Dr. Yvonne Kason MD, Med, CCFP, FCFP, is a retired Family Physician and MD-Psychotherapist, author, and public speaker, previously on faculty at the University of Toronto, Faculty of Medicine. She is the person who first coined the phrase “Spiritually Transformative Experiences” (STEs) and defined five major categories of STE experience. She was the first Canadian medical doctor to specialize in the research and counseling of patients with Spiritually Transformative Experiences. A renowned international expert on STEs, she has had four Near-Death Experiences herself. She was a founding member of the Kundalini Research Network, the Canadian Coordinator of the Spiritual Emergence Network, the founder of the Spiritual Emergence Research and Referral Clinic, and co-founder of the Spirituality in Health-Care Network. She has four published books, and her most recent is Farther Shores: Exploring How Near-Death, Kundalini, and Mystical Experiences Can Transforms Ordinary Lives.
Dr. Kason retired from the practice of medicine in 2006, for health reasons. Following a dramatic brain healing in 2016, a “miracle of brain neuroplasticity,” Dr. Kason has now resumed writing, public speaking, and giving media interviews – sharing both her personal STE experiences, and insights from her over 38 years clinical experience researching and counseling persons with diverse types of STEs.
What I Learned from My Four Near-Death Experiences
By Dr. Yvonne Kason MD
July 10, 2018
By some twist of fate, I have been blessed with four Near-Death Experiences (NDEs) over the course of my lifetime. At the hand of the Divine sculptor, I have become one of a very rare breed – a multiple Near-Death Experiencer!
All four of my NDEs had powerful after-effects on me and altered the course of my life, both as a medical doctor and as a spiritual seeker. Together with a Kundalini awakening, mystical experiences, and psychic awakening, those NDEs prompted me in 1990 to become the first Canadian medical doctor to specialize in the counseling and research of persons having NDEs and other mystical and paranormal experiences.
In 1994, my clinical experience and research led me to coin the phrase “Spiritually Transformative Experiences” as an umbrella term to describe the broad range of powerful paranormal experiences, which I found all similarly tend to change the experiencer’s values and attitudes in a more altruistic and spiritual direction. I also observed that all types of STEs tend to initiate or accelerate a long-term process of spiritual transformation in the experiencer, with shared physical, psychological, and spiritual after-effects. I divided STEs into five broad categories, each with many subtypes:
• Mystical Experiences
• Spiritual Energy/Kundalini Awakenings
• Psychic Episodes
• Near-Death Experiences and Other Death-Related STEs
• Inspired Creativity and Genius
Over the years, I have counseled close to 1,000 persons who have undergone diverse types of Spiritually Transformative Experiences.
It was my first adult Near-Death Experience in 1979 that launched me on my quest to understand STEs. On March 27, 1979, I was assigned as a young medical doctor to accompany a critically ill patient on a medical evacuation by airplane, in a remote area of northern Ontario, Canada. Mid route during this medevac flight, our small twin-engine airplane flew into a blizzard, developed engine problems, and crashed.
As the engine-less plane tumbled towards the ground with severe air turbulence, a wave of intense fear and panic overtook me. “God, help! I’m going to die!” I mentally cried out. The next instant, my Near-Death Experience began, even before the plane had crashed. I suddenly felt a wave of profound peace and calm descend upon me, like a force field pushing away all my fear. I then heard an inner voice comforting me, reciting verses from the Bible: “Be still, and know that I am God”; “I am with you, now and always.”
As the words penetrated my soul, I was overwhelmed with a sense of peace, and the presence of the Higher Power, what I call God. I was no longer afraid. My mind was still. Somehow I knew something that I had never known before: there was absolutely nothing to fear in death.
Our pilot heroically managed to steer the falling plane and crash-land it onto the ice of a semi-frozen lake. As soon as the full weight of the plane settled, however, the ice broke and the plane sank into deep water. I managed to get myself out of the sinking plane, but unfortunately could not get the patient out in time. I then found myself floating in freezing water about 200 yards from an island. Open water with a strong, swiftly moving current separated me from the closest shore. I heard a voice in my head repeatedly say, “Swim to shore!”
Although I was a strong swimmer, I struggled to swim towards the island because the soaked winter coat and boots I was wearing were heavily pulling me down. Part way to shore, I suddenly heard a loud low-pitched whooshing noise similar to the rushing of a large bird’s wings, and I felt my consciousness abruptly rise up and out of my body. My point of perception was now 20 feet or so above my physical body.
I had risen into a space filled with light and love. I felt embraced and permeated by profound unconditional love – what I instantly realized was the intense love of a universal and omnipotent intelligent force — the Higher Power underlying the universe. This was the most profoundly beautiful experience I had ever had in my life. I felt that I was “HOME.”
