grounded! the practice of being happy where i am

as you may know, i’ve sprained my ankle twice recently. you might be surprised to learn that you can’t ‘condition’ yourself to pain or increase your pain tolerance. this is supported by this (totally reliable) article on wikipedia:

“It is widely believed that regular exposure to painful stimuli will increase pain tolerance  – i.e. increase the ability of the individual to handle pain by becoming more conditioned to it. However, this is not true – the greater exposure to pain will result in more painful future exposures.”

i can vouch for this because, after experiencing the significantly increased pain of the second sprain and the frustration that i had set back my recovery by another month or so, i drifted into a pleasant dream state. when i woke up i realized i needed to update my goals to match my current situation. no, i’m not going to change my name to Prem Shiva, or give away all my possessions and go live on an ashram. but change is required.

i’ve been practicing pranayama and meditation for a week now and, wow! my perspective has changed. i have spent way too much time running around trying to do all those things that i want to do and feel i deserve to do, and very little time focusing on what i’m doing right now and enjoying those moments. this accounts for probably 99% of my injuries. on top of that, my attributing injuries to ‘yoga’ or ‘parkour’ is just an escape mechanism from admitting that these injuries are caused by not being present.

i’ve been listening to Richard Freeman‘s The Yoga Matrix these days (rather than the Beastie Boys- see, i have changed!), and you know how when the pain, or noise, or distraction stops (remember the hammer reference?) and you’re finally able to listen and think clearly, everything seems to be related? well, this section had meaning for me:

“The Sanskrit word for happiness is ‘sukha’. ‘Kha’ means space, open, accommodating, radiant space. It can also mean a hole, like a hole in the centre of something. ‘Su’ means good. The word ‘sukha’ evolved from the idea of a chariot wheel that had its hole placed right in centre so that when the wheel was put to use you got an even ride from the wheel. The word ‘dukha’, which is normally translated as ‘suffering’ means ‘a bad hole’ or the hole has been misplaced so the wheel would produce a lumpy ride. And so as we wake up into the present moment, we find that we are able to penetrate right into the very heart of our circumstances, right into very heart of what we really are feeling, right into the very heart of our situation within this world and our situation in relationship to others.

“But of course this isn’t always easy, the mind is programmed to avoid, at all costs, relationship. The unknowing, the raw immediacy of pure relationship with either our self, or with others, or with the reality of the present moment.”

if i remember correctly in buddhism ‘dukha’ also means the gap between what you want and what you have, or (and i’m paraphrasing and not a buddhist) fruitless desire. i can relate to the dukha part, this year has definitely been a bumpy ride! whether from the position of the hole in the wheel, or the state of the roads, i’m not sure.

so i’m going to take the next 4-6 weeks while my ankle and neck really heal and sort out my sukha; spend some time realigning the hole in the centre of my wheel, reshape it, bang out the rim and make sure it’s sound and ready for the road ahead. because while i have very little power over the state of the potholes (especially in Johannesburg), i defintely have power over the how fast i hit them and at what angle. more sukha, less dukha! is my new mantra.


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