To Provoke

Song Dedication: Bad Bad News by Leon Bridges

To provoke, to be provocative, to be thought-provoking, provocation; all words with the same base, but inherently different connotation.  It’s got me thinking, my thoughts provoked by many things and people; good and bad.  Some bad bad.

When I entered my yoga class this morning, the space was full of bodies, busiest class I’d seen in a while…to the point that I thought to myself I should maybe volunteer to leave.  But the bodies became people, who moved and made space for the few more still trickling through the door.  A small gesture, but the magnitude of acceptance and acknowledgement is not lost on me.

My Yoga instructor had my attention almost immediately as well upon stepping into her space.  Like she could almost sense my hesitation and a simple sentence exchange was all that was needed to make me feel like I should stay.  She noted I had not posted a blog in a while…to me, I found this interesting because I did forgo my usual Forgiveness Friday post in exchange for a busy week packed with appointments.  I felt a sense of belonging though, when she noted the absence of my writing for a whole week.

My response to her was a lame attempt to try to explain myself, but I could not even do that because of my inability to articulate what was going on this past 7 days.  I was just out of sync with myself and felt like a brick and mortar wall was standing between me and my words.  I just mumble-smiled an incomplete sentence back at her to the effect of, “oh ya, well, I , uh, I’m working on it?”  It turned out like a question, which she of course had no answer key for.  But as she always does, she smiled without judgement and said, “well in any case you are looking well.”  I had to agree…I have been looking well because I am feeling well, except for when I am not but I don’t get so hyper-focused on the “nots” so much anymore.

I breathed intently, flexed my muscles and lengthened them simultaneously.  A feeling of  peace and beingness falling over my mind and yoga mat, all other thought-provoking thinking falling away like a tree shedding it’s crunchy bygone leaves; becoming lighter, feeling the unencumbered wind on her reaching branches, toes spread wide, feet rooting deeply into the ground to provide stability at my base.  It was what I needed physically.  As the class drew to a close, she read a passage and that is what I needed spiritually to loosen the muteness around my collection of ideas this past week.

Be Grateful to Everyone

Others will always show you where you are stuck.  They say or do something and you automatically get hooked into a familiar way of reacting – shutting down, speeding up, or getting all worked up.  When you react in the habitual way, with anger, greed, and so forth it gives you a chance to see your patterns and work with them honestly and compassionately.  Without others provoking you, you remain ignorant of your painful habits and cannot train in transforming them into the path of awakening.

-Pema Chodron

First off…I was stuck!  I literally felt like my mind and body were stuck at times, swimming in velcro, unable to find the words or actions my ego thought I should be presenting to the outer world.  Secondly, I had people and things this past week that had presented themselves in both good and bad ways, and my reaction to some of this was negative…but more importantly it was not habitual.  Finally the idea of people provoking you, this got my brain engaged, suddenly synthesizing the messy muddled ball of stuff bonking around in my brain as of late.

Now unstuck, I am ready and present.  Some examples of good and bad (I’ll let you decide which is which)…my brain had suffered some pretty serious migraines in the past week, obviously bad, so bad that I would rate them as a 9/10, pain so intense and unrelenting it triggered nausea and some barfing.  I had a few interactions with friends in the past busy week and some of the conversations were difficult.  My husband had a few too many drinks Friday at a going-away party, which made me want to throw him his very own going-away party. And my son came into the kitchen this morning wearing a soccer jersey over a t-shirt and plaid shorts with a mismatched plaid bowtie.

So with these examples in mind I now would like to first toot my own horn about my reactions to some of these situations and flat-out claim that I did not have a habitual reaction to any of them.  Which means, no panicking when I had another intense migraine 6 days after the last intense one…I was able to breathe and rest and accept this condition even though I knew the circumstances were letting our son down.  Difficult conversations were treated the same as a migraine, just breathe and rest and accept and it too shall pass.  When my husband over-partied himself, I accepted that the next day was going to also be difficult, again facing disappointment and some initial anger, but the old habitual response that used to provoke my pain body, would see me pile on to the issue with my words and actions (oh so many words and actions and more words).  And when my son entered the kitchen this morning looking a bit like Willy Wonka on his way to a soccer tourney, I literally opened my mouth to explain for the billionth time why we don’t wear mismatched plaid, let alone a bowtie with an athletic garment, and shut my mouth as quickly as my flooding thoughts rushed in to fill the space and took in a gulp of air instead.

My son looked at me real weird when I did this, I imagined looking like a fish out of water.  He knew I would not “approve” of this outfit and was bracing for it as he approached my sightline.  He said “what?!”  Regaining my footing with ninja stealth I instead asked, “What kind of cereal would you like?”  His smile grew like the Grinch’s Christmas heart as he bellied up to the breakfast bar.  And then I added, “you look nice today, buddy.”  He was so taken aback, “Thanks Mom!” he exclaimed.

There are always so many things that happen day to day that use to urk the shit out of me.  People tailgaiting, rude tone of voice, backyard dogs barking incessantly, not listening, being judgey; unthoughtfulness just really pissed me off.  But as she read the final line, without others provoking you, you remain ignorant of your painful habits and cannot train in transforming them into the path of awakening, I woke up.  I heard the words but more importantly I understood them, I felt them, I was awe-inspired.  Because what if?  What if I am able to shift my perspective of all these happenings to be my teachers.  Then wouldn’t I truly be living a life of fulfillment and gratitude?  If I see them as teachers; the migraines, the chronic pain, the positive and negative interactions with other humans, heck, with myself…then the fear of struggle dissipates into a cloud blown away wisp by wisp.  This is powerful and thought-provoking and hope-filled for me.  And for the record, I think I already am. (I was just in need of some spiritual gurus to present the idea to me to help me be aware that this is a thing that I am actively doing.)

Interestingly enough, as I arrived home ready to write for the first time in a week, two more things happened.  The universe perhaps looking to test (er, provoke) my new found insight.  I opened a piece of mail from the BC Women’s Hospital, already knowing my Doctor had done the exact opposite referral of what we had discussed 2 weeks prior.  I had clearly given her the website and address of the Chronic Pain Clinic I wished to be referred, even having a discussion about it not being the Women’s Clinic that had a two year wait list for fibromyalgia and Lyme disease…probably because I wouldn’t want to wait that long AND I don’t have either of these diagnoses.  And as I was reading over their letter of acceptance into their program, my phone sent a ping to my attention.  It was my son’s teacher explaining the meltdown he had in the computer lab today with the same kid he always has conflict with.

Sooooo, I took several slow deep breaths and smiled at my two new “teachers”, not allowing their provocation to trigger my habitual response patterns.  I was able to calmly express (over the phone) to the doctor’s office that this referral needed to be corrected and as soon as possible and had a positive text exchange with my son’s teacher, hopefully clearing the air for another day of school.  The best part wasn’t rectifying all of this, it was the mental state I was in during and following these lessons.  No (well…almost no) energy was wasted on resentment or frustration.  I was then left with an hour to write.

As I saw my writing window drawing to a close with the ringing of the school bell, I left this piece of writing mid-sentence (which I never do because of my lack of continuity when I stop in the middle of a write), but to honour my willingness to be the student, I allowed some flexibility and am finding some time to write at a banged up old wooden table in the middle of the junior fiction section of the library, while my son builds at Lego Club.  I can glance up and see him through the glass chatting with other kids, big and small, about their builds and I just caught his eye.  He smiles and waves and I smile back, a real genuine smile that shows that these things that happen to us, are not us, they are moments that pass and can shape us making good good things out of bad bad news.

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