Funny things happen when you stop. Really stop. Like when you have a concussion and can’t read, use your phone or computer, watch TV, or deal with noise of any kind.
One morning while sitting outside doing not much more than sitting (see above), a robin landed in the grass in front of me. I watched her as she proceeded to walk through the yard, quickly starting and stopping, patiently waiting for movement beneath her. After traversing almost the whole yard, she suddenly and swiftly poked her beak into the earth and pulled up a worm.
According to various studies, robins use a combination of primarily visual and auditory cues to find their meal. Imagine being still enough and able to hear a worm moving through dirt! It was amazing. She stopped, she listened, she felt, and she kept going despite several failed attempts. And in doing all this, she was fed. What a lesson for all of us.
When you truly can’t do anything but listen and be still, you hear a lot. You hear your inner dialogue more clearly. Truth be told, that inner dialogue was not so pleasant the first few days of my “confinement.”
In the Hatha Yoga tradition we strive to practice Ahimsa, both on and off the mat. Ahimsa means non-violence, or “do no harm.” This can have many meanings, and is most often associated with vegetarianism, but it actually is the idea of complete and total absence of violence from one’s body, mind and spirit. One of the ways we can practice Ahimsa is showing compassion towards ourselves. Violence can come in the form of self-talk, much of which, let’s face it, can be negative. And, when you’re laid up after a concussion, plentiful.
There is a discussion going around the internet that we have on average 70,000 thoughts a day, some estimates going as high as 600,000. If you go with the former, that amounts to almost 49 per minute. Considering where my head’s been this week, that number seems exceptionally low. And imagine if the majority of those thoughts are negative. That’s a lot of violence.
As fortune would have it, I came across an article (blessedly short—the reading thing, you know) in a Buddhism magazine about love, specifically self-love. In the article, the author suggested a meditation that goes something like this:
“This is a moment of suffering. Suffering is a part of life. May I be kind to myself at this moment. May I give myself the compassion I need.”
These words can be altered to fit your own experience, but basically each sentence brings to the forefront:
This is a moment of suffering / I am having a hard time right now. / I am in pain.
Suffering is a part of life / No one escapes it. / Others have been through this.
May I be kind to myself at this moment / Remain focused in the present moment, not projecting into the future, being present with this feeling without judgement.
May I give myself the compassion I need / Setting an intention to be self-compassionate / May I speak to myself as I would speak to a good friend.
As I sat with these words, and breathed them into my heart, I felt released. I didn’t have to beat myself up for my injuries. I still had my faculties. I was worthy of compassion. This would pass.
I’ve heard it suggested that you are closer to “you” in the time you meditate than in all the other minutes of the day. Those minutes when you are working, serving, rushing and planning aren’t really you, your essence. Your essence is what you touch when you’re still. It’s always there, the light is always shining, but we allow the clouds to cover that light. We allow our clouds of busy-ness or our self-talk, to take center stage and we lose sight of “you.”
So I have decided to be like that robin. When my soul needs to be fed, I will still myself and listen. I will open my heart, breathe in and speak compassion over and over and over again, remembering the “you” I really am. I will remember my light. I will rest in the knowledge that wherever I am is exactly where I need to be. And if all this doesn’t work the first time, I’ll do it again, and again, and again. I draw the line at worms, though. You know, Ahimsa.
Written post-concussion, August 2017