“Sweet are the uses of adversity.”
Recently, I’ve been blessed with an injury (yes, you read that correctly: blessed).
It happened in the grander yoga studio of life, namely Kensington Market, where a teacher named Pothole decided I needed to try a curious pose called ankle-twistasana.
Now, twists are renowned for their multifarious benefits as organ detoxers, spine mobility inspirers and circulation motivators—but this was a twist of a much more subtle, energetic kind.
True, when Pothole helped thrust me into the pose, the physical results were far from subtle (excruciating pain, stumbling to ground, moaning, etc.) but it was what this twist set into motion that really defined ankle-twistasana. As I stumbled onto that hot pavement, eyeing Pothole angrily, like most great teachers, Pothole didn’t play into my mind-games; it just stared back at me, witnessing my incipient transformation, with a blank, stony gaze.
I writhed in pain for some two minutes, hoping it was like former ankle-twistasanas and the pain would subside quickly and assuredly. Indeed, the pain did eventually dissipate and I managed to bike home—only to find my ankle twice, if not three times, its normal size. This was clearly going to be a tad more complicated than I first envisioned.
The next morning, I awoke with great expectations to be able to power through a self-practice class with my usual passion only to find myself haplessly trying to evade stings and stabs of pain with every pose. As I sat around my homespace that day, bereft of my usual ebullient swagger, I shared coffee with some old friends I hadn’t seen in a while: Frustration, Self-Pity & Right-Pissed. They were, of course, quite happy to see me and I indulged them in lively conversation.
I reviled at the thought of having to rest again, having only recently overcome a previous injury—and at such a soaring height of asana alacrity in my personal practice. Swaddled in poor me’s, viscous like a victim, I gave my life a long, distrustful look of distaste and resigned myself to, well, resignation.
Salvation came (as if often does) on the wings of friendship; a merry mate, after listening to my complaint department blathering on relentlessly, interjected quite assertively that the universe wanted me to rest and to take a look at something I’ve obviously been missing in life that was of the utmost important.
Ultimately, life had served me a lemon and I was resisting using it. Inspired, I cut the lemon into four nice quarters, squeezed them into hot water and decided to drink. I was an aspiring tantric yogi, after all, which carries a fundamental allegiance to the flux and flows of life. Resistance is anathema—and thank goddess for frank friends.
For anyone practicing yoga, we know that resistance sucks. You know that moment in class when you’re pushing-pushing-pushing but you can’t just seem to find that steady-eddy sensibility—that transcendent hush where each breath is counted and strength is a sighing stream of victory?
That’s when you just have to let go as if to say, Body, I know you’re plugged into the universe in ways I can’t totally comprehend right now so tell me, how should I practice?
As we surrender, pushing against the walls within, we suddenly find a whole space open up, allowing breath to expand, limbs to unfold and peace to take a grander shape…the body is wisdom.
So, I went to the park to meditate and open myself up to the greater currents of destiny that seemed intent that I hovel in respite.
And indeed, during that meditation there was a tremendous sense of relief as I went about performing a kind of psychic asana, aligning my mind with the terrain of circumstance before me, opening to embrace the change that my twisted ankle presented and breathing in the possibilities that might just be from doing life a little different for the next little while.
It turns out destiny did need me to rest for a week.
I was lucky enough to be able to also clear my schedule of professional commitments and settle into respite. And as the week began to flow, I found myself relaxing into study of numerous texts I’d been already enjoying but now with much more time on my hands to dig in deeper. The time allowed me to go at a slower pace so that integrations of knowledge were given credence to connect. I made sure I continued practicing yoga in all the ways beyond asana, taking daily to meditation, pranayama, chanting and just all around focusing on being present in the great yoking of mind-body—with constant enthusiastic embodiment.
I began to revel in this pace, taking time to work on new music, to ruminate on some deep patterns in my life I intended to shift, to be grateful for things and to also take a mighty step back to vision the currents of destiny and take a creative role in choosing where I wished them to flow. I made time for timelessness and allowed my days to unfurl organically, not with any crunching schedule or tension timing.
This was tremendously revealing and confirmed why, as one spiritual teacher advised me, time is the anti-christ (dramatic, yes—but try a day without any planning, lending oneself to the magical pull of coincidence, synchronicity and destiny and you might come to a similar conclusion).
My ankle recovered nicely and one day, a friend asked how I was doing—I returned with a beaming smile, saying, “Gosh-darn, this has actually been the best week of my summer. It’s been truly a week of tremendous revelation, cultivation and inspiration.” I then looked down at my ankle, endearingly, smacked a kiss on my hand which I quickly smacked on the ankle, ‘I love this ankle!’
Yep, Will had it right; there is a sweetness to all adversity, when we decide to embrace it as an expression of a greater force of life that may know better than we what is best for us.
This lends itself to some curious spiritual inquiries—is life somehow guiding us? Does destiny exist? Does this mean there is a God, I mean really, who trained Pothole to be such a great teacher? I have my own answers, which may awe-inspire some and, thus, have a certain value. But, the most valuable teaching is direct experience. (Ah, the book of life!)
In that vein, I encourage everyone, the next time something comes from seemingly out of nowhere to disrupt our ‘normal’ rhythm of life, to take a moment to consider embracing it—instead of the more commonplace posture of resisting or even avoiding it.
Even if it’s something brutal. Actually, especially so.
Each time I embrace whatever comes my way, life takes on a certain magic—the same feeling I get when I’m improvising a musical piece and I’m utterly lost in a field of effulgent beauty that is marvellously going somewhere that is always amazing. The ancient Taoists of Chinese mystical lore were quite clear that there is a guiding realm to life that speaks through the heart constantly.
When we follow what they call the way of nature, we are always in this flow of spontaneous wisdom.
It’s a wild way to live because, as we often find, the urgings of the heart can make us do things that are seemingly absurd (like taking a week off of yoga and work). But, if we can surrender just an ounce of faith, we might find the universe in there, rapping at the door of our soul with a magical adventure of destiny to bestow on us, if we’d but yield our incessant need for control, authority and the illusion of security (another blog post indeed!).
Life is good. How do I know?
It showed me so…
Written by Darren Austin Hall
Darren Austin Hall is a modern day Druid, meaning he somehow integrates being a healer, poet-sacred musician and mystic teacher, all in one. Formally, he has training in Chinese Medicine and some eccentric shamanic arts and informally, life has initiated him in a plethora of other wisdom ways, thanks to a cacophony of extraordinary teachers, friends and experiences. He is especially passionate about indigenous culture and the Earth as a living being that loves us all dearly. Darren is most renowned for his work as sound healer and sacred musician. He performs his unique quartz crystal singing bowls and intuitive chanting for yoga classes and in immensely powerful concerts, that also combine other exotic instrumentation and spiritual textures. He is currently studying to be a yogi at Octopus Garden and is clearly a Gemini. Check out his website: http://www.InnerTraditionsHealing.com.