Sometimes a kick in the face can change your perspective…literally.
Just the other week in yoga, I was helping a gentleman in my yoga class into Pincha Mayurasna (forearm stand). He was successful kicking up with his right side, his favored side, so for the sake of evening out, I suggested trying his left. He was reluctant at first, stating he hasn’t had as much success, but I told him I would help him along. As he was preparing, I was maneuvering myself to his other side, however, I didn’t quite make it in time…in what seemed like both an eternity and a split second, his foot came flying up and hit me square in the bridge of my nose. It felt like a cartoon leaving me seeing stars and little blue birds flying around my head.
My initial reaction was shock: is my nose broken? Is it bleeding (my whole life I experienced bloody noses and I thought for sure this would be an epic one)? Of course, the kicker was mortified, felt horrible and apologized profusely. I ran out of the class to get ice and look in the mirror, hoping my head would stop pounding. I answered questions of concern, practiced rhythmic breathing to gain control and finally I returned to class to sit on my yoga mat for the last twenty minutes of class.
This time of sitting on my mat was just enough to have at least a million thoughts circulate through my mind. Mostly some iteration of “what did I do to deserve this?” Was it something I did today? Yesterday? What was it that warranted such punishment? Sadly, I think this is the default thought sequence after getting kicked in the face.
After a few minutes of this masochistic meditation, I realized that there are a number of ways to look at this accident. Because there were only a few drips of blood, I figured my nose wasn’t broken and I was spared the embarrassment of a veritable Red Sea. It occurred to me, once I fully processed that near miss, I was extremely lucky! This accident could have been FAR WORSE! Not only could I have had my nose broken, my eye could have been kicked, I could have a concussion, or other scenarios I choose to not even think about. I was able to go from “whoa is me” to “how lucky am I?” with a mere shift in my paradigm. I attribute that shift to breathing and allowing my mind to settle, Ahimsa (no self harm – the first of the Yamas, which are one of the eight limbs of Yoga, according to Patanjali) and letting go.
Yoga has given me the skills to listen, to see, to try to understand as best as possible; not to listen to all the citta vrtti, (fluctuations of the mind) or the “made up stories”. When you stop, settle your mind and take some deep breaths, you can see the situation for what it is. Ultimately, the breath is what leads to the calming of the senses, the discernment of truth and finding the most suitable reaction to address each situation. We don’t necessarily know why things happen the way they do or what other people are thinking or why they act in a certain way, but being aware of those ideas is powerful and helps mitigate Ahimsa. Shifting my paradigm isn’t always easy, but I am constantly reminding myself there is more than one perspective of why things happen a certain way.
As it turned out, I had a black eye, I made a new friend in the Kicker and had a both a great story and a great laugh. I am far from perfect and can’t always pause before reacting, but for even those few times that I now can, I am able to let go of self -pity, anger and aggression and instead, I try to find the positive in the situation.