Lessons from The Great Beyond

I gather that I am not alone in feeling this way about Anita’s description of her NDE, as well as her various thoughts and reflections on it. Indeed, the famous author Wayne Dyer and the owner of the NDERF website, oncologist Jeffrey Long, MD are two of her greatest fans, with Dr. Long officially citing hers as an “exceptional NDE,” and with Dyer introducing her to his publishers at Hay House and offering to write the foreword of her book about her experience. 

A soft-spoken but extremely articulate and direct person, Anita had her NDE relatively recently (in 2006). There are so many fascinating aspects, not just to her experience itself, but also to the lessons she learned while “on the other side.” Equally wonderful is her spiritual generosity, especially her great willingness to share her story and her profound insights about it. 

For starters, as she has explained to various interviewers in the years following her 2006 NDE, she now (post-NDE) sees that in the years prior to her NDE, she lived a life based on fear. She was fearful, for instance, about foods she believed might make her sick and she was fearful about the possibility of falling ill. She especially feared developing cancer (which is exactly what she ultimately ended up doing). 

Essentially, prior to her NDE, she was a walking, talking ball of fear and anxiety, and because of this, in some ways, every waking moment of her pre-NDE life was a moment of sheer torture and pain. 

To add insult to injury, she was also what she describes as a “people pleaser,” who constantly wore the façade a false happy face, simply because she knew that is what people prefer to see. People don’t like to listen to complainers and worriers, so she kept her many, many worries and fears deep inside, where they festered and grew, and ultimately, in her opinion, contributed to making her physically ill. 

So, others viewed her as a very positive person, because that was the fake persona she projected to the world. But deep inside she always felt like a crumbling, tortured mess. She had bought (hook, line and sinker) into the popular modern idea that “positive thinking” is wonderful, healthy and virtuous way to live one’s life. But Anita did not feel truly positive on the inside, and acting like she felt happy and cheerful all the time (when in fact she usually felt negative, anxious and fearful), gradually took a serious toll on both her emotional and physical health. 

Think of it as a sort of double whammy effect: Not only was she was full of worry all the time, but she also poured a lot of precious emotional energy into putting up this crazy façade of fake happiness and positivity, emotional energy that probably could have been much better spent elsewhere. And naturally, between her constant worrying and her false front of positivity, she felt emotionally and physical drained all of the time.  It was no way to live!

Put yourself in Anita’s pre-NDE shoes for a moment. Picture yourself worrying incessantly about every morsel of food you put in your mouth, fearing that it is terrible for you and that it will eventually cause you to get sick. Imagine feeling so drained from the constant worrying, but still putting whatever miniscule amount of left over energy you have into slapping a “happy face sticker” over your pain, so as not to worry others, in large part because you have absorbed the popular cultural messages that the “kindest behavior,” the “right action,” is to always put the feelings of others before your own. 

Perhaps you don’t even need to imagine these feelings to put yourself in Anita’s shoes. Perhaps you can already relate all too well to how she felt before her NDE because you too have felt these same emotions of fear but and societal and cultural pressure to act chipper and positive all the time, just as Anita did, before her life-changing NDE. 

Striving for authenticity is not the same as striving for perfection (here on earth).  In a sense, we are already “perfect” just in the sense that Anita describes, that our “goal” or our “purpose” is simply “to be” (or more precisely, “to be love.” But striving for perfect grades or something along those lines is not the same as striving to be “true to yourself” and true to your own personal goals and dreams.