The day did not start off all that well. I was in a hurry, with an agenda in my head mapped out, anxious about the weekend to come: Leading a two hour intuition workshop on Friday evening, leading yoga for a retreat Saturday morning, attending a grant writers workshop Saturday afternoon, guest preaching at a church on Sunday morning, and leading a workshop on death and grieving at another church on Sunday afternoon. Who set this ridiculous schedule? Ah, yes, that would be me.
It was Thursday, and I had a lot of preparation, still. I taught a yoga class at 7am, and afterward, with the dog in the car, swung around to the deli to grab coffee so I could head to the office for an appointment; rushing. I had my money in hand; I slammed the car door shut behind me and suddenly, found myself flat on the ground, in between the curb and the car, stunned and hurting. I had tripped somehow and fallen, splatted, really, full out on the pavement, smacking my palms, banging my knee and the opposite shoulder. My thumb had a bloody gash where my car key had sliced it open. I sat up, unlocked the car and sat in the driver’s seat to assess the damage. I wrapped my thumb in a napkin-I I had already gotten blood on my shirt-and pulled up my pants leg to survey my knee, which also was skinned and bloody.
This is what happens sometimes when I am stressed and lose the connection to my body. I bump my elbows, or trip, or in this case, take a full swan dive onto gravel. My brain is minutes, or hours, or days ahead of my body, and my physical self, being grounded in time and space, cannot keep up.
So. I slowed down. I waited patiently in line for my coffee, handing over my two crumpled dollars awkwardly with my left hand and said keep the change. I drove, slowly, to the office. Where I sat and breathed with a friend. Literally. Her daughter was ill and anxious and I was teaching some breathing techniques to pass on and to use with her. I taught Ujayii breathing and we did that for a few minutes. Then I demonstrated alternate nostril breathing and we did that for a time. Then I had her sit back and did a full Yoga Nidra body relaxation, so that she could experience it, and share it with her daughter. In helping her connect with her breath, I connected with mine.
So. Later I took the dog for a hike in the woods, listening to the birds. A woodpecker overhead was hammering a tree looking for breakfast. I couldn’t see him, but knew he was somewhere in the canopy high up. I put my hand on the trunk of a nearby tree–and I felt it. His beak drumming the branch above reverberated down the trunk and right into my palm. Surprised, I stepped a few yards away and looked up- there he was, a Downy, busy at work. I came close and put my hand back on the trunk, amazed that I could feel him all the way from the top branch, through the trunk, and into my skin. We were connected, by wood and sap and bark and beak and skin and breath.
I looked down at roots under my feet- connecting to earth and leaves and water and soil. I felt the breeze and watched as the yellowed leaves let go from the trees and connected with sunlight and air as they twirled slowly down. The heartbeat in my hand connected to the woodpecker’s drumming tattoo on a tree branch. My dog’s gaze met and connected with mine as he paused before dashing ahead.
I had been in a hurry, but had been forced to slow down. In a new way, I knew that we can be connected if we take the time-to take a breath, to be fully present to one another, to gaze up, to look down, to feel. That our bodies, grounded in space and time, need this as much as they need water and air.
Later, I connected with my chiropractor, a couple of aspirin, and a bath of epsom salts, much needed after my dramatic tumble. So be it- if that’s what it takes. I hope that today there is a connection for you-a little less dramatic, perhaps: sunlight, or a kind word, or a touch or a cup of tea, that lets you connect with the loving person you know yourself to be.
Take a deep breath in and out; I’ll do the same.
Leslie Mott is a writer, pastor, yoga teacher and spiritual director. She has been pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Philipstown for 11 years, and teaches 4 classes a week at Living Yoga Studios. She has a blog, website, and sees clients privately for Spiritual Direction.