The Website of PMH AtwaterOne of the internet's most comprehensive sites on the near-death phenomenon!

One of the internet's most comprehensive sites on the near-death phenomenon!

The "Near-Death Experience" (NDE) has been defined "as a lucid experience associated with perceived consciousness apart from the body, occurring at the time of actual or threatened imminent death." –IANDS

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Any pain to be suffered comes first. Instinctively you fight to live.

That is automatic.

It is inconceivable to the conscious mind that any other reality could
possibly exist beside the earth-world of matter bounded by time and
space. We are used to it. We have been trained since birth to live and
thrive in it. We know ourselves to be ourselves by the external stimuli
we receive. Life tells us who we are and we accept its telling. That,
too, is automatic, and to be expected.

Your body goes limp. Your heart stops. No more air flows in or out.

You lose sight, feeling, and movement – although the ability to hear
goes last. Identity ceases. The "you" that you once were becomes only a

There is no pain at the moment of death.

Only peaceful silence. . . calm. . . quiet.

But you still exist.

It is easy not to breathe. In fact, it is easier, more comfortable, and
infinitely more natural not to breathe than to breathe. The biggest
surprise for most people in dying is to realize that dying does not end
life. Whether darkness or light comes next, or some kind of event, be it
positive, negative, or somewhere in-between, expected or unexpected, the
biggest surprise of all is to realize you are still you. You can still
think, you can still remember, you can still see, hear, move, reason,
wonder, feel, question, and tell jokes – if you wish.

You are still alive, very much alive. Actually, you're more alive after
death than at any time since you were last born. Only the way of all
this is different; different because you no longer wear a dense body to
filter and amplify the various sensations you had once regarded as the
only valid indicators of what constitutes life. You had always been
taught one has to wear a body to live.

If you expect to die when you die you will be disappointed.

The only thing dying does is help you release, slough off, and discard
the "jacket" you once wore (more commonly referred to as a body).

When you die you lose your body.

That's all there is to it.

Nothing else is lost.

You are not your body. It is just something you wear for a while,
because living in the earthplane is infinitely more meaningful and more
involved if you are encased in its trappings and subject to its rules.

Although copyrighted, I give permission for this material to be copied – as long as proper credits are given, the books it comes fromand her website are mentioned. This material was excerpted from two of P.M.H.Atwater's books – "Beyond the Light: The Mysteries and Revelations of Near-Death Experiences" (Avon Books, New York City, 1994), and "We Live Forever: The Real Truth about Death" (A.R.E. Press, Virginia Beach, VA, 2004). It is based on first-person commentaries from over 3,000 adult experiencers of near-death states. Thank you for your courtesy. ~PMH

There is a step-up of energy at the moment of death, an increase in speed as if you are suddenly vibrating faster than before.

Using radio as an analogy, this speed-up is comparable to having lived all your life at a certain radio frequency when all of a sudden someone or something comes along and flips the dial. That flip shifts you to another, higher wavelength. The original frequency where you once existed is still there. It did not change. Everything is still just the same as it was. Only you changed, only you speeded up to allow entry into the next radio frequency on the dial.

As is true with all radios and radio stations, there can be bleedovers or distortions of transmission signals due to interference patterns. These can allow or force frequencies to coexist or commingle for indefinite periods of time. Normally, most shifts up the dial are fast and efficient; but, occasionally, one can run into interference, perhaps from a strong emotion, a sense of duty, or a need to fulfill a vow, or keep a promise. This interference could allow coexistence of frequencies for a few seconds, days, or even years (perhaps explaining hauntings); but, sooner or later, eventually, every given vibrational frequency will seek out or be nudged to where it belongs.

You fit your particular spot on the dial by your speed of vibration. You cannot coexist forever where you do not belong.

Who can say how many spots there are on the dial or how many frequencies there are to inhabit. No one knows.

You shift frequencies in dying. You switch over to life on another wavelength. You are still a spot on the dial but you move up or down a notch or two.

You don't die when you die. You shift your consciousness and speed of vibration.

That's all death is ...a shift.
The most common definition given by the International Association For Near-Death Studies is this: The near-death experience is an intense awareness, sense, or experience of otherworldliness, whether pleasant or unpleasant, that happens to people who are at the edge of death. It is of such magnitude that most experiencers are deeply affected - many to the point of making significant changes in their lives afterward, because of what they went through.


