Some of these travelers write books about their experience; some keep quiet. Most of the places they go don’t sound much like “Heaven” as Christians and Muslims usually talk about it. Very few float on clouds or see Jesus. Their destination seems more like Nirvana, the Hindu/Buddhist idea of a blissful state without suffering, beyond mental clamoring, a state that comes (according to Buddha) when there is no more desire, fear, or delusion.
As I heard their stories, I thought, “I want to go there, too.” So I’ve been studying people who live in Nirvana (or someplace near there) much of the time and on Earth with the rest of us at other times. When I first read these books, I was filled with questions. Do these experiences mean anything, or are they just comforting hallucinations? What do their stories tell us about the physical world we live in? What do they tell us about life and death?
A big surprise to me has been how many people, when I tell them I’m researching visits to Nirvana, say, “Oh, yeah, I do that.” I’ve interviewed some of them. Apparently, it’s not that hard to get to Heaven. So how is it done?
One ticket is severe brain damage. Jill Bolte Taylor, PhD lost her left cerebral cortex to a massive stroke and spent several months seeing the world almost exclusively through her right brain. She liked it: “My perception of my physical boundaries was no longer limited to where my skin met air. I felt like a genie liberated from its bottle…this absence of physical boundary was one of glorious bliss. My consciousness dwelled in a flow of sweet tranquility…”
Although sad on occasions when she remembered that the Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor she had always known was, in effect, dead, it didn’t bother her. “I was not capable of deliberating about past or future, because those cells were incapacitated,” she explains. “All I could perceive was right here, right now, and it was beautiful.”
Her right brain saw literally everything as connected. To the right brain, that’s not a scientific theory or spiritual belief; it’s the way the world actually looks and feels. “My eyes could no longer perceive things as separate from one another,” she writes. “Despite my neurological trauma, an unforgettable sense of peace pervaded my entire being.”
It certainly sounds heavenly, and Taylor isn’t the only one to have taken this journey. Thousands of people report powerful near-death experiences or NDEs. Those who have peeked through death’s window report a wide variety of experiences, but there is almost always the sense of peace, of being loved, and of being at the beginning of something.
Scientists have come up with some possible neurological explanations for NDEs, but they don’t agree on what is happening there. Survivors of NDEs have their own organizations and web sites. You can read hundreds of their stories and associated research at Near-death.com.
These survivors may not be able to commute back to their after-death worlds, but most report feelings of peace and an absence of fear that last for years or decades afterward.
One famous NDE survivor is Dr. Eben Alexander, whose book Proof of Heaven has topped bestseller lists for over a year. Alexander went Jill Taylor one better. His right and left cerebral cortex were both completely closed down by a raging meningitis infection. He was in a coma, on life support for a week.