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Dying – the manual.

by Agata Dzierżawa
A picture dying the manual shows a human heart.

How to prepare yourself for death, for the moment when the consciousness leaves the body?

The manual of dying.

Unfortunately, at times when death is a taboo subject, nobody talks about it. They don’t teach you it at school or at home. There is no manual of dying. In the “best” case, before you are forced to face death alone, you will be able to know death by accompanying someone close to you during this moment. Considering your age, it will probably be your parent… You will be forced to trust your intuition and fear. You will err in the fog and you will probably make as many mistakes as possible.

In this article: 

  • You will learn the stages of dying and the signs of each. 
  • You will learn how to prepare yourself externally and internally for your own death and death of another person.

If you read the following “manual of dying” written on the basis of Lama Ole Nyadahl’s book “Fearless Death: Buddhist Wisdom on the Art of Dying” you can avoid this. Knowing the various stages of the dying process will give you confidence and trust when you accompany somebody in this experience and will help you during your own death.

In the past, due to high child mortality, wars, and epidemics, death was a natural know to all components of life.

In almost all societies, it was perceived as a journey to another world, for which one had to be properly prepared in life. Dying was a conscious process of preparation for the coming death for both the dying and the surrounding people. Rarely anyone died alone. Friends, neighbors, and family gathered around the bed to accompany the dying person. In many cultures, human well-being at the hour of death was considered a determining factor for their fate.

Unfortunately, modernism together with industrialization, the cult of materialism, and progress of medicine shifted our interest from dying human to a dying body – the matter. The extension of life associated with hospital stays resulted in dying outside the home. Under the care of unknown nurses, in a cool, unpleasant environment, often impersonal and superficial, focused on a technical purpose and devoid of a spiritual element.

It created impersonal, administrative death certificates, the entire funeral industry with professional funeral services, taking over after death all the duties of the family of deceased, such as washing the corpses, clothing, confusion of obituaries in the press, cremation, organization of funeral, etc. Casting death on the margins of public awareness. It commercialized it and at the same time deprived it of a spiritual dimension, only intensifying feelings of fear and denying it existence in society. It resulted in cry-select-pay-cry commercial transaction. Choosing the color of the coffin or urn from the catalog, type, and color of flowers and choosing the restaurant.

The view of a man lying on their deathbed and changed by medicine, therapies, and body distribution, the remnants of a once attractive man is neither easy nor pleasant for anyone. You want to support and show your acceptance, but you don’t know how to do it. You are helpless and lost.

The key to understanding death is accepting transience.

To realize that old age and death will knock on your door anyway. Transience will not pass you by either.  After all, you experience it every day and everywhere. All external joys will pass away after some time. You also die a little every day, even though your body cells are still regenerating. You are transience. The loss of parents, loved ones, siblings, friends, own health as well as changes taking place in the world, in the economy and politics constantly indicate this process. Life has an end. Only your mind does not want to know it and accept it, still hopes for further existence and immortality. You live an illusion. Only understanding that the richness of your interior – the soul is timeless will allow you to adopt the right attitude towards death.

Every moment of your life can be the last one, so you should use your time sensibly.

Neither a hedonistic life, nor a life with a 35-hours day of work, nor hunting for money, nor winning in a lottery, nor a satisfying relationship, nor a house or a yacht in the Caribbean give you lasting satisfaction in life. Behind all experiences, even those special and exceptional is always the painful truth that ultimately nothing is permanent. So how do you give your life as much as possible and at the same time prepare for death?

First of all, observe your mind.

Learn about it through meditation and other spiritual practices. During the dying process, the untrained mind usually follows uncontrollably, changing from moment to moment thoughts and emotions, experiencing alternately brightness and confusion. The cause of suffering is always sticking on the wrong idea of one’s “self”.

Understanding that only the body, your avatar, your physical form falls apart and dies. Seeing dying, at least theoretically, like changing clothes, will be much easier for you.

Death has countless causes. Either your time simply comes to an end, or it is suddenly brought about circumstances. 

How could you know that you will die soon?

  • When long-unseen relatives come to visit you suddenly, they will take great care of you and bring you various documents to sign;
  • When your friends start looking sad and enemies on the contrary start enjoying something;
  • One of the signs of impending death are also strong changes in character traits, which occur as a result of a change in the energy flows inside the body. This can also be noticed in animals. Someone who has always been friendly to others will suddenly become irritable, get angry. On the other hand, difficult people can become suspiciously nice.

What will you feel when you learn about your own death?

This message releases a whole range of contradictory feelings and thoughts from the reflexive rejection of information about the situation, disappointment, anger, and envy, towards all those who do not need to suffer or can remain among the living, ending with a feeling of loneliness, exclusion or a deep desire to stay alive, because so many things you haven’t done or completed.

You can persistently refuse this information until your last breath. You may also be shaky, anxious, and completely confused because you will not get to know that your life is ending. Death can also be expected with peace. Either to end your physical suffering or because you will have deep confidence that everything is all right. Of course, this last attitude is the best, because it makes it easier to say goodbye to family and friends.

The key to good dying is to consciously use what is happening.