Globally, in the general population at large, 4 to 5% will or have already experienced the near-death phenomenon. In critical care, the number is 12 to 21% of the people have near-death experiences. With children in critical care, the number is much larger, upwards to 50-70%, as established by Melvin Morse, M.D. These numbers indicate that hundreds of millions of people worldwide may have undergone a near-death experience.

What doesn't cause it

Because of four large clinical studies done in three countries, and a plethora of papers published in peer-reviewed journals, it can now be said that the near-death phenomenon is not caused by conditions such as: oxygen deprivation, carbon dioxide in the blood (hypercarbia), optical illusions, temporal lobe excitation/seizures, drug-induced hallucinations, depersonalization, dissociation, reliving birth trauma, culture dependence, dying brain theory, self-fulfilling prophecy, visual deception, or any other known cause. No critic or skeptic of near-death states has ever studied or researched the entire phenomenon as it occurs - which covers the conditions involved, the full slate of scenario elements, how that effects the individual, and the pattern of physiological and psychological aftereffects that tends to be lifelong. . . with both adults and children, including babes being born, after birth, toddlers, and the very young (who talk about their experience when proficient at language, or draw or act it out).

Where research stands at present (11-1-10)

Because of these studies, it can now be said that aspects such as out-of-body experiences, the dead "come back," otherworldly journeys, and spirit beings are typical to the experience and not some kind of anomaly or exaggeration. This has enabled scientists worldwide to use the phenomenon (the experience and the aftereffects) . . .to study consciousness itself.

Within the medical community, what must be addressed are facts like these: during loss of brain function, a person can still have out-of-body states, clear enhanced consciousness, self-identity with emotions, cognition/thought perception, use of faculties, and intact memories. How can a brain produce all of this….when it isn't working? Many of the aftereffects suggest lasting neurological changes (such as synesthesia).

The most common elements

By far the most common element is out-of-body experiences. These can range from the simple viewing of one's body from a space on the ceiling of the hospital room or above the accident scene, looking down; or the more complex, where individuals leave the scene, maybe go home and are there when the call comes through saying they are dead (they see who gets the call and hear what is said), to visiting other cities, areas.

Nearly as often, the light is seen. This light is described by adult experiencers as brighter than a million suns yet it doesn't hurt your eyes to look upon it. This light knows your name, knows all about you, and emits unconditional love and acceptance.

Greeters often come. Usually, greeters are relatives or friends previously deceased, or pets who have died (animal presences are fairly common). They can also be angels, light beings, religious/cultural figures, or the living. Yes, that is true, especially with children. So far, living greeters seem to stay only as long as it takes for the experiencer to calm down and be more relaxed, and then they disappear, replaced by figures more common to near-death scenarios. Occasionally, greeters can be demonic or threatening, or simply critical of the individual.

Occurring less often are life reviews, previews of what is to come, tunnels, reading from or learning about The Book of Life, otherworldly journeys, judgment courts, learning environments, beautiful landscapes or barren ones.

Heaven and Hell

In the research of Dr. Atwater, one out of seven had a hellish or frightening experience. Other researchers encountered more, some not any. It is suspected that perhaps a third of the cases could be this type of uncomfortable occurrence, as most of those who experience it will not talk admit or discuss having had one.

What is known today is that the classical model of near-death scenarios is not classical. Dr. Atwater discovered four types of experiences, which addresses more closely the actual scenarios of both adults and children. Please refer to the Eight Fliers on this website for charts of what Dr. Atwater found, not only with near-death scenarios, but with the pattern of physiological and psychological aftereffects, phases of integration, and so on.

Reported repeatedly is the layered appearance of what exists on the other side of death, as if there were levels to that which is uncomfortable and unpleasant, to layers for that which is comfortable and beneficial. We seem to go to whatever layer or level we resonate with - according to the vibration of our consciousness. Seldom is any top or bottom mentioned. Rather, the arrangement of layers/levels seems open-ended, indicating that choice, growth, and change are possible. The vast majority of near-death experiencers talk about God/Allah/Deity and the soul, even if the individual was formerly an atheist.

