Spirit is the force within you that is believed to give your body life, energy, and power. If this vital force gives life to all of us then a spiritual practice would seem to be an important part of your daily life for an existence filled with health, balance and vitality. If that is true for your life now, then how do spiritual practices help you at the end of your life?
If you have a spiritual practice it is most likely you will, at the end of your life, die in ease and not in terror or fear. However, for many of us today it is a challenge to stay out of stress because most of us are feeling a sense of worry, or anxiousness most of the time. This is due to everyday stressful life issues. Some of the life issues that create these pressures are driving in traffic, having family concerns, strain from computer work, reacting to the negative news etc. These are only a few stressors but there are many other situations that can cause your anxiety and stress. If you do not have a spiritual practice to break this tension, then day after day this tension will accumulate and build in your mind/body. The stress you build up may continue right up until the moment of your death. There is a cliché that says, “The way you live is the way you die”. The fear of death coupled with stress creates in our culture a death phobia. For many of us we avoid confronting our personal fear of death.
That is not always true as there is much to learn if you let your self fully confront death as a discovery process and thereby turn toward death as a natural process of your life instead of avoiding the inevitable. You will learn more about living fully when you get comfortable sitting with death by using your spiritual practices. These practices allow you to see that death is not a medical event but rather a time for inner growth and transformation. This is not a fairy-tale situation as there may be suffering and even pain before the transformation. However, at the end of life your spiritual practices can create an expansion of consciousness that can take you beyond the suffering and open you to that transformational moment of death.
The good news is you can develop a mind-state that is of a higher level of consciousness. It is a mind that connects you to the spirit that gives you energy and power. This mind-state is always within you and is what I call the Expanded Self. This Self creates energy and utilizes energy to express compassion for your self and for all beings. The Expanded Self has the potential to expand your mind into a higher frequency utilizing such inner tools and practices such as forgiveness, gratitude, appreciation, kindness and compassion.
The other mind or consciousness within us you is the self that has been mentioned earlier. This is the self that accumulates stress. It is the self of survival or what I call the constricted self. This constricted self lives in fear, anger, shame, and guilt, and it is this self that has all the survival issues that define your experience of reality. When your body lives in stress and survival mode, these negative reactions lowers your energy frequency and affects your body health by consuming lots of energy and run down your immune system. The reason why it is so important to have a spiritual practice is that you die in the Expanded Self. This Expanded Self is still connected to the constricted self because it needs the material world to express itself in awareness and compassion. But at the same time the Expanded Self has the potential to be free of the constricted self. The more you live in your Expanded Self the more you will be prepared for your end of life transition. The good news is you can wake up and be free from stress and the fear of death now before you die. There are many practices to prepare for death. The five practices described below will enable you as Jesus said to, “Be in the world but not of it.” These practices will help you to expand rather than be constricted.
The following five spiritual practices will help you to prepare for the end of your life. Each practice is a life-long journey of learning and discovery. We begin with forgiveness and then in turn gratitude, appreciation, kindness and compassion.
Forgiveness is a powerful quality of healing and transformation that can assist you to release the deepest fears of your life. These fears come from feelings, ideas and attitudes that are projected on to others and objects. These projections are the externalizations of your guilt and blame toward others. These negative projections are a defense against your anxiety and fear. Forgiveness is the energy that releases these outwardly directed projections. These negative projected thoughts attach you to the constricted self of this world. At the end of life, you must let go of everything that you are connected to in this world. Forgiveness is a gift that helps release you from the negative attachments through-out your life as you move into your dying process.
Exercise For Forgiveness
In this exercise make a list of the people and issues you identify that you have negative feeling toward and who may have negative feelings toward you. Focus on each person or issue in turn saying the following phrases below. As you say these phrases focus your attention on your heart. Practicing forgiveness will begin to open your heart and heal your mind.
- I forgive myself, or for another person or the group for not understanding what happened.
- I forgive myself, or for another person or the group for making mistakes.
- I forgive myself, or for another person or the group for not following (my or their) deepest values.
- I forgive myself, or for hurting (myself, another person or group).
Do the statements first for yourself and then turn it around and imagine the other person or the group forgive themselves for the painful situations. As you repeat these phrases on your issues over a period of time you will experience a lightness and deeper heart connection within you.
Gratitude is a powerful energy that daily can open your heart. Gratitude alters how you see the world and is available for a fuller, more conscious and deliberate expression of yourself. With gratitude you easily begin to move into the Expanded Self. When you do not live daily in an attitude of gratitude you move back into the constricted self. Gratitude slows you down to see, feel and experience depth, clarity and understanding of any person, event or expression. The practice of gratitude both grounds you and opens within you a greater awareness that touches the infinite.
A Simple Exercise to Open to Gratitude
Make a list of people, events, situations, and experiences in your life that have supported, inspired, and motivated you over the last five years. Go over the list daily giving thanks for the people and events. Touch your heart as you speak your thanks. Add to your list as you recall new things to be grateful for. This practice will become a natural part of your life.
