My life has a way of repeatedly providing me with opportunities to practice what I need to practice.
I recently injured my right hip. I basically overstretched some of the muscles and ligaments in the area. The result is that walking is quite uncomfortable (interestingly and thankfully—since my recital is coming up—tap dancing does not).
I had been training to walk a ½ marathon in late May. This injury happened two weeks before. The ½ marathon didn’t happen.
I continue to walk and move gently, get help from my massage therapist, use the hot tub at the gym as often as I can and listen to my body so I give myself time to heal and don’t injure myself again.
This injury has been a reminder of the power of pain to hijack my attention.
Not just some of my attention.
All my attention.
When I feel the pain in that right hip…boom! All my attention goes there. It’s amazing how easily I lose any awareness of the rest of my body.
It’s like all I am is a right hip.
Now, I do like to think of myself as hip. But not just a right hip.
I’m so much more than that!
I have arms, legs, a torso, a neck, and a head. You know, a whole body!
My experience of my attention getting focused solely on the area of pain is not unusual.
And I certainly don’t want to ignore the pain in my hip. I need to listen to it.
But what is dangerous is losing track of my whole self.
When you are experiencing pain due to an injury, it is very easy to start holding yourself and moving in unusual ways—it’s called compensating.
Some compensation is often necessary—while you are healing.
If you have sprained your right ankle for example, and you cannot and should not put weight on it for a while you will have to stand with your weight shifted to the left leg.
The risk is that if you are not aware, the compensation, necessary for a time, can become a habit that sticks with you long after you have healed. And so in our example, you find that you continue to stand with your weight shifted to the left long after the sprain in the right ankle has healed.
And over time, that imbalance can cause further problems.
If you are aware of your whole self, and not just the area of pain, you have a chance of staying aware of how you are compensating.
And remember, awareness allows for choice.
So, this last month I have been practicing bringing my attention back to my whole self. I practice this mostly when I walk because that is when I either have some hip pain or am anticipating it to come.
When I notice my attention has been hijacked to my right hip, I expand down to notice my feet on the ground and my head up at the top of my spine. I am aware of the space between my head and my feet. And of my hip in between.
And then before I know it my attention has been hijacked again!
Instead of beating myself up, I acknowledge where my attention has gone and invite it to expand out again to my feet and my head.
I don’t try to keep the awareness on the whole. I allow myself to lose it, to let my mind wander.
But when I notice that my attention has been hijacked yet again, I gently invite it to expand out again.
In this way, I can be more aware of what I am doing in the rest of my body as I experience that hip pain.
Awareness allows for choice.
I can be aware of compensations and choose to do them if necessary or not to when they are not necessary.
Slowly I am healing.
Photo: Ann Haritonenko/Shutterstock.com