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What is the meaning of the NDE and is it for the experiencer or for us all?
By Jody Long

Anna M's 739

I was in the middle of reading a book called "Emotional Intelligence," by Daniel Goleman when so often it happens that there was some universal synchronicity going on.  I also needed to develop a talk on "What Is the Meaning of the NDE, Is It for the Experiencer or For Us All?  One of the biggest questions that I have had is what is it about an organization and what needs does it fulfill for others – This dovetails very nicely with what is the meaning of the NDE.  When an organization or a website fulfills needs in others, it provides for a number of emotional needs in people because of the meanings that people ascribe tot the organization or the website.   

According to the dictionary, the meaning of an NDE is that which is conveyed by the other side or by the experiencer to others.  The "meaning" is also the functional value, efficacy, or the significance of the NDE.[1] I think that the value, efficacy and significance of the NDE can be seen by studying the profound changes in behaviors and beliefs of experiencers as a result of having the NDE. 

Whether or not one believes that NDEs show that there is life after death, one cannot argue with the the fact that NDEs have strong and profound effects on most experiencers.  In the words and sociologist William I. Thomas, "if men defined a situation as real, they are real in their consequences."[2]  Dr. Charles Flynn, who was a colleague of Dr. Greyson and Dr. Ring when IANDS was first formed, stated,  

"This is particularly true with respect to the NDE:  such experiences . . . tend to exert a powerful effect on a person's motivations, values, and conduct . . . however one chooses to interpret near-death phenomena, they are unquestionably real in their effects.  NDErs undergo substantial value transformations.  Experiencer's resume life by living it more fully, loving more openly, and fearing death less, if at all . . . their life seems more grounded in a sense of purpose and is more consciously shaped by the spiritual values of love, compassion, and acceptance."[3]   

Therefore, one of the most important ways to understand the meaning of the NDE would be by the strength of the motivation for changes.  The motivation is provided by the strong emotions that are invoked in the experiencer and in those who read about NDEs. 

Another Colleague of Dr. Greyson and Dr. Ring, by the name of Russell Noyes Jr, stated that "Ultimately, we are interested in near-death experiences because of their power to change attitudes, personality, and beliefs.  If we could learn their secrets, we could put a potent therapeutically force at our disposal."[4] 

There were several descriptions of the NDE that were attached to strong emotion.  These qualities made the NDE meaningful enough for people to change their existing behaviors and attitudes.  Among these changes were:

1) A reduced fear of death (Most often reported and emphasized)

2) A sense of relative invulnerability

3) A feeling of special importance or destiny

4) A believed in having received a special favor of God or fate, and

5) A strength and believe in continued existence.[5]   

Interestingly, these qualities were described in terms of "aliveness" as opposed to qualities of "deadness."  Deadness was described as "a sense of helplessness, low self-esteem, and meaninglessness that, in the religious dimension may take the form of separation from an omnipotent being."[6]   

When a person experienced a life review, inevitably there were profound changes.  The life review shows people what is important to us after death.  Generally, high priority values were those of kindness, compassion, and unconditional love for others.  Low priority values were money, competition, and power.  Charles Flynn quoted an NDEr in his study as saying, "The superficial aspects of my life, what I had accomplished, owned, and known, were consumed and rendered unimportant.  However, those acts in which I selflessly expressed love or concern for my fellow men were glorified and prudently inscribed in the . . . record, with total disregard for however humble or fleeting those moments had been."[7]   

Another type of transformation is that NDErs report a much greater concern for others.  This results in a greater willingness to accept others and to be less judgmental of others.  Dr. Flynn noted that "The goal of the NDErs life shifts from selfish concerns to a desired help others."[8] 

