David Oakford, a near-death experiencer from Detroit, Michigan, contacted me and said: “Some people in Portugal discovered me on the Internet and asked if I would talk about my story at their conference. The name of the group is Espaco T, and my wife and I are going.” I was very happy for David as I knew he had never shared his story before in public and this would be a good experience for him. His book, “Soul Bared,” was in its early stages when I first heard of him and was able to make a few editing suggestions to help him out.
I thought no more of David’s coming adventure until he contacted me again. “They need an expert on near-death experiences to be on a panel. I gave them your name.” Sure enough Cristina Afonso of Espaco T e-mailed. Her invitation to come was vague, followed by a volley of messages attempting to answer my many questions. All I could make out was: “We’ll cover your expenses; you’ll have 15 to 20 minutes to speak.” After ticket mix-ups and an urgent phone call, I wound up leaving a day early with no idea what lay ahead. Had it not “felt right” to go, I would have canceled.
“Felt right,” indeed. The Fifth International Congress of Espaco T on “Death, Culture, and Art” turned out to be so important, it was literally a culture-changer – that “leading-edge” event you knew would not only alter lives but could forever change a country. For the first time ever, 350 attendees and 40 speakers joined in the determination to break long-time taboos, and speak openly about death and the culture’s traditions regarding death, and the place art has in the dying process. Portuguese equivalents of CEU credits were issued to an audience of mostly professionals of one type or another – yet it seemed to me as if there were as many lawyers in attendance as nurses and psychologists.
The agenda was unlike anything I had ever encountered in the U.S., or any place else, for that matter. And it was hard hitting. We began with a pathologist showing graphic photos of suicides, drug abuse, and erotic stimulations that killed, as he described what the dead can tell us. People from a myriad of religious faiths shared their views about death – Muslims, Gypsies, Witches, Catholics, and Baha’is, to name a few. Physicians, oncologists, nurses, and therapists complained about the conspiracy of silence – that in our final moments we are denied the truth about what is happening to us. We are entitled to speak up, to have hope, and be with people who care.
David did a wonderful job sharing his story once the near-death experience was introduced, followed by presentations on out-of-body experiences, reincarnation, consciousness studies, the paranormal, and miracles. People “differently-abled” proved that handicaps are no such thing – whether blind or crippled or challenged by conditions such as multiple sclerosis. Wellness issues were broached, and immortality, death dreams, suicide bombers, terrorism, and death preparations. Facing a child’s death was handled in several ways, revealing how far ahead of us the Portuguese are with incorporating art into hospital settings. Young and old alike want to express how they feel – creative art projects enable them to do that.
What captured my heart and struck me deeply, was this single fact reported by each group: the worst pain anyone suffers at death is spiritual pain.
You should have seen the faces of the crowd when I spoke about near-death experiences. Even with just barely 20 minutes to convey hours of material, what I did manage to share, and David Oakford, too, was hope. Believe it or not, most of the people attending were not that acquainted with the near-death phenomenon (except for some of the myths), and they were even less acquainted with the spiritual approach to life and its living. When the President of Espaco T, Jorge Oliveira, closed the Congress with a spiritual visualization exercise, tears flowed from many faces.
I checked with Cristina and Jorge afterwards, and had their assurance that if I could send over some IANDS brochures and research suggestions, they would contact those people most inclined to act on this – and perhaps a near-death research project in Portugal might result, as well as the beginnings of an IANDS group. I will happily sponsor this mailing and follow it through.The spiritual pain, the spiritual hunger, reported again and again at this Congress is exactly what the near-death experience speaks to – that need for hope, that possibility that there is more to come after we breathe our last breath. The Portuguese are ready to learn more about near-death states. IANDS can make a difference here, and I propose that we do just that.
Initially, I was whisked away to Porto, Portugal, not knowing what would happen or how I could serve or with whom. Greeting me when I arrived were orange-tiled roofs, incredible potato-fish dinners amidst huge trees of flowering roses, and a population of Balkan refugees who have become beggars on many streets. The local economy is strong, mainly from textiles and shoes, Port wine, of course; still, it is a stretch for them to cover all of the social services they need. Recycling measures are in full swing (they’re far ahead of us in that regard) – and - that sense of a cutting edge in cultural change is in evidence throughout. For instance, next year, the unbridled use of tobacco bends to accommodate smoke-free rooms, and the commitment to shift away from tight social taboos and fears embraces a more open discourse and inclusiveness.
