• Andrea Sangiacomo

Last-breath meditation

Updated: Oct 15

Admittedly, death is one of the most scary topics for most people since people are around. In archeological records, fully modern human begins start to leave trace when they begin to take a special stance towards the dead.

The Buddha recommends the practice of recollection of death (maranānussati) for several reasons. The most apparent, is that the thought of death elicits a sense of urgency (e.g. AN 6.20), since one does not know how much time is left, and hence it is best to put effort now to achieve what needs to be achieved (awakening) and do not defer it anymore.

But at a more fundamental level, the Buddha also encourages (e.g. AN 6.19) to recollect death from one breath to the next, keeping in mind that each breath might be the last one. This practice is praised as leading to the 'deathless,' a synonym for awakening.

Why? Because the Buddha sees in appropriation the core problem to overcome, and appropriation relies on a sense of control over experience. Death is the most apparent empirical counterproof that ultimately there is no control, and appropriation is an unwarranted assumption.

Here one possible way of developing this contemplation in practice.


Sitting secluded from disturbances, gently bring attention to the breath.

Breathing in, feel the breath coming in. Breathing out, feel the breath going out.

Breathing in, feel the whole body breathing. Breathing out, feel the whole body breathing.

Breathing in, feel how the whole body depends on the breath for its survival. Breathing out, feel how the whole body depends on the breath for its survival.

Breathing in, 'this might be my last in-breath.' Breathing out, 'this might be my last out-breath.'

Breathing in, 'this is my last in-breath.' Breathing out, 'this is my last out-breath.'

Breathing in, 'what can I keep here?' Breathing out, 'what can I keep here?'

Breathing in, 'should I really keep something?' Breathing out, 'should I really keep something?'

Breathing in, 'there is nothing to keep here.' Breathing out, 'there is nothing to keep here.'

Breathing in, feeling freedom from the duty of having to protect anything. Breathing out, feeling freedom from the duty of having to protect anything.

Breathing in, letting go. Breathing out, letting go.


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