In this excerpt from Polishing the Mirror, Ram Dass writes about dying consciously and preparing for the moment of death as a sacred ceremony.
My view has evolved to seeing death — the moment of death — as a ceremony. If people are sitting with you to help as you are going through this dying ceremony, help them to see you as the soul you truly are, not as your ego. If they identify you as your ego, during the last part of this ceremony they will cling to you and pull you back instead of facilitating your transformation.
Sadhana, either a specific practice or your overall spiritual transformation, begins with you as an ego and evolves into your being a soul, who you really are. The ego is identified with the incarnation, which stops at the moment of death. The soul, on the other hand, has experienced many deaths. If you’ve done your sadhana fully, there will be no fear of death, and dying is just another moment.
If you are to die consciously, there’s no time like the present to prepare. Here is a brief checklist of some of the ways to approach your own death:
• Live your life consciously and fully. Learn to identify with and be present in your soul, not your ego.
• Fill your heart with love. Turn your mind toward God, guru, Truth.
• Continue with all of your spiritual practices: meditation, mantra, kirtan, all forms of devotion.
• Be there for the death of your parents, loved ones, or beloved animals. Know that the presence of your loved ones will remain when you are quiet and bring them into your consciousness.
• Read about the deaths of great saints, lamas, and yogis like Ramana Maharshi.
• If there is pain at the time of death, try to remain as conscious as possible. Medication for pain offers some solace but dulls your awareness.
• To be peaceful at the time of your death, seek peace inside today.
Death is another moment. If you’re not peaceful today, you probably won’t be peaceful tomorrow. Sudden death is, in many ways, more difficult to work with spiritually than a gradual passing. If we are aware that death can happen at any moment, we start to work on ourselves more constantly, paying attention to the moment-to-moment content of our minds. If you practice being here now, being fully in the moment during your life, if you are living in that space, then the moment of death is just another moment.
– Ram Dass, excerpt from Polishing the Mirror: How to Live from your Spiritual Heart