Update 1/19/18: My memoir, Angels in the OR: What Dying Taught Me About Healing, Survival, and Transformation, is available for pre-order. It is a #1 new release in several categories. I would love your support of a pre-order. My aim is to help make near-death experiences more mainstream.
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.
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 profound 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.
14 thoughts on “Response to National Geographic’s Article “The Crossing””
In my belief there is a certain mystery when it comes to a Divine power. I have experienced what could be conceived as miracles without any kind of explanation other than an unconditional loving grace. I cannot explain how or why I just know that it was real. Obviously my experience isn’t to the extent like you or other NDErs, but you also mentioned not having all of the answers. That kind of uncertainty makes people uncomfortable simply because they don’t have any answers. Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone would be willing to embrace it and simply say that they don’t know?
In regards to the meditation I can believe that deep states of Samadhi or concentrated states would be able to touch some of the same planes of existence. Being a Buddhist myself, thoughts of impermanence naturally come to mind and I was able to meditate on the inevitable death of the brain, which brings gratitude for each moment that I am alive.
Overall I enjoyed the stories that were shared. Particularly the one of the little boy that fell into the freezing water. Of course I loved your picture. I don’t know about the cryogenic chambers, but who am I to say. It’s all still a mystery. 🙂
I would like it very much if more people could tolerate other’s ideas and perspectives with more respect and humility. While in these human forms, we are cannot have all the answers. NDEers believe they have glimpsed beyond the veil and usually want to share what they saw with others. At least, I know that I want other to have the same peace about dying as I have. For those who believe differently, I wish them well and hope their beliefs and practices give them much joy.
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I think your NDE is fascinating, Tricia. NDE is something that has interested me for many years. I accept that “something” separates from the body and is able to “see” what is going on etc but please could you try to describe what this OBE experience feels like ? Did you feel you were in another kind of body of some kind ? Were “you” (the OBE “you”) invisible to yourself ? Did you have human form ? You must have had some kind of form otherwise these “entities” that were communicating with you wouldn’t have been able to see you surely ? Fascinating stuff best wishes tim
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Thanks for your question. Sometimes using language to describe the experience feels inadequate, and I appreciate these types of comments so that I can go a little deeper with the explanations. I felt like I contained the essence of myself, but I was a lighter substance that could float and fly through walls. I immediately felt safe. So many people have anxiety within the bodies, fearing we can be harmed in some way. Outside of my body, I felt like the real me could never be harmed. I did have a vague sense of a body. The angels were made up of a bright light and form. I was made up of a light as well and a form, but not quite as bright as their light. Their light was a mix of white and yellow light. I seemed a dimmer white light. Although as my form got closer to God/the divine/the brightest light, I felt my own light grow and become more light-filled and expansive. God communicated to me that I would teach, but I would also remind others of their light, their spirit, and their connection to nature. That was the main reason I had to return. I appreciate the questions.
Thank you very much, Tricia that’s a lovely reply ! Please can you give me a link to your whole NDE story ? Are you the young woman that was featured on “I survived beyond and back” ? I liked that but I could never get to see the whole episode.
Secondly, I find the conviction that you possess (and others that have had this experience) possess that you will survive the death of your physical body, I find that very persuasive. Those that have a NDE are certain, those that haven’t are forever doubting the reality of it.
May I ask you how you deal or respond to the usual so called sceptical objections, you know, it’s the dying brain, it’s wishful thinking, it’s the chemicals etc etc ? Thanks and best wishes
You are right…we NDEers do have a lot of conviction about our experiences. I know that the experience is more real than any reality I’ve experienced, so I can’t imagine doubting it. Many scientists admit to not knowing everything, and several that I’ve talked with are open to the idea of our essence continuing on after the body dies.. As far as the skeptics go, I laugh because I know that they’ll only be convinced once they experience it themselves. I was a skeptic before it happened to me. Maybe they’ll come back…maybe they won’t, but I’m certain they’ll understand once they experience it. Best wishes to you as well.
Here is the link to the “I Survived” episode.
I uploaded a section of the memoir I’m writing in this post.
Thanks for the link, Tricia. I’m in the UK and unfortunately it won’t allow me access. Don’t worry about it though. I believe Janice Minor Holden (IANDS) made a video presentation using your case (as I remember) . Would you know where that is ? I’ve had a look on the IANDS website but can’t see it.
Your memoirs are very thoughtful and perceptive, I enjoyed reading through them. The car accident caused severe injuries to your spine ? When you were lying on the hospital gurney (in the prone position) did your heart arrest and if it did, did the doctors tell what caused that ? There was a woman in Michael Sabom’s book (Recollections of death) that experienced a veridical OBE while having surgery on her back. Thanks again.
Hi Tim….I asked my surgeon about dying as soon as I was out of surgery and receiving two blood transfusions. She said I lost a lot of blood because my heart stopped while my back was opened up. They had to revive me. She kept assuring me I would feel better after the blood transfusions. I couldn’t understand why she didn’t want to talk more about the moment, but I sensed that she was embarrassed that I died on the table. I’ve talked with other surgeons who confirm my assumptions. In general, surgeons feel responsible for the patient while they are on the operating table. If the patient dies later, it is not as overwhelming for them. She kept emphasizing how successful the back surgery was and wanted to focus on what to expect from recovery. I will have to check out the Sabom book. I’ll send the link. Thanks for your interest in my story. I think I posted a link to Jan Holden’s video on my first or second post. I’ll find it and send it.
Here is the YouTube link from Jan Holden. I’ve had to guess over the years what might have caused my heart to stop because Dr. Flawn wanted to stay on the topic of recovery instead of the moment of death. I know I had internal injuries, and I waited for close to 18 hours before I went into surgery. I didn’t have health insurance, so I begged Dr. Flawn to operate as she walked by. She had been on duty for over 44 hours, so she went home and rested for a few hours and then came back to operate. The I Survived series did some digging and suggested the internal injuries were the cause of death.
Thanks very much for providing the link to Jan’s talk, Tricia.. I can understand why she would have been keen to present your case with you personally describing it. The circumstances are fascinating and you are also very articulate and easy on the eye (if you will allow me to say so 🙂 )
I’m very glad you’ve fully recovered and I think your story will be very useful in helping people come to terms with the inevitable, death, frankly. If we could somehow “bottle” and distribute the knowledge etc you now possess, everybody would surely be a lot happier. Thanks again and best wishes
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