Comatose, Near Death Experience and Non-Verbal States of Consciousness

The Mindells have written extraordinary books describing their work with people in comatose states and in non-verbal states of consciousness. In Coma: Key to Awakening, Arny Mindell details his discovery that some form of consciousness is present and that by focusing on the patient's subtle signals, practitioners and family members can find a way to communicate with those in remote conditions. These communication tools are being used in hospice and taught to family members who are caring for people in coma, non-verbal states of consciousness, and those near death. Using very subtle communication cues such as the blinking of an eye, a change of color in the face, and slight movements and twitches, the practitioner can establish a communication with the person in a remote state of consciousness. Awareness practices as well as the understanding of symbolic and mythical material, aide the practitioner in unlocking the mystery of these remote states. With this approach, individuals who have emerged from these remote states have reported that they felt assisted and accompanied in their deep inner journey.

The following is an example of a young man near death, dying of AIDS. James had been my client for some time and I made regular house visits as his condition deteriorated. He had expressed to me that he wanted me to be present with him up until the end. His friends had called me to come to the house when he was close to death.

James was in bed and could not speak; he was in and out of consciousness, his eyes moving but unfocussed. The family and friends reported that James had been agitated and had stopped talking a few days before. There were moments when he had seemed lucid, but now they felt he was unreachable. They were trying to keep him comfortable.

I got close to his ear and told him gently that I was here and I believed in him and that we were going to just follow what was happening inside of him. I noticed his right hand was moving. "Hello hand," I said. "What interesting movements you are making." I encouraged him to move his hand even more, to let it fully express itself. He reached his hand downwards towards the side of his right hip. Although he was in bed and under a blanket it looked as if he were trying to get his hands into his pocket. He was making the sound of the letter "k." I guessed and said that his keys were in his pocket. He nodded, giving positive feedback. "You can find the keys James. Just reach in there and get the key." He nodded again.

All of us look for "keys" in life. Keys are symbols for new paths, insights or solutions. They can represent new doors to open or ancient doors to return to. At death they might represent the eternal sense of going home. I used my symbolic understanding of keys to relate further to James. I knew that he had to get the keys but I didn't quite know yet what the key was.

"You got the key James. You can go home. Go ahead, open the door." He suddenly relaxed and was less agitated. His breathing slowed. He then looked at me with big eyes; his eyes focused, and he swung his arm around my neck and pulled me to his chest. This was the key, the door he was opening, the home he was going to: love and connection.

"I can feel your love. Welcome home my friend. You have the love keys. This is home." Tears streamed down his face. We stayed in that special moment for what seemed like forever. Finally he had found the home he had actually been searching for.

Those love keys brought his whole family and friendship circle together. As a gay man he had experienced much adversity, particularly with his family. His father, who had been distant and critical since James had come out, approached the bed gingerly. He laid his hand on his son's shoulder, "I am so sorry. I love you." Everyone was deeply moved.

The experiences that occur in such remote states of consciousness can often be healing, not only for the individual in the altered state, but for the family as well. James died that evening.

Further Readings on Coma Work and Remote States of Consciousness

Mindell, Amy. Coma, A Healing Journey: A Guide for Family, Friends, and Helpers. Portland, Oregon: Lao Tse Press, 1999.
A guide book for family, friends, helpers and health care professionals to communicate with and bring awareness to those in comatose states.

Mindell, Arnold. Coma, Key to Awakening: Working with the Dream Body Near Death. Slambala Publications, 1989, and Penguin-Arkana, 1994.Currently available as an e-book at
A groundbreaking book, suggests ways of working with people in comatose states in order to communicate intelligible information.

Morin, Pierre and Reiss, Gary, Inside Coma: A New View of Awareness, Healing, and Hope.
Due out July 2010

Tomandl, Stan and Richards, Tom, An Alzheimer's Surprise Party: New sentient communication skills and insights for understanding and relating to people with dementia. (2006)

Select One of the Following:
Body Symptoms and Illness
Relationship and Couple's Work
Family Work
Extreme States of Consciousness (so-called Psychiatric diagnoses)
Comatose and Non-Verbal States of Consciousness
Working with Children and Teens
Group and Organizational Facilitation