Response to National Geographic’s Article “The Crossing”

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National Geographic:  This month my story and a few other NDE stories were briefly featured in the April issue of National Geographic.  Our stories were not the main focus of the article “The Crossing.”  This article examines scientific and human experience as a way to explore the dying process.  The primary NDE story is the story of Mary Neal, an orthopedic surgeon from Wyoming and author of To Heaven and Back.  I liked Robin Marantz Henig’s description of Mary Neal’s response to the first responders working on her body.  They called, “Come back, come back,” and Neal found this “really very irritating.”

Consciousness Beyond the Body:  I understand Neal’s irritation.  Being free of the body and merging with a greater sense of consciousness feels wonderful and not at all like the “brain is shutting down.”  It is irritating to come back, and many NDErs report this feeling.  I describe returning to my body as being swallowed up by a dark wind.  I felt more alive while dead.  Most of the magic, light, and beauty disappeared, and my body felt heavy, drugged, and painful.  I didn’t want to be stuck in the limited experience of this particular body with her history, her stories, her psychological and childhood wounds, and the limits of her particular mind.  Outside of my body, I was both myself and greater than myself, connected to an incredible download of information, and for that moment I knew so much more than I could ever know living in this one perspective.  The experience of existing in a more expansive and connected universe made my individual experience seem boring and limited.  I had been inside the minds of so many others, and now I only had my mind as a way to process life.   When the nurse asked me my name, I said, “I remember her name.  It’s Tricia,” and it seemed annoying to have only my brain as a vehicle to process experience and information. Outside of my body, I was connected to a greater knowledge and understanding.

Many people I know have reported having a knowledge or sense beyond the physical, sometimes knowing the very moment someone close to them has died.  There is a knowledge beyond the physical that perhaps cannot be explained by measuring brain waves.  NDErs sometimes report a great connection to knowledge beyond what they have ever experienced.  The moments outside my body seemed nothing like a dream or a hallucination.   After my accident, I began to practice lucid dreaming, and even though these dreams were glorious, they were not the same as the NDE.

During my NDE, angels were sent as guides to comfort me and the information given to me in streams of light altered my consciousness.  Watching the angels work through the surgeons was an amazing moment because the surgeon’s scientific backgrounds may have made them skeptical that angels could work through them, but the angels were able to work through them anyway.

Scientific Arguments:  This article gives a little more time to researchers like Kevin Nelson, a neurologist at the University of Kentucky who calls what is happening to the brain during an NDE a “REM intrusion,” asserting this is the same brain activity that characterizes dreaming and happens during events like moments when a person might suddenly lose oxygen.  The way I see it is that scientists are standing on this side of the veil testing brains and making hypotheses without giving enough credit to the idea that there might be a reality beyond this one that humans are in the process of navigating while in these states.

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Pear vs. Apple:  To put it another way, say I ate an apple away from the view of scientists, and then a group of scientists tested the bile in my stomach, tested my sugar levels, and the acid forming on my teeth and suggested that I may have eaten a pear or possibly an apple.  I tell them I know that I ate an apple, but they continue to believe that a pear is just as possible as an apple because of the chemical reactions in my body. NDErs are repeatedly telling researchers that they experienced a greater consciousness than their own consciousness.  They saw people working on their body, and they saw a world beyond the body, but scientists continue to say, “No…this is a dream state or high-frequency Gama waves associated with meditation.”

Even if the brain that is not completely brain dead experiences these states, might these experiences happen because the spirit has disconnected, the essence of that person has gone on and that is the realm NDErs are describing?  Maybe during some meditations the spirit takes a brief hiatus the body as well or at least calms down, no longer focused on sensations of this world, sometimes even opening to guides from the other side.  Maybe this is why the brain chemistry is similar during meditation.

