Near death experiences (NDEs) are out-of-body experiences that occur either when a person is close to death, or when they have literally 'died' for a short while and been resuscitated.
Some people report having out-of-body experiences at other times too. Some even claim to be able to leave their body (sometimes known as astral projection) at will. Many people find near death out-of-body experiences particularly interesting, however, as they potentially offer some insight into what actually happens to us after we die.
When reading accounts of near death experiences, it is striking that they largely appear very similar. Although not all people who have a near death experience report exactly the same thing, there are aspects that many of them seem to share.
People who have had a near death experience usually describe suddenly, and unexpectedly, finding themselves outside of, and above, their physical bodies. Despite their bodies being in an unconscious state, they often say that they were very aware of what was happening around them. For example, they may talk about the people that were there while their physical bodies were being resuscitated, or they might say they heard the doctors talking while they were being operated on.
Many of those who have described near death experiences mention traveling down a dark tunnel, often toward a bright light. A lot of them state that they felt extremely calm and had a sense of well-being during the experience. Reports of ringing, whispering, buzzing, or other strange noises are not uncommon - these noises, however, are not always pleasant.
Many people describing a near death experience say that family, friends, or other dead people that they knew, even vaguely, were waiting at the end of the tunnel for them. Usually they see these 'spirits' in human form, but they sometimes they may appear to them differently. Some people have felt that these people are there to guide them onward to somewhere else.
Sometimes people have felt that, instead of a person, or people, there has been a friendly 'being' (suffused with light) of some kind waiting for them instead. This being may also appear to be there to guide them, or to show 'flashbacks' from their lives. Sometimes this being, or something similar, seems to will the person to return to life. In many of these cases the person has someone in their lives for whom they are responsible, and who will be left in a vulnerable position if the person dies.
Often people who have had a near death experience say that there was a barrier of some sort between life and death. This implies that if they had crossed over they would die forever, possibly going on to a different existence. By not crossing over the barrier, they come back instead to their life on earth. As they turn away from this barrier, many people experience a sense of sadness or loss. This fades, and usually disappears altogether, once they are back 'living' again.
People who have had a near death experience often state that it has had a big impact on their lives. They often no longer fear death and some report feeling less anxious overall. Their experience makes them more relaxed about life and philosophical.
Often those who have survived near death experiences feel more strongly for their fellow man. Some of them even make drastic changes to the way they live their lives, seeking out a more purposeful way of living.
Most people who have had a near death experience describe it positively. Some people, however, have reported a nightmarish sort of experience which they found to be very frightening. These type of accounts of near death experiences, however, seem to be very much a minority.
While immediately after a near death experience many people want nothing more than to talk about it, the potential reaction from others often, unfortunately, prevents them from discussing it in the longer term. Some people are afraid to talk of it at all, concerned that others will think they are mad.
People of all religions, and even atheists and agnostics, have spoken of having near death experiences such as those described. There seems to be no 'rational' explanation (such as the administration of certain drugs in hospital, for example) that could be applied across the board.
The sheer scale of claims of near death experiences makes them difficult to dismiss as the rantings of a few deluded people. Around 8 million Americans have reported having a near death experience. There is no particular 'type' of person who is more likely to have a near death experience either, which seems to add to the credibility of the accounts.
More and more people modernly have described near death experiences (probably due to the ever increasing improvements in resuscitation techniques). For those interested in what happens to us after we die (which is probably most people), these accounts of near death experiences will continue to fascinate and offer hope for a future existence beyond death, or an 'after-life.'