Gratitude is the inner jewel that you finally experience as you enter into the dying process and leave this world. With gratitude you can then move into expanded dimensions and realms of existence as you go through the door way of your death.
Appreciation both changes and charges your energy field. You have more energy because you are connected directly to the Expanded Self. The more you learn to be aware from your inner world of appreciation the more you will see the good and the beautiful as well as the conscious qualities and the true essence of the person, situation or event you encounter.
Appreciation opens the doorway to present moment awareness. Awareness is the deep quality of love of being aware at a larger context of perception. There is both awareness of the outer world as well as the inner world simultaneously. Awareness is the opening to the expanded world and its many dimensions. This expansion is the power of appreciation because you perceive the reality of love that directly eliminates judgment or preconception. In this state you are in the present moment awareness. When dying this is the state you want to learn to be in.
An Exercise For Appreciation
Everyday be on the look out for people and situations to express your appreciation. Also, look for ways to appreciate yourself. Here are the steps to follow:
- Simply be attentive to see who or what are in your range of awareness and note what they are doing and acknowledge what you see to yourself or others.
- For example, you see a cat stretched out on a windowsill and say to the cat, “You look beautiful in your relaxation”.
- Also, you are in the office and observe someone working late simply speak your appreciation to them to honor their effort.
- Or you may hear a beautiful piece of music with a string solo. In your mind appreciate the talent of the person playing the music.
- As you observe the different elements in a person or situation demonstrate appreciation by speaking out loud; don’t think about it or evaluate it. Just allow it to come out naturally.
To experience appreciation daily enables a deepening connection with all of life. As with any practice first appreciate what you are and what you do daily in your life; you will then find that it becomes easier to appreciate others.
In our society kindness is an attitude of being considerate and temperate with yourself and others. Kindness is basically a means of acceptance that holds that whatever the person, circumstance or condition you can respond without judgment or a stance of superiority. Kindness, when you consciously practice it, generates energy and creates a higher vibrational frequency within you. This higher frequency moves quickly toward the spectrum of light. In Kindness things lighten up emotionally and in your perceptions. The action of kindness comes through your insight. Your insight will show you what to do or not do in any situation. Kindness cannot be driven by the constricted self, but only as you open to the Expanded Self. It is in this Expanded Self of self-kindness in which you want to die.
An Exercise For Practicing Kindness
In practicing kindness you gain insight naturally as you put your attention at the forehead and at the crown of your head. These are two strong energy centers.
- In meditation whether walking or just sitting, quietly focus your attention on the forehead and the crown of your head simultaneously. Hold your attention on these two energy points until you feel warmth, buzzing, pulsation or whatever sensation beings you more awareness.
- Hold your attention on these dual points as much as you can as you move through your day observing what you experience.
- After a few days of attention and focus of these two centers bring your awareness down from the crown and forehead into your heart.
- Bringing the attention down to your heart opens your insight and awareness of the needs and concerns of others.
- In time, by doing this practice you will see into people and situations and know what the appropriate action needs to be.
This practice will bring caring and goodness to yourself and all beings and things with which you come into contact. This practice will open you naturally into the Expanded Self. With consistent practice you will live in and use kindness in any action in your life and be at peace as you die.
Compassion Is not a feeling or an emotion. Compassion is an act of becoming unified with the energetic field of another person. It is the experience of having the direct and same experience as the other because you are on the same energy frequency as the other person. When you break down the word compassion it is “com” meaning “with” and “passion” which is what drives one’s energy and motivation. In compassion you attune to the frequency of the other by focusing on your heart and their heart. When you say you have compassion for another what you “feel” is that you are “with” the core essence of their energy condition. In that common space you and they are unified. The ultimate act of compassion is for one self. This is the compassion you need for yourself when you are dying.
An Exercise For Self-Compassion
- The first step in the practice is to sit quietly, explore inwardly and acknowledge the energetic feelings of your own pain and suffering.
- Name what is your suffering and pain.
- Focus and hold these conditions at your heart. Put your attention on feeling a warming, pulsating or any other sensation build at your heart center. When you feel a strong sensation at your heart move this heart energy up to the crown of your head. Feel the sensation build at the top of your head just as you did in your heart.
- As the energy builds from your focus and attention let this energy naturally flow out the top of your head and experience an expansion of your being.
- In this expansion remember and feel your pain and suffering and let it dissolve in the greater energy frequency of expansion.
- As you do this practice of self-compassion you will naturally become attuned to this higher vibration and frequency of love most of the time in your daily life.
- A modification of this practice is to connect with another person but feel their pain and as you release their condition through the top of your head you will touch into their expanded frequency in compassion for them.
Compassion is an important practice to develop for the end of your life.
Each of us will face our death alone. Others may support and help us in the final process of our dying with comfort and prayers, but it will be the practices of your life time and the ability to apply those practices during your dying that will lead you peacefully and gracefully into a continuation of your journey.