labyrinth1

Labyrinth, work-in-progress, Michael Sylvan Robinson (2016)

Each morning and before I go to bed, for the last two weeks or so, I’ve brought myself to the yoga mat.  Beginning in child’s pose, I whisper into the floor, “Letting go. Letting go. Letting go. Letting go.” There is breath and silence within, releasing and opening; my body stretches gently and carefully. Though it is certainly not the power yoga sculpt classes I went to before the accident, there is a daily practice and discipline I’d never before achieved at any point in my life.  I am grateful and humbled in this body knowledge. Rising up into downward dog, I look carefully to make sure my heels are even, the right heel which soon could go back to touch the mat again, and the left heel that might never again be able to touch the floor. I try to not be critical or fearful, letting the progress of just being on the mat again be enough, bringing myself twice a day to be present in my body as it is, right now.

The landscape of today is really different than the intense winter in which I began a daily walking practice as part of rebuilding strength and flexibility, and the inner landscape is also greatly changed. I am still healing, still figuring out what happened to me over this transformative year.  The dramatic injury and long recovery process forced me to reexamine the unsustainable pace of a life I’d built in the confidence of vision.  Being injured was a life-changing, traumatic, unexpected upheaval of how I managed, or thought I managed, relationships, work, art-making, self-care, health and house. Now, 135 walking days later (and 620 miles), I honor the movement and stillness which helped me open to the present and release old stories and patterns of the past. I am healing and remember that I’m-Not-Broken.

I am not broken, but I am also not the same.  My life is not the same. Not everything survived the accident, the surgeries, the days on crutches and the too-soon return to work, the additional stresses and pressures revealed other broken places in my life, but in the losses that followed, there are also places that deepened and strengthened. Feeling vulnerable and frightened, I stepped into greater self-care, into the quiet of the walking meditation and sitting practices, into the acceptance of what is, rather than what I wanted it to be.  There is gratitude in my life again. Thank you for the friendships that, despite all the challenges, stood close to me. I am also thankful for the new people arriving in my life as I step back into community service and return to activities of interest and passion. With more mindfulness, I strive to bring the values I hold to all the circumstances of my life: Caring. Gentleness. Listening. Being honest. I’m not always the best me, but it’s a very human me, not an inflated superhero-me, that I bring to my regular life today.

On a mid-morning walk, a great big red fox crosses the road in front of me, the bright sunlight through the tall trees a spotlight on his beautiful, graceful dance as he bounds about in the gardens of a neighboring house near campus; the birds in the trees above call out their warnings. At the end of that first mile, I watch a young hawk circling directly above me, tawny below the outstretched wings and keening to her kin, a moving beauty on the absolute blue canvas of the sky.  Daily, I greet the tremendous blossoming where once I walked carefully amidst frozen ground and biting winds. In the green canopy of new leaves, the gathering of crows calls to me. I am Here. Here. More present than I have been in years, striding forward in greater liberty.

I’m almost finished a simple adult jazz dance class taught as part of a professional development program by one of my amazing colleagues. I went into the first sessions worried that I might not be able to do much, and that the old “dancer” me would be hypercritical and judging.  I was a dance/drama major during my undergraduate years (a long time ago). There was a little of that voice in my head, but mostly I chose to have fun, to laugh, to enjoy the movement I could do, and catching sight of my white-bearded and older body moving across the mirror in a simple dance combination, I felt glad to be at such a moment just fifteen months after breaking my ankle. I’m learning to allow and accept the limits of my ankle’s current flexibility and strength, that prevents much jumping or turns, but I bring a calm determination to my return to dance and yoga. There’s a part of me, deep inside, that still identifies as Dancer, and I’m tending that self with these first steps back into the studio.

“We must also open ourselves to the hope that comes with understanding the one thing we can do… Being present is a radical act. It allows us to soften the impact of trauma, interrupt the forces of oppression, and set the stage for healing and transformation. Best of all, our quality of presence is something we can cultivate, moment by moment. It permits us to greet what arises in our lives with the our most enlightened selves, thereby allowing us to have the best chance of truly repairing the world.” ~ Laura van Dernoot Lipsky and Connie Burke’s Trauma Stewardship: An Everyday Guide to Caring for Self While Caring for Others

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