It has been said that we are not truly prepared to live until we are prepared to die. Life assumes a greater meaning and purpose when we fully appreciate the fact we are going to die. Our death is real and will be marked by a specific day on the calendar. All the days leading up to that one assume a special significance. Time passes so quickly.
It is hard, if not impossible, to comprehend the end of our existence as we know it. To the extent that we can, it helps us to appreciate life and living all the more. A life review can help us make peace with our lives as we have lived them.
Once we make peace with our lives–yes, I’ve made mistakes, but I’ve done as well as I can–then we are able to make changes in our lives. It is also helpful to understand how our attitudes towards death and loss shape our significant relationships.
The purpose of this meditation is to become aware of your own mortality and the mortality of those you love. When you are able to accept your own death, and the deaths of your loved ones, as inevitable, you gain a broader perspective of your life direction and the choices you are now making. Priorities become clearer and change is easier to make.
The death meditation will not ease the pain of loss. Grief is an expression of your love for the one who has died. The meditation will, however, assist you in acknowledging death as a part of life. As you do this, you prepare to make the most of the time you have left. You prepare to live.
Find a quiet space. Play gentle music if this comforts you. Concentrate on slow deep breathing as you relax and let go. It may help to look at a picture of yourself, or your loved one, as you meditate. You can also use any symbol that is meaningful to you as a focal point for the death meditation.
Breathe deeply as you contemplate the questions. Let your responses flow. Allow thoughts to come and go, as they will. Images may appear in your mind’s eye. Record your responses in a journal or on tape for later review.
Think about your own death as you meditate. To get you started, answer the following questions: What does dying mean to you? Are you afraid to die? How long do you expect to live? What do you most want to accomplish with your life? What is the one thing you wish you could do before you die that you have not yet done? If you believe in heaven, what do you want St. Peter to say to you when you get to the Pearly Gates?
Pretend you are writing your own obituary. Let your whole life pass before you. How do you want to be remembered? What are your accomplishments? What gives your life real meaning and purpose? Do you have regrets? What are they? Who are the most important people in your life? What will your loved ones say about you at your funeral? What do you want them to say?
What has been the most significant death in your own life? Describe your life before and after the death of your loved one. How has the death of your loved one changed you?
If you have not yet experienced the death of a close friend or loved one, anticipate how you would feel if a significant person in your life dies tomorrow. What do you dread or fear most about this death? How would you behave differently today if you knew the person you most loved were to die tomorrow? What would you say to him or her? Imagine what he or she might say back to you.
When we prepare to live with the full knowledge that we will die, we stop taking life and the people we love for granted. Our own lives, and our significant relationships, become authentic. Review your responses to the meditation at a later date. Has anything changed?