Penny Sartori Transcript

Penny Sartori Interview

Rick: Welcome to Buddha at the Gas Pump. My name is Rick Archer. Buddha at the Gas Pump is an ongoing series of conversations with spiritually awakening people and with people about various topics related to spirituality. We’ve done over 650 of them now. If this is new to you and you’d like to check out some of the previous ones go to and look under the past interviews menu. This program is made possible through the support of appreciative listeners and viewers, so if you appreciate it and would like to help support it, there are PayPal buttons on the website and then there’s also a page that explains some alternatives to PayPal. My guest today is Dr. Penny Sartori. Welcome Penny, good to have you here.

Penny: Oh hi Rick, thanks for the invite. It’s really nice to be here.

Rick: Yeah, Penny, as you can tell from her accent, is in the UK. Wales, isn’t it?

Penny: Yes, that’s right. Small little country in the UK.

Rick: I’m not Henry Higgins, I just heard that from your various talks. I can’t pinpoint people by their accents. But in any case, Penny was a nurse for 21 years and obviously as a nurse working in ICUs, she witnessed a lot of people dying and began to question what happens when we die. This led her to undertake a long-term study to investigate near-death experiences of patients in the ICU. She eventually wrote a book about it entitled The Transformative Power of Near-Death Experiences co-authored with someone named Kelly Walsh. I’ve been interested in near-death experiences for a long time myself. I’ve been reading books about them since at least the 90s, maybe earlier, and have interviewed a lot of people who have had them or who studied them. I think an understanding of them is important and it also, I think, really can have an impact on one’s life and maybe in a bit I’ll tell you what impact I feel like it’s had on mine, but I’d like to hear from Penny: first. So, Penny, as you were working as a nurse, did you have patients who revived after having gone unconscious and started to tell you about near-death experiences they had had? Did that happen a lot?

Penny: It did, yes. So, the thing that got me really interested was I was looking after a patient who was dying. As he was dying I went to do some nursing care and I made it. Our eyes connected as I touched the bed to put this man flat. He was in tremendous pain. He was in so much pain he nearly jumped out of bed. And our eyes connected at that point and I felt like I’d swapped places with him. And it gave me a very different perspective on everything and it made me question everything. All I could think about was this poor man. So I went to call the doctor to see if he could help and the only thing the doctor could do was give him some additional painkillers. So I pulled the screen around and I held his hand until he settled, and that just made me think that this man was at the end of his life, and I thought what happens when we die? Do we have to subject all of the patients to this kind of treatment before we eventually let nature take its course? So it made me really upset. I finished my night shift and I went home and I couldn’t sleep because this man was on my mind. I phoned work because I couldn’t sleep and it was about 11:30 in the morning. I phoned and I said how is the man doing? They said oh he died about half hour after you left. That then threw me into a bit of depression and it made me question everything I was doing as a nurse, and it made me read about death. The more I read about death the more interested I became. Then I came across a book on near-death experiences and I thought oh these people are telling us that death is nothing to be afraid of, they’ve had these wonderful experiences. I thought what if that was true. I got really curious about it and I read more and more. Then I started asking patients as well when I was providing care for them. I was asking them about their experiences and a lot of people didn’t remember anything, but I can remember one patient did have a clear experience and he was at first quite hesitant to tell me. I thought well I’m working in the ideal environment why don’t I do my own research? So that’s what sort of motivated me doing some research. When I did do my research, it was done over five years. I interviewed patients who I was looking after who’d been in intensive care and I did come across 15 cases of patients who’d had a near-death experience. I think doing that research has been really helpful to me as well, and transformative to me from a personal perspective because it’s made me view and live my life in a very different way as well. So I think that’s probably the most important question anyone can ask is what happens when we die? And explore it because it’s the only thing that’s guaranteed for every single one of us isn’t it.

Rick: Yeah, so you just said that your immersion and NDE research has made you view and live your life in a very different way. How different? How do you think your life would be now if you hadn’t become so familiar with NDE’s?

Penny: Okay, so before I was quite competitive and I was really keen to do this and that, and I was always quite selfish and self-centered really, if I think about it. But now it’s given me a different perspective as well. I don’t take life for granted in the way that I did before. So I think I’m more mindful of what I do. I’m more mindful of my actions and how they impact on other people as well. It’s not only on a personal level either. It opened me up to everything. How we’re all interconnected and how our actions impact on each other, but also on the planet as well. How our actions are actually destroying our planet, and how we have to think differently because it’s almost like we’ve lost all of these connections that we had to nature and to our primal selves, and we’ve become disconnected. I think that disconnection is leading to a whole host of problems on our planet as well. So I think it’s made me more mindful. I live my life perhaps at a slower pace, and I try to be more in flow with everything. Whereas before, I think it was important to me to have the fastest car or nice big material goods and things like that. They’re not important to me anymore. It’s the simple things in life that are important now. I think sometimes we spend so much time trying to live the life that the media portrays is the perfect life that we miss the point of living life as well. So we don’t actually live life. We’re always busy working long hours or doing things that earn the money to live that life. That doesn’t have any interest for me anymore. So it’s changed my life in many ways.

Rick: That’s interesting, did you also adopt some kind of spiritual practice and that that’s also having an influence or was it just the study of NDEs that’s brought about such a change in you?

Penny: I think both. I think the study of NDEs opened me up to spirituality. Whereas before, I’d always been kind of like, oh that’s kind of religion, and I was like, oh I’m not religious. I was really kind of dismissive of it, but it made me explore different religions and it made me explore spirituality. My spiritual practice is really important to me now. When I’m in a stressful situation, I think if I didn’t have my spiritual practice I don’t think I’d be here now. When life gets tough it’s my spirituality that gets me through. So I try to meditate as much as I can, and try to make time doing that. I don’t do it as often as I used to but that is important to me. It’s, I think, my spiritual understanding of life keeps me in a positive frame of mind as well. So when things get tough I can rely back on my spirituality. That really does help a great deal.

Rick: That’s great. There are these sayings that are kind of like jokes, but you could almost put them on bumper stickers, and maybe some people have. One is that life sucks, then you die. You probably heard that one. Another one is, he who dies with the most toys wins. Of course, they are both rather depressing, and yet it seems that to a great extent a lot of people in the world feel that way. We even build our economic policies and environmental policies and all based upon that kind of discouraging perspective. I actually heard some banker or oil company executive was quoted very recently saying, “Hey what does it matter if Miami is nine meters underwater a hundred years from now? I won’t be here.” Boy, that kind of stuff makes you pull your hair out.

Penny: Yeah

Rick: Or it inspires you to change the zeitgeist, to change the paradigm so that we can actually save the world.

Penny: Yeah, it’s surprising how many people have that narrow mindset and think like that you know. Perhaps I’d be one of those before I found near-death experiences. That’s the impact it’s had on me is to think differently as well, and think of the long-term impacts.

Rick: Yeah, As I mentioned in the beginning I’ve been reading about NDEs for a long time. I remember in the early days I read James Van Praag and Betty Eadie and Dannion Brinkley and you’re probably familiar with all those people. I always found that when I read one of those books it thinned the veil, so to speak. It just broadened my perspective. I actually wrote out a sentence or two here of what my perspective is as a result of familiarity with this topic and I think also because of my spiritual practice. I said I think that dwelling on NDEs cultures an understanding that life is a vast continuum not bounded by the birth and death of this body but punctuated by numerous births and deaths over a long span of time which may be uncomfortable to experience but in the big picture are natural necessary and really no big deal and certainly nothing to fear.

Penny: Yeah, you’re right. I think we don’t think about death at all because death, I think, has been such a taboo subject. Certainly when I was younger I was discouraged about talking about it, but I think the more we talk about it and think about it the more it empowers us to live a life as well, a fulfilling life. I think that’s key really is living that fulfilling life, isn’t it.

Rick: Yeah, I think it’s important to have an understanding of how the universe works as best we can, and if it’s true that we’re not just this body and we don’t cease to exist when the body dies that’s a big difference between understanding that and then thinking that we are just this body. As you experienced, it has such an impact on your life if you can shift that perspective. Fear alone must be a big factor for somebody who thinks they’re going to cease to exist, and also things like suicide and all kinds of policies like euthanasia, and just so many ramifications rippling out from this understanding.

