29 Oct
Posted in: Practice
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Memento Mori

Yesterday I walked out of my house and was just about to step off the curb onto the street, when I realized that right where my foot was about to land, there was a squirrel, clearly dead, but intact, lying “peacefully” on its side, among the fallen leaves. I managed to check myself in time to avoid stepping on it (while at the same time crying out, involuntarily, in a weird-sounding, almost cartoon-ishly high-pitched voice, something like: “EEEEEK!!!”)

But then I just stood there. I thought for a minute about trying to bury it….out of a sense of propriety, to a certain extent…but also because it had fallen right where I normally park my car and I didn’t want to run over it and make a bloody mess. But I didn’t have a shovel and I didn’t know where I would be able to dig a hole even if I had one, and I couldn’t really imagine myself asking one of my neighbors to do it for me, so I just stood there.

And I looked at it. I saw that there were a few flies buzzing around, some crawling on the nose and the eye, and then I remembered the practice we did as part of the Dedicated Practitioner Program at Spirit Rock, where we contemplated a Corpse in Decay. The instructions (from the Satipatthana sutta) were to look at a corpse in various stages of decay (we used photographs), and at each stage, to consider own bodies, and to remember:

“This body too is of the same nature; it will be like that; it is not exempt from that fate.”

So I thought about that again, while I looked at the squirrel. It was sobering. But not especially upsetting or disturbing.

Because it’s just the truth.

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