Mary Jo Rapini is a highly respected and renowned licensed professional counselor, psychotherapist, and certified sex therapist based in Houston, Texas. With an impressive career spanning over two decades, Mary Jo has established herself as a leading expert in the field of mental health, relationships, and sexuality.
Known for her compassionate and empathetic approach, Mary Jo has touched the lives of countless individuals and couples, helping them navigate through various challenges and find healing and growth. She possesses a unique ability to create a safe and non-judgmental space where clients feel comfortable sharing their deepest concerns and vulnerabilities.
Mary Jo’s expertise extends to a wide range of areas, including depression, anxiety, trauma, grief, and self-esteem issues. She is particularly recognized for her work in the realm of relationships and sexuality. Her comprehensive knowledge and understanding of these topics have made her a sought-after professional in the media, with appearances on popular television shows like “Dr. Phil” and “The Doctors.”
Mary Jo’s mission is to build and encourage healthy, strong relationships, beginning with the most important relationship of all – the one with yourself. Every relationship you will ever have depends upon your ability to understand and get along with yourself.
Listen to more great episodes at Next Level Soul Podcast
Follow Along with the Transcript – Episode 298
Mary Jo Rapini 0:00
I could smell blood. And I kept saying, Am I bleeding? And they said, Well, you're not bleeding on the outside, but we think you haven't, we think you have a bleed in your brain. And they were, you know, doing all these different tests they put me in the ambulance. And an aneurysm is, is just so painful, especially when it bursts, because there's a blood brain barrier. And, you know, even if you get a drop of blood, you know, when they do a spinal aspiration, they make you lay in bed for 24 hours, because even one drop is so toxic to the central nervous system to the brain that it can, it can cause irreparable damage
Alex Ferrari 0:46
I like to welcome to the show, Mary Jo Rapini. How you doing Mary Jo?
Mary Jo Rapini 0:59
Doing well, thank you!
Alex Ferrari 1:01
Thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing your your remarkable story in journey with us on this episode. My first question to you before we get into the nitty gritty of your near death experience is, what was your life like prior to your near death experience?
Mary Jo Rapini 1:16
Well, you know, I, it's interesting, because prior to it, I was working in Lubbock, Texas, and I wasn't really doing what I was trained for, I'm actually an intimacy sex therapist. And because of Lubbock Oaks community, it was a little bit more conservative. This was in 1993, through through 2003, that I was there. And basically, I ended up going to a Coleman for breast cancer party because I was invited, because of the medical center. And my husband and I were both part of that community. So I went to that, and I met an oncologist there, and he told me, I was looking for a job. And he told me that he wanted to hire a psychologist to run his support groups. And I was really fascinated by that. I'd never done that. So I took that on as, as my new goal. And I got all these books and did a quick study. And basically, I became something I hadn't been and I was attending hospice training, and Clinical Pastoral training. And during that, I was also getting somewhat of a jaded attitude about God and, and mercy, because I saw such terrible things happening. The Lubbock is a hub city for really bad cancer or really bad anything. Because the people in that community oftentimes don't go to the hospital, they're afraid of doctors. And so anything they get there is almost too far, it's impossible to prevent. So I saw a lot of death and dying, and I just, I wasn't nothing could have prepared me for that.
Alex Ferrari 3:08
No, were you spiritual at all? Did you have a religious at all prior to the near death experience?
Mary Jo Rapini 3:12
You know, I grew up Roman Catholic, but I felt after I went to college, I always felt a reverence for God. And I did feel like I would go to church, I would feel distant. If I wasn't going through the Catholics have a very strong ritual of communion and Eucharist. And I would miss that if I didn't do it. But during the time that I was in Lubbock, I had fallen away from that too. I was going to mentor for my kids, but I really wasn't. I really wasn't attending and my heart and soul.
Alex Ferrari 3:51
Gotcha would did you ever question it, or it was just kind of like the dogma you were kind of this disillusioned with but you still had a connection with a higher power.
