Pat Johnson is one of a few people who can say they survived a near death experience.
Johnson was kayaking the Blanco River in 2010 when his kayak tipped over and a strong current pulled him into a large submerged pipe. He lost consciousness and drowned before his body was pushed out of the pipe.
Although his kayaking partner was able to resuscitate him, Johnson’s life was forever changed.
“You’re given messages when you have a near death experience,” he says. “You’re more aware of how connected we all are together and how important it is to forgive and love and serve other people.”
The event left Johnson with a lot of questions. To help answer them, he sought out others who had faced death as he had. Today, he is an active member of the Central Texas chapter of the International Association for Near Death Studies, which meets the second Sunday of every month at the Austin Public Library’s Ruiz Branch.
This weekend the group is hosting its second annual Texas symposium on the near death experience.
“You have to find other people that have had the experience and talk to them because they can relate to what you’re talking about,” Johnson says. “When they understand what you’re talking about, it validates your story – you’re not crazy. It actually happened.”
Johnson says that most people who have not undergone a near death experience are interested in what it’s like to die, something that “experiencers” often don’t focus on when they’re together.
“Most experiencers you meet are very focused on looking forward,” he says. “Most of them are very involved in service-oriented purposes. It’s a motivated group of people [and] for the most part, they’re trying to find their purpose and live it out.”
Johnson views his kayaking accident as “a gift from the river.” He still lives on the Blanco River and says that he wasn’t afraid to get back in the water: “Still to this day I spend as much time out there as I can.”