Monday, August 27, 2012

What does not want to be whole?

“I don’t know how to let go of that,” she said moments before her cervicals were readjusted, so palpable was her slip that the moment froze and echoed off the walls. Many of us, do not know who we are without being defined by the pain of our previous stories.
Several years ago, I jammed my right ankle on a lava rock, resulting in several years of compensation. Years of limited motion, or days of paying the price after a good hike, limping in pain as swelling from  an overworked subtalar joint and tarsals subsided, easing back into walking upright.
My foot jam occurred on my first summer in Kaua’i, on my birthday, with a slice of birthday cake in hand. A juxtaposition of emotions, no?

Our bones carry our emotional stories: “As a carpenter, I have to lift heavy machinery;”  “As a Mom, my lower back aches from carrying the baby;” “Oh, my hands have never worked right since…”
Our bones can also be road mapped to the store house of emotions: our organs. Inflammations and uneasiness in our body can be created in a multitude of ways; one of which is how we live our bodies; another is how we live in our minds.

Recently, standing up to my ankles in water and mud in a taro patch, I ruminated on this less than perfect ankle of mine. What would it take, I thought, to have this ankle be whole again: surgery? more work? What?
Later on that day, I injured my foot. The ball joints of the big toe were jammed backwards. It hurt. A lot.  I could no longer place any weight on the foot. The pain was not a throbbing or inflammatory; it was a searing snap to attention. The type of pain that the rest of the day’s details fall away and I have nothing to notice but the present moment.
Between myself and a few other hands the joint was reset; the tendons coaxed back to their proper standing, and four days later I was standing in the dry sands of Kona working again, fully standing.
The ankle had full range of motion. The new injury was rectified and so was my elder wound. Why?
I have heard that many of us define ourselves in what we can and cannot do: great gardener, not a woodworker. Great with words, cannot play music. Can go to yoga, not sure on public speaking. I can’t move my neck, my shoulder, my back…a few years ago (fill in life event) and on the story goes. The event happens once. The retelling repatterns muscle memory, a constant instruction to the body self to hold the pattern of pain. Is it that simple?
Yes and no.
Are there severe physical traumas, of course. Am I talking about those, probably not.
Am I talking about assumptions and the conditioning of muscle memory that allows us to taut that we cannot return to a state of fullness and claim ourselves whole and not broken? Yes.
Why would we do that?
Good question.

if you move carefully
through the forest

like the ones
in the old stories

who could cross
a shimmering bed of dry leaves
without a sound,

you come
to a place
whose only task

is to trouble you
with tiny
but frightening requests

conceived out of nowhere
but in this place
beginning to lead everywhere.

Requests to stop what
you are doing right now,

to stop what you
are becoming
while you do it,

that can make
or unmake
a life,

that have patiently
waited for you,

that have no right
to go away.

- David Whyte

My ankle, you ask? It reset. It moves in circles and straight lines. It carries my weight wholly forward, and I intend to keep it that way.

Click here for a great article by David Whyte

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