'Near death experiences' have been reported for centuries, and in an era of internet sharing they barely raise an eyebrow - but few are as startling as that of Anita Moorjani, Rym Ghazal writes.
The startling near-death experience of author Anita Moorjani
'Near death experiences' have been reported for centuries, and in an era of internet sharing they barely raise an eyebrow - but few are as startling as that of Anita Moorjani, who found her true purpose in life only after doctors told her family the end was near.
DUBAI / / Death is the inevitable fate that awaits us all. It is a subject many fear and avoid discussing or thinking about, until it is knocking on their door or that of a loved one.
For Anita Moorjani, death is not so frightening. If anything, it is liberating.
She was on the brink of death, but came back and was reborn, in more than one way.
"People come and ask me, how was it? What was it like? And I tell them, it was wonderful," says Mrs Moorjani, 50.
Reports of "near death experiences" are common, with foundations and research institutions across the world dedicated to their study. There are websites with open forums where people can write in and share what they remembered when they "died".
"There was no white tunnel effect in my case," says Mrs Moorjani, a UK national of Indian origin who grew up and lives in Hong Kong.
"I was told the tunnel effect happens when you die suddenly, like in a car accident, where your soul gets sucked out. I died gradually, and so my experience was different."
Mrs Moorjani is now something of a celebrity: her book Dying to Be Me became a New York Times bestseller within weeks of its publication in March.
Her story was discovered by Dr Wayne Dyer, himself a bestselling self-help author and motivational speaker, who asked the publishing firm Hay House to help her to write her story. Before her book, Mrs Moorjani was an internet sensation after sharing her story on the website of the Near Death Experience Research Foundation, an organisation in the United States that archives thousands of NDEs from all over the world and is run by Dr Jeffrey Long, an oncologist who found her "death" and subsequent recovery remarkable.
She has been invited on to talk shows and to healing institutions across the world. Her latest stop was at the Holistic Institute in Dubai, where she spent a week meeting fans of her book and people struggling with painful issues in their lives, such as the death of a loved one.
Wearing a necklace with a blue eye pendant, bought in Dubai and said to ward off the evil eye, Mrs Moorjani was full of smiles as she met expatriates and Emiratis alike.
From all walks of life and from all religions, people asked her about heaven, about hell, how painful it was, if death is to be feared or to be embraced.
Many of those seeking her advice were married women unhappy with their lives and searching for ways to find meaning and purpose.
"My message is to let go of fear. To remember your magnificence, and that the power lies within you," Mrs Moorjani says.
"I know it is true, as I am the living example of what letting go of fear and negative energy can do."
Mrs Moorjani's story begins when doctors diagnosed Hodgkin's lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph nodes in the immune system, in 2002.
Until then, Mrs Moorjani's life had been a stressful one in corporate marketing. She was always worried about the future and afraid of becoming ill, and ate only organic food and was careful about her health.
"It was this fear and anxiety that I feel led to the birth of the cancer," she says.
For the next four years Mrs Moorjani endured every kind of treatment to try to beat the disease, Eventually, though, it seemed the battle was lost, with egg-sized tumours all around her neck and her breathing dependent on an oxygen mask.
On the morning of February 2, 2006, Mrs Moorjani didn't wake up. She slipped into a coma.
"I could hear everything that was being said around me. I heard the doctor tell my family that I would most likely not make it, as my organs were no longer functioning," she says. "I could feel my husband's hands as he held mine."
Then, slowly, Mrs Moorjani could see her body lying on the hospital bed. She could see outside the room, she could even see her brother boarding a plane in another country, on his way to her.
"It is difficult to describe. But it was like I left my body and my consciousness had expanded, and I was everywhere, in a God-like state, where I could see my loved ones and feel the presence of other souls."
She heard the conversations between her husband and the doctors taking place outside her room, about 12 metres away down a hallway. She later verified what had been discussed with her shocked husband.
"When I went into this other dimension, I felt an overwhelming sense of love and peace. I felt no pain. I found out my purpose in life and what I must do. I realised that the solution to my cancer was always within me," she says.
At first Mrs Moorjani did not want to come back to life in a body ravaged by cancer. Eventually she changed her mind, and woke up with great difficulty, with the sole purpose of recapturing her life.
Within four days, 70 per cent of her cancer had cleared. Within five weeks, she was clear of the disease. Specialists at the hospital declared her case a miracle. Then Dr Peter Ko, an oncologist from the US, took an interest in her case, and flew all the way to Hong Kong to meet her. He made a copy of all the relevant information in her medical records and studied them in great detail.
"He then told me: 'Any way I look at it, you should be dead!'," Mrs Moorjani says.
"Of course, there are many sceptics, and many ask me why I am so lucky to come back and heal, and I tell them, I am nothing special. We all have this inner strength, and I am here just to remind you of it. It is up to you to take what you need from my experience. Miracles are possible."
As for her husband, Danny, throughout the whole ordeal he never lost faith.
"I knew she wouldn't die on me," he says, joking that he is now his wife's personal assistant.
"She is a very different person since she came back to life. She is more childlike, where if there is anything she wants to do, she just does it without stressing or worrying.
"I think that is the secret to a happy life. To be happy with oneself."