Almost everyone loves a superhero.
After all, most are ordinary people put into extraordinary circumstances.
Each one comes with his or her particular ‘super’ power. Each has a story as to how that power came to be.
One thing almost all of them have in common is the fact that these super powers are derived from an external source. Take for instance David Banner (aka The Hulk): his came from being overexposed to gamma radiation. Then there’s Spiderman: his powers derived from an incidental spider bite.
Then there’s Tony Stark (aka “Ironman”).
Tony Stark is plagued by steel barbs in his chest aimed at killing him through attacking his heart. He’s far from ordinary in the usual sense: he’s a billionaire playboy and scientist. However, what plagues him is not too far from reality.
What happened to Tony Stark is not completely unbelievable. Heck, it’s similar to what happened to me…well, of course I didn’t get nearly blown up by my own bomb or anything exciting like that.
Nor did I find myself in a cave somewhere in a remote desert prison being saved by a Yinsen. However, we do share something in common: something literally attacking our hearts.
Especially in Stark’s case—art imitates life. What I’m referring to is a pulmonary embolism. In a nutshell, a pulmonary embolism is a blood clot. This blood clot can be dangerous if left alone: it flows through your blood stream sometimes undetected. Should the clot reach your heart there’s a very good chance you may not see tomorrow.
In medical terminology, I was diagnosed with bi-lateral pulmonary emboli. In plain language, I have multiple blood clots in my lungs. Having them in the lungs is the worst and most dangerous place. Therein lies the similarity to Stark’s problem of multiple barbs. However, unlike Stark, mine are real: no fiction going on here.
Lying in that hospital bed for five days I pondered what Stark must have felt. I’m not referring to the pain aspect—I wondered what his character might have been feeling. Of course only Stan Lee, Ironman’s creator, could answer that. Unfortunately I don’t have a direct line to Stan Lee for the answer.
The conversation with my doc guided my thought process. It’s something that I replayed several times in my mind; and meditated on.
The first concern I addressed was my work schedule. I quickly advised the doc that I had work to do and couldn’t afford (work-wise) to be in the hospital for long—a version of denial. Of course, the doc trumped my play with a “You can’t afford not to be in the hospital.” He followed that up with a sobering question: “Do I have permission to resuscitate you should anything happen?”
It was that question that brought the reality of the situation home. I doubt Stark felt anything close to concern about work. After all, he’s a billionaire playboy. I can however, imagine that Stark must have felt a certain level of concern upon awakening; being advised of the reason for the car battery. If you’re unfamiliar, a car battery was the initial power source for the life saving device.
Stark immediately identified the problem and went to work solving it. In short order he was able to rid himself of the car battery and rely on a different power source. I didn’t have that luxury. I had to turn inward to cope with the situation I was faced with. I turned toward Yogic wisdom.
Amongst the first thoughts I pondered was a quote from The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
“Who is actually sick? If the body aches, then the body is sick, not you.”
~ The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: Commentary on the Raja Yoga Sutras by Sri Swami Satchidananda
So, there I was on the hospital bed concerned about missing work and pondering the words of Patanjali. It was then that I realized that it’s my body that’s sick, not my mind. Along with this reasoning came the acceptance of the medical necessity and steps to take toward healing. With that I found a little peace and acceptance.
At several different times I felt short of breath. This was a warning sign that the clots were actively causing blockage in my blood stream, thus interrupting my breath. After a few bouts of this I recalled a quote from BKS Iyengar’s Light on Life.
“The gift of breath is the gift of life. When we receive a gift, we feel gratitude. Through pranayama we learn gratitude for life and gratitude toward the unknown divine source of life.”
~ B.K.S. Iyengar, “Light on Life: The Yoga Journey to Wholeness, Inner Peace, and Ultimate Freedom”
During my waking moments in the hospital bed I acknowledged true gratitude. I was grateful for the wife that insisted I go. I was grateful for the doc’s forthright (read: blunt) bedside manner. I was grateful for the nurses that took care of me, even when the wife wasn’t there. I was grateful for all the visits, FaceBook messages, phone calls and e-mails. I was so caught up in gratitude I didn’t have time for being upset or worried.
Most important, I was grateful for each breath whether interrupted or not: I was breathing.
It’s now seven days since I was discharged from the hospital. I will be undergoing many more tests, and taking different medications for at least the next six months. Regardless, I am grateful.
Stark, as the story goes, has an electro-magnetic power source in his chest that prevents the barbs from reaching his heart. He survives because of this external power source. As a result, he’s become a superhero and is called upon to save his country from time to time.
Stark and I share a similar story. His story is fantastic: mine possibly not. Or is it? We are both saved by technology: his is arguably more colorful. I argue that Yogic wisdom and understanding Self is much cooler. It is in this knowledge that inner peace is achieved. Inner peace provides one heck of a power source: the power of detachment and gratitude.
What are your thoughts?
When not in shoulder stand on a Yoga mat, William Hunnell is an avid writer/blogger. Growing up in Pennsylvania and seeing the world courtesy of the armed forces, he now calls home a little slice of heaven known as Goose Creek, SC. One day he’ll grow up but for now he’s happy to be found on his mat exploring, and pondering his next blog. Enlightened? No. Thoughtful? No. Mindful? Yes! Check out more of his ramblings at downdogjunction.com and follow @OleManJake.
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