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bulging discs

May 25, 2010

In the wee hours of the morning, I sit on my couch and breathe. The simplest of pleasures. Later, the sun will come up. People will start bustling and moving, and the thought of sitting still for half an hour becomes more and more abhorrent to me. But early, early I can breathe, and enjoy it.

After a while I notice that the timer in the thermostat on the wall has been acting like a very tiny quiet metronome for my breath counts. It’s strangely reassuring. I am not alone in this world of dark and quiet. Nope, me and the thermostat– we go way back.

I was looking forward to a hot and sweaty practice this morning, but nature thought otherwise. Sometimes I bleed on the new moon, and sometimes on the full. It switches every few months, where I’ll have one in between, and then I’m on track with the moon again.
My Philosophy of Oriental Medicine  teacher says that in his opinion, all women should bleed on the full moon. I tried thinking about this, thinking about what my body wants and feels. My body likes to switch it up, it seems. Has done since I started practicing 4 years ago. This teacher, soon after, lost all validity for me anyway, when he started talking about how the Jews are the chosen people because a channel (yes, a channel) named “Charon” said so. By the way, dear readers, if you are going to try and make a point about something, about anything, don’t back it up with “because this spirit being channeled through this person said so”. Need I remind you that most spirits are no cleverer than humans?

Last week, our homework was to write an essay on “Why I Chose to Study Chinese Medicine”. In different classes, every now and then, our teachers like to remind us that this is a Masters’ level course. And then we are given essays like this as 20% of our grade. Which is funny, I think, because none of the MA seminars I took as an undergrad required so little critical thinking. But as people keep reminding me, almost annoyingly so, you can’t get through this course the way you get through other courses… you have to learn it with your heart and not your head. Intellectually I know what this means, but it still pisses me off. So I sit in front of a blank word document for hours, wishing that I had decided to do the religious studies program at UCSB like I’d wanted (where I could use my brain properly). Wishing that I was in art school instead (where I can use my brain properly). Wishing that I was writing a paper on something that could be written about, like, for example, literature (where I’d still be sitting in front of a blank word document, but I’d at least be using my brain properly). There’s always stuff to say about literature. But yourself? Writing about yourself with no purpose but to tell a story that’s probably boring (Irony noted. Please don’t say anything.). And then I thought that a good writer would be able to write about herself regardless of the topic. Which pissed me off even more. And then I closed the window and went for a hike instead.

I think about when I went on holiday to Yosemite with my friend Carly and her family. Carly just passed the bar. Her mum is an artist and a nutritionist. Her dad is a landscape architect. I called my brother, Alex, after the first day to tell him about Carly’s family, because it is just so different to ours. Alex and I are very similar in this way. If we’re in a room together, and somebody approaches us to give us an interesting piece of information, our first response is likely to be “we know”. I mean, if we already know it. If we don’t we’ll feign a little interest and then go and find out for ourselves whether its true or not, and as much information as we can about it. Carly’s family, on the other hand, teach each other about things all the time. So we’d pass some pretty trees, and Ron would start telling us about them. And then we’d be eating at a restaurant and Marcy would tell us about the nutritional content of something. And then we’d have a question about the legality of something, and Carly would explain something. This family just explains things to each other. It’s a fantastic concept. If, in the company of my family, you start explaining something, and there’s no POINT at the end, you’d end up with 8 people all staring at you with their “what’s your point” faces on. My point is this: Somewhere early on, I got my intellectual wires crossed. Maybe there doesn’t always need to be a point. Maybe you can write a paper that doesn’t have a thesis. Can you write a paper that doesn’t have a thesis? Who would carry on reading it after a few paragraphs of boring old life story?

But then, it occurs to me that most of my blog posts don’t have theses. And they’re ALL writing about myself.  But that’s probably why I only have seven readers (it’s gone up…).

Psyche (my psyche, that is) likes to be deceptive. I’m not quite sure what it thinks its protecting me from, but it really likes to point out what’s over there while I’m over here. So lately I’ve started answering it with a “mhmmm, that’s nice dear”. Religious studies program? That’s nice dear. I’ll look into it once I’ve finished this course. Continuing education classes at Otis… FURNITURE DESIGN… that’s nice dear. Once I’ve finished studying these herbs we can look and see if it fits into my schedule (it doesn’t… but a 2 day jewelry making workshop does, much to the delight of psyche and psyche holder alike). AYURVEDA… that’s nice dear, let’s find a book that we can read over my summer break, and if we love it that much we can always do a course when we go to India, or when I finish my MA. You get the picture. It’s helping.

And then how this applies to my practice too: NEIGHBOURS TO TALK TO. That’s nice dear. They’ll be here in an hour when we’re done. PHONE RINGING. That’s nice dear, I’ve already spoken to mum two times today and she’s the only person who calls me. HUNNNGGGEERRR. Shut up. PAIN! PAIN! THERE’S PAIN! *sigh*. That’s nice dear. Let’s look at why. At which point psyche gives up, in a fit of exhaustion, and sulks itself over to the other corner of the room.

I went to a yoga class the other day. I figured it would help me get back in the swing of practicing… Of course I set up next to this guy who turned out to be practicing the 4th series. Oh the luxuries of ringing phones. At one point he had his leg so far back behind his back that he was resting his opposite elbow on his foot with no problem at all. Shit. And it looks so easy. And I forget that my body just doesn’t do that even though I assume it can. Just like when I see somebody doing scorpion and I forget that my hip flexors just don’t get that long, and then I try it, convinced that my toes are almost on my forehead, before Jamie points out that I’ve got about a foot to go. So I watch him out of the corner of my eye while doing a vinyasa and then try to get into supta. I assume this is what it feels like when you get old, when you just expect your body to do the things it used to, but it won’t.  And I realise that all of the letting go in the world isn’t going to magically transform my hips from very strong and stiff to very strong and open overnight. But that letting go of stuff has given me the capacity to go where I couldn’t before. All the way to the floor in Badha Konasana without an anxiety attack. Lower back opens up, start to feel sensation in my pelvic floor. And then in backbending I realise that whatever strength there was in my hips was also supporting my lower back. That lower back has NOTHING to hold it up anymore, and all of a sudden these bones are popping in and out. I can adjust my sacrum on an inhale. And now psyche is back. PAIN. PAIN. PAIN. FEAR. PAIN. I start to hyperventilate.

With each drop back, I get more and more scared, until I’m having a full blown anxiety attack. Psoas on the left side is going into spasm. Shooting pains through internal organs. I think I need to go to the loo, but no, that passes. My body goes into fight-or-flight, and doesn’t come out for a few days. It’s still there actually. I wish Dominic was here. I wish Eileen was here. I wish Owl was here even though I don’t know her. But they’re not. And I don’t really trust anybody else. Is that cocky of me? Should I be willing to surrender my practice to anybody with more open hips and the ability to grab their ankles.

No, I don’t think so. More and more, something is coming to me with this back stuff. With this pain that isn’t fully pain (but is, when I look on the inside, a slightly bulging disc on top of everything else). It’s stagnation. It’s all of this energy that has nowhere to go. And all of a sudden I want to do some serious back bending.

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 26, 2010 20:45

    I LOVED this article…I hadn’t realized that you started a blog like this.. I’ll enjoy reading more from you. Very entertaining! 🙂

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