October 13, 2010

The Yogic Art of Healing.

“Your life could change at any moment. You just have to be there.” ~ Unknown

Mine certainly did; in a seemingly ordinary moment of walking from the terrace to the bathroom I tripped, slipped, fell and broke my right ankle.

This freak accident occurred at the almost exact mid-point of Yoga Month; September, where along with other members of my yoga community in Jamaica, I had committed to practicing every day for 30 days.

As I lay on my friend’s sofa with my foot elevated and packed tightly with ice, like flashes of light, an array of disconnected thoughts zoomed across my mind.

Firstly, I realized that my deployment to Central Africa would have to be delayed; I was due to leave in four days time. This was the final straw in a series of delays that I’d had surrounding this deployment.

From the white leather ottoman where I lay, I looked up towards the sky and said out loud to ‘Anyone’ who cared to listen, “okay, I hear you now. Talk to me because clearly there is something you want to convey.”

Having spent the first six months of 2010 traveling between Jamaica, Haiti and the United States as Director for Global Volunteer Network’s Haiti Earthquake response initiative, I can only surmise that the Universe had decided that the only way to get me to stop was to throw me this curve-ball at what would appear to me to be the most inopportune time.

Eventually fitful sleep became me and I awoke very early the following morning for the two-hour journey back into Kingston as the incident had occurred away from home.

Throughout the journey, my aunt who accompanied me, and my friend who drove, both tried to reassure me that my ankle was ‘only’ badly sprained as they felt had it in fact been broken that I would have been in far more pain.

Lesson One: thanks to focusing on the breath, I came to realize that I had a far greater pain threshold than I’d ever given myself credit for.

Upon arrival into Kingston early Friday morning, I went straight to the doctor who ‘marched’ me off in a wheelchair to the X-ray unit.  Confirmed: hairline fracture to right ankle.

Given that this was my first personal encounter with any sort of health emergency, I was overwhelmed by all of the information that was being thrown at me, as well as the decisions that I needed to make, pronto!

In spite of my injury, I still managed to show up at the ShaktiMindBody Fitness Center’s Open Day that Sunday afternoon to participate as one of the panelists in an open forum about yoga and its emergence and blossoming in Jamaica.

On Monday, after seeking a second opinion, I decided that I’d go the operative route and have a pin inserted in my ankle the following day. As I emerged from the doctor’s office, I knew that I’d made the right decision. The rest I left in the hands of faith, knowing that something good would come from this experience.

Late Tuesday afternoon, I checked into St. Joseph’s Hospital where I barely managed through some traumatized haze to complete the administrative process—only to be followed by the medical one.

Again the Universe sent me an angel; this time by way of an incredible nurse who had recently had her first ever surgery and was able to appreciate, empathize with and allay my fears through sharing her own story. It seemed as though a team of angels had been sent to take care of me as, just about every single person that I encountered met me with heart-filled eyes.

As I was being wheeled into OR, Bob Marley’s words serenaded me as they played over and over in my heart “every li’l thing’s gonna be alright.”

I spent that night at the hospital and was discharged the following afternoon where I returned home to the love, warmth, compassion and generosity of family and friends.

A physically active person all my life, lying on my back with my foot elevated and my crutches propped up against the window-sill, I saw where I had two choices.

Actually for me there was only one: I was going to channel all of my energies into healing.

Now rendered immobile, I recognized that this leg of the journey was a long overdue and necessary pause. Certainly, there is merit in the pause.

A life-long humanitarian, my service has taken me far and wide at a velocity that at times even I failed to acknowledge, let alone comprehend. The fiercely independent, fast paced Nadine was now humbly brought to a halt. I’d ignored my own depletion at the cost of aiding others. It was now time to replenish me.

“Here is where the real yoga begins Nadine. Here is where you get to practice what you preach when you teach:  taking the practice off the mat, into my heart and out into my world” my inner wisdom guided.  Now is when I get to delve deeper into the core essence of leading a yogic lifestyle; positive thinking and meditation.

Pranayama, or proper yogic breathing was my strength and ally during those initial fearful hours immediately following the accident and the entire surgical process.

By the third day of my recovery, a tad awkwardly, I approached the mat and stepped into an unexpected and beautiful realm of my practice. I was pleasantly surprised to discover the extent to which I could still engage in deep asana or yoga posture practice. In other words, I learned that there is freedom in limitations, provided that we are aware of and respectful of our boundaries. In this mindful awareness, I was able to take these postures to an even deeper level as for the first time, I was fully conscious of the extent to which I was honoring my body, practicing from a place of deep respect, compassion and love.

Day five: time to return to my yoga community. Upon arrival at the studio, I discovered how vulnerable and raw I am when a few people inquire with the most incredulous tone in their voices “what are you doing here?!”

Forgive me if I’m wrong, however I believe that for those of us who are accustomed to living in ‘normal’ bodies devoid of any physical limitations, when confronted by others with any sort of physical challenges, our immediate reaction is one of projection, perhaps out of our own previously unconscious fears.

Resiliently I approached the mat, fully aware of my beloved friend who has a tendency to show up whenever I am on the defense: Ms. Ego.  With dignity, I acknowledged her by giving her about seven minutes of my time and then I bid her farewell as I breathed and moved through my practice.

At the end of this class I say aloud “it is a hell of a lot easier to heal a broken ankle than it is to heal a broken heart.” Eight years earlier, the latter had brought me to the mat in the first place.  Now the former [limitation] had provided me with the golden opportunity to transcend beyond to my ‘new and improved’ opening heart.

As one friend said to me “Nadine, you could have broken your wrist, your elbow, a rib, whatever.  But instead, you’ve been stopped alive in your tracks; physically incapable of moving.” In that instant I was reminded that in stillness we move mountains and that the ability to do absolutely nothing is the key to progression. Otherwise we end up like hamsters on a treadmill; moving at breakneck speed, going nowhere.

My healing ankle continued to improve with each passing day. I honored it through proper breathing, proper exercise, proper relaxation, a ‘live’ diet and positive thinking, prayer and meditation.

The gifts that my ankle has brought me are endlessly abundant. For the first time in too long of a time to remember, I am spending quality time with my family. I have spent days in bed, doing nothing in particular, an absolute first for me. I’ve watched movies at two in the afternoon and taken a nap just because I felt like it. And yesterday, I stood, in my watermelon bikini, supported by my crutches in the pouring rain while looking out to the Caribbean Sea and threw my head back in gleeful laughter.

My life is changing. And I am present to it.

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