Becoming Buddhist involves an up close and personal relationship with death and dying. The end of life is around us everyday and a natural part of our experience.
There is a natural aversion to death, both our own and those close to us. Dying is frightening and can be painful, often leaving loved ones behind and holes in our lives when those close to us pass away. Facing death openly can make us uneasy and uncomfortable.
And that is why we must do it.
Pursuing awareness includes awareness into the end of life. Death is one experience that all living beings share, yet little is done to prepare ourselves and each other.
Meditations on the End of Life
Use the following topics as seeds to explore the experience and feelings associated with death and dying. Begin meditation as you would normally, then bring up one of these topics into your focus. As with any meditation session thoughts and feelings will arise naturally. Let then comes into your awareness and dissipate without interference. Open your experience to ride the waves without effort.
Losing someone close to you
Imagine that someone near to you has passed away. Explore the experience.
You may be awash in memories of the person, or feel regret for not expressing yourself while they were alive, or you may feel pain and sorrow without them in your life or any number of other feelings and thoughts and emotions. You may just feel numb altogether.
Sit with these feelings for a few minutes as they swirl and blend. You will likely benefit from repeating this practice from time to time to allow your awareness to form and develop.
The end of your own life
Consider your own death. Explore the experience.
You may experience fear of the unknown or a desire to be free from pain during the process. Thoughts and emotions may move to those who will be alive after your death who will miss you or have to find new ways to care for themselves. You could feel calm with the idea of returning to something more substantial than yourself. You may also face a wall of denial, a hardened shell pushing back this investigation for fear of facing your own passing.
Be gentle, be persistent, and return to this meditation focus to broaden your awareness.