Mary Jo Rapini 3:59
I had a connection. I used to tell everybody I was a Catholic, Jewish Buddha. And that's kind of I had more of an objective, more of a theological type, feeling about religion. I always believed in God, but I was shaken about anything that had to do with the Bible or Christ, or because that was not what I was seeing. And I, at the time of my incident, I was very estranged from God in my own thoughts compared to what I am now.
Alex Ferrari 4:37
So what happened on that fateful day?
Mary Jo Rapini 4:40
I, well, you know, I'm a big exerciser. And I was, I was training at that time we were going to move back to Houston, so I wanted to get in good shape. I was a runner. And so I was over at Gold's Gym that morning, and I was working out I just done a spin class and my goal was to Lift my weight with my upper body since I could benchpress, two times my bait weight with my lower body. So I was working on one of the machines. And it was a shoulder machine where you press and I pressed close to my body weight was like 98 pounds. And when I was done with that I saw stars. And I thought, man, and plus I had uncontrolled blood pressure. And that should be said, like I, I was, I had gone to the doctor for blood pressure medication, but because of my athletic newness, and I was thin, they told me that I was probably anxious, and they were reluctant to give me blood pressure medicine, which is something everybody watch should pay attention to. Because I definitely had it. And I was pushing this machine. And all of a sudden I felt like a knife in the back of my neck. And, and it for a while all I could see were like pinholes out of the side of my head. And if it sounded like I was underwater, like I couldn't I was disoriented. So I thought maybe I was having a vasovagal because I've always had that kind of blood pressure that it can go up. And then it can drop really fast. And that will cause a vasovagal and I'm sorry, if I'm using medical terms, but my training before I was a psychologist, I was a nurse. And so I understand the medical field. In fact, when this happened, I thought I had had some kind of a central nervous system, you know, injury, like I thought maybe I broke my neck, although logically, I didn't know how that would happen. So I got up from the machine. And I thought maybe I just need water. And when I when I got up, I was really off balance, like I couldn't see and I really couldn't hear. So I kind of stumbled to the bubbler. And when I pushed down on the lever, my whole right side just started like seizing it was just involuntary jumping up and down. I had no no control over it. And that really scared me. So at that point, I just lay down. And this one guy came back who was always lifting weights, and he said, Hey, muscle woman, what's the matter? And I said, Go Go call an ambulance, I think I broke my neck. And then from there, Gold's Gym, staff came back, and it was a Saturday. So it was pretty light in the gym. It was early in the morning.
Alex Ferrari 7:41
So then what happened?
Mary Jo Rapini 7:43
Well, they called an ambulance. And the ambulance came, and I had a feeling like I could smell blood. And I kept saying, Am I bleeding? And they said, Well, you're not bleeding on the outside, but we think you haven't, we think you have a bleed in your brain. And they were, you know, doing all these different tests, they put me in the ambulance. And an aneurysm is, is just so painful, especially when it bursts, because there's a blood brain barrier. And, you know, even if you get a drop of blood, you know, when they do a spinal aspiration, they make you lay in bed for 24 hours, because even one drop is so toxic to the central nervous system to the brain that it can, it can cause irreparable damage. And this was my whole head was full of blood. And so basically, it hurt so bad, that all I could think to do was was just to submit and I I just told God, you know, I can't handle this. I've had a good life. And, and your will be done. I mean, I really, I really thought I was going to die. I wanted to die. I couldn't think of any other way to escape. What I was feeling.
Alex Ferrari 9:09
So did you so what happened next? Did you actually pass?