Penny: Yeah, that’s right and interestingly you mentioned about suicide as well, because near-death experiences can have quite a positive impact on suicide as well. It was Professor Bruce Grayson did some work on this a long time ago now, many years ago. But what he found with his work is that people who had made multiple attempts of suicide, if they had a near-death experience they were less likely to have a further suicide attempt because the near-death experience gave them a different perspective on life as well. Yeah, absolutely. So it can really impact on people in a very positive way as well. If you think about how many people on this planet are currently having very bad mental health issues and things, if they perhaps had a different perspective that could be very impacting on them as well, turning their mindset around and supporting them as well. So I think the more we understand about near-death experiences the more we could potentially help people as well to change their mindsets.

Rick: Yeah, I’ve interviewed Bruce. People can find that on Batgap if they want. Yeah, I would… let’s see what you think. I would think that if a person truly believed that they’re not going to die when the body dies then they might not feel that killing their body is going to solve their problems.

Penny: Yeah

Rick: That might be one reason why it would make one less inclined to commit suicide.

Penny: Yeah, that’s true. Certainly people I’ve spoken to who had a near-death experience during a suicide attempt, they say that death isn’t the end and that you take your problems with you anyway. So you’re not going to escape them, you have to face them. You have to get through them at some point, so it’s not something that you’re just going to get rid of.

Rick: Yeah, some people even say that if you try to sort of take that way out you’ll have even greater challenge next time around, if you believe in reincarnation which I happen to. But yeah, so you not only take them with you but you might exacerbate them slightly.

Penny: Uh-huh.

Rick: And also I think, well I don’t want to be giving all the answers here because you’re the expert, but let me try to frame this into a question. So what are some other key types of insight that people gain when they have a near-death experience and then come back to life? Maybe you could give some stories and examples of how NDEs have changed or transformed certain people’s lives.

Penny: Well, maybe it’s the insight into their lives themselves or certain situations in their lives that they get. So they could see that maybe they’ve had an illness and they had their near-death experience as a result of a close brush with death due to that illness. They might get an insight into, oh my goodness I’ve been living my life in this way no wonder my body has been ill in this way, or had this sickness and it gives them perhaps that different kind of insight. It could be something that’s related to something that’s gone on in their life. So, for example, many years ago there was a lady who emailed me about her near-death experience. It was a wonderful experience for her and she was happy where she was. She didn’t want to return to life. She was in this beautiful place of lush green grass and vividly colored flowers and she was just at peace with everything. She wanted to stay there but she met a being of light within this near-death experience. This being of light or more like a presence, there was no physical form, but it was a light. The presence said, “no you’ve got work to do. You have to go back.” Now she never knew at the time what that work was. She didn’t know why she had to go back. She just knew that she wanted to stay there. She was asking me in her email why do you think I’ve come back? Why is it I was really content, that I was happy? Then she emailed me again a few years later, probably about five or six years later, and she said, “I have to tell you, I know the answer why I was sent back.” Her husband had been diagnosed with cancer. He was dying, and he was very afraid of death. She said I was able to sit with him and I was able to talk him through it. We had long conversations. I know the reason I came back was to help him through his death. She was with him throughout the whole of his death. When he passed she said he wasn’t fearful as he was in the beginning, so she’d found her life purpose then. So there’s all kinds of different insights that people get as well. Sometimes during the near-death experience they can have a life review and the life review could be everything has happened in their life. They can see everything in a matter of seconds sometimes and they might only be unconscious for a matter of seconds, but they relive the whole of their life again. They might see significant things but insignificant things that they’ve forgotten about as well. Sometimes it’s those insignificant things that maybe happened in their childhood that can give them a great insight into their life, now at this point in their life as an adult. So there’s a whole host of different kinds of experiences that people can have through their near-death experience.

Rick: Yeah, so life reviews, that’s one of the things we’ll talk about at greater length today. Another thing, and I’ll table that for the moment, but the thing you just mentioned about this wise being who can’t, this presence who communicated to this woman that she had to come back. It’s interesting to ponder what these wise beings may be, and so many people have experiences with them when they have an NDE. But, I think I’ve done some interviews which discuss those a lot. But it’s interesting to ponder that there are beings in some higher level or higher dimension who have such omniscience of a sort that they can tell years in advance that some event is going to happen, that we will be needed on earth to deal with it or to help in some way, much broader perspective. And you also wonder whether these beings are guiding us even now without our having any near-death experience.

Penny: Yeah absolutely. A lot of people do say that during the near-death experience when they’ve met that being of light, afterwards they remain in contact. So they still can intuit when that being of light is around them. They might not necessarily see them physically but it’s more of an intuition or knowing that they’re there with them as well. Some people do actually try to go into a meditative state in order to connect with their being of light as well. Yeah, and things like angels as well. Some people, some patients in my research remembered being in contact with angels as well. I remember doing a night shift when I was working. There was one lady and she was in the corner bed and it was quiet. It was in the middle of the night. There was nothing much going on so it was nice and peaceful. Then her monitors started to alarm and we looked at her and she was quite unwell. She was very unwell, she was ventilated. She then started to sit up in the bed. She had her arms outstretched like this and she was trying to reach something. We were trying to get in front of her to look at her. But even if you clicked your fingers in front of her eyes she was just staring ahead, and she was like that for a good five ten minutes before she actually moved. Then she eventually lay back down and she settled, and she went back off to sleep for the night. But the following day when the consultant physician was there reviewing her she communicated to him that during the night she’d been visited by an angel. She was trying to reach an angel and she couldn’t quite reach that angel. So there’s that that I kind of witnessed during the night shift. There was also another man in my research. Part of his experience when he was with us for many months very, very sick very close to death on numerous occasions. And he remembered, he doesn’t remember it now but he said at one point when he had made some progress and was getting better. He was telling his family that there were angels around his bed. He was surrounded by angels they were all around him. His family was sitting there at the bedside and he was pointing to these angels who were behind them. They couldn’t see anything at all but he said it was very very vivid at the time because he told the family and he was adamant that that was happening. Since then his condition deteriorated and he was resedated and then he didn’t have any recollection of those angels after that point. So sometimes I think maybe some of the medication, because very often the medication has been cited as the cause of these experiences, I found that it might have an inhibitory effect on these experiences. I found that patients who had high levels of sedation were less likely to have these experiences as it happens. The fact that this man had no recollection of that part of his experience after he’d been resedated kind of makes me think well, perhaps if the medication is inhibitory rather than causative.

Rick: Yeah, they make you pretty groggy don’t they pretty

Penny: Absolutely, yeah

Rick: Relatively Unconscious.

Penny: Yeah, that’s right. A lot of patients, when they are discharged from the intensive care unit, they have no recollection of anything they had if they had high levels of medication and sedative drugs. Very often they don’t have any recollection or they have very confusional experiences, and the confusional experiences were very very different to the near-death experience. You know the near-death experience is very vivid, very precise and recalled with great clarity of thought. The other patients who were hallucinating, because I had two different groups of patients. There were patients who were hallucinating, and they were very different experiences.

Rick: It seems that doctors and nurses must experience people dying almost every day. Do you think there’s a higher percentage, among doctors and nurses, of people who recognize the validity and significance of near-death experiences, or are there just a lot of hardcore materialist skeptics in that community?

Penny: Yeah, I think it’s very skeptical. It’s very often dismissed as the drugs and side effects of the drugs, and that’s not the case. If patients have been brave enough to share the experience with the nurses or the doctors and they get a dismissive response, very often they will never speak about that experience again. That is so wrong because this is a very valid human experience. t’s something that we need to be more aware of. That’s something I’m really passionate about. I really want this to be in the education of nurses and doctors because nurses and doctors are there while it’s happening and these patients need support in understanding what’s happened to them. No matter what the nurses’ or doctors’ beliefs are about these experiences they also need to be able to support patients. So it’s a subjective experience. You can’t measure it, or you can’t sometimes if you’ve not got much of an understanding of what a near-death experience is. As a healthcare professional it’s easy to dismiss it. But that’s the worst thing that you can do. So it’s really important that nurses and doctors are educated about them.