Science and Religion:  Some scientists argue with these NDErs experiences using only data.  Some Christians argue with only the Bible. Going back to the apple vs. pear argument, if scientists tell me the apple I’m eating might be a pear, I think they are ridiculous.  In the same vein, if some Christians tell me that I ate a demonic pear instead of an apple because my experience isn’t described in their book, I think they are equally ridiculous, perhaps more so for giving a “demonic” explanation to  the most light-filled, glorious moment of my life.

Some scientists want to prove that NDErs are only dreaming and there is not an afterlife.  Some Christians want to prove that their particular version of the afterlife is the only one that is real.  Both camps are afraid to admit that they may not know everything and may not be able to explain everything given their current information.  Most NDErs laugh at both camps, preferring the poets, spiritual seekers, and the open-minded, curious folks of the world.  Though NDErs don’t have all the answers, they have a few experiences that make them believe that we go on after death.  Science and/or religion simply can’t explain everything for us after our particular journeys.  I know that I came back with a lot of joy for life, an almost childlike appreciation of the smallest things.

I wish the article had captured our joy and the essence of our experiences.  I think we all should have been pictured jumping for joy with a caption reading, “I’m Alive!”  I don’t think of death as a traumatic experience.  I think of it as a beautiful, peaceful experience, and choose not to focus too much on the physical trauma and instead on the spiritual insights and beauty of those moments outside of my body.triciajumping

Spiritual with Buddhist Leanings in an Evangelical Family: Part Two

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“Because you are alive, everything is possible.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh Living Buddha, Living Christ

Humans are powerful spiritual beings meant to create good on earth. This good isn’t usually accomplished in bold actions, but in singular acts of kindness between people. It’s the little things that count, because they are more spontaneous and show who you truly are.—Dannion Brinkley

Since childhood, I have struggled with a few basic philosophies found in some Christian churches.  I don’t believe I was born sinful.  I believe I was born very close to the light of God. Reminding others of their basic goodness and divinity seems like a better plan than telling them they are born sinners.  I prefer Brinkley’s idea that “humans are powerful spiritual beings meant to create good on earth.”  This is what we should reinforce in ourselves and in others.  Peace is more than possible when the focus in on the power of the human spirit and one’s connection to source.

Recently, I’ve read arguments from Christians who dismiss the experiences of NDEers, saying that these experiences are merely subjective.  No single moment has ever seemed as real to me as the moments outside of my body.  Subjective or not, every moment in my waking reality pales in contrast to seeing angels interact with this reality.  Is that my personal experience?  Yes, but it is an experience unlike any experience before or after that experience, a vivid, multi-dimensional experience that granted me knowledge and understanding in a direct and powerful way.  I’ve spent decades trying to slow down those transmissions of light and information and decipher the meanings.  The main point is that I changed because of those transmissions.  Spiritual transformations happen in an instant.

Most people’s interpretations of the Bible are subjective.  Though I am grateful that my mom taught me to read before Kindergarten, mainly by focusing on the Bible, I remember questioning some passages, especially in relation to women’s roles.  Since I happened to be born a liberal, I suppose I was born a feminist as well, and St. Paul did not impress me, especially with lines like, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, she must be quiet.” in Timothy 2:12.  The boys attending my elementary school acted like idiots, and I thought they could benefit from listening to me for a while.  I knew how to read, tie my shoes, sit without fidgeting, play well with others, and write in cursive while they made fart noises, cried to get out of reading, and beat each other up on the playground.  St. Paul seemed like a sexist who wanted power for himself.

His writings and certain interpretations of a woman’s role in marriage harmed countless women.  Divorce started to ramp up in the U.S. when I was a child, and yet there were too many women who put off divorce, choosing to stay in horribly abusive relationships or loveless marriages because they bought into this idea that they were less than without a man.  Sometimes, they even believed that they must submit their will to their husband and pray for his healing, even as he took his rage out on her.   Only very small percentages of men who are abusive change.   This information only seems to have become common knowledge in the last five to ten years thanks to books like Crazy Love  and amazing researchers like Jackson Katz who remind us that women’s issues are really men’s issues when men are the ones committing crimes against women.

