My first sensation was being in an environment I didn't recognize. It was a large but finite space. Not a tunnel or bright light, but rather an area the size of a 50,000 seat oval or oblong arena. I was situated midway and elevated to one side. The boundaries of this area had a colorful, cloud-like appearance, similar to nebula in Hubble photos. The colors were primarily deep red, orange-yellow, and set against a dark black background. It was brighter at one end of the space than the other was, but not extremely bright in any area. I had the sense that there was something beyond these boundaries, but obscured by the nebulous cloud-like walls.
I almost immediately began processing the conditions analytically. The first and foremost factor was the absence of physical sensation. That was perhaps the most liberating element. I wasn't cold, hot, tired, hungry or thirsty, and there was a complete absence of discomfort of any kind. I'm inclined to think that the nirvana of blissful love people feel is at least dramatically enhanced by the stunning lack of human discomfort.
I then attempted to look at myself, but could not see arms or legs. This led me to wonder how I was able to experience a field of view. I'm out of body, so to speak, yet I had vision of my surroundings. Next, I scanned the perimeter, first right, then left. The space was lighter to the right, fading to a dim light as I panned left. I turned my attention back to the lighter end.
At no time did I see a human like form, or any other form of being during the experience. However, toward the end of the experience, I sensed a presence originating from the lighter end of the space. It seemed to have a masculine essence, and conveyed a message to me. I didn't hear words spoken, but just received it, and accepted it without hesitation or reservation, which is very uncharacteristic of me. The message, for lack of a better term, was 'Life isn't complicated, people make it complicated.' I remember thinking, in that moment, something to the effect of 'Duh!', and didn't give it another thought. I went back to my observations of the space, but in the next few moments, it was over as suddenly as it began.
I had the feeling that I maintained my identity, personality, and ability to methodically process information during the experience, and perceived it to be just as real as any other life experience. Not 'dream-like' in any sense. The perception of the accident that had just happened was not present. How I got there never entered my mind. I was just too busy and truly enjoying every second of it.
Last, even though my surroundings were not recognizable, I had the distinct feeling I was returning, and not arriving the first time.
Date NDE Occurred: 'August 29, 1996'
At the time of your experience, was there an associated life-threatening event? Yes Accident. Drowning. CPR given. Direct head injury Clinical death (cessation of breathing or heart function or brain function)
A boat collided with mine, impacting my upper torso and head at 45 mph, causing serious injuries and launching me into the Ohio River. While my injuries were extensive, it was being submerged unconscious in the water that ultimately brought about clinical death by drowning.
How do you consider the content of your experience? Entirely pleasant
Did you feel separated from your body? No
I clearly left my body and existed outside it
How did your highest level of consciousness and alertness during the experience compare to your normal everyday consciousness and alertness? Normal consciousness and alertness
At what time during the experience were you at your highest level of consciousness and alertness? The entire time, evenly.
Were your thoughts speeded up? No
Did time seem to speed up or slow down? Everything seemed to be happening at once; or time stopped or lost all meaning
Time was not a factor, almost meaningless.
Were your senses more vivid than usual? No
Please compare your vision during the experience to your everyday vision that you had immediately prior to the time of the experience. Very similar as far as thought process and field of view.
Please compare your hearing during the experience to your everyday hearing that you had immediately prior to the time of the experience. No sounds.
Did you seem to be aware of things going on elsewhere? No
Did you pass into or through a tunnel? No
Did you see any beings in your experience? No
Did you encounter or become aware of any deceased (or alive) beings? No
The experience included: Unearthly light
Did you see, or feel surrounded by, a brilliant light? No
Did you see an unearthly light? Uncertain Light was present, but I hesitate to say 'unearthly'
The experience included: A landscape or city
Did you seem to enter some other, unearthly world? Some unfamiliar and strange place A large, but finite space I would liken to outer space, surrounded by nebulous clouds of deep, dark color that was primarily red and black.
What emotions did you feel during the experience? Joy, nirvana, words really can't describe the content bliss of being there.
Did you have a feeling of peace or pleasantness? Incredible peace or pleasantness
Did you have a feeling of joy? incredible joy
Did you feel a sense of harmony or unity with the universe? I felt united or one with the world
Did you suddenly seem to understand everything? No
Did scenes from your past come back to you? No
Did scenes from the future come to you? No
Did you come to a border or point of no return? No
God, Spiritual and Religion:
What importance did you place on your religious/spiritual life prior to your experience? Not important to me
What was your religion prior to your experience? Unaffiliated- Agnostic Grandfather was a Church of God minister. Spent early childhood in Sunday School.
Have your religious practices changed since your experience? No
What importance do you place on your religious/spiritual life after your experience? Not important to me
What is your religion now? Unaffiliated- Agnostic Confident of life after death, but not in the sense of "Heaven" as described in the Bible.
Did your experience include features consistent with your earthly beliefs? Content that was entirely not consistent with the beliefs you had at the time of your experience I never believed in life after death. I always thought we died and that was it. I couldn't have been more mistaken.
