Every once in a while, I have to remind myself why I am sitting still! I know it is good for me, but it is so hard. Reminding myself of how I came to the practice is a good way to keep me motived on my Journey with Mindfulness.
A little over a year ago I was at a yoga retreat in Yellow Springs, OH taught by an amazing teacher Judith Lasater. It was my third year attending and each year had a different topic. On this year, the topic was empathy. Though it sounded interesting, I had had empathy training during my Mater’s by another wonderful teacher, Dr. Carol Davis. She had opened my eyes to the importance of empathy in caring for our patients. So I wondered what I would learn. Well Judith turned the tables on me and asked me to explore the empathy that we hold for ourselves. She asked me to listen to the voice inside of me when feeling anxious, etc.
The same weekend, I started reading a book by Burch and Penman, “You Are Not Your Pain”. This book held an 8 week program for mindfulness for people that suffer with chronic pain. I thought the book would be a good resource for my patients with pain.
So in exploring both of these in one weekend, I found myself. I found that the practice of mindfulness was quieting the mind and paying careful attention to what came up. What came up in the middle of the night was: “I’m not good enough”. I was a physical therapist living with chronic pain. So if I couldn’t help myself, how was I supposed to help other people?
I continued down this mindful path over the next few weeks and then things at my job started falling apart. I was asked to do things that I knew that I couldn’t do. Besides many things that were not going well in this job, they were asking me to work full-time. With young children, one of which was just entering the 1st grade, I wasn’t ready to do that. Thirty hours a week fit my family’s schedule near perfectly and so I needed a new plan.
Through the practice of mindfulness, I was able to outline that plan. And at the same time, what would have been a tremendously stressful and therefore physically painful time in my life, I was able to manage. I began to see how the practice of mindfulness helped me stay clear and focused on how to change my career path and also how it helped me control my pain. It finally occurred to me that this was the aspect of my clinical practice that had been missing. I had previously been able to help people reduce their back and neck pain and increase their function, but rarely to their complete satisfaction. And rarely giving them the power back to help themselves keep getting better.
Even my own yoga practice had been focused on the physical practice of asana. Now by adding more focus on breathing and mindfulness I could feel change starting to occur.
So the order of words in my new title: “Yoga Physical Therapist”, puts Yoga first as a new way of looking at people and their painful conditions. I listen to their physical stories, which are unique to each person, but stories that I have heard over and over again. And then I try help each person get to the deeper story of how pain conjures up emotions and then how those emotions play into the cycle of pain. My goal now is to help each person “write a new story”.