Long whispered about in the hospice and medical communities, shared crossing experiences are the focus of therapist William J. Peters’ research.
In 2000, Peters was volunteering at the Zen Hospice Project in San Francisco when he had an extraordinary experience as he was reading aloud to a patient: He suddenly felt himself floating in midair, completely out of his body. The patient, who was also aloft, looked at him and smiled. The next moment, Peters felt himself return to his body…but the patient never regained consciousness and died.
Perplexed and stunned by what had happened, Peters searched for other people who shared similar experiences. He spent the next 20 years gathering and meticulously categorizing stories to identify key patterns and features of what is now known as the “shared crossing” experience. The similarities, which cut across continents and cultures and include awe-inspiring visual and sensory effects and powerful emotional after-effects, were impossible to ignore.
Peters will be joined in conversation by past Vail Symposium speaker Dr. Jeff O’Driscoll. Together they will explore the effect these shared crossing experiences impart—liberation at the sight of a loved one finding joy, a sense of reconciliation if the relationship was fraught—and explore questions such as: What can explain these shared death experiences? How can we increase our likelihood of having one? What do these experiences tell us about what lies beyond? And, most importantly, how can they help take away the sting of death and better prepare us for our own final moments? How can we have both a better life and a better death?
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