Barcelona · Buddhism · death · Experience · Fear · human condition · Spirituality · Travel · Yoga

On Life and Death

In hindsight, none of us were really dying. In reality, all of us on that boat were dying. This is an undeniable truth. We are all on that journey. It was on June 4, 2017, five days before my birthday. Earlier that morning we woke up in the azul waters of the Mediterranean with the rocky cliffs of En Sanoa visible from our tiny “love boat” as we call it, and it was a bit rough. Not the sea, but our mental states of mind. We had been dancing and drinking and loving and having a grand old time surrounded in the darkness of the sea.

Family Photo on Boat
Family Photo

The music on our boat was perfect, so was the company. It always is with this crew. I was fortunate to be on that boat with a group of friends I call my “Barcelona familia”. As we woke up and tried to get it together by hydrating and taking our first dive in the crystal clear waters of Formentera, this salty soak was the quickest and most painless way to start the day.

Formentera Group Swim
Group swim in the beautiful waters of Formentera, Spain

With very soft music in the background, Nestor, our guide and captain for the day who we met for the first time, who later became a friend, took us around for our afternoon sail around the shores of the tiniest island of the Balearic archipelago. Around mid-day, as the sun kept our bodies warm and the breeze cooled it simultaneously, I got into a conversation with my friend Shena and I told her that “if I were to die today, I would greet it with open arms.”

Shena Boat Formentera
Shena with her Mahou

I continued to talk about how fortunate I was to have this life and looking back I’ve had a pretty outstanding past filled with travel, love and adventure. “I was ready” I told her. I wouldn’t fear it if it were to take me. I think I tempted fate a few days before my 34th birthday.

In a book that I am rereading titled Reflections on Silver River, McLeod poses the following:

Consider for a moment that you die at any moment – in the next minute, today, tomorrow – or months or years down the line. Does your body tense or relax, or does something else happen? What feelings arise – fear or relief, anger or longing, guilt, hope, resignation or equanimity?

Even a little reflection along these lines brings up strong reactions. Your body does everything it can to stay alive. When your life is threatened, it reacts – strongly. Fear and panic seize you. Fight, flee or freeze – the basic survival tactics take over.

With this writing, I don’t mean to give you a play by play of what occurred on that boat. Not in this piece, at least. In fact, the only story that I can share was my immediate reaction to death. In hindsight, I was not dying. None of us were that night. The Mediterranean Sea was tormented and ready to swallow up a few things that night, but fortunately it wasn’t us. She spared us. She gave us life. I think, at least. This episode made me realize how precious my life really is.

Nestor
Nestor and Shelley

As the waters got choppy and the rain, hail, wind, thunder and lightning greeted us, my adrenaline kicked in and I was ready to go into fight mode. Fighting with nature, of course, is foolish. All the variables that went into how our day panned out and that night, helped us in every possible way. Nestor was still with us around 10pm. Normally we opt to stay alone on the boat, but that night Nestor was still with us. We wouldn’t let him go. The storm hit around 10pm and we were in the En Sanoa harbor. The boat was headed for its cliffs, but Nestor managed to move us away. We had phone reception and were told by the owner of the boat to drop the anchor back and just wait out the storm. It would be more dangerous to try to get to the port. The anchor was malfunctioning and I knew this because I was helping Nestor.

Salty Captain
Nestor and Captain taking us to port

I realized the automatic switch worked to cast the anchor, but got stuck when bringing it back up to boat. Three hours into that night when we got help, Nestor and I had to pull the anchor up by hand, while being knocked around and on to each other. Generally, there was no hysteria really, mostly calmness, quite paradoxically from what was happening around us. After hours of being rocked, and with each strong wave, thinking that this might be the one that tips us over, fear was definitely not a stranger. The fear of death had set in. Eventually we all made it to port, wet, traumatized, and grateful.

Bow Boat
The morning after. While pulling the anchor up with our hands, this happened! 

With each tumultuous rock, I was begging for it to stop. With each lightning bolt, I thought this would be the last time I experienced fear. All that positivity I try to nurture was slowly diminishing What I said earlier that day was absolutely not true. I was not ready to die. In fact, I had not yet truly lived. The Mediterranean storm gave my friends and I a new lease on life. Even though, none of us were dying that night, all of us are in the process of it.

img_7640-e1501855784473.jpg
The Makey’s, Tiff and I

This impermanent journey, a short one really, is unpredictable. Who knew hours after such bliss and love, an unexpected storm would bring us to realize both the precious nature of our existence and the insignificant nature of our existence. To nature, we are but a speck of existence. There are more than seven billion bodies that will become the victim of the same truth. None of us will come out of this storm alive, so why not spend our days with laughter and love.

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