As a child, I questioned many passages of the Bible, but I stayed quiet about my questions because it would have cost me a lot to speak my truth.  I would have compromised my safety and compromised being loved if I openly argued with the Bible.  I acted the part.  Being loved for a lie didn’t set well with me either.  I believed that many authority figures in my life were wrong for not fostering my inquisitive nature, for not encouraging me to think for myself and question the world around me.  Don’t get me wrong, there were and are many parts of the Bible I love dearly.  The teaching’s of Jesus are close to my heart, as are many passages from Psalms.  I only wanted the freedom to question religion and the world around me.  Growing up, I did not have the freedom to learn about other religions and other practices.  I wanted to believe in a loving God, not a vengeful one.  The God I met during my NDE was more loving than any force I have ever dreamed of or encountered.  I know that God is indeed a loving force.

Growing up, I never fit neatly within the box of one particular religion or way of thinking.  I never fully adapted to my culture, and I’m grateful I didn’t.  I saw it clearly for what it was. I detested the racism I saw growing up in East Texas.  I cared for all people, and it hurt me deeply to see teachers treat African American students differently from white students.  I knew these teachers were intentionally harming African American students by not giving them praise, attention, or awards.  I saw certain students visibly wither from the lack of attention from teachers.  I bristled when I heard comments like “women aren’t good at math and science,” dreaming of a different part of the country and a different time when these statements would seem archaic and outdated.  We are reaching that place now.  I sometimes felt crazy for my sensitivity as a child, but I am glad others had this sensitivity.  I am glad some things about our world have changed.

Loving kindness is the most important trait we can cultivate in ourselves and for the world.  We might fall on our faces, say horrible things to one another, but I hope each of us gets up, forgives ourselves and the world, and quickly and practices even greater kindness.  May we see ourselves as connected and not in competition.

I write because I can no longer repress and suppress my truth.  Any wisdom I offer is only with the intent to heal—to make everyone more aware of their essential goodness, more in touch with their ability to be a force of good on this planet.  We are alive, and the possibilities are endless.  Let’s not spend the time arguing and quibbling over details.  Let’s love one another.   I leave you with some of my favorite Thich Nhat Hanh quotes from Living Buddha, Living Christ

“When our beliefs are based on our own direct experience of reality and not on notions offered by others, no one can remove these beliefs from us.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh, Living Buddha, Living Christ

“Twenty years ago at a conference I attended of theologians and professors of religion, an Indian Christian friend told the assembly, “We are going to hear about the beauties of several traditions, but that does not mean that we are going to make a fruit salad.” When it came my turn to speak, I said, “Fruit salad can be delicious! I have shared the Eucharist with Father Daniel Berrigan, and our worship became possible because of the sufferings we Vietnamese and Americans shared over many years.” Some of the Buddhists present were shocked to hear I had participated in the Eucharist, and many Christians seemed truly horrified. To me, religious life is life. I do not see any reason to spend one’s whole life tasting just one kind of fruit. We human beings can be nourished by the best values of many traditions.”
 Thich Nhat Hanh Living Buddha, Living Christ

Spiritual with Buddhist Leanings in an Evangelical Family: Part One

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One of the challenges of writing about my Near Death Experience is the disdain I will feel from family members once this novel is published.  Not only am I “too liberal for Texas” (except for that lovely blueberry Austin), but I am also an outcast in my family for my spiritual beliefs.  In my family, there seems to be a contest in place.  The more pious and judgmental you are, the more “holy” and “Christian” you are.  Hate, judgement, and disdain for others is not at all what the light demonstrated to me. 

Love, acceptance, and compassion are traits that are closer to God.  If these traits are expressed through a sermon and a church, then this is a good sermon and a good church.  If hate, fear, and judgement prevail, you’ve got the wrong spiritual leader and the wrong establishment.  Don’t drop money in the collection plate.