Cultural differences

These do exist. For instance, mostly in the industrialized countries do you ever hear anything at all about tunnels or life reviews. In third-world countries, otherworldly journeys and heavenly courts are more common. The pattern itself of the near-death phenomenon holds worldwide, yet how it is described will depend on language constraints and sometimes even on cultural beliefs.

A spiritual experience

The vast majority of near-death experiencers consider the phenomenon to be a spiritual experience, an opportunity to know for certain that God/Allah/Deity exists, and that we are each co-creators with the Creator in making this a better and more loving world. Most return with a clear sense that they have a job to do to help make this happen. Few remember exactly what that job is, yet they set about doing what they can to make a difference. It takes a minimum of seven years to integrate the experience (verified by the Lancet study); some of those years can be depressing and confusing as the individual grapples with how to interpret what happened while dealing with the range of aftereffects.

The survey most often used in the U.S.

The poll most often used estimates 15 million near-death experiencers in the United States (or 5% of the population). This poll was conducted by U.S. News & World Report in 1997. However, the figure more in keeping with actual case reportings in the United States, Holland, and Germany is 4% (which makes 11 million in the U.S.). What is of keen interest to researchers is that the 4% figure for general population groups shows up consistently in countries worldwide. This is why former claims of 20 to 30 million, even of 15 million experiencers, are usually down-scaled.

The new science behind the near-death experience

Pim van Lommel, a Dutch cardiologist, and his Associates, have done the most scientific clinical prospective-study thus far on the near-death experience. Published 12-15-01 in Lancet Medical Journal, it covered 10 hospitals, 344 cardiac patients, in two and eight-year followups (one of Dr. Atwater's findings was verified in this study). Dr. van Lommel asked: "How could clear, continuous consciousness - outside one's body - be experienced at the moment that the brain no longer functions during a period of clinical death, with a flat EEG?" His study and his answer are contained in his new book Consciousness Beyond Life: The Science of the Near-Death Experience, HarperOne, NYC, 2010.

The AWARE study is to follow (Awareness During Resuscitation). Covering several countries, it too is a clinical prospective study - but with only a three-year followup. Findings have not yet been released.

Other new books that are stretching what is known

Jeffrey Long, M.D., with Paul Perry. Evidence of the Afterlife. New York, NY; HarperCollins, 2010. Based on a study of 1,600 cases taken from his Internet site at

Raymond Moody, M.D., with Paul Perry. Glimpses of Eternity. Harlan, IA; Guideposts. Stories of "shared death" experiences.

Edward F. Kelly, Emily Williams Kelly, Adam Crabtree, Alan Gauld, Michael Grosso, and Bruce Greyson. Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century. Blue Ridge Summit, PA; Rowman & Littlefield, 2007.

Edited by Janice Miner Holden, Ed.D, Bruce Greyson, M.D., and Debbie James, RN/MSN. The Handbook of Near-Death Experiences: Thirty Years of Investigation. Santa Barbara, CA; Praeger Publishers, 2009.

P. M. H. Atwater, L.H.D. The Big Book of Near-Death Experiences. Charlottesville, VA; Hampton Roads, 2007. Even though this book was written several years ago, it is still a timely source for updated research worldwide.

Controversial book due out March, 2011 - Now Available for Pre-Order

P. M. H. Atwater, L.H.D. Near-Death Experiences: The Rest of The Story. Hampton Roads, publisher. Combines the 33 years Dr. Atwater spent researching near-death states with nearly 4,000 adults and children, with the years she spent in the sixties and seventies experimenting with and studying altered states of consciousness, mysticism, psychic phenomena, and the transformational process, involving 3,000 plus experiencers. This book establishes that near-death states are not some kind of anomaly, but are, rather, part of the larger genre of transformations of consciousness. Shown are what a transformation of consciousness is, why we have them, why we crave them, and where they lead us. Full of surprises. Controversial. A lifetime achievement.

Books about Dr. Atwater's three near-death experiences

The original version of I Died Three Times in 1977 is a compilation of four articles she wrote for Many Smokes Magazine (published by The Bear Tribe) shortly after her experiences. This original version is still available as a download from her website at The second version, I Died Three Times in 1977 - The Complete Story, is finally available, and as a electronic book through It is because of what she was told by The Voice Like None Other in her third near-death experience that she ever became a researcher of near-death states. Her resume can be found on her website, as well as the links to her blogs, her free newsletters, her YouTubes, and Twitters.

