Life was based on in­ter­views with 50 peo­ple who had ex­pe­ri­enced an NDE.

The first col­lec­tion of its kind, its sto­ries con­tributed to se­ri­ous sci­en­tific study into

NDEs. But in the in­ter­ven­ing years, cyn­i­cism abounded and their spir­i­tual side was fre­quently ridiculed and largely dis­missed.

Penny first be­came in­ter­ested in NDEs over 20 years ago, while nurs­ing in In­ten­sive Care.

‘When I be­gan my re­search in 1995, it was very dif­fi­cult to find peo­ple who were will­ing to talk to me. NDEs are such over­whelm­ing ex­pe­ri­ences and peo­ple were afraid of be­ing laughed at or ig­nored,’ re­calls Penny.

Now more peo­ple are will­ing to come for­ward and, since her book Near Death Ex­pe­ri­ences of Hos­pi­talised In­ten­sive Care Pa­tients was pub­lished in 2008, she has re­ceived over 14,000 emails from peo­ple want­ing to share their NDEs.

‘Iron­i­cally, sci­ence now ap­pears to be com­ing full cir­cle and stud­ies are be­gin­ning to con­firm the spir­i­tual di­men­sion.

‘There has been a re­newed com­pre­hen­sion of NDEs and they are now be­ing taken much more se­ri­ously. Con­se­quently, peo­ple are feel­ing com­fort­able shar­ing their ex­pe­ri­ences pub­licly.

‘Peo­ple used to call me mor­bid, but when you start to learn about death you re­ally start to learn about life. Now we’re see­ing a big shift in our so­ci­ety; peo­ple are look­ing for an­swers and mean­ing in their lives and are less afraid to be open. Added to that, med­i­cal tech­nol­ogy has ad­vanced mas­sively so more peo­ple sur­vive crit­i­cal ill­ness than would have done 20 years ago. It seems log­i­cal to pre­dict that many more peo­ple will report an NDE.’

A pro­found trans­for­ma­tion

Penny’s re­search has left her in no doubt that NDEs oc­cur, but the big ques­tion is why?

Dur­ing her re­search, she devel­oped a the­ory that peo­ple's ex­pe­ri­ences dur­ing an NDE are part of our global evo­lu­tion, as we be­gin to ad­vance to a higher level of con­scious­ness as a so­ci­ety.

This means that for many peo­ple their NDE has a trans­for­ma­tive ef­fect, which bet­ters them and those around them.

‘Con­trary to the be­liefs of those who dis­miss the NDE as an aber­ra­tion of a dys­func­tional brain, the ex­pe­ri­ence does not end af­ter

‘When you learn about death you re­ally start to learn about life’

re­gain­ing con­scious­ness,’ she says. ‘There are many changes as­so­ciated with NDEs that can con­tinue for the rest of a per­son’s life.

‘One of the most im­por­tant ques­tions we can ask is what is it about NDEs that makes them so pow­er­ful that they change the way peo­ple per­ceive and live their lives af­ter­wards?

‘It is the trans­for­ma­tive as­pect of the NDE that is of great­est in­ter­est to me, be­cause it has the po­ten­tial to ben­e­fit so many peo­ple.’

Re­veal­ing re­search

To ex­plore this topic in her new book, Penny in­ter­viewed a num­ber of peo­ple from around the world who had ex­pe­ri­enced a trans­for­ma­tive NDE. One of whom was its co-au­thor, Kelly Walsh, 42, from Manch­ester, whose own NDE prompted her to seek out Penny.

Af­ter strug­gling with an eat­ing dis­or­der in her teens, and de­pres­sion and anxiety in her twen­ties, at 33 Kelly’s mar­riage had bro­ken down and she found her­self liv­ing back at home with her par­ents.

Feel­ing lost and worth­less, she took an over­dose to try and end her life. It was while ly­ing in her hospi­tal bed, as doc­tors tried to flush the tox­ins out of her body, that she had the NDE that would ul­ti­mately trans­form her life.

‘It was dark, my eyes were closed, and I was feel­ing re­ally anx­ious,’ re­mem­bers Kelly. ‘I had an aware­ness that there were spir­i­tual be­ings around me try­ing to keep me calm. I couldn’t see them, but I could feel their pres­ence in a pow­er­ful and lov­ing way. They had a sooth­ing, peace­ful ef­fect and I believe they were there to help sup­port me with what I was about to ex­pe­ri­ence.’

Spir­i­tual con­nec­tion

Kelly was trans­ported on a jour­ney and could feel her­self go­ing through what felt like ‘bumps’ in the uni­verse that she didn’t know then were dif­fer­ent di­men­sions. Her life flashed be­fore her and she could see and feel the emo­tions of what she’d ex­pe­ri­enced in life up to that point in time.

‘It wasn’t a par­tic­u­larly pleas­ant ex­pe­ri­ence, it felt like a test or bat­tle to sur­vive. I was trav­el­ling at what seemed like supersonic speed,’ she says.

‘Af­ter seven jolts, I felt as though the bat­tle was over and a wave of re­lief surged over me. I was fi­nally at peace and en­veloped by un­con­di­tional love. It was the most in­cred­i­ble, joy­ful, lov­ing feel­ing, and I wanted to stay there. It’s hard to put into words. Then, sud­denly, some­one or some­thing spoke to me.

