Experiencing Death

I wasn’t very surprised to find out just one day prior to my retreat that it had no participants. Yet 2 days prior to the retreat I was very anxious about going to Rishikesh, where the venue for the retreat was. I spoke to my mentor and she told me that if nothing, it was a chance for me to be with myself. I didn’t realise at that time the power of those words. When I reached the venue of the retreat which was way beyond the main town of Rishikesh, a huge sense of abandonment kicked in. My taxi had slowly made its way on a road with a steep valley on one side leading to the powerful rapids of the Ganga, and jutting rocks on the other side which appeared to be very fragile. At points on the road there was a lot of rubble from the landslides because of the recent rains. It was also dark by the time I got dropped off to a roadside shop with just a few light bulbs glowing, a tractor parked outside it filled with construction workers that stared at me. I was shocked when the shop owner told me to climb the steep slope across the narrow, dark road saying that the resort is an uphill climb of about 10 minutes. I couldn’t see how that was even possible! Seeing my blank expression he offered to call up the resort owner. By then I had no network to try and contact my friend who was conducting the retreat with me and whose suggestion it was to do it at this place. I just sat down at a rustic table and started focusing on my breath as I felt anxious. About 15 long minutes later, I could see my friend alongwith the retreat owner trek down the steep hill. They carried my bags and I made my way up the hill in torch light. Other than the steep climb, the way was over a bridge across a gushing rivulet, and through rice fields with litchi and other trees around. The resort itself had one building that was a simple concrete structure and a bamboo house that overlooked this gushing rivulet. Adding further to my sense of abandonment, I realised that there was no network, forget internet, from any carrier. Just one sketchy bar of BSNL, the government-run mobile network, at one location in the property. I was ill prepared for this situation since I had been assured there will be network. To give a bit of a background, I work with an international coaching company where I get to coach clients around the world and I love every aspect of it. This work is completely internet-based and I was not prepared to take a break from it. I managed to send an SMS to a colleague that I wouldn’t be working for the next two days as I figured out my options out of this place. I finally gave in to all that I was feeling thereafter. My mind was screaming, probably wailing like an abandoned infant. It took every effort for me to not give in to this panic-stricken voice within me. I kept going back to my breath and yet I felt choked with the sensations of a tornado within my heart chakra. I somehow managed to eat the simple dinner my friend had cooked for us and headed inside my room. When I entered the pitch darkness of the room, my mind burst into a million thoughts and a huge sense of loss and grief took over me. I wept and wept in that darkness, listening to my child mind, going back again and again to my breath, trying to breathe slowly and deeply as much as I could. At one point, I fell asleep. It was a very ragged sleep in which I kept dreaming about ghosts. I woke up late in the morning feeling washed out and lonely. While one part of me was feeling all of this, a wise part of me kept asking me to surrender and gave gentle reassurance that it was all okay. That day there was a ceremony at the resort and so there was no way to go to the main town to reschedule my flight tickets. I consciously gave in and made an effort to connect to the resort owner and 2-3 others who had showed up. I also managed to have a conversation about music with someone and connected to my own music on my laptop. The day dwindled on and I felt as if I was experiencing it inches above my body. I could not relate to anything even if I was laughing at people’s jokes around me and listening to them. It felt unreal. At nightfall, after dinner, the loneliness came back again. This time I felt a huge sense of loss towards my partner. I started playing a song on my phone that was about remembrance. My eyes were fixated on the rivulet that I could now see, having been acquainted to the darkness. I felt something stir within my heart. This time memories of my childhood started playing themselves in slow motion. There was a time when my mother was manic depressive. Every morning at around 4am I would wake up to her screams and my father would come crying into my room feeling helpless. She had wanted to commit suicide. Once she had even tried and thankfully, had given up before she could succeed. I was a teenager at that time. Initially I was extremely afraid of what would happen to her, to us without her. She was our rock. Then this fear slowly turned into anger, the anger into grief, the grief into numbness. All these memories uncovered themselves as I watched the rivulet fixated, my eyes streaming tears as I listened to the song about remembrance on loop. I felt the searing numbness. It opened up to reveal a huge sadness inside me that was locked all these years in my heart. I breathed through it as consciously as I could. The only thing I could really do is give in to it. After all these years, I realised how intensely I had loved my mother and in its wake, had felt so much pain and heartbreak at having almost lost her. I discovered in that moment, that in my fear of possible loss, I had concluded that I had lost her. This is when my grief had turned into numbness. No wonder that all these years I was acutely going through the fear of loss and abandonment, but couldn’t process it. It was like facing death. In this spiral of thoughts what also occurred to me was that after recovering, my mother kept saying that through the chaos in her head, she kept praying that she wanted to return to us. She didn’t want to give in to her death urge. Somehow this piece of information triggered an internal conversation with my inner child psyche that was still unable to get over this perceived loss. This internal recognition alleviated my pain. I was able to detach from it with the realisation that in that moment that I thought I had lost her, I had turned it into my mistake somehow since I wasn’t able to communicate to her how much I loved her and wanted her to live. This unconscious helplessness made me a “victim of love”. I was bound by the intensity with which I loved her so much so that I couldn’t communicate to her from that space. Because of this and her sickness I thought she had gone to an unreachable place. This for me was loss. Later I understood that this equation made me attract hurt and disappointment everytime I opened up my heart to someone. My mind kept replaying the loss and expecting it unconsciously.
All these layers started falling off. Like the rivulet that was taking away the loose mud and filth of the land post rains, consciousness was taking away my past, my deeply held beliefs about love and was cleaning me up. This experience was so intense for me that it was only later that I “understood” it to be able to write about it. Somewhere my child mind “understood” the higher truth – if we feel closeness to this intensity with someone, they are bound to feel it somewhere in their consciousness too. They may or may not be able to realise it consciously at that time.

