Sunday, October 12, 2014
I am finishing the 3rd week of an 8-week elimination diet to work with the inflammation from internal injuries from the accidents. While I have been a vegetarian for many years, the internal injuries led to problems that exceeded my level of skill. For instance, I was able to eat only blended foods for more than a year, depended on others to bring food, and was unable to clearly express my needs. This led to a 45-pound weight gain that I am stalled in the midst of losing.
The elimination diet cuts out many foods that I usually eat: no dairy except yogurt; no soy except tempeh, miso or tamari; no sweeteners except stevia; no wheat or other grains except whole; only unprocessed oils and fats. In the first three weeks, when I found myself struggling with portion size, I realized that in contrast to my assumption that I ate in a healthy way, I do have underlying emotional needs that I was using the now-restricted foods to address.
As the newness of the restriction wears off, I am feeling a need to go deeper, all the way in to the roots of my spiritual life to build a deeper understanding. I need to go deeper than eating to thoroughly understand nourishment.
The Buddha taught four kinds of nourishment: of the body, of the senses, of the intention, of the consciousness. Though I have studied these nourishments and learned to mother myself to support concentration and insight, healing these injuries requires more of me. I need to make my nourishment a foundational spiritual practice by being thorough about eating to give life.
Sunday, September 28, 2014
The great yoga teacher, BKS Iyengar, passed away on August 20th. So much has been written about him, yet there are no words to describe his impact on my life. All I can say is that without his teaching, I would possibly have been bedridden and suffering for the rest of my life since the accidents. His teaching allowed me to turn each injury separately over to practice, even the internal, spinal, and brain injuries for which medical science has no cure.
In my recovery process I am continually learning so much about both physical and functional healing. This was BKS's gift, from his personal example of understanding how life can be fresh and new every day -- even parts of human life such as injury, which usually involve great suffering.
Physical recovery is given by nature, and can be enhanced by practice. For instance, wounds heal, broken bones knit, and with skillful surgery my face and body appear mostly normal, except for the weight I gained in bed... physical recovery of the overweight includes monitoring and developing new habits for what goes in and for what I do. Physical recovery lasts for a few years, and is the "what"...
Functional recovery requires ongoing learning of new skills. For instance, due to the brain and spinal damage, I couldn't stand, much less walk. Physical therapy to learn standing and walking took me to a certain point. After that, standing and walking function is a matter of learning new skills. I do balance training every day... including some unusual and fun activities, such as skipping and trampolining, that I certainly was not doing before the accidents. Functional recovery is the "how."
BKS Iyengar, in a therapeutic class, held and moved my spine to retrain it how to move -- how to feel -- how to bring health to the nerves. I will remember these teachings for the rest of my recovery, and for the rest of my life.
BKS Iyengar said, "Live happily and die majestically." May my own recovery continually and thoroughly follow this teaching.
Sunday, July 20, 2014
One of the key practices that keeps me in touch with my recovery is friendliness. This is a simple attitude towards life taught by the Buddha, that transforms my physical and emotional experience into a workable field of blessings:
May I be well and happy.
May I be joyful and live in safety,
Free from suffering
And the causes of suffering.
The first line, "May I be well and happy," is the core practice of friendliness to myself. The teaching continues, "May YOU be well and happy," and culminates in "May ALL BEINGS be well and happy."
Just formulating this thought connects me with my basic desire to wake up to my life, in a way that benefits all beings.
Sunday, July 06, 2014
This week, as part of my recovery, I have been doing a yoga intensive for half of each day. Though I have to be very careful due to dizziness, scar tissue and other aftereffects of the accidents, deep inside it feels like the first week of a new life.
Every morning I have gotten up and done a short session of seated meditation. I practice shikantaza, which is another name for Zen meditation. "Shikantaza" means "Nothing but just sitting." To do zazen, one places the legs in a position that can be maintained, then sits upright with continuous attention on posture and breathing. Though the moments tick on, one brings up the same exact, clear attentiveness moment after moment.
After zazen, I have done an asana practice, and later in the day, restorative asanas and a pranayama practice.
My intensive ends Monday morning. Though I am doing the poses in greatly modified versions due to the limitations imposed by injury, I have been able to maintain attention in a way that would have been unimaginable at the beginning. It had to be rebuilt moment by moment from day one.
Again, none of this feels wonderful in the moment. However, underneath, a sense of greater well-being is building. Though it is painful, suffering is not the whole story. How great this human life can be.
Saturday, June 21, 2014
A couple of months ago, one of my health professionals expressed surprise about the unexpected success of my rehab. He said that though recovery was not expected in my case beyond the two-year mark, there had been steady progress since then.
I asked, "What's different about my case?" He said, "Two things. First, your meditation practice gives you more tools in the toolbox. Second, and this may be related, though most people give up, you persist."
If I had not been taking refuge every day since these accidents in daily meditation practice, I would never have known what strengths a "disabled" person can build. Sitting zazen does not feel wonderful, particularly in the first few minutes when it is hard to get into the position. What a surprise to realize that something as simple as bringing myself to sit still and appreciate my life, can help build a miracle such as an unexpected recovery.
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