Near-Death Experience and Heart-Centered Consciousness
Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon of 25 years, had a near-death experience that completely transformed his life. He met Karen Newell a couple of years later. Karen is an innovator in the field of brainwave entrainment and heart-centered consciousness. It was at this intersection of sound that they met.
Karen Newell is an author and specialist in personal development with a diverse body of work that rests upon the foundation of heart-centered consciousness. As an innovator in the emerging field of brainwave entrainment audio meditation, Karen empowers others in their journeys of self-discovery by demonstrating how to connect to inner guidance, achieve inspiration, improve wellness, and develop intuition. Karen is the co-founder of Sacred Acoustics and the co-author with Eben Alexander of Living in a Mindful Universe.
Eben Alexander, MD, was an academic neurosurgeon for over 25 years, including 15 of those years at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Children’s Hospital, and Harvard medical school in Boston. He experienced a transcendental near-death experience, which we call an NDE, during a week-long coma from an inexplicable brain infection that completely transformed his worldview. Everything changed. Eben is a pioneer scientist and modern thought leader in an emerging science that acknowledges the primacy of consciousness in the universe. I hope you got that folks. He’s an author of the New York Times number one bestseller Proof of Heaven.
Important to point out, that I’d spent 54 years of my life honing a scientific worldview. It all began with my father who was very influential as a scientist and neurosurgeon, but he was also very religious. He believed in a loving personal god. I had struggled with that throughout much of my life, 15 years teaching at Harvard Medical School. I felt very confused about the notion of conscious awareness surviving the death of the brain and body. That’s why my NDE was of such value to me.
The Empty Slate of Amnesia
What happened that week in November 2008, changed my life forever. The case report can be found in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, written by three doctors who were absolutely astonished by my recovery.
My journey was in the setting of complete amnesia. I knew nothing of earth, humanity, or Eben Alexander’s life. It was an empty slate and that’s unusual for near-death experiences. Looking back on my own experiences over the first few years, I came to realize why it was so important. Very briefly my journey involved several different layers of the spiritual realm, Earth, which in my view was where it all started, was a very primitive, unresponsive realm. I was rescued by a slowly spinning white light that came packaged with a perfect musical melody.
Proof of Heaven
That melody served as a portal up into a rich gateway valley that had many Earth-like features. I was a spec of awareness on a butterfly wing, luscious valley and meadow down below with all these souls between lives, lots of dancing and merriment, but it was being fueled because up above were these swooping angelic choirs, emanating chances and anthems, hymns that would just thunder through me. It turns out that a companion with me on that butterfly wing was very crucial of those who have read my book Proof of Heaven will realize at the end of that book, four months after my coma, coming into a realization of how all this happened and that my guardian angel was someone very important to me, but someone I did not know in my life. That’s a long story. We don’t have time to go into it all.
The documented damage to my neocortex is very clearly spelled out in a case report in the Journal of Nervous Mental Disease. It’s very clear that my brain did not come up with a hallucination or dream. My brain was far too ill for that. That’s why the scientific community takes my case very seriously. I’ve spent the 13 years since that coma experience working as a scientist with hundreds of scientists around the world to more fully explain consciousness and these incredible human experiences for what they show us about the nature of reality.
I started with the kind of curiosity we all have about why we are here and what is our purpose? I knew from all of the reading that I was doing, that meditation, learning how to quiet the racing thoughts in our mind, was highly critical to this process to generate firsthand experience. Through lots of trial and error, I discovered a certain type of sound, specifically these binaural beats that are contained in brainwave entrainment audio recordings really helped me to quiet my mind. It was in that setting that I met Eben. Three years after his coma, he was also exploring sound to get into expanded states of consciousness, much as he experienced during his near-death experience. It was in this setting where I met Eben, but it was way before his book came out.
I didn’t know his story, or that he had had a near-death experience. We’re having a conversation at this workshop, and I say, “I’ve known others who had near-death experiences, and they came back with these very profound, deep, spiritual, often very personal lessons.” So, cutting to the chase, I ask, “What was the lesson you learned? Can you share the gist of it all?”
The Soul is Fundamental
He looks at me and he says, “The brain doesn’t create consciousness.” This confused me. I said, “Why would anyone think that it does?” Because I didn’t understand the materialist worldview, the basic foundation believes that consciousness arises from the brain, from physical matter. I had understood already through my own exploration and personal experience that our souls are fundamental.