In one of my studies on the Life Review, Changed Beliefs, Universal Order and Purpose, I noticed the same types of changes.
[9]  As expected, the highest two categories of belief and life changes are those pertaining to religion/spirituality, and concerning the continuity of life and lack of fear of death.  The categories of answers can be further reduced to certain areas of changes.  The largest sections being categorized as the "reality of our external world" and consists of such answers as religion, spirituality, increased belief in God/Jesus/Supreme being, the continuity of life, lack of fear of death, interconnectedness, oneness, disconnectedness, fragmented, not part of this earthly world, and altered states.  The category of "life in general" consists of changes in lifestyle, embracing life, life is precious, sense of purpose, look at life differently, and the NDE is a catalyst for change.  Personality changes consisted of the "qualities" of accepting self, and learning to love, tolerance, forgiveness, compassion, gratitude, appreciation, learning, being a student, self-knowledge, relaxed, non-materialistic, the attitude that things of this world don't matter, a greater awareness, empathy, wanting to help others, freedom, more to life, choices, giving up drugs/alcohol, fear or lack of fear.  The second to the last category consists of changes regarding people.  These are that "people" and friends matter, the importance of relationships, family, some changed their relationships or careers.   

One of the greatest testimonies to what the NDE "means to us all" is contained in the worldwide outreach that NDERF has achieved.  We have over 100 translators who work on 20 different languages.  The NDE must have tremendous value to others or we wouldn't have so many people from all over the globe who volunteer their time to bring the message of NDEs to others who speak their particular language.  The strongest of these messages for our translators is the promise life after death, love, peace, compassion, and universal brotherhood. 

MOTIVATIONS:

Most of what I've been saying up to this point is extremely obvious to people who have had a NDE or who has an interest in studying NDEs.  Therefore, what I would like to explore is the underlying motivations for change.  It is my belief that one of the most important reasons for us coming to earth is to learn how to use our mind to control our emotions.  I think it is extremely important to recognize that the way that we, as a species, have developed is to reduce behavior patterns into habits so that we can free our conscious mind to be alert for changes that need higher cognitive functioning for our survival.[10]  This means that most people must operate, speak, and live their lives on habits by necessity and don't realize limitations of our earthly brains.  Only when confronted with change or novelty, do we use our higher reasoning functions to evolve in our true learning process.[11] 

In various papers, I have explored memory and the NDE.  Humans remember things in our brain by accessing the emotional directory in which a particular memory is stored, much like a computer accessing a particular file under a specific folder.  In other words, we access our memories by reliving a particular emotion.  NDEs are particularly memorable because the vividness of the experience evokes powerful emotions. 

A key part of learning to master our behaviors is to learn about emotions.  Emotions are important because they provide the motivation for change.  There is a powerful motivation to become reconnected with spirit while we are on earth.  In The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck defines love as, “The will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth”[12]  Love and the will to extend love towards self and others is the key component of spiritual growth.  Dr. Tiberi studied extra-somatic emotions.  She concluded in her study that the continuity of emotions, both in the waking, conscious state and the out of body state implied that emotions were the key to showing continuity and oneness between earth and what lies beyond.[13] My studies support her findings because emotions are a soul constant that exist in various bodily altered states, including death.[14]  The only caveat is that across different states of consciousness, our ability to perceive the intensity of these emotions is different. For instance, the emotions perceived in the NDE are far greater than our waking reality.  I would say that this is because our brain does not have the capacity to access the full intensity of many of the emotions felt on the other side. 

Therefore, I would like to explore some keys to emotions that may help others in learning how to master life. 

1.         Memory is mood specific.[15]  Therefore, the largest catalyst for change in NDErs is the constant re-creation and remembrance of the feelings associated with the NDE. 

2.         Good moods enhance memory and allow for creative solutions to habitual behavior that no longer works.[16]  Good moods, enhance the ability to think flexibly and with more complexity.  This enables people to find solutions to problems much easier. Bad moods bias memory in a negative direction, making us more likely to contract into a fearful, overly cautious decision.[17]  Emotions out of control impede the intellect.  Experiencing the NDE and reading about NDEs are very inspirational.  Generally, they put people in good moods, enabling them to deal with life on a satisfying and creative level.   

3.         Anxiety undermines the intellect.[18]  Anxiety as an emotion can be used to excel or it can be a hindrance.  Too much anxiety sabotages any attempt to integrate and do well, yet too little anxiety creates apathy.[19]  Anxiety when properly harnessed can bring about outstanding performance and change.  In order to integrate the NDE with waking reality, one needs to learn how to become relaxed, cultivate peace, and become more loving.  Those who have problems integrating their NDE with waking reality are those who continue to have conflict and anxiety about their experience. 

