Rest Easy Journal : A down to earth approach to dying

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But immortality remember is for the soul, the body will still have to die. We do our best to take care of our bodies, eat healthy food, exercise, sleep enough, use creams and lotions to help our skin retain a youthful glow, but no matter what you do, your body will get old and there will come a time when you will want to move out and get a new one. So when the time comes for us to die and we become afraid and freak out and throw all of our spiritual practices out the window, then what good have they been to us?

It is imperative that we start now to develop the grace and know-how, which will serve us when we have to transition from this present body to the next adventure. This verse focuses on closing all the gates of the body with the instructions: Sarvadvarani samyamya. Patanjali in the third chapter of the Yoga Sutra spends considerable time with the concept and practice of samyama.

The term samyama refers to intense one-pointed ekagraha focus, constraining the senses and directing them, in a simultaneous practice of concentration, meditative absorption and ecstasy. The word samyamya is the verb form of samyama and it is used in this verse from the Gita to describe the practice of doing this type of intense, effortful, internally directed, controlled articulation of the prana.

Because yogic instruction was usually meant for men mention of the vagina as a 10th opening is not often found in the old texts, although is in some of the more recent commentaries.

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I feel strongly that the gates that are referred to in this verse are not those physical nine gates only, but those gates are the gates of the senses which elementally lie in the chakras and that in this verse we are being instructed in the practice of pratyahara — sense withdrawal. Instead I feel that this passage is actually a reference to the dissolution of the elements that occurs at the time of death. The verse is giving us a set of instructions, which involves a very effortful, intentional pulling together of energy and directing it upward in a specific way, using the closing of the gates as a bandha practice.

The verse is giving advice to yogis as to how to practice conscious dying, by drawing the senses which are aligned with the elements of respectively earth, water, fire and air into each other starting from the root moving prana into the sushumna and upward to the heart chakra and holding it there and then from there by means of the element of air-by means of the exhale, the soul takes wing and flies into the head to exit out through the braharandra, the hole in the skull at the top of the head. This is a description of the dissolution of the elements from earth to air into ether and this is how the soul jiva disassociates itself from the body at the time of death.

The element of air resides in the anahata or heart chakra, and the sense of touch also resides in the heart. The verse is describing how the four senses, smell, taste, sight and touch exit the body with their corresponding elements.

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It is interesting to note that the verse specifically sites the heart as the launching pad and the air element as the fuel. My speculation is that the sense of hearing is associated with the 5th element of ether and the vishudha or throat chakra. The element of ether and the sense of hearing are not totally dependent on the physical body for their ability to operate. Many traditions say that the sense of hearing remains with the soul for some time after death.

For this reason you can still speak to a person who has died, as they will be able to hear you. The Tibetan book of the Dead for example is an instructional manual intended to be read by the still living to the deceased after they have died. It provides help to the deceased in how to navigate through the various bardos or in-between states which exist after death before the soul reincarnates into their next birth.

Its original Tibetan title is the Bardo Thodol, which means liberation through hearing in the in-between state. Delving into the practice of shavasana provides an important key to understanding death and how to practice for it. The tensing of all of the muscles of the body prior to letting go and allowing deep relaxation to penetrate all the cells and tissues of the body, seems at first to be a simple physiological exercise designed to facilitate relaxation. The first yoga class I took, I was taught to do this.

After that I did encounter it in several other classes I took, but in many classes I took there was no such instruction given and so I got into the habit of not doing it myself and I dropped it from my teaching instruction in the classroom. I feel that this directive of tensing the muscles prior to relaxing is actually far more significant than I first thought-if that tensing of the muscles is done as a practice of samyamya-an intense and directed pulling together and pushing upward of the energy. I wanted to write from my first hand experiences about the three extraordinary deaths I have witnessed because I felt those accounts could benefit all of us from a yogic perspective and perhaps give us new insight into some of the simple practices that we use everyday in a yoga class.

The practices I am focusing on are practices done in relation to shavasana, the corpse pose or seat. The profound meaning of this asana has often been disregarded and instead just thought of as a rest period, time to take a nap after the exertion of the class, and it is the asanas performed before shavasana that are mainly focused on. I really learned these practices from others who had died in front of me and at that time gave me these lessons as a final teaching.