That to me is what consciousness is, the part of us that comes into the body and inhabits the body. It was through this sound that I was able to experience much of what Eben experienced, not in the same intensity, don’t get me wrong, but I was able to touch that love. He didn’t talk about the core realm, but after he was in that gateway, Earth-like realm, it was the angelic choirs, the music that sort of put him into the deepest realm of his experience. That’s where you felt it, in the gateway too.
Oneness with the Divine.
The divine force becomes the source of our very conscious awareness. It was an astonishing experience to go through and really it’s taken me 13 years to even get to this point. I’m sure I still have a lot of work to do in understanding it, but it’s extraordinary where the scientific world is headed on the primacy of consciousness in the universe.
That is so important to Evan, but I was more interested in, “What about that love? Why aren’t you saying that’s your most fundamental lesson?” He says, “It really is. But the truth is you can’t bring that love back here.” The love he experienced there, he has not necessarily experienced in the same way here. I said, “I’ve touched that love. I think you can bring some of that here. It may not be the same intensity. But the love that I’ve touched,” and I’m sure many of your listeners have, “it’s real, it’s palpable.” It’s very hard to put words to it, but I like to use words associated with light like shimmering or glistening or radiating. That’s what love is.
Loving Kind of Connection
It’s an active feeling that moves and shifts in your body. While we’ve definitely connected on the intellectual concept, the brain doesn’t create consciousness and this loving kind of connection. We also experienced a very deep personal connection when we first met that changed both of our lives even more significantly.
We have now come together. Eben wanted to teach others how to experience these kinds of states. That’s when he invited me to help teach others how to use this sound. And he was actually the catalyst for my business partner, Kevin Kossi, who’s the audio engineer extraordinaire. He and I created these recordings, but Eben was the catalyst because he thought these recordings that we had up until that point only recorded for ourselves. He wanted them to be available to others. That’s when we entered this shared devotion to helping others generate these same kinds of personal experiences. So they can come to this same understanding in their lives.
Living in a Mindful Universe
Absolutely. I think this basically evolving awareness of the mind/brain relationship and the deep nature of consciousness and conscious awareness investigated in a scientific fashion, in the very rigorous investigation, by experts in these phenomena, and then the theoretical work to explain how it can all happen. This work is making tremendous progress. From my point of view, our book Living in a Mindful Universe does a very thorough job of introducing people to the unification of science and spirituality in the modern era through this primacy of consciousness. Also, it works with many scientific groups including the group at the University of Virginia Division and Perceptual Studies. I will simply say for the scientific community if you want to see the tremendous progress in this field, just look at the three books edited by Ed Kelly. Beginning in 2007 with Irreducible Mind, which many people have read and realized was absolutely revolutionary, but that was just the beginning.
He edited a follow-up book called Beyond Physicalism in 2015, which took all of this discussion much further along the pathway toward explaining this primacy of mind and how it works in this universe. Then finally his book Consciousness Unbound, edited by Ed Kelly came out in the spring of 2021. That goes even further towards elaborating this kind of scientific vision of the brain as a filter, of the mind as primordial in the universe, and Idealism, ultimately.
The Universe is Mental and Spiritual, not Physical
Then it gets to definitions of consciousness and God and all that. I think idealism is just admitting that there is this important top-down causal layer of information integration and simulation in the universe that some might call the mental universe. That’s been well described, for example, in quantum physics, by various people like Richard Conn Henry.
In his essay in the scientific journal Nature in 2005, Richard Conn Henry, who was in physics at Johns Hopkins at the time, makes it very clear that from a quantum physics perspective, the universe is primarily mental and spiritual, not physical. That’s really where all of this is headed. That’s where we headed in Living in a Mindful Universe, absolutely the direction in which Ed Kelly and his three fascinating books have gone. Again, as Karen points out, then it starts to get into your definitions of mind and God, where you’re defining this oneness with a divine so often described by near-death experiences. Really all of us as sentient beings can come to the same knowledge through meditation, through centering prayer. We all have ways of going within to connect as you’ve been doing, Lee, in many decades of your life, connecting very actively and practically with the other side. Yet what we would say is based on our workshops and our work and books, and that we think that anyone, any conscious being who has an interest in doing this can pursue this deep integration of relationship with that primordial mind.
