Lean In…

I was in my early thirties when I went up for a rebound in a pick-up game of basketball and came down on a much larger guy’s foot. Ouch. I both felt and heard it pop. The guys I was playing with heard it pop as well, which wasn’t a good sign. I have a friend who is a foot & ankle orthopedic surgeon, who I sent a picture of my baseball-sized ankle to as I lay on the bench in agony before they wheeled me out of the gym. He said “tell me that’s not yours.” Yep, it was mine. Thank goodness he went in early to make time for me the next day. I didn’t know what a severe grade three high ankle sprain was, but I found out in glorious fashion. After all, I did get that rebound!

I was in a walking boot for nearly two months. I even had to sleep in the boot. I couldn’t drive for weeks. I remember my first trip to physical therapy when I received the rude awakening about how much it hurt to move my ankle, along with how much strength I had lost after month one in that boot. My Physical Therapist didn’t exactly show signs of sympathy, as her job was to get me back to as close to 100% as possible without any setbacks. There is a certain expression you’ll hear from many medical providers before they perform a task- “this is going to hurt a little.” We all know that “a little” often means “a lot” as well! I can name countless times when I’ve been hurt, sick, needed procedures done, etc., that doctors need to say those little words prior to doing some task to help me heal (or to numb me for the inevitable task). My ankle hurt badly as I learned ways to restrengthen it, from walking to eventually playing basketball again (with a brace now of course). I intentionally allowed a medical provider to cause me pain, understanding that it would make me better in the long run. I actually leaned into the pain and did exercises myself on days where I couldn’t make physical therapy to help the process along. How many times have you had a reason to be in physical pain because you understood that in the long run you were better off?

My main question- why then do we often avoid emotional pain? Why do we bury painful memories and experiences in the dark corners of our minds? Why do we think if we avoid these experiences they will simply go away? I’ve heard countless times that emotions are a form of energy. I’ve also read/heard several times that emotional traumas left unhealed actually can create pain/hurt/sickness within our physical bodies? Most recently my massage therapist brought this up, I’ll interview her later. Eckart Tolle also has a theory called “The Pain Body,” which is worth checking out if you haven’t read his writings. We all have our struggles, anxieties, fears, hurts, hang-ups, regrets, worries, etc.! After all, we’re all human, we all have a past and life isn’t exactly perfect. Painful memories- lean in. Pain in your body over and over again without understanding why- lean in. Feeling sad or depressed- lean in. Feeling anxious or worried- lean in. Feeling sick all the time for no apparent reason- lean in. Holding resentment or anger- lean in. Lean into the pain and the hurts, just please don’t avoid them. We truly are only hurting ourselves by holding this negativity, as I believe it creates a void between us and our higher spiritual self. This can separate us from peace and spirituality, because if we spend more time holding onto human pain we are spending more time in the human world, not the spiritual world, which I find to be much more enjoyable and peaceful. Awareness is the first step, talking to others (vulnerability), forgiveness, understanding, releasing, healing and moving on are a just a few of the others, at least from my experiences.

So, are you running from your past? Are you avoiding memories that continually “pop-up?” Are you unsure why you react how you do sometimes? If so, can you try just once to simply lean in, perhaps even learn, and perhaps eventually heal?

The Walking Wounded

One focal point I’m finding myself intrigued by is our misguided decision making based on underlying past experiences and therefore “conditioned” responses. I’ve sat in a counselor’s office plenty and realize that many of my perceptions are in-fact shaped from my past. I don’t think that’s news to those who have even the slightest level of psychological awareness. I get it, my emotional reactions stem from a response pattern hardwired since childhood. I find it fascinating that we hold onto the past so much. I cannot explain over the past few years how much life I’ve spent literally reliving previous moments over and over again in my head. I already lived them once, why keep living them? Have you ever stopped to think about what percentage of these moments that you’re “reliving” are the really happy times? I’m guessing 10% at best, at least that’s the case for me. The craziest part is that I’m reliving these past events, but often times find myself still not learning from them. I’m just feeling the miserable pain of mistakes, guilt, hurt or pain over and over again. Perhaps I’m just a gluten for punishment, or perhaps I’m just human. I used to wonder why I do this to myself; why most human beings do? I have developed my own little tagline for a syndrome I feel has infected the majority of the human race, at least from my experience here in the United States. This tagline is something I refer to as “the walking wounded.” You’ll hear me refer to this quite often in my writings as I interact with people and subsequently write about these interactions on my journey.

Here’s a brief example I’ll leave you with. I was walking into the grocery store recently and noticed a gentleman who seemed very perturbed. I was approaching with my eyes intentionally viewing my surroundings so he was hard to miss (one of my being present/awareness tactics you’ll soon realize I’m constantly working on). I noticed the man and his overall demeanor being extremely frustrated. I could only imagine what possibly happened at the checkout counter inside to set him off. I walked past him with a content smile on my face as I heard him mutter to himself “now where’s the fuc*ing car?!” I started thinking about what his life must be like, and also what he’s been through to get him to this place of such negative energy. I do believe we’re all very much a product of our past experiences, parenting styles, overall upbringings, successes, failures and so much more. The question I have is why so many choose to stay in those past experiences? I’ve spent much of my life guilty of this behavior and still have to consciously choose to stay in the moment to avoid what I like to call the “reverse rear-end mind collision.” Analogy- it’s like I decide to throw my car (my mind) in reverse to intentionally hit something behind me (typically a nerve, a negative feeling or just run myself over in general). The way to avoid such an ill-advised mental trafficking maneuver you ask? I have to choose to look in my personal review mirror when it rears its’ ugly head and ask “what can I learn from that situation, or what haven’t I already learned that I’m supposed to?” I figure if past experiences continue to present themselves then perhaps we still have unfinished business. I believe there is a lesson to learn, a person to forgive, or maybe even an opportunity to forgive ourselves. This gentleman helped me tagline “the walking wounded.” Something good came out of that moment for me at least, and I must admit I do hope he found his car.

Many folks that I interact with spend much of their time acting out from past hurts, mistakes, regrets, failures or traumas. This breaks my heart for all of us because our true spirit cannot shine through our past, only the present. I will continue to explore this subject in many future posts. I look forward to explaining my theories a bit deeper about our wounds not only creating impulse reactions and emotions, but also how they affect so much of our major decision making abilities as well. For instance- perhaps you’re in a place in an area of life today because of decisions you made long ago? Perhaps these decisions were made from a brokenness that stemmed from wounds that were never healed? Perhaps if/when healed, your decisions would’ve been different because they stemmed from your true authentic/spiritually connected self? Perhaps….