Being Breath

stories from the wilderness of everyday life

i Know, Therefore i Am

Much of my reflecting has been done off-blog for the past couple of weeks, so I return with hopefully a fun one to contemplate.

First, a personal story: For the past several months, I have been experiencing increasingly bad lower back pain. I was able to lessen it with yoga; however, it would inevitably return after I pushed myself during a practice and every morning when I got up. (I felt so old groaning as I rolled out of bed each morning!) Finally, I lucked into a doctor's appointment where I brought the back pain up amidst several other issues. This led to medications and an x-ray, which led to the discovery of a possible cause: spondylolisthesis. (Go ahead. Try and pronounce it.) Basically, two of my vertebrae are "out-of-line" or displaced. (L5 and S1 for those so versed) I am now waiting for an appointment with a specialist to discuss possible options. I also have an upcoming appointment with a surgeon for another issue discussed during my doctor's visit: an abdominal hernia (muscles separated) that is getting increasingly worse with activity and probably started with birthing my son. (If you've wondered if these are related - front and back body - I'm right there with you. Wouldn't it be nice if there were one doctor I could visit who would address both??)

Also a note: I am generally not one for pain medication. I like Todd Norian's comment, "Pain is the messenger". I don't want to kill the messenger before I learn the message! I'm also aware that pain in my back (even if caused by spondyl...spondlogl....spond - things being messed up) may be causally related to something else. (For those familiar with it, think Ayurvedic terms.) I believe that all parts of the body (thoughts, chemical processes, physical structures, etc) are some form of "energy" (for lack of a better term). While my vertebrae out of line is certainly a cause for my discomfort, I am open to the possibility that it isn't the only cause. The process of healing, for me, is listening to all of the messages, figure out how they relate, and then choose the paths that will best address all of them....knowing that I and my body are forever changing thus the conversation can never end.

Along all of this - I wonder how much the knowing has made a difference. I've had this back pain for some time now. Being aware now that it is caused by vertebrae out of place makes me kinda squeamish. I'm definitely taking it easier than I was a couple of days ago. The funny thing is - if I hadn't heard the results of the x-ray, the pain would still be there but I'd probably be going about my business as usual (icing it down, just stopping activity if it was actively hurting).

An important point - I haven't stopped at knowing I have this physical issue. Now that I know this, I want to know more. I will be working with my yoga teacher when she returns on some yoga therapy. I will talk to the doctors to discuss all possible options (from physical therapy to surgery) for both my back and my front. I will keep having a conversation with my body, seeing what I feel as I play with the kids, sleep in bed, slouch or sit up straight. Knowing is bringing me power. (Yep - PBS message here.)

So if this issue, this situation is a message as well, what could it be trying to say? There certainly is bliss in ignorance. Not knowing I have these physical issues and just covering up the pain with Ibuprofen could certainly have gotten me through the rest of my days....and would have been a lot cheaper in the long run, I'd suppose. However, one little light of truth (via an x-ray) has flooded an entire field of possibilities. Now that I know one thing, I'm free to explore many other options (true healing? restorative yoga?).

I know many who stop at knowing because of a deep fear. (Well if I know what's causing my back pain, my fatigue, my depression, my loneliness, my boredom...I'll have no excuses for not dealing with it.) It's easier to medicate and kill the pain rather than know. (I'll just keep working at this job and stick with my routine and just hope things will get better. I'll just keep taking these meds for my health probs - after all, the problems aren't bothering me anymore!) What would happen if you knew? If you stopped for a minute and realized that you already do know?

Ralph Waldo Emerson: "Watch your thoughts; They become words. Watch your words; They become deeds. Watch your deeds; They become habits. Watch your habits; They become character. Character is everything". While I'm not sure that "character is everything", I do firmly believe that thoughts determine our lives and our degree of being bound to or free from them. If we choose to mitigate our thoughts, to silence those "what ifs", aren't we in fact sucking away our life? On the other hand, if you spend every moment in those "what ifs" ignoring what really is, aren't you ignoring the life with which you have been blessed?

What I "know" determines who I am. What thoughts I choose to think and those I choose to release (as meditation seeps into life) determine how I act (consciously or otherwise). I know I have physical back issues and that is certainly determining how I behave. However, I also know this isn't the end of the story. Even more, I know this is just one small plot line in the whole story! I have many other dramas going on in which I'm reveling ... learning more every single moment of my being. Pain and pleasure - it's all part of the ride.

Perhaps we first need to know everything in order to eventually know nothing - which is the ultimate bliss.