Facing Death


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Profound, powerful, potent, life transforming, terrifying, meeting and overcoming fears, exhilarating, liberating, shattering of world views, facing death, ... these are only some of the qualifiers for my 1997 trip to the Peruvian Amazon.


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I had always been drawn to the Amazon so naturally it was one of the answers to my question: "what if I have six months left to live?" Incidentally, the place I ended up visiting in the Amazon used to show up in a recurring dream back in 1987. The full significance of that dream only started dawning on me after my return from this fascinating, intriguing, and mysterious part of the world. I can easily do several episodes re my journey to the Amazon but in this episode I'll focus on only one aspect of that trip .... facing death.

To reach this remote place you first take a flight from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado, which is a small Peruvian village with dirt roads and a tiny airport that has only 1 flight per day. From here you take a 30-45mins boat ride downstream on the Madre De Dios river, which is a tributary of the Amazon river. This remote place or lodge - as it is called - consists of a few huts and walkways built on wooden stilts. If you miss this lodge then you'll drift for a day or so and then hit Bolivia. ... the lodge offers no real man made conveniences except the huts and a crew that provides meals ... you have to be prepared to deal with all kinds of bugs etc ... there is no electricity just oil lamps at night and showers that somehow pump in the river water ... if you walk away from the lodge ... within minutes you are in the thick jungle of the Amazon with all kinds of wild deadly creatures ... one of which is a poisonous ant that is apparently feared more than some of the other deadly creatures like snakes ...

And it is worth noting that there is only one boat ride every morning between the lodge and Puerto Maldonado ... which means that once you are at the lodge it is at least 24hrs before you can get to the village and even so there isn't much available there. As far as I knew it did not even have a hospital or any other form of modern medical assistance.

My intention is not to dramatize or glorify the trip or the Amazon ... the circumstantial or phenomenal aspect of this trip is not that important ... what is important is that the circumstances clearly underscore that you have to be ready and able to meet your fears re various physical matters because the normal societal infrastructure is just not available ... and that is only one of the hidden or implicit gifts of such a journey ... a journey that certainly allowed me to meet some of my deep inner and outer fears.

During my stay I swam in the river which had caymans (or small crocodiles) that are presumably not harmful to humans but then there is no guarantee ... this benign quality of these creatures is only as per the local lore ... in the end you swim at your own risk but I had no reservations whatsoever ... and I mention this only to point out that this act of swimming was one of the small rewards of meeting fear.

Of course, this time was certainly amazing at many levels but more importantly it was instrumental in bringing powerful transformations and profound shifts in perspective through direct experiences ... it was an unplanned, but thankful, "burning" of that which no longer served.

I won't go into any specifics but during this trip as part of a set of experiences, I had to literally face my death ... there was a moment when I couldn't breathe and all of the known events of my life just flashed in front of my eyes ... At one point I thought Oh we can get some help in Puerto Maldonado but then I laughed out aloud at this absolutely ridiculous notion ... even if we could get to Puerto Maldonado then what? In the end I had to simply accept and relax into this meeting ... and the more I accepted and relaxed the more a deep calm and peace settled in ... with an absolute assurance that all was going to be OK.

Gangaji says " ... die to whom you think you are before who you think you are dies ... " I suggest that if you are quiet enough to hear these words and then have the courage to truly absorb and reflect ... then a great underlying gift is revealed.

Here's a question I ask people when we are talking about consciousness, self discovery or related topics....

" ... have you experienced a moment when you are not an American, or Japanese, or Australian, or Indian, or French, or Italian, or Chinese, or whatever is your nationality ? ... or ... have you experienced a moment when you are not this form that is named Sanjiv or James or Mary or Olivia or whatever? ..."


Gangaji's remark and my question is a boundless invitation ... to consciously undertake a meeting of our persona death.

Nirmala says:

die a little
with every disappointment
or find  what never dies
and has no preferences

And as Rumi says:

So you want union?
Union is not something found on the ground
or purchased at the  marketplace
Union comes only at the cost of life.


The Nirmala poem is a stanza from Gifts with No Giver, a love affair with truth, Poems by Nirmala. This book is available for free download from Nirmala's website: endless-satsang.com. Nirmala also offers several of his other books for free download from his website.

The Rumi poem is a paraphrased one from "A Garden Beyond Paradise, The Mystical Poetry of Rumi, Translated by Jonathan Star and Shahram Shiva." 

The emphases and the repetitions in the poem reading are my literary liberties.

Gangaji's quote is  from "the Diamond in your Pocket, discovering your true radiance, by Gangaji."

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You may also enjoy our other channel ...  RumiTime re mystical poetry readings from Rumi, Kabir, Nirmala, Hafez (Hafiz), and others.


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