The next day I finally managed to get to the main city and rebook my tickets back to next day. As I started my journey back the following day, I became aware of a deeper silence within me that lay just beyond my mind. It was as if something that was still existed all the time beyond me that I couldn’t catch, or “see” or feel, but that I could just perceive. My child mind was in a state of joy. Suddenly I was feeling grateful for everything. I was so grateful to be going back home. In that space of going back, I realised that for so many years I was on a spiritual pursuit to “know myself”. I was untethered. I was a drifter. But in the last few years, my partner’s love, and the sense of “home” I felt with another friend had made me come home to myself so deeply, that I was no longer a seeker. I had transformed into a home-body. The responsibilities of taking care of myself, my cats, cleaning their smelly litter box, my rustic work-in-progress house, felt like gifts to me and not burdens. I was grateful for the bills I had to pay each month. I was grateful that it was upto me to help my coaching clients gain clarity about their work. I was grateful for my work and mindful of the attachment I felt towards it, that I told myself to release and instead approach it with relaxation. I suddenly was a person with strings attached and I felt deeply moved that I had the gift of those strings. This was a near death experience for me. And it stripped me of something that I still cannot comprehend with my mind, but only observe as I am at peace with being home alone and at peace with darkness.

This entire episode revealed to me that it is perhaps an illusion that we are “in control” of our spiritual growth. My mentor has been telling me that a lot but I hadn’t understood it to its depth. In this whole experience, my mind fought the battle of survival, another voice stood up to take care of it, and the whole thing transformed without me trying to do EFT, or inner child work or breathwork on it. I was just watching. Being an observer is a very passive act. I may be aware of the many layers of my mind but that doesn’t mean that I will be able to do something about it or that I should. I realised that the biggest untethering is when we can detach from this illusion that “I am healing myself” or that “I am working on myself”. I’ve been going through this “helplessness” for quite sometime where I feel that I am unable to interfere in these mental patterns that have a rhythm, a cycle of their own. Though I “know” so much, I am unable to free myself from these cycles which at best I observe or express through writing or singing. I wonder if that makes me a fake healer 🙂 I have been detaching from the role of a healer nonetheless and allowing things to unfold through me. One of the biggest things I have learnt is to detach from spiritual techniques and “let things be”. I’m finding more and more people arriving into themselves and restfulness as a result. It’s an ongoing exploration. And I’m grateful to be in it. Surrender is a lifelong process.

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