I’ve told my story to the Bio Channels’ I Survived Beyond and Back Series, and briefly to a researcher for an article in National Geographic, but I’ve never asked my family members if they wanted be interviewed.  I worry that my mom might talk about how she thinks my near death experience is “of the devil.” 

A few months after my accident when she handed me a pamphlet from her church citing examples of suicide among a few people who experienced the other side, I felt only sadness that she believed arguments about NDEs from people who had never experienced an NDE.  The claim made by a minister was that these experiences took people away from the church, encouraged them to get divorced, and made them more suicidal.  I haven’t personally heard of anyone committing suicide after having an NDE.  I know I had a much greater joy for life after my experience, and this trait is common among NDEers.  I saw God in everyone and unlimited possibility for each person.

I tried to imagine why someone might commit suicide after an NDE.  Perhaps, if a person already suffered from depression  or addiction before their NDE and didn’t address these issues after the NDE, suicide might be an option.  In that case, the suicidal person needed therapy, recovery, and other forms of healing to help with depression and/or addiction.  These particular cases didn’t need to be made into an example of why NDE’s are “from the devil.”  That is not logical reasoning.  The pamphlet my mom gave me reeked of fear and hatred of anything that contradicted the box that minister lived inside.  The pamphlet didn’t change my mind; rather, it affirmed that fear and a lack of compassion for others is not of God.

Even recently, LifeWay Christian bookstores pulled all books relating to near death experiences, citing that they would “refer the sufficiency of biblical revelation over subjective experiential explanations to guide one’s understanding of the truth about heaven and hell.”  Specifically, 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper was pulled along with other titles.  I am aware that my audience will not be Baptists and Evangelicals, so this decision does not disturb me.  I’ve seen people coming from these places of fear write reviews for books that I adore, especially Proof of Heaven.  The more Godly thing to do with one’s time is to focus on love, not hate, to focus on helping others.  Writing angry reviews seems a waste of time, and it seems better to focus on authors and writing that brings joy to one’s life.

Many of these angry reviews also claim that those who write about NDEs, do it only to make money.  Most people who labor to write a book, labor to write out of love and conviction.  They hope that others will be touched by their message.  They hope to connect.  No writer knows in the middle of the struggle to complete a book if their book will be a bestseller or not.  They only know they must write.  Criticisms that people write these books only to make money don’t take into account how much time, blood, sweat, and tears goes into writing a novel.  All that time and passion given to the page is a gamble, like anything else, not a guarantee of success.  Most writers can only hope they have an audience.

In my memoir in progress, Healed, I write about how my mom handed me a pamphlet from her church which attempted to discredit NDEs.  I hoped to better understand why Evangelicals fear those who have had personal experience with the light.  I also wrote about when I first told her about my experience, and I was still quite groggy after surgery. 

I don’t think my NDE contradicts the love and teachings of Jesus, but I didn’t see Jesus specifically during my NDE.  Pure love and understanding that surpasses all human reasoning is not “of the devil,” and my experience showed me more beauty and love than I ever imagined possible.  I saw that people were either shrouded in darkness or operating from a place of light.  Fear is darkness.  An absence of goodness is darkness. Love is the light.  Doing good things for others and the world is how we live in the light. My mission on earth is to remind people of their light and their ability to spread light in this world.

Excerpt from Healed  

I wanted very much to describe what I saw on the other side, and I remember saying, “Mom, I died.  I saw the other side, you know?”

She nodded and replied, “Did you see Jesus?”

My heart sank.  I knew she wouldn’t understand my experience or be enthusiastic about it if I told her no.  I also felt groggy from the medication, tired, and in pain.  I wanted to feel someone else’s excitement, so I said yes.  The Light could have contained the beauty of Jesus, even though I didn’t see a human form depicting him. But it was a hollow yes.  A yes to avoid an argument I wasn’t strong enough to have at that moment.

