Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sensations as Sensations

This morning I slipped on the icy shoveled sidewalk. One foot began moving away and the other ankle folded to catch my balance. Pop, twang, and back on my feet. All in a moment, yet in that moment I had a flood of sensations that triggered a heightened awareness. Gratitude that I was standing on a sidewalk, fear that I was injured, amazement that so little had happened and so much had changed, fear that I could not trust my body to function normally, curiosity about the condition of my ankle, pain, hesitation, gratitude the foot took my weight. This all took just seconds. Each momentary feeling took hold and let go, took hold and let go. Then the investigation began.

I have been using a meditation of noting sensation and allowing sensation to be sensation, freeing the sensation itself from the tag lines of feelings, interpretations, anxieties, memories and projections. For me, this means actually choosing not to name the sensation that arises, simply sense it. Each sensation has the potential to reveal the way I operate, attaching thoughts and feelings, assigning meanings, planning etc. in response to the sensation, which has by that time passed into something else. What remains is the construction I've built around it.

So I tested my range of motion, began tentatively walking, using leg muscles and experimenting with how I put my foot down, when to transfer weight to the heel, how high to lift the leg to relax the ankle before its landing, etc. Very slowly and with attention to each step, I got where I was going. It was an amazing journey.

Sometimes I speak about the space in each breath when we remember to notice. I have often spoken about awareness of how we transfer our weight to the earth. Today every single step is an experiment in awareness, letting the fullness of the sensations be just that, and watching the moment unfold.

A friend posted a quote on FB "Every setback is a detour to my goal." -- NFL Colts Head Coach '09 This is a marvelously subtle way of letting go of the steering wheel and the judgmental mind and allowing experience to be just that. We cannot get anywhere from here, we can only be here. By being here, fully, we are just where we need most to be.

I have canceled or postponed all my teaching for today and tomorrow to tend my new project, to experience my body and allow rest and healing to be part of every step. What a blessing my practice has turned even pain into curiosity, even fear into openness. The saying attributed to The Buddha is "Pain is part of life, the suffering is optional." My twisted ankle is such a good teacher!

1 comment:

  1. Oh, Sarah. I am so sorry. And so intrigued and inspired. Our driveway is, after 7 days, still a solid sheet of ice. On Thursday, I foolishly thought I could get out - I mean it looked okay from the house and it had been sunny and it was the middle of the afternoon. But as I rounded the curve and started up the first hill, I heard a terrible noise, then the car stopped, then I began to slide back down the icy, curvy hill. I've been trying to take that horribly scary experience and turn it into a tale. Thank you for sharing your story. I hope your ankle gives you the green light/go-ahead sign soon.