Rick: Yeah, and I think one reason it’s important is that these experiences are often the most profound experiences of the person’s life. To just slap it down seems very unnatural and jarring and disrespectful. In a way it kind of robs the person of the beauty of something that is really meaningful to them.

Penny: Absolutely, it can really invalidate a really profound experience. You know, this is probably the most profound human experience they’ve ever had and ever will have. For people who have no understanding of it to dismiss it is completely disrespectful.

Rick: It would be cool if medical education included a course in near-death experiences.

Penny: Yeah

Rick: That would be great.

Penny: That’s what I’m hoping to do because that’s my job at the moment. I work at the university and I teach nurses. I try to talk about near-death experiences as much as I can, because it’s important that they’re aware of them and that they’re able to support patients who have them. So you know if a patient reports pain to a nurse, for example, the nurse would act on that straightaway. Now if a patient reports a near-death experience they don’t know how to react because they don’t know exactly what a near-death experience is. Some nurses are very interested and they do have an understanding but there’s many who don’t and I think the education needs to be better for all nurses.

Rick: Yeah, it’d be nice if the nurses could say wow that’s great I’d love to hear about it. Those are so interesting please tell me. It would be a nice uplift for the patient. When you teach the nurses at the university and you talk about near-death experiences what’s the reaction in general?

Penny: Generally they’re really interested. Some people think, oh yeah that’s just kind of hallucinations, but to be honest with you it does evoke a lot of discussion and it makes the nurses think as well. So that’s what I want. I want the nurses to think about these things and think how they’re going to support patients. Because that is key really for someone who’s had a near-death experience. The support they get in the initial support can really influence how they integrate that experience into their life. So if it’s dismissive they’ll be afraid to talk about it again. If it’s encouraged and recognized and validated they will speak about it again and it’ll help them to process it as well as understand this experience as well. Because the near-death experience is not just what happens subjectively during that time, it’s the whole of their life after that. It’s as if the person they were before the experience literally did die and they’re a changed person, they’re a different person. They have very different values, very different understanding of life. It comes with a whole host of aftereffects as well. So sometimes those aftereffects can take many many years to understand, come to terms with and to integrate into their life. So some people might find that they become more psychic or they’re able to pick up on things from other people. Some people get premonitions. Some people feel that they develop a healing ability where they’re able to heal other people who’ve got ailments. Some people feel that their values and views have changed so much that it’s no longer compatible with the job that they were in, so they leave. Very often they leave very high-paid jobs and go and do something like hospice work or voluntary work or caring work. Also, they no longer align with their spouses. Their values change so much that sometimes there can be a high, there is a very high divorce rate with people after a near-death experience as well. So it’s all of those aftereffects as well that can really impact on people.

Rick: Yeah, it seems like if there’s a grand plan for our lives it almost seems like, in the case of people who have near-death experiences, that was a part of the plan, or at least it’s sort of, it’s injected, it’s introduced into the plan in order to give them an upgrade because their life was just not really going anywhere prior to it but then it takes off in some wonderful direction after the NDE.

Penny: Yeah, absolutely it can. It can really take off in many different ways. They feel very liberated often after the experience, that’s if they’re able to process it properly as well.

Rick: Yeah.

Penny: So yeah, they can really change in many many ways.

Rick: I guess lot of skeptics say well, it’s just oxygen deprivation or too much co2 or something going on in the dying brain. But one thing that I always suggest as a refutation of that is that a lot of times NDEs are accompanied by OBEs, out of body experiences, in which a person sees things and can later, even though they’re under like anesthesia – they’re totally unconscious, but they have experiences which they can later relate which they could not have known through any other means. Like Tricia Barker, whom I’ve interviewed, like she was in a bad car accident, she was in back surgery, unconscious. She saw her stepfather buying a Snickers bar from the vending machine in the waiting room and she knew her stepfather was kind of a health nut, he didn’t eat candy bars. She saw him buy this thing and specifically it was a Snickers bar, which is a kind of candy in the US, and she later reported it to him. He said, yeah sure enough I did. And then there was that lady who saw a red sneaker on the ceiling of the hospital and somebody went up there later and found it. And then there was, who was it? I forget her name now, but this woman I interviewed who fell into a tank of water when she was a child and she was drowning. And first she left her body, she saw the nanny watching soap operas in the other room in the house so that wasn’t going to help. Then she kind of went down to the bus stop where her mother was waiting to get on a bus and she said “hi mom” and her mom just ran back to the house. Ran straight to the tank and yanked her out and resuscitated her. And this is probably just three of hundreds of examples we could give of people who experience things that are verifiable that you really can’t explain in terms of oxygen deprivation.

Penny: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. I can give you a good example of that from a patient in my study in the hospital. I was looking after him at the time and he was ventilated. We put him into the chair to help with it because he was making a good recovery. As soon as we got him in the chair I could see that his breathing had changed. He looked uncomfortable, went gray and clammy, all of these signs of an impending cardiac arrest. I thought if I don’t get him back into bed now he’ll have a cardiac arrest in the chair. So I called my colleagues and we literally flung him back into bed as quickly as we could and within minutes he was deeply unconscious. But he was ventilated that whole time so he still had oxygen going to him around his body but he did lose consciousness completely. Yeah, we got him back into bed and he was just deeply, deeply unconscious at this point and I called the doctor to come and review him. We stabilized his condition. One of the junior doctors came and gave him some fluid but he was not responding to deep painful stimuli or nothing. There was absolutely no response. And I went to get another doctor because the junior doctor had to go to another emergency. So I went out to look for another doctor. The consultant just walked in that morning so he came and reviewed my patient. He shone a pupil torch in his eyes to check his pupils. He examined him. We gave him more fluids and after about 30 minutes the patient started to regain consciousness. I could see his eyelids flickering and he was moving his limbs, all signs that neurological function was coming back. Then he stabilized and I was happy that his condition had stabilized. So it was about four hours later and he regained full consciousness at this point. The ward round was there, so all of the doctors and the nurses, the dieticians, were there. He was excited about something. He was trying to communicate and say something. So the physiotherapist got a letter board. The physio had been there helping as well and she was quite concerned about his condition because she had put him into the chair. She’d suggested putting him in. She got the letter board and he spelled out “ I died and I watched it from above.” The consultant actually took note of that and he documented it in the notes. He said you better discuss this with Penny and tell her more. So they made a note and they made the changes on the ward round and off they went. When I interviewed this patient fully, he described being out of his body. He correctly identified the consultant as having examined him and shone a pupil torch in his eyes but the consultant hadn’t been present prior to him losing consciousness that day. He correctly described the physiotherapist poking her head around the curtains to check on his condition, and he correctly identified the nurse cleaning his mouth and putting a pink sponge into his mouth. I know everything that he described was completely true and accurate because I was there at the time. I was the nurse who was cleaning his mouth during the time that all of these events occurred. He was deeply unconscious and not responding to painful stimuli. So what he described was a heightened state of awareness when his brain was in a deeply unconscious state. So how do we explain that? That was something that I was actually there and witness to. He wasn’t given any drugs either at that point at all. So during, all he had was fluid. So how do we explain that? Now, the even more interesting thing about this case is that this man has cerebral palsy, so his right hand was in a permanently contracted position. Kind of like that. So after his experience, when I was doing a follow-up interview, I asked him if there was anything that he could do while out of his body that he couldn’t normally do. So I was kind of getting at the point as sometimes people, when they’re out of their body, they describe going to a location that they haven’t been to before. So that’s the kind of thing I was going to ask. But he misinterpreted that question and he said, “Oh look yeah look at this I can open up my hand” and his hand was fully opening. At the time I didn’t really understand the significance of that. It was only at a later point when I was discussing that with the physiotherapist and the doctor and they said that shouldn’t be possible physically because his tendons would be in a permanently contracted position. So in order to open out his hand fully he’d require surgery to release the tendons. Well surgery wasn’t performed. I checked to see if he’d had any physio on his hand – nothing. So that is something that we can’t understand but has happened. So I think there’s a lot to these experiences that we don’t understand and that we still have to learn about.

Rick: Was his hand permanently recovered? Could he continue to close and open it or just one time?

Penny: Yep, he could open it from there on.

Rick: Wow.