‘I can­not tell you ex­actly who or what it was, as I have no rec­ol­lec­tion, but it said: “You are strong and pow­er­ful. It isn’t your time. You still have a mis­sion to carry out on earth. Hu­mans have the ca­pac­ity to heal phys­i­cally, men­tally,

emo­tion­ally and spir­i­tu­ally through love. Self-love is the most im­por­tant of all.” In that mo­ment, I re­alised we are all one, all con­nected.’

Car­ing and shar­ing

Kelly be­lieves the mes­sage she was given was telling her that her mis­sion in life was to help other peo­ple heal.

‘My NDE taught me that we are all one big global fam­ily. Re­gard­less of colour, creed, gen­der, re­li­gious be­liefs or other per­ceived dif­fer­ences, we are all loved equally and un­con­di­tion­ally. Our sim­ple pur­pose is to work to­wards love,’ she says.

Kelly made a full re­cov­ery and was in­spired to set up the Pos­i­tiv­ity Power Move­ment, an on­line com­mu­nity aimed at unit­ing peo­ple in pos­i­tiv­ity, and the char­i­ta­ble foun­da­tion

Love Care Share, which aims to make a pos­i­tive difference to chil­dren af­fected by poverty and suf­fer­ing.

‘I use my story as an ex­am­ple of the change that is pos­si­ble,’ con­tin­ues Kelly. ‘I'm meant to share my truth and col­lab­o­rate with oth­ers, to make beau­ti­ful, last­ing change on our planet.

‘Through the foun­da­tion, we plan to bring love, joy, hap­pi­ness and pos­i­tiv­ity into chil­dren’s lives the world over, leav­ing a beau­ti­ful legacy.’

Kelly, how­ever, isn’t alone in trans­form­ing her life since her NDE, as the book she has writ­ten with Penny proves.

‘While it's log­i­cal to con­clude that any­one who sur­vives a brush with death will be changed in some way, re­search shows it's the NDE it­self that is re­spon­si­ble for the change,’ says Kelly.

‘Not only have the peo­ple in our book been trans­formed in pos­i­tive ways in their well­be­ing and health, but their new ac­tions are all about the greater good; they are no longer the cen­tre of their own world, but part of the big­ger pic­ture.

‘Stud­ies into NDEs, and re­lated phe­nom­ena, have con­sis­tently shown that we are part of an in­ter­con­nected uni­verse, and that con­scious­ness con­tin­ues be­yond our earthly ex­is­tence. This re­al­i­sa­tion has the power to in­spire a shift in our un­der­stand­ing about life’s mean­ing.’

Is this evo­lu­tion?

Of course, not every­one is in agree­ment with Penny and Kelly’s view­point.

Su­san Blackmore is a Bri­tish psy­chol­o­gist, and per­haps the best-known sci­en­tific skep­tic when it comes to ex­pla­na­tions for NDEs.

Af­ter hav­ing her own out-of-body ex­pe­ri­ence as a young woman, she started in­ves­ti­gat­ing para­nor­mal claims, and de­voted much of her ca­reer to ex­plain­ing them sci­en­tif­i­cally. Su­san ar­gues the stress of ap­proach­ing death on the brain can trig­ger many of the phe­nom­ena as­so­ciated with an NDE, though she is yet to dis­cover why the se­quence of events re­ported in NDEs seem to be uni­ver­sally com­mon.

Mean­while, sci­ence writer and founder of the Skep­tics So­ci­ety, Michael Sher­mer, said in a piece en­ti­tled Why A Near-Death Ex­pe­ri­ence Isn’t Proof of Heaven for the Sci­en­tific Amer­ica: ‘Be­cause we do not have a nat­u­ral ex­pla­na­tion for mind and con­scious­ness, peo­ple turn to su­per­nat­u­ral ex­pla­na­tions to fill the void.’

Yet, re­gard­less of the skep­tics, Penny, Kelly and oth­ers con­tinue ex­plor­ing NDEs and believe they have huge po­ten­tial for hu­man evo­lu­tion.

‘Dur­ing their NDE, many peo­ple re­alise that we are all con­nected and that our ac­tions there­fore im­pact on every­one we in­ter­act with,’ says Penny. ‘When they re­turn to life, NDErs are of­ten more lov­ing, com­pas­sion­ate and tol­er­ant to­wards oth­ers.

‘If every­one adopted these char­ac­ter­is­tics and con­sid­ered how their ac­tions im­pact on oth­ers, wouldn’t the world be a bet­ter place?’

‘One of the most im­por­tant ques­tions is what is it about NDEs that makes them so pow­er­ful that they change the way peo­ple per­ceive and live their lives af­ter­wards,’ adds Penny.

‘Take Kelly for in­stance, how can an ex­pe­ri­ence trans­form such sui­ci­dal thoughts into the com­plete op­po­site? How was she able to change her mind­set so dras­ti­cally?’ asks Penny.

‘I believe as more and more peo­ple en­gage with the mes­sage of the NDE, there will be great ad­vances in our evo­lu­tion as we be­gin to un­der­stand that ul­ti­mately our ac­tions im­pact on our­selves. We will then be­gin to live from love and not fear.’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.