Mary Jo Rapini 9:13
Well, I nodded that point. Basically when I did that, I got this incredible calming over me like it really wasn't human because I'm a very anxious person and, and I just, I just let go, I just let go into him. And they took me to the hospital and they called my husband he was getting his hair cut and he was already living in Houston but he was home that weekend because it was Easter and and so they located him and and they all knew him because he had been there on staff for nine years. And he came back after seeing the CAT scan. And he just said Mary, he looked white as a sheet. And he just said, Mary, your head is just full of blood. And, and this is really scary. We were not sure what we're going to do, but we think we might move you over the other hospital because they have to get an angiogram. And he was concerned because I just, I just didn't care. I was so relaxed. I really didn't care. Like, I believe. I believe God was already talking to me. He was talking in the way God talks like, it's not just feel him, you know, he's there. So, anyway, they sent me across to another hospital, across the street, and in an ambulance, and then I got checked in there. And they tried to do an angiogram, but all the neurologists were out of town that weekend for a meeting in Santa Fe. And so they had a pediatric neurologist to it, but there was so much blood, when they went in, they couldn't locate anything. So they recommended that, that they stabilize me. And until some of the blood had dissipated, they put a drain in my brain to help with the swelling. And they which was atrocious. And and then I just remember that, that I was there in their surgical ICU. And my husband was with me and different people were coming up, you know, family members, my daughters, my daughter, one of my daughters came the other one was terrified, and she did not want to see me like that. So anyway, until Easter Sunday, everything was pretty much normal. They this the neurosurgeon who had retired who was in town, from Texas Tech, talk to my husband, as did a Euro, a neurologist he knew from Tufts University on the East Coast. And they suggested sending me to Dallas on a Learjet, they pressurize them, and they could send me the only problem was Ron could not go with me. And they there was a high percentage chance that I could die in route. And we've been married a long time. And one of our one of our packs, is we're not going to die alone. And so Ron said, I just can't take that chance. Like I'm going to I'm going to wait, the guys, the neurologists were coming back to Lubbock, I think on Monday. And so anyway, the I, I seem to be doing better, like I had more visitors and people were coming by and my color was still bad. And on Tuesday, it looked really green. Like I was starting to get kind of a greenish yellow. And, and that night, I had some friends come in they one of my friends told my husband who this friend was a radiologist and she said, you know, she doesn't look good. Her color looks really scary to me. Well, that night, when I when I went to bed, I felt I felt pretty happy. Like I felt grateful. I never thought about going home. I just I just was in a whole nother space Alex and, and they weren't giving me any mind altering drugs. Like we pulled everything from the chart. It was more what was going on. Like I was talking with God. And then early Wednesday morning, the nurse came in I you know, they do those checks and all of a sudden they all started turning on lights. And and they the nurse told me honey we called your husband you are going to move to ICU, you are not doing well. And and I said okay, I didn't feel real well either. I mean, it's a painful, you just feel sick. And so I was in there and, and Ron, all of a sudden, and I'm telling you kind of fading in and out how it is like you You notice things and then that stops and then and then you get a new glimpse. Ron was by my side and he said Mary, they're going to have to do surgery and and they're going to locate they think they can locate where this bleed is and and they're going to have to do a clip because they can't coil it. So that means they've got to open up your brain. And they've told me that you may never walk again, you may never run, your personality might be completely different. And, and as he was talking to me, all of a sudden, I saw this like, light, and it was up on the right hand corner, like, not behind my head in front, like the corner, I would look at lying in a bed. And because I had worked with all this death and dying with hospice, and I, I've seen patients die. I, I've heard their stories, even little kids. I looked up there because I used to work in the OCR, I worked in every, every type of room in a hospital. And I thought, what is that because it is not a normal light. It is it is not human. And I and then I thought is that is that the light, they're taught, they talk about, like, my consciousness was fully functioning, but I'm talking to myself. And then I'm, then I'm thinking, it's not impressive. Like, I can't go into that. And all of a sudden, the light like I was in it, I don't know how it happened. And I was kind of, I think, I think I was like floating up, but I had, I don't know if my positioning was upright or lying down, but I was just going up to, to the light. And then I remember my eyes could see behind me too. And, and I remember seeing my body. I remember seeing Ron Ron was like crying and just looked miss. Just miserable. I remember seeing these people rushing around the bed. I remember their shoes, one of the doctors had terrible scuffed up shoes, and all these things like you could not have seen had you not had an aerial view. You just cooked up. And then all of a