Most NDEs share certain common traits, but not all NDEs have every trait and some NDEs don't follow a pattern at all. Here are the traits that "typical" NDEs share:
- Intense, pure bright light - Sometimes this intense (but not painful) light fills the room. In other cases, the subject sees a light that they feel represents either Heaven or God.
- Out-of-body experiences (OBE) - The subject feels that he has left his body. He can look down and see it, often describing the sight of doctors working on him. In some cases, the subject's "spirit" then flies out of the room, into the sky and sometimes into space.
- Entering into another realm or dimension - Depending on the subject's religious beliefs and the nature of the experience, he may perceive this realm as Heaven or, in rare cases, as Hell.
- Spirit beings - During the OBE, the subject encounters "beings of light," or other representations of spiritual entities. He may perceive these as deceased loved ones, angels, saints or God.
- The tunnel - Many NDE subjects find themselves in a tunnel with a light at its end. They may encounter spirit beings as they pass through the tunnel.
- Communication with spirits - Before the NDE ends, many subjects report some form of communication with a spirit being. This is often expressed a "strong male voice" telling them that it is not their time and to go back to their body. Some subjects report being told to choose between going into the light or returning to their earthly body. Others feel they have been compelled to return to their body by a voiceless command, possibly coming from God.
- Life review - This trait is also called "the panoramic life review." The subject sees his entire life in a flashback. These can be very detailed or very brief. The subject may also perceive some form of judgment by nearby spirit entities.
Near-death experiences and out-of-body experiences are sometimes grouped together, but there are key differences. An OBE can be a component of an NDE, but some people experience OBEs in circumstances that have nothing to do with death or dying. They may still have spiritual elements or feelings of calm. OBEs can happen spontaneously, or drugs or meditation can induce them.
In the next section, we'll take a look at who typically has NDEs and how they're affected.