By the summer of 2013 I could not walk more than the length of three grocery store aisles without spiking intense pain in my low back. I would never have even considered walking up an incline of any kind, let alone a hill of any description. I had long suffered from chronic pain and then found a doctor who showed me a way to live a pain-free life. My yoga practice was and has continued to be an important part of my healing. Here is just one adventure I have experienced in my yoga practice.
I was in morning yoga class with a teacher who brought such presence (literally and figuratively) to the practice of yoga for me this day. He distilled down the essence of yoga: “The pose is what you’re doing. Yoga is how you’re being in the pose.” That phrase set up the rest of my day, and I pray will ripple out into the rest of my life as a resounding echo forever remembered.
After lunch some friends and I gathered outside the yoga room and proceeded to walk in joyful friendship and communion down to the nearby lake. We actually walked down part of the side of a mountain. The grass was peppered with tiny violets and some kind of miniature daisy flowers. I was so enamored with all of these flowers that my gaze stayed on them, and so on the ground, as we walked along. We made our way into the woods on the way to the lake, where we stopped by a small shrine of stones. We each added another hand-picked stone to the shrine, gathered in a circle and said a blessing together. When we reached the lake, we sat in a circle and shared a common vision of a world where we could gather each year for renewal, refocusing, and healing, all tied together with a deep sense of belonging in a community of consciousness and service.
As we turned back to walk back up the slope, I thought to myself: “Oh, no! What have you done, Lizi? There’s no way you’ll ever make it back up the hill!” Just two short years ago, the idea of me even thinking about entertaining the idea of walking up such a hill would have seemed preposterous due to the lingering chronic pain at that time of my old spinal injury. “Now you’ve done it!” my Inner Righteous Critic chided me. In that moment I truly believed that I was trapped at the bottom of this mountainside and thought I would never see the top again – certainly not through my own power at any rate. “Take a breath,” my Inner Healer beckoned to me. Aaahhhh, that’s a little better. “You’ll never make it up that hill!” The Negative Comment Committee within me just had to toss that in to the mix of the busy chattering in my mind. “You’ll get back up that hill the same way you came down it – one step at a time,” my Inner Healer confidently brought forward. I shared my concern about getting back up the hill. Everyone turned their attention to supporting and buoying my spirits right away. I swear the love I felt, both from my Inner Healer and from my friends, gave me the added lift I needed to continue walking. And we all walked, one step at a time, up that hill.
As I got almost to the top of the mountain side, I felt as if I might not have enough power left in my leg muscles to make it all the way. I turned to my friend, Tommy, and told him of my concern. He offered to carry me the rest of the way. “There will be no abandonment today. Not by your friends, and not by yourself,” I heard a gentle voice inside assure me. The boost in spirit I received from everyone around me and from my own Inner Healer seemed to infuse itself directly into my leg muscles as I opened myself to just being willing to keep trying. We all reached the top of that hill together. Ahhhhh, what a sense accomplishment. Sweet victory!
This experience I had, going almost completely unaware of the high degree of slope down the hill and then making the decision to come back up again, seemed to me to be a living metaphor for how I could apply the lesson of that morning’s yoga class. I can use my attention consciously or unconsciously – it is my choice. How perfectly the Divine set before me the exact exercise in real life for me to practice all that my yoga teacher had spoken to in the morning. My pose was “One Step at a Time Pose”, and how was I being in the pose? Open, willing and present in the flow with the breath, accepting what is. My mind, body, and spirit worked smoothly as one integrated unit. I was able to stay present in the moment and experience the being – far beyond the doing. And I found such a sense of peace being in the moment. I still carry this sense f inner peace to this day. If this isn’t the recipe or prescription to put an end to suffering and step fully into life, I don’t know what is!
I am so grateful my recovery and for all of the teachers I have had along the way, for the teachings, for the profoundly powerful Intelligence within the body that knows how to heal. We learn yoga in a structured environment to gain stability in our practice, When we are able to transfer that practice off of the mat into real life, then we reap even more benefits from the work we do on the mat.
We are all healing together – ourselves and each other. Be well and walk into your day with love and peace. Namaste!
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