sudden, I'm in the tunnel. And God is holding me or what I believe is God. I didn't see him. But you feel any comes his voice comes through all of you like it's, it sounds corny, Alex, it's weird. It's not. It's not human. And that's what makes it so hard. The colors are not human. I've never seen any of those colors through my eyes in this body on Earth. And it told me he the first thing he said is he called me by my name. And he said, You can't stay and, and I said what? And I started telling him all my social accolades. I give free care to cancer patients. I've been good by I've been a good mom, I, you know, I told him every good thing I could think of that I've done in my life. And he said, let me ask you one question. Have you ever loved anyone? The way you've been loved here? And I said, No, it's impossible. I I'm a human. And at the Now that sounds ridiculous, but at the time, it was such an incredible love. We don't even have a word for it. They call it a gappy, but I don't even think people know what a gappy love is, it would be like trying to give someone the emotion of rejection or empathy. With a credit card. It's it would be plastic, whereas if somebody felt that at such a high level, you it was plastic, this world is plastic, I came back with a very clear idea. Our source is not plastic, but this world is and that's kind of what has stuck with me. But anyway, when I said that, he said, You can do better. And then I felt like he, like he hugged me or helped me tighter. And then I woke up in that bed. And Ron was crying. And he said, Mary, I'm terrified. Well, he was shaking me first because I I guess it was like two minutes where they were doing. They thought they lost me. And he told me I am so terrified. And I said, Well, you don't have to be because I'm not I just talked about And I'm not going to die. And he thought I was hallucinating. And till I woke up and told him and, and I did not die. And in fact, I, I feel like, I feel like God put some kind of a microchip in me that I better about that. But he made me a much better version of myself.
Alex Ferrari 20:26
So when you were on the other side, did you didn't see a face, you just had
Mary Jo Rapini 20:32
Alex Ferrari 20:34
It was a presence. It wasn't a physical presence, it was just like an energy that was next to you guiding you through this process.
Mary Jo Rapini 20:42
It it was more than an energy, it was able to adapt to a human, it was able to speak my language, it was able to give me the sense that it was holding me and it was a real hold it. It was imagining, if you ever have been in somebody's arms, who really held you tight, like they loved you. And there was love everywhere. It was an incredible sense of love i Alex, I'm a psychologist and I had to go through like, I had to go through some kind of debriefing just so I was so depressed to be back.
Alex Ferrari 21:28
So common, it's a common thing from near death experiences. They they go through a process when they come back, because it's just like, I don't why am I here? I don't want to be here. Like this is
Mary Jo Rapini 21:37
And I have a great life like anybody would. Anybody would. And my husband that really bothered him. He's like, Mary, how can you say that? Like you have our girls? We have each other? We have so much. And I'm like, Yeah, I know.
Alex Ferrari 21:54
Well, let me ask you this, when you were under their side, did you see anything else? Or was it just the light the tunnel conversation, and you were back?
Mary Jo Rapini 22:03
There were you know, I and I am very careful, because, you know, I had to put my medical, better credibility as did my husband out there. And that's very difficult. But there were shadows of like, I, I believe I came back from there believing that this God is so omnipotent, that no matter what language you speak, what's happened to you? He touches all of us like he's, people say, Well, how can he be hugging you and doing the same with other people? Because He's God. That's why, you know, his intelligence is far superior to ours. But he created us and He loves us. And it's good. There is not one malice, the only malice I couldn't state but there, and I came back with a very real sense that, that we are numbered our days. He knows he knows everything about us.
Alex Ferrari 23:12
Well, let me ask you this. How did you deal psychologically, with this event in your life? This is a it's not a traumatic event. But it's up there as a life altering event without question. And that still takes process and good or bad. It's still processing to deal with it, too. And you were fairly logical. From your saying, I'm a logical human being you. Yeah, ecologist, you understand the brain you and you know, this must have taken a minute for you to just process.
Mary Jo Rapini 23:46
I have processed it and processed it. And I continue to because my practice is robust. And I continue and I work with people who are dying. I lose people I love. And I think it's just a work of progress. i My biggest hurdle since then, it is my greatest blessing, but it's also my greatest curse, because I still sin. And every time I sin, it was easy before before this incident, because I could tell God, well, I didn't know I didn't really know if I believed in you. And I was I didn't know you really existed. But now, I do know. And now I do know that I'm supposed to do better. And and that is really I'm not sure sometimes I am doing what he wanted. But I think back and I go well, I'm sure if I'm not that he will. He's using me. He's using YouTube as an instrument of bringing him recognition and I'm also honoring him, and turning to him. I believe that with all my heart, so he will, he will give me what I need to hear and to see, so that I can do it.