Personal Spiritual Home
One important thing to clarify early on. I did in my presentations, in the book Proof of Heaven, talk about what a personal spiritual home it is. It’s so comforting. People hear these descriptions and they think, “Oh, that sounds foreign or dreamy, or it sounds like something maybe foreboding.” Yet every bit of my experience was extremely endearing and heartening and connecting. That I think is the important thing. It’s why people should take the time to go into meditation and centering prayer in this lifetime to connect more fully with that aspect of themselves, their greater connection to the universe. It won’t be such a shock when they leave their physical body once and for all at bodily death. I often say that the most important lessons that come out of the study of near-death experiences, it’s not what happens when I die, but how I make choices today in dealing with myself and others that best reflect who I truly am based on this broad experience that we have called Life.
We realize the materialist model is no longer adequate. There’s a much richer way of sensing this connection, this power of love to connect us all.
Heart Rhythm Meditation
One of the tools that I used to help me learn to meditate with sound, but another very significant one was a technique I learned through some Sufi-taught teachers that they call heart rhythm meditation. At its simplest, it asks you to imagine that your breath is moving in and out of your heart. Once you do that at the same time, generating, say feelings of gratitude, then you realize this is the seat of who you really are. When you can remove your awareness from those racing thoughts, conversations you want to have, the voice in your head that tells you’re not good enough, or you’re not all of those things, when you can move away from that and feel your way through life, then everything changes. I would say that there’s a difference in the way that you can experience love. I know I have. One is from an intellectual standpoint where you make a decision based on practical realities that, yes, I love this person. This person is nice. I want to be with this person, but another kind of love is not intellectual at all.
Ask From Your Heart
This other kind of love feels like warmth. Generally, this kind is in connection to another person, much like I had when I first met Eben. When I first met Ramdas, I had a very similar kind of feeling in my heart, but I’ve also experienced it with animals, with whales, and with dogs. I’ve experienced it with plants, with trees. You can really make a connection to anything without words. In fact, when I took a bunch of courses in animal communication, they always said, “Ask from your heart.” So all of this direction made me realize how critical the heart was and the research of HeartMath only confirmed all of it, that our hearts emit an electromagnetic field that is based on our emotional state. And that seems to affect others around us. And that is, to me, the ultimate golden rule, is to really have awareness of what’s going on in your heart.
I know when I first started doing the heart rhythm meditation, I found a lot of hurt, pain, and loneliness that I didn’t know I had. Once I cleared that out, my heart was filled with my true essence. The part that knows I’m important, we all are important. Every soul is critical on this earth because we are all connected to one consciousness.
Spirit Over Matter
Often Eben will say, “We have one mind,” I’ll say, “No, we have one heart.” That’s how we connect. Scientists, well open-minded scientists often use, the expression, “Mind over matter.” I prefer to say, “Well, it’s spirit over matter,” The connection to spirit happens beyond our thoughts. Our hearts are a more efficient way of getting there. That is where Eben and I connected and how I try to explain the heart of consciousness.
Now, Eben, you did it in such a dramatic way, maybe the only way you would have ever been convinced?
Yes, that is true. But I think witnessing my own kind of struggle with how to present this to the world over the last 13 and a half years, since it all happened, Karen clearly played a tremendous role. And I would say meeting her three years after my coma when we were both very interested in how differential frequency sounds could be very powerful. Shifting things in the brain stem and setting our consciousness free. I mean, that was one of the biggest gifts, and realizing Karen had lived her whole life as an idealist, which I was just beginning to realize was the correct answer. But then that constant reminder as this neurosurgeon, I would keep getting up in my head about it all and that beautiful, gentle reminder from Karen about heart consciousness.
Do You Love Yourself?
I often asked people this, “Do you love yourself?” And I thought, Eben’s been on the other side, he’s experienced this amazing love and describes it so beautifully. I asked Eben, “Well, do you love yourself?” And he said, “No, I don’t.” He thought about it actually. You see, he was adopted. He believed that he had been rejected by his mother, who did love him but couldn’t keep him. He carried that, and it was after his near-death experience that he was told, “You are deeply loved and cherished forever.” This is what he tells people, but he didn’t know it himself. And now he does.
