I know ... there are no such things as accidents ... but perhaps it is more accurate to say accidents happen but the possibility for insight, learning, or growth is never accidental.
My yoga lineage, Kripalu yoga, is a heart and body based approach to accessing transformational wisdom. The starting point is to always come back to the body, which is to come back to the present moment. From there, the mind and spirit will follow. Grounded in the experiences of the body, of this moment, I am better able to access the deeper wisdom of heart and soul.
All of which is to say ... the teachings of Life are conveyed to me through barked shins, banged heads, funny bones triggered and a nail in the foot. (Because I am stubborn and require such broad gestures!)
That is how my week ended last week. After the excitement of house guests - and the exhaustion ... I am by nature a solitary creature and social encounters exact a huge toll upon my emotional and energetic reserves - I was attempting to shift back into "business as usual." Cowgirl had swim lessons, then zoo camp to attend; the house needed tidying in preparation for the Husband's return (which is another long story of mishaps, misadventures and travel torture); and the yard cried out for attention. I actually weeded!
Puttering about the garden, listening to the birds chatter, enjoying an unusually cool July morning, all the elements of an idyllic moment-of-being you would think, right? As I sauntered around the side of the house to water my new geraniums (set upon the front porch for a splash of color - how domestic of me!), a searing pain in my foot halted my movement, but not my voice as I screamed out "Son of a ..." (my go-to phrase it appears for any sudden and painful moments.)
I picked up my foot to discovered a nail embedded in the purple foam of my croc sandal, piercing the joint of my second toe. Stunned, I pulled the nail out and continued on my way, hobbling to the front porch, watering the plants, then making my way inside the house, hopping through the first floor and up the stairs to my bathroom. Sticking my aching foot under a stream of cold water, I sat straddling my bathtub and gave myself over to the full extent of the pain.
And then I cried. Big, hot, sloppy tears that spilled over a very red, blotchy and now snot-streaked face.
At first, I cried because my foot hurt that much. But then I cried because I was frustrated. I had been trying to move forward, make progress, tend to my life in an active and energetic way and look where it landed me! But then I cried because I was all alone and the immensity of my aloneness was overwhelming.
I had to wash out the wound and I realized there was something still embedded in the hole. So I hopped into Cowgirl's room to retrieve the magnifying glass from her Dumpling Dynasty Explorer Kit ("Explore with JOY") and grabbing my tweezers I sat back down on the edge of the tub to attempt to extract whatever was lodged in my foot. And I cried again, this time with the awareness that I was having to hurt myself - a lot! - in order to care for my toe.
I don't know if I need to say much more. The wisdom of the moment felt pretty obvious to me: Life delivers a fair share of shock and pain and unexpected blood and those moments can feel like ruptures in the dream or story that we create about ourselves and our lives. I act as if I can control my life and an accident reminds me that in truth my only choices are to flow with it (or roll with it as it felt that day) or resist which only shifts the suffering from my foot to my Self.
If my practice has strengthened anything, it is my ability to slip into Witness consciousness. As I gave myself fully to my tears and sadness, I was also able to witness myself in that moment. I could see and remember the small child I once was, crying from fear of never fitting in, never finding her place, and the pain of feeling hurt, rejected and isolated. My tears were a cleansing of those wounds. Once spent, I recognized that I have continued to carry feelings that no longer describe the deeper truth about myself that I know from living this life. I may feel alone - certainly I walk my path on my own and the real work of healing is mine alone to tend to - but the truth is I am never truly alone.
That day's accident, the nail in my toe, punctured a hole in the illusions I've held onto so tightly. It is painful work to dismantle and examine delusions, fears, strong memories and emotions. But it is necessary for true growth and understanding. Frightened child, lonely woman, wounded toe all describe what I knew about myself in that instant, but those experiences, those labels, do not define me. As I hobbled through the rest of my day, I understood that what limits me is not what happens to me, but what I choose to believe about myself and life. A nail in the foot can shut me down but it can also be the opening into a greater freedom. It is my choice.
I hope to always choose joy and what better wisdom than Explore with Joy? But I will add: explore with Joy and a fair share of humor and patience for the random appearance of nails on the path, never forgetting to hold much compassion for the vulnerability and tears that will inevitably greet them.