Now we shall learn the actual method of death meditation. It is assumed that you have kept in mind the important points discussed in previous page (Preparation for Death Meditation) regarding place, timing and clothing.
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Lie flat on your back, using a rug or folded blanket to protect yourself from the cold floor/ board. Close your eyes. You may not feel very comfortable when you first try lying like this. The floor will feel too hard and you may find yourself tempted to shift position. But this you must not do, for in order to relax muscle by muscle, it is important to lie quite still. Make sure that you are lying comfortably with your weight fairly evenly distributed on the floor.
Once settled, take a few deep breaths slowly. Observe the inhalation and exhalation process while breathing, then allow yourself to breath normally again.
Now, you must be aware that our body is consist of 6 basic external part – two legs, two hands, one ‘neck & head’ portion and the remaining torso. What you have to do now is to relax these six parts one by one.
Start taking a deep breath and while you inhale, stretch one of your leg. Stretch it hard, making all the muscle along the way contract. You will observe that while you stretch, the muscles quite far removed from the area with which you are experimenting contract in sympathy.
When the air you are inhaling reaches inside the deepest point in your body, take a momentary pause. Hold the stretch at that moment. Then slowly start exhaling the air and ( simultaneously ) release the stretch. Let go every muscle that you stretch while inhalation.
Let me again explain you what you have done.
You Inhale air slowly AND you stretch muscles along with it. Then..
For a moment You hold the breath inside AND hold the stretch in the muscles. Then….
You exhale air slowly AND you release the stretch in the muscles along with it.
Got my point ? You have successfully relaxed one of your leg.
This process will bring an immense sense relaxation in the leg. Now you are to repeat this process with another leg. Inhale slowly and stretch the second leg. Again take a pause when the inhaling air reaches the deepest point inside. Hold the stretch for a moment along with the breath. Then slowly exhale the breath and release the stretch from the leg.
Extend this process to relax your hands , neck & Head area and the torso. Inhale, Stretch, hold for a moment and then Exhale while releasing the stretch.
One you completely relax all these 6 external part of your body this way, apply this process of relaxation to the entire body in one go.
Take a deep breath. Inhale slowly and stretch the whole body at one go. Make all the muscles tense together. Remain in this tense position for a moment while holding the breath then slowly release the stretch and exhale.
You will feel a sense of immense relaxation by doing this. However, this is just the beginning . Keep lying this way. Take some deep breath.
By this time you will be feeling very relaxed and calm. You have successfully completed the first phase of this meditation i.e. you have relaxed yourself completely Now the real process of death meditation starts. As I have already mentioned, we’ll take the help of imagination.
Keep lying in the relaxed position for a few moments. Keep breathing at your normal pace. Now imagine.. that you are dying.
(AND WHEN I SAY IMAGINE, I MEAN IT. IMAGINE that you are dying as intensely and vividly you can. AND BELIEVE IT. TRULY BELIEVE THAT YOU ARE DYING )
Do you know what happens when the body starts dying ? Slowly -slowly all body parts starts loosing their vitality and energy. All the internal as well as external organs comes in a state of relaxed trance. The whole metabolism of body gets slowed down. Each and every cell of our body starts reducing its activity slowly. The vital consciousness starts shrinking from every parts of body.
Imagine that all the muscles of your body, with all of their tissues and cells, all arteries and veins of the body are losing their strength and vitality. Imagine that your limbs are loosing their strength, vitality, warmth and energy. slowly move your attention from the lowest parts of your body to the higher parts and
imagine (as vividly as possible)…..
…that in whichever region of your body you are moving your attention that particular region is dying. All internal organs of your body like kidney, liver, intestines, stomach, lungs and hearts etc all of them are slowing down their activities. Slowly slowly the whole metabolism of your body is coming to a halt. Everything that constitutes your body is dying,
Take your attention to the top of your head thus relaxing every organ in the way. Till now you have completely relaxed your body. From now onward we will start the second stage of this meditation.
All of us have consciousness inside us. Though we don’t know the nature of this consciousness, yet we all felt its presence. Now you have to imagine that this consciousness in you is shrinking.
Imagine that this consciousness is a kind of energy in you. Imagine that this energy (consciousness) is shrinking form every apart of the body and concentrating around the area of your heart.
Imagine that from every part of your body – from your legs, hands, head, brain, lower and upper abdomen, kidneys, lever, intestines and all little & big muscles and bones- from almost everywhere the consciousness is moving towards your heart and thus very part of your body is slowly becoming conscious less. This way you will concentrate the entire consciousness of your body around your heart. This process will take you into a deep state of physical relaxation.
Now You will remove all thoughts from your mind. Since physically you have become completely inert, now its time to make your mind quiet by making it free from all thoughts. Do as following
As you are imaging the process of dying. Just believe firmly that you are dying really and say to yourself- ” Yes ! I am dying here and now. There are many unfulfilled desires, many dreams to realize, many responsibilities to be taken care of. However, all these desires, dreams and responsibilities are loosing their relevance in this moment of dearth. Really visualize that all desires, emotions, dreams, and responsibilities which you would like to fulfill had you got a chance to live further and says to yourself – “No matter how important they are for me, Since I am dying, nothing matters.”
