It’s been almost five months now since I tripped while walking down the street. The gifts of that uncomfortable event continue to flow. I don’t recommend injury as a method of becoming more present, but, if it happens, it can offer remarkable opportunities for practicing being more aware than usual.
The fall fortunately didn’t result in any broken bones. I suspect this is due to my Continuum Movement practice, which keeps my bones fluid and resilient, even as I grow chronologically older. Emilie Conrad, founder of Continuum, used to talk about how people worry about osteoporosis and take calcium to make their bones stronger. She considered it much more effective to practice Continuum, where, instead of further rigidifying dry bones, we stimulate the fluid within them, facilitating them in returning to or living in their natural fluid state.
I was amazed when I first viewed images of bone, looking like sponge, or even like the coast of the
Rather than being broken, two of the little bones in my wrist, as well as my knee, were bruised. Bruising in the bone is similar to bruising elsewhere in the body in that there is an injury in the tissues and, as a response, blood or other fluid fills whatever space it can penetrate. Swelling and pain result.
You might be asking at this point, where is the gift in this?
Well, as luck, or perhaps biomechanics, would have it, I bruised the bones in my right wrist, which is my dominant hand. Until you have had an injury to your dominant hand, you can’t quite understand how challenging it is to do anything! Every doing puts right in your face how habitually you tend to act in everyday activities. For example, which hand do you use to squeeze the toothpaste out of the tube? How do you hold the toothbrush? How do you hold the towel when drying yourself out of the shower? How do you roll over in bed, or get up from bed, or a chair, or the floor? When it hurts to do as you usually do, you suddenly become more aware of what you are doing, and begin, through this awareness, to find other ways.
I admit that, having a background as an Occupational Therapist (OT), did somewhat help prepare me for this situation. As an OT student, many years ago, I enjoyed practicing and experimenting with trying these kinds of activities of daily living with my non-dominant hand, or with one hand tied to my body, or with my eyes blindfolded, or from a wheelchair. I wanted to understand what it was like for my patients with injuries, malformations, or debilitating illness. Understanding from the outside, however, is quite different from learning from the inside.
Many years ago, I had fallen off my bicycle and broken two bones in my hand. This had given me some first hand practice in coping with injury, and its associated pain and disability. I found myself being creative but bravely pushing ahead in all of my activities. I even went on to teach a class in folk dancing a few hours after the fall, because I couldn’t find a substitute at such short notice. Somehow, I managed, even with my hand still shaking with the shock of the fall. Following the advice of a doctor friend in the folk dance group, I then made myself a splint and waited a week before going for x-rays and treatment.
Perhaps because I was younger then or perhaps because I have learned to slow myself down, this current injury seems quite different.
With my years of mindfulness practice, I have found myself appreciating the challenges. My life practice, including but not limited to Continuum, is about being present with what is, being aware, and coming out of unconscious habits and patterning. From this perspective, an injury is a God-send!
While I am grateful to have bruised, rather than broken, these bones, I am also aware that bruised bones take much longer to heal. Most fractures heal within six weeks; bruised bones can take up to six months. At this point, my wrist is much better and doesn’t often hurt, as long as I am careful. I can do most things with it, but here’s where the gift extends itself further! Because I don’t need to be so careful every moment, I am in danger of slipping back into habitual use and speed. I found myself unconsciously lifting my suitcase with my right hand the other day on a train. I was pleased that it didn’t actually hurt, but was surprised I had let down my guard enough to use that hand in that way, after protecting it so carefully for months.
This is the point in the healing process where my new level of everyday awareness can slip away. I have enjoyed being challenged the last few months to live my life as if I were on a meditation retreat, slowed down, attending fully to every action.
I am grateful that I can now lift a suitcase without pain, but I have a strong intention to maintain the gift my injury has offered. Perhaps, this is like enjoying a gift after the wrapping has been taken away to the recycling centre. The swelling is gone; there is minimal pain. I can move my hand well. There is no longer such a visible trace of the gift, but I want to keep it! I want to keep using it. I want to remember. I want to remember also the moment it was delivered. Where was my mind in that moment? How did the pavement rise up in front of my foot that way without me noticing?
I offer this gift to you now. I hope for you the possibility of being aware of each moment, each action, each body part, even without pain or injury. And if you already have pain in your body, or happen to be injured, I wish for you the joy of opening this gift, discovering the potential appreciation, even gratitude for what it may offer you. Having lived with chronic pain myself for many years, I know how challenging it can be, as well as what potential learning and discovery it can offer. May the latter be yours, if you so choose!
Wishing you ease, awareness and delightful discovery on this journey in the body.