A little over a month ago, I sustained my first real injury ever. I had busted my knee after a particularly intense run. And while it’s easy to blame that one run for what feels like an eternity of knee braces and physical therapy, deep down inside, I think I know better. The signs were all there, and confirmed by my doctor. Years of neglect, of ignoring the subtle signs of stresses and powering through fatigue in activities including yoga and even simple everyday movements ultimately did me in. I had come to see the idea of “powering through” the discomfort as a sign of virtue-like endurance, when in fact it was symptomatic of an easily preventable downfall.
It made me realize that I’m not as invincible as I thought I was. Because of course I’m not! No one is. Maybe the marker of a truly strong person is that ability to see in oneself the need to take it easy when the body calls for it. Maybe the missing factor is a mindful understanding that each movement matters.
Now, being mindful in this day and age comes with its challenges. It’s a busy world here, and multi-tasking is often necessary to get the things that we need to do done. We’re also constantly assaulted by sensory images that serve to entertain and distract us without any other real end. No wonder it’s easy to forget that our bodies are more than just a vessel to transport us from one appointment to the next, or a tool through which we can download and process the latest trend.
To stop myself from pinballing around, maybe I had to get injured. It forced me to slow down and take a look at the things around me. I had to pay attention and realize that there were many ways I was being careless with myself. It’s a hell of a way to learn a lesson.
Right now I feel hungry for the range of movement I once had but took for granted. At the same time I know that the injury could be worse, and that I could hurt my body even more if I go down that same path of mindless endurance when my body eventually heals. Moving with intention is easier now that I know what moving with reckless abandon can result in (when it’s good, it’s good, and when it’s bad, it’s a knee injury).
So in my efforts to avoid future suffering, and to mitigate whatever suffering I have now, I take my rest, I watch what I imbibe, and I go the extra mile to become familiar with the peculiarities and particulars of my body – and also my mind. My moods and ever-shifting attitudes, they way I feel about myself at any given moment in time can perhaps inform the way I treat my body. By bearing witness to the inner workings of my mind I feel that I am better able to catch myself before I go into one of my more reactive detrimental patterns.
Just as I’d like to be mindful about how I treat my body and what I put into it, it’s just as important to be mindful of what I put out into the world. Moving with purpose and intention, in this particular age of over-sharing, means being mindfully aware that my words and actions can have a ripple effect that can have bearing to other people. As a consequence of a different kind of injury, the kind that happens from words and is less easy to heal, one can also learn to be a bit kinder and more considerate. Being mindful about my place in the world, however small, gives me a sense of perspective that I am moving through something that is real and significant, and certainly not to be taken for granted.