At this moment every thing is loosing its relevance for you. You are dying. From now onwards there will be no future, there will be no past for you. You, as a human being, are ending your innings on earth.
Do you know what will happen when you really imagine and visualize the above ? All thoughts will start disappearing from your mind. It is a very interesting fact that all thoughts have their existence in your mind because you exists. When you will be no more, there will be no thoughts. As you intensely imagine that you are dying in the present moment, all thoughts will start disappearing from your mind.
The center of all our emotions (like love, kindness, hate , lust, anger, generosity, compassion etc ) is our heart. As you have centered your consciousness around your heart, imagine that your consciousness (which is centered around the heart ) and all your emotions are mingling with each other and slowly coming out of your heart. Just imagine that your whole consciousness along with all kind of good and bad emotions which you thoughts are present in you, have moved out of your body. Imagine firmly that all emotions are leaving your body. Soon you will find all sort of emotions purge out from body. The consciousness will also move out of your body.
After making your body completely relaxed, making you mind almost completely free from all thoughts and removing all your emotions and consciousness from your heart, here is the third and the final stage of this imaginative meditation.
Now you will merge your body with the universe…..
It is a very ancient religious belief (which is also quite true to a great extent) that our body (and the entire universe as well) is made up of 5 elements. These basic elements are -,Water, Air, Fire, Earth and Space.
In the third step of this meditation, you have to imagine that your body is again disintegrating into 5 basic elements of water, air, fire, earth and space and these elements of your body are merging with the universe.
that all the water in your body is coming out of the body and is merging with a huge ocean. The water element of your body is again returning to its source -the water element of universe. Visualize it really.
Then imagine that all the air in your body is coming out of your body and is merging with the air on the atmosphere. The air element going back to its source – the air element of universe.
Now imagine that a huge ball of cosmic fire has surrounded you. Imagine that all the warmth and fire which is inside you is coming out of your body and is merging with this cosmic fire ball.
After merging the three elements of water, air and fire into their original sources, imagine that the remaining portion of your body which is the earth element is merging into the earth element of universe. The earth on which you are lying and the earth of which you are made up of , both are merging into each other. By now every part of your physical body has merged into 4 basic element.
Everything in this universe occupy some space. Your body has also occupied some space in this world. Now after merging your physical body into water, air , fire and earth, imagine that whatever be the little space your body has occupied in this universe, that particular space is again merging with the infinite space. Imagine and visualize it intensely.
Now What ?
Remain in this position. Keep laying silently. You have died. Your body has again merged into 5 elements. Your thoughts have gone. Your consciousness has gone. Your emotions have gone. Everything in existence that constitute you – your body, your mind, your emotions, your thoughts – all have gone. Is there anything that is still there. Feel its presence. Yes still there is something which has not gone.
Still you are there silently watching all the so called ‘aspects of your being’- the body, mind thoughts and emotions going into oblivion. What is that which has remained ? It is nothing but your self – your true identity. It is this witness who was watching your death. Not your death, the death of your body and mind. It is the self that remains even after everything goes. The silent watcher that watches everything that comes and goes. This self is your true identity, the real you. All meditations techniques are the process to know this self.
Keep laying in this position for some time (10-25 minutes). Now you have to end this meditation session. Please do not make haste. Remember that there’s a skill to leaving meditation. You should not just jump right out. Meditation is just like climbing a ladder up to the second story of a building: step-by-step-by-step, rung-by-rung, slowly up to the top of ladder. So as soon as you get to the second story, don’t jump out the window. Think of how much effort went into getting yourself centered. Don’t throw it away.
The process of ending this meditation is the exact reverse of what you have done till now and it also involves imagination.
Imagine that your body is again appearing from the universe. Up to now you imagined that you are dying. Now imagine that you are taking re-birth. Imagine that life forces are again starting functioning in you. All the 5 basic elements of space, earth fire, air and water are again coming from the universe and integrating with each other to form your body. Imagine that all the emotions that have moved out of your body from the heart, are again entering into the heart. Imagine that your thought process has again started functioning.
The brain has become fully active. Imagine the consciousness is again coming into your body through your heart and is again spreading itself in all parts of your body. Every part of your body is again brimming with consciousness. Imagine that slowly all your body parts are becoming active, gaining strength and vitality. The whole metabolism of body that has come to a halt has again started with full flow. All external as well as internal organs have started working to their fullest.
Visualize every organ of your body and imagine that it is activating again getting strength and vitality. Now slowly open your eyes and wake up. Sit easily and take some deep breath. You have completed the death meditation. Congratulations !!
Do this meditation daily and soon you will start knowing your true identity (self) in detail. This meditation technique has the dual benefits of deep relaxation and deep meditation. It will not only renew your body and give you a new vigor, but it also make you aware of the process of death. You will be able to understood about the immortal aspect of your being. Moreover, once realizing about your own self, your perception about others will also change.
Let me summarize the steps in this meditation
(1) Lie down straight and relax your body
(2) Imagine you are dying by removing your thoughts, emotions and consciousness.
(3) Disintegrate your body into five basic elements and merge them into universe .
(4) Be a witness and realize the presence of self in you.
(5) End the meditation by reversing the process of (3), (2) & (1)
Other Articles in this Series :
Now we will learn the next Meditation technique
Next Meditation Technique : Vipassana