The photo below is one of my favorites; it was taken by the lovely Melissa Rich in the summer of 2015. The mudra I am practicing is a symbol of unshakable trust and on the day this photograph was taken, trust was of the utmost importance in my world. On this day I had been living with severe nerve damage for 4 months. My body transformed into something completely unfamiliar, the body I had grown to learn so intimately in my yoga practice was experiencing constant pain, it didn't move the way I had grown accustomed to & at times I wasn't sure if I could mentally handle it anymore. The thing was, I had to find a way to handle it. I was a mom, a yoga studio manager, I was leading several trainings including a 200 hour yoga teacher training, I was in the middle of completing my own 300 hour training, and let's face it I am not the type to not find a way to handle it. So, I did the only thing I knew how to do; I tapped into my Self and let my body be my teacher. I let coping with nerve damage be my practice and it was the most humbling, and empowering act of Faith I have experienced so far.
Imagine waking up one morning with the sensation that the tendons in your hands and behind your knees were tight corded metal. The act of bending your fingers or getting up out of bed seems impossible and you're beginning to worry because this most definitely doesn't feel like the same body you went to bed with. This was my experience waking up one late April morning in 2015. I had been taking antibiotics for 3 days to clear up an infection and I was one of the unlucky few to get hit with a side effect. I immediately stopped taking the antibiotics, yet over the course of the next few days the tightness began to morph into an army of fire ants marching through my bloodstream. My nerves felt like they were on fire. Weeks turned to months and my amazing doctor, who I love and respect highly, had no suggestions other than self care and trying to discover what works; we decided to support my body with good food, detoxifying baths, acupuncture, various supplements to encourage my nerves to repair themselves, and restorative yoga. Along with supporting my physical body I was committed to supporting my spirit with patience, trust, and a deep dedication to my practice.
At first when my body rebelled and became something I wasn't used to, I tried to force it into submission. 2 weeks after the initial symptoms began, I attempted to walk around a nearby lake. This is something I had easily done countless times in the past with out any thought to the physicality of it and on this day I couldn't make it 10 feet from the car. I sat in the front seat of my car and cried. It hit me in that moment that this was going to be a long road to recovery and it was going to take a complete transformation of of my habits, practice, and most importantly my expectations. From that moment forward I looked at the neuropathy as a gift handed to me, a gift that had the potential to break me wide open and allow me to grow and evolve into the best version of me possible. I could no longer sit comfortably in front of my altar to meditate, so my bathtub became my cushion. I would soak in hot water filled with salts, oils, and herbs while focusing on my breath; oftentimes I would chant mantra. When the pain was particularly intense, instead of focusing on the intensity, I watched the way it moved through my body. Somehow, the combination of my breath and presence with the pain made it easier to bear. Familiars like Down Dog, Warrior Poses, & lunges posed new challenges. Finding new ways to approach these old friends gave me a sense of empowerment and allowed me to come into relationship with this new version of my body. Many days were good; I felt pain but I was content. I was ok with where I was because I trusted that everything is temporary and I trusted my path. There were also times, many times, when I forgot about the neuropathy as a gift; I would curse it and sit on the floor in my hallway and cry. I am human after all.
After the tears and the cursing and the pleas of "why me", I would remind myself that this is my path. My life is my curriculum and every experience is presented to me for a distinct purpose; it contains a sacred teaching. After the tears, I would come back to my center, fill my lungs with breath, my heart with love and remember that this is what it is all about. The key to evolving and spiritual growth isn't about stopping the tears and overcoming the emotions, it's not about pushing through and not letting the trials of life effect us. The key is in the ability to "surf" these waves that life presents us. It's about allowing ourselves to be purely HUMAN. To be able to both feel profoundly and root deeply we must let go of the narrative and the story, allowing ourselves to trust in the unfolding. When we allow ourselves to feel the emotions, the physical pain, and truly go into it we are sending the message to ourselves that we are willing to show up for us. When we show up, we are performing one of the greatest acts of unconditional love humanly possible. We are showing up with love to the parts of ourselves that are bringing us pain, heartache, disappointment, and frustration. When we are filled with love, the fear and the pain dissipate; the wave subsides. Here, we breathe. We acknowledge what we learned, that we are strong, that we are loved. We focus our hearts back to our truest deepest intention and we begin to flow with the rhythms and waves once again.
All of me sees & loves all of you,