Spring 2013
"New Beginnings"

A Book Review

 Audio CD Picture
Proof of Heaven, A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife, by Dr. Eben Alexander
Review by Mark Ireland, Helping Parents Heal Co-Founder and Author of Soul Shift: Finding Where the Dead Go  
Today nearly everyone is familiar with the phrase “Near Death Experience” and its’ acronym, “NDE”, coined by Dr. Raymond Moody in his 1975 landmark bestseller, Life After Life.  Since then interest in NDE phenomenon has gained momentum and research efforts have accelerated—with investigations taking place across the globe.
NDE reports come from patients who come precariously close to death, yet are revived before dying.  The number of these reports has expanded exponentially in the recent decades as a result of new techniques used to resuscitate cardiac arrest patients. These are people who would have previously died, but are now able to share their perspective on what it’s like to be at the brink of death.
Common NDE elements include an OBE (Out-Of-Body Experience), where the patient reports a sense of release from their physical body. In conjunction with this sensation, the patient often indicates that they are able to hover above their body and observe what is going on in the room below, including resuscitation efforts.  NDE experiencers also frequently report:
-Meeting deceased loved ones
-Going through a life review process
-Entering a tunnel and moving toward a bright light
-Arriving in a blissful reality, often via the tunnel
-Meeting a being of light, sometimes reported as Jesus, Buddha, or another spiritual figure
-A deep sense of acceptance and unconditional love
-A choice to stay in this realm or to return to physical life
Skeptics claim that there must be some brain activity going on during these episodes and that the experiences are most likely hallucinations.   Countering skeptical arguments are cases where the NDE experiencer provides specific, accurate information about events taking place in the operating room at a time when they were physically unconscious.  In some cases patients furnished highly detailed reports of procedures conducted and instruments used by doctors that were later validated.  There have also been reports of communications between doctors, nurses, and other people, observed by the patients during their OBE that proved accurate—including some conversations that took place in other rooms.
Further countering the skeptical argument, hallucinations are almost always negative and distorted experiences, whereas NDE’s are most often reported as blissful and extremely vivid—even more so than waking reality. It’s also interesting to note that when unconscious patients meet people they know during an NDE, they are always deceased rather than living persons. If these experiences are hallucinations, wouldn’t one expect some living individuals to be included?
Nonetheless, skeptics haven’t given in one bit and they continue to argue that the brain is responsible for such experiences.  This is why Dr. Eben Alexander’s new book, Proof of Heaven is such a game-changer.
Prior to his Near-Death-Experience, Dr. Alexander, who taught and performed neurosurgery at the Harvard Medical School, concurred with most of his fellow scientists by assuming that the brain produces consciousness.  But after a close brush with death following a weeklong coma, as a rare form of bacterial meningitis attacked his brain, Dr. Alexander’s worldview changed. 
According to prevailing theories on brain function, Dr. Alexander should have been incapable of consciousness during his coma, as the entire outer surface of his brain was covered with bacteria and puss.  As he noted, “These bacteria had gotten rid of all the glucose and the only thing left to consume were my brain cells.  So my entire neocortex—the part of the brain that makes us human—was completely shut down.” Despite this dire scenario Dr. Alexander actually experienced an expanded awareness, sensing an immensely loving connection with the divine source and knowledge of the interconnected nature of the universe.  His biological recovery could also be described as miraculous, since doctors did not expect him to survive. As a Neurosurgeon who understands the intricacies of neurological function, Alexander knew that his crippled brain could not have produced any level of conscious awareness, let alone the expanded sense of awareness he experienced.
The clincher for Dr. Alexander came to light a short time later when something from his NDE was validated in a most surprising way.  During the NDE, he was accompanied by a female that he perceived to be a guardian angel. He saw her face clearly and felt a tremendous amount of unconditional love coming from her.  Four months after his release from the hospital, Dr. Alexander received a photo of a sister he’d never known named Betsy, who had died about ten years earlier.  (Dr. Alexander had been given up for adoption at birth and had only connected with his biological family one year prior to his NDE. He had been told about Betsy but had never before seen her photo.) Upon looking at the picture of Betsy, he recognized the smile, glistening blue eyes, and calming look as belonging to the guardian angel who had accompanied him during his NDE.      
I was fortunate enough to meet Dr. Alexander two times this past summer and during our last visit I asked him a few questions about his experience.  This prompted him to share his greatest revelation, previously expressed to colleagues in question form, which was, “Do you know what this means?!” Dr. Alexander then shared his perspective, mirroring my view, that consciousness is primary and that matter and form are creative expressions produced by consciousness—and that the spiritual realm is real.
I highly recommend Proof of Heaven to anyone interested in knowing more about Near Death Experiences and the corroborating evidence they provide in support of life after death. This book will appeal to both laypersons and science-minded individuals. Although Dr. Alexander is an esteemed scientist and Neuro-Surgeon, he is also a warm and caring individual. Eben’s sense of kindness and integrity comes through in his writing.
Mark Ireland

Spring is in the Air!
What does the word Spring mean to you? What images does your mind conjure up when you hear the word Spring?
I think of New Beginnings. One of my favorite quotes comes from a song called Closing Time by the group Semisonic is: "Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end." Each Spring, I acknowledge and celebrate the new beginnings in my life. I take it one step further and acknowledge the new beginnings I have chosen since my son TJ passed away. I spend some time reflecting on how the ending of TJ's life here on earth, has turned into new beginnings for me and my family. For example, I have chosen a new career in the healing field...something I had always planned to do, but didn't until after TJ passed. Has this always been my path? Most likely, yes. But I believe it took a life changing loss to propel me to change my life...and other's lives in the process. Does this mean that I'm always "OK" with the early passing of my son? No. I'm human and know that I must grieve my son's passing as I continue to choose to move forward. Would I turn back time if I could, to have TJ right next to me and consequently, give back my new beginnings? Absolutely! But I can't. Instead, I process, and I'm grateful for my new path. I do this to not only honor TJ's memory, but to honor my living children as well.
Today, I invite you to spend some time processing and celebrating your new beginnings. However big or small, give yourself credit. Pat yourself on the back for taking an ending and transforming it into a new beginning. Just as a beautiful butterfly emerges from its cocoon, you too can emerge into beauty.

Peace and Blessings to you all,
Justine Schrimsher
Newsletter Editor
Founding Member, HPH




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Our mission is to help parents who have lost children, giving them support and resources to aid in the healing process. We will go a step beyond other groups by allowing the open discussion of spiritual experiences and evidence for the afterlife, but in a non-dogmatic way. In other words, we will welcome everyone regardless of their religious (or non-religious) background and allow for a very open type of dialog.

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Co-Founder, Helping Parents Heal

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