Last Sunday I woke up crooked. My ribs were pulled over to the side of my pelvis and any movement of folding forward evoked sharp pain in my back. I was tweaked from playing basketball for 3 hours the day before. I love playing basketball. I’ve had the rare, good fortune of playing with the same group of guys in Salt Lake City for 23 years! Some are now in their 70s, others have kids I met as toddlers who now play with us as college graduates. Along with my with my great love of the sport, my weekend hoops gives me great training in resilience, as I frequently tweak myself, and then I get to practice being with myself when tweaked, and learn about what supports getting un-tweaked.
Like everyone, I don’t like to like to be injured. I did not wake up full of gratitude and a sense of wonderful opportunity when I was crooked and in pain, but I also didn’t think it was a problem.
I trust that I can recover from my tweaks, and that beyond recovery, I can learn and grow my capacity for curiosity, self-friendliness, and understanding. I can wake up through bouts of a crooked spine.
Tara Brach, in a recent podcast, told of a group of Western dharma teachers who asked the Dalai Lama, “What was the most important thing that students in the West need to remember?” His response was: “To trust the power of your heart and awareness to wake up through any circumstances.” Isn’t that beautiful? I have to repeat that one as it just seems like such a central, pith invitation:
“Trust the power of your heart and your awareness to wake up through any circumstances.”
Tara then goes on to quote from a unique study on stress involving 30,000 people over 8 years, who were asked two questions: “How much stress have you experienced in the last year? and “Do you think stress is harmful to your health?” Surprisingly, those who fared best in the study were those who had high levels of stress but didn’t believe it was harmful for them. Isn’t that interesting? They were even at a lower risk of morbidity and mortality than those who didn’t have much stress. Perhaps they trusted the power of their heart and awareness to wake up through any circumstances. Or as our son loves to say (but not always embody): “Everything is workable, and freaking out doesn’t help.”
Whether is it back pain, or any of the many causes of stress on a personal or world level, this question of “How could this serve waking-up?” is one of the most valuable ones I can ask myself. Tara also asks, “How can I grow my kindness and wisdom through these circumstances?” It’s an empowering question.
Behind the Thunder
I keep looking for one more teacher,
only to find that fish learn from water
and birds learn from sky.
If you want to learn about the sea,
it helps to be at sea.
If you want to learn about compassion,
it helps to be in love.
If you want to learn about healing,
it helps to know of suffering.
The strong live in the storm
without worshipping the storm.
– Mark Nepo, Reduced to Joy
Wishing you just the right amount of stress and an abiding trust in your capacity,