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Dying Daily

It is reported by many who have survived clinical death that before the final plunge into unconsciousness the whole of a man's life is unrolled before him in pictures. Not a detail of the panorama is omitted, and every colour, form, and movement is reproduced in all its original lustre. Whether this is true of all causes or only in the case of death by drowning--which most such reports refer to--the significance is the same. In the first place, the fact clearly demonstrates the enduring quality of the impressions we receive, whether we consciously remember them or not. Somewhere in us, their record remains as clear as on the day they were first made. And, in the second place, the fact that such phenomena occur at a moment when, presumably, something we call our consciousness is leaving our physical body, suggests the possibility of utilizing this power of recalling the past by doing something at those moments when we are rehearsing death in the form of going to sleep.
 
Sleep and death are alike in this, that they are states of unconsciousness into which we normally pass by a gradual process; sleeping or dying. And if it be true that at the final passage we remember our whole previous life, what is more plausible than that in passing from waking to sleeping we recall the events of the day; or, at least, that such a recollection would be more easy than at any other time? If the moment for a pictorial review of life is death, the moment for a pictorial review of the day is sleep.
 
It is important to realize that the review before death, as reported by the survivors, is never censorious or didactic, nor is it a subject for either thought or feelings. Strangely enough, the review appears to be made quite impersonally and impartially, with no attachments and with no comments. Further, it is in pictures, exclusively; there is no talk and there is no text.
 
Following this hint, our nightly review of the day may be assumed to be of the same order. It is the day seen pictorially; it is the day's events, with oneself as the central figure, reviewed without satisfaction or regret, without fear and without hope; it is impartial and impersonal.
 
Whether we do, in fact, make such a review or not, is scarcely relevant to our purpose, which is to make it consciously. Should we find that it happens, so to speak, of its own accord, our task of becoming aware of and observing it is so much easier. But even if it should not be natural, the values arising from attempting it are too considerable to be neglected.
 
To begin with, nothing is better calculated to keep us aware of ourselves during the day than the prospect of seeing our day pictorially reproduced at night. Suppose we were accompanied everywhere by a cinematographic camera, and the films of each day were projected upon a screen, in our bedroom every evening. Would not the prospective show-up compel us to watch our steps? The gain to the day, in point of increased attention, would be incalculable.
 
Then too, without even any didactic object, the repetition of the day, in terms of pictures, would be of the utmost value as a lesson in self-knowledge. We should begin to be able to see ourselves as we appear to others, and, in consequence, to exercise all that tolerance of other people's defects and awkwardnesses which now we usually give to ourselves alone.

Still again, the advantage from trying to recall the day exactly is inestimable.
Memory, will, concentration and the power of sustained attention are all brought into play.
It is impossible to practise such a review regularly without experiencing improvements in all these respects. The exercise in other ways valuable, is invaluable in respect to mental development simply. It is almost a specific against mediocrity. There are other advantages, but they can be left to be discovered. We must now consider the method itself.
This is an ancient meditation technique given by the Buddha to his disciples, called Prati- Prasav .
Before going to sleep, begin to count slowly to yourself a series of simple numbers, backwards and forwards, such as 2, 4, 6, 8 10--10, 8, 6, 4, 2. Continue this repetition rhythmically. Having got this rhythm moving, almost but never quite automatically, deliberately try to picture yourself as you appeared on getting up that morning.
 
You woke, you got out of bed, you proceeded to dress, to breakfast, to read the paper, catch a bus and so on. Try to follow this sequence of yourself pictorially observed, from moment to moment, exactly as if you were unwinding a film. At first you will find the exercise difficult for three reasons. The necessity to count continuously will appear to trouble you at this stage. Nevertheless, continue; for the fact is that counting occupies the thinking brain and thus naturally allows the pictorial memory to work more easily. Remember that one of our objects is precisely not to think about what we represent. Thinking not only impedes the pictorial representation but it subtly but surely falsifies the pictures. For numerous reasons, the thinking brain must be preoccupied while the show is on; and there is no simpler means than counting.
 
The second difficulty is the constant interruption due to failure of memory. You begin very well but scarcely five minutes of the day have been pictured before you are at a loss to remember what you did next. In trying to remember you almost certainly cease counting; and no sooner have you mended the film and started it again than it breaks once more. Do not be discouraged. Everybody without exception finds the same thing. It is no proof of mental weakness to fail scores of times at a new mental exercise; and the fact is that the exercise is of so novel a character that even the greatest intellectual geniuses would bungle it when they first began it. It can be said that the exercise is possible to everybody equally; it is no respecter of persons. Moreover, it is possible to practise it until the film of the day appears to unroll itself without conscious effort. Exactly as the drowned report that the film of their lives passed before them, those who have mastered this exercise report that the events of the day, as recorded in conscious or unconscious memory, represent themselves in their original form and color. The interruptions, frequent at first, become fewer. From being an inexpert operator constantly breaking the film, the persistent student becomes expert. And his reward is not only the review of the day, but the control of mind that has made such a review possible. None of the numerous schools of mind-culture would have anything to teach a pupil grounded in this method.
 
The third difficulty, which perhaps should have been placed first, is simply--sleep. Brain-thinking, as we know, tends to keep us awake. Worrying--that is, emotional thinking--is an even more common cause of insomnia. Pictorially reviewing the day, on the other hand, being neither form of thinking, induces sleep when nothing else can. At the worst, therefore, you will sleep; and at the best you will know what it is to die daily.



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