Penny: Yeah, this is quite incredible and his sister verified that for me as well. She documented that and signed it for me as well, that he’d not previously been able to do that. He was 60 years of age when that happened, so for 60 years of his life his hand had been like that and now it’s like that.

Rick: That’s really cool.

Penny: Yeah, but think about It. If we understood that, how many other people have similar ailments that we could perhaps have non-invasive forms of treatment that could help people as well? So we could develop something like that if we had a deeper understanding.

Rick: Yeah, and then of course there’s Anita Moorjani who had lemon sized tumors throughout her body and she was down to about 80 pounds. She couldn’t hold her head up because she was so weak and she went through this profound near-death experience. When she came out the tumors very quickly shrank over the next couple weeks and disappeared and she was cancer-free. She had been on her deathbed. So, if we could harness this kind of phenomenon somehow and actually teach people to have, I mean we wouldn’t want them to nearly die necessarily, but if we could have them go into some kind of profoundly altered state that NDEs cause then perhaps we could effect all sorts of cures.

Penny: Yeah Absolutely, and I think that would be something that would be well worth developing as well. It’s all with a mindset really. It’s a completely a big switch in their mindset, completely different insight into what we’ve been conditioned to believe I guess isn’t it?

Rick: Yeah, psychedelics often do it with addictions like cigarettes or alcohol or drugs or PTSD. Also psychedelics, if properly administered and monitored, can bring about radical changes.

Penny: Absolutely

Rick: Even one dose.

Penny: Yeah, that’s right. The work of Stanislav Grof and William Richards as well. I was lucky enough to be in a conference, years ago now, with them. William Richards had old, archived footage of administering psychedelics, before they were banned, in a therapeutic session for patients who had cancer and were afraid of dying. How positive their mindset was changed as a result of having those small doses of psychedelics. It gives them different insights and took away the fear of death for them as well. So they’re really important ways of living and of understanding, and therapeutically as well, what we can do.

Rick: And these days of course, as you know, there’s a huge renaissance of psychedelic study. I presume it’s happening in the UK. It’s all over the US.

Penny: Yeah.

Rick: Yeah, and all kinds of great potential there.

Penny: Yes there is. I agree yeah.

Rick: And we’re probably not gonna blow it this time like we did last time in the 60s with Timothy Leary and the hippies and Richard Nixon and all this stuff. It seems like everybody’s being careful this time around. There was one really cool story I heard you tell about a lady who had a near death experience when she got an anesthetic. I guess she was going into surgery and when she came out she had a profound understanding of quantum physics, which she had no prior educational training in. You want to tell that story?

Penny: Gosh yes, I forget this one now, but yes there was.

Rick: I remember what you said about it because I just listened to it but you go ahead I’m sure you remember most of it.

Penny: Yes, this lady is called Rajaa Benamour and I met her in a conference in Marseilles in France that was back in about 2000 or a long time ago again. Rajaa had this near-death experience and she had a life review back to her birth, but also it went further back. It went to the birth of the universe. She had this knowledge of everything. She just felt that she had an understanding of quantum physics and she worked in retail prior to her experience. She owned her own business and retail business. It motivated her to go and enroll on a course in quantum physics at the university, which she did. It was interesting in this conference because they’d actually interviewed her university professor and he said that he was astounded by her knowledge because the knowledge that she was describing in her papers and her written assignments was far deeper than someone who could just acquire knowledge through doing a booster course or just reading lots of papers. He said this was deep seated knowledge and he said some of what she had written in her assignments were even beyond his level of comprehension as well. He said that there were also publications in physics journals that had come out since she’d written her assignments which were actually verifying what she’d written about in her assignments. So that is something that is incredible to me for someone to have those deep understandings and insights into quantum physics.

Rick: I wonder if she actually learned the mathematics because if you’re really going to be a quantum physicist you have to learn some very fancy mathematics or if she was just taking a sort of a layman’s course in quantum physics where you can talk about it without understanding the mathematics. Just curious.

Penny: I think it was more of a higher level course that she understood at that level from what I gathered from her university professor.

Rick: Interesting. There’s other things that happen with people. I’m sure you’ve heard this, where people have some brain injury and all of a sudden they can play really great improvisational jazz piano even though they hadn’t really any piano training. Things like that.

Penny: That’s it and people do, they acquire things and sometimes they can understand different languages as well or speak in different languages that they hadn’t spoken before as well. So it’s quite fascinating.

Rick: I mean this suggests that there’s a field of knowledge outside the brain, because jazz piano or different languages, they’re not stored in the brains of the people who have no prior experience with those things. So it suggests that there’s a field in which knowledge of all things perhaps, is stored and we tap into it under certain circumstances.

Penny: Yeah, absolutely. I think that is a better understanding of near-death experiences. This field or this consciousness is there, it’s around us all the time but we’re not aware of it all. Our brains, rather than producing experiences or creating experiences like the near-death experience, it makes more sense to me that our brain acts like a transmitter or a receiver. There are times when your brain filters out the extent of this consciousness, this conscious field that’s around us all the time. But there are times in our life where that filter expands and rather than anything being created, it’s being allowed into the experience of that person. I think that makes much more sense to me than the brain creating these experiences. I think that’s perhaps why we don’t understand these experiences because it’s always been kind of the explanation that the brain produces consciousness. When the brain dies, consciousness disappears. I think that worked quite well for many years. But we’re at the point now where so many people are having these anomalous experiences, I think we need to think differently about what consciousness is.

Rick: Yeah, I mean if people are just adamantly adhering to the notion that the brain produces consciousness, they’re ignoring a lot of evidence now. They might be playing ostrich and just refusing to look at the evidence. But if they look at it they’ve got to start rethinking their paradigm, it seems to me, if they’re honest, if they’re really scientists.

Penny: Yeah, absolutely. I think we’re at that point really where more and more people are questioning things and they are looking at things differently as well. So, we’re living in an exciting time, I think, because so many people are taking these experiences seriously now.

Rick: Yeah, so just to review a little bit from what you just said. The brain is a filter and it doesn’t create a lot of things. Well, it creates some things but a large part of this function is to filter out because we couldn’t really function if we were flooded with all possible sensory experience and all possible information. We’d just be totally overwhelmed. I mean, if anybody ever took a heavy LSD trip they wouldn’t want to go drive a car or go shopping in a mall. It’s just too much because the filter is so thin. So psychedelics, NDEs, brain injury, meditation, all these things and others are ways of thinning the filter and some of them perhaps do it in a more abrupt and involuntary way and others, such as meditation, more gradual, more natural, more voluntary.

Penny: Yeah, because if you think about the experiences of all of these, they’re all very similar at the end. They all have a lot of things in common as well. But I think what you find is that it’s slightly different. So, if you’re taking a psychedelic, you’ve got a mindset where you’re expectant of perhaps something happening. If you’re doing your meditative practice, again, you have a bit of insight and might be expectant. With a near-death experience, you can’t plan to have one of those. That’s something that comes out of the blue. It’s something, woof, you’re thrown into this experience. So, the context is very different for the near-death experience because it’s so sudden, so unexpected. So perhaps that’s why it is so profound, because you’re at that point of annihilation, really, where you could die.

Rick: And I would suggest that one way of looking at spiritual practice is that it’s a voluntary thinning of the filter but in a sort of a gradual, incremental way. So one is never overwhelmed and the long-term objective is to be able to live in conscious attunement with that field of pure consciousness we’ve been alluding to and yet function in the field of boundaries and ordinary everyday life. So, you get the best of both worlds, so to speak. One enhances the other and life is upgraded to a much higher quality than it otherwise would have been.

Penny: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, so you have your spiritual practice, you have that intent behind it. Whereas with the near-death experience, it’s unexpected. Very often what people experience during the near-death experience is completely different to their perspective of life as well. You’ve got people who have been an atheist as well, have no belief in any kind of afterlife at all, can be thrown in and have this experience and it can change them profoundly as well.

Rick: Do you have a theory as to how a person could have sensory experience, visual, auditory, and so on, when their physical body is completely unconscious? And even sensory experience of things happening at a distance?

