Being in a wheelchair challenges me a great deal. I find myself thinking about getting up to do something and I picture myself doing that “thing” as I would fully able-bodied. And then I remember. I’m limited right now.
I think my leg is trying to teach me one of my hardest lessons. That I must go against my natural timing which is fast and furious.
I’ve been pulled over for speeding countless times in the 27 years which have passed since obtaining my learner’s permit. One of the last times, was on my way to a yoga retreat in upstate New York. Clearly, I couldn’t get there fast enough to decompress!
When I was six years-old, I had one of the worst accidents of my life, I was racing a friend on my bicycle, and I flew head first into the concrete as I cut the corner too close down a very steep hill. Fearless at the top of the hill, I enjoyed the freedom and the speed the whole way down. The consequence was a child who was unconscious for several days in a hospital bed (since in 1974, we did not wear bicycle helmets) with a mother in Italy, and a grandmother who never left her side worried to death.
Flash forward two years later, two families atop a hill about to ski down it. Everyone was afraid. I had never skied before. I was eight years old. No one would move. I looked at everyone not moving and then shrugged my shoulders and said, “I’ll go!” And I flew down the hill. Not knowing how to stop, I just let my body crash into the fence when I arrived at the bottom at full speed. When I finally stood up, I was ready to go again.
Thus began a pattern of how I lived in my body at a very early age.
In the swimming pool, I was the first one in, and last one out. I had to be called into the house because the sun was going down or because it was dinner time. In the ocean, I was pulled under so many times, I needed oxygen at the beach, but I loved the water, so nothing could keep me out.
When I started yoga, a similar thing happened. A teacher would ask me to do something and I would do whatever she asked, step by step. There was just never any fear.
The discipline for me was going to be to say, “I’m injured. Please ask someone else.”
It was not only a discipline, but an act of self-love. And it took me a long time to get there.
I think my leg is acting out for the same reason. I think it wants me to slow down. First go around, I was back on my feet. Second go around, eight weeks on crutches. Now, third, go around, a wheelchair, with some suspicious things happening causing great pain inside the leg.
I don’t need to be a rocket scientist to get the message now do I?
What I have noticed is that my hip and my leg have been instructing me, in the most nuanced fashion. As a yoga teacher, I know how to listen to these nuances. As a student of yoga, it is my imperative to listen because I wish to heal. And I know that if I don’t listen, I will just get in the way of my own healing process.
Why would I choose to do the latter?
I see that choice being made all of the time. An opportunity for ten steps forward lies right in the grasp of one’s hands, but something stops a person from taking it.
There are so many reasons. We can talk ourselves out of moving into the unknown places for every reason under the sun.
Watch. Bear witness. See what you do. And how you do it.
My leg has asked me to try something new.
I’ve been very good at moving through things quickly.
Sitting in this pause is my challenge. It is unsettling. Not just for me. Clearly, for others as well. It’s like the pithy things said to you when you lose a loved one. Those things are not helpful. They pull you out of yourself at a time when you need to find your way back to who you are.
My body is teaching me everything it needs right now and asana has been put on hold. For 4 1/2 months now. This has been a big lesson for me. To learn how to place something so beloved, aside.
It’s not the same as when you are with a child and the child wants a cupcake and you have to negotiate with her when you will agree to the cupcake. Or maybe it is, because for the child, an instant is a lifetime.
For me, a lifetime is an instant. And I am holding each instant very close right now. Because my body is asking me to to do something else and to trust in this process. Dark or light. Wherever it leads.
I’ve never had this kind of trust before. But I know something real now: even without being able to walk, I am building the most solid and reliable foundation I have ever known.
Feel free to climb on.
Blessings for this adhikara.