Far from being upsetting to me, graveyards are serene. When it comes to its residents, the struggle is over. Depending on your belief, dukkha has either ceased or transitioned to another form. In either case it has become divorced from the person who used to be, whose body now decays underground. Theirs is a past history and many more will join them in the ground in the future. So, humbled I can better focus on the present moment.
When there is some kind of problem, a graveyard also represents the collective wisdom of the life experiences of those who are interred there – kind of like a collective ancestral shrine. I can turn to any random headstone and say, “Okay, T CRANE, what would you do?” Perhaps I’ll receive insight as an answer.
Usually, it’s just silence, though. T CRANE comes back with, “Darned if I know. Figure it out for yourself.” Thanks, Dude. They put fresh flowers on your grave for that gem?
There is a wonderful pictorial review of a “sky burial” here (Warning: parents review pictures before showing to your children)
The more I thought about it, I recognized that practicing in a charnel ground is really only an extension of my current practice in graveyards. The single addition is the potentially jarring presence of a disarticulated hand or eyeball to bring one back to the present moment like a visual gong. Living in America, of course, the opportunity for charnel ground practice is limited.
According to the descriptions of the artifacts, Herculaneum was somewhat closer to Mount Vesuvius and the first pyroclastic flows reached Herculaneum before reaching Pompeii. Apparently, great blasts of accelerated hot air rushed through Herculaneum, incinerating the flesh from the bodies of all in their path. The result was a sobering tableau of instant annihilation.