The light was lovelier than anything I had ever imagined in Sunday school, and I wanted mom to understand that we are not judged as her religion claims we will be.  After all, I was an insecure, depressed, college student; lost, deeply afraid, and experimenting with drugs, but the light had nothing but compassion for me.  This amazing divine light gave me deeper, more complete love than I had ever conceived possible.  For so long I had been hungry for total acceptance, and I found it on the other side.    She smiled sweetly and patted my hand as if I were only a child, years behind her in spiritual understanding.

I realized that although I needed to share my experience, she was not the best audience…..

 

The Light from the Other Side: Love, Prayers, and Ancestors

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The Light from the Other Side:  One of the most beautiful experiences while writing this memoir has been the moment I wrote about getting closer to the light while my heart stopped during back surgery.  This divine light gave me greater peace and joy than I had ever experienced while living in my body.  This powerful force of love must be why so many people do not want to come back to their earthly bodies.  Close to the light, I felt no pain—emotional, mental, physical or otherwise.  I only felt loved, whole, and peaceful.  We achieve moments of this ecstasy while on earth, especially through playing in nature and through prayer or meditation.  True loving kindness for others also gives us glimpses of this light.

Love is All that Matters:  Many people who have had an NDE have reported a similar message to what I heard.    This idea of “Love is all that Matters” seems simple enough, but the interpretation of it can be challenging, even for those of us who have heard this message firsthand.  I don’t think the light necessarily meant romantic love, though it can include that if that love comes from a place of purity and not manipulation.  Many NDEers have a great love for life itself after their experience and a great sense of urgency around their mission here on earth.  Right after the experience, they love even the simplest things like a beautiful bird singing a song in a tree.  They feel purer, like children who find beauty in so many parts of existence.  Love and gratitude for life is part of the message.  Being kind to others is a form of love.  Praying for others and wishing them well is form of love.  So much of romantic love seems to be manipulation and then anger if the relationship doesn’t work out as planned.  Though a beautiful part of human experience, it is not the only form of love by any means.

What is this Love?  Love can be a smile, a kind gesture, paying for someone’s groceries when they don’t have enough cash.  Love can be many things in action.  Service to others is a great form of love.  Making the lives of others more light-filled and joyful is a form of love.  Love can be found in enduring relationships full of deep understanding and compassion.  Love can be found alone in taking good care of one’s self and having compassion and love for one’s own heart. Mostly, we know love by the joy and light-filled feeling it gives us.  I am not an expert on love while in this human body, but I am lucky enough to have felt the most amazing form of love imaginable as I drew closer to the light on the other side.  Here is an excerpt about that experience from my memoir in progress titled Healed.

Excerpt from Healed

If I had to sum up the main lesson of my near-death experience, I would say that God, or the light, is a loving force that doesn’t want people to harm others and wants us to feel joy and happiness in our lives.  Love and kindness are the greatest gift we can give others.  We are all a part of that light, but we forget how to love because of fear.  We forget how to walk through this world as the light.  We are all closer to God as children because love comes more natural for us.   We can be gleeful about pets, a bird in the sky, looking into our parent’s eyes.  We are in love with the world, and the world is in love with us.  We breathed easier as children, and lived more extended, intense moments as children.

After experiencing a sense of oneness and understanding with people I knew, I spent a few moments in childhood with my grandfather, Clyde.  He was the only person close to me who had died.  My grandfather, a poor country man, had spoiled me to the best of his ability.  I hopped on the back of his blue Chevy truck and he drove us slowly towards the light.  My feet dragged the ground through bright clover and grass, greener and more intense, light-filled, than any grass I had experienced on earth.  Grandpa was younger and healthier than when I knew him, and he leaned his head out the window to ask if I wanted to keep going.  I nodded yes.   The truck lifted off the ground and headed toward the light.  At some point, I was no longer in the truck and my grandfather was not with me anymore.  I was very close to a love I can’t put into words.  I have tried to write about this experience so many times, but I break down and can’t write the words.  I miss the love.  I miss the light.  A large part of me never wanted to leave the safety of that place.  In that place, I felt no stress and more love than I imagined possible.  I felt more joy and contentment than even the brightest moments in this life ever provided, and I didn’t want to return to my body.  If a soul could smile, then my soul smiled, and I drowsed comfortably without worry.  I felt complete and utter trust in this experience.

