Want to feel thrilled to be alive? Try death meditation: It involves wrapping yourself in sheets like a ‘mummy’ and imagining looking at your dead body
- Death meditation is a wellness practice about coming to terms with death
- It could lead to decreased death anxiety and improved happiness
- READ MORE: What’s the truth about mindfulness and our health?
One of the latest wellness trends has people wrapping themselves up as mummies and picturing their dead bodies to imagine and come to terms with their eventual death.
Death meditation, a mindfulness meditation practice centered around thoughts of a person’s death, has taken social media by storm, with 2.5 million views on TikTok and 3,000 posts on Instagram.
Additionally, classes aimed at making practitioners feel at peace about dying have popped up in major cities like New York and Los Angeles.
While the practice seems new, it has ancient roots.
There are several types of death meditation, and some are based on particular Buddhist traditions. One of these is maranasati, or mindfulness of death, which reminds practitioners they could die at any moment and should be prepared.
One death meditation practice involves visualizing the body’s inevitable decay to let go of attachments to the material world. In some more intense sessions, participants wrap themselves in white sheets to make themselves look and feel like mummies
Maranasati teaches that death is not a scary concept, rather it is a natural process, and thinking about it can lead to a more positive outlook.
Another death meditation practice involves visualizing the body’s inevitable decay to let go of attachments to the material world.
In some more intense sessions, participants wrap themselves in white sheets to make themselves look and feel like mummies or they will write their own eulogies to read out loud to a group.
One class was advertised on Instagram as ‘a breath-guided meditation intended to contemplate death in many forms.’
While some methods may be more extreme, death meditation can take a lighter approach, such as imagining details about key moments in your life, such as who was there, how you felt, what it smelled like, and what it sounded like.
‘It’s amazing for people that have anxiety related to death and dying and intrusive thoughts related to it,’ Dr Carolyn Rubenstein, a licensed psychologist in Florida, told DailyMail.com.
This is because death meditation can be a form of exposure therapy, a technique meant to help overcome fears and anxieties by forcing patients to confront them.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a popular form of meditation in which you focus on being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling in the moment.
The practice involves breathing methods, guided imagery, and other practices to relax the body and mind and help reduce stress.
It is often touted as a universal tool for boosting mental well-being by reducing stress, anxiety and depression.
Mindfulness has become popular in recent years as a way to improve mental and physical well-being.
Celebrities endorsing it include Emma Watson, Davina McCall, Angelina Jolie and Oprah Winfrey.
‘It doesn’t mean that you have no fear or no anxiety, but you’re able to look at [death] through both the lenses of emotion and logic…so that you are able to focus on the present moment and what’s happening right now,’ Dr Rubenstein said.
Research suggests that death anxiety, known as thanatophobia, has become more prevalent since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
A study of Lebanese patients published last year in PLOS One found death anxiety was the most common form of fear related to the pandemic.
Additionally, a Chinese study published in March found elderly patients aged anywhere from 60 to 96 were most likely to experience death anxiety during the pandemic.
‘People are more willing to talk about [death anxiety]. People are sharing, whereas I think in the past people were more hesitant to share that fear,’ Dr Rubenstein said.
‘Especially with Covid, spirituality and a sense of connection, especially for yourself, became something that people focused on a lot more.’
Opening a dialogue about these fears helps people learn to acknowledge them.
Another study from the University of Kentucky suggested contemplating death could lead to increased happiness.
‘Thinking about death fosters an orientation toward emotionally pleasant stimuli,’ study authors Dr Nathan DeWall and Dr Roy Baumeister wrote.
Dr Rubenstein does not recommend people with severe depression or suicidal ideation practice death meditation.
‘You don’t want to increase the thoughts related to death and dying and becoming been more comfortable with it for someone who’s already feeling kind of close to that,’ she said.
She does suggest easing into the practice slowly rather than immediately wrapping yourself in a white sheet to look like a mummy. She recommends picturing death as a part of nature’s circle of life or starting with remembering pets who have passed away since their lifespans are shorter.
From there, consider your own death.
‘You recognize that death is a real thing,’ Dr Rubenstein said.
‘We’re not immortal, and having that recognition is important so that you make the most of today.’
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