Meditation on Death 02
Thinking about death is like relieving tension. We live our lives with all our might as if the world would move to our will. Perhaps until we collapse from exhaustion. Stiff on the ground, we give a glance to death. Standing in a dark corner, death speaks. “Ease up a bit.”
Suddenly, I remember the times when I went to play in the valley as a child. Grandfather and grandmother loaded a ripe watermelon and drove us to Namhansanseong, a fortress south of Seoul. I faintly remember the excitement I felt about the early summer air that entered my nose as we traveled on the winding road.
When we arrived at our spot, the water in the valley was shallower than grandfather had expected, so he rolled up his pants and moved the rocks without hesitation. With his steady hand, the children there, including his own, watched in awe as a round puddle formed in the valley, and the water level gradually rose. While my young grandfather diligently changed the valley’s topography, a beautiful natural swimming pool was created where everyone could swim comfortably. At that time, the world seemed to me that it was kind enough to respond to my needs with just a little effort.
However, life is more like a deep gorge or a rough river where one can quickly lose their life if one stumbles and falls. I was always inadequate in controlling the speed or direction of the flow according to my own will. It took me a very long time to realize this.
While suffering from severe depression, I often felt the urge to commit suicide. The world didn’t flow the way I wanted it to, and even just trying to float on the surface was exhausting. I lived through days of helplessness, paralyzed and rotten I came to the conclusion that giving up was the best option. I wanted to release all my struggle to go against the current and sink deeply into a quiet place.
I didn’t know that I would eventually reach a safe shore if I accepted the flowing waves without resisting. Insisting on which direction the water should flow or how the world should be was obstinacy. Ideals about the world are just images. Myself reflected in the mirror or what I describe as myself in my mind are just images and cannot be the essence. Clinging to non-essentials is like holding a fist tightly; you can’t hold anything in a tightly clenched fist. The more tightly we hold, the more sensitive and edgy we become. Those who cannot trust the world are always on edge.
Living with a struggle mindset is like that. We hold onto things rigidly as if we can clutch them forever. If we loosen our grip, the wind of freedom will settle on our palms. On our empty hands, birds will stop by to rest, and flower petals will land. The whole world comes into our grasp.
“When a person is liberated from all desires and attachments to oneself, one can finally become one with the whole universe. If one is caught up in desires and egotism, one cannot accept the life of the universe that is fully present outside of oneself. It is like living as a dead person.”
These are the words of Ven. Beopjeong. Buddhism teaches us to open our clenched hands and let go because we can’t hold onto anything. It is through letting go that the whole world comes into our hands, which the Buddha realized thousands of years ago.
I have decided to surrender to the world. I accepted my pathetic finiteness and decided to trust the world. The world will betray me many times, but sometimes it will give me beautiful gifts that I could not even imagine.
Meditating on death was like letting go of strife and slowly sinking underwater. Away from being swept away by all sorts of storms beyond my control and in pain, I let myself sink a little, and there was everlasting serenity. My mind, rough like a sea of fire, finally calmed down.
For a while, I was obsessed with ‘floating.’ Floating is when you immerse yourself in a bathtub filled with Epsom salt and simply float on the water. It’s also called a Sensory Deprivation Tank, as all senses are blocked when you float in the pitch-black darkness. After watching Eleven use her powers by blocking her senses in the water in Stranger Things, I thought it was similar to floating.
Floating or Isolation Tanks have been popular in the United States for several years as they are known to be good for stress management, and there are various health benefits to Epsom salt. Seven years ago, when I lived in Seattle, a spa near my house offered this service. My husband and I used to float two or three times a week, thanks to the outrageous benefits we received as opening members.
There is a technique to floating. At first, it’s not easy to believe that your body will float even if you relax because you’re used to using your muscles to stay afloat. However, if you don’t do it right, you can do more harm than good to your health, so you must completely surrender your body to the water and relax. If you float while your body is tense, the muscles that need to relax will actually become even tighter.
Unlike a bed, when you lie on the water, you quickly forget the boundaries of your body. Typically, a floating tank is large enough for an adult male to stretch out their limbs like Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. As you float in complete darkness and silence, there comes a point where you can no longer tell where your body ends and the water begins.
Even in meditation, such moments can happen. A mysterious feeling of the boundaries of my body disappearing and expanding infinitely. I’ve discovered that I reach this point faster if I meditate on death first. Is it because it becomes easier to melt into the world if I erase myself? And what is this feeling exactly?
William Blake said in his poem “The Auguries of Innocence” that even the smallest and weakest things contain the truth of the vast universe.
To see the world in a grain of sand
And heaven in a wildflower
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour
Isn’t it possible that even in a lowly human being like me, the mysterious truth of the universe is alive and breathing? Something like a magnificent truth that can only be felt by suppressing the narrow ego through meditation.
I imagine floating on a river with flower petals scattered around. I trust this river to take me where I want to go. I feel my muscles loosening and a sense of release in places where I was holding tension. In the fullness of happiness and blessings, I gain certainty. How fantastic it is to know that the end of this journey is already predetermined. How death awaits us all, making everything beautiful.
We must let go of our futile desires for control and planning and entrust our bodies to the powerful current of the universe. If everything becomes too burdensome, it’s okay to close our eyes and imagine death, diving a little bit below the surface. In that space, we will see the sunshine, like a white rainbow sinking into the sea, and the raindrops painting pictures on the water’s surface. And someday, we will leave all of this behind and sink into the endless sea of eternity. Until then, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to float a little while longer. Everything will flow according to nature’s course.
3 thoughts on “Death says, ‘Chill out’.”
This blog post is such a beautiful piece on the benefits of meditating on death and letting go of our futile desires for control and planning. The author’s experience with floating and the mysterious feeling of the boundaries of her body disappearing resonated with me. I’m interested to know if the author has any other tips or techniques for incorporating meditation on death into daily life?
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Thank you so much for reading! I’m so glad you resonated with it. I meditate everyday and as soon as I sit down, I imagine my own death. I try to feel what it must feel like to never exist again in my human form as realistically as possible. It’s very difficult but it gets easier. From my experience it helps me reach a state of peace faster. But honestly I’m not sure if it’s good for all to meditate on death. Sometimes I am afraid that I will meet untimely death because I think about it everyday. But I’m still experimenting and it’s working for me so far. I’m going to upload 8 more episode on my experience and how it changed different aspects of my life. Perhaps you can find more tips from them. Please let me know how your experience goes if you mean to try! Much love
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Thanks for your reply. I don’t have a fixation on my demise. I’m planning to live until at least 165. I have to, there is so much to learn and do.
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