I keep coming back to death practice.

For instance, I can visualize my own death – in as much detail and as vividly as possible, and take time for it to sink in and notice what happens.

What if I knew for certain that I would die in one year? One month? One week? One day? One hour? One minute? One second? What happens? What would I like to use that time for? What is important? What happens to my identifications with this body and this human self?

I can visualize my body as already dead. With the flesh rotting and falling off the bones. The skeleton itself disintegrating.

I also sometimes go to graveyards and visualize the disintegrating bodies underground, and my own body as if already there disintegrating.

And I can remember people and animals in my life who are now dead. I will be dead like them before I know it. My days are numbered, even if I don’t know the number. Everybody I know will be dead in just a few decades. All of humanity will eventually be dead and gone.

These types of practices can have many effects.

One is as an invitation to self-inquiry. What is left after the body is disintegrated? What am I really? Am I this body that comes and goes? What is it that does not come and go?

It – quite naturally – helps disidentification with this human self, through recognition that it is transient, changing, is born and dies.

It helps prioritize. If my life is short, and I take time to get a gut sense of that, what does that do to my priorities? What is really important in life? How would I like to live the time that is left, which is short in any case, and may be much shorter than I thought?

And it gives a felt-sense of our shared mortality. We – all beings – are all in the same boat here. My heart opens to myself and others.

Note: The practices mentioned above are all contemplation. I can also investigate death in immediacy. I can bring attention to one sense field at a time and notice impermanence. Is there anything that does not go as soon as it happens? What seems most permanent? If I explore it through each sense fields, what do I find?


Initial outline…

  • death practice
    • for instance, visualize own death (in as much detail and as vividly as possible)
      • if knew will die in one year, one month, one week, one day, one hour, one minute, one second
      • visualize flesh rotting, falling off the skeleton, the skeleton disintegrating, etc.
    • invitation for inquiry: what is left? What am I, if I am not this body, this human self?
    • disidentification w. human self, transient, always changing, born and dies

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