4.         Hope.  Dr. Snyder, a University of Kansas psychologist defines hope as "believing you have both the wheel and the way to accomplish your goals, whatever they may be."[20] People with high levels of hope are able to motivate themselves.  They feel resourceful enough to find ways to accomplish their objectives.  Hope reassures people who are faced with difficult situations that things will get better and thereby reduce their anxiety level.  Reduced anxiety levels allow individuals to be flexible enough to find different ways to get to their goals.  Another characteristic of hope is that it allows people to break down a formidable task into smaller, manageable pieces.  Having hope means that one will not give in to overwhelming anxiety, a defeatist attitude, or depression in the face of difficult challenges are setbacks.[21]  People who are hopeful evidence less depression than others as they maneuvered through life in pursuit of their goals, are less anxious in general, and have fewer emotional distresses.[22]  NDEs give people hope in an afterlife and reduces the fear of death. NDEs give people a reason for living.  NDEs help give people hope that living on earth has a greater meaning and purpose.  NDEs helps make sense out of the chaos, cruelty, poverty, and suffering that infiltrates our planet and affects our lives.

5.         Optimism.  Dr. Seligman, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania defines optimism in terms of how people explain to themselves their successes and failures.[23]  He describes people who are optimistic as those who view failure as due to something that can be changed so that they can succeed next time around.[24]  On the other hand, pessimists take the blame for failure, describing it to some lasting characteristic they are helpless to change.[25]    NDEs help people to feel optimistic about their life.  NDEs help counteract negative emotions like apathy, hopelessness, or depression in the face of tough going.   

NDEs are empowering because the message that we learn is that we control our own destinies.  There are many NDEs where people use free-will and choose to come back to earth.  Embracing the message of the NDE helps one to learn to develop the quality of self-efficacy, which is the belief that one has mastery over the events of one's life and can meet challenges as they come up.[26] Developing or strengthening one's belief they can control their own destiny helps make a person more willing to take risks and seek out more demanding challenges.[27]  Optimism and self-efficacy are attitudes that make people more likely to make the best of whatever skills they may have - or to do what it takes to develop them.[28]  Experiencing or reading about NDEs helps people to maximize their human potential. 

6.         Flow:  Flow is a difficult concept to define, yet when one explains flow it easily understood on an emotional level.  For instance, a composer describes those moments when his work is at its best: 

"you yourself are in an ecstatic state to such a point that you feel as though you almost don't exist.  I've experienced this time and again.  My hands seem devoid of myself, and I have nothing to do with what is happening.  I just said there watching in a state of all and wonderment.  But it just flows out by itself."[29]   

"Athletes know the state of grace as, "the zone," where excellence becomes effortless, crowd and competitors disappear into a blissful, steady absorption in the moment. . . . flow represents perhaps the ultimate in harnessing the emotions in the service of performance and learning.[30]   

NDErs and those who read about NDEs have experienced or are seeking to find the "zone."  This represents a type of nirvana that we can reach here on earth.  In flow the emotions are not just contained and channeled, but positive, energized, and aligned with the task at hand.[31]  Interestingly, when a person is in flow, their brain "quiets down" in the sense that this is a lessening of cortical arousal.[32]  The expectation would be that such challenge and focus would require more cortical activity, not less.[33]  We see a similar state of mind when NDErs describe the lucidity of their experience.  Many NDErs describe being hyper-alert, yet calm, peaceful, and full of love.  Being in the state of flow allows one to access spiritual knowledge and to attain a mystical state.   

The mystical state can be defined as the immediate consciousness of the transcendent or ultimate reality or God.[34]  According to the Columbia University online dictionary, mysticism is the "practice of putting oneself into, and remaining in, direct relation with God, the Absolute, or any unifying principle of life. Mysticism is inseparably linked with [spirituality]/religion."

