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Word of the Day: Frustrated!

4 Oct

A fun and new feature to my blog called, “Word of the Week” is in presently in the works, but as I sat down to finish up the post I started, I lost it.  I threw up my hands, slammed my computer shut and stomped out of the room.

Screw the Word of the Week (which was intended to inspire and provoke warm-fuzzy feelings), I have a word of the day: FRUSTRATED. Over the last week, my back injury has taken a turn from the worse. My pain, which had become very manageable – to the point where I was beginning to run and practice yoga again – came back with a vengeance. Sleeping, sitting, riding in the car, bending over…forget about it, these things have become my worst nightmares. I have spent every night this past week sobbing in bed, chewing pain killers like candy and praying to God to make the pain go away.

I have an extruded disc (the soft, gel-like pads that cushion the vertebrae) at my L4/L5 vertebrae that is pressing down on multiple nerve roots along my spinal column. Sounds gross because it is. I told my boyfriend the other night I wouldn’t wish this pain on my worst enemy, it’s that bad. I have been in so much pain and so irate about it that Asking the Universe to feel better sounded like a cruel joke. Who the hell was that naive, clueless person who wrote that post last week? Not me, that’s for sure!

As a yogi, I have often believed that being pissed off, irate and generally unhappy about something is spiritually immature, like a two-year old having a tantrum. I figured that if I maintained a positive attitude, took perspective and was grateful for all of my blessings, then riding the wave of this injury would be a piece of cake. I mean, would the Buddha piss and moan about a herniated disc when there are millions of others suffering and in need of compassion? Would Jesus sit around and feel sorry for himself, sob and cry all night and lament that His life was over? I mean, I’m a yoga teacher for godssakes, I’ve been through WAY WORSE, why is this so devastating?

The more I’ve sat with this, I’ve realized that the one who needs compassion is me. I fought hard to never feel or act like a victim this summer when I had a debilitating back injury…then got in a car accident that miraculously didn’t kill me or my boyfriend…then watched my father get very sick and spend weeks recovering in the hospital. It was a SHITTY SUMMER. There, I said it. I refused to say it because I didn’t want to acknowledge that I was going through another hard time in my life because (tantrum time) it’s not fair, damn it! But the big breakdowns, the hours of tears over the last several nights have more to do with just the physical pain that I am in. They happened because I am tired of being tough, tired of pretending that everything is okay, and tired of completely minimizing my own suffering.

Once I acknowledged this, once I gave myself the freedom to actually feel like shit, cry in front of my friends and family and even hash this out on my blog, I’ve noticed that my physical pain has lessened. Maybe it’s the Percocet, or maybe it’s the forgiveness I am offering myself. It’s actually okay to feel sorry for yourself. It’s okay to stay in bed, need your mom and take pain medication when you hurt. It’s okay to not have a vigorous yoga practice or be training for a marathon. Once your health is being jeopardized, it’s hard to think of anything else, and what I have realized is that the way I treat my body is related to the way I see myself in this world. Being kind and gentle with one’s body, holding it safely and honoring it for the sacred package that it is, is one of the biggest responaibilities we have on this earth. This injury plus, my terrifying car accident and my father’s illness put a big, fat blinking MORTALITY sign in my face, and I did not like what I saw. But by being with the pain, both emotionally and physically, I am starting to see that the healing process has a light at the end of the tunnel.

I am most likely getting surgery, all of this acceptance of my pain has not changed that fact (shoot!), but I am approaching it differently now. Rather than feeling like a failure for not getting better with alternative treatments, visualization, positive affirmations, massage/acupuncture and the rest of the gamut, I realized that suffering daily with back pain for months on end is what’s spiritually immature. Loving myself, accepting that I am human and that I am hurting and need help are what I need in my life, and listening to what I truly need might be one of the most spiritually evolved practices I can do.

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Allowing Myself to Heal

14 Jul

The Summer Day

by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

I love this poem. I’m feeling like I need some beauty, some positivity today after hours of doctors and physical therapy appointments. I’ve been MIA from the blog because I suffered a pretty gnarly injury last week that has kept me off my feet, my computer, the running trail, my yoga mat and just about everywhere else that I normally frequent. After meeting with the surgeon and learning that he really wants to operate on my severely herniated L4/L5 disc, I fell into despair at the thought of my body being incapacitated even longer than it already has been. Shouldn’t I be better by now? I went to the hospital, got some morphine, laid around my house for over a week, so c’mon now, why am I not healed?

Jim, my ever patient boyfriend had to remind me today that this isn’t a sprained ankle. This is a pretty serious injury that has led to significant loss of feeling and weakness in my left leg. So now it’s a waiting game, since I’m not jumping into surgery just yet we have to wait and see if it can get better on it’s own. I am not good at waiting. Nor am I good at sitting still. This is going to make for a very wild ride.

But there’s nothing like an injury to give you time to sit around and think, or in my case, feel sorry for myself. And since I teach up to four yoga classes a day and am (was) training for a marathon, I have had more spare time that I could have every wished for. As a yogi, I know that the physical practice of yoga is a very small part of yoga as a whole, yet I find myself lamenting and obsessing that I can’t practice, I mean, I was just about to nail that new arm balance and here I am unable to even lift my leg. So I try to sit in meditation, but all that comes up for me is anxiety, anger and sadness. “This is so unfair!” shout my thoughts. “Why me, I need my yoga, I need to run, I’ll die without them!” Dramatic much? Then there’s the final act, “I’ll never be able to do yoga or run again! I’m ruined and destined to be an overweight, unemployed vagrant living out of a cardboard box and eating cat food for the rest of my life!” There are also feelings of shame and guilt, I berate myself for just sitting around watching reality TV rather than chrurning away blogs and designing a new style of yoga. Need I remind myself it’s been a week and two days? I compare myself to all the other productive, successful and functioning people I see and beat myself up for not being like them.

So maybe this is my yoga practice after all. I may not be sweating my way through a Power Yoga class or helping my students into handstands, but I am practicing one of the most powerful forms of yoga, and that is the practice of watching the mind and one’s reactions. And what I find is that the real suffering comes from the judgement of my situation, the aversion I feel towards allowing myself to slowly heal and the clinging I have to my “health”. The fact is, I’m injured. Plain and simple, it does not have to be any more complicated than that. The grief, the anger and the anxiety are there and I will patiently watch them, patiently sit with them because the reality is that they have nothing to do with the injury and everything to do with how I often treat myself too harshly and without compassion, which is probably how I got injured in the first place. So maybe yoga really has little to do with what I can accomplish on the mat and more with what I can accomplish by getting quiet, getting still, and letting myself heal.