Breathe First, Then Skip

Much to my daughters’ embarrassment, when we are walking to or from school, I often break out into spontaneous skipping. I think the Skip Center of the brain releases stronger endorphins than the walking or running centers. It really is hard not to smile when you’re skipping. You should try it. Carefully.

The other day, we were walking home from school, and Shannon said, “Mom, I have no math homework today.”  And for me, that is great news!  I let out a big “Woo Hoo!” and commenced skipping!

Three skips into it, I slipped  into a small divot between the sidewalk and grass. My foot turned on its side, I HEARD a snap, and I felt a pop somewhere deep inside my ankle. It took my breath away.

In that instant my brain flashed with images of incapacitation. How would daily life be for me and for my family if I were laid up?  Challenging, to say the least.   We were only four houses away from ours, so I bit the bullet and limped home, where I immediately elevated and iced my ankle.

It’s now three days later, and it feels much better. I won’t be running for a while, and my Tadasana Feet are a little off balance. I was fortunate. It could have been so much worse. But that is a judgment, and judgment is what tripped me up in the first place.

Through the practice of yoga, I attempt to bring myself to a physical and mental state of non-judgment and equanimity. All things are equal. I work towards an evenness of mind, trying to keep myself balanced, somewhere right in the center of elation and depression.

…Like those people. You know those people? The ones who never seem flustered? Calm cool and collected? They always seem to have it under control without being in control?  That is what a practice of equanimity can do. And it really is essential for us if we want to live a life of peace and contentment.

So, I witness the world as it unfolds before me, and I try not to judge anything. I am very conscious of this equanimity when bad things happen. I try not to react from an emotional place. When I see other people in bad situations, I do my best not to judge. When something I would judge as bad happens to me, I try not to overreact. I try to make it better, and I look for the lesson in it.

On the other hand, when good things happen, (things I judge as good) I openly rejoice! I laugh out loud. I let out Woo-Hoos! I spontaneously skip! Celebrate good times, come on!

And even though it feels good, this is not equanimity. Not at all.

I am reminded of the old story of the farmer and the horse. When his plow horse broke his leg, people said “Oh that is terrible for you!” and the farmer said, “We shall see”. When he got a gift of a new horse, everyone exclaimed, “That is wonderful!” and he said, “We shall see”. When the horse ran away, everyone said “How awful for you!” and he said, “We shall see”. The horse found his way home and people said, “What a lucky man!” and he replied “We shall see”. When his son broke his leg after a fall from the horse, people said “How terrible!” He again said, “We shall see”. When his son did not have to serve in the army because of his broken leg everyone exclaimed “How fortunate!” and his reply, “We shall see”.

We have to remember that non-judgment works both ways, for the things we would call good, and the things we would call bad. Things that seem unfortunate can turn out to be blessings. And things that seem wonderful may turn out to be our toughest life lessons. To find peace and contentment, we should work towards a state of stability and composure.

We should try our best not to overreact to any of the events in our everyday life. Take a breath and let it sink in, good or bad, and try not to label it. Try to remain undisturbed by the events, and unattached to the expected outcome. The Self as the eternal observer.  Allowing things to unfold.  We see what is happening. We shall see what happens next.

My twisted ankle has reminded me that equanimity and non-judgment have to go both ways.   Shannon says that this is clearly another reason for me stop the embarrassing skipping.  I see it as a reminder that until I achieve a life of equanimity, I should breathe before I react, and look before I skip.

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