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Local group discusses near-death experiences

On March 1, 1983, David Bennett died -- and lived to tell about it.

Bennett, a Skaneateles resident, drowned in a vicious storm off the California coast more than 25 years ago. Since then, he's been trying to understand what followed: a near-death experience.

Bennett is the founder of the Upstate New York chapter of the International Association for Near-Death Studies (IANDS), a group whose mission is to "build global understanding of near-death and near-death-like experiences through research, education and support."

"The goal of the group," Bennett said, "is to try to give experiencers a safe place to share their experiences with no judgment."

The group meets every other month. The next meeting will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday May 13 at the Maplewood Inn, 400 Seventh North St. in Salina.

At group meetings, participants generally have the opportunity to hear a speaker with some authority on the topic of near-death and near-death-like experiences. They can also share their own stories. And there may be a lot to tell -- according to IANDS, some 5 percent of U.S. adults -- 13 million people -- have had a near-death or near-death-like experience.

What is a near-death experience?

The term was coined by Dr. Raymond Moody in his 1975 book "Life After Life: The Investigation of a Phenomenon -- Survival of Bodily Death." In the text, Moody, a psychologist and medical doctor, investigates more than 100 case studies of people who experienced clinical death and were subsequently revived. Moody reported that many of those people shared similar experiences while "dead" -- the near-death experience.

According to Moody and subsequent research, there are fifteen common features in near-death experiences, though no two experiences are the same. Common elements include a bright light, heightened perceptions, a life review (going through the experiences of one's life) and encounters with deceased loved ones, among others.

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