Monday, December 28, 2009

Healing On Many Levels

In early December, I had a patellar realignment performed on my right knee. What this means is that my kneecap is now where it should be, and I wait 6~8 weeks for the soft tissue surrounding the knee to heal and for bone to knit to bone. Only then, can I begin truly strengthening my leg and moving toward full functioning.

While patience has never come easily to me, this enforced wait has not been particularly challenging. Other things have been, though. Claire, one of my dear friends in Maine, wrote concerning the surgery that, “the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual all are such an interplay, each fueling the other into awareness.” Oh, how right she is!

Obviously, my body is undergoing an intense period of healing. Yet, it feels as though realignments of heart, mind, and spirit are possibilities as well.

I first noticed that I was more emotional than usual. I cried easily when experiencing something sweet or sad, while evidence of the cruelty of the world unraveled me. It was as though the vulnerability of my leg had translated into greater sensitivity in general.

I also found myself confronted at times with the less pleasant parts of my personality, like a tendency to get caught in spirals of negativity or self~pity. While these arise most notably when I'm tired, scared or in pain, the truth is that their vestiges are never far away.

Whether a background tendency or a full~blown, blinding episode, I’m trying to hold my reactions in awareness.

The practice of mindfulness is a rewarding one, though it often entails dipping into what is referred to as the “shadow self”~~all those parts of our psyches we’d just as soon weren’t there. But mindfulness is a candle in the darkness. While we might prefer daylight, when darkness is where we are, a bit of light makes it easier to take.

When I can see into my internal process, I am better able to tend my thoughts, feelings, and perceptions, neither pushing them away or allowing them to run wild. And through such loving care, my rough edges soften and I lighten.

My recovery began with a prayer, envisioning a healing force moving through my body, clearing out pockets of pooled blood, infection, swelling, etc. My prayer has expanded. I now envision blockages releasing on emotional, mental and spiritual levels as well. A general, all~purpose rising up and clearing out~~of fear, resentment, the poor~me’s, lack of trust, illusions of separation, and more.

My recovery is going quite well. I’m now done with crutches and have only a few more weeks in the brace. When I hit a rough patch emotionally, when thoughts slide into unhelpful grooves, or when I misperceive myself as alone and isolated, I try to recognize these as internal elements fueled into awareness, just as Claire suggested. I hope to allow myself to simply know them and to hold them tenderly. Then I can let them go, releasing them to that vast river that is ever available for cleansing.

I am not always successful. Often I forget, realizing only after the fact that I’ve been unconscious in my reactions, at times participating in a full~blown meltdown. But according to a card Cindy, another friend of my heart, sent, “Success consists of getting up once oftener than you fall down.” By this definition, I have been a success.

When we encounter life’s trials, we do so most effectively when we search for the hidden gems, the places where we can learn and grow. If I am wise, I will allow this current healing of mine to open me so that I can better perceive the Light that infuses each moment.

My knee is bending more easily day by day and, hopefully, so am I. A gift, indeed.

Wishing you all the best on this holiday weekend. Here's to a great new year with knees that bend as needed so that we all might get up once oftener than we fall!

Loanne Marie

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Walking the Labyrinth

I follow the path through stands of scrub oak, mostly bare~branched now on this blustery late~autumn day. I arrive at the clearing and walk to the labyrinth’s entrance.

This one is modeled on the labyrinths of ancient Crete, with a circular, womb~like shape enclosing a spiraling pathway to the center. Its design is laid directly upon the earth, constructed of natural materials found near my friend’s mountaintop home~~stones of various shapes and sizes, and an amazing array of bones from creatures long gone.

Labyrinths are ancient, having been reliably dated to 1200 BCE in southern Europe. They are also ubiquitous, with the spiraled pattern having appeared in cultures throughout the world. Christianity incorporated labyrinths into many Medieval churches, most famously the cathedral at Chartres. In addition to use in contemplative prayer, penitents would often walk the labyrinths on their knees in atonement or as symbolic of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

A recent resurgence of interest in labyrinths has seen their inclusion in churches and hospitals across the U.S. Unlike a maze, a labyrinth’s single path promotes inner stillness as it carries the participant deep into the circle’s center and out again. In this way, walking the labyrinth is evocative of a journey to and from one’s Source and can provide a profound spiritual experience.

This morning, I stand quietly at the labyrinth’s opening, clarifying my intent. Usually I have no particular aim, but today is different. I ask for guidance and serenity concerning impending surgery on my knee. As the event draws near, doubt has crept in.

I step into the labyrinth and am absorbed by its winding trail. My gaze touches the ground beneath my feet, and the stones and bones and wind~dried desert plants that line the path. As I walk in rhythm with my slowed breath, I notice a certain heaviness begin to lift. I stop, turn toward the biting wind, and envision it carrying away all that is no longer helpful in my psyche.

As my walking resumes, thoughts relevant to the upcoming surgery rise effortlessly in my mind, spaced minutes apart. It’s as if I discover, mirrored in the labyrinth’s twisting path, the route that led to my decision for surgery~~activities curtailed by discomfort, increasing pain, unsuccessful PT, research into my condition, confidence in my surgeon. I note these thoughts and others, and let them fall away.

As I draw close to the labyrinth’s midpoint, the curves become shorter, tighter. Thoughts cease.

When I reach the center, I turn around and stand motionless. The surrounding hillsides drop off in this direction, and my eye flows to the plain below and up to the magnificent twin peaks rising on the far side of the valley. I sit on the earth and know my doubts for what they are~~simple fear.

My decision was reasoned. It felt right, too. It feels right still. I will proceed willingly and with a renewed commitment to release my energy from the fear that too often binds it.

After a few minutes of inner quiet, I stand and retrace the steps that brought me here. My pace is notably quicker. Relieved of the burden of doubt, I am renewed and filled with gratitude. I realize, if it weren’t for the knee thing, I’d be dancing my way past stone and bone and wind~dried desert plants.

I realize, too, that I am dancing~~on the inside, the only place it really matters.

May you walk your own labyrinths~~those lying within, those your life crafts and, if you are fortunate, those laid upon the earth~~with awareness and trust.


Loanne Marie

PS. As of this posting, the surgery is complete, the first stage of my recuperation done, and I am about to return to work part~time.