The Congress on “Death, Culture, and Art” that I had the privilege of attending was nothing short of awesome. My thanks go to Cristina Afonso and Jorge Oliveira for their exceptional kindness, and to the legion of friendly volunteers who made the Congress possible. I look forward to hearing a lot more from these people in the future, especially about near-death studies conducted within the Portuguese population and the very real possibility of a Portugal-IANDS.
What survives after death?
A FUNNY EXTRA:
The column I write for Kevin Williams and my Q& A blog is an open, in-depth response to questions posed by people like yourself. Every once in awhile, though, I run across material that is both light-hearted and fun. Today, the day I am writing this column, is the very first day of Spring, 2007. In keeping with this lively splash of fresh energy now entering the earthplane, I share with you the following. The true authors of this piece I have searched for in vain, thus I offer their pen names as they declared them, hoping that is enough. To whoever they really are, thank you for your wonderful humor!
HOW THE TWELVE SIGNS OF THE ZODIAC PROCESS NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCES
By Merry Meet & Merry Part, LilithsCat
ARIES: "Who's in charge here? I'd like to see God right now, please. Am I dead? Gee, I never thought that could happen to me! Where can I get a crystal palace backlit with white light like that one?"
TAURUS: Leaving the body, Taurus realizes that he or she no longer has a stomach and immediately returns to the body (thud!), without seeing tunnels, light, God, etc., making Taurus skeptical for the rest of his or her life.
GEMINI: The key thing to the zodiacal twins isn't the experience itself, but how they can embellish it when telling the story (or writing about it). Since Geminis are comfortable in all worlds, except those without telephones, they usually bounce back to the body fairly rapidly - and the mouth tends to work before the rest of the body comes back to life.
CANCER: Cancerians can live to be 125 years old, and they don't usually have near-death experiences, but they can come awfully close to having a near life experience when they get brave and venture out of their houses for "supplies."
LEO: "Nooooooo, I am NOT dead. I am not, I am not, I am not.......Who are those guys in the white robes? What's that they're singing...? They're off key. I can sing better than that! Where's the choir director? I need a microphone immediately. Unless it's Rolling Stone or Spin, hold my calls."
VIRGO: Working a marathon 60 hours straight, Virgo collapses and leaves the body. She moves through that delightfully clean and sparkling tunnel of light, occasionally reflecting upon possible improvements .....but soon becomes so worried by the thought of her loved ones "managing without her" that she snaps back into the body like white lightning, sits up, and calmly pronounces herself alive, glancing at her watch.
LIBRA: Floating out of the body, then in, then out, then in, and finally out again....Libra sees a tunnel and a vibrant being of light at the other end. "Wow, is that Jesus? Wait a minute, maybe it's Kwan Yin. That looks like something she'd wear." Never deciding whether to go through the tunnel or not (after all, what's death without someone to share it with?), Libra ends up back in the body by default, hounded by a mysterious compulsion to start a dating service for discarnate souls.
SCORPIO: Since most Scorpios have nine lives, they tend to brainstorm different ways to trigger the near-death experience. Once nearly dead, most can barely get to the end of the tunnel without meeting some being with whom they have astral sex. When asked whom they prefer to greet them on the other side, 75% name a favorite vampire, and Medusa is a strong contender.
SAGITTARIUS: Sag floats out of her boy and has to laugh at the stupid way she bought the farm. After somehow BREAKING the tunnel of light, she absolutely refuses to return to the body, since she's been trying to get out of it for all these years (via clumsy accidents). Because Sag is immensely curious about whether the so- called organized religions have any validity at all, this stroke of luck leads to some amaaaaaaaazing lessons, until, alas, the astral folks tire of her and trick her into returning to Earth for the duration.
CAPRICORN: It might take Capricorn a little while to realize he is dead because there are special rooms set up to look like executive offices for newly-dead Goats. A sharp-looking, older gentlemen- ghost comes in and gives Cap an instruction manual titled HOW TO PROFIT IN THE ASTRAL MARKETPLACE, plus a "job evaluation" type assessment of Cap's achievements and mistakes over the lifetime, followed by a pink slip (meaning the body revived). Caps tend to return to their bodies quickly, unable to tolerate non-physical existence for long.
