I haven’t been to a yoga class in 14 weeks. After taking at least one class a week (usually more, many more) for 14 years. No sexy story here. I was sliding a stool across carpet. The stool leg stopped short and I went flying. Broken wrist. Radius bone. Dominant hand. Big mess.
It was the proverbial out-of-body experience that you always hear about as I was thrust unheedingly into the present, tumbling bum over boobs over bum once again, more than murmuring to myself, "Are you F-ing kidding me?"
And it was an equally out-of-body experience when, the very next day, I heard the surgeon utter that blasphemous-to-practitioners-and-teachers-of-yoga-alike word ... wait for it ... surgery. (Should’ve seen that coming.)
And so, 40 hours later, I was lubing my fingers with coconut oil to ease off my many rings (bonus use!) and prepping for out-patient surgery to put a titanium plate in my right wrist. The surgery, I was assured, would get me moving in two weeks, as opposed to the 12 weeks of no moving at all that no surgery promised. But "moving" was not asana. And I was freaking.
So I turned to my kula for advice on how to deal and received dozens of loving messages, some with helpful, practical modifications to the poses I adored, more with the following: "Reconnect to the other facets of yoga. Read more. Meditate more. Chant more. Pause more."
Now, of course, this was the exact right advice. Of COURSE it was. But even for those of us who live right in the juicy center of the knowledge that yoga is deeply more than the shapes we make on the mat, who know not to attach to the physical practice, moving is pretty satisfying, pretty central. And I couldn’t. (Did I mention I was freaking?)
But I had no choice. This was my present. And after much rather unpleasant self-reflection and even a little resistance, I decided the one thing I wasn’t going to do was waste these months off the mat, squander them, learn nothing.
So, I paused more. I meditated more. I read more – from old Teacher Training texts, but also articles and blogs. I chanted ... some. (I’m not that chanty outside the studio.) But mostly, I did more of what yoga has always been about to me most: I paid attention.
I paid attention to how my right thumb connected to my wrist and then to the muscles of my forearm. To the Breyer’s vanilla as it slid down my throat and the Isagenix shakes as they absorbed into my cells. To my foot-falls as I walked, then eventually ran around my beloved reservoir. To the rising and falling rib cages and softening shoulders of my students. I paid attention thru hours of OT, as I learned to hook my bra and load in my contacts and apply eye-liner with my left hand, as my time on the mat grew slowly closer.
In the end, what I’ve realized is how lucky we are that yoga exists on more than one level: the fabulously present physical and the finer, more esoteric, more far-reaching and deep-rooted non. I came to know that injury sucks but then it doesn’t, if we open our eyes while we’re licking our wounds. That paying attention IS ‘practice’, maybe the only ‘practice’. And that we learn from it all.
There are gurus everywhere, teachers everywhere, in every part of every moment, even those moments we wish never happened. IF we pay attention. Like the lotus flower, something good, maybe even beautiful, can come out of the mud. There will be mud. Oh man will there be mud! But we pay attention, we practice paying attention, and with time and breath and a little ice cream and OT, the mud clears. And something better takes its place.