My right ankle has always been vulnerable to sprains since my teenage years: playing tennis with my father during high school, wearing high heels on the dance floor while in college, or more recently this week – just walking across Union Square in sneakers.
This one time many years ago I was required to be on crutches, so as not to put any weight on my foot whatsoever while my ankle healed. I recall how challenging it was getting around New York City on crutches. I also remember how everywhere I went, suddenly I was noticing many others around me also struggling with a physical injury. I even thought to myself ‘Gosh something must be going around that everyone is limping or on crutches or in a cast’.
Of course that was not the case. There was no injury virus going around. It was more that I was so identified with a disability in my own body, that all of a sudden my sensitivity to it in my surroundings increased.
Different components of our identity, held intact by memory, are constantly filtering what we take in of the present moment. At times narrowing our focus into details in a way that expands our experience, our understanding, our empathy. At other times in ways that limits or insulates our experience.
In Yoga Philosophy we are encouraged to find our identity not just with this body, this mind; not just with the friends, family, city, job or experiences that come with this mind body. But rather we are encouraged to find our identity with the totality of life.
So then even when we are not injured those in need may still come into our view; even if we don’t care for a pet at home, animal beings may come into our view; even if we don’t study astrology, the expansiveness of the cosmos may come into our view. As we identify with 10,000 beings then all of existence comes into the radar of our experience in way that is immediate, vibrant, abundant, animated, fresh, ever new, ever humbling, endlessly filling us with gratitude.
"To study the Buddha Way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to become one with the ten thousand things." - Japanese Zen Master Dogen
Painting – Vija Celmins