This is a review of the book Practicing Conscious Living and Dying: Stories of the Eternal Continuum of Consciousness by Annamaria Hemingway. I’ve been sent this book for a review by Annamaria’s publisher.

I was not sure what to expect from this book, when I received it for a review. Annamaria has contacted me in August 2007 and told me the book was about “researching survival of consciousness” and that she would arrange a review copy for me when the book publishes in January 2008. I’m interesting in this topic very much, so I, naturally, agreed. But let me tell you, although this book deals with the subject of research of consciousness, it is much more than that.

About the structure of the book. The book is divided into 3 sections. Each section has an introductory chapter, followed by a number of personal stories. There are 16 such personal stories in the book. The sections are:

  1. Near-Death Experiences – Not the end but a new beginning (5 stories)
  2. Dying to experience Life (4 stories)
  3. Birth, death and rebirth: A continuum of consciousness (7 stories)

In the first section, there’s an introduction into NDE (Near Death Experience). Annamaria covers the subject from a historic perspective, by describing historic writings, such as Republic by Socrates and the Myth of Er by Plato which also touches the subject of dying and the world beyond. From historical accounts she moves into modern era research, such as those conducted by Dr. Pim van Lommel, Dr. Michael Sabom, Dr. Peter Fenwick and others. It is a good introduction into the subject of NDE, OBE and related research. The five personal stories tell different accounts of NDEs, including the personal background, the NDE experience itself and its effect on the life of the person. From the story of Reuben who wanted to commit suicide, through story of Tiffany, who was struck by a lightning, all the accounts are very interesting and in all of them the experience changes the lives of the people in a very strong way and in the positive direction.

The third section (I’ll return to the second) deals with the subject of the spiritual world, the continuum of consciousness, mediumship and other aspects of spirituality. The personal stories following the introductory chapter, are very touching as they usually deal with the deaths of close ones and later contact with them, either through mediums or some other way.

But the stories in the second section are those that made me cry when I read the book. There is nothing supernatural in these stories, except maybe the almost supernatural compassion that people may feel after being touched by the death of the loved ones. These 4 stories alone are worth the entire book, even you have no interest in NDE’s, spirits etc. Take the story of Joanne Cacciatore who gave birth to a stillborn and how this experience changes her life into a life of great compassion as she established the Kindness Project. She also befriend Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and then continued her work of teaching people to come to terms with the dying process.

Story of Peter Samuelson whose almost random act of helping a child dying from cancer to fulfill a dream turned him into establishing several philanthropies to help ill children pulled a lot of tears from my eyes. Other stories are very emotional as well and they give a small glimpse into the lives of some great people who after seeing death changes their life to help others in very remarkable ways. I believe these are the stories that tell about how to live and die consciously.

This is one of the more interesting and touching books I’ve read in a long time. Being interested in NDEs and the survival of consciousness I found the book very inspirational and thought provoking. It is not a scientific book, although it cites scientific work, and it is not written in such a manner. The book is written by a woman and it can be felt in the writing. It was much more emotional than I expected a book on NDE to be.

I can wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone. Even if you don’t take the subject of NDE and life after death too seriously, the stories are interesting and touching nonetheless. And if you are interested in these subjects then your enjoyment of the book will only be larger and more complete.