How would a Near Death Experience change you?

February 14, 2013

This is drawn from Fr. Richard Rohr's lecture Dying: We Need it For Life - absolutely worth checking out. (And he drew this stuff from the research of Harvard prof Phillip L. Berman)

So here are the repeatedly noted personality changes in people who've undergone a near-death experience - out-of body, or otherwise:

1. An amazing ability to live in the present. Most of us live in the two places where nothing ever happens: the past and the future. But the present is all we have. Every moment is a microcosm of the macrocosm. How you're doing whatever you're doing right now is probably how you do everything. 

2. An abiding sense of deep confidence. The untransformed self is inherently insecure and destabilized. The true Self finds a strong and lasting confidence - a sense that things are all right - without this being based on your external circumstances at all. You don't know where the feeling comes from. It's just there.

3. An immense decreased interest in material possessions. The Self knows that happiness doesn't lie in another trip to the mall, or a bigger house, or any external attainment. 

4. Spirituality becomes central and important. People know for certain the reality of the spiritual world. 

5. A much higher natural compassion - which extends to almost everything. There's a deep gratitude for everything. A forgiveness for everything. 

6. A strong sense of life's purpose - and that life has a purpose. The purpose itself can't necessarily be verbalized, but there's a sense that life is going somewhere, it all means something, it all matters. How you interact even with the check-out girl at the supermarket has significance. And that it's worth the courage of taking ownership and responsibility for who you really are.

7. The sense that all life and love has inherent value. In group/out group thinking stops. You see the connectedness of things, and the world becomes a sacred universe. As Rohr says "once you've embraced the demon inside, the demon outside can no longer hurt you."

8. An amazing ability to enjoy a high degree of solitude and silence. People who've faced death don't need to have the radio on all the time. They generally don't like loud or jarring music when they do have it on. They tend to prefer music that doesn't make you angry, but that gathers the various parts of you together. 

9. A desire to live a more social, communitarian, participatory form of life. As much as this might seem to contradict the previous item, it doesn't. Transformed people can sit in silence, and still feel connected. And they know that life is about servanthood. Leaving the small self behind, and living in the larger self, you feel a sense of abundance. The true Self knows there's nothing to lose, and that the more I give away, there's always a deeper discovery of the Self. 

10. A strong sense of wonder, a perennial sense of gratitude. You're grateful, and don't even know why. You just have that quiet confidence, for no reason. The true Self, Rohr says, is always confident, and always grateful. 

Here's a five minute TED talk that corroborates some of this, from a guy who was on the plane that landed in the Hudson River a few years ago.