Pema also says that we should use the chaos and difficult times as the best way to approach enlightenment . The weekend before last was a real time of chaos and upheaval! I had a small operation, was one of a stream of patients going through the NHS system for a surgical day case. All of us patients arrived before 7.30 in the morning, outside the ward. It was a long day. I was at the end of the list which I think was a backhanded compliment due to me being generally fit and healthy. The lady in the bed next to me went first and had a whole host of other medical problems. I had taken my headphones and work to do (review of a graphic novel) so the time passed but it was a long time fasting. I manage fine with my intermittent fasting on a day to day level, when I drink lots of green tea and break my fast when I feel like it but this was different. One cup of water to last indefinitely and sat opposite the clock, watching the hours pass by, with no clear knowledge of when I would be going to theatre!
When I came round from the anaesthetic, the first thing I noticed was the migraine aura of flashing lights. It was no surprise to me that the experience triggered a migrainous response, only that it was so immediate . Recovery was ok and I did not need any extra pain relief. I did lots of yoga deep breathing which I think really helped.
The next couple of days you are told not to drive for 48 hours post op or sign any legal documents and I certainly could feel my brain struggling. A tightness across my forehead persisted before finally going into a full blown migraine after 4 days, the strongest I’ve had for a while.
I went back a bit soon to one of my usual exercise classes. Even though I was careful, took it much more gently than usual, the next day I had discomfort and some bleeding. It was hard to know how to gauge the best level of exercise.
But apart from the actual physical issues, one night I awoke in the middle of the night (my hot flushes having returned with a vengenance, having had to stop my HRT for the surgery) and spent quite a while thinking.
Pema had described a story about a monk spending time in a cave and being surrounded by a host of demons. Only by finally accepting and welcoming them rather than trying to resist them, did they eventually leave, leaving only the biggest, worst demon of all. The monk lay down next to it and put his head in it’s jaws before it finally left too.
I think that one of my biggest demons is the fear of displaying any physical weakness. For my whole life I have kept my physical hypersensitivities and issues under wraps, even from myself. So here I am acknowledging it, even though I know I am fit and healthy overall, a surgical challenge as I have just had, will knock me for six. I don’t bounce back immediately, it has taken time and almost a week of operating well below “normal”. For example, my music practice has not been possible for large sections of the week, my litmus test for how my brain is functioning.
But I am acknowledging it out loud, to myself and anyone foolish enough to enquire, maybe others also feel they can’t mention any weaknesses and it may be comforting to hear me admit to it, who knows?