Penny: Yeah, well, I don’t. Only that I think our understanding of the brain producing this experience is wrong. I think the brain is actually that experience or the filter is open so much that they’re living in a heightened state of consciousness now. We live in a very damped down state of consciousness, whereas people having this experience are in that heightened state of consciousness. Like you said about Trisha Barker seeing her relative buying the Snicker bar, there’s an example as well of an anesthetist and anesthesiologist, Dr. Rajiv Parsi. He had an out-of-body experience during his near-death experience. He was in LA or California in hospital, whereas he traveled to India and he watched his mom and his sister washing vegetables, preparing the vegetables for dinner. He then spoke to them at a later point and they verified that. So how could that possibly happen?

Rick: And Anita Marjani was in Hong Kong, unconscious in a hospital bed. She saw her brother getting on a plane in India and flying to Hong Kong, that kind of thing.

Penny: That’s right.

Rick: Go ahead.

Penny: How are these things possible? I think the mindset before is that, no, that’s impossible. It’s a hallucination and you dismiss it. But I think now that we’re getting more people undertaking research on near-death experiences, especially in the hospital environment, because you’ve got the notes to refer back to as well. You’ve got documented things that happened. I think we’re starting to get a different understanding of what death is and what consciousness is as well.

Rick: Yeah. One understanding that Indian traditions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism offer, and there are probably similar things in other traditions around the world, is that we’re kind of like Russian dolls in the sense that we have the gross physical body and then we have a subtle body, which has various components to it. In Vedanta, they call it the sukshma sharira, the subtle body. When the physical body dies, the subtle body doesn’t die, and that’s how we get reincarnated. That moves into another physical body eventually. So the understanding is that the subtle body has subtle sensory apparatus, and that’s how we can experience the kinds of things we’ve been talking about here, even if the physical body is incapacitated.

Penny: Yeah, that’s interesting. So, these have been ingrained within spiritual traditions who are in tune very much with the primal things of what it is to be human. I think we’ve kind of separated from those so much now since industrialization and the scientific revolution. We’ve lost touch with those things, people were more in tune then. But that’s a nice explanation as well. I think these things, it’s important to take those on board as well.

Rick: Yeah, and it seems a little arrogant of modern science to just dismiss all these ancient traditions as mythology or superstition and to feel that, “Oh, we really know what’s going on. These people were a bunch of rubes.” Because in fact, we do know certain things that ancient traditions didn’t. But in many ways the tables are turned, and they have a lot of wisdom to impart to modern society and modern science.

Penny: Absolutely, yeah. You look at the indigenous cultures of the world now. They live in harmony with nature. They don’t take more than what they need and they give back to nature. They live in that balance with nature. Whereas us, westernized humans, we’re just destroying the planet for short-term gain. Like you said at the beginning of the interview, that attitude, “Well, I don’t care. I’m not going to be here in another 90 to 100 years’ time.”

Rick: Yeah. And of course, when we westernize these traditional cultures and introduce our diets and our values and all that stuff, we destroy those. So, I don’t know. You and I could get on this bandwagon.

Penny: Mm-hmm.

Rick: [Laughter] I think perhaps one result of a transformation in consciousness, that hopefully is happening in the world, is that these indigenous and traditional cultures will be restored to a great extent and will purge themselves perhaps of a lot of corruption that western cultures have indoctrinated them with. I hope, anyway.

Penny: Yeah. Yes. There is hope, definitely.

Rick: Yeah. Okay. So, continuing on. As we go along here, any time a thought pops into your head that I’m not asking questions about, feel free to just raise it because I might not think of all kinds of great things that you would like to talk about. But I have a few things here if we want to continue on. We alluded to the life review, and maybe it’d be good to talk about that a little bit more.

Penny: Yeah. Now, that’s something that really fascinates me because if patients are just unconscious for a few brief seconds, yet the experience that they recall would take much longer to actually go through, they feel like they relive their life. They relive it in great detail. They see everything, things that they’d forgotten about, things that they remembered. It’s sometimes described as a panoramic memory as well. So, do you remember, I remember back in the 1980s, there were these cinemas, which were whole domes, and you’d lie on your back and you could see it.

Rick: Like a planetarium?

Penny: Yeah, that kind of thing. It was all around you. That’s how they describe everything. It’s all around them happening all at once.

Rick: Yeah.

Penny: They have this deep understanding of this experience as well. That life review can give them insight into the way that they’ve been living their life. So, sometimes they can swap places with the people they’ve interacted with as well. So, if they’ve been unpleasant to someone, or if they’ve been violent towards someone, or been in a fight with someone, they can swap places with that person and feel what it’s like to be on the receiving end of that fight, and how that person felt as well. Sometimes you can see the simple things that we do in life every day, and how much of an impact they can have on people without us even realizing. The simple act of smiling at someone. There’s someone who wrote to me after their near-death experience. They went into this other realm, and they remembered that a few months previously, this was insignificant to them at the time, they hadn’t thought twice about it. But they were walking from the shops, and it was early in the morning, and they were in a back lane. As they walked down this back lane, someone was there, and they were looking quite gloomy and kind of walking with their head down. This person smiled and said good morning to this other person. The other person didn’t say anything back and that was the end, they didn’t think anything. But in the life review, the reliving of that, that person was deeply depressed, and they were considering taking their own life that morning. And the fact that she’d walked past and smiled and said good morning, had changed that person’s mind a little bit and made them think differently. So, just the simple things like that that we do every day, they do make a difference in ways that we often don’t see.

Rick: That’s nice, and it’s really important. I mean, it hopefully will inspire us all to remember those little things.

Penny: Yeah, absolutely.

Rick: Yeah, every little thing.

Penny: Yeah, and so the life review can have that impact on people because it morally changes the person as well. So, when they return to life, they are very mindful of those things as well. So, they act in a much more mindful way of being as well.

Rick: Yeah, I often think of Dannion Brinkley’s life reviews. You probably know the story. He was a sharpshooter in Vietnam, and he ended up having four near-death experiences. And I think it was in all of them, he had life reviews in which he experienced not only the impact of his having killed a particular person in Vietnam, but the impact on their family, the ripple effect of if they were the provider for a family, how it impacted the family and so on. So, you can just see all the ramifications of his actions.

Penny: Yeah, yeah, that’s right. And things like that are really then profound for that person. It even has an impact on the way that they think when they come back as well. They’re mindful of the way in which they speak to people as well. So, it has a very deep transformative effect on people.

Rick: Yeah, one of my favorite quotes, I’ve said this so many times but it’s really one of my favorite quotes. There was this Buddhist saint, some say he was an avatar, named Padmasambhava. He was supposedly highly enlightened. He said, “Even though my awareness is as vast as the sky, my attention to karma,” meaning my attention to my moment to moment actions, “is as fine as a grain of barley flour.” So, just this precise, careful attention to each moment.

Penny: Yeah, absolutely.

Rick: A nice compliment came in for you from someone named Rita in the US. She said, “Just a comment. Penny is your first guest I was already familiar with. Been very much looking forward to this. I review her videos repeatedly because she exudes such a comforting warmth along with a reassuring matter of fact stance. And it’s coming through now too.”

Penny: Oh, thank you, Rita. Thank you so much. Thank you.

Rick: That’s nice. A couple other questions came in. Let me ask you another one. This is from Lynette Melcher in Maryland. “How can you tell hallucination from NDE? What’s the difference?” Because actually, some things are hallucination. They’re not an NDE. How do you tell?

