The International Society of Near Death Studies meets across the parking lot from the County Psychiatric Hospital, inside the Health and Human Services building.
A few acronyms to know before attending a meeting:
NDE: Near Death Experience, a profound phenomenon, typically occurring when a person is clinically dead, facing death, experiencing an illness, or under physical or emotional trauma.
IANDS: International Society of Near Death Studies (pronounced I-Ands)
OBE: Out of Body Experience (pronounced Obi, as in Obi-Wan Kenobi)
NDLE: Near Death-Like Experience (or "death-lite," as an anonymous submitter posted on the IANDS website. In other words, they didn't die. The "lite" folks almost have a car crash and then they have a new awareness).
On the day I attended, the speaker was Dave Thomas, owner of Alpine Stained Glass. I liked Dave immediately because he smiles at everyone. Kind of like Jesus.
A diverse group attended: a formerly homeless man, a man and his wife who research UFOs, a woman who brought a Tupperware of homemade cookies to share (every group needs a member like her) and others. Some have had NDEs and others not, totaling 13. Like the apostles.
An NDE is not a requirement for attending. I haven't had one. That I know of. You just have to be curious. And open-minded.
Before attending, I met Beverly Brodsky, president of the organization, for lunch. I'm a neophyte to NDE, so, of course, I had to ask, "What's with the light?" The Sunday-night made-for-TV movie, the tabloid headlines in the grocery store line, and, well, even if you check out the website, the light is always mentioned.
"What's with the light?" I asked Beverly.
Beverly is very patient, very calm (all NDErs are, I come to realize) and very quiet. "It's understanding," she said, giving me a smile. A bright smile.
"I see," I said. "It's like the light bulb that goes on over our head when an idea comes to us?" I cringed at my own joke.
But not Beverly. She's so soft-spoken, she practically whispers when she talks.
She said: "Yes, it's like a light switch goes on and you understand what it's all about."
"What do I understand?" I asked, thinking I'd skip the NDE and just go straight to the knowing.
"Your understanding of darkness is diminished," she explained.
I stared at her blankly.
"You no longer fear death."
Back at the boardroom, Dave Thomas recounted his tale about nearly dying in a horrific diving accident his senior year in high school. But first he told us about how much he'd hated living before the accident. How he really just didn't want to be a part of the human experience, so much so that when he was put into a Coast Guard helicopter basket, lifted many feet in the air above the ocean, he tried to jump out.
Obviously, Dave is still here, but during the process of being resuscitated, and it was more than just CPR—think decompression tank—he had an OBE. He didn't see a light, which disappointed me at first until I heard how much better it gets. He just felt this energy so full of love that it made him realize there was no reason to fear death. But, he was told now was not his time.
Back in real life, what high schooler is going to mention he had an OBE? You'd have to be crazy, or someone who desired heckling of the worst kind, which would be crazy. As a result, he went through serious depression. Dave was looking for a portal for death. The NDE confirmed he didn't want to be here; he wanted to be with that love energy. The 2003 fires in East County seemed like a great way to leave this earthly plane, so he stuck around his house waiting. He even tried to drive off the Pine Valley bridge. And a portal is what he found. Dave was introduced to his "angels, spirits and guardians on the Other Side." His "energy."
Suicide, these angels told him, would only mean he wouldn't get his Earth Experience diploma. He'd have to come back to Earth and repeat life and his senior year.
These angels, so full of unconditional love—he calls them his "spiritual bros." The main one, his goddess, as he refers to her, looks like the face on the Starbucks to-go cup.
Life began to look a whole lot better to Dave as he started to have more "moments of awareness." Then he had an experience that might qualify as "NDE Lite." He had an almost-accident. His moment of awareness illuminated a feeling that the Spirit Bros needed him on the Other Side. But Dave had found his groove here on the earthly realm and he told the bros he didn't want to go to the Other Side just now. Later, Bros! The Spiritual Realm Dudes, told him, "Hmm, well, we called you over because a big Spiritual Shift is about to happen, but come to think of it, you could really do some good work on earth for us." And the deal was made. Dave got to stay. For the time being. But he has work to do.
When the Q&A portion of the meeting started, everyone asked, "What is the Spiritual Shift?" "What is about to happen?"
"A shift from the head to the heart: We will all learn to be more loving, accepting and giving." This is the message Dave stayed on earth to share with us.
I Googled "Starbucks goddess." Turns out she's a mermaid. She's a siren, in particular. The website described her: "She stands unbound, sharing our stories, inviting all of us in to explore, to find something new and to connect with each other. And as always, she is urging all of us forward to the next thing. After all, who can resist her?"
Dave, apparently, is onto something.