An anniversary, illness, injury and spiritual practice

September 5 was my 39th wedding anniversary so Teresa put a air ticket in my hand and we headed off to Boca Raton, Florida, to spend a week together. I owed it to Teresa because I had been isolated (in mind and body, at least) for a month doing my yoga teacher training at Thrive Yoga. Now Teresa got her chance to get my exclusive attention.

Photo: couple sitting on the beach with waves in background
Our 39th anniversary found us in the Boca Raton beach, enjoying the Florida surf and sun.

Of course, there were other complications. The week before, I came down with acute bronchitis, which kept me pretty debilitated and hoarse for most of a week. I had to give up yoga classes. Even when I was in Florida, my breathing was wheezing whenever I did anything too strenuous. I had to be careful doing my restorative practice in the evening because I felt the phlegm bubbling in my chest when I was laying down, and it would frequently provoke coughing. Luckily, I was still able to walk around so that was our main activity in Boca Raton.  There were lots of jellyfish just off the shore, which discouraged us from spending a lot of time in the water. On our last day, the winds and tides seemed to clear waters of the jellyfish so we could spend more time swimming.

I also developed a cracked callus on my big toe. I mention this because other yoga practitioners could have the same thing happen to them. For two months practically, I was taking class every weekday,  supporting weight on my toes (chatarunga, for instance, or rolling over the toes to get into downward-facing dog) and I noticed that the callus on the top of my right toe was getting thicker.  Finally, it cracked and bled. Because of the thickness of the callus, the wound did not heal completely and broke open. Because I have peripheral neuropathy, I am careful about cuts or sores on my feet, which could easily become infected. So while I was coughing with my bronchitis, I was also trying to reduce the calluses gradually, keep the wound treated and covered, and avoid undue pressure that could break open the scab. By the time I got to the beach, the wound was sealed.

A mental shift

Cover art: Enlightened Brain
An audio course about neuroscience and meditation by Rick Hanson

On my trip, I added an audio program to my Kindle Fire: The Enlightened Brain: The Neuroscience of Awakening by Rick Hanson,  the neuropsychologist, meditation teacher and author.  Eight and a half hours of audio contained lectures, exercises and guided meditations.  I started listening on my flight down to Florida and I finished the set on my flight back. In between, I listened to the audio while laying on the beach: slow, measured breathing, the sun warming my body, the waves and winds providing a kind of white noise in the background.  Sometimes, the sensation of hollowing a cocoon of quiet and peace was more compelling than the guided meditation itself so I just followed my inner compass. These audio sessions became my spiritual practice while I was in Florida, instead of doing yoga. It also seemed to match my need for healing my body from within. Because the sessions were so deep and inspiring, I am going to have to come back at them again. A first hearing is insufficient.

Graphic: cover art of a bool
One of the first books I read about the confluence of neuroscience and meditation

In addition to Hanson’s personal site, you also might want to check out the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom. Both sites contain a lot of material that is extremely useful when starting a meditative practice, as well as pointers to his published work.  Hanson also contributes to an interesting wiki, Skillful Means, which aims to be “a comprehensive resource for people interested in personal growth, overcoming inner obstacles, being helpful to others, and expanding consciousness.”   I first ran across Hanson when I read his book, Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom. There are a lot of research and books that have focused on the confluence of neuroscience, psychotherapy and Buddhism, as you might have noted from reading this blog.  This book was among the first ones that I bought as a Kindle e-publication.

The Insight Meditation Community of Washington will be hosting a day-long retreat led by Rick Hanson on October 19: Hardwiring Happiness: Weaving Love and Inner Peace into Your Brain and Your Life. I’ve already made my reservation.