Penny: Yeah, that’s a really good question because in intensive care, a lot of patients do hallucinate quite badly. Sometimes those hallucinations can really impact on their life as well. But with my research, when I was interviewing patients, because it was a very sensitive subject to approach people about first of all, so I had to do it in a very sensitive manner as well. So I just asked the simple question, “Did anything happen when you were unconscious? Do you have any memories at the time you were unconscious?” Now, a lot of people didn’t remember anything. Some people kind of like, “Oh, why are you asking?” And those are people who did have a near-death experience but were hesitant to speak about it in case I thought that they were crazy, which they’re not. Then I came across some patients who were like, “Oh gosh, yeah, I remember that. Oh, it was terrible, I can remember.” They would describe things which were not in line with the near-death experience. Then when I investigated them, I realized it was things that were going on in the background. So for example, there was one lady and she said, “Oh yes,” she said, ” I was on this ferry and we were going from Swansea,” which is in Wales where I live, “going over to Ireland.” And she said, ” I was on this ferry and I can remember the waves were moving me everywhere. I was rolling all over the place. It was terrible, it was rough seas.” And when I investigated this, at the time when she was coming around from her sedation, when that had been turned off, she was being looked after by a nurse who had a very thick Irish accent. Also the beds that the patients were on, they were air mattresses and they used to sway from side to side. So those sorts of things, you could attribute that to actual tactile experiences, auditory experiences that were actually happening at the time, but they were interpreted in a different way. But when I was interviewing the patients about the near-death experience, I tried to find explanations for everything that they described in the near-death experience as well. And I couldn’t, I couldn’t find anything that was going on in the background as well that would have accounted for that experience that they were having as well. So what I found is they were very different experiences. Then when I did follow-up interviews with patients who’d had hallucinations, they were really quite embarrassed most of the time by some of the behavior that they’d done, and they could rationalize that they’d been hallucinating. They said, “Oh gosh, yes, I remember that now. That was terrible hallucination.” Whereas the people who’d had the near-death experience, they were adamant that it was a real experience. They said, “Unless you’ve had this experience for yourself, you can’t possibly understand it.” So there were very clear differences between those who’d hallucinated and those who had had the near-death experience.

Rick: It seems to me that one distinction might also be that when you’re hallucinating, you’re usually not fully unconscious. You’re in some kind of semi-conscious or altered state. When you have an NDE, you’re really out. Your physical body is shut down.

Penny: Yeah.

Rick: Yeah. Okay. Here’s another question from Bob Routh in Whidbey Island, Washington State. “Have you found any cases of children who had a near-death episode but without a memory of it until later in life?”

Penny: Oh, that’s a good question. No, I haven’t. There weren’t any children in my hospital research, but over the years, many people have written to me with their experiences. I have got quite a few cases of childhood near-death experiences, but none who had forgotten about it until later in life. So, no, I haven’t. But I know PMH Atwater has done a lot of research with children as well, and Cherie Sutherland. So, they might have cases where that is the case, but I’ve not come across it myself.

Rick: Okay. Here’s one from Lindsay Sealy in Canterbury, UK. “I’ve seen interviews with NDE skeptics like Susan Blackmore who are far from convinced that NDEs offer any convincing evidence of life after death. Dr. Sam Parnia’s AWARE experiments of placing pictures near the ceiling in operating theaters have so far failed to provide empirical evidence of consciousness separating from the body during NDEs. Why do you think that these experiments have failed to provide empirical evidence of life after death that would convince the scientific community, and do you think there will ever be any absolute definitive evidence that will convince all skeptics?”

Penny: Another good question. Yes, similar to my research, Sam Parnia and myself both started our initial studies at the same time. What I found with mine, because I had hidden targets above where the patients were, so they would only be visible if they left their body. Again, although I had patients who had the out of body experience, some of them rose only to levels which weren’t high enough to view the symbols. But there were two patients who did have out of body experiences where they would have been in a position to view the symbols, and both of those patients said to me, ” I was so interested in what was going on with my body that I wasn’t looking around.” But one of them in particular said to me, “If you’d have told me before I’d had that experience that there was a hidden symbol, I’d have gone up there and looked at it and told you what it was.” But no one actually did see it. So, it’s really difficult to do that because patients have to be at a vantage point where they can see those hidden symbols, and they also have to be looking for it as well, I guess. So, it’s really difficult to verify it. When I was doing my research, I didn’t do it as a means to prove life after death. What I was interested in is that these experiences, what are they? What is it that people are experiencing? Because I recognize that these are really important and valid experiences, and it’s important that we understand them because as healthcare professionals, we need to be supporting these patients in order to understand the experience. But I think doing this research has kind of opened my eyes to all different kinds of possibilities as well. So, I think it’ll be a lot more research. I think we’re going to have to do lots more. There’s very little research being done on this so far, so I think we need a lot more research to be done in this field, and we need to gather more and more cases, and I think that’s going to take a long time to do that.

Rick: Yeah. Lindsay’s wording is rather strong here. “Absolute definitive evidence that will convince all skeptics.” I don’t know if there’s that for anything in this world.

Penny: I don’t know. I think the only way a skeptic would have absolute definitive evidence, if they themselves were to have a near-death experience themselves. Maybe it would give them a different perspective and a different mindset. I don’t know. But there’s the philosopher A. J. Ayer, isn’t it? He had a near-death experience when he nearly choked on a salmon bone. And again, that changed his perspective on things and changed his mindset drastically as well.

Rick: We should distribute salmon bones to all the skeptics. Yeah. It seems to me that, I’m no scientist, but it seems to me that these experiences that people like Tricia Barker and Ingrid Honkala, she was the child who fell in the water tank. Or this guy, I think it was Bruce Grayson told this story when I interviewed him about some guy saw that there was a quarter, which is a US coin, sitting on top of some equipment cart that was like eight feet tall. He saw that during the operation while he was under, and later on he told the doctor, and the doctor got a ladder and climbed up there and found the quarter. I mean, these weren’t actual intentional prearranged experiments, but it seems to me that this kind of evidence is just as legitimate as looking at some target that’s been put there intentionally.

Penny: Yeah, absolutely. But then I guess the skeptics would say, well, it’s probably someone else knew that it was there. It was in the mindset of someone else. They could have picked that up. There’s so many different arguments and ways of dismissing things.

Rick: Well, if you say that, then that to me is almost a concession to the whole mind being independent of body thing. Because if you can read somebody else’s mind, through what means I don’t know, then why can’t you also have an NDE? That’s legitimate.

Penny: Exactly. Yeah, that’s right.

Rick: My dog wants to jump up in my lap, but I don’t think it’s a good idea here, because we have wires and we have a microphone and all this stuff. So you stay down there. Okay. So we covered life review. One thing is negative NDEs. I heard you say that about 14 percent of NDEs are negative. And what are your thoughts on that?

Penny: Yeah. And I think a lot of these negative or distressing experiences, they certainly do occur. They can be really, really impacting as well on people. To the point, what I found with my research in the hospital research, I came across two patients. One of them was described more as unpleasant and the other one was very hellish, like she described looking into the flames of hell. This lady was absolutely terrified by what she’d experienced and she didn’t want to talk about it. She started to tell me about it, but she became distressed. So I just ended the interview at that point. I just sat with her for about an hour before I felt that it was appropriate to leave her and told the nurses, you know, just to keep an eye on her. I think with the distressing ones, I think it would be helpful if we knew more about it because they are just as real as the pleasant ones as well. I’ve had people who have emailed me over the years and they’re very hesitant to talk about it. So initially they will like put the feelers out in their emails to me and say, I had this experience. It’s not a usual type of experience. They might say a little bit about it and then we’ll have a bit of an email conversation. Then I might not hear from them until about six months later and they’ll come back with a little bit more. There are a few patients I’ve been in email contact with for about 15 years. They’ll talk about it for a bit and then I don’t hear from them for many years. Then maybe five years pass and they’ll come back and they’ll say I’ve had more insight into my experience. I’ve been processing it. So it lasts for a long time and if it’s not addressed, it takes a long time for them to understand. So they can be living in fear for a long time. I always remember that there was one patient when I was a student nurse, there was one patient who was dying. She knew she was dying and she was really distressed about the fact that she was dying. I can remember every time we walked past her bed, she would try to climb out of bed and she would grab onto us and she’d say, please, please don’t let me die. I’ve died before. It’s horrible. Please don’t let me go there again. I was a student nurse. I’d never heard of near death experiences. I didn’t know what she was talking about. None of us did. I remember the staff nurse who was in charge, she spoke with the family and said, she said she’s died before. Can you give us any insight? And the family said, well, no, she did have a cardiac arrest five years ago, but we don’t know anything why she’s like this. It’s only now when I reflect back on that I think, if this lady had a distressing near death experience when she had her cardiac arrest, that’s probably why she was so afraid of dying. Because she was so terrified and she was trying to get out of bed and trying to seek that reassurance, the only way that we were able to treat her is to give her some sedatives. I just think that we need to understand these experiences so that we can support people who have them as well.

