What is a Near-Death Experience?
Near-death experiences are intensely vivid and often life-transforming experiences, often occurring under extreme physiological conditions such as life-threatening trauma, cardiac arrest, or deep anesthesia in which no awareness of sensory experience of any kind should be possible, according to our current understanding of brain function.
Near-death experiences, or NDEs, consist of a common pattern of events, often including such features as:
- thinking more clearly and more rapidly than usual
- a sense of overwhelming peace, well-being, and absolute, unconditional love
- feeling comfortable and free of pain
- a sensation of leaving the body, sometimes being able to see the body while floating above it
- a sensation of being drawn into a tunnel or darkness
- a brilliant light, often perceived as a being of light
- a life review, or return of memories from the past
- a sense of having access to knowledge not available by normal means
- encounters with deceased loved ones, or with other beings who may be identified as religious figures
While these are the features most commonly reported, many NDEs vary from this pattern, and some may be experienced as frightening or distressing rather than peaceful.
Near-death experiences often lead to a a common pattern of aftereffect, including:
- marked decrease in, or complete loss of, fear of death
- more loving attitudes toward oneself and toward other people
- acceptance of, and compassion for, others
- increased sense of meaning and purpose in life
- decreased interest in material possessions, in personal recognition, and in competition