I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Tripping through time

Trillium in bloom
It feels like it's the first week we've really had spring coming on strong. The temperatures have moderated, the sun is high in the sky, and it's light outside right up until long after my bedtime. Although we've only had a few days where the high temperature for the day reached 60°F (14°C), everywhere I look there are flowers in full bloom. And although we've had rain most days, we know that there comes a time when it all stops and we finally have wonderful weather.

The progression of the seasons is something I will never get tired of. It seems like I just get accustomed to winter, and it slowly becomes spring, with shoots popping out of the ground everywhere, and then before I know it my world has become a riot of lush green, which begins to turn into fall and then winter again so fast sometimes it makes my head spin. How can something seem both so slow to finally come into fruition and then, looking back, have passed so quickly?

My life is like that, too: wasn't it just yesterday that I was a nubile young girl looking forward to my twenties? How is it possible that now I am in my mid-seventies and finding the time ahead of me shrinking down to only a few years, or at best a decade? I have some age mentors who show me that it's possible to still be active and involved at eighty and beyond, but even they must make some adjustments and compromises in their lives.

Yesterday I walked with the ladies and noticed that I am probably the oldest in the group right now, and that my recent hip injury is no longer holding me back. I'm capable of walking fast again, even if I cannot keep up with the leaders I am also not the slowest in the group. A month ago I was lucky to manage to keep the slowest walkers in sight. This has not happened accidentally; I've been working on getting myself back to normal, but what is normal in an aging body? Should I keep pushing through the pain? It's a dilemma I deal with on a daily basis.

And of course, you don't get to be older without learning to live with aches and pains. They are a fact of life. Did I have them when I was young and just didn't notice? If I get involved with whatever I'm doing, I forget to concentrate on my discomfort and feel annoyance when something brings my consciousness back to it. I'm adamant that I stay away from drugs that mask it, because then I'm not aware of the true state of my current condition. Occasionally I'll take some ibuprofen but I don't like to depend on it and take it daily. Recently I've learned that all NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are not good to take all the time, as they may block the pain but harm the body with sustained use. You just can't get around it.

In yoga class, I was recently introduced to the concept of ahimsa, or nonviolence. It means 'not to injure' and refers to a key virtue in Indian religions. From that link: "The word is derived from the Sanskrit root hiṃs – to strike; hiṃsā is injury or harm, a-hiṃsā is the opposite of this, i.e. cause no injury, do no harm." It's a fascinating concept that makes me wonder about self-harm as well as violence toward others. Does pushing myself constitute self-harm or am I just conditioning my body? Where do I draw the line, or is there a line to be drawn at all? Must I make my decision based on ahimsa?

Sometimes when I'm really injured, there's no question about what path I should follow, but that's not what I'm wondering about. It's when, for instance, my knee throbs with pain and I continue to walk on it anyway, taking little notice of it or gobbling down some NSAIDs. Am I doing harm to myself? I sure wish I knew the answer to these questions, because I face this dilemma almost every day. What do you think?

If I could, I'd twirl and dance through every day through thick and thin, light and dark, with joy and excitement until I just got so tired that I'd fall into bed, spent and happy. Dancing through my days, from the young girl who started this journey, to the white-haired granny who trips through her days with happy anticipation of what lies ahead. If I could, that's what I'd do.

Is there anything stopping me from doing that very thing? I hope not, because that's what I intend to do with my day today. Practice ahimsa, especially related to myself and my loved ones. I found a wonderful quote from Rabindranath Tagore (one of my favorite philosophers), which might point me in the way I need to go: "Let your life lightly dance on the edges of Time like dew on the tip of a leaf." A beautiful vision for me today, and I hope for you as well.

And with that, I'm ready to start my compassionate day, with my coffee shop buddies waiting for me, with my dear partner beside me, lightly asleep, and my tea gone from the cup and into me. I hope that you will read that link about ahimsa and learn more about it for yourself, and then come back here in the comment section and tell me what you think. My virtual buddies, it gives me such pleasure to have you in my life. Be well until next week, when we will meet again on another glorious Sunday.