Flow is a mystical state of self forgetfulness, and egoless ness.  Instead of being preoccupied with the distractions of every day life, people in flow are living completely in the moment.  They exhibit a masterly control of what they are doing with their responses perfectly attuned to the changing demands other tasks.[35]  Although people "perform at their peak while in flow, they're unconcerned with how they are doing, with thoughts of success or failure, the sheer pleasure of the act itself is what motivates them."[36]  One is able to enter the "zone" by calming the emotions and remaining focused on an objective.  Many people do this through prayer and meditation.  NDErs do this by remembering their NDE. 

7.         Empathy:  The word empathy was first used in the 1920s by EB Titchener, an American psychologist.  Titchener's theory was that empathy stemmed from a sort of physical imitation of the distress of another, which then evokes the same feelings in oneself.[37]  The root of caring, stems from emotional attunement through the capacity for empathy.[38]  Communications research proves that 90% or more of an emotional message is nonverbal.[39]  One of the most important findings in my research on healing is that NDErs were much more empathetic than prior to the NDE.  They have the ability to read people based upon the emotional understanding of others.  Understanding the NDE helps people to be more caring and empathetic with others.  This message is in keeping with the NDE where people learn to value love, peace, and caring for others.   

CONCLUSION 

Mastering the emotions is the key to being the very best that we can be here on earth.  We can learn to overcome the limitations of habit to consciously evolve into living (as opposed to being) here on earth.  NDEs have meaning not only for the individual, but for us all because of the profound changes in our behaviors and beliefs.  Many of these changes directly come from our communion with spirit by helping us to attain the mystical state of "flow."  An organization that evokes emotional response and positive changes will meet the needs of its individuals.  The NDEs help mankind to value peace, love, and global togetherness.  Moreover, the NDE fosters hope, optimism, empathy, and helps decrease anxiety.   NDEs are an integral part in helping us evolve into better people.

[1] The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (1978) Davies, Peter Ed., Dell Publishing, New York, p.437.
[2] Flynn, C. (1984, p. 279). Meanings and implications of near death experience or transformations, B. Greyson and C. Flynn (Eds), The Near-Death Experience, Problems, Prospects, Perspectives, (pp. 278-289).  Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.
[3] Id.
[4] Noyes, R. (1984, p. 273). The human experience of death or, what can we learn from near-death experiences?, B. Greyson and C. Flynn (Eds), The Near-Death Experience, Problems, Prospects, Perspectives, (pp. 267-277).  Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.
[5] Id., p. 268.
[6] Id., p. 270.
[7] Flynn, C. (1984, p. 280). Meanings and implications of near death experience or transformations, B. Greyson and C. Flynn (Eds), The Near-Death Experience, Problems, Prospects, Perspectives, (pp. 278-289).  Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.
[8] Id., p. 281.
[9] Long, Jody (2002), Life Review, Changed Beliefs, Universal Order and Purpose, and the Near-Death Experience, Part 4 Soulmates, www.nderf.org
[10] Ornstein, R. (1991) The Evolution of Consciousness, The Origins of the Way We Think, Simon & Schuster, New York NY.
[11] Id.
[12] Peck, M. Scott (1978) The Road Less Traveled, Touchstone, New York NY, p.81.
[13] Id., citing Tiberi, E. (1993, p.169). Extrasomatic emotions. Journal of Near-Death Studies, 11(3), 149-170.
[14] Long, Jody (2002), Emotions and the Near-Death Experience, Part 3 Soulmates, www.nderf.org  
[15] Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ, by Daniel Goleman, Bantom Books, New York NY, 1995, pg 83.
[16] Id., p.85.
[17] Id., p.85.
[18] Id., p.80.
[19] Id., pp. 84-85.
[20] Id., p.87.
[21] Id.
[22] Id.
[23] Id., p.88.
[24] Id.
[25] Id.
[26] Id., p.89.
[27] Id.
[28] Id., p.90.
[29] Id.
[30]
Id.
[31] Id.
[32] Id., p. 92
[33] Id.
[34] Dictionary Houghton Mifflin
[35] Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ, by Daniel Goleman, Bantom Books, New York NY, 1995, pg 91.
[36] Id.
[37] Id., p.98.
[38] Id., p.96.
[39] Id., p.97.

 

 

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