Dr. Raymond Moody, the world-famous physician and author who coined the term “near-death experience,” was in Santa Barbara last month to talk about his current research — into the shared-death experience, which is also the topic of his bestselling book, Glimpses of Eternity: Sharing a Loved One’s Passage from This Life to the Next.
His visit, which included a cocktail reception at the Coral Casino on March 18 and two public events at Trinity Episcopal Church the following evening, also promoted the work of the Shared Crossing Project, a local organization that helps people approach the end of life with consciousness, connection and love, and that offers practices for facilitating a shared-death experience.
“Shared-death experience,” or SDE, describes what happens when the living — friends, family members and even unrelated caregivers — share in some of the phenomena experienced by the dying as they leave their bodies. Like near-death experiences, these phenomena include “death-bed visions” of people who are already deceased; out-of-body experiences, such as hovering above the bed of the dying and seeing the scene below; and other phenomena even more difficult to explain to those of us grounded in three-dimensional “reality.”
Dr. Moody, who has collected and recounted literally thousands of these experiences, believes that they present the most compelling evidence to date of the existence of an afterlife. Why?
“Because skeptics — and I have been one — argue that near-death experiences are caused by lack of oxygen, overmedication or other biochemical changes to the dying brain,” Dr. Moody said. “But shared-death experiences occur to bystanders — who are neither medicated or dying. These individuals include doctors, nurses and hospice workers, in addition to family members who might naturally be looking for consolation.”
Consoling is indeed what these experiences are.
“People who have had a shared-death experience no longer fear death,” said William Peters, MFT, M.Ed., founder of the Shared Crossing Project. “Though they still mourn the loss of the deceased, they are confident they will see them again.”
The Shared Crossing Project, which also co-sponsored Dr. Eben Alexander’s visit to Santa Barbara in 2013, teaches people how to prepare for a conscious, connected and loving death — and even how to facilitate a shared-death experience.
“This is preparation that should take place sooner rather than later,” Peters said. “None of us really knows how much time we have left. Being prepared for death helps us live a good life and leave our loved ones with a good death.”
Dr. Moody’s two-day visit was generously sponsored by Patricia Selbert, Fielding Graduate Institute, Orman and Richelle Gaspar, Marge Cafarelli and Jan Hill, Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care, the Family Therapy Institute, the International Association for Near-Death Studies, McDermott-Crockett & Associates Mortuary and the Organic Soup Kitchen.