It works when you can combine transience with possibilities and freedom, instead of associating it with loss and suffering to the need for security and permanence, you should understand death as a transition and be constantly aware of the importance of your state of mind at that time. If you can live with the fact of death face to face in your lifetime and you do not force it out of your mind, you live more consciously in here and now. The easiest way to die is when you can dissolve the attachment to your body, your loved ones, and your possessions. If you understand that everyone will die anyway, focus on your spirituality and you will succumb to a sense of their own uniqueness, the mind will relax and fill more and more joy and peace. You will avoid unnecessary suffering and fear.

How to prepare for death internally?

  • Recognize transience in everyday situations.
  • Choose spiritual practice and practice it.
  • Collect good impressions in your mind, for example, through useful activities.
  • Explain the difficulties and problems and get rid of them. Forgive and express good wishes, dispel negative feelings. Give up guilt, revenge, and forgive yourself.
  • Learn to let go – hand out things, write a will, say goodbye to people, things, and situations.
  • The true art of dying is the ability to remain relaxed and at the same time distracted and focused on one thing. Therefore, when dying, you should imagine something that is the most beautiful above you and express your wishes to go there.
  • It is also good to say goodbye to love ones and friends and wish them all the best.

How to prepare for death externally?

  • Friends and loved ones should be sitting at the top of your head.
  • Avoid anything that would direct your energy down – nobody should stand by your feet, massage them, you should relieve pain in the feet by giving painkillers.
  • Avoid all distractions – a bright, transparent room without tv, internet, with a pleasant atmosphere.
  • Limit visits to a few important people, avoid guests coming and going all the time, allow only those who are in a good mood to visit.
  • Friends’ visits should only take place at the beginning of the dying process.
  • When dying you should have enough space to breathe deeply and not feel any discomfort. 
  • It is best to sit as upright as possible. If this is impossible, imagine this position or support with pillows.
  • Make sure you use painkillers consciously and sensibly. When dying you should feel the least pain but at the same time, your consciousness should be as clear as possible.

What does death look like?

Stage 1.

You will lose the ability to control solid parts of the body: your muscle strength will weaken; you will feel sluggish. An upright position won’t be possible to maintain, and everything will fall out of your hands. You will have the feeling of falling down even though you will lie down. You will try holding people and things. The ability to move and think clearly will leave. You will not be able to concentrate, you will panic. You will have delusions, hear unbearable noises.

External signs:

Clear concern. Pale face. The eyes will settle deeper. Loss of physical strength. Uncoordinated body movements. Stopping digestive processes. The ends of the arms and legs become cold and will lose sensitivity to stimuli.

What should you do?

Sit upright or lie down. You’re letting go of everything you’ve been associated with. Boldly face death. Control your mind and peace. Summon good thoughts. 

How can others support you?

Calm down and give direction.

Stage 2.

You will lose control over your body fluids. Blood circulation will become slower. You will lose control over the function of the tongue, intestines, and bladder. Your tongue and mouth will dry out and you will run a runny nose. You will feel a strong thirst. Everything will be seen as if from a long distance and hear faint and opaque. You will hear the noise of water and you will get the impression of floating in the air. You will feel anxious and you will prone to getting angry. The common sense gradually begins to weaken. You will lose your mental clarity. Memories will begin to weaken. The mind will become agitated and confused. You will start looking for orientation with the help of feelings. You will the impression of smoke-like phenomena.

External signs:

Inability to make any moves. The blood circulation is weakening. The body dehydrates and dries. The eyes, lips, and tongue are dry. Their speech is blurred and stops. Limited eye movements, usually eyes closed. Increased drowsiness. Leaking body fluids.

What should you do?

Think clearly and positively. Focus on love and loved people. Imagine the most beautiful and develop the desire to get there.

How can others support you?

Serve water. Wet your lips.

Stage 3.

Feeling a lack of air. Growing feast of coldness. The environment pales. Consciousness shakes alternately, loses and regains transparency. The unequivocal feeling of the body is dissolved: at the same time, there is lightness, pain, well-being, coldness, and heat. An indefinite feeling of openness and dissolution. The ability to remember things lapses. Strong confusion. Everything seems senseless and futile. You can begin to see flashing red lights similar to fireflies.

External signs:

Further centralization of circulation. Beginnings of cardiac arrest. Warm withdraws from the external parts of the body to its center. The breath becomes shallow and irregular. The reactions are weakening. A wave of clarity and consciousness and loss of consciousness alternate.

What should you do?

Keep peace in mind.

How can others support you?

Lightly cover your body. Remind you to imagine something the most beautiful above your head and strengthen yourself in the desire to go to this place. 

Stage 4.

The end of all types of sensual perception and connection with the environment. Loss of the last contact with the physical world. Deep fear. Stopping the fight and giving up being “someone”. Looseness. The mind may be confused deeply. Hallucinations may come. Consciousness is freed from the body. You can see flashing lights similar to torch lights.

External signs:

Breathing torn. Exhalations become longer than inhalations. Cessation of breath. Cessation of circulation in the heart. Clinical death.

How can others support you?

Make sure you are left alone for 30-45 minutes after clinical death.