As I got deeper into to the light, I felt the prayers of my mother, father, grandmothers, and a couple of my aunts.  I especially felt the prayer of a great-aunt who lost a daughter in a car wreck.  I very clearly heard her pray and beg God that my mother not suffer the pain she suffered when she lost her daughter.  This touched me, and I almost wanted to return because of her sweet prayer………………..

One of the most important lessons that was transferred to me by the light is that love is all that matters.  Though this seemed like a hippie slogan or a paraphrase from the Beatles, the message sunk into me on a deeper level.  Every interaction is meaningless if love is not attached to it in some way.  A prayer is meaningless without love.  A sermon is meaningless without love.  A religion is meaningless without love.

The prayers of those who loved me felt like wind, slowing down my progress toward the light.  Though their love felt sweet, and reminded me of my life on earth, their prayers did not stop my desire to keep going deeper into the light.  I’ve always been an adventurous soul, and this was the greatest adventure I’d ever been on…………..

 

Excerpt about the Angels from Healed, A Memoir

 

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Though my memoir is a work in progress, I wanted to share an excerpt about the first moments outside of my body.  The angels were a beautiful and comforting surprise.  I immediately placed my trust in their guidance.  To this day, I ask for angelic guidance, especially in the classroom or when I meet with a particularly troubled student.  Only recently have I begun to ask for their guidance in all areas of my life.  Though near-death experiences are profoundly life-changing, the human brain grapples with some of the meanings of the experience afterwards.  During my NDE, I saw that the angels worked through the surgeons because they were capable and ready to be of service in that moment.  I knew that I could be of service to the world as I worked and stayed in action, interacting with others.  Now, I know that I can offer that same healing to myself with the help of the angels.  May everyone be healed.  May everyone offer healing to others.

Excerpt from Healed:  A Memoir About a Near-death Experience and a Life Informed by the Other Side

No one, except possibly the most committed atheist, could have been more surprised than me at the onset of my near-death experience.   The first moments outside my body felt exciting and electrifying, and my spirit danced a bit of a jig realizing that there is more to existence than the physical.  I felt like a child again, happy to see what came next and glad that my spirit body retained the essence of who I am; though obviously I was a little concerned about the physical body on the table.

Soft rock music played on the radio, and my back had a long, bloody incision.  Surgery appeared more brutal and gory than I had imagined, especially from that vantage point.  My vision outside my body was 360-degrees, so I perceived the operating room differently than if I had been physically standing beside my body.  I could see above the doctors and the entire operating room all at once without blinking or relying on eyes.  There, in that space with the doctors, nurses, surgical technicians and others, I felt incredible joy and awe as I realized all does not die with the body.

After rejoicing for a moment, I noticed two of the most intelligent beings I had ever encountered.  They were very large, approximately eight or nine feet, androgynous with shoulder length hair, and composed more of light than solid form. I refer to them as angels only because I have no other terminology that befits what I saw.  These angels were part of an enhanced reality and nothing like a dream or a hallucination.

I’ve experienced thousands of dreams, but this was more real than any waking moment in my lifetime.  In dreams, the dreamer may be caught up in a scenario that feels real, but during the interval I existed outside of my body I felt like I was seeing the whole picture, or at least a vast intelligent connection that I had been missing while in form.  In college, I dropped acid on a couple of different occasions, and the hallucinations were minor, more shadowy; nothing like this vivid experience.  I had a complete awareness that this vantage point was more real than any reality I had ever experienced in my physical life.

