Since October I have been experiencing chronic migraines. With the onset of a migraine, every time, without fail I have an aura that lasts 30 minutes. During that time all sorts of cool, yet scary things happen in my brain, causing my vision to be disrupted. First there is a hole, just a tiny space of nothingness where part of a face, or a word on a page should be. As this dysphoria grows outward, the twinkling lights shoot across my vision in a jagged crescent shape. As the aura progresses, this fantastical electrical storm moves across my field of vision, finally receding into my periphery signalling the main act…the head pounding pain.
Since mid-October I have been off work. Out of my classroom, where it was difficult to function while in the throws of a migraine attack. 18 months earlier, I went through a similar phase and did my best attempt to work through them. This was very challenging for obvious reasons. So this time, when my migraines returned, I made a conscious choice to deal with them, or better, listen to them and what they were telling me.
In my endeavor to learn from this situation I have started a new self-care plan. Scratch that…not new, because that would mean there was an existing self care plan happening before the migraines. In my efforts I have been listening to audiobooks as I am unable to read the day before and the day after a migraine. Gabor Mate “When the Body Says No” was an eye-opener. More like a life altering game-changer. This book highlighted why I needed to address my health situation head-on and acknowledge the baggage I have been dragging around with me for decades. Now I am onto Eckhart Tolle “A New Earth”. Mind-blowing. Through their work and other enlightening podcasts I am beginning to find my way. I have also committed myself to regular yoga practice (as the once every 3 weeks plan wasn’t really cutting it) and I have traded in the high-impact pavement running for walking my dog. Which can conveniently be done simultaneously with step one: audiobooks! Along with a few other things this plan has reduced my migraines by half.
I am not here to pay much more attention to the migraines though. This was meant as a preamble to my life lesson metaphor of the day!
While walking Lucy in a fresh snowfall of 7 inches, Eckhart Tolle spoke gently through his German accent about the pain body (Ohhhhhhh…so that’s what THAT is…causing negativity, anxiety, chronic pain and migraines…) and about spaciousness. As he continued, the words fit the present moment so perfectly…I was having a dysfunctional relationship with the present moment! For almost 4 kilometers I had been battling my dog. She was pulling, I was pulling, muttering under my breath as if it mattered, “you are empty… we are not stopping again…” Wondering why are you marking everything, you are a female!
The red leash pulled completely taught from her neck to my fist signalled a disharmony in what was meant to be a moving meditation. Lucky for me I had Tolle in my earbuds and he said, “…some people laugh out loud when they see this. With the seeing comes the power of choice, the choice of saying yes to the now, of making it into your friend.” I realized as he earlier spoke about “…you are never really here because you are always busy trying to get elsewhere…The present moment were treated as if it were an obstacle to overcome, this is where impatience, frustration and stress arise” I was literally doing EXACTLY that. I was trying to be somewhere else and where did I think I needed to be??? I had gone into auto-pilot or as Tolle calls it an unconscious mind. I am so hard-wired to get on with it, check that off my list only to move along to the next item, check, check, check.
And so there I was in the final kilometer of the riverwalk with my dog, on a beautifully snow-blanketed day, rushing it onward as if it were some horrible dentist appointment. And I stopped to recognize what was happening. I had nowhere to be but right there. I just had to be. And so I made the moment my friend, rather than enemy and guess what? If you know Cesar Millan you will know what happened next. As I accepted the moment, I allowed Lucy to stop at the next two fire hydrants and she even pooped a second time! (I guess she wasn’t empty.) But when she was finally empty, the walk resumed at a comfortable pace and the tension on the leash became slack as we walked with a mutual respect. So mutual in fact, that when I slipped or faltered slightly on the slick snowpack, she stopped abruptly and turned her head towards me, checking in.
I am learning to not just accept myself and others. I am learning to accept moments pleasant and unpleasant. I am learning to accept the migraines, the anxiety, the chronic pain. I am learning. I am being. And with each lesson I believe the leash will slacken and there will be more space to be in it. Whatever “it” may be.