The emotion that Nancy Rynes remembers most when she woke up on that January day in 2014 was anger.
It wasn’t anger at the texting driver that had hit her while she bicycled around the Lafayette roundabout. It wasn’t anger about the injuries …
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WHAT: International Association of Near Death Studies 2017 Conference
WHEN: Aug. 3-6
WHERE: Westin Hotel, 10600 Westminster Blvd.
TICKETS: $40 for individual sessions to $595 for the full conference.
The emotion that Nancy Rynes remembers most when she woke up on that January day in 2014 was anger.It wasn’t anger at the texting driver that had hit her while she bicycled around the Lafayette roundabout. It wasn’t anger about the injuries she suffered as she was dragged some 50 feet under the young woman’s car or the work that surgeons were doing to save her life.Rynes was angry because she knew she had been sent back from the paradise she recalled and was irrevocably among the living after being legally dead for some two minutes.“I didn’t know what to do with all this,” Rynes said. “I felt like I was crazy. What had just happened? I didn’t have any words, and I didn’t say anything to anybody. I didn’t want to get committed to a psych ward. I didn’t know this happened to people.”Rynes is one 75 of near-death experience survivors and researchers due Aug. 3-6 at Westminster’s Westin Hotel for the International Association of Near Death Studies annual conference.The conference is expecting between 350 and 400 people, according to Jacquie Arnold, the local organizer of the event.“We are getting people from all over the world, providing they can afford to come and fly in to Denver and stay in a hotel,” she said. “They tend to be very gung ho and focused on the subject. It is a great conference.”Tickets for individual sessions range from $40 to $70. Multiple-session tickets for non-members range from $230 for only the morning sessions up to $595 for the full conference.The association is also offering a live video stream of the conference, available by purchasing a digital package for $125.The conference is hosting two free sessions open to anyone. The first is a workshop discussion geared for veterans at 4:30 p.m. Aug. 5. The second is a Spanish-language session at 2:30 p.m. Aug. 6.All sessions are located at the Westin Westminster, 106000 Westminster Blvd.“The whole phenomenon of near-death experience has collateral factors going on,” Jacobs said. “Basically, it provides comfort for people who have a fear of death because they have a terminal illness or because they have been told when they grew up that the afterlife is about pain and torture. It takes away all of that stuff because 95 percent of near-death experiences, even for horrible people, are in a place of unconditional love without judgment.”The experiences come from across cultures and age groups, she said.“You can have a third-grade education and have one,” she said. “You can be a doctor.”But it’s more than just people telling stories, she said. The conference is designed to show people they have something in common with one another and that something does happen that society is still figuring out.“We try to comfort people and say this is a real phenomena that has be been researched and validated,” she said.Minutes or monthsRynes was an atheist and a skeptic working as a geologic scientist in Boulder before her experience in 2014. She’d gone for a bike ride, but had been struck by a car while she navigated a roundabout. She remembers bouncing onto the hood of the car and looking at the driver’s face before she slipped under the car.“They couldn’t count the number of fractures I had,” Rynes said. “They could count the fractured bones but not the number of fractures.”It was later, at the hospital, when she died. Surgeons were working to repair the damage to her spine when she flatlined and was legally dead for about two minutes, she said.“But for me, it felt like a couple of months,” she said. “If I could put an equivalent time to what I experienced it would have had to be two or three months in physical reality.”Rynes said she woke up in a beautiful landscape infused with a feeling of love. She was surrounded by encouraging voices, and one in particular who began giving her spiritual lessons.“It was like going to graduate school for spiritual development,” she said. “We walked and talked and she taught me things, like what divine love really is and the importance of it and the importance of our own sense of choice and the choices we make in this life.”Eventually, however, she learned that she had to return to her life.“I kind of threw a temper tantrum, a serious 2-year-old meltdown, while I was talking with her,” she said.But she was back, cut off from where she’d been. She mostly kept her experience to herself while she healed, eventually speaking to a hospital chaplain and finding the International Association of Near Death Studies online.“About a year later, I got to a point where I was able to talk to other people about what I’d experienced,” she said.It’s what she does now, as a paid speaker at conferences and gatherings like the one in Westminster.`Love is the commonality’Rex Finfgeld, another featured speaker at the conference, said Rynes experience is fairly normal.“There are experiences out there of the so-called `Hell’ experience,” Finfgeld said. “There are a handful of those out there, but by and large the commonality that people experience is love.”Finfgeld was climbing a tree along a Broomfield bike path in 2011, when he fell, landing on his head. He suffered multiple broken bones as well but was in a coma for five days.“Mine was more simple than others,” he said. “It felt like a moment, but in that moment was everything. I felt like I was experiencing my own true being.”Like Rynes, he emerged from his coma with a story to tell.“It was more like waking up and remembering old information that was already there,” he said.He, too, is a regular speaker at similar conferences.“First of all, I’ve been able to let go of my past and the things that held me down,” he said. “All my insecurities, my angers, my fears — it all melted away. And all I feel now is love.”
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