AQUARIUS: Aquarius gets to the pearly gates, sees that heaven isn't run by consensus, and opts for hell, where at least there is an appealing anarchy and rules are made to be broken. Ironically, Aquarian near-death experiences tend to be extremely traditional, i.e., God the Father, St. Peter, the celestial choir, and so on (another reason to rebel and opt for hell). Once in the underworld, they bedevil the hell out of Satan and his cronies with their loud and vigorous campaigns for progressive reforms, and are quickly expelled back to the body.
PISCES: For some reason, our Piscean friends barely notice their near- death experiences. Instead, during a typical day at the office, many Pisceans report seeing beings with long-suffering expressions on their faces and who patiently tell the Piscean to go back to his or her body.
I hope you enjoyed this fun-romp through the twelve signs of the zodiac. Now for a question submitted awhile ago.
"I am an avid reader and collector of all your books and similar books. I have thought of questions related to the soul for 40 years of my 47-year life. I have not been able to resolve some questions, and I would love to have your insights.
"For instance, I would like to believe that for most people souls are gendered (male or female). There may be exceptions, of course, when the soul changes genders from one incarnation to the other and maintains a sort-of multi-gendered existence between incarnations.
"Further, I would like to believe that the soul is the totality of our being and not a separate, 'higher self.' In other words, it includes our personality as well as the spiritual aspects of our being. This is because people in reincarnation studies do carry some of the lower, humbler aspects of their being (such as birthmarks or personality quirks) between incarnations. Of course, the personality evolves within a life, from life to life, or from life to afterlife and back, while the self, the witness, the spiritual center, is more constant. So what survives death, in my view, is more than a spiritual center, it is the entire envelope of our evolving, gendered personalities and the expanding repertoire of our memories.
"Please do respond and let me know your view."....Roger
In considering aspects of personality/soul/afterlife, we need to first recognize that there is rather convincing research to indicate that there are levels (differed by frequencies of vibration) to the afterlife and to the subject at hand. And, there are authorities galore about any given aspect to this subject and just as many books and research to back those books that "validate" whatever premise is expressed. Name a theory and you can find ample "evidence" to back it up - whether it be from psychics, researchers as myself, religious folk, or scientists, etc.
My response to your question is based on research with nearly 4,000 adults and children who experienced near-death states, and on a wealth of personal experience, other people's experiences, and from the research I conducted on altered states of consciousness and mysticism during the decade that preceded my death in 1977 (which involved many thousands). Yup, I've been poking my "nose" into this subject for over 40 years, not counting what I did as a child and a young "employed" mother.
With this background, I can say that forms and genders seem to exist only in the lower levels of what we call "real" - by that I mean within the lower (slower) vibrational frequencies ("hell" being the grossest of levels). In these regions you can readily find environments that either match the earthplane or are similar enough that they are recognizable. As one vibrates faster, becomes more refined and knowing as a soul, such environments fade - replaced often by light-filled worlds and/or abstractions that would seem foreign or unusual to the average person. In these realms there is no such thing as gender. Here we begin to look more like what we really are: luminous energy, a spark of Holy Fire. The notion here of any type of forms (trees, houses, beings, angels, animals, people) steadily dissolves in accord with the heightening of vibration.
I consider the "soul" to be one's "core self," who we really are. Some refer to it as our "higher self," although I frankly find that terminology to be somewhat misleading. The personality we form is like an overleaf or covering or sheath that can mask the soul, hide it, block it, or simply extend and alter it in shades and tones more applicable to our needs at the time, or to our liking. As near as I can tell, how we shape our personalities can and does "mark" us and follow us from incarnation to incarnation, and will continue to (thus birthmarks and general character traits can survive) - until such an overleaf no longer serves our progress or refinement. Although the "curriculum" we follow originates at the soul level, the real "muscle" or learning we gain comes from the lives we lead and the opportunities we have within the incarnations we take on. There does seem to be a progression, a "learning curve" if you will. And there is a goal: true enlightenment. I say "true" because enlightenment is not quite what we think it is, nor are "masters."
Please refer to two of my books for further material on this subject. They are: "Future Memory" (Hampton Roads, Charlottesville, VA, 1999), and "We Live Forever: The Real Truth About Death" (A.R.E. Press, Virginia Beach, VA, 2004).