From above, I watched with peaceful detachment as my physical body struggled to swim to shore. When my body was completely exhausted and about to go under for the third and final time, my awareness seemed to slip momentarily back into my body. I found myself looking towards the shore. It was only twenty feet away, but I could swim no farther. “It’s true, you do drown the third time you go down,” I thought. Fearlessly, I surrendered to the Divine and to the thought of death.
Just at that moment, I saw that a tall pine tree lay fallen into the water, extending out from the island shore. The tree was to my right, and the current was rapidly carrying me towards it. It looked to me in my paranormal state of consciousness, as if an etheric rescuing hand of light was superimposed upon that tree, and the hand was beckoning and reaching out to me. Suddenly I realized that if I could swim just two more strokes, the current would carry me right into the tip of that tree. Somehow I swam those last two strokes and managed to pull myself along the tree to shore.
Through a series of “coincidences” and remarkable heroism, we were later rescued by helicopter and brought to a nearby hospital. When my near-frozen body was rewarmed in a hot whirlpool bath, I finally felt my consciousness re-enter my body. I heard a loud whooshing noise and suddenly felt as if I was being sucked down, abruptly shrinking from an expanded space above, and pulled down through the top of my head back into the small confines of my body. The sensation was similar to what I imagine a genie might feel when it is forcibly sucked back into its tiny bottle. Suddenly I was back in my body again.
This NDE changed the course of my life.
Immediately following this experience, I talked with many “experts” around me, trying to figure out what on earth had happened to me. “Has anyone heard of such an experience?” I asked. The responses I received were not helpful. My medical doctor friends and colleagues postulated various medical explanations — dismissing my experience as a hallucination, brought on either by an electrolyte imbalance, low blood sugar, or hypothermia. None of these explanations rang true for me. Additionally, I consulted with a self-professed expert on Near-Death Experiences, who adamantly insisted that my experience was not an NDE, because I had never been dead during the experience and because I had not gone through a dark tunnel. I struggled for years with not having an accurate label to help me understand what had happened to me.
Fortunately, I did eventually find an explanation that rang true for me, for the time being. A doctor friend who was a devout Christian suggested, simply, “Yvonne, I think you had a mystical experience.” Yes! Finally a label that resonated with my soul! For almost 10 years I called my 1979 NDE a “mystical experience.” Now, after years of STE research, I know that my plane crash mystical experience was in fact a type of Near-Death Experience.
To my great astonishment, the Divine hand touched me again in 1995, and blessed me with another powerful Near-Death Experience. Remarkably, this NDE left me in a profound state of ongoing unitive consciousness for two months afterwards. With further reflection, I realized that I also had an NDE when I was a child – at the age of 11. Then, in 2003, I had yet another powerful Near-Death Experience when I sustained a Traumatic Brain injury and died for several minutes. I will share the detailed stories of these other NDEs in another venue.
Thankfully, in 2016, I experienced yet another type of STE — a spontaneous brain healing — which has enabled me now to write and give talks again!
Having had four NDEs over the course of my life impacted me profoundly. As a medical doctor, it prompted me to shift my medical specialty into pioneering STE research and counseling. My personal struggle for understanding convinced me of the need to spread awareness of STEs, and to affirm that they are not hallucinations!
My NDEs also impacted me profoundly personally, as a spiritual seeker. My multiple experiences on “the other side” taught me many spiritual truths. The most powerful lessons I learned were:
1 – I realized, beyond a shadow of doubt, that a Higher Power exists and underlies all creation. It does not matter if we believe in the existence of a Higher Power, or what name we call this Higher Power. This ONE Higher Power exists. I experienced this Higher Power to be infinitely vast/omnipresent, infinitely intelligent/omniscient, unconditionally loving, and encompassing everything in the past, present, and future.
2 – I directly experienced that we are immortal souls. We are all souls temporarily encased in physical bodies, and we live on in another realm after death of the physical body.
3 – I experienced that reincarnation is real. I saw that we as souls incarnate many times in physical bodies, lifetime after lifetime, to continue to learn and grow, until we ultimately find our way back HOME, to God communion and unitive consciousness.
4 – I perceived that it is possible to accelerate our soul’s journey, to speed our soul evolution in our present lifetime. This can be done by living in a balanced spiritual way — according to universal spiritual/moral principles; doing our psycho-spiritual housecleaning; and most importantly, meditating daily – to calm and expand our consciousness.
In closing, I think the most important thing I learned from my four Near-Death Experiences was personal: to strive to make all of life a spiritual experience — to MEDITATE, MEDITATE, MEDITATE — to help speed our journey HOME!