The body as a commodity

4 Feb

I’ve learned over the years to step back and watch myself go through experiences as an observer instead of getting engulfed by them. That put me in an interesting situation today, watching my own emotions. Sometimes I’m shocked by what goes through my mind!

 (warning: if you’re squeamish, stop reading!) At church today, I was in the library, in a hurry to teach my tiny sunday schoolers and I slammed my left index finger between a door and a sharp ledge. It smarted and I was in such a hurry that I ran down the hall with my supplies, not checking it out. The pain was pretty intense and I noticed my that my own unconsciousness surfaced as the word “shit” came out of my mouth. (I know, at church… now there’s a first and I’m not joking) I looked down and saw blood dripping off of my hand, and a huge dent under my nuckle. The cut was pretty deep, all of the way through the skin, and had it not been on my nuckle I would have gone in for a stitch or two.

 Here’s the interesting part. By this point in time, I was back in observer mode and noticed my own crazy thoughts. My first thought wasn’t the pain, or the fact that I’m spending hours on the computer preparing to open a new yoga studio/how was I going to type without my index finger (and I’m left handed) but “gasp – how bad is it? How am I going to do yoga without my hand? No arm balances? No handstands?” Panic started to set in.

 My second scary thought was, “how am I going to teach without my hand?” which brought up a lot of issues for me. Until my bout with poison oak this fall, I had never thought about my body as a commodity before. But it’s true. How do I work without it? It’s brought up a lot of awareness as I think about the different levels of relationship that I have with my own body.

Should a yoga teacher teach what they cannot practice? Temporary setbacks are a different issue, but I’ve been thinking about this one a lot. Where is our responsibility as teachers? If I don’t know a pose well enough to do it, should I teach it? I tend to teach what I know and be the student as much as possible.

How attached am I to my own practice? Today I was experiencing the ugly end of attachment to yoga as I faced the fear of not practicing. For me, underneath that attachment is the fear of falling into depression without yoga.

 The biggest awareness though, is that I’m not grateful for the small quiet favors I receive from my body all day long. One index finger damaged and I saw my whole life flash before my eyes! Thank you little fingers, toes, eyes, intestines, everything! What an amazing space I have to live in.

 Guess what? I’m fine. My finger is a mess but I can still type and I’ve already done a handstand. Nothing like a couple of band-aids to make it all better.

I find life full of facing fears, raising awareness and constantly learning more grace, love and compassion. Even for a little finger. It’s been a great day for lessons at church.

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One Response to “The body as a commodity”

  1. greenfrog February 4, 2008 at 11:58 pm #

    Glad your finger is still (mostly) intact.

    Regarding the mindfulness experience — I like it. I’ve had similar experiences with jellyfish and coral stings and insect stings and bites. Knowing that they are neither life-threatening, nor likely to result in permanent harm, I’m able to set aside the parts of my mind that go into “must fix problem” mode, and become more of an observer of how my mind/body responds to pain and itch.

    Regarding the teaching point: I guess I’m ambivalent. When it comes to some poses, I won’t teach them until I’ve thoroughly explored them myself. But when it comes to others, especially poses that I’ve been able to do in the past but can’t at the present, I think there’s nothing wrong with teaching the pose. For example, my left wrist has a tendency toward carpal tunnel pain when bent more than 90 degrees, so Urdhva Danurasana is almost an impossibility for me. I practice it now and then, but not much since the problem developed. Still, I know the pose, how it works through the hands, wrists, shoulders, spine and pelvis.

    I’d bet that even if you were confined to a wheelchair for the rest of your life, you could still be a marvelous yoga teacher. The important part is the knowledge and understanding of what’s going on in the student’s body/mind, and while our own experience is a good starting place for that, it’s never exactly the same.

    (blessings to your mashed finger)

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