Alex Ferrari 25:14
Well, and how did you? How did the people around you deal with this new version of you? Because you came back transformed? And I I imagine, not everybody was open to the new Mary Jo, or was everybody open?
Mary Jo Rapini 25:29
Well, I think people, you know, I think a lot of people in the science community are frightened by it. But I also have met a lot of people when I speak at medical events, they tell me they come up after because they're not quite bold enough to see it during the conference. But they will come up later and say, you know, I had a near death experience, and they want to talk about it, but they are afraid. And I think there's quite a few people who fit that category. The problem is, there's a lot of people who talk about stuff. And you know, the brain will fill in gaps, it will fill in hypothesis. So if you have an idea of what happened, unless you write it down immediately, then it's very difficult to get the truth. Like there was this one person that had one that's a long time ago, Betty Eddie, and she's, she's wonderful. Oh, she said, she thought that there was like a big master computer up there. Now, when I first heard that, I went, Oh, my God, because I was thinking in the nursing science brain. But you know what, after going through it? I'm not sure. I don't know. I don't know what our God does. He's a superior intelligent, he's probably on the very highest dimension of thinking. And we're somewhere on that three or four? I don't know. So any, any of that is possible, but I really feel like I transition everyday. And I also feel like this experience made me definitely made me a better person.
Alex Ferrari 27:26
It sounds like, at least from what you're saying, you've become much more connected to spirit and to source, but not with a religious tone to it. At least that's the way I am. Is that correct? Did you become more religious to become more spiritual?
Mary Jo Rapini 27:41
Well, you'd have to define religious like, I've never been one for dogma. But at the same time, I am in several Bible studies, because I never felt as a Catholic I under that I got a good education in the Bible. And I'm especially interested in apologetics because they give you the historical reason, like what was going on? They're more factual about the events. So it's easier for me it's more credible, that I could say, oh, so in this context of Scripture, this is where it was coming from. Sometimes when you hear scripture, you're just like, What? What are they talking about? Because it's lost in translation. So you really do, you can't take things at face value, you have to talk to, you know, theologians and scripture, people who make their life in that so that you can understand and apologetics is really an area of theology that I find myself gravitating to, to get the education behind it.
Alex Ferrari 28:55
Now, were there any after effects of your near death experience in like your, in your awareness and anything else that might have come back with you? Because I've heard of that happening often?
Mary Jo Rapini 29:05
Well, you know, I, I am more aware that compassion is, is probably the one thing that if God is judging, he's judging us on that. And, and I think he watches I get the feeling after this incident, that that is huge, how compassionate we are with each other, and forgiveness.
Alex Ferrari 29:32
But you also, you said something very interesting, though, that if he judges, which is an interesting thing, do you believe after being in that experience, that that entity called God source whatever they name you want to put to it can judge its creation in a way that is associated with dogma and religion?
Mary Jo Rapini 29:57
I think that God od like any good thing, like any good power of love you when you step back from it, you want to feel grateful that you were able to give life. And when you give life, it seems only natural to me that you would tell yourself, it was it was good, or it was equity used health. I think God does judge us, saying that I think God gives us so many chances to redeem ourselves. I think I could have redeemed myself on the 11th 11th hour. I could have not reached out to him until I was dying. And I think his mercy would have been overwhelming. Would his mercy have been overwhelming? If I had not reached out to him and said, Your will be done? I don't know. Because God does not move away from us. You move away from God. And I think part of what he said with giving us free. Free will is he is not going to force us.
Alex Ferrari 31:23
And what was the biggest takeaway you had from this near death experience?
