Tuesday, March 01, 2005

A Hidden Message in the Near-Death Experience?

QUESTION: I am a 54-year old male and suffered a near fatal air crash when I was 25. During the incident, the helicopter of which I was a crew-member was caught in a downdraught as we flew over a cliff. The aircraft was thrown down the escarpment and dropped almost 1,800 feet in 4-5 seconds before regaining flight, missing the ground by approximately 100 feet. During this ordeal, I had the sensation of slow motion thinking where my whole life and loved ones in it went through my thought processes. At the end, I knew death was imminent yet instead of panic there was a complete acceptance of what was about to occur and a complete peacefulness. The only sense I was aware of was sight as I saw the blade going around above me. The peace I felt was as if I had already passed over. Is there a hidden message that I cannot fathom in this experience? -- Tony

PMH Atwater's reply: First of all, let me say that it is common for an individual in a life-threatening situation, child or adult, to have an out-of-body experience and/or find his or herself engaged in a life review. You never mentioned an out-of-body experience, but you did a life review.

Because these two elements occur with such frequency to people, they have been trivialized by scientific and medical investigators as a mere artifact of the brain, not to be taken seriously. What we find in near-death research, however, is that people out-of-body see things impossible for them to see and come back to report things that can be verified by third-party witnesses. Hardly an artifact, these experiences are so real, what is observed in them is so accurate, that they alone challenge how we define "human" and what humans are capable of doing.

The same can be said for life reviews. Most people, like you do Tony, point out that their thought processes slow down considerably before their life "passes before their eyes." There are some, however, who say just the opposite - that their thoughts speed up until it seems as if everything happens in a flash of a second, decades of activity, an entire life passing by in no time at all. I used to be a meditation teacher way back in the sixties (dates me, doesn't it?), and one of the conundrums I noticed is that a person could achieve zen states (where everything merges into oneness) either at the lowest possible brain wave function OR THE HIGHEST! Either way. You don't hear that said from other meditation teachers. I don't know why, for it is true. So, in my meditation classes, I quickly switched techniques whereby I would teach how to lower brain waves as well as how to speed them up. My students benefited most by using both techniques. And so did I. Still do, for that matter. There's something about extremely slow and extremely fast brain states that produces incredible ecstasy and enlightened thinking. Both directions of speed.

With that, allow me to tackle your specific question - about hidden agendas. From as near as I can tell you had what is called the "Initial Near-Death Experience" and it is a valid and often a life-changing experience, every bit as important as the more lengthy and complicated scenarios. That makes it purposeful. In that sense, at least, it does indeed have meaning for you and is well-worth further pondering as to what you may have gained from it, what it might tell you about your life and how you were living it, what message you can glean from it. I refer you to my book, "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Near-Death Experiences" (now out-of-print and available only from my website and soon to be available from the IANDS website, as well). I recommend this book as it goes in-depth about the four types of episodes I have been able to identify and the various elements near-death experiences contain. "Beyond the Light" and "The New Children and Near-Death Experiences" have this type of material in them as well. One of the cases I presented in the Idiot's book is almost identical to yours, and, yes, it did change the man's life - quite considerably. He was able to see in his life review how some of his behavior was hurting others. This surprised him and made him more considerate and aware.

We know from not only research with near-death experiences, but from deathbed visions and from various other types of questioning, that there is no pain at the moment of death. Most report a sense of peace, great peace, and an understanding that they are "stepping forward" from the container or temple that once housed them (the physical body) and moving on into spirit realms they recognize as "Home" or at least a continuation of life elsewhere. Children especially talk about this great peace and homecoming. It's that kind of peace you experienced.

To explore a hidden agenda in your case, though, you really do need to go "back there" in consciousness and see again what you saw then. What does it mean to you? Do you recognize anything in particular, anything that catches your attention, that you may want to explore? Compare before and after thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors. Use a seven year spread: seven years before the event and seven years after (if that amount of time has passed). If you do this in a prayerful state of mind or before you go to bed at night, you will begin to make connections - if only in your dreams. It may even become clear to you while the incident with the helicopter ever occurred - or what you can gain from the experience of a near-miss. As you explore, you may find yourself sifting through layers of thought, like peeling an onion, always another layer, always another way to consider the event, until at last you come to that moment when you just let go and let God. I really recommend doing that. It's like we need to work things out, expend the effort, and then release, totally release the whole thing. Usually, at that moment of release or shortly afterward, ideas pop in, revelations, visions, wisdoms. These are what you listen to.

I hope this answer helps. Thank you for writing.

Many blessings,
P. M. H. Atwater, L.H.D., Ph.D.

Free Ebook of P.M.H. Atwater's NDE Contribution: For more information about P.M.H. Atwater's contribution to near-death studies, download P.M.H. Atwater's press kit in PDF format. You will need the Adobe PDF Reader installed on your computer to read the file. If you don't have the Reader, download it by pressing the Adobe Reader icon provided on the right.

New Book: Near-Death Experiences: There is a new book coming out this year about near-death experiences - for children! Look for it. Here's the info - Title of Book, Near-Death Experiences; Name of Book Series, The Unexplained; Author, Michael Martin; Consultant, Linda A. Jacquin (she had her first near-death experience in childhood); Age Group for Book, Third to Sixth Grade; Publishers - Capstone Press, 151 Good Council Drive, P. O. Box 669, Mankato, MN 56002. Let's get this book in schools!

Denise Mendenhall's NDE: The story of Denise Mendenhall and her childhood near-death experience (she is now a teen) will appear soon in Seventeen Magazine. It is covered in the section of the magazine on "Faith." Denise's story is on my website in the section called NDE Cases. Her Dad said she is now working on her own book about what happened to her. NO OTHER CHILD EXPERIENCER HAS DONE THIS! I know her book will be very important. I'll let you know when it's out.

Request for volunteers who have seen an apparition: Many of you have witnessed apparitions of various kinds. I know you have because you have contacted me about them. Please contact Irene Blinston about what you saw. She is now doing research about apparitions for her degree and she needs more volunteers. To find out if you qualify, access her website at www.blinston.com or call her at (650) 387-2294. Research like this is important. Please participate. Thanks, PMH