If you are a regular reader of this blog, you probably know that there are certain themes that consistently thread their way through each post. Examples include accepting who you are right now; starting where you are today and moving from there; recognizing what you can do today rather than lamenting what used to be or might have been; caring for yourself at least as much as you care for others; and perhaps, most importantly, everything is always changing. Whatever is happening today is temporary. That may not always mean that things will automatically get better. But it does mean they will change. This further implies that it is better to learn to adapt to changing circumstances than to fixate on your current situation or, perhaps worse, to hang your hopes on some elusive time in the future when things will magically revert to the way they used to be.
All of the above are words to live by. Hard lessons and life experiences have taught me as much which is why I try to share this knowledge with all of you. It all makes sense intellectually and even seems simple. “Simple” yes, but that doesn’t make it easy. It is probably safe to say that all of us struggle with these concepts at one time or another. We know what we “should” do (there’s that word again!) but it’s so hard to actually implement or even remember. Just when we think we have managed to master a particular technique for dealing with the way things are, something will change and we find ourselves right back where we started from, perplexed and frustrated. Not only do we forget everything we’ve learned, but we also forget that we ever learned it. It even becomes difficult to remind yourself, “I’ve been here before. I got through it then. I can get through it again.” Each situation seems new and daunting. And in some ways it is different from before because you are different from before. But that doesn’t mean that there is no way out. It may simply mean that a course correction is required.
All of this came home to me on New Year’s Eve. Maybe there was some significance to that particular timing, maybe not. But I could not help but recognize the irony. It made me smile. Which helped take me out of my funk. The source of this most recent lesson is some chronic pain I’ve developed recently that has begun to interfere with my usual activities. Although I have some theories, I’m not really sure what’s causing it or when it started. But it doesn’t really matter. The fact is it is here, now. So lesson number one came home to roost – accept where you are right now. I realized that I had been resisting the reality of this situation (they call this “denial” don’t they?) expecting it to change if I simply ignored it. Unfortunately, ignoring it has become increasingly impossible. It began to dawn on me that I was hoping I could force things to change just because I wanted them to. As is typical of my personality, I thought I could bludgeon my way through the pain and make it go away. Instead of finding fulfillment from that form of wishful thinking, all I succeeded in doing was irritating it further.
So along came some additional lessons – start where you’re at and move from there. This was quickly followed by reminding myself of another important tenet I frequently espouse – modify, modify, modify. As I stopped lamenting what used to be, I was able to become more curious about what was actually happening in my body. My years of connecting mind to body through studying Pilates and yoga has given me some ability to bring my attention to physical sensations as they occur. This can be elusive, but one thing I was able to notice is that my pain is not constant. Some movements trigger it, but others are pain-free. The epiphany that ensued should have been a no-brainer, but it just goes to show you that the most practiced people can still be just as dense and resistant as anyone else. All of us, myself obviously included, can be great at seeing what others need to do, but not so good at following our own advice.
Many of you know that yoga is a philosophy as well as a physical practice. The first and, perhaps, most important principle of yoga as described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is the concept of “ahimsa” or “non-harming”. This concept does not only apply to what we do to others but also how we treat ourselves. All of us need periodic reminders. We are no good to others if we don’t take care of ourselves.
Moving is a vital and important part of my life. Another frequent theme in this blog is to move while you can move because you never know when something will have happen that takes that ability away. Through the years there have been many times when I have had to come to the realization that if I wanted to keep moving I would have to change the way I had been doing it. That can be a tough pill to swallow, but to me it’s more important to keep moving in some way than to stop altogether. So here I am again. And, surprisingly, it’s not so terrible. As soon as I was able to accept that this may be my new reality, I was able to free myself from judgment and explore new ways to keep moving. There is still so much that I am able to do. So rather than lamenting the loss of the way things used to be, I hope that I can instead focus on and appreciate the positives of what is. There are many positives. It takes practice and consistent effort to maintain that focus, but I’m going to try to make this my New Year’s resolution. Here’s my new mantra: “Be here now and do what you can.” If that sounds familiar, it should. Happy New Year to all!