This evening I did an e-mail search looking for some particular information from 2007. I came upon a mail I'd sent one of my closest Dharma sisters. I wrote it shortly after witnessing a sudden death and thought maybe someone might find it interesting. Here it is:
Today I just got back from a weeks holiday in Majorca Spain. I hope you don't mind me sharing with you.
Before the holiday I made the decision to spend a week - doing absolutely nothing at all - including no formal practice. Just wanted to sit on the beach - swim in the sea and look at the cloudless blue sky everyday. The only book I took was Tulku Urgyens As it Is 1.
I wanted to also see what happened to my mind without the discipline and formality of sessions - prayers etc.
On the plane going over - as usual my own fear prompted me to do prayers to Guru Rinpoche for removing obstacles - and started doing Tongeln for everyone in the world who has died on a plane or like me has a fear of them - which led to me crying for the first part of the trip - but dissolved the fear.
Once there I settled into a lazy routine - swimming and sitting watching the ocean.....it was really a dream kind of resort - a huge sweeping sandy beach. clear waters and palm trees and everyday cloudless. I had the occasional thought of the practice and often did a few mantras but more, I noticed, out of guilt than anything else.
Needless to say I was lost completely in dualistic thoughts most of the time and even started to lose the awareness of being lost!
I had some weird dreams. The first 3 days I drank Sangria in the evenings, danced and just let my hair down.
I found myself saying "This is the life..." on more than one occasion as I sat right at the waters edge on the beach. On the one hand it was ahhhhhh - just relax - nothing to do - nowhere to go.......and on the other It felt like I had purposefully decided to just dive right into Samsaric mind set with my running commentary on peoples beach bodies etc.
On the 4th day - I was at my waters edge spot - very close to the ocean - the beach was busy - the whole stretch of maybe 3 kms of beach with hundreds and hundreds of people. I had all the equipment one has as a family - umbrella, towels, etc etc etc. It was late afternoon and my husband had taken our son off swimming and I was lazing on the beach surrounded by very glamourous spanish people - my mind full of chatter about them.
Suddenly the peace was broken by urgent voices - 4 or 5 men were racing out of the water - dragging a body with them. They pulled this women up from the water and dragged her to my feet. She was a very large woman - I saw her face and knew at once she was dead - she had drowned. In that moment - the lifeguards were down by me in an instant - giving CPR. I watched as they turned the corpse and drained the water and other stuff from her lungs. I kind of froze for a moment and then instinct kicked in and I sat and did a practice of Phowa that Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche had taught our Rinpoche - visualising Guru Rinpoche in the sky with tons of light pouring down onto the body and the body dissolves and is purified. The instructions came back to me and I just followed them.
As I was doing this practice - suddenly a line from Tulku Urgyens book came to my mind. The line was whenever you see a clear blue sky think of this as Tulku Urgyens mind - this space - all around and everywhere.
Once I did that then the practice really changed and there was such incredible peace - at least in my mind - and I just sat in this peace for this dead women - I felt this space as Tulku Urgyens mind - the space of the sky and everything.
I don't know how long had passed - but I realised that the police had closed that part of the beach and everyone else had moved away or been moved on - but they had just left me there.
On realising how strange this must look - I also moved myself back and practiced from a distance .
They carried her off in a golden body bag and that evening when we were out in the beach bars in this setting of "paradise" - with everyone enjoying themselves I could not look at one single person without seeing them and their features transform into those of a corpse. The image of her face drained of life and bloated belly will stay with me.
I kept bursting into tears for the women that night - and indeed for everyone - all of us there on that paradise island - so strongly believing that death is so far away.
The next day all traces of the death were gone and people were sunbathing, swimming and playing right in the spot where this woman had died.
Afterwards I reflected on why on a 3 km beach with hundreds and hundreds of people - why a corpse should be dragged from the water and literally placed at my feet. Then I understood it must have also been the blessing of the lama. Not in terms of me benefitting the woman - I hope I did .- but I am no great practitioner. But in terms also of a rather extreme situation manifesting where I was totally without my usual props, pictures, shrine, neat little practice routine etc - I was just there. It had the effect of temporarily stopping all the chatter in my mind.
The day after that there was a terrorist bomb that killed 2 policeman - and today we left an airport full of very frightened people wearing face masks against the swine flu.
This morning I was standing on my balcony looking out at the clear pre-dawn sky over the ocean. Now I am back at home. I close my eyes and see what I saw this morning but already even though it was only a few hours ago it feels like a dream.
It makes me think about death - for that woman - for us all - (or most of us) a moment passes - we die and then this life is like a distant dream, fading away.......