Tuesday, January 14, 2014

My Wisdom Teeth's Wisdom

“Little by little we human beings are confronted with situations that give us more and more clues that we aren’t perfect.” – Mister Rogers

Well, this is embarrassing; I forgot to breathe in a highly stressful situation. How many times in my yoga classes have I said, “Slow, deep breathing helps regulate the heartbeat, decrease the blood pressure, and calm the nervous system”?  It is a safe bet to say at least weekly.

I decided to have all four of my wisdom teeth extracted over the holiday break after having some issues with them this past year. General anesthesia would be a new experience for me, causing me a lot of anxiety.  Knowing this, I focused on taking good care of myself before the appointment. I spent time practicing calming breathing techniques, sitting more in meditation, and making sure my diet was as clean and healthy as possible, not always easy around the holidays! But even with all my self-care, on the morning of the appointment I felt extremely nervous and scared. Fear is a necessary emotion. On the plus side it allows us to protect ourselves when we feel threatened, but it can also paralyze us, keep us stagnant, make us mute, and in my case, deaf.

It would have been helpful, sitting in the procedure chair, if I had listened to my own voice telling me to take slow deep breaths, but I was deaf to it, and instead became fixated on the heart rate monitor bleeping crazy rhythms, watching my blood pressure increase and getting worried that the doctor would not find a vein in my arm for an IV. I was getting upset with myself for not being able to control my body’s reaction to a stressful situation. What I needed was a teacher’s voice, a voice of reason, and that came from my youngest daughter, Allison, who was sitting in the chair beside me and witnessing her mom losing her composure. One of my last vivid memories of the morning was Allison putting her hand on my leg and saying in a calm voice, “Mom, look at me. Let’s breathe together.”  So we did.

During the next couple of days, healing took place in two different realms—my mouth and my ego. Boy, did I beat myself up emotionally!  I felt like a hypocrite. How could I not practice what I preach? Should I even be teaching yoga? Really, how embarrassing for a yoga teacher to fall apart like that! My thoughts were not pretty. And then I serendipitously came across the above quote from one of my favorite spirit guides, Mister Rogers. His words, as they so often do, pulled me out of my hypercritical attitude. I decided to give myself a break and practice another one of my teachings: “letting go of judgment.” I remembered times in my life where I had remained calm during major life storms, and that helped me feel better about myself. I am human, after all, and even yoga teachers have dark moments!

We are all teachers; we are all students. It is learning to step into the role being presented to us and accept it with humility and grace that make us a better human being. I needed a teacher the morning of my procedure. My daughter saw that, assumed that role, and in a loving, calm way helped me rediscover my breath again. I am so grateful to her and for her.

Life always gives us exactly the teacher we need at every moment. This includes every mosquito, every misfortune, every red light, every traffic jam, every obnoxious supervisor (or employee), every illness, every loss, every moment of joy or depression, every addiction, every piece of garbage, every breath. Every moment is the guru. – Joko Beck, American Zen teacher (March 27, 1917 – June 15, 2011)