Satya and Ahimsa: Part 1

Satya and Ahimsa are two concepts from the First Limb of Yoga that have repeatedly surfaced in my life over the past several months. Satya (truth) and Ahimsa (non-violence) provide a foundation for interesting conversation when discussed separately or together. This post will focus on Satya, the following Ahimsa, and the third on their relationship. I have learned invaluable lessons through the challenges I have faced recently and the truth is, it has not always been easy.

Part 1: Satya

Several months ago, I reevaluated how I was spending my time. The truth is that this Spirit Bear was in need of a major spirit recharge, an off-season hibernation. Don't get me wrong, I was still doing “all the yoga.” I taught 5 sections of Relaxation and Fitness at Baylor last spring while teaching 7 classes per week at Yoga Pod. Over the summer I lead a 200-hour teacher training intensive, and helped with the 9-month program as well. That might not sound like much of a hibernation, but in comparison to all that I would have liked to do, it definitely was.

I knew I needed to cut back on projects, and only commit to the things that I absolutely needed to do. I have been pretty disappointed that I wasn’t able to keep up with everything, especially Spirit Bear Yoga, a project that is so very important to me. I was in survival mode. Emily and I both agree that SBY should only invoke a sense of thriving, not add to the stress of merely surviving. So, I put my contribution to SBY on hold.

The onset of survival mode was a direct result of living with chronic pain. I don't enjoy facing the fact that coping with chronic pain has consumed the majority of my time (and bank account), much less talk about it. Very few people have insight to how much I struggle with this issue. I don't want pain or injury to consume my identity. I grew up identifying myself as a serious athlete and, after all, athletes “walk it off.” But, the title of this post is Satya, so I better include a bit of truth. Here it is: chronic pain is a major bummer. From the widespread and seemingly random Fibromyalgia flare-ups, to the lingering hip pain which has only increased after three left hip surgeries (#31goingon80), at times it feels as though my body is completely falling apart. The summer also included the fun bonus of a tibial sesamoid fracture. Six weeks in a cast and even longer on crutches. Unable to sleep at night, and difficulty staying awake during the day -- truthfully, it has been rough.

Physical pain is bad enough, especially when you have gone through countless attempts to remedy the situation. When you reach the point where you believe you have no other options, however, that's when chronic pain causes mental and emotional pain as well. In my opinion, physical pain dulls in comparison. When mental and emotional health are affected, that’s when chronic pain becomes overwhelming. It is an exhausting, time consuming, and resource-draining pain (ha!) to deal with.

I struggle to write about this, but this post is an exercise in Satya, an exercise that I have come to realize not only helps me but has the potential to help others. Avoiding the unpleasant truth that I needed an off-season hibernation did not help. Neither did constantly comparing what I could do to what I wished I could do. I know that I'm not out of the woods yet. If only my pain didn't have that pesky word “chronic” attached to it so firmly. But it does, and I will continue to have good days and bad. Not finding some level of acceptance in that fact does not help either. That remains a hard lesson to swallow on the bad days. I'm working on it.

On the crappy days, the days where all I want to do (and have done) is lie on the floor and stare out of the window, one thing that has helped is conversation. Not just any conversation, but conversation of mutual understanding, acknowledgement, and support. It has helped when friends and family have expressed understanding because they have experienced similar obstacles. It has helped when people without similar experiences have had the presence to simply acknowledge the significance of chronic pain. It has helped to feel supported.

Learning from others and sharing the lessons that I have learned - that helps. Inspiring others, and finding inspiration in the stories of others - that helps. Allowing others the opportunity to provide me with support and doing the same for them - that helps. I am working hard to use chronic pain as a catalyst for growth and betterment not just for myself, but for others as well. I have been gifted the strength and inspiration that comes from others sharing their truth. I want to do the same. I want to be the light in someone's day. I want to assist in the cultivation of hope through support. Finding purpose in pain - that helps.

Now it's your turn. What hardships are you working through? What lessons can you learn from those hardships and how can you grow from the experience? What is your Satya, your truth?