© 2022 Stefan J. Malecek, Ph. D.
This piece is dedicated to Ajaya Sommers and the Unadorned Transformational Retreat fellowship of August 5-12, 2022.
The idea of dying is quite academic for most people. For others, it is their greatest fear and concern, often so strong that they fail otherwise to live fully. Still others spend their lives attempting to dull or amplify their senses into extraordinary channels in order to feel less or in order to feel more, powerful.
Only very occasionally are certain individuals granted an opportunity to meet with the Spirit of Death Itself—and return to the Land of the Living with senses intact, awareness reformed, memory and personal history cleansed.
I am one such fortunate traveler. I had such an opportunity on August 9th, 2022 at Spencer Beach on the Island of Hawai’i around 2:30 in the afternoon. What I am transcribing here was witnessed, to varying degrees, by the seven magnificent souls who were present with me, and who participated in my recovery in the aftermath.
It had been a while since I had been to visit Mother Ocean. But I felt safe and really wanted to participate with my fellow attendees. As I waded out to below chest depth, I measured the incoming wave and dove under it. When I got my feet under me, I noticed I was standing on a wide band of slippery rocks. As I worked my way around them, the beach gradually got steeper. My memory is that the “sand” felt more like silt, thicker, almost agglutinated.
Most of my life, I have been a good swimmer. I even worked as a lifeguard many years ago at a resort on Maui. Nonetheless, I admit I began to not feel particularly comfortable the further out I ventured. The rest of the group had swum past me when I decided to come back in. I was probably sixty feet from shore and making decent progress. I had gotten to the point at which I could feel the sand under me and attempted to stand and just walk in. But what I believed should have been the firmament kept giving way with each step and I could not get my footing.
Deciding to swim the rest of the way in, I started being pulled to the left of the position toward which I had been aiming. The more strongly I swam, the further away I seemed to get. It took me a moment to realize that I had gotten caught in a small rip tide, strong nonetheless.
I admit that I made an amateur’s mistake and tried to swim through it. As I saw myself being pulled further and further from my destination—and fighting harder and harder to get through it—I reached the point where I realized I might be drowning. It seemed that each successive wave was stronger than the last and I was being pulled down.
Now, really panicking, I was pulled under and started grasping at rocks to keep from being pulled further away, to no avail. I managed several times to get a breath of air though I went under again and again. Finally, I was pushed down with no air in my lungs, and had reached the point where my disorientation was complete. I sucked in a deep mouthful of water. I had absolutely no perception of how ill-informed I had been. In fact, I remember thinking “That wasn’t so bad!”
I must have emptied my lungs, because when it came time to inhale, I breathed in water again. I remember shaking my head again and saying, “That wasn’t so bad!”
The last thing I remember before losing consciousness was a forty-foot long concrete block being lifter off my back and a translucent green light surrounding me.
By this time, I had been flipped over face down, unconscious. The next thing I remember was an older couple standing above me talking about whether I was in trouble or not—and thankfully deciding I was. He had swimming trunks with horseshoes on them.
I was exhausted completely and allowed myself to be pulled from the water. There was a fair number of people gawking and I was asked numerous stupid questions I could not answer. I was totally limp and all I could do was keep vomiting up sea water. Several people from my group were there and I was wrapped in something or other. I cannot remember, just that I felt warm and safe and comforted—and I could not stop crying.
A number of people, no doubt meaning to be helpful, kept saying “Don’t worry! The ambulance is on its way,” to which I kept sputtering “Fuck that! I do not want it!”
I had a tremendous thirst and a terrible headache, and I kept asking for water. I could not get enough. Plus, when I coughed, it seemed that it was flushing up more and more salt water.
I do not remember at which point I spoke with Ajaya. She was sitting beside me, holding me and I blurted out, “It’s gone! It’s all gone!”
“Pardon me! What?”
“My shame and rage! My fears! The terrible loneliness! It’s been...released!” I could not stop crying.
All of those terrible emotions that had been the embedded undercurrent of my entire life, had vanished! I kept having mini-flashbacks and crying. I felt light and clear and free! I kept checking to see if any vestige of all of my old emotional garbage remained. And there was none! I might have babbled about the joy and gratitude I was feeling. (Sometime later, Ajaya reminded me that I had told her, soon after meeting her two weeks earlier, that “something big is coming! I can feel it!”)
The other members of the group helped me walk up off the sand (carried me is more like it), feeding me water, holding me when I cried and just being there for me. It was amazing! I do not believe I have ever felt more connected and loved in my entire life! I was just basking deeply in it—and am to this day.
Ajaya. Andy, Angela. Brendan. David. Ilana. Kate.
You are all in my heart forever.