This week, I did something I had never done before – I picked up a dead raccoon.

It had been lying on side of the road on Northside Drive directly in front of my mailbox for about a week.

I kept doing that magical thinking thing – wishing and hoping the problem would somehow disappear on its own or that some other brave person would take it upon himself to alleviate the difficulty without my having to lift a finger.

But no.

Just like most other major difficulties in life, the dead raccoon kept lying there, teeth askew and glaring up at me every time I went to the mailbox.

After about a week of this, I put two and two together and realized that the carcass was the main reason why my 13-year-old dog Belle kept running out to the road getting way too close for comfort to the cars whizzing by.

So when I woke up Thursday morning, I resolved myself. It had to be done. I appointed myself chairman of the situation.

So in the interest of public enlightenment, I thought I would share my personal discoveries of how to pick up a dead raccoon:

  1. Get suited and booted. I put on my mud shoes – you know the ones, the old shoes you save for the garden or to tromp through the rain. Nice shoes, cute shoes, the peach-colored platform sandals with bows on top will definitely not do.
  2. Prepare the equipment. I took two garbage bags – one with which to pick up the dead raccoon, the other with which to enclose the remains.
  3. Now here’s the interesting part – stay in action. Often when something difficult must be faced, we go into planning rather than action. We overthink and therefore miss the moment. Hell, we can think so much nothing ever happens. When I got out to the curb, I spied a big stick that I thought might be helpful. The carcass proved heavier than I thought. Then I saw a garbage can that was hauled out to the curb on the other side of the street and sure enough the Atlanta City Sanitation Truck, luckily for me, was rounding the corner to come and empty it. Perfect timing! I deposited the heavy white bag, knowing the professionals would take care of the rest.
  4. Wash your hands afterwards and debrief yourself. I discovered there’s a lot of similarities between picking up a dead raccoon and practicing yoga. It’s now been 20 years since I have been teaching yoga, which, according to my teacher, means I am no longer a beginner. Apparently you are considered a beginner the first 20 years you practice yoga. I am not sure of the official title you accrue after that, but apparently 20 years of practice means you must have mastered something. I often point out that in yoga we are constantly practicing – and preparing not just for a better yoga practice or a healthier body but actual real life. When the going gets tough, we yogis just breathe more. We quiet our minds, focus, stick it and get the job done. Such it is with picking up a dead raccoon – better to think less, let go of one’s story and overcome the limitations one has set in the mind  (“I have never picked up a dead animal before” or “That’s a man’s job – however nonsensical that may be” or “I don’t like picking up carcasses.”) How ridiculous our story actually sounds once we overcome it.

Of course, any time you face your fears you expand your capacity to handle life.

“Being afraid of something is no excuse for not doing it,” Steve Pavlina said.

Now when I walk out to my mailbox every day I see the place I have made cleaner and clearer, knowing and experiencing I have expanded the little circle of my life.