Books about childrens' near-death experiences

Kathy Forti. The Door to the Secret City. No longer available in bookstores, it can be obtained without charge through Orginally published in 1984 by Stillpoint Press, it was the first fictionalized account written by a child experiencer once grown. Refer to Future Memory for Kathy's actual story.

Denise Mendenhall (with the help of her father Doug Mendenhall). In His Arms. Self-published and available from the Mendenhall family. The first book about a child's near-death experience written by the child while still a child. Obtain from Publishing Hope, P. O. Box 282, Mt. Pleasant, UT 84647. Originally published in 2006, the book is both wondrous and disturbing, showing more clearly than ever how differently than an adult a child tends to regard both the experience and its aftereffects.

Aafke H. Holm-Oosterhof. A Journey with the Angel of Light. Done 30 years after-the-fact, this is an account of her near-death experience as a child, plus artwork. The book, however, is only available in Dutch. Contact Aafke directly at or through

Kathryn Diamond. Rachel's Magic Swing. A fictionalized version of a child's near-death experience by a child experiencer now an adult. The Day I Almost Drowned: A Child's Near-Death Experience. At much urging, Kathryn finally wrote about her own story. Both books are self-published and can be obtained at Follow directions.

Michael Martin, with the near-death section by Linda Jacquin. Near-Death Experiences. Published in 2005, this book is part of a series entitled The Unexplained, designed by Capstone Press for students from third to sixth grade reading levels. Capstone Press, 151 Good Council Drive, P. O. Box 669, Mankato, MN 56002. Linda is a child experiencer now grown.

Evelyn Elsaesser-Valarino. Talking with Angel: About Illness, Death, and Survival. Edinburgh, Scotland; Floris Books (available worldwide). A fictionalized account of a child's near-death experience written by a researcher of near-death states.

Carol McCormick. A Bridge for Grandma. Self-published and illustrated. Available from Beavers Pond Press, 7104 Ohms Lane, Suite 216, Edina, MN 55439; A fictionalized account of a child's near-death experience written for children by an author familiar with near-death research.

Melvin Morse, M.D., with Paul Perry. Closer to the Light: Learning from the Near-Death Experiences of Children. New York, NY; Villard Books, 1990. Breakthrough research from a children's doctor.

Cherie Sutherland, Ph.D. Children of the Light: The Near-Death Experiences of Children. Sydney, Australia; Bantam Books, 1995. Another breakthrough book
about children.

P. M. H. Atwater, L.H.D. The New Children and Near-Death Experiences. Rochester, VT; Inner Traditions/Bear & Co., 1999/2003. (Originally published in short form as Children of the New Millennium by Three Rivers Press, NYC.) An in-depth study of not only children's near-death experiences but of their aftereffects and the different way children have of dealing with them. A large resource section.

A Blog for research on the paranormal

International clearing house for information about near-death states

International Association For Near-Death Studies (IANDS), 2741 Campus Walk Avenue, Building 500, Durham, NC 27705; (919) 383-7940;;

Search Key Words on the NDE News Blog: , , , ,


After what happened to me in 1977, I could no longer relate to myself as a person. “Her” habits, personality, clothing, possessions, and lifestyle were foreign and irritating to me; yet, when I looked in the mirror, there she would always be, looking back, all five feet seven, nearly two hundred pounds of her. She was shaped like a pudgy balloon with a deep sadness in her eyes and a washed-out face rimmed with short wavy hair. There was ample proof in her belongings that she had once been a bouncy, spontaneous woman with a love of song and a lust for adventure be it exploring caves or ghost towns, and she adored rocks. Everywhere I turned, there were rocks, even in her purse. Rocks in her head too, I mused. It took me a long time to figure out the whats and wherefores of my own existence, and I went through many stages in what later became a program of self-discovery. Reassessing the nature of “self” was one aspect of that program. Here is what I was finally able to clarify:

I truly am an immortal soul, an extension of the
Divine, who temporarily resides within a carbon-
based form of electromagnetic pulsations that
produces a solid-appearing, visual overleaf of
behavior patterns more commonly referred to as
a “personality.” The name of the person I was is
really a name given to my personality, my temporal
self, but the real me is I AM. And what I AM
everyone else is, for all of us are cells in the Greater
Body, expressions of the One God.

