Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Professor Mosquito

Father's Day was perfect - spending time with my family at my sister's house. We hung out by her pool while the boys played with the 4-wheeler, go cart, and golf cart. It was an amazing day spent entirely outside with family. But there were additional guests as well - mosquitoes. I was having so much fun I didn't realize how many had crashed our party until I was in the car on the way home. Within the first mile of driving home, I realized I had a gazillion mosquito bites on my right foot. Okay, so in reality it was 4. But they were strategically placed on the bottom, top, by the heel and by my toes so that my entire foot felt inflamed and itchy. SOOOO itchy!

I would hit the gas pedal then quickly pick up my foot so I could scratch it. Then hit the gas pedal. Then itch. It made for a very bumpy ride and more than once I had to quickly correct before hitting the curb. I was thisclose to switching with my boyfriend so he could drive home and I could tear my foot apart, when I decided to make this into a challenge.

Yoga has taught me everything is impermanent, and that reaction is unnecessary. Things will change on their own, I just need to be mentally strong enough to hold on. To not give in. I issued a challenge to myself to not scratch my foot the entire rest of the way home.

Never have I had to come to my breath more than that car ride. The itching became so insistent it was painful.  I was getting shooting pains coming from my foot all of the way up my leg. My brain was BEGGING me to just give it a little scratch. I refused. My foot and leg kept tensing, which made it worse. I had to talk my brain into easing up on the muscles. I tried talking to my boyfriend to get my mind off of it, didn't help. I turned up the radio. Still there. I came to my breath over and over, focusing on that little part of my upper lip where I could feel a slight wisp of air. Nada. The pain became unbearable. I began to imagine each breath in was going straight to my foot and grabbing a little bit of the itch, then racing back up my body in my exhale to release that itch outside my body. Like someone trying to empty the ocean with a pail, my breath kept taking tiny pieces of that itch away.

The car ride was 40 minutes, and it felt like 3 times that. But I slowly got into a rhythm. Breathe in slow, send it to the foot, breathe out slow, picture some of the itch leaving my body. I acknowledged this pain was completely mental - if I could get control over my mind I could lessen my discomfort. I was more focused than I ever had been before. About 30 minutes in, miraculously, the itch began to subside. I was scared to actually think about it because I figured it would come back, but I found I wasn't tensing up as much. It became bearable. It went from something I couldn't handle to the distractions I feel in meditation and Savasana that are noticed but easily not reacted to.

By the time I pulled into my driveway, I was okay. They still itched, but it wasn't the intense, going-to-tear-my-foot-off type of itching anymore. In fact, I didn't even scratch them until later that night. Between unloading the car, letting the dogs out, etc, they had lost their hold over me. Only once I was sitting down relaxing did the sensations come back and I allowed myself a quick scratch.   

It is amazing how yoga teaches us to be in control of ourselves. This may seem like a simple example, but to me it was a huge triumph. I resisted reaction in a situation stronger than I ever had before. My yoga teacher always says "You are in training. For what, you may not know just yet. But you are in training." That statement came true during that car ride. I was a warrior. I was focused. I was strong. I had faith that things would change. I took on my brain and won. And it felt amazing. I urge everyone to start noticing when your brain has control over you, and to fight it. To breathe instead of react. We are all in training. Something as simple as triumphing over mosquito bites will train me to keep my cool when faced with an intense situation later. Just like working out your body - every rep adds minuscule benefits but together all of the reps and all of the workouts increase physical strength - so it is with mental training as well. These tiny moments where you can test your mental strength add up together to truly make a difference.

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