Not all people experience all this as deeply and intensely as described. And above all, this does not happen in the event of sudden death, death in a dream, or going away under the influence of painkillers.

People who survive near-death states often mention the experiences described above. However, these impressions are no longer received by the brain, which after all has been destroyed, but directly by the mind outside of concepts.

The experiences described below, however, no longer appear in the descriptions of near-death states. Only some meditators remember them in the next life, they can empathize with them and describe them.

First, there is a feeling that something is next to you, but you don’t know exactly what it is. You see something but you can’t recognize it. The sounds start to sound like mumbling. You don’t understand words.

Tibetans say that the moment when the soul leaves the body something breaks in the heart and spout out three small drops of liquid from it.

The release of consciousness from the body is terrible only for untrained people because it is something unknown to them. If you are not prepared for the arrival of death, you may experience strong fear. Only people who thought about others in their lifetime, and therefore generally expect something good or heard the teachings of death or meditated, can then – by recognizing everything again – maintain peace of mind.

In the human body for about 20-30 minutes after clinical death, metabolic processes and symptoms of brain activity occur. It is only after this time that external signs of death appear, such as stiffening of corpses and post mortem lividity. 

At the same time, feeling, memories and images caused by hatred and anger gradually dissolve in your mind consciousness because disturbing emotions are nothing but energy. Your consciousness surrounded by a soft light, similar to the light of the moon, has the impression of moving through the tunnel towards something infinitely beautiful and having deep meaning, and sometimes only perceives a white glow. Many people also hear a continues sound that sounds like “haaang”. Your consciousness is completely conscious and will work through important experiences and impressions related to people close to you in life. The sense of time dissolves in this process too, so for the next five minutes, during which the brain remains intact at normal temperature, you can “see” all you past life like on an accelerated film.

Later, you begin to experience deep bliss that goes beyond anything that was possible in life. There is a moving, beautiful, warm, red light, similar to the captivating sunset, which then leads you up. Many people then hear a sound similar to the sound of the syllable ”a”. At this time the mind frees itself of its strongest attachment – from clinging to its own body. All attachment to previous life dissolves, the desire for worldly happiness becomes pointless, and relationships built with people, places, and experiences disappear. This is the end of expectations and coercion. 

How to accompany a dying person?

First of all, you should help them avoid meaningless, superficial topics and focus on what really matters. Instead of getting lost in the petty memories, it is better if they will “clean up” friendships and their relationship with loved ones to the end, explain everything to each other, get rid of what is bothering them and set themselves free from the body, which at the moment is only a limitation and source of pain. Much more important than the body is to deal with the nature of the mind and understand that it goes beyond death and birth.

You should pay attention to the real needs of the dying person, not bombard them with your overprotection. Remember that tears and sorrow are not helping them but are unnecessary weight and distraction. So try to keep your emotions under control.

Settle all matters important to them, so that they could feel calm and relieved that everything is all right.

Help write a will if they asks for it. Organize documents and complete all formalities. Leave them time to say goodbye to loved ones and friends. Convince difficult relatives or business partners to spare them their visits. Ensure that there is peace in their surroundings. Avoid discussions with doctors and nurses, or family gossips or fights. Care of dying person should also not be a primary role, but only a background of the whole situation. It is important to emphasize all the good actions of the dying person and their merits. Putting them as an example to others.

Create a pleasant, clean, and peaceful environment.

Create a friendly and pleasant atmosphere free from past misunderstandings. Always sit at the top of their head. Be calm and aware of what is happening. Do not make noise, do not touch them without reason, do not make unnecessary conversations especially on the phone. Be present and patient, although sometimes you may feel abused by them or you feel angry or tired. However, under no circumstances should they be deluded into the hope that their condition will improve.

If necessary, give dying painkillers, remembering to keep them conscious. A dying person who has not been given anesthetics behaves like a drowning person and may experience a very strong fear than because they realizes that the end is approaching.

Sometimes a dying person can die only if the person closest to them leaves the room. It must, therefore, be possible for them.

You should also know that helping dying people in death, or euthanasia as well as suicide, means that the dying person will have to face these experiences again in their next life. 

Also, do not touch the dying person for the first 30 to 60 minutes after the clinical death so that the internal dying process can run smoothly. You should not move their body during this time. Only after this time you can wash and dress the deceased.

If possible, during the next 49 days, items that belonged to the deceased should not be handed out or removed, especially if they were of special value to them. If you do this, you can arouse aversion in the mind of the deceased, which will affect their next incarnation.

One should speak of the deceased only well and be generous on their behalf. Knowledge of the processes occurring in the body and mind when dying will allow you to consciously get rid of the fear of death. 

If you want to learn more and learn examples of meditations that will help you during dying, I recommend the whole book of Lama Ole Nydahl. See the link below.


Lama Ole Nydahl “Von Tod und Wiedergeburt” („O śmierci i odrodzeniu”, Wydawnictwo Czarna Owca, Warszawa, 2018).


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gbajson 04 October 2019 - 13:19

Also worth to read:

Agata 04 October 2019 - 13:52

Thank you for sharing the link with us.


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