Well, it has been over a month since I’ve written here. March has been a hard month. I’ve been battling with sciatica – inflammation of the sciatic nerve, the largest nerve in the body. Literally it is a pain in the butt. And the back of the legs. And sometimes the sides and front. I was told by a doctor and a physio-therapist I saw in India that physio-therapy should crack it and from then on in, I needs must be regular about keeping my core muscles strong.
I know this – this need to keep my core strong. I broke my back in 2003 and promised myself after a successful spinal fusion that I would always look after my back. Out of respect to my amazing body, the surgeon who fixed it, the NHS that airlifted me from the scene of the accident and gave me treatment without any paperwork – never mind the myriads of paperwork privatized insurance creates simply for getting blood tests here in the USA. I promised myself that.
Only I broke the promise. I became aware of how much so in January 2014, when I was doing Elevate – a circus arts intensive with Wise Fool New Mexico. I saw that I wasn’t as flexible as I had been, after seven or so years of regular pilates, hikes in the hills and dance as a form of meditation. I remember getting mad at myself for breaking the promise, for letting me and my body down. For being in the state-I-was-in.
My fellow Elevators consistently told me: don’t be so hard on yourself, you are getting back in shape now and that is what matter. In other words – be kind and compassionate to yourself. At the same time, be firm. Getting muscles back to fitness requires discipline.
Fast forward to just over a year later. In the meantime, I took up cycling – something I had not done for years. I tried to go hiking regularly and walk for no other purpose than to walk for well-being. I started a habit of dancing meditation daily and a little bit of core-strengthening exercises at home everyday. And now here I am – debilitated by chronic pain and weak legs. I thought I was going in the opposite direction. What happened?
I won’t speculate on that here. I will instead point out that I feel I am in that same place I was in during Elevate: being tasked with manifesting (displaying the qualities of) trust, acceptance and non-judgment when I am often finding myself feeling angry, frustrated and despondent. In the last three weeks, despite physio-therapy and core-strengthening work, the condition has worsened rather than improved.
Consequently, I’m having one of those moments where I find myself often wanting to be mad at the cards I’m being dealt. In my mind – perhaps fodder for another post – this happening now is very unfair. As I texted to a friend the other day, I think “the universe is shitting on me.”
My being angry and frustrated under the circumstances is understandable. Thing is, spending too much time with that anger and frustration doesn’t serve me well. It tenses my muscles, for starters – thus possibly exacerbating the condition. It makes me grumpy in my other relationships – with people, with physical space, with everything. This casts a cloud over everything and makes me even more angry and frustrated.
A vicious cycle.
Well, I’m here and it has been nearly twenty minutes since I sat down to write this and I can’t write anymore because it is too painful to sit.
So, what’s my point? I think we are all guaranteed that life will at times give us what we think we don’t deserve, what seems unfair, what hurts, what creates suffering. And I guess these days I’m meditating on the way that my relationship with the suffering itself matters. I might not be responsible for the cause and for awhile I might not have any clue how to remedy the situation. The one thing I have control over is how I choose to react and respond to this – to a sense of powerlessness and injustice and to the anger and rage that goes with it.
It isn’t easy, but I’m trying to respond with the practice of love. This means discipline – which I think of as justice-at-the-personal-level: holding myself accountable. This in turn means letting myself be mad without clinging to it. It means doing necessary exercises, in watching my posture, in eating healthy and in doing all that I can to heal. It means being aware of how I’m being with others – it is easy when suffering with chronic pain to take it out on people around me, to be testy and grumpy and impatient. It means being aware AND taking care to be kind and patient with others – rather than simply going around being grumpy and apologizing for it, using the sciatica as an excuse.
I guess, all in all, I’m meditating on what it means to practice love while experiencing pain, while feeling powerless and plagued by injustice. Obviously, this is all very micro, very personal – yet, I suspect I’m learning lessons for the macro, for the collective and the communal…in due time, I’ll let you know if that’s the case.