A Crack in the Shell

     I have my first patron! So I guess it's about time for my first post on patreon. The thing that comes to mind to write about comes to me courtesy of a slip on the ice I had five days ago. It's really a nice topic for spiritual inquiry, because it is sufficiently disruptive- I think I may have cracked a rib, or at least bruised it pretty well, so I am not able to do many of the things I normally enjoy- but at the same time it could have been much worse.   

     I was listening to one of my teachers the other day after my fall and he was using an acorn as a metaphor for the metamorphosis that can take place through spiritual work. One aspect of this is the classic idea that growth cannot occur without breaking the shell. Suddenly I was thinking of my rib cage in the same terms, and laughing about how suddenly everything can change, become vulnerable, and we are left with the choice to either grow or stagnate. I knew that I was more vulnerable in some ways; some of the warrior qualities I cultivate in body through exercise were clearly diminished, but I was also aware that the greatest martial artist has mastery of the mind to an even greater degree than the body. This, of course, was a test.   

     One of the practices I do daily is intentional breathing, and one of my favorites is Wim Hof's basic breathing technique. It involves rigorous breathing and breath holds, so of course, as you would expect with a rib injury, this practice had to be modified. Fortunately, I had recently been integrating some bandhas (yogic body locks) into the practice, where you tighten certain muscle groups, and I noticed that I could mitigate some of the pain of a normal deep breath by carefully using some bandhas. I also came to realize that certain aspects of my breathing practice were a lot “rougher” than they had to be. There is a time for explosive breathing, but I figured out a way to keep my breath powerful, but smooth out the transitions so as to eliminate some of the strain on my ribs.   

     In some ways, this is a type of practice that I have been leaning toward in general: how not to get stuck in patterns of movement, thought, or emotion, and how to maintain fluidity through the transitions. It seems goofy sometimes to say it, but it really did feel like the universe took a look at me, saw my potential, and saw me stagnating- perhaps found me a bit clumsy; so it decided to pull the rug out from under me and see if though the adjustments I could come to some greater understanding. I wouldn't generally call myself an overconfident person, but I think there can be a misplacement of confidence; I was perhaps a bit caught up in the meat and bones, and I needed to trust in the more subtle aspects of things- hence, the cracking of my bones. It's really quite funny to me, because I can actually see the belief in myself that I am sure footed- I am “good on the ice.”

     Another little synchronicity from this incident is that I had been thinking about how in some cultures, the polite way to pass or receive something is with two hands. Not only are you then respecting the person with whom you are exchanging, but you are respecting the item of exchange. The box that I was holding when I slipped deserved a two handed grip, but I had it tucked under one arm; hence, when I slipped, it ended up jamming under my ribs. I know it can sound like a bit of a stretch, but I just can't see these things as unimportant or incidental anymore. While we are rewarded for taking responsibility for our lives, in a way it seems that the more one tunes in, the more treacherous it becomes to tune out. Maybe treacherous is the wrong word- let's call it, informative.

     Those are my thoughts for now. Good topic for winter I suppose, though it's not winter everywhere and many places don't have our ice issues. But, wherever you find yourself, and whatever pitfalls present themselves, may you find your path informative, and may it come to you with little pain. 

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