Death. It’s one of those inevitable truths of life. But are you at peace with it? Do you feel ready to go when your time comes? Or are you in denial, living in the illusion that you will live forever? Do you squander your time on Earth or cherish every day as a gift? Accepting the inevitability that you will die one day alters your world view.
Over the past few weeks I have shared my beliefs on death. Now I would like to describe my personal confrontations with death.
When I was in my twenties I spent six months in India. My friend and I stayed mainly in Varanasi before travelling further afield. In Varanasi we studied yoga with a lovely instructor called Sunil who was well known for his infectious laugh! We lived two ghats over from Manikarnika Ghat or the Burning Ghat, where the bodies of recently departed were immolated and returned to the Source. It was quite a humbling experience to be present witnessing the very real physical manifestation of someone’s life go up in smoke. Sunil also treated us to clandestine trips on the Ganga (as the Ganges River is known) before dawn to watch the city come to life with the sun. Often Sunil needed to push a floating corpse away with his oar so that it could continue on it’s way. This was the first time I had experienced bodies being treated with such matter-of-fact pragmatism.
I also explored other parts of India including Dharamsala, Rishikesh, Bodhgaya, Pushkar, Jaipur, and neighbouring countries Sikkim and Nepal. The bus ride into Nepal was an experience. Having been in rural China the previous year I thought myself the unflappable, seasoned traveller, unfazed by dangerous roads and reckless drivers. I was used to taking my seat, surrendering my life to fate and consciously relaxing the stress from my body for the duration of the harrowing, hellish bus journey. But Nepali drivers were in a league of their own. They were downright suicidal. The bus ride from Varanasi to Kathmandu was long. By the time we crossed into Nepal the driver was impatient, bumped the car in front and shattered the front windscreen. No one was hurt but we all drove into Kathmandu suffering in the head wind! In true kiwi spirit I laughed it off as a memorable arrival and started plotting what was to be an extraordinary time in the Langtang region, revelling in the restaurants of Kathmandu, exploring the temples and having a private audience with a Tibetan Lama. My experiences were only hampered by the discovery that the first bus driver wasn’t an exception but the rule; the bus drivers all seemed to speed up on blind corners and play a nonstop game of chicken that didn’t end until the bus came to an abrupt stop at it’s destination. It was hair raising stuff! I had a crash course in listening to my spirit guides. If I made the wrong decision I would die. It was as simple as that. I learned to listen very closely to my gut, my intuitional nudges and be guided by an unseen hand. It was my only means of survival! After three weeks I decided my desire to survive was stronger than my sense of adventure. Leaving Nepal my bus passed a busload of Bengali students who’s bus had hurtled over a precipice. Everyone had perished. It was so recent the bodies still lined the roadside, covered only with blankets. You would think this would be enough to chasten the driver but no, he proceeded to speed up and charge towards a one-way bridge without a thought for any oncoming traffic. I thanked my lucky stars when I crossed back into India unharmed.
These experiences affected me profoundly. I came to understand that life is a combination of free will and fate. We can create and will our reality but there is still so much in life we cannot control and must accept. Staring death in the face over and over I was confronted unequivocally with my own mortality. I would die. I was not bullet proof. I have grown to have a very healthy respect for the fragility of life and all sentient beings. I learned to trust that all would be well but if it was my time to die that was ok too. I made my peace with the world and surrendered to my fate. I was ready. I came to a deep acceptance of a higher plan beyond my understanding.
I walked away from this period of my life unscathed and incredibly lucky to be alive. It has not made me fearful- the opposite is true in fact. I follow my guidance. I feel blessed even now at the twists and turns my life has taken me and the feeling that I have been held in the palm of God’s hand, unconditionally loved and protected. I am incredibly blessed, not only to still be alive, but with the abundance that surrounds me. Life has had it’s challenges and has not always been easy but it has helped me learn and grow wiser. I am so very grateful for all that I have experienced. I am especially grateful to be sharing my life with my husband, our three boys, three rabbits, two dogs and a cat! Life wouldn’t be the same without them. I celebrate my life daily.
Photo from my album. Taken at Dasaswamedh Ghat, Varanasi.
Article by: Debra Reeves
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