Death is a complicated topic in our culture. Most of us are terrified by the specter of the inescapable ax hovering above our heads, and sublimate our fear in any number of disguises. It is one of the reasons why we can never sit still. Slowing down brings us face to face with our own frailty and reminds us of our lack of preparedness for the final letting go. One sees a similar fear in our behavior around dying. On numerous occasions, I have been at the bedside of someone a step away from death, when a friend or relative drops by to offer some asinine comment like “You look great” or “I know you will pull through this”. These comments are our egos talking; on some level, we believe we can bypass this final exit. 

We can deepen and enrich our lives by examining our conscious and unconscious attitudes towards death. In my experience, it is possible to learn about dying while we are living, and it is valuable knowledge. When our actual death comes, most of us leave in the middle of something; we do not get to choose our moment of passing. Very few of us leave when our egos are ready. So it is good practice to see what feelings come up when we do have to leave things unfinished. 

A meditation that I do from time to time is to lie down and feel what it might be like if I was dying. In my mind, I release all that I hold dear, all the plans and dreams and love that surround me in that moment. I pay attention to the emotions that come up and my reluctance to let go. And then I practice letting go. Try this exercise with some heart, it can show you much about where you are in your life. 

Another activity that I practice is to stop an experience that I am engrossed in. Let’s say I am watching a movie that I find engaging and I force myself to walk out before the end. Or I am working on my motorcycle and before I finish the job, I put down my tools. You can have the same experience by putting aside a book that you are immersed in. I follow all these actions by sitting with the agitation that comes from my ego not being satiated. Practice it: the force of the agitation might surprise you. With repetition, it does become easier. Practicing dying leads to living more fully. And letting go a little now can make it easier when death does arrive.