My daughter Sarah had a beautiful butterfly stroke. She was eight years old and swam with fluidity, strength and desire. I loved sitting in the bleachers watching her swim, marveling at her ease and determination. Sometime that year, her father set up a trampoline in our back yard. The kids were overjoyed and all I could think of was disaster.
One day after school the kids were having a great time on tramp. My husband was out of town, Maggie, our German shepherd was in heat, and I was inside making dinner when I heard Sarah scream. I looked out the kitchen window and saw her crumpled on the ground holding her arm, the dog beside her trying to help, and her younger brother running in to get me. She had fallen off of the trampoline not while jumping, but while trying to get down by sitting on the edge, but missed the rim with her outstretched arm, and fell to the ground arm straight palm first. I grabbed a bag of frozen peas, piled us all (including the dog) into the front seat of my husband’s old work truck because he had the family car, and headed for the Emergency Room, where I used to work. The nurse in me knew she’d fractured her elbow.
What does this have to do with mindfulness or meditation? I’ve been thinking about what brought me to practice, why I practice and what sustains me. Sarah’s elbow fracture was really bad. It took lots and lots of physical therapy, many months to heal and it was the end of that beautiful butterfly stroke. About a year later, Sarah and I were talking about what sort of physical activity she thought would be fun and she suggested yoga. Not long after that, she and I took an Introduction to Yoga class series where my meditation practice crept back into my life and began to grow roots.
So when I think about what brought me to practice, it was my husband buying the trampoline and my daughter falling off of it. I can’t say, though, that I’m grateful for the accident. We got rid of the tramp not long after, but I am grateful to my daughter for choosing yoga and not being too embarrassed to go to class with her mom. I was lucky enough to have a yoga teacher who integrated meditation quite naturally into her teaching, and the same teacher for introducing me to a book written by Sylvia Boorstein, who is now one of my primary teachers and mentors.
It’s all really a great lesson in one thing leading to the next. Certain causes and conditions come together which cause other conditions to occur. This is the accurate definition of karma, consequences stemming from actions, actions creating new conditions; on and on and on. It’s not necessarily good karma or bad karma, though we often think of it this way. It’s just what’s happened because other things have happened. Because of this, that. Truly, nothing exists in isolation.
Because Sarah fell off the trampoline, my meditation practice, though by twists and turns, is now as much a part of my day as eating and sleeping. And sometimes I wonder what would have happened if Sarah had chosen rock climbing or running or bicycling. But she didn’t, so I don’t have to speculate about what didn’t happen.
Why I practice and what sustains me are two sides of the same coin; mutually supportive and mutually required. I want to get to know myself from the inside out. I want to feel what’s there; pleasure, pain, confusion and surety. I want to see clearly enough often enough to make good choices. I want to be kind, period. I want to be porous enough to know compassion when I feel it and courageous enough to try when I don’t. I want to remember to be curious because I know it expands my tolerance, my patience and my resilience. And I don’t want to snap at my husband.
Developing wisdom, that’s why I am on this path. I don’t always get it right, but practice supports and sustains these intentions. It keeps me on track. And when I do get it right, I know why I practice.