13 comments:

Linda Reeder said...

"Does pushing myself constitute self-harm or am I just conditioning my body? "
I wonder that every day also. Almost every day I head out on my 3.3 mile vigorous walk route, and each day I walk through discomfort more and more. But I feel I must not stop. Stopping means losing what I do still have as aging and arthritis attack my body. And then, weather permitting, I go out and crawl around in the garden, bending and stooping and kneeling and tugging. Each year it is getting harder. But I want to persist, I choose to persist. Am I doing myself harm? I don't know. What's the alternative?
Today we will go for a "destination" walk. We have one garden job that needs to be done. then we will give ourselves permission to rest. I hope to take some time to just enjoy the garden.
The week ahead looks mostly dry. We have time. We'll take a little of it.
I always enjoy our Sunday visits. This was a good one to start my day with.

Marie Smith said...

I have come to see the living "being" inside animals since I retired. Having the time to really observe them has made the difference for me. I can understand why people become vegetarian or vegan though I am not there yet. As I continue to evolve, who knows. The non-violence can apply to our food supply as well.

Rian said...

So glad Spring is finally there in the Northwest. It's been here in Texas for a bit now... and we're loving it. There's only a short window in Texas where one can leave the windows open and enjoy the fresh air. Even the cats enjoy this!

As for 'pushing yourself' as we age , it's a quandary. I would say it's OK to a limit. I have always believed in 'listening' to one's body. I trust mine. It usually knows how to heal itself in most cases (and will let you know if it needs help). Staying away from meds at all costs unless absolutely necessary for survival or function is my goal... at least for as long as I'm able.

"Do no harm" should be everyone's mantra... and I've never understood war, but mankind doesn't seem to know (or able to work out) another way.

gigihawaii said...

Well, you are certainly more active than I am. Keep going, DJan.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Listen to your body:) I enjoy Tagore also. I am certain that you will always want to be as active as your body allows and that is a good thing :)

Elephant's Child said...

Ahimsa is a concept which means a lot to me. I think we all need more kindness, more gentleness, and definitely less violence.
I struggle some days with not thinking violent, ugly thoughts, and am much better at doing no harm to others than I am to myself.
A work in progress.
Have a wonderful week. Conditioned, and injury free.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

It is a very intersting concept and yet it appears to be in conflict with much of what is the survival insticr. It seema we are born with a DNA that sets us on our path as mini humans. Eveb little tots will bite , hit or kick to get what they deem of value to them and as parents we have to guide them away from me first feelings to a path of sharing and caring. As teens there is another emergence that pushes parents aside as the self becomes more defined and hormones changes send new messages about new instincts. The individual has to sort out all kinds of issues for self esteem and self worth to grow into a good place. It seems that ahimsa would need to be cultivatted from the tot on in all cultures to get the outcome it proposes. Sine free will is a large part of what humanity loves the harm part will remain around. I personally would have loved to see all nations refuse any form of mean aggression after WWll and yet it cannot be. Optios for self harm are everywhere and it appears there is a huge market for it.
But I love how you take care of you and how you invite others along the journey. More people are reachimg 100 now than ever so you have a lot of good days ahead. You are living well. It seems you need lots of acrivity daily to feel fulfilled. Dancing. Ah the image is in my head now. Lots of seniors are doing it.It's good for the mind as well as the limbs.
By the way the lovely trillium is our provincial flower. Thanks for posting that pic.

Red said...

There's also another idea to remember and that's balance. At all stages in life we have to find balance. Yes, aging brings discomfort. Wow, being 13 again? but at 13 we also had some challenging social challenges and problems. Yes, we played hard and fell into bed and went fast asleep which is what i wish I could do now.

Arkansas Patti said...

