After a few weeks of daily meditations on death, I started to imagine/feel post-death decay during the meditation. This was disgusting at first, but surprisingly that feeling passed quickly and I imagined maggots munching their way through me and all the while a little pin point of light in my heart area, regardless of what decay was also going on right there. Other times I have rats chewing on me, bloating and putrefication… Notably, during the meditation the feeling of disgust passes quickly into acceptance. But that does not mean disgust is ‘gone’ afterwards. To make this blog I looked for maggot images and felt quite sick while doing so. Seems like I can cope with the decay during the meditation but not hold that ‘acceptance’ longer term.
Talking to other people who meditate on death, it seems that these images are to be expected. It makes extra sense to me in that that symbols and representations of decay are found in memento mori artworks (dying flowers are especially common). Shakespeare’s Hamlet has a motif of the physicality and decay associated with death, and maggots are key characters in the scenes where his writing paints pictures of his belief in the equalising effect of death and decomposition: great people and beggars both end as dust. In the 1839 painting shown above by Eugène Ferdinand Victor Delacroix, the gravedigger scene from Hamlet is shown with Hamlet and Horatio and the unearthed skull of the jester, Yorick.
The meditations have extra pertinence this month for me, I’ve just had my 50th birthday and being more accepting of the physical changes of ageing, the decay-while-living would be a good thing.