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Co-meditation or Cross Breathing

Co-meditation, or cross breathing is not a cure but a way to relieve mental emotional suffering. It is based on the principle that a certain manner of respiration invites a particular state of mind and vice-versa. The relationship of the breath-body-mind-spirit has been recognized for centuries by many cultures and religious traditions. Like other forms of meditation, the deep abdominal breathing produced by co-meditation affects the hypothalamus gland, which controls the autonomic nervous system, reducing heart rate, respiration, temperature, blood pressure, anxiety, and stress. It can also lessen pain.

A Deep State of Relaxation

Co-meditation has been practiced for centuries by Tibetan priests and physicians to clear and quiet the minds and emotions of dying lamas. Through "cross-breathing" the lamas easily enter a meditative state that calms fear and slows or stops the racing mind that all too often accompany illness and death. The use of the co-meditation process in hospices and palliative care units has allowed patients and loved ones to sustain "clear mind and peaceful heart" during body-death transition.

Breath-Body-Mind Connection

This ancient process requires no belief system or previous experience. It is a deep physical, psychological relaxation practice prior to and during the dying process. Adapted from an authentic Tibetan medical procedure, the method can be used by anyone, sick or healthy, who wants to slow down their spinning mind and achieve serenity.

The technique of co-meditation, though focused on the ailing person, is intended also to be helpful in comforting the helper through such emotionally unsettling times. Having something practical and concrete to do often helps helpers overcome the common and often unbearable sense of helplessness experienced as they accompany loved ones to the ends of their lives on earth.

How It is Done

It begins with traditional relaxation exercises, starting with tensing the toes and continuing upward to the top of the head. The patient lies comfortably with eyes closed and simply listens and breathes. Making the inhale a little longer and the exhale a little longer is all that is needed.  After the meditator (or patient) becomes deeply calmed, the co-meditator (or guide) recites a soothing phrase or word or a mantra (peace be mine; om na ma shivaya; om,mani, padma hum; it is a good day to die; glory be to God; I love you all; goodbye for now;  etc. )chosen by the meditator, on each exhale. Following the guide's voice helps avoid outside distractions and combined with the focus on the extended exhale and release of tension allows the meditator to reach a deep meditative state very quickly. 

What is Happening

The process slows respiration and pulse rate, lowers body temperature and blood pressure, releases anxiety and reduces pain. The effects of a co-meditation session can last hours or days and doesn't require a trained professional. It also allows the caregiver — family member or friend — to feel useful during the difficult period leading into death.

Other Ways It Can Help

An older woman being treated became terrified of an upcoming angiogram.  She had once gone into cardiac arrest during a similar procedure.  Co-meditation was used to calm the woman, and when she was in a deep meditative state, she visualized a problem-free test and full recovery. After the procedure, she, "What wonderful thing did you do for me? I wasn't frightened at all." Another person  who was dying, had terrifying nightmares that disturbed his sleep — he literally saw himself in the grave, hounded by demons. During cross-breathing she led him through a visualization where he went into the dream and towards a light where  he was assured by the guide, would be safe. He slept, uninterrupted, for six hours.

Dying In Peace

In the last stages of dying, the lungs often fill up and the person dies of congestive heart failure. The meditation process induces a deep state of relaxation, slowing oxygen requirements. It is a way to die in peace, joy, harmony, and dignity, without drugs or euthanasia. It is a very loving gift to give someone.

*Life to Death, Harmonizing the Transition  by Richard W. Boerstler, Ph.D. and Hulen S. Kornfeld, R.N., M.A.

The cost of the book is $14.95 for paperback. To order Life to Death, SBN: 0-89281-329-6, send check or money order payable to Inner Traditions for the total amount of your order plus $3.00 shipping for the first book, and $1.00 shipping for each additional, to:

Inner Traditions 
P.O. Box 388
Rochester, VT 05767
Or call toll-free: (800) 246-8648  

"As a practitioner in Thanatology, I invite you to a meditative experience prior to and at the time of your death. It is possible to experience death with dignity and nobility, as many religious traditions have attested. Unfortunately, most of them have not been practiced for many centuries. There is no charge for instruction to the sick and families with terminal illness."  Richard W. Boerstler, Ph.D.

Hospice Patients Alliance
The Medicare Hospice Benefit: Coverage for Hospice, Respite, and End-of-Life Care
Hospice Foundation of America
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The breathing improvement techniques, practices and products outlined in this publication are extremely gentle, and should, if carried out as described, be beneficial
to your overall physical and psychological health. If you have any serious medical or psychological problem, however, such as heart disease, high blood pressure,
cancer, mental illness, or recent abdominal or chest surgery, you should consult your health professional before undertaking these practices.