Monday, October 24, 2011

You might as well be walking on the sun

Isn't it funny how when we have the choice to do something good for ourselves we so often choose not to do it?

Yoga is one of those things that I know is good for me, makes me feel good, yet so often in the past I opted for 10 more minutes of unrestful snoozing over hauling my butt out of bed to get on the mat.  It's not a choice for me now--If I want to be able to move, I must MOVE.

I have to make modifications, again, to accommodate my new limitations. It's not a matter of just getting back to the mat, anymore.  For example, I can no longer just sit on my mat and do seated forward bend.  I can't straighten my legs completely because of the swelling in my knees, yet stretching these muscles is crucial to keep them from cramping and shortening up, making walking even more difficult. So I must get creative with props, now. I have been using my breast cancer quilt as a bolster to elevate my hips in order for me to do this stretch without hurting my knees.

I used to think that I didn't need to use props during yoga--that was for beginners, or people not as flexible as me. Pure egotism on my part. Props are there to help the body do what it cannot. I have found that pride gets in the way of asking for help--even if it is just from a yoga block, strap or blanket. Why do we continually choose to suffer when we know there are tools out there to help us?

Suffering--and the lack thereof--has been on my mind a lot these days, for obvious reasons. How do I stop my suffering? This goes beyond just the immediate pain and discomfort of my RA, my chemo, my recovery; it spreads out to how I respond to the challenges that are my everyday life.

Buddhists consider pain and pleasure to be two sides of the same coin--they both cause suffering. Pleasure causes suffering because it doesn't last, when it is gone we lament, we regret, we try to do what we can to bring it back permanently, which is impossible. Change is the only constant.

To counteract this suffering, Buddhists practice detachment. I used to think detachment meant not caring about anything. The thought of giving up pleasure in order to give up pain just was not going to work for me. I thought I could try to just give up the bad and keep the good. Again, pure egotism.

My favorite book on Buddhist
 meditation, written by a westerner.
As I read more about Buddhism, from the Dalai Lama and Lama Christy McNally, I am starting to understand what true detachment means. It doesn't mean non-emotion, or giving away all your possessions; it means the realization that you cannot hold on to anything in this life, because to be alive is to be changing every single moment. Detachment is the mental state when we give up the illusion that we can somehow do something or say something that will stop the changing.

I'm struggling to internalize this concept. My logical brain understands and agrees: our outlook affects our outcome. But it's such a foreign idea to my American heart to realize that I cannot be or do whatever I want. Isn't that the American Dream? But it is based purely on the physical, material side of things.  If I have this, then I will be happy.  If I take that, then I can eliminate pain. If I have a bigger house, better clothes, a cleaning lady, etc. I will be happier.  In the end, we die alone with nothing but the memory of the life we lived. This is not supposed to be morbid; it is the truth.  You can't take it with you. We cannot cheat death no matter how hard we try--but we must not cheat life, either. None of us knows how long we have to live, and how that life will turn out. We must appreciate that the moments we have are meant to teach us something, and those teachings will impact the quality of our lives and the lives of those around us that we touch.

So, I am struggling with change even as I am dealing with it. I know that this moment of my life will soon be over, but I will have a new challenge to face. I will need to make the necessary adjustments to bring myself back into alignment, physically and spiritually. For now, though, I need to use a bolster during my practice so that I can breathe in, stretch forward...and breathe out.



  1. Beautiful post! Thank you and I'm so happy you're in my life.

  2. Great post and very well written.

  3. Doug and Lena, thank you so much for reading and sharing. Lori

  4. "But we must not cheat life." This is so, so true but it's so hard sometime to put this into practice. It's hard for me sometimes not to get upset over the little things or "sweat the small stuff." I need to be better at practicing detachment. Having no hair right now really sucks the big one, but hey, at least I am alive and get to wake up every day and choose to do something that I want to do.

    Thank you so much for this post, it really gets me thinking.

  5. Kasi. I'm sooo soo grateful and thankful to have met you as a result of this "thing". I just read your comment and that was all I could think of...this horrible thing has brought so many wonderful people into my life! Love you! Lori


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