A couple of weeks ago, I encountered a gopher hole in a field with my left foot, resulting in serious injury to my ankle. My usual activity has been curtailed, to say the least; I have been alternately bored, frustrated, and happily under the influence of mild narcotics. :)
Sometimes, it takes more than a little love-pat from our Universal Larger Self to wake me up (again, some more) to the bigger picture around pain, illness and other varieties of hardship. Even in the midst of suffering, clarity and spacious freedom are at the heart of it all. The necessary downtime has done what downtime is famous for--given me the space to more deeply attend to whatever the experience of the moment happens to be. (My bathtub and I have a much closer relationship...nothing like relaxing in warm water to bring out relevant insight, ideas, and the natural gratitude that follows!)
Paying attention for extended periods is nothing more than meditation-in-action. Some call it "mindfulness", though it strikes me more as "openness", a stripping-away of the usual murk we travel in until we become a simple clarity, an original and unidentified Awareness. It seems easy, partially floating in a porcelain womb, to see the extent of my habitual stories and reflex thrashings. It is not so easy to release them, even when I know I must, even when the angel of the world is telling me that the quality of my life depends on it.
Recently, I followed the pain in my ankle to pain in my heart and soul. Ahhh. Limp-dance with me on this little journey from my journal:
I was trying to just be with the physical pain, not fight it or run from it...I kept thinking of my old relationship with R., for some reason. I was imagining a conversation I wanted to have with him that would explain to both of us why he closed himself up (seemingly forever). I thought of questions I would ask, and his potential responses--and I realized that no matter which way he responded, it would hurt. I would hurt!
I turned my inner face away in disgust at this line of thinking and feeling...Why do I keep doing this to myself? Why do I keep hurting myself? I've done all these mental gymnastics before...I've asked this same question thousands of times!
Some inner demon insisted that I ask these questions of R. (again), in spite of the fact that it was pointless and painful and would hurt both of us. I was suddenly very alert to, and curious about, this impulse--not the story it was playing in, or why it existed, but the impulse ITSELF. I wondered if I could just drop this urge to mentally and emotionally probe a wound with a hot knife...and the response was ferocious and instant! If the 'demon' had a voice, it would have roared, "No! Do not let me go!!"
Wow. Holy cows and chickens! I was seeing, very clearly, an addiction to pain, which is suffering-in-action. Not just in this particular instance--but as this little story (which is a kind of recurring theme in my life). In other words, the addiction--the knee-jerk impulse--exists by itself as a kind of pattern in the psyche, and is always looking for expression. But there I was, able to observe it as "not me", even while feeling its full anger and fear. In my heart and mind, I stood my ground.
There was an internal earthquake, and a falling-away feeling, and a few moments of panic in which I heard myself say, "Oh, God, what am I without this?" It was exquisitely clear that this suffering was a huge chunk of identity, and that I didn't know how or what I would do without it. (It is a very on-edge feeling, in which a true compassion arises for those labeled "insane"--seems like an empathic view!)
I could feel it wrapping my heart up...and I let it go...talking to my head...I let it go...reasoning with my story...I let it go...shouting righteously...and I let it go. In that moment, it was like smoke, like falling leaves, like ripples on the water. I opened my eyes clean, pure, raw. Primary emotion? Gratitude.
Interestingly enough, the pain in my ankle completely disappeared for an entire day. It has since returned, but not in the same form...it is sore, to be sure, but I can feel it healing. As far as what I am without this...well, imagine the most simple, original kind of Being--no clothing, no masks, and an inability to wear them without laughing--and a feeling of intimacy with a direct current that resembles joy. Imagine catching yourself at the beginning of spinning complexity, and having the choice to continue, change, stop, investigate or vanish...to do away with the idea of a self to have a choice.
Imagine healing that stems from and targets body, heart and mind...mine, yours, ours. :)