Rick: Yeah. As you know, a lot of traditions have concept of heaven and hell. And some of them, like the Hindus, for instance, believe that there are seven heavens and seven hells. Each one of the heavens are each ascending to higher ones and the hells, each one is lower than the previous. And Buddhism has similar ideas. And if we’re sort of getting a toe into what lies on the other side, when we have an NDE, then maybe it’s not surprising that some people are going to have glimpses not only of heaven, but possibly of hell. There’s a kind of an interesting story in the Mahabharata, that the hero, one of the heroes of the Mahabharata was named Yudhishthira. And he had these four brothers. So there are five of them. And he, at the end, he dies, and he goes to heaven. And he finds the bad guys there, Duryodhana. And he says, well, what’s going on? Where are my brothers? They’re the good ones. Why aren’t they here? And someone said, well, your brothers are in hell. And he said, okay, then I’d rather go there and be with them than be here with this guy. So he went to hell, and it was yucky but his brothers were there. Then after a short while, they were lifted out of there and they saw Duryodhana descending down into hell. And the idea of the story was that Duryodhana had a little bit of good karma to experience. So he got a little bit of heaven, but then had to go to hell for a longer period. Whereas Yudhishthira and his brothers had a little bit of bad karma to pay off. So they went to hell for a bit, but then after a brief stay, ascended into heaven. So these stories are a little fanciful, but perhaps they’re indicative of the mechanics of the way things actually work. And I think that the key point is, at least in this tradition, that none of these realms are considered permanent. The whole idea of eternal damnation is not part of it. You might have to go someplace for a while, but whether it’s good or bad, but it’s relative, and it’s not the end of your, you’re not going to be there forever.

Penny: Yeah, that’s right. And it’s interesting you say that because there are some near death experiences that have started off as really unpleasant and distressing. Then they change into positive experiences as well. There’s one case, it’s almost like the person is fighting that experience of dying, they’re holding on to life. They’re clinging on to life as much as they can. And as soon as they release that type of control, trying to control the experience, when they relax into it, it’s turned into a more pleasant experience as well. And certainly Dr. Rajiv Parti, the anesthesiologist from California, describes that in his near death experience. He initially went through this dark place where you could see thunder and lightning in the background, and people being tortured and burned to death. Then he had insight into the way he was living his life. And that changed everything for him. Then his near death experience turned into a very pleasant experience as well.

Rick: Interesting. So part of that, obviously, is the fighting thing. The same happens with psychedelics sometimes. If a person is afraid, and they’re fighting it, then that very fear, what was it FDR said, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. The fear creates the discomfort. Whereas if they had a better understanding of what was going on, then they would just sort of go with it and it could be a pleasant experience, whether we’re talking about NDEs or whatever. Okay, so as I mentioned in the beginning, I haven’t read your book. And so what other important points are there in the book, and think of various chapters, which we haven’t discussed yet? Anything?

Penny: Okay, so also as well, the experience of dying itself. Because as people are dying, there can be some really wonderful experiences that occur as well. I remember my first experience of death when I was growing up. First of all, it was my great grandmother, she was in her 80s. I was 17 when she died. She’d collapsed in a home and she’d gone to stay with my grandmother. The night before she died, she’d had this dream. She said to my grandmother, “Oh,” she said, “I had a lovely dream last night.” She said, “I was in the light and it was lovely. It was so nice.” She said, “it was really peaceful. It was lovely there. And my family, they were all there waiting for me in the light.” And I didn’t think anything more of it. At the time, I’d never heard of these experiences. Then the next experience of death that I had was my grandfather. I nursed him at home with my grandmother. As he was dying, in the days before he was dying, he used to point to the doorway, and he’d say, “look who’s there. Look who’s there.” And my grandmother used to get really spooked by that. And she used to run out of the room, she couldn’t deal with it. And I was quite skeptical. I was just, that’s it, it was a hallucination. Didn’t think anything more of it. Then after he died, it was a few years later that I got into my research. And on reflection, he had a deathbed vision. My first day as a student nurse, I was sitting in the office, sitting there with all of the qualified nurses. They said the night nurse handed over and she said, the man in bed six, he’s going to be dead by the end of the morning. He’s been speaking to his dead mother since about three o’clock this morning. And I thought, are they saying that to wind me up? I looked around to see everyone else’s face. But everyone else carried on, you know, writing, they didn’t even bat an eyelid. So I was curious about this. So I went out to the man’s bedside. And yes, he was communicating or talking to someone I couldn’t see. I was busy with other nursing duties and I kept coming back and forth to him. It was about 1130 in the morning and this man sat up in bed. He had his arms outstretched. He had a lovely smile on his face, and he was talking to someone. Then he kind of closed his eyes, lay back down and it looked like he’d gone to sleep, when he actually died. That is something again, I’d not been familiar with and I didn’t think twice of. It’s only on reflection after I’d done my research, that I realized he was having a deathbed vision as well. So these are very, very common and nurses see them throughout the course of their careers. If you talk to nurses, I’m sure many of them could give you examples of these. So as people do die, they tend to see family members. Sometimes it’s family members that they didn’t know to be dead at the time of the experience. There was one man in my hospital research. He had been unwell during a night shift again. We’d called the family in about three o’clock in the morning. They’d come in, sat at the bedside and his condition stabilized. So the family said, look, we’re really tired. We’re going to go back home, we’ll come back in the morning. So the family went. This patient then started to regain consciousness again, and he was communicating with someone. He had this lovely smile. He looked so peaceful and happy and contented. We were looking at him, my colleagues and myself looked at him for, about 30 minutes this went on for. And then he kind of like went back to sleep. Now in the morning, when his family returned, he said to them, during the night he’d been visited by his mother and his grandmother who had died many years before. But he said my sister was with them, what was she doing with them? Why was she there? Now unbeknown to him, his sister had died the week before, but the family hadn’t told him because they didn’t want to set back his recovery. That man actually died about two days after that vision. So they’re very common experiences that usually occur between about a week and a few days, these experiences, these visions start to happen. Patients might kind of talk symbolically as well, they might talk about packing a case, or waiting for their train to arrive. So there’s all different ways in which these things can be picked up on really.

Rick: Interesting. There are a couple of related phenomena that you’ve probably heard of, and I’ve interviewed people in the last six months, just to let the audience know. There’s a thing called shared death experiences. I interviewed a guy named William Peters about this. Yeah. And that’s where the people around a dying person kind of entrain with what the dying person is experiencing and go with him, so to speak, to a certain extent. Do you have any insights about that one?

Penny: Yes. Now, that is fascinating as well. I’ve got a few examples of that. If we think about the kind of possible explanations, the person who’s dying, okay, their brain might be shutting down, but the people at the bedside who are there visiting, there’s nothing wrong with them. They’re in full physical form. How can they have this experience with them? The best example I’ve got is of a lady who was dying. Her husband was there with her and her daughter and her son. Both the husband and the daughter shared in this partial journey into the light. So as the lady was dying they were both on this journey with her. After the experience, it ended and the lady died, but her husband was profoundly changed by that experience, as was the daughter. I spoke to them both independently. The husband said, “You know, what should have been the saddest day of my life because my wife had died,” he said, “I had a big smile on my face. So did my daughter because of what we’d experienced.” And he said, “You know, I thought the nurses were going to think that we were insensitive because we were smiling,” but he said, “it was just amazing.” He couldn’t understand it, you know? When I spoke to the daughter, she said, “After that experience with my mum,” she said, “I have absolutely no fear of death at all.” So it really changed her as well.

Rick: I had a similar thing when both of my parents died. In my father’s case, I didn’t know he had died until at least 12 hours afterwards. But I was having this really blissful, uplifted day. I just felt wonderful. I thought, wow, what is going on today? And later on, I found out he had died. And I interpret it, who knows, but I interpreted it as he had a very difficult life. He suffered a lot. I was somehow tuned in enough that I was experiencing some degree of the elation or the freedom, the joy that he was experiencing after being released from such a difficult life. And a similar thing happened with my mother. I was there when she died. But similar, there was just this, rather than grief, because I had no doubt about her continued existence, I knew she was suffering a lot, she had cancer. I just felt this uplift, which wasn’t like she was a burden on me, but I felt like I was tuning into the joy that she was experiencing.