Yes, I do. And a lot of it has come through meditation. It clearly involves a near-death experience as a catalyst, but people need to realize that by having a near-death experience, you’re going to spend the rest of your life unpackaging the whole thing. It’s not like all of a sudden you understand the whole world. You understand it’s much bigger than you ever thought before, but that doesn’t mean that you’ve fully assimilated the experience. And I’m still in the process of assimilating that experience and growing through it and helping the scientific community as best I can, because of my passion for science and also have had an experience of extraordinary depth into the spiritual realm.
Basically, audio meditations are created with a foundation of what we call binaural beats and that’s where you have one sound in one ear and a slightly different sound in the other ear. The brain translates that into sort of a wa-wa-wa steady sound. And they’re programmed very deliberately to entrain the brain to lower states of awareness, say associated with delta, theta, alpha, as opposed to beta, the state that we’re in when we’re walking around. So, any frequencies that are below 12 Hertz are outside that beta range. But since we can’t hear below 12 Hertz, these binaural beats create that sound for us.
Usually, we’re hovering around that four Hertz realm, which is the border between awake and asleep. And when people listen to around four Hertz, they often get into what we call a hypnagogic state, where the body is profoundly relaxed, but the mind is still aware. And this is where the magic happens. Using your intention, you can go on journeys, and you can communicate with departed loved ones. You can connect with your higher self. I hate to say it… expanded itself. But at its basic foundation, we did a pilot study where a psychiatrist in New York City did a study within her practice and found over a two-week period of listening to recordings and listening protocols that I provided, a 26% reduction in anxiety was noted.
By listening to these recordings, people were able to reduce their anxiety by a highly significant amount. The control group in this setting who received therapy, but not the sound, had only a 7% reduction in anxiety over that same time period. Many people use them to help themselves sleep, improve focus, get in touch with their intuition, and then a little more exotic spiritual travel sometimes. We invite you to get a 20-minute download from sacredacoustics.com. The Whole Mind Bundle is the exact set of recordings used in that pilot study. It is an excellent way to reduce anxiety, it’s helping all of us. When the COVID pandemic first started, I reduced the price significantly, but there’s also a free option. I’m trying to stress here, that these are accessible for anyone. The best way to find out how they affect you is to try them yourself.
Listen through headphones. It’s very important because then you get those binaural beats, and I want to point out that most of us are familiar with brass bowls or crystal bowls or tuning forks, and gongs. All of those instruments emit that wa-wa sound, although there are a lot of natural harmonics that take place, those same instruments are emitting natural binaural beats. So, we all can benefit from these with, or without these binaural beat recordings.
Awakening Involves Every Soul
I would just add that a peer-reviewed pilot study of these recordings was by Dr. Anna Yusim, which came out in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases in February 2021.
I would just like to stress something Karen said a little while ago, “Every soul is involved in this awakening.” We often like to say, “No soul left behind.” This is a time of, I would say, a confluence of more than 5,000 years of human history in terms of moving to the next level. This is something that all of us can participate in. Even though the world may look frighteningly polarized and fractured at this moment, a lot of that is kind of fundamentalists reacting to realizing that some of the old ways of thought that have been so damaging to our world are something humanity is about to leave behind. The threat of extinction pushes so many people to kind of scream out. However, in reality, there’s good reason to be optimistic about where we’re headed on all this. Karen and I talk about this all of our webinars and talks and books. We see a very promising future for humanity.
Connect to Greater Consciousness
Each and every one of us is critical in this process. So anyone who’s listening, if you’re already a regular meditator, bravo. Go deeper. If you’re not, start some kind of personal practice, it can be movement. It can be walking in nature. It can be using our sound, any form of meditation, just start somewhere. Start generating that personal experience. You will find it in your heart. That’s where the answers lie. That is your connection to your inner world and your connection to that greater consciousness that we are all a part of. It’s really our birthright to understand and experience this, while we are here in these bodies.
That is brilliant! I want to remind everyone to go to sacredacoustics.com. That’s where you’re going to get the free offer. And then I do want to mention Eben’s website because Lee’s a big fan.
You can go to ebenalexander.com, so that you can also have a look at that website and there’s a free offer on there as well, for our beautiful community.