Fear of Death
"I am a Finnish woman aged 30 and have been having panic attacks for a few years now. My greatest fear is of me or someone else dying, especially on a heart attack. I think this has something to do with my past life or past experiences, but cannot find a way to cope with this or to avoid these attacks. I am a very sensitive person and have characteristics which would best describe me as an indigo. I have never really fit into this society, ever since I was a child."I have never had an NDE, but I am afraid of it. Even if that would assure me there is life after death (my greatest fear is that there isn't, even though in some level I am aware of there indeed being life and have had, i.e., many unbelievable numerology incidents involving 11:11 and 222 which cannot be coincidence)."I would really like to know how to get rid of these attacks because they are gradually spoiling my life. I cannot live to the fullest because I am constantly afraid and cannot do certain things because of these attacks. There must be some other solution to this than taking medication!"Thank you for your work in the NDE field. There are far too few people out there who concentrate on spiritual things instead of the material."....Mira
ANSWER:Mira, you realize I hope that I am not a psychologist or psychiatrist. Yes, I do have a degree in Therapeutic Counseling, but it is honorary. My doctorate is in the Letters of the Humanities, dealing with Psychic and Spiritual Studies. My thesis dealt with the future memory phenomenon, which later became the title of one of my books (dealing with the innerworkings of creation and consciousness). Thus, I am no expert with panic attacks. All I can do is share some insights with you from my own work and life experiences. Maybe this will help, at least let's affirm that it will.I have been very fortunate in the past to count as some of my teachers hypno-therapists who were of the highest caliber. I especially remember Dr. Irene Hickman and what she taught about the possible "bleed-through" of past-life memories that could cause physical illness, panic attacks, and personality problems. Her success rate in working with such people was extraordinary, over 90%. I don't know of any professional with a higher rate of healing. Dr. Hickman passed away several years ago, leaving behind a legacy few can equal. And that's the challenge with hypno-therapists: most of them are merely hypnotists who practice past-life regressions. And that's not good enough for the condition you describe. I used to do such things myself, and I was pretty good at it, but I would never practice hypnosis again - without years spent learning better therapeutic techniques. I say that because the field has changed quite a bit since I was last actively engaged in it. The newer techniques are better than what I used.There are only 90 hypno-therapists in the world, I have been told, who really know what they are doing and can render a service that matches the likes of Dr. Hickman. One of the ninety is Jeffrey Ryan. His contact info is: 520 Speedwell Avenue, Suite 110, Morris Plains, NJ 07950; (973) 285-5411. You might contact him should you ever come to the United States, or you might inquire about the organization he belongs to, with the idea of locating professionals of such high caliber closer to where you live. I know this type of method works, and could work for the particular panic attacks that you have.There are other ways of dealing with your fears. There are specific types of bodywork that can help, as well as acupuncture. You might look around your area to see who practices what. You might find a good professional close by. I have seen people who engage in various forms of confrontive therapy reap tremendous results - the type of therapy whereby you face whatever it is that you fear and learn how to deal with it in segments or steps, one at a time. I would not recommend going to a psychic or channeler or visionary for this. My sense is you need more of a physical engagement of some kind where you can probe your own inner realities under the auspices of a professional who knows what he or she is doing.When you feel a little better about considering the subject of death, you might get a copy of my CD or DVD called "As You Die." The title might seem a little off-putting to you, but I have heard from hundreds of people who, after their loved one died, got the presentation for themselves. Almost to a person, they said it relieved their fear of death. Those in the process of dying say the same thing. You can purchase a copy through Focus Worldwide at www.focusvideos.com. One of my puzzles is finding a way to let more people know about "As You Die." The presentation is very effective. Also, when you are able, read my little book "We Live Forever: The Real Truth about Death." This, too, may be helpful. First, though, try a good hypno-therapist.
You mentioned being an "indigo." I would invite you to cast aside such labels (like indigo, crystal, and starseed). They are virtually meaningless, since, if you take the characteristics they supposedly describe, put them all together, expand them, then you have the characteristics of what I call "the new children," today's crop of citizens who are unlike any other generation of record - and they are global, millions and millions of them in every country on earth. Read my book, "Beyond the Indigo Children," and you'll get an idea of why I say what I do. You find yourself more sensitive than those around you, as if you do not fit your family or society? Welcome! Almost all the people who have had a near-death experience come to be like that, our newer generations are like that, anyone who has gone through an impactual transformation of consciousness regardless of how is like that. Me, too. That means there are a lot of us! You say you are afraid of near-death experiences? Well, dear, us folks (experiencers) are just the people you need to know, and know about. Doing just that may be very healing for you.Good luck with your journey into wholeness, Mira. While you're at it, get the DVD called "The Secret." There are some tips on thinking and languaging that may be helpful to you in that program. Blessings, PMH