We’re all living, we’re all dying, every day a little of each. Cells die every day and are replaced by new ones. I’ve heard that every 7 years we have been completely changed by the death of old cells and the birth of new. And though that death part can be scary, there is solace out there. There is faith; for some, the thought of quiet nothingness is very appealing. I find the understanding that we continue on after death helped me. It began for me long ago by reading books and stories about near death experiences.
I suspect that for most of human history, we didn’t have this much trouble facing death. It was ever present. Few children survived into adulthood. So many parents buried so many children. Up until refrigeration, bodies generally stayed in the home while family and friends held wakes or vigils, washing and preparing the body themselves. Often making the coffin themselves. Often digging the graves themselves. We are so removed from death and dying right now that it can seem unreal and we keep our eyes averted.
The first near-death experience that was recorded, as far as I know, was described in one of Plato’s writings, so very early on in written history. If I remember right, he was a soldier who was lying on a pyre, ready to be cremated, when he woke up and began telling people all he had seen while he was “dead.” And what he experienced was remarkably like those experiences that people have today. My Aunt had a near death experience (NDE) and she was a changed person. She became psychic, could see beings around her, could sometimes tell what would happen in the future. With all the life saving technology we have today, so many people are being brought back from the brink that I believe we are seeing a huge increase in the numbers of people reporting these experiences.
My favorite book on the subject right now is by Anita Moorjani Dying to Be Me: My Journey From Cancer to Near Death to True Healing. She was in the hospital when her organs began to shut down, went into a coma and awoke knowing self-healing was possible. She left that hospital within a few weeks with no trace of cancer in her body. It’s a beautiful memoir about living a modern life conflicted by competing demands and finding what truly mattered after a brush with death. She also has a meditation CD titled Deep Meditation for Healing. I have not listened to it so I can’t say how good it is, but I know that her book is very beautiful and deep and I’m assuming so is the CD. I’ll listen and update this.
Books by P.M.H. Atwater. She has spent a lifetime researching and writing about it and even has a book out called The Big Book of Near Death Experiences. The title reminds me of Richard Scary books I used to read to my kids. I have also enjoyed James van Praagh.
In a less anecdotal and more scientific vein is Sam Parnia’s book. He is a critical care physician and director of resuscitation research at the Stony Brook University School of Medicine in New York, and his book Erasing Death delves deeply into the science of consciousness – what may be happening during these NDEs. Parnia is unwilling to dismiss all the evidence given by the millions of those with NDEs and he cites the growing number of researchers who are now studying consciousness and grappling with the afterlife. This is an excellent book if you are of a skeptical and/or scientific bent and want some proven science to build your speculations about life after death upon.
A book that came out about the same time as Parnia’s is Proof of Heaven, written by Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon who had an NDE. His was seven days long – probably a feat only made possible now by our life sustaining technology. His world view prior to his illness was that pretty much all we know is what we can sense, consciousness is a product of biology, the material world is all. His book details what he experienced, the conclusions he drew and what it all seems to means right now, but he was certainly transformed and filled with an enthusiasm to help the world. He has a non-profit called Eternea, concerned with transformative spiritual experiences. I think anyone would like this site, but it could be a true haven for people who find it hard to believe in anything beyond our senses. Find it at http://www.eternea.org
A third book just out is by a cardiologist titled Consciousness Beyond Life by Pimvan Lommel, MD. Dr. Lommel has studied NDEs for over 20 years and presents his theory of consciousness in scientifically grounded writing.
It seems to me that these stories should be of some comfort to people who have a great fear of death. I was convinced early on by my Aunt. I knew what she had seen was authentic. Little by little, profound stories of the afterlife are appearing. I believe that life continues after we die. I find knowing that there remains something of myself after death comforts me and eased, a little, the fears I was experiencing. I would also add in here A Year to Live by Stephen Levine. Though this isn’t about NDEs, it is about death and facing death. I have facilitated two year-long classes based on his book and have had several people from the class tell me that it erased their fear of death. May it bring peace to you also.
Please check the Resources section under Near-Death Experiences to find more books on this.