June 27, 2016
It’s been a while since my last Seedlings. I started this post well over a month ago. And then life happened. Here’s how that day started.
I ran across a post that asked what the world might be like if we all acted like we respected each other.
That got me thinking. What do I most want from others? More importantly, what do I most want from life? Is it respect? Is it consideration or compassion? Sure I’d like those. But what I decided I want more than anything, what I feel a profound need to satisfy, is a desire to love and at the same time to feel loved by others.
When I experience both I notice that for a moment I’m not striving or wanting or grasping or needing. I’m content, and I’m full.
That’s how my day opened, and that’s what I thought I most wanted.
Later that morning, between clients, in a moment of profound mindlessness, I ran from one room to another at my office, tripped over my own foot, and crashed to the floor, meeting the concrete surface under the thin, industrial office carpeting with my right wrist in an attempt to cushion the fall.
I shattered the radius, the main bone in my right wrist and cleanly fractured the smaller ulna bone. It’s my dominant hand.
For the rest of the day, through an ambulance ride, setting of bones, casting, and a bit of morphine, I experienced shock, almost unbearable pain, and profound disappointment in myself that in one mindless moment that literally brought me to my knees, I had changed the course of my life for the immediate future.
But I had the practice. Which I would forget and then remember, bringing myself back over and over when I noticed anything I didn’t want – a fearful, awfulizing voice in my head, a sharp pain, a deep pulsing bone ache, a tightening of my chest, and waves of emotions that seemed to be in partnership with a sense of disconnection from my immediate environment.
For a moment I would feel powerless over what was happening in my mind and my body and my spirit. And I would have a mini melt down inside my skull.
But then the practice would kick in again, like an old, worn, well-loved slipper. I would pause, let all the air out of my lungs, notice the story in my head that was scaring the crap out of me, and soften my body. And I would come home to the gentle, reassuring and always available five senses that save me over and over and over.
Sometimes the practice works outside of my awareness or conscious volition, pushing its way up through the sludge of other habitual thought patterns. And when that happens it immediately brings me back in touch with what I know to be true. That when I’m in the moment, just this moment, I’m OK. This is how I know that it’s important to practice even when I don’t need it, so that it will kick in for me when I can’t seem to choose for myself.
I remember I started feeling scared in the hallway at the hospital when they didn’t have a room for me. I was afraid I might be an afterthought. But almost immediately I saw my dear friend who came along for the ride and was doing everything I couldn’t do for myself. She texted my clients, and kept me company, and monitored my face for pain to make sure I got what I needed and didn’t get forgotten in the hallway. For the moment I was just fine.
I’m still watching the broken wrist saga unfold. I have a 3 1/2 inch titanium plate and 8 long screws holding my bone together. There are days when it feels like life as I knew it is forever lost. Days when I am incapable of getting or doing what I want. And the only thing I can think to do is to fall back into the comforting ams of pause/breathe out/notice the story/soften my body mantra.
Compared to what’s happening at any given moment in the rest of the world, my experience was and continues to be a small trauma. My situation will continue to improve. And that isn’t the case with everyone. It helps me to keep things in perspective when I stay very clear about that.
Looking back on that first day I know that what I actually want more than anything else is awareness. I cherish loving and feeling loved. I cherish respecting others and feeling respected. But awareness–mindfulness–is what makes the experience of those life affirming feelings possible.
The next time life hands you something you think you can’t stand, that you are sure will do you in, give the mantra a try – awareness may literally be only a pause, a breath, a noticing, and a softening away.