It was the insight that I had when I saw that all three of these beings, my brother, Grandma the cat and Thai Tea the cat, had all done that same tensing of the body right before the final surge of the exhale and death. Was it a normal way that most people died? Did only cats die like that and my brother was an exception? I knew that she had been with several of her pet cats when they died so I asked her if they went through that tensing of the muscles before the last exhale. But they seemed to be suffering so much, I just wanted to put an end to their pain.

My brother had AIDS and had been in a hospice for one week. During the first part of that week he was actually quite active. He had many visitors and was always up and available for them; he was very upbeat cheerful and communicative.

He would spend a lot of time making rounds, visiting other patients who were also in the hospice house, but who had become severely depressed and or resentful. He did his best to console and cheer them up. He even took several short walks with his family and friends outside in the park during those first few days. But during the last three days before his death, he started to slow down and spend more time in bed, resting. The day he died as well as the day previous, he had been pretty much unconscious.

He appeared to us to be asleep. Then he woke up, and with some difficulty, sat up in bed. He was very weak at this stage, but even so, he called for my sister and me. When we were there with him he reached out his hands and held our hands with his and looked into our eyes steadily for several moments-such a look! We never knew exactly how old Grandma was. Our neighborhood veterinarian guessed that she might have been as old as twenty at the time she died. She was emaciated, missing all of her teeth and almost blind.

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She lived with us for several years and was a happy cat during those times. She died on the morning of the winter solstice A week before, she stopped eating and spent most of her time sleeping, with intermittent moments when she would drink a little water or vomit. At this time she preferred to lie on the hardwood floor without any blanket or padding under or on top of her. She had been sleeping next to my bed when I awoke because I heard her get up.

She was so thin, weak and groggy and yet she was trying to walk. I picked her up and put her on my bed and started to stroke and talk to her. She then meowed and curled her body into a tight ball and held it, then relaxed. Then a moment later she curled her body into a very tight ball, this time with what seemed to be a lot more intensity, holding herself like this for a second, then she dramatically arched and lengthened her body, throwing back her head and exhaled. She was dead.


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Thai Tea or TT as we called her, was my beloved companion for almost 18 years. She was an elegant and very articulate Siamese cat. She died in bed in my arms on March 17, David and I had just returned from a very long world tour. When we arrived off the plane, Julie called us to say that TT was dying and that we had better get home as quickly as possible as she felt that TT might not last much longer. A friend immediately drove us to Woodstock.

When I arrived, TT became very animated and excited to see me, expressing herself vocally and with physical affection, although she was very weak, and had not eaten nor drunk any water in 4 days. I somehow did not think she was dying but that she was dehydrated and that if we could get fluids into her body she would revive. So I started, with a medicine dropper to feed her water, gracefully she took it. The next day I took her to the Vet, who put her on an I-V drip to hydrate her.

Rest Easy Journal: A Down To Earth Approach To Dying

She took it all in stride. She spent all day at the hospital and in the evening I took her home to sleep with me. The next morning I brought her back again to the hospital for the same hydration procedure. I suddenly had the realization then that she was not just sick and would recover if she were to be rehydrated; I realized that she was dying.

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In retrospect I feel that I should have never taken her to the hospital, that I should have kept her with me every moment of those last two days, but I honestly was blinded to the fact that she was dying and instead felt that she was ill and needed me to help her get well. Later when I spoke to my sister she told me that the reason that a dying person stops drinking water is that it makes for an easier death.

When the kidneys have shut down and there is too much fluid in the body it can create the death rattle, so often heard in the throat of people close to their last breath, which makes it uncomfortable for the person dying. So I took her home from the hospital that afternoon and prepared for her death. She was very weak and quiet. We went to bed early that evening. The layers of acquired knowledge peel away from the mind like a cosmetic and reveal, in patches, the naked flesh beneath, the authentic being hidden there.

And I had already glimpsed him, faint, obscured by their encrustations, but all the more valuable, all the more urgent. I scorned henceforth that secondary, learned being whom education had pasted over him. And I would compare myself to a palimpsest; I shared the thrill of the scholar who beneath more recent script discovers.

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Those incantations of the Spring That made the heart a centre of miracles Grow formal, and the wonder-working bours Arise no more — no more. Something is dead. Think on the shame of dreams for deeds, The scandal of unnatural strife, The slur upon immortal needs, The treason done to life:. I don't know what God is. I don't know what death is. But I believe they have between them some fervent and necessary arrangement. File:Chromology The Mirror.



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