It’s been six days since my third hip surgery and this time I am in a wheelchair. Today I was without judgment, painfully vulnerable. My oldest friend left for Disney, her husband had a birthday, my teacher whom I love is leaving for an inner journey, which means she will be off the grid. And I am on a very deep one of my own.
I told my teacher, Desiree, that heading into this next surgery I would be dedicating my healing to “tikkun olam.” That is Hebrew for the Healing of ALL. It is also my own form of metta practice. Why not. This recovery is so damn hard and so much work, why not expand the efforts out towards others?
I am working very hard to not focus on the trauma I have been through but my body keeps reminding me of it. I am in terrible pain. I am constantly nauseous. And I don’t have use of my lower limbs yet. And I am a YOGI. Right? Yes. Yes.
But I am forgetting. I am forgetting who I am because I have been so deeply inextricably tied to this body. Engaged with it like a dance partner. Well, truth be told, more like a partner in crime, than a partner in tango. I am not graceful. I am fierce. Even now.
Yesterday, I decided to take my pup for a walk. He walked beside my chair. I am not used to being in a wheelchair. I had to do a few wheelies to get over some bumps and humps and then there was an incline. Not a HILL like when I lived in San Francisco. Just an incline. Was I graceful getting us home? No. I was willful and determined. Am I proud of that? No. But I am proud of one thing. I stopped half way through the incline because it was a long incline and I was exhausted and nauseous and I knew I had so much further to go. I stopped. I breathed. I waited. I listened. And when I was ready I continued.
I have been receiving invitations to Yoga trainings and classes and workshops and events every day on email. Today, when I spoke to my Beloved, I asked the question “you’re not expecting that I’ll be doing asana by then, are you?” and then tears began to pour down my face. The deep knowledge I felt that in one month from this surgery my body would not be ready to begin a yoga practice was something known to me. But the speaking of it aloud and the accumulation of time spent already off the mat, which by then would add up to four months of not one day of practice, suddenly seared my heart with grief. It’s not “you’ll get back to it.” I don’t need anyone to tell me what my body will naturally tell me. It is the disparity between being so able-bodied and being so deeply disabled. Humbling is not the word.
First I went to a place of grief in feeling into the buoyancy and vibrancy of a body that was powerful and enjoyed moving so much- knowing deeply all that I was going to have to give up. Then I went to a place of surrender with that. Then I felt some peace because my body was telling me everything it needed after the second surgery which was three months ago. And then I began to forget parts of myself which were deeply embedded parts of my spark, my potency.
Then I observed 300 yogis practicing together and I could barely watch. It was so hard to take it in. I felt grief all over again. The following day, I went back and watched again and I celebrated what I saw.
And then I saw something. And I felt into an aspect of grief I had not anticipated. I watched something so exquisite. It was pure artistry. And it tapped into a place within me that was deep. And at that very moment, an old teacher of mine saw me with tears POURING down my face. I was standing back, apart from everyone. And she looked at me and said, “you’ll get back there.” Whether I do or I don’t, I do not know. But what I watched was exquisite and simultaneously, I felt my deepest power and purest place of clarity in movement. Nothing showy. Just strength, poise, clarity. Balance. FREEDOM. Right now I guess I still possess these qualities but it’s not through asana.
I told my most highly regarded teacher after my second surgery, the surgery just before this one, “asana is the furthest thing from my landscape right now.” It could have been a risky thing to say to a person you hold in such a high place. But no. It wasn’t. It wasn’t because it was THE TRUTH. And the truth is the basis of our relationship. It is the basis of any relationship I wish to have with anyone. In the past, it has caused many to run from me. When that happened, though it was painful, my response was to say “thank you” through the pain. “Thank you” for showing me the truth of who you are. Thank you.
My first spiritual teacher, Sylvia Boorstein, says, “the ultimate prayer, the prayer that comes from deepest wisdom, is ‘thank you.’” A week before my second surgery, I had a chance to thank Sylvia in person for this wisdom and ask her for some blessings before heading into the hospital. Sylvia has taught me so many things in the years I have studied her dharma. This is the teaching I always go back to.
So, though I don’t have a lot of support around me right now, I am choosing to reside in fierce gratitude for the support that has come my way and the support I am choosing to ask for.
Today, I asked for some help from an acquaintance I have known for a few years. We have always liked and admired one another with great sincerity. She offered to bring me to my first physical therapy session. When we left, her three year-old son had a full-blown tantrum and would not get back into the car. I watched my friend mother him in the most compassionate and loving way she could and do all that she could to prevent him from harming himself. She became devastated by what was happening because her son was disconnecting from her very significantly. I think this was what was so painful for her. We all want to maintain connections with the people we love and when they leave us (whether through death or through deliberate action or even if they just leave for 30 minutes), it can be utterly heart-wrenching.
So, my friend actually gave me quite a gift today. An opportunity to practice “tikkun olam.” To help mend her heart and help support her during her storm with her son and not focus on my own disability, my own “mishagoss” (that’s Yiddish for “nonsense”), and help her ride the wave.
Each day, I hope to keep trying a little bit at a time, step by step, to find my way back to my own strength, poise, clarity, balance and freedom even if I can’t use my legs yet.
But most of all. To stay rooted in love and gratitude no matter if I have use of my body or not. No matter if I feel dim inside or bright. Love and gratitude. Because that is where it’s at. That’s where it’s at.