Penny: Yeah, yes, that’s right. That is really common. Some people will have other similar kinds of things. One example was of a lady whose dad was dying in the hospital. They live in France, her husband’s French. They were in England visiting, and her husband had to return to work in France. So she was with her dad at the bedside, and as he was dying her husband wasn’t there. Then her husband phoned her shortly after her dad had died, about 10, 15 minutes after, and said, “Has your dad died? Because I’ve just sensed it.” He was in the kitchen in France. All the doors were closed, all the windows were closed and all of a sudden there was like a wind that went through the kitchen, and it rustled all of the papers that they had on their notice board. Intuitively, he knew that his father-in-law had just died, and that was the case. That’s what actually happened.

Rick: Interesting. There was another guy I interviewed named Father Nathan Castle. He was a Catholic priest, is a Catholic priest. And he has an occupation of helping stuck souls cross over. And this just came to him. He wasn’t looking for this type of activity. But at first, he had this dream of this guy sitting on the radiator of a car and bursting into flames. And then through some chain of events, he found out there actually had been such a guy who had had this accident. And he’s ended up now intervening in the after-death existence of dozens of people who are generally people who have died suddenly and violently, and who are in some kind of state of confusion, and they’re stuck there. And so he helps them cross over. And he has this whole thing that happens. And then usually some being of some sort comes and takes them away when they’re ready to go, when their confusion has been cleared up. Anyway, I just thought I’d tell that in case people find that interesting and want to watch that interview.

Penny: Yeah, absolutely. These things are really interesting, and it gives us a whole different perspective as well. If you think that perhaps consciousness is in tune and around us all the time, but we just don’t perceive it, it gives us a different idea of life itself.

Rick: For sure, which is implicit in the title of your book, The Transformative Power of Near-Death Experiences. So this isn’t just some interesting curiosity or something. It has, as we’ve been discussing throughout this whole interview, it has transformative potential, which can really enhance our lives.

Penny: Yeah, absolutely. There’s loads of cases in the book where people’s lives have been transformed by their experience. David Bennett, who’s also written books on his near-death experience, he was dying and had bone cancer. Afterwards, his bone cancer disappeared as well. So these experiences are really, really profound. It’s something that we need to take more seriously. Mainstream science doesn’t do much with them, but there is so much potential with what we can learn from these experiences. These people have had profound experiences that can help so many other people as well. There’s another person in the book called Gigi Strahler. I was put in touch with her shortly after her experience because she was trying to understand it. She went to people of all different religions, trying to talk about the experience, trying to find out about it from a religious perspective. She tried to explain it, tried to understand it from all different perspectives. She was put in touch with me. Again, she just wanted to make sense of it. She set up now NDE UK, which is like a support group where people can go and talk about their experiences with other people who’ve had that kind of experience. So these experiences are all about helping others as well. People are transformed in ways that they want to do the greater good for other people as well.

Rick: Yeah. And of course, you and I, and most of the people listening to this interview, haven’t had near-death experiences. But as we’ve been discussing, and as you and I have both experienced, delving into this topic can have a profound effect on us too. We don’t have to nearly die to gain benefit from the phenomenon.

Penny: Yeah, absolutely. And Professor Kenneth Ring, back in the 1980s, he used to teach courses on near-death experiences in the University of Connecticut. He found that students of his who had taken the course on near-death experiences, when he gave them an informal survey at the end of the course, he also found that they had been transformed in ways very similar to people who’ve had a near-death experience, just through studying those experiences. And certainly, I feel like that’s true for me. I feel like I’m not the person I was when I began my studies. These experiences have had a huge impact on my life for the better. They really are very empowering as well.

Rick: That’s great. And it’s great that you’re sharing your knowledge with so many other people, because the effect it’s had on you is rippling out to lots of people. So, any other thoughts before we wrap it up?

Penny: Oh, there’s so many different aspects of this that I could talk about.

Rick: If you feel like talking about it a little more, we have some time.

Penny: Oh, let me just think. Let’s just go. I’m having a look at my books here.

Rick: Sure.

Penny: After, oh, after-death communications as well. That’s another thing. After someone has died, sometimes people get kind of messages or signs as well. So I’ve got examples where friends of mine, again very scientific friends, okay, who are doctors. Her grandmother had died, and she was in her mirror, and she was brushing her hair in the mirror. Her grandmother appeared behind her. She turned around to see her, but didn’t see anything. But when someone passes, sometimes there can be very subtle little messages or symbols, things like butterflies during funerals are very common, even if it’s in the middle of winter, when there shouldn’t be any butterflies around. I’ve had so many people write to me with those kinds of experiences.

Rick: Suzanne Giesemann, whom I’ve interviewed a couple of times, had all kinds of things with butterflies. It was interesting. People want to check her out. She became a medium. She was actually the top aide to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the US military, and she had this big, huge turnaround. Anyway, I’m sorry, I interrupted you.

Penny: Wow.

Rick: I like to refer to other interviews during an interview, because it gives people places to branch off and check out, various streams of thought.

Penny: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So, yeah, you know, there’s all different kinds of things that people can get, all subtle little signs after someone dies as well. Sometimes that is a means or a way of how people cope after the death of a loved one as well. I know when my grandfather did pass, my grandmother used to feel him physically in the bed next to her. She used to feel the bed dip, and she would never talk about things like that normally. Then for her to say that, it was real to her, and that kind of gave her comfort in that she felt my grandfather was with her all the time.

Rick: That’s great. Okay, flip through your table of contents there, see if there’s anything else we haven’t covered.

Penny: Cultural differences as well. So these experiences vary across cultures as well. So, for example, we talked about the life review. So, for example, somewhere if someone in India, for example, had a near-death experience, they might encounter the man with the Book of Deeds. And in that Book of Deeds is every single thing that’s occurred in that person’s life. So, it’s quite analogous to the near-death, to the life review as well. So, there’s similar kinds of things that happen with cultures, but sometimes they can be different. I’ve got a few cases of Filipino near-death experiences. In Wales, we had a big influx of Filipino nurses to come and support our hospitals. I became very good friends with a lot of them. Many of them had had experiences and what they described were arduous journeys, getting to the tops of the mountain. So, instead of going through a tunnel towards a bright light, they described trying to get to a top of a mountain, and it was a really difficult journey to get there as well. So, there’s slight differences with cultural interpretation of these experiences.

Rick: Yeah, that would probably also apply to things where Christians will see Jesus and Hindus will see Krishna and Muslims might see Muhammad or whatever. It’s just a cultural indoctrination that determines how your experience is going to be colored when you have one of these.

Penny: Yeah. After effects is something that are really impacting for me, something that really fascinates me is the after effect of it. And there’s a guy called Tibor Putnoky as well. He’s from Hungary, and he had a very extensive near-death experience. He’s died quite recently, actually, in the last few years. His experience was very profound. As a result of his experience, he then set up the Light of Love Foundation, which is all about kind of empowering people and local communities. So, it’s about sharing that he developed a healing ability after his near-death experience. And it’s about providing healing and empowerment for communities as well. So, after these experiences, people kind of do so much good in the world as well.

Rick: Are there any organizations, what is it, IANS, is that a near-death experience organization? Yeah.

Penny: Yes, it is. Yeah, the International Association of Near-Death Studies. Yeah.

Rick: So, people can get on their mailing list if they wanted to and be notified of conferences and webinars and things.

Penny: Yes, that’s right. And there is the annual conference of IANS coming up now. So, have a look on their website because it’s a really fascinating subject. Really great to go to those conferences as well. You’ll meet a lot of really great people there.

Rick: Yeah, good. All right. Any more questions coming, Irene?

Irene: Not really, no.

Rick: All right. Well, great. Thanks, Penny.

Penny: Okay.

Rick: It’s been great talking to you. I really enjoyed it.

Penny: Oh, thank you. Thank you, Rick. It’s been a pleasure being here.

Rick: Yeah. And so, thanks to those who’ve been listening or watching. And visit the website. There’s an upcoming interviews page. You’ll see who we’ve got scheduled. And check around if you’re there, the other menu items, the audio podcast, if you’d like to subscribe to podcasts and whatever else you find of interest. So, thank you for listening or watching. And thanks again, Penny.

Penny: Oh, thank you, Rick. Bye, everyone. Thank you for your questions.

Rick: Take care.