Near-death experiences (NDEs) occur between the time when people are presumed dead and the moment that they reawaken within their physical bodies. NDEs have often occurred in hospital settings, where every technological resource had been brought to bear to resuscitate a person. Then, after having drifted away, seemingly beyond recall, the person returns to the land of the living with a startling story to tell.
In the majority of cases, survivors of near-death experiences report that the experience completely transformed their outlook on life and death. Some people who’d identified themselves as atheist or agnostic before their ordeal discovered, in its aftermath, an unshakeable belief in the existence of a spiritual world. Others witnessed sights that served to reaffirm and strengthen their religious faiths. Most survivors of NDEs describe their experience in benign terms. They felt support, guidance, warmth, and unconditional love during the time that they were away from their bodies.
Often, people in the midst of a near-death experience don’t realize, at first, that a crucial transition has taken place. They think they’re still alive (in the physical sense) and don’t notice that anything has changed. Typically, a person’s near-death experience begins in their immediate environment. Some report floating above their hospital bed and looking down on their own body. Others imagine themselves still in a body until they realize that they have a kind of mobility that they never experienced before (i.e., they can fly, or instantly move to another location by thinking about it). Sometimes people have adverse reactions to the sight of their physical bodies and feel happy to be free of them. Others don’t realize that the body they’re looking down on belongs to them.
Many journeyers understand once they acclimate to their new environment, that the rules regarding time and distances no longer apply in the ways they’re familiar with. Some have a sense of being everywhere at once; they don’t feel identified with any particular location but operate like omniscient observers of their surroundings. In some cases, survivors of NDEs have been able to corroborate places that they journeyed to in the physical world, places they’d never seen before they journeyed out of body. Many who return from the “other side” report that their senses were sharp, their perception heightened. Colors appeared more vivid and distinct.
At some point, most journeyers question their sense of identity. They become more inwardly attuned. Oftentimes this happens after they realize they can’t interact with others – they speak but can’t make people hear them, for example. It is usually at this stage of the journey that more transcendent experiences occur. People feel (and sometimes even see and hear) what they describe as spirit guides, helpful presences. Many see a bright and welcoming light. This is typically the crux point of the journey, the place where a decision must be made. Some survivors of NDEs report that their guides asked them, at this stage, whether they wanted to go forward into the light or whether they wanted to go back. Some survivors knew that the light meant leaving the physical world forever, and they chose to return to physical life at this point.
Those who return, after experiencing a taste of the afterlife, usually reexamine the values and ambitions that had previously driven them. Many of them no longer want to pursue the same goals that they had before. Loving humankind becomes more important to them than striving for personal achievement. Above all else, survivors of NDEs typically transcend the fear of death that they might have carried with them before. They embrace life passionately, knowing now that there is much more to it than they previously supposed, and don’t suffer for the thought that it must someday come to an end.