Friday, July 30, 2010

Made for Walking

The knee injury I'm recovering from has turned out to have relevance to my spiritual practice. I suppose that shouldn't surprise me.

I'm now at a point where I'm beginning to take tentative forays out walking without the full-leg brace, and I've found that the six weeks of relative inactivity has caused my right leg to lose most of its memory of how to walk. I can, indeed walk, and can even do so without much of a limp, but it takes very deliberate focus and concentration. I don't walk with habit right now, but with very conscious intent. Rather that walking on auto-pilot, I have to focus and very deliberately raise the knee, extend the calf while raising the toes, plant the heel, rock forward on the ball, and gently push off with the thigh to deliver my weight to the other leg. Again and again and again. It occurs to me the act of walking is really nothing more than a series of controlled forward falls. Odd that I didn't realize that until now.

Forgetting the deliberate actions that go into walking causes the leg to go spastic and wobble like overcooked spaghetti. A feeling of utter vertigo arises whenever I stop thinking about how to walk. Very peculiar indeed.

Every time I walk, then, becomes an exercise in meditative focus. A few minutes of this causes me to break a sweat, not through exertion so much as through mental concentration. There will come a time pretty soon when I'll walk again completely on autopilot, but the fact is that I enjoy the wonder of walking much more when paying attention to it.

1 comment:

Paul said...

No doubt about it, pain is a great agent for awakening (if one inclined to see it that way).

About eight years ago I learned the definition of intractable pain through a herniated disk.

Lesson one was the realization that those who suffer great pain are are truly deserving of compassion. And aren't we all in severe pain at one time or another?

Lesson two was that no one can feel my pain but me. It's a very isolating event. And, of course, this applies to anyone and everyone in pain.

Although I had had no surgery, my recuperation was long and slow. Aside from the pain in my upper right rear thigh, the immediate effect was a near complete lack of strength in my right calf. For about a year I could not push off with my toes on the right side. This usually insignificant act is crucial to a normal gait.

I had no choice but to slow down.

What's more, I would not have traded away the experience. Even when it was fresh, I was grateful for it.