“How can you be dead and yet fully alive? If you become a witness to your body, then you know you are not the body. The body is born and the body is going to die; the moment you know you are not the body, you know that you were never born and you will never die. So in a sense you become wholly alive, eternally alive — what Jesus calls ‘abundance of life’, overflowingly alive.
… And when you are fully alert and no longer attached to the body, no longer identified with the body, no longer does the idea exist in you that you are the body, then love arises."
Osho, The Beloved, Vol. 2 #7
I’ve known Navanita for many years and always enjoyed her fun-loving way of living and the fact that she is a wonderful lithe dancer. Through the caravanserai grapevine I had heard of a terrible accident she had experienced but recovered from. So it was with great joy that we reconnected and set up a Skype time during which she would tell me about the most crucial event in her life. Already after a few minutes just seeing her on the screen, so alive, her luminous eyes, her dramatic sharing of the story and marvelous sense of humor made me instantly feel the power she was talking about.
Scroll back mentally to October 1993. Navanita has a vivid dream about both her legs being broken. Forward to April 2, 1994, Goa. Navanita arranges for a taxi to take her to Pune. She misses the taxi and calls for another one, which out of whatever reason she also misses. At this point she stands in the shade under a tree and asks herself, “Am I supposed to go on?” An answer came from within saying, “Go on.”
She sets out to the bus station and as she walks towards the bus, she sees the bus driver’s body glowing in fluorescent pink, yellow and green. Navanita thinks she might be ill but then senses that something else is going on, steps onto the bus and sits down on the seat behind the driver. In that moment she hears her inner voice saying, “Don’t sit here, this is the wrong seat.” She realizes that something strange is going on indeed, gets up and sits down in the back.
After some time the bus stops for people to have dinner. She steps outside, looks at the night sky and sees the stars with an intensity like never before. She asks within, “Can I go by taxi now?” The answer, unmistakingly, is “Go on.”
The bus starts on its journey. A little while later she feels the bus wobbling and shaking before it takes a sudden rolling dive down the hill. She hears the words, “This is the next step in your dance.”
As she comes to, she is looking down on the bus, seeing a crumpled body which she realizes is hers. A decision is made to go down there to look inside the body, scanning the body from within and the message is, “The organs are ok.” She hears herself breathing loudly like a steam machine and then hears the voice saying, “The lungs are not pierced.” She feels a sense of compassion all around. Although it feels very blissful to be out and free of the body, connected to the whole with a sense of oneness, isness and peace, she is consciously ready to return to the body. She is aware of three beings around her, one of which is her late grandmother.
Her eyesight is affected, she cannot see, so she feels around her if there is something dangerous to watch out for. She keeps having spells of blacking out and yet is aware of being encouraged by the body to sit up a little to stay conscious. When she slumps down again, she hears “You need to sit up again.” This nudging happens several times to prevent her from falling unconscious (with a big grin she calls this the spiritual body detective).
She is aware of her mind asking, “What if the bus rolls down more?” and senses immediately something inside powerfully taking care of her. She hears the voice saying, “Don’t panic, it won’t help. Anyway, if we roll, you’ll die.” She is in awe about this and feels gratefully empowered by the clarity. She realizes her left leg is smashed, sticking up in the air, twisted into a strange position and the foot facing in the opposite direction. Her right leg is also broken. She wonders like a child, “What an unusual way to have a leg like that on the body.” The body is calm, there is no mind. She knows it is vital to stay in the present.
It takes two hours for help to arrive. She hears someone asking if she is OK. She says “Yes,” and it feels as if she were alive for the first time in her life. When the helpers ask her to stretch out her arms so they can pull her out, she is unable to comply: the body knows she also has a broken back and it would be dangerous to be pulled out of the window. The helpers pull her out sliding on a blanket from the backdoor of the bus and she is put on the floor of an army truck together with other injured people; one person is screaming with pain and she wants to reach out and hold him, and she does, from her heart. She now knows that several people including the bus driver are dead. She is aware of breathing quietly.
The first hospital they arrive at refuses admission because they are westerners, so they are taken to a simple transition place where a nurse wants to give her an injection. She still cannot see and says, “I am so Aids conscious, I cannot have a needle.” The nurse then crunches the blister pack and tells her, “It is a new needle, it is OK.”
An X-ray quickly made shows that her head is OK – at which she starts laughing – but that “your legs are broken and we need to operate.” She refuses and the doctor is very angry and says that she needs at least a blood transfusion, but she refuses this too because of Aids, and he argues that without “you will die.” At this moment she surrenders and he assures her that they are aware of Aids. She is rolled into a ward that has a huge sign on the wall saying ‘WE ARE AIDS CONSCIOUS’. Her eyesight is back.
The transfusion is set up and all of a sudden the body says “Wait.” She is to surround herself with pink light, the tube with white light, and the blood with golden light. She again has a strong sense of compassion and questions herself, “How can you be so anxious when you are being guided so much?”
She asks for her friend Dr. Pragitam to be called in Goa but it is all too difficult for the medical staff. She decides not to waste her energy in panicking. She is put in a male ward where a man with a broken leg watches out for her to be taken care of properly, telling the staff to give her pain killers, water to drink. Later relatives of the man come and offer to help; they return to Goa which is an hour’s drive away and inform sannyasin friends about what happened. When they arrive they freak out seeing her in such obvious agony and with severe injuries, wrapped in prehistoric looking bandages and the now swollen right leg straining against metal rings placed around it. Navanita realizes that it is energy they are giving her, and it doesn’t matter in which way it comes, and that she has to learn how to receive. She is aware of her thoughts and again and again drops back into simply being.
