What Happens on the Other Side?
Jun 30, 2010 10:18AM
Twenty-eight years ago, Anne Archer’s parked car was hit by the speeding truck of a drunk driver who had passed out at the wheel. Her three-year-old daughter miraculously survived the violent crash, but Archer was seriously injured. As she waited to be rescued, she realized she was floating out of her body.
“What heaven, what peace.Â Outside my body, the pain disappeared. I floated in joy and love as I rose up, up, and away,” says the 60-year-old producer, filmmaker and writer who resides in both Mooresville and Los Angeles.
Archer could see the wreckage and rescue vehicles from above in great detail, but wondered if it would be possible to stay alive, live life on earth and still know this freedom and amazing sense of exhilaration and joy.
Immersed in this state of total contentment, she felt an inner nudge to examine the scene below. She saw a hearse pulling up and realized rescuers thought she was dead. Knowing her child would not have a mother, Archer was determined to live and came back into her mangled body and was rushed to the hospital.
To survive her massive injuries Archer knew she had to rely on inner guidance to survive. As a practitioner of the spiritual exercises of Eckankar, a system of belief that seeks to unify a person’s soul with the light and sound of God, Archer began reciting HU, an ancient name of God.
Realizing this was relaxing and stabilizing her, the surgeon repairing her wounds began chanting it as well. Before long everyone in the room was chanting HU. Archer was relieved from her excruciating pain and doctors were amazed at her remarkable turnaround.
Physiological Phenomenon or a Return to Consciousness?
Archer experienced what’s known as a near-death experience, or NDE. According to a Gallup poll, approximately eightÂ million Americans claim to have had an NDE. Experiences may include detachment from the body, feelings of levitation, total serenity, security, the presence of a light or tunnel, or seeing deceased relatives or divine beings. People may experience a life review and an opportunity to return to their body. Most say the event profoundly changes their lives and often eliminates the fear of death.
Although already on a spiritual path at the time, Archer says her experience allowed her to move beyond body awareness and into seeing herself as a soul, eternal and joyous. “It opened doors to greater spiritual freedom, eliminated fear and gave me a new perspective on the possibilities in my life.”
Archer recently completed a book that includes her experience and now views death as an illusion. “There is no death. There are complicated parts of it,” she states, “but the freedom that we have when we understand this is awesome.”
The near-death phenomenon is of much debate to medicine, neuroscience, psychiatry and religion. Viewpoints typically fall into two camps. One believes that an NDE is a physiological phenomenon that occurs in an oxygen-starved brain. The other asserts that no theory based just on the workings of the brain can explain the events of an NDE. They believe we should examine the possibility that consciousness may exist independent of the functioning brain.
Acute Awareness and Tremendous Peace
Incidentally, there have been many NDE reports that originate from events that are not life threatening. In 2007, Richard Vreeland was riding his motorcycle on the winding country roads between Waxhaw and Weddington when he came upon a truck pulling a flat bed trailer with brake lights that didn’t work. Not realizing the truck was at a complete stop and waiting to turn into a driveway,Â he applied both brakes and hoped for the best.
The bike and Vreeland went down and at that moment he says he was acutely aware of his surroundings and felt a tremendous peace. “I am quite sure that the tires screeched loudly and the metal of the bike frame must have made a horrifying noise as it met the pavement, and yet I heard nothing,” says the 49-year-old program specialist.
As his body skidded along the pavement he noticed the beauty around him - the clear blue Carolina sky, the houses on either side of the street and the green grass of a nearby field. It was in that moment that he realized that everything was going to be ok.
“There was nothing I needed to hide or be afraid of. I could meet whatever the result with a sense of peace and serenity,” says Vreeland, who suffered a dislocated thumb, bruised ribs, a separated shoulder and many aches and pains. He considers it a miracle that his head never hit the ground, since he was not wearing a protective helmet.
Vreeland says his experience led him to pursue a practice of mindfulness and an appreciation of the impermanence of things. “I realized that the intense awareness I felt in that moment was something I wanted to experience on a regular basis,” states Vreeland, who now meditates several times a week. He also established a sense of faith that has since sustained him through difficult times.
Our Bodies Are Not Who We Are
Martha Harbison’s NDE was an awakening for her as well. In 2006, she was attending a workshop in New Mexico when she became very ill. She was rushed to the emergency room in a coma and having seizures due to a condition called rabdomiolisis, a rapid deconstruction of skeletal muscles. Doctors believed she was a few hours from death.
But over the next several days, with substantial rehydration in the ICU, she rallied. Her physicians really didn’t know what caused her condition, surmising it was from a drug interaction or an infection from a recent dental implant that may have gotten into her brainstem.
When Harbison woke up a week later her last memory was of changing planes in Dallas, but she immediately knew everything had changed for her.
“While I was in what we would call a state of unconsciousness, I was given a choice.Â I was told, ‘Martha, you can continue to try to leave and you can come back to try again, or you can get back in your body and do what you came here to do.’”
She made the choice to stay.
Until April of this year, Harbison says she has been in a deep state of incubation, recreating herself from the inside out physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually by using what she learned during the NDE to remember who and what she really is. She is inspired now to help others remember who they truly are.
Harbison recently launched www.SeeingTheLight.org to tell the story of her awakening journey. “The most important fact that I can convey to everyone is that our bodies are not who we are but rather they are the homes in which we live,” says the 58-year-old retired CFO and Business Consultant from Charlotte.
“I will be explaining this concept and the best ways to incorporate it into our lives on Seeing The Light as my story unfolds. But as C.S. Lewis told us, ‘You don’t have a soul, you are a Soul.Â You have a body.’”
Floating in Perfection
Malynda Cress, of Mooresville, endured a chronic illness that eventually left her bedridden, with minimal communication and cognitive skills functioning. She experienced excruciating pain all over her body.
Then, there was relief.
“I found myself drifting from my body into a space of such comfort, grace and everythingness. No needs, no wants, all was present to be and grow, no knowledge of lacking, simply floating in perfection and being perfect.”
Cress continued going between her pain-wracked body and floating in the “womb of creation” for over a year while her physical body deteriorated. Then one day, she slipped into what she describes as Infinity of light, peace, comfort and joy.
“As times before, I simply floated from my body through the top of my head but this time there was the music of a multitude of voices that plucked the strings of my very being as I floated on some type of current that directed my movement,” say Cress, 54.
Cress began to “see” her life story starting with the beginning of her illness in 1992. Beings of Love and Light were with her throughout her experience. She was asked if she wanted to return to her body. With the promise of her body being more comfortable, she agreed and began a long recovery process.
Communication with the spiritual realm has remained with her since her NDE. It has been her passion for the past several years to assist individuals through the dying process as a Transition Companion. Cress offers comfort and support for patients and their families and can be present in both realms to validate what patients are seeing, hearing, feeling.
She says it may be difficult for a patient to release from the body, relationships or beliefs, as we are not taught how to do this. Family members, likewise, have difficulty releasing their loved ones with trust and love. Cress works to transform fear into acceptance, knowing this is a sacred part of life guided by Love.
“If we allow ourselves, we are welcomed home in celebration. A home of Love we have only imagined while in these bodies, where there is peace that is beyond all understanding.”