This clarification of my true identity flooded me with so much joy that I could hardly contain myself. Almost immediately, though, I ran afoul of a simple question: Since I am an immortal soul, why do I need a body?

The human body and my presence in one had to be faced if life on the earthplane was ever again going to make any sense to me. Now that I knew my greater identity, maybe my body had a greater identity, to. To find out, I took another look.

Examining my body more closely, I beheld a dense, slow-moving conglomerate composed of layers and levels of multitudinous life-forms arrayed in various sizes, shapes, colors, and designs. Each minute particle was quite alive, active and noisy, intelligent, a being unto itself. I was in charge of this collection in the sense that I as a soul provided the force field necessary to hold everything and everyone together and in place, similar to how God’s Presence holds together and in place all of Creation. Yet we coexist, my body collective and I, as teammates, a miniature version of the universe at large, a microcosm of the macrocosm.

This meant to me that I am the guardian of my part of the universe because mine is the major power source the others within me are plugged into. Should I leave, my teammates would eventually wither and die. As long as I stay, we can all then accomplish our given tasks, learn and experience whatever we need to, grow-change-recycle and grow-change-recycle, until we are free to disconnect our vibratory alignment and go our separate ways - die, if you will, to the physical.

There is choice, mutual choice, theirs to be where they are, mine to be where I am. It is no accident we are together sharing the same journey, but it is mainly up to me to provide the direction we travel for I, as a soul, have a larger energy surge, am more highly developed, and can see farther ahead. As I am the source of power for the membership within my body, God is the Greater Source wherein my help comes. God, then, is the central current, that all-encompassing power source everything ultimately plugs into for the kind of sustenance that enables existence to exist.

In coming to grips with this understanding, life - mine and everyone else’s - began to make sense. I could acknowledge my body as the living temple of The Living God, filled with beings cycling through births and deaths and rebirths as they, too, grew and evolved, all the myriad forms of intelligence, all the promise and the potential, all that was inside me. . . this my body, the incredible collective I wear. What a privilege. What a remarkable privilege to be here, to be me, to be a soul sojourning through the earthplane with a whole conclave of intelligence accompanying me, a conclave that shares my challenges and opportunities All of us evolving. All of us changing.

When I at last accepted my body, I also accepted the responsibility that came with wearing it. In recognizing that I was once again back inside its protective folds, I could then comfortably claim my body as “mine.” If you conclude from this rendering that I was completely detached from self and body as an integral unit following my near-death experiences, you would be correct. I knew myself to be a soul and I knew the Source of My Being. What I could not relate to or even conceive of, however, was the idea that name-body-personality-incarnation could ever be separate or distinct in any manner from my true identity as a soul. this made no sense to me, neither did the earthplane.

When the day came that I could finally claim my persona and my body and feel good about that claim, I was surprised to discover how much my body had changed from before. There were differences, and those differences took some getting used to. After having sessions with thousands of experiencers over several decades, I came to realize that the near-death phenomenon and other similar transformative events, if intense, complex, or at all impactual, can and do produce physical changes in the human body as well as stimulate mental, emotional, and spiritual awakenings. Adjusting to them can be an enormous challenge.

(Ref: Future Memory, P.M.H. Atwater, Charlottesville, VA; Hampton Roads, 1999)

I experienced different aspects of breathing and different levels of aliveness in dealing with the aftermath of my near-death episodes. Certainly our physical body is set up to breathe air and support our activity in the earthplane. But our physical body is not our only body. We have another one, rarefied of substance, that enables us to equally participate in realms of pure essence, our Source Place. The air-breathing body is visible. Its spirit counterpart is invisible. Appearing as separate - a physical body and a spirit body - they’re both simply differing features of the same energy package that helps us to exist here.

One way I found to understand the basics of our immediate packaging was to realize that we operate continuously through four fields of energy: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. This is how I would describe their makeup:

* Physical - temperature, odor, electromagnetics,
density factors; all of which are measurable scientifically.

* Emotional - feelings, sensations, attachments,
expressions; all of which are automatically sensed
or felt organically.

* Mental - thoughts, ideas, perception, memory; all of
which are analyzed and processed intellectually.

* Spiritual - insight, wisdom, knowing, creativity; all
of which transcend avenues of definability.

