Just a few minutes ago, as I was abiding in a few breaths and a yogic lunge, feeling the flow of breath and the stretch throughout the length of my torso, hip and thigh, a momentary insight came to me through this simple act of being aware in my body. I realized that the quality of my noticing in this kind of activity has been permanently altered since last year, and that, every moment of movement is never again taken for granted or lightly.
Last year at this time, I had absolutely no idea that within a few months I would be in agonizing back pain and unable to stand, walk or sit without extreme discomfort. By last July, days before I was slated to teach the yoga segments at my worksite's 5-day annual meditation retreat, the pain in my left leg, sacrum and lower back was at it's peak and could no longer be ignored or dealt with in the usual ways. Stretching it out wasn't working. Letting it rest wasn't working. Ignoring it and trusting that it would just get better by itself and in time wasn't working. I needed to DO something to begin to find some relief and healing. I clearly remember the moment of this realization. It came along with some resignation, and led to a point of inner decision-making. Soon after this discernment, I relayed to my boss my situation, and the "I can't" in regards to the yoga teaching. It was humbling, and also a crucial step, as it allowed me to focus my attention more directly on the path of seeking "pain-free".
Navigating via the Inner Knower.
Once I started telling friends and loved ones about my injury, there was an onslaught of advice about who to see and what to do. I listened and digested the advice and explored a bit on my own. Ultimately, I made decisions in the way that I usually do - by gut feeling. One step at a time, I faced each appointment and diagnostic test. I scheduled consults and met with physicians and specialists. I received injections and took medications. I followed the standard and best practices in physical therapy for this type of injury. I experienced some miniscule relief for a bit of time, but hardly any. Something was not right. After about 4 months of hanging in there with the traditional routes of healing, I decided to stop what I was doing. It wasn't working for me.
I continued to listen to my body symptoms, as well as something deeper - an internal guidance mechanism that is sometimes hard for me to describe. I can just tell you that there was something deeper during this experience that kept pointing towards YES to certain things, and NO to others. I listened. I began to explore chiropractic, and it began to help. I hung upside down. I waited several months to meet with a non-traditional physical therapist that came through a recommendation. For some reason, THIS expert stood out - my body said YES. It was not covered by my health insurance and it was a huge expense, but something inside me said DO IT. I spaced out the appointments to afford the visits and cut costs in other areas. The P.T. made adjustments and the wisdom and experience she relayed put me at ease. I stretched and strengthened diligently per her advice and direction, which I trusted. And, I continued to listen to my body very carefully. I bought a standing desk. I moved very cautiously and intentionally. And I very, very, very slowly and gradually began to find moments of relief, followed by incremental amounts of movement.
I slowly began to test my limits, but with very careful consideration. I walked longer. I started taking stairs. I went for a hike in the woods. I added in more stretches. A few weeks ago I went for a jog - a very slow, steady jog - and it felt GREAT, like a WIN! And, at the same time, I know that I am not where I was before this injury and I still need to treat my body with kid gloves and with the utmost respect. There is some discomfort that remains, a hint of tingling and numbness when I move in certain ways. And so here I am, with a very intentional noticing and deliberate moving in and out of stretches and strengthening poses that has never been necessary in the way that it is now.
No Turning Back.
In the same exact way that my back injury experience was the catalyst that awoken me to closely noticing my body signals and taking more deliberate action, my gathering consciousness of unease or discontent in other areas of my life has come about as a result of more purposeful noticing. Because of this close noticing, I am no longer able to ignore when my body says YES to this, or NO to that.
My body says NO loudly and clearly when I eat ice cream at night. It disrupts my sleep and causes me to feel hungover in the morning.
I begin to FEEL IT when I am engaging in too many activities and not getting enough rest: my mind becomes scattered and I get forgetful. My sleep becomes restless. My mind spins and spins with thoughts and thoughts.
My body informs me when I need to have a serious conversation with someone, and I've been holding back: I become irritable and on edge. I get cranky. I snap at people close to me.
I begin to isolate from others and ignore my inner signals when I'm avoiding something that is bothering me. I push too hard at work and with personal To Dos and I fill up my down time with TV or other things to keep me busy.
I can easily become a task master, and barrel through my To Dos. I don't realize the striving and ambition mode I get locked into, until at some point my body makes it painfully obvious. I burn out. Or, I get really speedy. I need to be really careful and diligent about maintaining down time, to help me to feel balanced and keep my creative energy flowing.
Allowing Inner and Outer Shifts.
I more easily notice these kinds of habitual patterns and despite sometimes longing for bliss through ignorance (I still really want to eat ice cream!), I have reached a point of no return where these patterns can no longer be ignored. Sometimes the inner signals can be so very subtle, and at the same time, hugely impactful and impossible to ignore. Through noticing, I have realized that certain relationships, behaviors or situations in my life aren't working. In some cases this has resulted in painful realizations, and have brought about sadness or grief, and what my body tells me is that what is best is for me is to simply feel the sadness and let it flow. In other cases, I have chosen to say goodbye to people, situations or behaviors. My noticing has helped me to decide if what is warranted is a clean cut, or a slow gradual shift. And in yet other situations I have experimented with shifting my own behavior to create more ease, or I have raised concerns, initiated conversations, or explored other potential actions to implement to see if something better was possible.
I have learned to recognize that life is a constant stream of experiences that continually shift if we allow them to. Nothing stays the same, and everything changes. And there is a way that we can meet our life shifts and transitions that we instinctively and intuitively desire if we begin to notice the inner signals. What is required is waking up to the life we are living right now.