Preparations are being made to get her to Pune in an ambulance – the backdoor doesn’t close and her feet are sticking out for the entire journey of twenty hours, straight to Inlaks hospital in Koregaon Park. A short stop is arranged when they arrive at the ashram’s gates at 3 o’clock in the morning. When she sees Avesh and Varsha and other friends waiting there, she cries, and she still weeps remembering this scene so many years later. With the crying she lets go and although she is screaming with pain, she also feels “I don’t have to do this alone.”
At the hospital she is knocked out with drugs for a week, just sleeping, sleeping. Surfacing from this induced sleep, she takes matters into her hands. She has been using the technique of talking to her body since the age 20, so every morning for the many months to come she scans the body, finding what she calls the spaciousness within, and this spaciousness in turn asks what is needed in order to heal.
The hardest to be with is the pain and when she tells Varsha that she doesn’t know if she can handle any more pain, Varsha hugs her and she feels the strength to continue. She understands how powerful love is as a healing force.
During the eight months she is in hospital, she undergoes seven operations; during one of them metal rods were hammered through the bone marrow and several screws where put in place. During another operation while anesthetized her heart nearly stops but Pragitam who is present talks her through it, saying “Navanita, your heart rate is going down, you need to get it back up.” The doctors are amazed when the ECG indicates the rate going up.
She is put in the intensive care unit and she understands that she is just as responsible as the doctors are, that she must listen to everything the body is saying, and not to what the doctors think. During one of several incidents a doctor wants to take some of the tubes out of her body and Navanita tells him not to do it, that she wants her orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Aurora to come. He doesn’t listen and pulls on some tubes sticking out of her belly when she suddenly feels everything very wet and realizes she is hemorrhaging. While the doctor now panics and fuddles about, she gives clear directions to the nurses on how to get Pragitam, for them to fetch a pint of her blood that is in the cooler and that the needles need to go in the right arm as the left is too punctured by now. The attending doctor begins to understand and says, “She is on the team, listen to her!” She is utterly present.
The doctor comes back later, namastes and says that he is sorry, that “I forgot to see god in you.”
Dr. Aurora is her favorite surgeon, she trusts him. He is amazed by her attitude and says, ”I have never seen anybody smile like you with all that pain you are having and handling it the way you are.” Navanita starts talking to him about the meditation she is doing and that love is a big part of the healing and they often talk from then on.
It is a magic time when she visualizes the bones in her left leg and sees little elfs wheeling some kind of substance around in wheelbarrows which they put into the bones; she sees fairies dancing around and Ayama, who is one of her caretakers, wakes up one night and sees them dancing around the bed. She keeps listening to the body to tell her what she needs to do. She experiences herself going through layers and layers within to reach the point of simply being.
One day she is in such pain and in a desperate state that she asks, “What if I can’t dance again?” A nurse calls in all the others and they say, “Navanita we love you, you are going to make it!”, and one nurse runs to her room, comes back with a rose and gives it to her. This is the first and only time she has that thought. The pain is ever present yet Navanita is aware that “I am watching.”
After the first operation Pragitam wheels her out of the operating theatre and she says, “I didn’t do it meditatively enough, did I?” Pragitam says something but what she hears in that moment is “Who is watching?” and she realizes it doesn’t matter what she is watching, they are only labels – and the walls disappear, there is simply nothingness. Pragitam quips later, “You just had a bliss attack!”
Three months in, during one night she asks, “I need clear help on how to deal with the pain.” In a dream she hears what she senses is Poonjaji’s voice saying, “Don’t fight the pain, allow the pain.” This is a moment of atonement for her and it becomes a meditation. She realizes that her way had been to be present with the pain by penetrating it, and that by doing this she was actually holding the pain. By going into the pain to get rid of it actually empowers it and doesn’t help with healing. What is actually needed is to allow the pain by watching it and giving it space.
Finally the doctors feel it is time for the operation on her back. Until now she has denied even to herself that the back is broken. In hindsight this defiance was helpful, as it allowed her to concentrate on the healing of her legs. However, when the doctors bring up their plan to operate on the broken 4th lumbar vertebra, Navanita refuses, as she is convinced she can take care of the healing. While looking at the X-rays of her back, a German doctor who is brought in for consultation says, “If she says she can heal it, she can!”
She must lie flat on her back for six weeks. She feels her toes constantly moving and senses that by doing that she keeps the dance going on inside. One night while she is sleeping Varsha shakes her – she thinks Navanita is dead because her toes are not moving!
At last she is encouraged to slowly sit up and when she is able to roll from her back onto her belly she feels like a newborn baby. At first she can only crawl, then she sits on a wheelchair, upgrades to a walker, all the time physically renewing herself and learning how to sit and walk, now almost nine months after the accident. It is indeed a new birth.
Navanita tells me that she now knows she came back from the accident to learn love, that every relationship she has since then is a different experiencing of love: “As the journey goes on exploring the body, I see love and innocence as the same, being more and more humble, being a child and very wise at the same time. Once I told existence that I know I am here to love, but to tell me if I need to continue teaching or if there is something else I need to do for this to pass through.” The answer was simply “Quietness.”
After 8 months in hospital friends asked, “Aren’t you bored? And I laughed and said, “How can I be bored with all that going on?!”
Previously published in Osho World Newsletter, New Delhi
Navanita offers workshops all over the world – Natural Dance, Remembering Health, Somatic Movement, Experiential Anatomy and various others. Next year she offers a longer training in Cologne, Germany.