Suzanne Chudejova, who recently relocated from Europe back to her family home in South Carolina where she met Ven. Chonyi, wrote to the Abbey about her brush with death.
I had an accident 2 weeks ago. I fell down some stairs and landed chest-down onto concrete. I’ve had plenty of accidents in this life and plenty of brushes with death, but this time I knew I was dying—in an accident and right away. And it was happening to me.
As soon as I landed, thinking that my aorta had just exploded in my chest and feeling myself sinking into shock, I knew it was over for me. My first thought was about my rabbit, Lewis, and would he be taken care of.
Then, thanks to the teachings that I’ve been fortunate to have, I knew it was time to start putting my mind on compassion and refuge. It wasn’t too hard to just let go of life and start saying some mantra. But it was something I had to remind myself to do. “Call up an image of Buddha and take refuge. Think about compassion.”
I can’t tell you how pleased I am that I could do it just like that. I remembered Ven. Chonyi’s words telling us how to face death, and I also had the thought that I will never again judge others for their mistakes, since it was my own clumsy misstep that had sent me down the steps.
I tell you, it is so true that death could come to any of us at any time! I was surprised it was me, but fortunately I didn’t waste time pondering that or trying to struggle with it, but instead got right to the refuge and bodhicitta. I didn’t even have much time for regret, though the experience has really motivated me to pick up the pace on my meditation and purification practices, both of which have been suffering since we’ve gotten back here to the States and have been busy with trying to get life back together.
Obviously, I ended up surviving. I was in the emergency room, and have cracked ribs and tremendous internal and external bruising. I am slowly getting better, but I don’t know if I’ll ever recover fully from this one.
I am certain that my karma caused this … that I caused this. My life has been punctuated by physical and emotional accidents and injuries and damage. Do you know what is interesting? I had done the Medicine Buddha practice just a few days before this accident. Every time I do Medicine Buddha, I get very sick or have some mishap. It is getting to where I’m afraid to do it.
Except maybe the illness or accident could have been a lot worse if I hadn’t done the practice. I’ve been looking at it as, “Maybe this is karma ripening in a less damaging way than it would have otherwise.”
So I can really rejoice at that.
Oh, and the breathing meditation really came in handy too. It has always been a bit difficult for me because of past injuries, but this time, breathing has been so painful that the meditation has been perfect for me to be able to focus on breathing without panicking from the immobility and perceived lack of oxygen.
I thought this experience would be inspiring for you and also reinforce that it could REALLY be any one of us at any time.