Most of us are terrified of death. Death is not something we want to think about.
And yet, death can be your biggest ally. Death, like nothing else, can teach you how to make the decisions that matter most, live your life to the fullest and enjoy it all. Only when we face our own death can we deeply appreciate life and all of our abundant blessings.
The first time I faced my own death was through a Death Meditation led by my teacher Ana Forrest. Even though it was a deeply disturbing and painful experience, death guided me to the major decisions of my life. Death forced me to re-evaluate my own life and what matters to me the most.
As a result, I prioritized going to Kazakhstan to visit my family twice a year, which my kids and I did religiously for many years. Death made it very clear that my husband and my children are my most important treasures. Death led me to the major decision to sell my 7 yoga studios and all of my possessions to travel the world with my husband and kids. It turned out to be the most perfect timing not only for the yoga industry and my business, but also the precious moment in my oldest daughter’s transition into being a tween. I was able to be the mother she needed me to be in this challenging transition in her life.
Now death meditation is the ritual that we go through at least twice a year. It is a part of our RYT200 Yoga Teacher Trainings and I believe that it is one of the main things that makes our trainings so transformational and life changing.
You too can experience the power of Death Meditation that will radically transform your life and empower you to live the life of your dreams doing things that matter to you the most. You can face your own death with the guidance of Roger and me in our On-Line RYT200 Yoga Teacher Training that will take place on the weekends Sep 12-Oct 11, 2020
Or experience it on your own by reading a passage from Fierce Medicine by my teacher and mentor Ana Forrest:
So now it’s time for you to die. Today. At this very moment. I’m going to guide you through your own Death Meditation as you experience your last day on earth. Together we’ll count down the hours, the minutes, the seconds, your final precious moments on earth. As your life force dims, you’ll ponder important questions you may have avoided your entire life.
Here’s how this will go: Get a notebook, pen, and tissues and find a comfortable place to sit where you won’t be disturbed for at least an hour. As you read each paragraph below, close your eyes, breathe, and take the time to absorb what it means and to allow yourself to react to it. Whatever comes up for you, write it down. You might have a physical reaction: shaking, trembling, a deep chill, numbness. Take notes on how your body feels. If a big emotional thing comes up, take the time to experience it. Tears? Fear? Shame? Confusion? Don’t just shut down with it. There’s no clock ticking here; move at your own pace. Your notes will be there for you to reflect on later, so stay in each moment. Keep breathing, and remain compassionate toward yourself. This is hard, brave work you’re doing.
The more you put into this, the more you’ll get out of it. If you sit and resist what I’ve written, what I’m saying, you’ll just get pissy. And that’s a waste of time. Go for this 100 percent, and you’ll get a lot out of it. When I sat staring up at the stars before my leap off the cliff, I was able to experience peace for the first time in my life because something in me had allowed me to let go of all the chatter and simply surrender to the process. I was willing to let go of absolutely everything. Now I’m asking you to do the same: surrender to the process and face Death.
THE DEATH MEDITATION
I recommend you begin this exercise in the early evening, so the fading light and the cooling air help create the correct atmosphere.
Write at the top of your paper, Death Meditation.
Now close your eyes. Have your writing materials open in front of you as you get your breathing very deep. Get your core wide open and spacious. Feel your breath moving through your lungs, feel your own heart beating, feel your blood moving through your veins, these rivers of life moving through you.
Now consider: if you knew that in twelve hours, you would be dead, what would you do now, for these last twelve hours of your life? Without a doubt, no matter what you did—run away, kick and scream, curse me or the heavens—it wouldn’t matter because you’d still be dead before morning. No escape. Get a feel for that. This is your last little bit of life. You won’t even get to see another sunrise. Breathe that in, feel the truth of that. All the plans, all the things you were waiting to do in the future: they’re gone. Maybe you were planning on becoming a teacher or a pilot or a lawyer or a Yoga teacher. Maybe you wanted a mate or children. Maybe when you were finally healed enough you were going to allow yourself to love. But now it’s too late for all that. Feel that. In the midst of that feeling, taste how precious each moment now becomes because you have so few of them left. Take a very deep breath and savor it fully. This is one of your last breaths.
Now get ready to ask yourself some questions.
- Feel the Death of your hopes and dreams. Everything you were getting ready for. As you sit here feeling that Death, that loss, what are your regrets? All the ways you were going to live your life, all the dreams you were waiting to live. . . . What were the promises that you made to yourself or your loved ones that you can no longer keep because your time is over? Perhaps you told yourself you’d start caring for yourself in a kind and sane way someday in the future; well, now you don’t have a future. Let yourself fully feel your loss. Write down your regrets.
Think about all the feelings you normally keep shut away because you have to function; well, there’s nothing left to function for anymore. Be brave enough to feel fully now without any guard because these are the last few feelings you get to have. Take another deep breath, feeling your regrets, your loss. Feel just how precious your life is. Now you only have eleven hours and fifty minutes left to live.
2. What are your unfinished communications? What did you want to say or write to your loved ones? Tothe people who touched your heart . . . or who broke it? What are the communications you need to complete before you die? To those who hurt you, those you hate, those you love? Write down everything you wished you could say to those people. Be 100 percent honest.
Stay connected to your breath, to the reality of your Death coming closer. As you feel your impending Death looming over you, ask yourself: What am I still withholding? What’s behind my inhibitions? Am I waiting for the right time to feel fully or express myself fully? Why? Think about all the rules that have kept you inhibited from doing what your Spirit yearns for—and now it’s too late. Your time is up. Write down what you’re holding back.
