Hi, I'm Keith Thompson. Welcome to my website.
After many years as an author and independent journalist covering a wide range of topics, the primary focus of my work today is the near-death experience (NDE), defined as a profound psychological event with transcendental and mystical features, typically occurring during a period of real death or the imminent expectation of death, or in situations of grave physicala or emotional danger.
I had an NDE in my mid-20s, a time when the near-death experience (NDE) was not yet widely known. Three years earlier, Dr. Raymond Moody had published a groundbreaking book, Life After Life, but at the time I knew nothing of the book or the phenomenon it helped bring into view. All I knew was I'd had an experience that shook my sense of reality to the core.
I'm currently writing a book chronicling this event in the context of key questions about our consciousness and the relationship between consciousness and the brain. The book will also explore the importance of what I call "embodying" the meanings of the NDE in everyday life.
I also work as a life-mentor/coach with a focus on (though not limited to) individuals interested in assimilating and integrating near-death experiences and similar life-altering transformations of consciousness. That work is described at the Integrating an NDE tab on the top menu bar.
My NDE took place while I was bodysurfing with friends in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Hawaii. I got caught in powerful rip currents that pulled me rapidly far from shore into life threatening conditions. Fighting to survive, I concluded I had in fact died. A full account of my NDE is found at the top of the right-side column here: From From Near Death to New Life Beyond and Back.
To say it was difficult after returning to my body to find words for what had happened is a great understatement. How does one describe an experience that isn't widely recognized to be possible, even though my awareness of my surroundings and my responses was many times sharper, more vivid and more lucid than normal?
After I got back to shore and the shock of it all had somewhat subsided, one of my friends said, "Man, you came pretty close to giving it up out there." When I proceeded to give a minimal description, it was clear he and other were looking at me like I was delirious. Exchanges of this kind became the order of the day.
Sometimes people would ask, "Did your life pass before your eyes?" When I said yes, thinking this might just be the breakthrough conversation, it invariably became clear that "life passing before your eyes" was meant as a figure of speech. For me it had been an overwhelming real and immediate experience. All fear of death left me that day, and has never returned.
As for my more psychological inclined acquaintances, they heard my vivid descriptions as the coping mechanisms of a trauma survivor. Nearly drowning was quite traumatic, yet the peace and joy I experienced are still beyond description.
And then, the self-styled Experts—those who blithely assure people they couldn't have had such an experience, because according to "Science" (their version) it simply isn't possible.
Being naturally skeptical myself, I understood all the doubts. But there was a one element that couldn't be ignored or rejected outright.
During my experience of being out of body and witnessing the scene from above, I had heard my friend Mary on shore say to another friend standing close to her, "I told him the waves were too rough. Why didn't he listen?" After returning to my body and some semblance of normalcy, I told Mary there was something I wanted her to know, privately. She gave me a go ahead to reveal that I had heard her words on the beach. When I quoted her verbatim ("I told him the waves were too rough…"), her face paled in astonishment.
We both understood what this meant. If consciousness is a product of brain function as is widely assumed, my experience of hearing a subdued remark from a great distance should not have been possible. Likewise, my experience of seeing from beyond my body.
I soon stopped telling my story on a casual basis. A line from a poem by Goethe, "The Holy Longing," captures what I have come to call the societal dilemma of disclosure:
Tell a wise person or else keep silent
for those who do not understand
will mock it right away
This marked the beginning of a long period of living with and learning from an experience which, fortunately, was becoming more widely understood thanks to the growing number of books, articles, and documentaries on near-death experiences. Just as it takes time for a large, information-rich computer file to expand ("unzip") so that it can become part of the operating system, an extensive period of time is typically required for full assimilation of the experience.
This has been the case for me, and the process of integrating and embodying the nuances of the experience continues to this day. Yet even as the download metaphor is clarifying, it doesn't touch on the essential workings of something for which no word comes closer than Grace.
Fortunately it's not necessary to nearly die to experience profound changes in personal values and beliefs typically reported by near-deathers, including the nearly universal evaporation of fear of death. I agree with NDE researcher Kenneth Ring's idea that merely learning about the NDE has effects similar to those reported by NDErs:
"This means that the NDE may act like to benign virus," says Ring. "By exposing ourselves to it, we can catch it—that is, we can experience some of the same benefits as do those who actually have the NDE themselves." In this sense, the NDE is a teaching about life, love, and the potential of all of us to enrich our lives and progress toward enlightenment as described by the world's great mystical and wisdom traditions.
At popular request, my essay on beng with my mother during the final days of her life at hospice, Night and Day Forever, is found on the right side column. My essay Waiting for Tyler, a love letter to a wonderful dog who was an incomparable messenger of love, is likewise found there.
Thanks for stopping by. Please free to drop me an email (via CONTACT in the top menu) if you've got questions or comments. May peace and inspiration be with you!