Friday, August 7, 2009

Relax! Take it easy.

At the beginning of "Fooling Yourself (Angry Young Man)" by Styx, Dennis DeYoung speaks softly, "Relax. Take it easy." It's a good title for this piece.

Sometimes, we are forced to slow down in order to learn our spiritual lessons. I am about 100 pounds over my best weight. The pressure on my knees is very high, and for the last several months, I have had to be very careful about what I do when I am on my feet.

It was inevitable that someday I would be forced to exceed the limits on my aching, inflamed knees. Our new dog decided he'd take the opportunity to explore on his own. I chased him for about one-tenth mile before finally catching him. By that time I had twisted both knees and it was extremely painful carrying the naughty little boy (7 pound Pomeranian) back home.

The knees quickly swelled up, and immobilized me after I arrived home. This is my third day for not being able to carry out my normal duties. It is my third day of trying to manage the pain as I do the walking that can't be avoided. I am learning something. I don't know if I am learning what was meant for me to learn, but I am learning, none-the-less.

First, when I have to walk, the muscles automatically tense up in an effort to protect the injured knees. The muscles quickly tire and the legs begin to ache from muscle fatigue as well as the knee injuries. As the muscles fatigue, it is harder to maintain balance. The more the knees shift to maintain balance, the more pain you experience and the more the muscles tense up. It's a vicious cycle.

To mitigate the pain and to stop the cycle when I have to walk, I use techniques I learned from meditation to relax the muscles in the legs. I can't explain how, but once you learn various meditation techniques, it becomes relatively easy to control localized pain. So, as I walk, I concentrate on slow, even movements and relaxing those muscles that so want to protect the knees. I can walk for a considerable longer time without exceptional pain, now. When I talk about “longer time”, I'm talking about something less than 5 minutes of walking, as in walking from my office to the bathroom, or helping to feed and medicate the dogs. The idea is to stay off of the feet, but control the muscles when it is necessary to walk.

There are several spiritual and life lessons in this. First, in many situations, it is necessary to relax when the urge is to act. How many times can we recall when we have acted hastily and exacerbated the situation. The second lesson is that it is far harder to maintain balance when one is weak and injured. Ironically, when one is weak and injured is the very time that balance is most required. It comes back to learning to relax in the face of adversity.

The third lesson is this: Life goes on. The daily demands on a person continue whether or not you are up to them. During the time that I wrote this piece, I have had to help feed and medicate the dogs, eat breakfast, clean-up the breakfast mess, prepare my morning cherry juice, clean-up after the dogs, and walk up and down two stories of stairs to reset a circuit breaker that popped during last night's rain storm. And by the way, speaking of last night's rainstorm, I was awakened by the sound of water splashing somewhere close to my bed. One of or downspouts backed up, and poured water into our house. Yes, I was cleaning that mess up at 5:30 AM.

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