Practicing Conscious Living and Dying: Stories of the Eternal Continuum of Consciousness, by Annamaria Hemingway
O Books, 9781846940774, 218 pp. (incl. bibliography and works cited), 2008

The book opens with an introduction to near death experiences, or NDEs, offering an overview of what happens, then follows with several stories recounted by individuals who’ve died and “come back”, naturally with a sense of greater purpose and an increased zest for life.

Following a section on views on death in various cultures are many of the stories which revolve around grief and loss, including Hemingway’s personal story. Some tales speak of “visitations” from the deceased.

This isn’t my usual sort of book, but when it came in for review from O Books I thought I’d give it a chance. I hadn’t read anything of this sort since I was a kid first getting interested in ghost stories. Yet I recalled a pattern. This type of book relies heavily on personal stories, circumstantial evidence which is supposed to convince the reader that there is “more” beyond death. Even when young, I’ve always been confused as to why this seems so important.

Hemingway does say some sensible things, such as pointing out that “We need a philosophy of life that ultimately becomes a practice for the act and art of living and dying well”.1 Wisely, she writes “it i impossible to avoid the death of the physical body, but one can leave the memory of a life well-lived to those left behind, planting a seed for future generations to tend and cultivate.”2 It’s a shame this sort of thinking wasn’t explored further. Without it, it all seems rather pointless.

For what it is, it’s a well written book, often moving, and it’s great that it seemed meaningful to those involved, but if you were to take a random guess what an NDE might be like, you’d come up with a story similar to the ones recounted here. I simply don’t understand what I’m supposed to get out of it. Is this supposed to be comforting?

  1. p. 63 []
  2. p. 74 []