A rather peaceful and reassuring book, Practicing Conscious Living and Dying: Stories of the Eternal Continuum of Consciousness explores the extraordinary topic of near-death experiences. Author Annamaria Hemingway has compiled a series of detailed anecdotes from people who have undergone NDEs. Along with Hemingway’s own commentary, these intimate glimpses into the possibility of an afterlife portray altered perceptions and a sense of rebirth after recovery from life-threatening circumstances.
Pioneers in NDE research such as Raymond Moody and Elisabeth Kübler-Ross are noted in the book. Hemingway includes tales of historical shamanic reverence and philosophical theories to create a comprehensive view of the increasing phenomena, though she does not provide any accounts from those who have had distressing or disturbing experiences. Most everyone featured in Practicing Conscious Living and Dying had an overall pleasant experience, followed by some type of life-altering revelation that provided new reasons for embracing existence. Hence the peaceful tone of the book.
Each of the sixteen stories, concluding with the author’s own personal tale, is told in first-person perspective from the participants, making them as unique as the individual. As there is no single universal experience, each person describes the details specific to their own awareness and familiarity. Crossing boundaries to uncover lost loved ones, receiving messages from otherworld inhabitants, and reviewing life’s procession in mere seconds are common themes found in most near-death experiences. Even pets play a key role in bridging the gap between reality and what may exist beyond current levels of comprehension, guiding loved ones on whatever journeys lay ahead.
Possibly the most exciting account is that of actor, producer, and director Larry Hagman, because of the fact that it helps to shoot down the presumption that many of these people are simply clamoring for attention or their fifteen minutes of fame. Hagman certainly has all the fame one could handle. Though his own experience was actually an out-of-body occurrence as a result of a carefully structured LSD trip, the sense of spirituality and connectedness follows the pattern of NDEs. The experience actually lifted the fear of death from him and allowed him to focus “on the intrinsic value of relationships and a life of service.”
While Practicing Conscious Living and Dying does not provide any new or conclusive evidence for the existence of an afterlife, it is an inspiring collection. No matter the cause of their visions, the phenomenon causes people to make incredibly positive changes in their lives and feel a renewed sense of purpose. Perhaps more thorough research will be available in the near future. If the affirming visions associated with NDEs could be simulated or reproduced in a controlled environment, they could likely be a marketable commodity. In these turbulent times, we’re all looking for a bit of hope, and the possibility of realms existing outside of common consciousness may provide that needed reassurance. Whether the reader is just beginning to explore this area of parapsychology or is an experienced researcher, Hemingway provides some important case studies for consideration.