Totally into the concept of "doing no harm" to others. I am a totally nonviolent person. But sometimes for ourselves, doing nothing that causes discomfort is actually more harmful. So we all push through pains for in the back of our minds is the fear that "use it or lose it" is a truth.
Be careful of those NSAIDs however. Been told they had an influence in my heart disease as I took them for a long time for my arthritis. The weird thing is that since I quit taking them under doctor's orders (they recommend Tylenol with heart disease), my arthritis is almost nonexistent and I take almost no pain killers. Weird but yipee.

Sally Wessely said...

I love the quote you shared, and this sentence: "If I could, I'd twirl and dance through every day through thick and thin, light and dark, with joy and excitement until I just got so tired that I'd fall into bed, spent and happy." I have to agree with you. I too would like to approach life that way. I love to dance and twirl. I think when you respond to music by moving your body, you more easily go through the dark and the sad things of life. Moving is so important. Moving to music makes it all the more enjoyable.

I agree with what Linda Reeder had to say as well as what you said about just keeping up with what you can. It becomes so much harder as we age, but I refuse to not be able to get down on the floor or the ground to plant a flower or to play with a child.

In my late forties and early fifties, I took a drug for chronic pain in my knees, hip, and a severely injured right arm and hand. It was VIOXX. It is no longer on the market. I know it did me no favors. I think I probably re-injured myself sometimes because I would do thinks that I couldn't do when I was off the drug. Now, per doctor's orders, I never take NSAIDS. They are so bad for my digestive track. I recently took Advil due to some terrible pain in my jaw and was amazed how much better my hip felt. Still, I do not take anything for the hip pain that constantly wakes me at night. I prefer to try to not harm other parts of my body with medication. Water aerobics helps my hip as much as anything.

Great post. Much to think about.

Rita said...

I used to believe in mind over matter and pushed through to get done whatever I needed to. That worked for me my whole life. There was no one else to take care of my son when he was sick, so I went without sleep. You do what you have to do. I honestly never gave my body much thought. I was too busy.

It was an absolute shock when I hit this physical wall that I couldn't "mind over matter" or push through. Altered everything for me. Pushing through was no longer an option. My body took over my life. Pay back time? LOL! I went from an energizer bunny mode to sloth speed. But I still think it is use it or lose it on the physical side...but listen to what your body has to say. You have quite a dialogue going with your body, so I think you're fine. :) :)

The do no harm has so many levels, though. I have been working my entire life on my actions, words, and thoughts. I don't know if I will ever get there, but I feel better for the trying and have seen improvement with practice over time.

I love your Sunday posts. You always give me something to ponder. Have an enlightening week, Lady! :)

Dee said...

Dear DJan, per your suggestion, I did go and read the beginning sections for ahimsa. I wish I could think through what it means, but I find myself right now with a tired brain and so I'm not into much deep thinking. I do remember when I began teaching in the convent and then later when I began developing curriculum for young children. Both the superior on the convent mission and the publisher said the same thing to me: "Do no harm." I can remember mulling that, wondering why they didn't say, "Do only good."

Then as life streamed by, I began to understand why one was emphasized. But my brain can't even articulate that today. I know only that when I do harm others--mostly through words or when I don't choose to help--I harm myself. I can almost feel part of my essence darken into shadow, bruised by my callowness and by my failure to live in Oneness.

I do think that we can do harm to ourselves by taking too much medicine or by asking our bodies to perform when they let us know that they need rest. Peace.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, I enjoyed this post. Another wonderful reflection on life and the changes we encounter. I admire you for being able to express life challenges and changes so well. April was a busy time for me as I had family from Texas here for several days. Then there were other business activities that needed to be taken care of. My usual routine, including blogging, was put on hold. May is looking much better, back to normal. One thing I noticed while blogging was on hold was how much I miss reading my handful of favorite blogs, and that, of course, includes Eye on the Edge. I really can’t imagine retirement without the internet and the contact that comes with it. Thank you for all you do to make Eye a great blog. And thank you, as always, for your kind comments on my blog. Wishing you a great week ahead and best regards from just down south! :-)