Bob Marley said it best when he said, "You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only choice."
I had to come face to face with this reality while on my last retreat in Peru. On June 13th I took a fall while hiking and fractured my ankle breaking my fibula. It was determined that I should have surgery, and the sooner the better... Now picture this scenario for having to summon up all the strength possible:
- I'm in a third world country.
- I have a fracture in my leg.
- The doctor is recommending surgery (within the next couple of hours, it's 7 p.m. and he says he'll order all of the tests I need, blood, ekg, etc. and can operate at 10:30 p.m.)
- It's cheaper if I pay cash (which I now need to secure, with atm only giving out small amounts)
- My passport is two hours away.
- I'm faced with the decision of what to do, who to call, who to tell, etc.
- They will not put me under for the surgery, I will get an epidural and be conscious for it (eek)
- I'm in charge of a group of six yogis with another group of ten coming in two weeks.
What are my options? Be strong. All I could think of was being strong, being calm, taking care not to cause my body or mind any unnecessary trauma, and breathing. I agreed to go through with the surgery, the sooner the better right? I messaged my brother, (whom I do not message often and even less if I am out of the country working, so he knew something was not right) I told him and I think he was also in disbelief, I asked his opinion on telling my parents (we both agreed that it was better not to). I sent someone to the atm with three different bank cards to withdraw money from three different accounts, since the atm limit is 400 soles which is only about $130 dollars, and then the real work began, I had to get myself mentally prepared to have leg surgery in Peru, at a clinic, while I am conscious.
My strength came from my yoga practice. I cannot tell you how important it was that I had this practice to turn to. If you know me, you know that I am the typical type A personality, and when I was younger this meant being easily aggravated, and easily perturbed. My yoga practice has taught me patience, it has taught me non-attachment, and it has taught me to believe in something bigger than myself. So while the world was whirling around me, blood work being done, ekg testing (did I mention I was at 14k altitude?), nurses coming in and out of my room, I laid in bed and practiced pranayama. I took prithvi mudra, which is an earth mudra, and worked on grounding myself. I practiced calming breath, and I used meditation to keep myself grounded. When the cardiologist came in to read my ekg my blood pressure was actually very low, and I thank pranayama and meditation for it.
I went in to surgery and although prior to going in the doctor thought my ligament was torn based on how far out my ankle was, it was not torn! I honestly think breathing and not causing additional mental trauma to myself helped with the process. I didn't cry, and prior to being wheeled into surgery ten hours after the accident, the only thing I had taken was ibuprofen immediately after the fall as a precaution. I was not afraid, I believed in my doctor's ability to perform his job, and I was not attached to an outcome. I was living vey much in the present moment and I had no choice but to be strong. Stronger than I have ever had to be.
Surgery went well, I am summoning up strength daily to deal with day to day tasks that many of us take for granted, such as the simple task of being able to hold something in your hands while you walk... but I have no choice but to be strong, so strong is what I will be.