3. As you feel your impending Death coming closer—feel that coolness of Death coming closer—realize there is really no escape from your Death. Take a breath, and allow yourself to savor the pain because it means you are still alive. As you’re feeling the dread coolness of Death, ask yourself: What am I still imprisoned by? Answer honestly.
Take a deep breath, savor that your lungs and heart still work. Feel, for maybe the first time, how your breath sparkles through you, something you never took the time to notice before. Feel just how precious these last breaths are . . . these last breaths of life.
4. As you feel your Death begin to strip away your delusions of immortality and comfortable numbness, ask: What have I been lying to myself about? What are all the ways I’ve sabotaged myself? As your Death strips away the lies, can you finally be completely honest with yourself for these last few hours of your life? Check in, see if one of your lies is about how you need your lies. What can you finally be honest with yourself about? Write down what you’ve been lying to yourself about and all the ways you’ve sabotaged yourself.
If not now, you don’t have any other when. Now is all you have. As you feel your Death touch and chill your skin, can you finally recognize what you have in your life that should have died long ago?
5. Recall the dead leaves of the tree that need to fall off and turn to compost to feed its roots. What in your life needs to break off and die in order for you to live freely? An eating disorder, abuse, your illness, your pain, or a bad relationship? Which things have been eating your life force like a parasite? Are you going to continue to feed these parasitic energies up until your last breath? What in your life needs to break off and die so you can live freely for your last few hours?
Feel Death coming closer . . . coming right up to your face. Feel that coolness of Death permeating your skin, chilling it bone deep, slowing your blood and organs. Feel this unstoppable presence of Death coming into you. Take another breath; it’s one of your last . . . treasure it. As the cold invades your extremities, feel that loss of sensitivity in your fingers and toes, your hands and feet as your life force fades.
Now, what do you say to your loved ones, knowing that you are not going to see them after sunrise? What are you going to say to them? Write down your last words to those you love.
Take another breath. The air is getting heavier and it’s harder to pull into your lungs; the oxygen isn’t moving much. Take a breath while you still can.
Feel Death seeping through your core, slowing your blood and heart, turning your lungs flaccid and increasingly useless. What could you do to prepare for Death in these last few hours? What steps could you take to have a Death with integrity, a noble Death? If you can’t have a life, what will you do in these few remaining hours to at least have a Death that you can be proud of? Write it down.
Now your adrenal glands are pumping frantically. You feel your heart; it’s actually starting to beat faster . . . it’s racing desperately . . . beating faster like a trapped bird as Death closes in on you. Your vision starts to darken as you grow even colder.
6. Has it become clear to you, finally, what you really love? As Death strips away your veils, what matters most to you? Write it down.
7. Feel your heart abandon its frantic efforts, slowing once more, struggling to beat. Feel Death fill every last cell and permeate your brain, extinguishing your final thoughts on earth. Feel Death come over your heart . . . and your heart stops . . . . At this moment, when your vital forces are stopped, can you make a choice? Can you make a Warrior’s Choice to choose the life you most deeply desire? Make that choice. Feel Death’s power. Now use the power of your inevitable Death to drag out all that you are ready to let die. Feel Death’s cold fingers dragging and scraping all of the scar tissue, pain, betrayal, and debris out of you, through your lungs, heart, back. Feel the rest of your Death moving through you, pulling with it the remaining garbage that needs to turn into compost. Let Death take out what you are ready to be free of.
Now, draw in a fresh breath, a breath that sparkles—the first after your return from Death, and use it to breathe out all of the foul thinking that fed that debris.
Everything that kept you from living the life that you want, that you desire, that is what your Spirit yearns for, breathe it out. Now take another breath. Fill those places that so desperately want to live with this new life force. Put breath in there. Know that Death is your ally.
Breathe out your Death. Breathe in this new life force. Sparkle up.
8. Breathe that new life back into your heart. Breathe that new life back into your lungs. Breathe that new life back into your blood and get it moving again. Feel your body slowly warming from your core outward, radiating into your arms and legs, life-giving blood warming you down to your fingers and toes. Feel yourself moving in the direction of what quickens your blood. Living your life as your Spirit desires. Living the life that quickens your blood. What are the dreams that you are willing to invest your life in now? Write them down. Keep breathing as you write so you add the aliveness of your breath to your purpose, vision, and dreams, knowing they are worthy of your life force. Know the truth of this: You don’t know when Death will visit you again. You don’t have a moment to waste anymore. Take another breath. Now that you know what really matters to you, can you live it?
9. Keeping your realizations of the Death Meditation close to you, what reminders do you need to keep steady with yourself when your addictions and old behaviors call to you? What are you going to do instead to honor your new life, this life that is so precious? Write down the reminders that will keep you aligned with the purpose you’ve just committed to fulfilling.
Take a deep breath, washing that sparkling energy of your Spirit into those areas that Death cleansed out. Welcome your Spirit home into your body fully. You have a tremendous amount of heart and courage. Use it to move past whatever held you back and imprisoned you—commit yourself to living the life your Spirit yearns for.
Take this new commitment into your next sunrise and every sunrise.
The notes you’ve taken during the Death Meditation are the blueprint for your new life. Keep them close and reread them often; they will help you live the life your heart and soul most desire. In doing so, you will be a gift to the world. You have met what is Sacred in you; you have moved out what is Not! Namaste.”