Monday, February 9, 2009

Stumbling Toward Grace

I am in the midst of a life-change; an unfolding like no other to enter my life before now. So much has happened this week that totally shifted the path I was on and the landscape I looked out upon. Yet I stay open...curious...waiting and above all else, grateful for the unfolding.

In the last week, I have witnessed a traumatic accident that claimed the life of a local school teacher (I know this now but did not know that then) and have undergone surgery for an umbilical hernia.

One minute, I'm walking 10-12 miles a week, practicing yoga daily, standing on my head, balancing in advanced arm balancing poses, twisting my body, hovering in chaturanga dandasana, and the next, I'm detoxing from narcotics and anaesthesia, nursing my first ever surgical incision, struggling to walk around my house, praying for and against a bowel movement and suppressing the urge to sneeze, cough or laugh.

Suddenly, my practice is redefined.

The reality of where I am from where I was is sobering and humbling...but it's more than that because, if I'm honest, I knew it was coming. I'll get to that in a moment.

For me, yoga has been a journey of transformation--on so many levels. I have grown spiritually, I have cultivated a place of centeredness--it quivers from time to time, for sure (I get grumpy in traffic and when I get no 'me' time and sometimes for no good reason at all :-) but now I feel the center and seek it more than ever. There has also been a physical transformation--my body is lean and strong; stronger than I've ever been...well, until now.

I had become intoxicated with my strength, lulled by the grace with which I moved on the mat and drawn to the dance of the asanas. These are certainly not negative states except that the intoxication began to drive my pursuit of the mat and to consume my mind.

I noticed this intoxication, this imbalance, and I would often pray for a shift in my thinking during meditation. I would sink into the subtleties of each pose, the feel of my body in the pose, the flow of the breath. But a strong seed had been planted in my mind and I was not relinquishing the desire and drive for this strength training I was endeavoring each time I came to the mat.

I felt something coming to me, I knew that I was going to be hindered physically, nothing life threatening, but some event in my life was going to realign my practice and my awareness. After all, I was asking for a shift.

Now, I believe that you receive what you seek from your practice wherever you are in your life and however you show up. Had I not been seeking more spiritual depth in my practice, had I not been praying to be released from this 'spell' of my physical abilities and accomplishments, I feel certain my practice would have continued on the same path...if I felt served, served I would be.

But I didn't, so life threw me a loop in the form of an umbilical hernia and I was delivered from my physical station of stagnation straight into a pit of pain heretofore never experienced. This pain brought me into the core of my physical self. This pain gripped everything I had--my awareness, my soul, my body--all clenched in it's teeth. I could barely breathe. I struggled to speak and when I did it came in pants of phrases that needed to be strung together. I was delirious and felt so completely alone as my body turned on me.

Fast forward through the dramatic blur of events--ambulance, emergency room, blurred consciousness, nausea, vomiting, narcotics drip, x-rays, ultrasounds, CAT scan, more narcotics, more vomiting and I woke in the Emergency Room when the tech walked in to wheel me up to surgery, apparently decided for me somewhere along the way.

I was hit with the pain at 6:30 Friday evening and I was on the operating table by 10:00 Saturday morning. The last thing I remember was the anesthesiologist holding a syringe to my IV, saying 'this' was to help me relax. I prayed one more time that I would wake up from the surgery and I let go.

Wake up I did, new to my body in its delicate state and in awe of the manifestation of that which I had been seeking on the mat.

Over the course of the last week, I have taken many baby steps, including eating solid foods, standing up straight, walking for more than the distance between my bed and the living room, getting out of bed with no more assistance, touching my toes, breathing with depth, reaching my arms up to frame my head and driving myself WITH a seat belt.

I still have a long way to go but I am settling nicely into this journey and, in a funny way, I am honored to have the opportunity to intimately connect with my body, to move at it's new pace, easing forward when allowed and pulling back when necessary.

My practice on the mat today began with my Mala meditation and then I moved where I could, tentatively exploring poses that were once very commonplace for my practice and avoiding others altogether. There was no anger, no despair or frustration, just alignment of body, mind and spirit--I was at peace, blissful and grateful for this delicate vessel.

I was honored to be and, more than that, honored that I woke up...whatever the impetus.

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