A story published in EXPLORE: The Journal of Science & Healing recounts the Near-Death Experience (NDE) of Bettina Peyton a now-retired doctor.
Dr Peyton’s NDE occurred in 1988 when she was 32 years old and working at Tufts New England Medical Centre in the US.
Prior to her experience Dr Peyton had no belief in life after death and considered herself a “strident materialist”.
During her second pregnancy, she was diagnosed as having placenta previa and eventually required high-risk surgery to prematurely deliver her baby.
During the surgery there was catastrophic bleeding and despite transfusing blood that she had donated in the weeks leading up to the operation things deteriorated quickly.
Dr Peyton recounts suddenly ‘waking’ from her anaesthetic in the midst of the operation.
“Suddenly, right in the middle of the operation, I am wide-awake. As if with a flick of a switch, I have awakened to a heightened awareness, the likes of which I have never before experienced, as if the majority of my brain, dormant all my life, has suddenly switched on. How wondrous that this super-alert state is beyond the reach of the drugs bathing my brain! I am truly awake for the first time—while under general anesthesia! It is starkly evident that this awakened self is the real me!
Just as amazing is how calm I am – given the circumstances. There is absolutely no fear. I can feel the painless tugging sensations in my abdomen of the surgery in progress. I can hear the anesthesiologist anxiously asking the surgeon about blood loss. The surgeon’s tense answer is shocking: “The baby is gone,” he says.
From over my right shoulder there bursts forth a loud expletive.
“Shit! Now she has no blood pressure at all!”
Despite having her eyes taped closed for the operation Dr Peyton describes being able to see clearly what was going on in the room. She describes the bags of blood being transfused and her anesthesiologist lunging over to hit the large red medical emergency button on the wall before commencing CPR on her.
With the clear understanding that she has just lost her baby and is in cardiac arrest Dr Peyton describes being in a space of extraordinary equanimity. Before plunging down into dark nothingness.
Ka-BOOM! —a thundering sound, echoing all around, and I’m. . . suspended in space, as if I’ve exploded through some great barrier. The echoes fade away. I am free—and I am alive! Bodiless, eternal, pure being This is who I really am! I have always been so, and always will be so.
Profound silence. Velvety darkness, like the night sky, all around. . . An endless expanse of radiant darkness, shimmering, mesmerizing. . . In all directions, without horizon, astounding beauty. . .Boundless, sparkling light.
A realization dawns: This light is alive! In every direction, this light is looking back with friendly recognition. And I know: This shimmering void is Supreme Reality, and it’s made of nothing but Consciousness—all-knowing, infinite, and pulsating with potentiality. It is the foundation of all. With a burst of awe and exhilaration, my focus soars over the vast expanse, delighting in its boundless splendor. Then, stillness. I am anchored in a state of perfect repose, absolutely fulfilled, enveloped in the silent, velvety light.
You must live. A voice, resounding through the shimmering light, speaking not in words, but in a kind of silent thunder. You must live, the command resounds again. The message is simple, but it makes no sense. Who is this “you”? And what does it mean to “live,” when I am already absolutely alive?
Something catches my attention: a twinkling light, like a tiny jewel, nestled deep within the darkness. I focus on this light, and I see its many facets—the colorful scenes of a whole lifetime on simultaneous display. It is the entire experience of someone who once lived. . .someone very familiar. . . and gradually I remember. . .I once was a person, and am looking at that person’s entire experience, past, present and future, playing out simultaneously, all contained in a point of flickering light.
You must live. The command resounds a third time. It is clear: I am to return to that life. But how can I possibly fit into that tiny world? And besides, that person’s life is all over. How can it possibly be resurrected?
Then, in an unbroken flow of wordless communication, the knowledge of how I am to return to that life streams into my awareness: I must be fearless. I must remain focused in the present moment. I must maintain the certainty that I am going to live. Any distraction or worrying, and I might not revive.
In the next instant, there is a tremendous rushing sound, accompanied by a rapid swirling and contracting, as if the entire expanse of consciousness is twisting into a great vortex, I am funneling downward at tremendous speed. Then, just as abruptly, the tumult comes to a sudden stop, and my perception balloons open to reveal the scene in the confines of the hospital operating room, unfolding as if not one moment has passed. Watching from a vantage point above the scene, I am an open conduit through which the power of the transcendent Consciousness flows.
She can ‘see’ (describing her viewpoint as transcending and encompassing the scene) the resuscitation team working on her and is able to describe in detail the activities of various members, including the anaesthesiologist performing a hysterectomy, the insertion of an IV line into her jugular vein and the failed attempt at inserting an arterial line into her wrist. Events that were later independently verified by both the obstetrician and the anaesthesiologist.
I cheer everyone on. “Yes, yes!! You all are doing great! You can do it! I am going to live!” The power of Consciousness flowing through from the transcendent realm charges the room with its energy. The whole team in synch, moving together as if in a choreographed dance. Each person is playing his or her part perfectly, but despite all their best efforts, they can’t restart my motionless heart.
She then ‘sees’ a white-haired senior surgeon enter the room who proceeds to reach into her abdominal cavity and clamp off the blood flow from her aorta to stop the haemorrhage.
Suddenly, from a point within the surgeon’s fist, there is an explosion of white-hot light like a sunburst, at the very center of my body. It surges through my body at lightning speed, branching into millions of delicate channels, lighting up every pore, every cell. Though searingly hot and stunningly brilliant, this radiance is absolutely benevolent. As it streaks through my system, every level of my being is loved, healed, revitalized. The light coalesces into a single infinite mass, and for an unknown amount of time I am lost in supreme ecstasy.
When my individual consciousness returns, I am now stationed inside my body, lying stunned on the operating table. Gratitude overflows toward everyone on the team, but especially toward the elder surgeon. His hand was the connection through which universal Consciousness did its life-saving work, and I know that his simple action was critical turning point.
Both Dr Peyton and her baby went on to make a full recovery. The event had a profound and transforming effect on her. First leading her to develop a deep meditation practice (which she found a way to reconnect with the state of consciousness she experienced during her NDE), and then leading her to completely change career path to hospice and palliative medicine.
You can listen to Dr Peyton tell her own story in this video: