Eben Alexander looking spiffy despite a near-death experience.
Heightened consciousness of life’s phases builds endurance, allows for acceptance and breeds joy.
Dr. Eben Alexander came to that realization after a near-death experience. The acclaimed neurosurgeon would have previously argued that brains under stress produced calming alternatives about an afterlife. But after waking from a coma caused when a rare illness attacked his brain, Alexander changed his position, and, his mind.
“By probing deeply into our own consciousness, we transcend the limitations of the human brain, and of the physical-material realm,” he wrote in his New York Times best-seller “Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife.” The lifelong healer will share his experience in the keynote address for the Sun Valley Wellness Festival, to be held from May 23-27 in Sun Valley.
A sell-out audience is expected, so Alexander summarized his message in an interview last week.
IME: Were you a writer before the near-death experience?
No. In fact, I don’t identify as a writer now. I’d wanted to be a doctor since I was a child, and even though “Proof of Heaven” is a deeply spiritual book about a deeply spiritual experience, it comes out of my life as a scientist and medical professional. In fact, I think of the book less as a writing project and more as an extension of my work as a doctor, trying to approach the questions about brain function and consciousness that medical science has grappled with for years, and answering the same vocation to help people that was at the root my decision to become a neurosurgeon. So much of my journey is about healing, in the grandest sense of the word.
How has your experience changed any fear of death?
My experience showed me that death is not to be feared. At the same time, it also made me even more conscious of how precious life is. We exist to contribute the most good we can, and to experience all the joys, and learn the lessons we are to learn (and teach others) from the challenges and hardships in life. I know that the truth of my experience—that our consciousness (soul/spirit) is greater than our physical incarnation, and continues beyond death—holds for my sons as much as for me, but I have the same parental concerns about them that others do, and pray for their health and happiness.
During my experience, I learned that I could do no wrong, in that spiritual realm. There is plenty one can do wrong in the earthly realm.
How would you address a soon-to-be parent projecting his fears on how to confidently let go and parent simultaneously?
Keep higher love first and foremost, and remember we are all here to grow and learn.
My father was a suicide. He had a reincarnation view for the most part, but was raised with church-going beliefs about heaven. He was depressed about many things, including losing his parents, sister and best friend. While 65-plus white males are in the majority of suicide statistics these days, I wonder how much a belief that one would reconcile with one’s beloveds hasten a desire for death?
I am so sorry to hear about your father. Coping with the loss of someone we love is the most difficult thing we suffer during our time on earth. The way I think about suicide is based in my understanding of the connectedness of all living things. We all have a personal stake in the welfare of others, and while natural death is a transition we do not need to fear, untimely death is a tragedy we all mourn.
It is true that I was reunited with my biological sister during my experience. But I had no idea who she was, and I had very little sense of her personality in the way we think of that word. We were immediately connected, but she was not who she had been in life. When we die, we transition, metamorphose into the next phase of ourselves. We are no less essentially ourselves as babies than we are as adults, and the difference between the adult self and the consciousness that continues into the next life is similar. If we have not yet made that transition, because we moved outside the grand design and jumped too quickly to the other side, the transition within us can be jarring.
Anyone who comes to my book looking for reasons to end their life will conclude that we are so deeply loved, not only by others but by God, that suicide is never an option. We feel the pain we have caused others in our life review between lives, and experience that pain from the viewpoint of those we affected, but much more powerfully because we feel it in that realm. The suicide life review is especially tragic, feeling all of the love others had for us, and the pain we caused them in departing
How do you stay grounded when things get tough now?
I accept that everything has a purpose and we operate within a plan, but I also never forget that I have agency within that plan. It helps me to remember that there are forces at work beyond my control without relinquishing the power I have—the power we all have—to strive to do the right thing.
What will be the tone/topic of your lecture here?
I’ll share the story of my experience, and why it is the “exception that proves the rule” in validating so many other similar stories over the last three millennia. In addition, I will discuss the life-changing implications in my understanding of consciousness and the very nature of our existence. Thanks to that book, I’ve heard from people all over the world about their own experiences. It’s so striking to me how much overlap there is. The world is changing at a fundamental level.
Where will you be taking this messianic groove next?
Oh, goodness—that’s the last way I would describe what I do! Like many people who have undergone a spiritually transformative experience of such magnitude, I have no choice but to live my life as authentically as I can, including making changes in my personal life. We must always be true to our hearts. I haven’t tired at all from telling my story. All my extended family and friends, as well as many people who have heard my story, have grown tremendously by the experience as well.
I’m still the imperfect human being I was before my NDE occurred. I struggle through life’s changes and surprises like everyone else. But the fact that I’m flawed and struggle along like everyone else is really a part of my message. Yes, I am special, but so is each and every person on the planet. We are all special, and valued, past our wildest imagining.
I hope that my experience serves to hold up a mirror to the people who have felt a connection with the divine, but mistrusted or questioned their own experience. I hope it shows them that their intuition did not fail them, that the sense of connection and transcendence is real, and that they are not alone. None of us is.
Find your truth
Who: Dr. Eben Alexander, keynote speaker for the Sun Valley Wellness Festival.
When: Friday, May 24, 6 p.m., Sun Valley Inn Limelight Room.
Other speakers: See pages C2 and C6 and online at http://www.mtexpress.com/index2.php?ID=2005147298.