Part 4: The Vigil and Practice For Death


By Tarron Estes

Practice for Death: The Story

The “Practice for Death" that I call a mediation or sometimes a poem, was delivered to me in a dream by my Teacher, Ginny Jordan. In the dream, Ginny discovered that her cancer had returned for the third time. Her children and husband were wildly and furiously trying to soothe and help her. They were all maddened and struggling desperately to make the truth of her illness go away.  I was in the room, in dreamtime, but invisible, watching.

Ginny tried desperately to get her family to stop. When nothing would make them leave her in peace, she called to me to take her away. In the dream we moved out of her house and floated into a beautiful green garden. Ginny lifted her arms to the sky and an emerald green silk robe came down. She grabbed the tails of it and wrapped it around her.

She looked at me with deep thorough peace and said “Thank YOU”. She stood still with her arms crossing her chest and began to say the words in the “Practice for Death” - one line after the other. When she was finished, she looked at me again and said, “Now Tarron, this practice is for your work. IT IS YOUR WORK.” And with that she kissed my cheek and disappeared.
I awoke, sitting straight up in bed with a feeling of gratitude and dread. I wrote the words down without lifting my pen and went back to sleep. The next morning, I called Ginny to tell her about my dream. After listening to me speak she asked, “What kind of dream is this?” I responded, “Well, it’s both a teaching dream as well as a foretelling dream.” She then told me that indeed the cancer had returned, and her family was having a much harder time accepting the information than herself.

Ginny had been my dream teacher for many years. We were both silent for a few moments realizing that the foretelling was both about my work and her illness, and that the teaching was for both of us.

Daily Practice

Practice For Death Card©.jpg

Now I use this Practice for Death as a teaching tool. Through this meditation, we can learn to support each other and to begin to internalize a profound sense of surrendering into the final moments of life. Many of our graduates express that Maha Savasana: Vigil Practice for Death is one of the most transformative experiences of their certificate training.

In Sanskrit, these phrases or short meaningful kernels of truth, are called Pith sayings. Each phrase in this practice is complete in and of itself, and each line may resonate on a different level for each of us. When practicing, one or two phrases are selected and are spoken into the left ear of the person who is practicing for death. People report that the phrases are relieving and heart opening.

When we use one of the lines in the practice in our own restorative inner journey, we come to know its importance for healing, surrender, rest, and release in our own lives as well as the lives of others.

It is of importance to note that during the later phases of active dying, the hearing is the last sense to go. It is vital to remember that what we say during this time is of the highest importance; our words can be healing and elevating to the spirit of not only the person departing, but to their family as well. Using the Practice for Death, or specific phrases from it, can be one of the most meaningful and caring offerings we can give to those near-death.

The Vigil Practice for Death

Tarron Estes 2003©

The Vigil Practice for Death: Practice the activity below with a partner. Experience both watching over a human being while they are practicing being in their final moments of life, as well as being the recipient of being watched over. Say your final words, feel a final touch, and prepare your consciousness for death.

Be aware of any compulsion to talk, laugh, dilute or slough off nervousness or fear.

Be aware of “not knowing”, feeling helpless, either as companion or when practicing death. Unless you are giving instructions, refrain from talking, asking or answering questions

  • Get a mat, blanket and cushion and prepare a place for the partner to lie down

  • Companion places his or her cushion at side of partner where you will eventually sit vigil

  • Companion supports partner to lie down on mat

  • Companion adjusts body for comfort, hands, arms

  • Pick up back of head, holding head at base of neck with both hands adjust the head for comfort

  • Cover partner with blanket.

  • Release. This is the last touch you will do.

Doula asks:

·      Is this a good day to die?

·      Is there anything you want to say to me or anyone before you transition?

·      Is there a being, spiritual teacher, ancestor you wish to guide you or be with you on this journey?

·      Doula then silently Intends, asks, prays in her own way that this guide be with each of you and guide both of you

·      Place the Scarf over the eyes only, being careful not to cover the nose, making sure all light is blocked

Doula Sits Vigil

Be still and silent

Become available to any subtle energy, messages or sensations

Sit prayerfully with your partner

When complete Support partner to roll over And press to sit up

Support partner to roll over and press to sit up

Hold, embrace, connect, as appropriate

Allow words to come as they will or not

Bear Witness