Did you have a change in your values and beliefs because of your experience? Yes Don't sweat the small stuff.
Did you seem to encounter a mystical being or presence, or hear an unidentifiable voice? I encountered a definite being, or a voice clearly of mystical or unearthly origin No sound or vision of a presence, but a definite feeling of energy and conveyance of message.
Did you see deceased or religious spirits? No
Did you encounter or become aware of any beings who previously lived on earth who are described by name in religions (for example: Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha, etc.)? No
During your experience, did you gain information about premortal existence? Yes A sense that I was returning to this realm leads me to believe I have always existed, and will continue.
During your experience, did you gain information about universal connection or oneness? Yes The feeling of being reconnected with the universe around me. A sense of belonging.
Did you believe in the existence of God prior to your experience? God does not exist
During your experience, did you gain information about the existence of God? No
Do you believe in the existence of God after your experience? God does not exist
Concerning our Earthly lives other than Religion:
During your experience, did you gain special knowledge or information about your purpose? No
Did you believe that our earthly lives are meaningful and significant prior to your experience? Are not meaningful and significant
During your experience, did you gain information about the meaning of life? No
Did you believe in an afterlife prior to your experience? An afterlife does not exist
Do you believe in an afterlife after your experience? An afterlife definitely exists Yes Simply being there was all the suggestion I needed. What it is, I can't say, but there is most definitely something we experience after death. And it's wonderful.
Did you fear death prior to your experience? I moderately feared death
Do you fear death after your experience? I do not fear death
Were you fearful living your life prior to your experience? Not fearful in living my earthly life
Were you fearful living your life after your experience? Not fearful in living my earthly life
Did you believe that our earthly lives are meaningful and significant prior to your experience? Are not meaningful and significant
Did you believe that our earthly lives are meaningful and significant after your experience? Are not meaningful and significant
Did you gain information about how to live our lives? No
During your experience, did you gain information about life's difficulties, challenges and hardships? Yes Yes, but only by the message I received. Turns out, the idea that life isn't complicate, but that people make it that way, is quite profound.
Were you compassionate prior to your experience? Moderately compassionate toward others
During your experience, did you gain information about love? No
Were you compassionate after your experience? Greatly compassionate toward others
What life changes occurred in your life after your experience? Large changes in my life I had priority changes and greater appreciation of simple things like a spring breeze, children's laughter, the smell of fresh cut grass, the amazing people in my life, etc.
Have your relationships changed specifically because of your experience? Yes Yes People can't help but treat you differently. Most think you're brain damaged, or just crazy. This makes you treat them differently as well. Over time, they forget (if you let them) and it's not as much of an issue. On the positive side, you have greater compassion for those around you.
After the NDE:
Was the experience difficult to express in words? Yes It's not so much that the words don't exist, as there is nothing in this world to compare it to. I tell my Christian friends, 'Think of the most utopian description of Heaven you've ever heard, multiply it by 100, and you still won't even be close.'
How accurately do you remember the experience in comparison to other life events that occurred around the time of the experience? I remember the experience as accurately as other life events that occurred around the time of the experience Just as real to me as taking this survey right now.
Do you have any psychic, non-ordinary or other special gifts after your experience that you did not have before the experience? No
Are there one or several parts of your experience that are especially meaningful or significant to you? The comfort of knowing that, for all of us, dying is not only part of life. It's the best part.
Have you ever shared this experience with others? Yes The first time I mentioned my experience was my second day in ICU. I came back wanting to shout it from the rooftops, but quickly learned to curb my desire to share. People say they want to know, but it's not always the case. A few benefited from my experience, but most, including members of my own family, think it was nothing more than an endorphin rush. I rest easy in the knowledge that they, too, will see what I've seen one day.
Did you have any knowledge of near death experience (NDE) prior to your experience? Yes I saw people share their stories on various magazine shows, but all the stories were similar, and somewhat sensationalized. None were similar to the experience I would eventually have.
What did you believe about the reality of your experience shortly (days to weeks) after it happened? Experience was definitely real From the moment I regained consciousness, I never doubted it was real.
What do you believe about the reality of your experience now? Experience was definitely real The memory is still vivid, and nothing I have experienced in the last 15-years has contradicted it.
At any time in your life, has anything ever reproduced any part of the experience? Yes I say that very loosely. The actual experience hasn't been replicated in any way, but I will occasionally see things that remind me of it like hearing others speak of their experience. Even a few scenes from the movie 'Contact', oddly enough.
Is there anything else that you would like to add about your experience? You haven't touched on the guilt that can be experienced. Along with an overwhelming desire to return, I experienced guilt for not having thought of my wife and family during the NDE. They never even crossed my mind at the time. No desire to return to this life existed.
Thoughts of suicide crossed my mind, not because I was unhappy in life, but because I was so content in death. I later decided that life was like Disney World. I don't want to stay forever, but I'm not leaving until they throw me out of the park.
What it is, I can't say. But there is most definitely something we experience after death. And it's wonderful. A sense that I was returning to this realm leads me to believe I have always existed, and will continue.