Beyond, yet interpenetrating the energy fields that enable us to function as we do, I observed the layers of rarefied substance that make up our spirit body. They were like sheaths or coverings, and they layered the visible body in much the same fashion as onion skin layers around an onion’s seed core. Each layer was finer and more subtle than the previous, extending out in refinements of energy or spirit essence from the physical body to a distance that fluctuated according to a person’s mood and state of health - from several inches to several yards, or more.

That which can readily be seen is termed the aura and appears as a band of color emanating from the body. Contrary to popular notions, though, the full aura encompasses the totality of the energy fields and layered refinements of spirit that envelope us. Within that totality are myriad strata of hue, tone, and shape.

Our extended packaging has to do with access to and the interrelationships we have with the vastness of the invisible - what some call the paranormal. This includes things like sensing or sighting ghosts and ghostly scenes, apparitions, disincarnates, demons, phantoms, spirit manifestations, nature spirits, strange visuals, bright ones, dark ones, lights of all kinds, guardians, spirit keepers, wee folk, angels, and alien types. We tend to toss anything that exceeds acceptable definitions of reality into the “dust bin of the dubious” - alias, that which is psychic or “occult.”

Occult means “secret.” If you’ve gone to a newsstand recently or watched television, you’ve seen for yourself that reports about extrasensory perception (ESP), psychic abilities, and psychic phenomena are hardly secret. In truth, psychic abilities are really just enhancements of faculties normal to us - varied expressions of one mechanism - that helps us to survive and thrive. Such enhancements enrich our lives immeasurably.

Individual learning styles, I discovered, have more to do with how and what a person accesses from the invisible worlds than anything psychic. For instance, auditory learners often hear voices or pick up the easiest on specific sounds or music. Visual learners respond more readily to shape and color, as with symbols, visions, images, and light. Kinesthetic learners can be very touch-oriented and speak of feelings as if sensation itself was their primary language.

To put the idea of extended packaging into some kind of framework, below is a drawing of islands, which illustrates how in the “ocean” of created things, the realm of the invisible (what is below the surface) extends, supports, and makes possible that which is visible and immediate to our needs (what is on or above the surface).


all that is visible and tangible, the realm of the conscious mind
invisible reality that supports manifestation, the realm of the subconscious mind
interconnecting foundation/source of all existence, the realm of the superconscious

(Ref: We Live Forever, P.M.H. Atwater, Virginia Beach VA; A.R.E. Press, 2004)

After my three near-death experiences, I was challenged to relearn the simple art of breathing, and, in doing so, I rediscovered the aliveness possible for a soul inhabiting a physical body on the earthplane. I had already witnessed the fuller significance of breath while I was on the Other Side. My task at that time was to transfer this greater knowing to the physical and in a practical manner that would make a positive difference in my ability to reclaim my place as an individual who was alive and well. The result was this discovery: how a person holds his/her fingers determines to a large extent how the air flows into each lobe of the lungs.

Anyone who practices yoga learns this, that there are certain finger positions that can be used to direct and control the air we breathe. The science that backs this up is impressive and best learned in a yoga class; still, one of these finger positions is more valuable and in more ways than teachers mention - the position for “low-chest breathing.”

As directed in the drawing:

tips of index finger and thumb
touch lightly to create a circle
- other fingers hang loose
and open.

Placing the fingers of both hands in this position automatically enables the air we breathe to fill all five lobes of our lungs, while grounding or stabilizing our air in the lower lobes - which are located just above our diaphragm and solar plexus (the mid-point in our bodies). Putting your fingers this way as often as you can (while watching a movie or television show, while taking a walk, while meditating, etc.), for at least six months, and once-in-a-while thereafter, retrains your breath flow as it increases your lung capacity. And this is done without special exercises, counting breaths, or learning special techniques. Just get in the habit of holding your fingers in the low-chest position from time to time - and reap the benefits.

I did, and here’s what happened to me: not only were my lungs more powerful after doing this (I could sing a note of music and hold it longer than a trained opera singer), I became more patient, calmer, steady on my feet, felt much more comfortable and at ease with my body, could think better and make reasoned decisions easier, was more alert. . . and became more interested in and motivated by spiritual practices. All this resulted from the simplest of acts, a technique I have taught to thousands of people since, and with the same benefits claimed by those who did it.