Exploring Life After LifeDec 02, 2013 03:29PM ● By Jon D’Auria
Charles Swedrock and Susan Amsden
The Tucson affiliate of the International Association for Near Death Studies (IANDS) offers insight into near-death and spiritually transformative experiences (NDE/STE), while offering comfort and education on the mysteries of life and death.
Charles Swedrock first became interested in near-death experiences in the early 1980s, when his dentist told him a story about a client that had gone to the “other side”. More than 20 years later, Swedrock himself experienced an incident where he lost a lot of blood from a bleeding esophagus and found himself with zero pulse in the back of an ambulance, where he experienced a serenely peaceful moment that surrounded him with light.
“I see my path in this field as a 25- year journey from the first time I heard about an NDE to a mystical experience following my brother’s suicide to the growth pains going through divorce plus other exceptional experiences, all of which led me to where I am now,” explains Swedrock. “In 2004, I started an IANDS group in upstate New York, then went to a conference in Chicago, where I met some people on the IANDS board of directors. At the end of that year, they invited me to join the board on which I served for over six years.”
It was at that meeting in Chicago where Swedrock met Susan Amsden, a Michigan resident at the time, who had an interest in NDEs ever since she lost her mother at a very young age. Two years later, after each had experienced disruption to their previous lives, they met again, which eventually led to a move to the Southwest, where they cofounded the Tucson branch of IANDS.
The Tucson IANDS (TIES) meets once a month at Unity of Tucson, where they host a guest speaker that is typically an expert in the field or an author that has experienced an NDE. The group also meets once a month to offer a support group where people can come to connect and share their experiences and feed their curiosity about the afterlife in a like-minded, intimate setting. Over the last three years, monthly meetings have grown to an average of nearly 150 people, while some speakers attract more than 600 attendees.
“Our goals as a group are to provide awareness of published research, to educate on the topic and to provide a support group,” says Amsden. “The sharing itself is a big part of it. Just the validation of having someone listen to what you said is very healing. I grew up afraid of dying, because I experienced my mother’s death when I was young, but hearing near-death experiences in person significantly helped me over that fear.”
“One motto that emphasizes our goals is, ‘Being human ties us all together as one,’” says Swedrock. “We’re all in this together as humans, no matter what culture, background or belief; you’re a part of it. We’re each unique, but when we look to bigger things, that’s what brings us together. People feel isolated and get put in boxes by their families or religions or educational backgrounds, and we offer a place to come together and take down those walls.”
The national organization of IANDS began 36 years ago, when Dr. Raymond Moody wrote the book, Life After Life, in which he coined the term “near-death experience”. From that point on, clinicians and academics got together and conducted studies, but found no outlet that would publish their work. They decided that they needed their own organization, and so IANDS was formed. While the group is focused primarily on NDE, anyone is welcome to participate and discuss larger concepts such as mortality, spirituality, synchronicity, life after death and all of the other great “imponderable” questions of life.
“About 35 percent of our members have experienced near-death situations, and many more have been spiritually transformed and some of them are seekers. Maybe they had a drug experience that they can’t quite understand. We also have people who have been grieving, because this provides amazing comfort for them,” explains Amsden.
“Going to these meetings is another experience in itself to everyone, you can just feel the energy,” Swedrock agrees. “You feel camaraderie and unconditional love like nothing else in the world. They’re trying to bring the heaven that they felt right here to Earth. We say that everyone is an experiencer, and sometimes it’s from just linking together the synchronicities in life that become too obviously coincidental. When you start to see more of them, they start to open you up, and your life becomes so much more meaningful and fearless.”
Meetings are offered for a $5 donation. For more information, call 520-395-2365 or visit tucsoniands.org.
Jon D’Auria is a frequent contributor to Natural Awakenings.