Mary Jo Rapini 31:27
The biggest takeaway and I'm still, I'm still living it today. With clients. I think we limit ourselves so much. God does. God wants abundance for each of us. He loves us. He loves us. More than I really think we understand what kind of love it is. So I think humans, we we put limits on ourselves. We're afraid. We need excuses. We have a low self esteem. We grew up with unloving people. We we are entitled all sorts of reasons. But after this experience, I thought while I all these excuses, I've been telling myself, I there is not one person that couldn't give more. We could end world hunger today. Oh, yeah. You know, if we wanted to, we're so stubborn. And we make excuses. And we make judgment calls. Well, if those people wanted it, they could work a little bit or, or whatever. But none of that is God. And people say, Well, I'll pray for them. Prayer is only as good as you're willing to act on what what the Holy Spirit are, or prayer tells you to do.
Alex Ferrari 32:55
Let me ask you, I'm gonna ask you a few questions, ask all my guests. What is your definition of living a fulfilled life?
Mary Jo Rapini 33:02
Living a fulfilled life is, is being able to say at the end, that the choices you made, for others mattered. That it that it mattered, that what you did in life mattered.
Alex Ferrari 33:21
If you're gonna go back in time and speak to the little girl that used to be you, what advice would you give her?
Mary Jo Rapini 33:27
I would, I would tell her to totally to never have any doubt that there is a God, there is a God, I've had to talk. I mean, I have a lot of atheist clients, and they, they want to spar with me. And they know many of them know this story. And if they don't, I'm like, I'm not going to fight. I am not here to fight you. I'm just here. You want to hear my truth? And I'll listen to yours. But at the end of the day, nobody can make you be anything. And if, if this is what you choose, then at least, you know, let me let me tell you that I still like you. I still think you are a good person. And the most of them are good people. It doesn't change the way I look at them. Other than that, I think they're they're really working hard to make themselves miserable.
Alex Ferrari 34:30
Everyone's got a path to walk. And your path might not be my path and their path might be our path. But everyone has a path and the lessons that they learn on that path, regardless of the beliefs that they believe in, will determine the growth that they will have as a soul in this life.
Mary Jo Rapini 34:48
That's right. I do think that the soul within us has a job and I think the soul is the unconscious. I am pretty sure that When, when we talk about living again, that, that what you know, and they're doing, they're finding more medical tests that show that they, that the consciousness lives on even when the heart isn't beating, you know, we have such such prehistoric equipment to measure this stuff very yet. But, you know, honestly, Alex, I was aware of everything. And granted, you know, I wasn't gone that long. But still, if anybody, if anybody had said something like I could hear everybody, I saw things like, my bone structure, wherever, whatever I was looking at, when I was going up, I wasn't in my body, because I had, you know, the skull makes it. So we look this way in a little bit sideways. But if you're without your skull, you can see all the way around. So once I was out of this trap of my body, I truly was so free.
Alex Ferrari 36:08
How do you define God?
Mary Jo Rapini 36:10
God is all loving, a magnificent creator, and all merciful
Alex Ferrari 36:17
And what is the ultimate purpose of life?
Mary Jo Rapini 36:20
The ultimate purpose of life is to serve others.
Alex Ferrari 36:23
And where can people find out more about you and the work that you're doing?
Mary Jo Rapini 36:27
They can go to my website, maryjorapini.com. They can find me on YouTube, Mary Jo Rapini. And my Instagram is the same Mary Jo Rapini.
Alex Ferrari 36:40
And do you have any parting messages for the audience?
Mary Jo Rapini 36:43
I think what I want to tell the audience is that losing someone is so difficult. And you remember little quirks they do and things they said to you, you remember the way they smell, the way they felt. But ultimately, when your loved one is gone, part of us should celebrate because they're free. They're free in a way we cannot understand being in this body on Earth. And not only are they free, but they're going to their home where they started with just surrounded by love. And so yes, it's sad because they're not with you. But for them if we just think about them. They truly are in a much better place.
Alex Ferrari 37:38
Mary Jo, thank you so much for sharing your story with us and for the work that you're doing help others in the world. I truly, truly appreciate you my dear. Thank you again for being on the show.
Mary Jo Rapini 37:47
Links and Resources
- Earthing.com: End Inflammation Today – Discover the Science-Based Healing Powers of Earthing/Grounding
- FREE Mindvalley Spiritual Masterclasses
- MUSE 2: The Brain Sensing Headband – Meditation Tracker Headset Device
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