Near death experiences suddenly bring in-depth appreciation for life. Relationships change. Family bonds are redefined. Hierarchies largely fade
Amidst people in scrubs and white coats surrounded by clamoring machines, a face was familiar. I could see her from my half opened morphine struck eyes. My body was in complete shambles. I almost did not recognize myself. Those who saw the vehicle that I was in, flattened by the side of a highway, after the head-on collision with an 18 wheeler, expressed their disbelief that I survived. One of the questions that the familiar face asked me, after I came out of 21 days of induced coma, was: “Do you remember me?” Luckily, I did remember my newly wedded wife and wished her for the missed birthday. Tears did rest of the communication. Now, I am considered a member of a group called Near Death Experience (NDE)—qualifying me to write on the topic, with full credentials.
NDE and religion
Near Death Experience can be described as accounts of people who had a close brush with death and have mental or physical scars ultimately shaping their lives. It is a new genre hijacked by narratives of those who claim that they have traveled to heaven or hell and back. It has almost turned into a window to heaven and hell which all religions are anxious to establish. It’s a hot topic. Some NDE books have stayed on the best sellers list for months. Ten million copies of The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven were sold in the United States. The boy later recanted his journey and pulled down the heaven hype, but some people still chose to believe his first account not the retraction—an example of extreme confirmation bias.
Some NDEs become victim of the existing myths prevalent in religious circles and get a bit carried away by those eager to solidify heaven. That is exactly why kids end up writing books on heaven or hell and stay on the best sellers list for months. And there are people who make a living just selling the notion. I still remember a conversation with a minister of a church who visited me at a hospital frequently when I was recovering. He tactfully tried to persuade me to accept that Jesus was my true savior. No offense to Jesus lovers, but when I credited my survival to the doctors who successfully operated me, he retorted that Jesus was the one who sent them at the right moment. “What made you declare so surely that I was saved specifically by Jesus, and not by one of the hundreds of Hindu Gods and Goddesses that my mother chants glory of every morning and evening?” I asked. Either he was awestruck with my arrogance or concluded that I was sold to Satan. I never had to see him again. At the same time there were those strangers who brought hope at that difficult juncture and redefined friendship. I met couple of others who were adamant that I received new life by the divine intervention. But, I was never declared dead medically. If divinity must be accepted, the intervention based on the achievements made by medical science can be defined as such.
Selling heaven while people are suffering is systematic in Hinduism as well. Like all religions, certain practices have continuously flourished, backed by myths, in Hinduism too. A pundit promises a safe way into heaven to those willing to donate sacred cow. He does not need to explain how a soul, if there is any, catches a tail of a cow tied under his shed thousands of kilometers away, crosses Baitarani River, believed to be the gateway to heaven. He continues to receive donations from Hindus desperate to secure their access to heaven. More cows you can put under a pundit’s shed, the better are your prospects of reaching heaven. When it comes to heaven, people are so gullible that they are willing to invest in a business that simply can’t show a plan or a strategy to accomplish the goal promised. Those who are skeptical succumb to the fear of hell that religion throws at them.
Journey to consciousness
People sometimes completely lose their mobility or consciousness and end up depending on others for life. But people who mostly recover from near death experience reportedly become different. There is a literature suggesting that they take U turns in their lives, some positive and some not so much. Some have reported that their perspectives on life have considerably changed after such experiences. They seek reasons behind their survival. The journey to real consciousness is likely to begin. I strongly believe that it pushes people to look for a larger meaning of their existence, even though it is just a coincidence that some people survive accidents and some don’t.
NDEs reportedly tend to interact more with the present, the everyday living, rather than attaining. NDEs seek deeper meaning in their lives. They reportedly take risks. After all, the worst that can happen to you after near death is the death itself. NDEs reportedly also have the tendency of staying aloof in parties and gatherings.
My weird experience, probably the result of a subconscious mind interacting with a strong dose of drugs injected to protect me from traumatic brain injury, is one of many incidents doctors deal with everyday. After watching Inception, with DiCaprio stealing information from subconscious minds and planting new ideas on them, I don’t think that my experience is unique. Dreams and unconscious minds are being studied. But, I kind of felt relieved after the 1:20 formula of reality: dream was accepted by Hollywood supporting my decades of crazy dreams, fitting all within 21 days. All I need to do is change the ratio to justify my three decades of living inside a dream.
Life is beautiful
I have been living with my thirty years of solitude experienced within 21 days of induced coma for a while now. I am still trying to make sense of my delusional accounts which I am sure are nothing but series of dreams fueled by the high dose of morphine flowing through the veins and reacting with the subconscious mind. Based on my experience, I have always accepted the accounts of those who reached heaven and spoke to God, falling in line with their belief systems, as dreams of their subconscious mind. After all, you cook your delicacies with the ingredients you have. It should not be interpreted further than that.
What a subconscious mind experiences is not that important. What happens to the conscious mind after, is worthy of attention. Personally, I relish little things like the smell of that grass that you sit on, evening walks without real destinations, or a sip of that morning tea. It is true that NDE suddenly brings in-depth appreciation for life. Relationships change too. Family bonds are redefined. Hierarchies largely have faded out for me and I tend to treat people equally, regardless of their positions or power.
Value your life
We take a lot of things for granted. For example, we can get up and walk just with a thought of doing so. All you have to do is wait for the the thought to originate in your head, and your muscles just get the right signals and lift your body to move. Isn’t that amazing? If you are not sure, ask anyone working for an artificial intelligence project to better understand the difficulty behind programming and sequencing a task as simple as that. NDE underscores the importance of mental or physical abilities that you have not appreciated before.
If you walked out to the porch yesterday with your morning tea on your hand within a minute, without really planning for it, you are one of the luckiest men on earth. Not because you have a porch but because you can walk to the porch without planning. For me, it took six months of planning and working on it every day, taking baby steps incrementally, to independently walk again. Forget about walking, it took me months to wiggle one of my toes. And the day I finally wiggled it, was one of the happiest days of my life. I still continue to relish wiggling it because it has provided me with an important lesson in life. You understand and appreciate the real value of things once they cease to function.
While scrolling through pictures of people in their fancy cars, that change every year, or while viewing live broadcast of never-ending weekend parties people post displaying their achievements, you might mistakenly conclude that life did not treat you fairly, whatever you think fairness is. But, you can wiggle your toes and take it easy. Because you are a lot happier than those who need continuous assurance from others that they are living, and a lot lot happier than those who are so desperate that they can’t help but post their selfies every other day on social media seeking to boost their self esteem. Life definitely is how you chose to live it. A billionaire in a mansion, with a Ferrari in a garage, could be poorer, both socially and psychologically, whereas a common man living paycheck to paycheck might be living a happy and meaningful life.
Enough walking through the maze of words. Are you ready for a real walk now?