Sunday, January 11, 2009

Biceps Ligaments and Staying Mindful

I wasn’t going to mention it here because I thought it would just go away. But when I got my Sunday Reflection today from the Insight Meditation Center (and because the ice/ice/heat regimen isn’t working like I hoped), I decided to blog about what I think is a torn bicep ligament.

Gil Fronsdal is the lead teacher at IMC. He wrote the following piece about radical acceptance and used a sick child as the example. With all due respect to this awesome Buddhist teacher, I inserted “bicep ligament” for “child” in his essay to make the writing more relevant to my situation. I really needed to read this today. I haven’t fully accepted or digested it all, but it will be part of my mindfulness training over the next few days.

Here’s my edited version of Gil’s writing:

“In Mindfulness practice we are practicing a Radical Acceptance of the present moment, no matter what we find there.

“If our bicep ligament is ill, we would want to respond to the situation as skillfully as we are able to. If we use our energy bemoaning that it shouldn’t be this way, that our bicep ligament should not be sick – how could this happen, etc. – the result is a conflicted mind, which is less capable of attending to our bicep ligament. Our attention is entangled in our own conflict, instead of being fully available to our bicep ligament. If we can radically accept the moment, the truth of the situation, that our bicep ligament is ill, and not be in conflict with it, we can be free to attend to our bicep ligament with a more peaceful mind. We will do everything we can to help our bicep ligament heal, but we will be doing it much better if our attention is on what is needed in the present, rather than resisting the fact that the situation exists.

“The practice of mindfulness trains us to learn to accept the moment, no matter what it brings, even if we don’t like it. When we accept the moment, we can respond to it more skillfully. If we sit down to meditate and find the mind is agitated, can we accept that agitation is present? Can we say ‘Ahh! That’s what agitation is like!’ Be curious about it, be interested in it, be non-judgmental.”


My shoulders are messed up, especially the right one. Arthritis, tendonitis, bursitis…and still I lift weights like I’m 20 years old. Today, as I attempted to do the rehab exercises I’ve been doing for more than a year, I had to admit that it’s time to make some decisions. My orthopedic surgeon wants to cut me open, my chiropractor does ultrasound, my family physician can provide me with anti-inflammatory meds if I want (which I don’t take…not even Advil).

But here’s the deal. I’m not sure what to do. The pain is real. The inability to move is real. My shoulder is fragile and in need of my attention. My full attention. No more denying, no more macho lifting. I have to be present to the pain and the source of the pain. I can’t run away from it anymore.

I’m scared, I admit. Not only is my right arm super messed up, but my left arm is starting the same twinge, too. I worry I’ll gain 300 pounds. I worry my blood pressure will go up if I gain weight. I’ll get diabetes and arteriosclerosis. I just know it.

OK, so I don’t “just know it.” But see how easy it is for the mind to wander into panic?

I’m going to work on staying in the present moment. I’m going to deal with what I know, not what might happen. I’m going to eat well, do my cardio and abs workouts, and give my arms a break until I find out what’s going on. I’ll take a passive approach for now, chilling and meditating and asking Claire to climb on to my lap rather than pick her up.

I suspect many of us have a "biceps ligament" issue. It might be physical. It might be emotional. Rewrite Gil's essay with your issue. How does it look and feel after reading it that way? Just think about it and maybe make a plan to deal with it, here and now, in real life and not in the scary unknown future.

Thanks for listening. No need to respond. I’m just grateful I have this forum to express the things that make me happy as well as scare the crap out of me.

7 comments:

  1. And we are grateful you trust us with your feelings! Hang in there Lynn.

    Mara
    http://24stepstogo.blogspot.com/

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  2. I loved this post! You're such a wise woman.

    I keep dispensing advice to all and sundry today and hope I won't get my nose punched at some stage. Now it's your turn... Have you heard of MSM (Methyl Sulphonyl Methane)? I have a friend who had some wonderful improvement in her shoulder after using MSM over a period of time. It's a totally natural product.

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  3. My mom suffered a bicep rupture after ignoring her torn rotator cuff for far too long... The rehab exercises she was doing and the electrical stimulas they tried to help her shoulder caused the bicept muscle to tear.

    After the surgery (in and out the same day) to repair her rotator cuff and after she was all healed, my mom couldn't stop saying how she wished she'd done it YEARS ago, she felt that good!!

    I know surgery is scary (VERY!), but sometimes it's just what the body needs. My mom was 65 when this happened and today she is 69 and works out like a 18-year old!

    Do what's right for you but know the scariest options aren't always the worst!

    Best wishes and THANK YOU for your Blog!

    Janet

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  4. Lynn - your post is thoughtful and timely. I'm struggling with a severly arthritic ankle - ankle fusion is no longer an "if", but a "when." And if I'm honest, the "when" should happen much sooner than later. I hate that I've lost significant mobility, and that I have accepted living with significant pain. But, I'm afraid of what life will be like afterward surgery. I'm handling the pain now - what if it's no better after? What if I'm never able to use walking as a means of exercise again? It's easier for me to handle the known versus the unknown.

    I'm challenged by your post to consider that taking care of ourselves comes in many forms. I've committed myself to weightloss - and I'm 35 lbs closer to my goal weight - which is still 100 lbs away. This is a worthy goal. Isn't taking care of my ankle akin to losing weight? True, it alone won't lower my cholesterol and blood pressure, extend my life, improve my self-esteem, raise my self-confidence...etc. But it will hopefully enable me to be more active and ultimately will improve the quality of life by reducing the amount of pain I live with on a daily basis.

    Seems like such a simple decision doesn't it?

    It's never been easy for me to make a decision to take care of myself. Commiting to lose weight proves that I'm capable of doing it though...just as your commitment and success of losing weight and maintining your weight loss does for you.

    Thanks for posting Lynn - your blog is such an encouragement to me. (Sorry for unloading so much - obviously I've been struggling with this one for some time!)

    Julie

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  5. Lynn, I wish you the best in whatever you decide.

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  6. Janet, thank you so much for writing about your mother's experience. The only reservation I have is that I have arthritis in the joint and the recidivism rate is high when severe arthritis is present. I'd LOVE to have this thing repaired, but part of me says wait until I can get the whole damn thing replaced, you know? Ugh...so many decisions.

    Julie, you can post anything you want to here! You're obviously struggling physically and emotionally about all this. Pain and physical disfunction has a way of making us think all kinds of things and try to work it all out in our heads. We make the best decisions we can based on doctor recommendations and our own best guesses. I hope you find the right compromise for you. If you have time, I'd say wait and see how you feel. Weight loss can delay a lot of surgeries and "cures." But always see what your doctor says first.

    Thanks for the encouragement. I'm feeling emotionally better tonight. You'll see why in my next blog :)

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  7. You know I have the same issues with my neck and my course of action is to work around it and don't do anything that causes more pain or damage. So I don't do rollercoasters or sit hunched over at my computer anymore. And yes, sometimes I'll take an Aleve if things get really bad, but only 1 and it lasts all day.

    Some times I'll take a couple of fish-oil capsules and sometimes that'll ease the discomfort without any NSAID issues.

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