People always want to know more about what the angels looked like. They ask, “Did they have wings?”  “Were they clothed?”  “How did you know they were angels?”

I don’t know if these two beings were angels, in the traditional, Biblical sense.  I only know that I immediately recognized them as unbelievably intelligent souls whose presence gave me indescribable peace.  My own awareness of this new dimension seemed much more limited than theirs. Most of what I realized outside of my body in the operating room came through immediate impressions, the way a child sizes up whether an adult is trustworthy or not.  The angels were trustworthy and there to help and comfort me, so I did not question their authority.

They sent me waves of intense light which transferred many messages all at once.  A light emitted from the eyes of the angels and into my spirit body, allowing me to access information faster than the fastest possible broadband speed.  Messages were given in the form of completed thoughts and feelings, not individual words. The knowledge they sent into my form not only calmed me down but altered the way I viewed everything about my life.

The angels, or messengers, were not only able to interact with my spirit body; they were also able to interact with the doctors, and more importantly, through them.  The doctors, most likely, did not realize this interaction.  I understood that my awareness, my sense of the world, and my ability to experience joy were growing exponentially moment by moment.  Just before the monitor started to beep signaling that my heart had stopped, the angels slowed down their communication, looked at me and intently, and said with force, “Watch this!”

The same light that they beamed into my spirit body, they sent through the backs of the doctors, through their hands, and into my physical body.  My corporal form was instantly altered and healed in ways that the doctors might not have been able to accomplish on their own.  By observing this light, I knew that I would regain my ability to walk, that the fragments of bone would be picked out of my spine, and that I would feel healthy, alive and even run again at some point in the future.  The angels turned back toward me, letting this knowledge sink in.

As the angels worked on my body, I realized that the surgeons were conduits of their energy and that the angels’ energy was an essential part of my healing.  Perhaps the surgeons’ egos wouldn’t be able to hear that or perhaps they would be empowered to recognize that angels worked through them.  I only knew that I needed to remember this moment vividly.  The angels wanted me to understand that they could work through me in the future.

While the angels and surgeons continued their efforts, my physical body shimmered with light and energy.  After a few more moments, the machine signaled that my heart had stopped.  Since it had technically died, I no longer felt any desire to observe my human form and sped through the walls of the hospital, pausing only because I caught sight of my stepdad James.  My mom married him while I was in college, and I hadn’t really gotten the chance to get to know him.  I did know he made her happy, so I was pleased that she had found him……

(For the continuation of the near-death experience story,  click here.    The next part covers the life review, a sense of oneness with others, and the love and surprising message from God.)

Copyright © Tricia Barker  2016

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. All rights reserved.

 

Lucky to Have Died, Lucky to Be Alive

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And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.” —Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

I consider the moment of my death the greatest gift of my life.  However, anyone who heard me screaming at the top of my lungs in pure, unrestrained panic in the ER at University Center Brackenridge Hospital in Austin, Texas would not have believed that twenty-four hours later I would be filled with the wonder and peace of the afterlife.  Immediately after surgery, I became a different person, hardly recognizable even to myself, as if a different, more mature soul had replaced the other immature one.

My near-death experience immediately altered my life and placed me on a different life path, one where I would dedicate my life to teaching and helping others.  Before the near-death experience, I was agnostic, materialistic, and deeply wounded by childhood scars and brief, unsuccessful attempts at romantic relationships.  I was shy and reserved and only opened up to a few people.  Like many people, I loathed public speaking.   I never imagined going into the teaching field, but my experience on the other side showed me that teaching would be the major part of my life’s mission and give me a greater connection to others. In the classroom, I have opportunities to help others achieve their academic goals, find peace about the dying process, or simply to offer people a moment of kindness and empathy.

