Glimpsing Heaven

If I searched statistics to find which of the hundreds of essays on this blog has been read the most, strangely enough, it wouldn't be the one about enmeshment. Before reading  Glimpsing HeavenJudy Bachrach's new book about near death experiences, seeing ghosts, in this doc's professional world, had been associated with religious beliefs (cultural delusions) or mental illness.

Now I'll have to rewrite the post.

There exists a quiet, circumspect, yet substantial population reporting near death experiences (NDE's), according to IANDS, the International Association for Near-Death Studies. Approximately 200,000 Americans a year tell select friends or relatives that they experienced life after death. They speak of travel beyond the moon, past Mars, no spaceship necessary. Even Oprah has chimed in. She interviewed actress Sharon Stone, an experiencer.

Ms. Bachrach, who is a journalist and rightfully suspicious of the whole business, set out to find them.

Her subjects are varied, and some say they did see spirits during that brief window in which their hearts ceased to beat, their brains failed to respond to technology. But mostly, these after death experiences, at least to those who have had the pleasure, are about consciousness.

Our conscious selves, cloaked in the body until we die, are really disparate, continues on after that bolt of lightening, after the fatal motorcycle accident, after the almost strangulation or suicide.  So different from what we tell patients who minimize mental illness, who are reluctant to get help, still thinking they are weak for feeling sad, anxious, angry.
Your body and your mind are one. Neurons connect everything to that part of the brain that thinks  Mental is physical. If you need medication, take it. And sure, get therapy to change your life.
The conclusion here, however, is that the body we're constantly scrutinizing and pruning over, working into shape, or beating ourselves up about, matters little in the grand scheme of things. Our true selves are essentially consciousness, awareness connected to everyone else's awareness after death. We all become empaths. .

Another take-away is a sense of tranquility, peace and love. And we're back to the sixties.

We could say that Ms. Bachrach is a journalist, not a scientist, and that she has fallen under the spell of some really, really good story tellers, perhaps people who took LSD. But neuro-psychiatrists who study NDE's are scoring large grants. To get a grant, a doctor has to jump through hoops, justify the benefits of research to society, ensure that subjects are not harmed in any way. The hope is that qualitative, systematic interviews, coded and analyzed by theme, will enlighten us even more.
The primary research question is likely to be the same: What happens to us after we die?

That's what's in bold print on the back cover of Glimpsing Heaven, coincidentally.

Singer-songwriter, Pam Reynolds Lowery, had an out of body experience during a cardiac standstill, a type of brain surgery that necessitates freezing the body and shutting off electrical activity to the brain. Eyes lubricated and taped shut, after the procedure Pam remembers physical details in the operating room and conversations her doctors say she could not possibly have heard under the circumstances. She "watched" the surgery from above the table and "heard" music the surgical team picked out: Hotel CaliforniaYou can check out any time you want-- but you can never leave. Pam thought it bad taste.

She recalls popping out of the top of her head, feeling pulled toward a shower of light, away from the operation. And yes, she saw relatives long gone, a beloved uncle, her late grandmother, whom she adored. They told her she couldn't stay with them. She had to go back. But she didn't want to leave. Death felt good.

Pam's daughter Michelle tells Ms. Bachrach that her mother became an empath after the surgery. (Pam has passed on.) She always had sensitivity, but now, heightened ESP. Pam didn't just sense pain of others. She knew the reasons random strangers appeared to suffer.  This isn't uncommon in the experiencer or knower population.

"Death is an illusion," Pam used to say. "Death is a really nasty, bad lie."

We can all breath easier.  It seems so absurd, such surety. No one can prove that it is a lie, but we can't prove it isn't.  Much like a discussion about the existence of God between a believer and an atheist, Go prove it either way.

We have to wonder: Have those who say that they experienced Heaven after a near death experience suffered from depression previously? What are the percentages, the demographics? Is this a population more likely to have had suicidal thoughts, wishes for a better life after death? These are only a few hypotheses, questions research will likely address.

Bill Taylor, at 37, had a heart attack and experienced a long, helpless descent into darkness before looking out in space and seeing stars and planets, the universe before him, nothing behind.

He tells Ms. Bachrach:
"And being out there, I could see everything was connected to everything else. There were threads connecting all of the bodies in the universe. And I am connected to all these forms.  The threads were energy-- and it was love that connected everything too everything."
Love, the Great Connector. A dream with a certain rationality. Bill didn't see the Earth or the  moon. "You are farther back than that."

And for those of us who are always too hot or too cold, he reassures that out there the temperature is just right. Naturally.

Psychiatrist Carl Jung has a similar story. In 1944, Jung slipped and broke his fibula, suffered a heart attack a few days later. He recalls a view of the planet Earth, dipped in color.  Living color. Technicolor.

There's also the inevitable meeting with wise men in togas. One death traveler tells us that they don't talk, the wise men in togas. Yet she understands, feels safe. No one talks out there, not like we do. Thoughts are understood.

There's no hell, by the way, no devil. It can be very lonely, however, out of body. The only recorded negative experience recalls such intense loneliness and isolation, it felt like hell. Much like it can down here, loneliness. A solitary non-confinement, of sorts.

In death, no one wants to come back, except the one woman who found herself in solitary non-confinement. Why leave Heaven, where life is worry-free, warm, and loving. Surely in Heaven there's a huge Thanksgiving celebration, a turkey that nobody eats, PETA people are elevated.

I'm thinking, rabbis, priests, holy men and women are at the party conversing telepathically around virtual sushi. They have the top tiers, better tables,, but work the room because they know it is good to socialize, makes others feel good, puts them on the map, less invisible.

Heaven, for most, is very much as they hoped it to be,.

Which could be the rub, projection. But so many people, so many projections. Are these experiences projections?

Here's something to think about: While dead, supposedly, we're content to stay right where we are, up there. But tossed back into day-to-day, oh-blah-dee existence, everyday life, we don't want to return any time soon. Having experienced something better, those who experienced and NDE still prefer life. Some feel they have a job to do, important work to accomplish. They get right on it.

From this we might hypothesize that life becomes more meaningful, knowing that at the end to the suffering, there's this rainbow.

Death may be fun, exponentially more peaceful and loving. But life-- always complicated, painful, depressing, terrifying, even-- is precious.



trish said…
I'm not sure about what happens at death, but I like that so many of these NDE's really show how meaningful life is.

Thank you for being on this tour!
therapydoc said…
Thanks, Trish. The job would be to find the meaning. Not easy.
Tracy Crain said…
I believe there is something after death because we have something within our body which leaves us after the death. It means, that thing is immortal. It must be going somewhere or will be doing something new.

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