I arrived Saturday morning at the slacklines before most of the Slackers had rolled out of bed. I liked the lines early in the morning — it was quiet, it was still cool, the heat of the sun had not yet escalated. I found the only chair in the area and sat down. I was surprised to see my friend, C.M., up so early, but he was there, and he found me. We talked about last night’s concert at first, but it wasn’t long before tears swelled my eyes and I admitted the pain I was in. C.M. knows a bit about pain, but more than pain, he understands how frustrating it is when your body keeps you out of the fun. Immediately, he pulled a huge phone from his pocket (how it fits in there is beyond me) and started texting. “I have a friend here who can help you,” he said. But it’s a festival, I told him, what if he doesn’t want to work on me? “I’ll make sure he does,” said C.M., and gave me a hug.
I am used to pain. I am used to having my body take me out of the action before my mind is ready to leave. I’m used to sitting on the sidelines, waiting patiently for everyone to finish with their fun so we can do something together, like eat ice cream or drink chocolate milk martinis. But just because I’m used to to pain keeping me out of the physical fun doesn’t mean I like it, and I admit a did my fair share of moping that morning. Knowing that I couldn’t teach slacklining with the right enthusiasm, and not knowing if C.M.’s friend would have time to see me, I went over the the body work tents and started looking for an appointment. I couldn’t afford it, not really. But I was desperate. I spoke to the man making appointments and told him who I was interested in seeing, but they were booked the whole day. So I left. Next, I went to the Manduka tent where they were offering free henna tatoos. I already had one, and I was hoping the woman would just start a sleeve down my arm — I figured I had all day. She gave me a nice design, I thanked her and then I walked away.
Truth be told, the pain I can handle. What’s more difficult are the psychological games that pain has with the mind. First in my mind was “What caused this?” And even after all I’ve learned, and all that I’ve written in this blog, part of me still wants to think, “I must have just over-done it physically.” But really, it’s never as simple as that when it comes to my body. Instead, I know I must also turn my attention to what’s been happening emotionally and spiritually in my life. Well, “Duh,” I thought. “A lot”. I’ve been going through mountains of emotional upheaval. “Okay, tight muscles, fair enough,” I thought. Second on my mind was “What can I learn from this?” This question was trickier because I’ve realized that you have to tease out the analytical mind and learn to listen with your third eye to what the body has to say. I can do it, but it’s not the easiest thing to do, especially with thousands of other people around. The third thing on my mind was, “Now that I’m injured, what good am I to the Slackers? What can I possibly do to be useful? Will they still love me?” Which is absurd, and even as I write the words, I understand how absurd they sound. Nonetheless, they were still on my mind.
I found my way back to the slacklines and to the other Slackers, who were doing more teaching than slacking at the time. I sighed, rolled out my yoga mat, and tried to do some of my stretches. Ouch. Immediately, I noticed that this was something different than I was used to; the game had changed, so to speak. Usually, my muscles spasm in a specific pattern that I can untangle using a system of stretching and visualization, but not today. Today was different. So instead, I moved my mat into the miniscule bit of shade near the lines, pulled the YogaSlackers Teacher Training manual out my backpack, and began editing. At least that was one job I had for the Slackers that I could do lying down, so I still felt useful. I was also told that I could help out in the Prana tent as well, selling clothes.
Around noon, C.M’s friend, Healer, came to see me and offer me some body work. He immediately got down to business, asking me what was going on with my back, then jumping right into my physical history, injury history, and what I’ve been doing to heal myself. We found a quiet place inside to set up some mats for body work, and I watched as Healer set the space and prepared himself for work. I laid down on my belly, and Healer started working on my lower back muscles. They were almost completely locked up, he said, in complete spasm. As he dug into the muscles that were holding on so tight, he said, “So, back injuries are usually due to feeling unsupported. Tell me how you’ve been feeling unsupported. What’s going on?”
I didn’t hold back. I told this new friend everything that I’d been going through the past few months, the past couple years. How circumstances had come together that had left me feeling unsupported — not only from my partner, but also from myself. I told him how I felt that I’d been flailing like a fish out of water, desperately trying to align my heart with Truth and feeling isolated in the process and scared of what Truth would mean for me. Healer was so kind. When I acknowledged a weakness, he filled my ears with affirmation. When I admitted despair, he gave me words of hope. When I admitted feeling isolated, he said, “I can’t tell you how many women I’ve treated who are in your same predicament, and how their bodies were requiring that they make scary changes. You CAN do what your body and your soul need. You are strong enough.” And when I acknowledged my deepest fear, that I wouldn’t in fact ever get better, he looked me in the eye and said, “Of course you will. I’ve seen people far worse than you, with half the intuition that you have, and they’ve recovered perfectly. You will heal.” All the while, Healer gently coaxed my muscles to unlock and relax.
When we were finished, he would take nothing more from me than a hug and a thank you, and I am eternally grateful for the physical and emotional aid he gifted me. I had gained another piece to the puzzle, found another ally in my spiritual revolution. And while my back didn’t relax immediately, it healed very quickly, a product no doubt of Healer’s amazing abilities coupled with my body’s love for massage and a space held for true mind/body healing.
I rejoined my friends at the slacklines, careful to not try and keep up physically with them, but taking Healer’s words to heart. “You are supported,” he had said. “You have people here who love you, regardless of what your body can do.” I smiled to myself as I edited away and guided new students to the lines with someone else to give instruction.
Wanderlust finished on a bittersweet note for me. I learned so much about myself in such a short period of time that it was disorienting, except that I had such great friends to hold me firmly to the earth. I was sad to leave the festival, afraid of what growth would come next when I wasn’t around so many healers. But I was also happy to have had the experience of feeling loved, connected, learning more about myself in a heart-centered environment. I just hope that my spiritual saga is less dramatic, urgent, and painful next year, when I return for mountains and forests again for the sweet nectar of Wanderlust.