As soon as I was given the chance to enter a classroom setting, I realized how easy it is for me to stand in front of others and teach.  Teaching has never been about me; rather, it is about how much kindness, compassion, and understanding I am willing to show for others.   In the classroom, I open myself to angels willing to work through me for the benefit of my students, and this process has given me boundless joy.  Each day spent working with students has been a gift from the other side.   In the act of serving others, I forget myself and my own issues and focus my attention on others.  Whatever difficulties I faced in my own life, the very moment I stood in front of my students I was there for their success, their healing, their growth, and their happiness.

One of my favorite books on the subject of near-death experiences is Proof of Heaven by Dr. Eben Alexander.  I’ve underlined almost every description he writes, thinking “Yes, this is the way I wanted to say it if I had a medical degree.”  I put off writing my memoir because Dr. Alexander articulates the scientific elements of the experience in a way that I can’t.  Lately, I have been guided to see that my perspective as a woman might offer healing to those who can relate to my life history and traumas before and after the accident.

On a couple of occasions, I told my story to a few people at an IANDS (International Association for Near-death Studies) meeting.  I admire and respect the work Dr. Jan Holden has done in the field of Near-death Experiences and Out of Body Experiences.  Dr. Holden recently co-edited a wonderful book titled The Handbook of Near-death Experiences:  Thirty Years of Investigations.  She includes portions of my story in her lectures and video segments because she likes to capture NDE’ers describing their experience in their own words.  Researchers are particularly interested in stories with a verifiable moment, and my experience includes one of these moments.

When I went to my mom’s house to recover after my wreck, I asked her if my stepdad, James got a candy bar while I was in surgery.  Mom said that when my dad showed up, James had never met him and he felt a bit uncomfortable and walked around.  When he returned, he had a candy bar.  As James walked through the hospital, my mom told me that she experienced an overwhelming sensation that I had died and fell to her knees and prayed.  I am touched that the prayers I felt from her and my dad were indeed happening at the moment my spirit left my body.  The biological and spiritual connection between relatives is undeniable.

Over the years, I have gone to hear numerous speakers and authors talk about near-death experiences.  In Austin, I heard Dannion Brinkley speak, and his confidence in his experience gave me peace.  I loved the fact that he made the audience laugh and feel joy around the subject matter.  He, and many others, have paved the way for my experience to be integrated into my life more easily. Whenever I hear Dannion Brinkley or other NDE’ers speak, I know that person is my brother or sister who saw behind the veil, who knows what I know.  When I hear stories like mine, I know that I am not alone.

At this point in history, many people have described their near-death experiences.  My NDE story is one more story, one more experience to add to the growing number of these stories, but I know that my experience of the other side has altered me for the better.  I’m not agnostic or driven by fear anymore.  I’m far from perfect and have made many mistakes, but I’m more open, more caring, and more interested in others than I was before the accident.

I love to help others find greater healing and motivation in their lives.  I’m an intuitive, though I rarely give readings and prefer to give guidance and help others in classroom and workshop settings.  I get messages from angels while I am in the act of serving others for their greater good.   I am open to giving readings on occasion.  I have some abilities that surfaced after my near-death experience, and other mediumship abilities that became evident after my father passed away in 2008.  Before contacting me or any reader, I believe people should trust their own intuition. Any reading should put people more in touch with their own innate sense of knowing.  I work full-time as a professor, so readings are something I only do when I feel guided to connect with someone. 

I’m happy to be alive in a time when more and more people can relate to my story and other stories about near-death experiences and talk openly about these subjects.  I deeply appreciate the work that many people are doing to help family members and patients integrate near-death experiences into their life in helpful ways.  We are lucky to be living in a time when the angels are working through us, and sometimes we happen to feel the energy shift for a moment and smile a little as it happens, grateful for the brief interaction.

May you be healed.  May you be blessed.  May you harm no one.  May you add joy to the lives of others.  May you be reminded of your light and divine connection. May you remind others of their light and connection to source. May you find a connection to nature and play more often.  May you be a loving person.  May you know that love, not hate, is the answer.  In a nutshell, that is what I learned on the other side.