PHOENIX (FOX 10) -- Have you ever had a near death experience? Have you seen your life flash before your eyes, or maybe an out-of-body experience?
31 years ago, Lesley Lupo died for 14 minutes after being trampled by horses, but it's what happened in those 14 minutes that many people have a hard time believing, because not everyone has had a near death experience.
"I popped out of my body and I stood about 15 feet away, and this was mind-blowing for me because I didn't have any spiritual inclinations," said Lupo, who wrote the book "Every Breath is Precious".
It was an out-of-body experience for then 36-year-old Lupo, as she was trampled by more than eight horses at a ranch in Tucson.
"I didn't understand what was going on. I was just shocked," said Lupo. "And then, about 10 more seconds, I saw one of the horses screamed, and they all bolted, and I watched myself get caught in this and I was almost, like, very slow motion, you know. I spun, my arm went through the stirrup, the horses were running, but I'm dragging now, struggling to get up from my feet, screaming."
Lupo wasn't feeling pain. She describes feeling serenity, despite the physical pain her body was feeling.
"If someone was watching me at that moment, they would have said, oh my god, she suffered so much, and I didn't suffer at all because I didn't feel it," said Lupo. "The horses were kicking at me, and finally, my body flipped away from the hay barn and crumpled, and I knew I was dead, it was over. I started giggling. I looked around the corral, as the dust was settling."
As people rushed to Lupo's side to help her, she was experiencing a different realm. She calls it "upstairs", and for many people, it can be heaven.
For Lupo, who was an atheist, it was confusion.
"Tucson just started fading away," said Lupo. "It started -- movement around me, and suddenly, I'm in a forest. It was like an oak forest with a river behind me, and there were ferms and moss, and it was very, very lush, and the serenity I felt on Earth when I was watching myself let go of my body. It was like taking off a body girdle that was four sizes too small, and throwing it on the bed. I was like woo."
Lupo recalled meeting people she'd never met, but some people report they seeing deceased relatives they had never met, even hearing of events.
"That can be validated by going and finding out the information and say indeed, that person had passed before this person had this experience, and felt they met them in their experiences. That's a veritical (sic) perception," said Chuck Swedrock, with the International Association for Near Death Studies.
The experience was not easy coming back from. Lupo said she felt isolated. For one, it was difficult physically and traumatizing, because no one believed her.
"It was my trip upstairs, and I wanted to talk to everybody about it," said Lupo. "Well, my doctor thought I was hallucinating. I didn't have any drug reaction and I wasn't on drugs. Even in some of the organized religions, no one wants to hear about that, even though you can say to them yes, I know about heaven, I've been there, because everyone treats you like you're a mad man."
For many years, people thought it was either mental illness or hallucination, but when people look at the characteristics of the two, there are some commonalities. However, when you look at the characteristics of mental illness and a near-death experience, there is no common ground.
"For example, the memory of the experience is lucid, and does not change over time. As a matter of fact, at times, it can be kind of trying to hear an experiencer tell all those specific details, because as they begin to be able to share it for the first time to get validation of it, the details for them are the validation of the experience, and the more they remember those details, then they stay with them constantly. Whereas, if you have hallucination or delusion, those things fade in days and hours, and they can't recall the same story twice," said Swedrock.
Lupo isn't the only person who has experienced this. In fact, millions of people around the world have shared their stories. Whether they had an out-of-body experience, saw their life flash in front of their eyes, or made it to a different realm after death, there's a possibility that there is something more.
"If someone wants to think there is nothing, then think that. That's their choice," said Lupo. "I just couldn't ever go back there again."
International Association for Near Death Studies