Wisdom Story of the Month: Worrying and Wasting Time
Updated: Jul 28, 2020
Almost 3 months ago, I tripped over a curb and broke a bone in my foot. Prior to this incident, I had been noodling around in my head about how l am getting older and whether I could put into practice all I have learned about mindfulness and acceptance if faced with a serious illness or other physical challenge. I love moving fast—my brain multitasking through busy days and my body participating in a variety of workouts. I was worried I would be unable to adjust if something threw my life out of whack. I worried about other things too—from large to small, from personal to global.
Then one afternoon, because of a chance encounter with a curb on the way to a yoga class, I was forced into an “in real life” experience about limitations. After the initial shock at being told I couldn’t walk without an air cast boot on my right foot, couldn’t drive for awhile, couldn’t exercise for awhile, etc., I reflected on my new reality. Right off the bat I put the injury in perspective—luckily it was just a temporary blip. I have friends and family members who have fought and continue to fight a valiant battle against cancer, chronic illness and painful neck or back conditions and this was not even in the same category.
People told me it was a sign to slow down. I didn’t buy that at first. It took a while for the forward motion in my brain to adjust to the lessened forward motion in my body. As I began to get out with my booted foot, many people would stop and share their stories about their past injuries and how they dealt with them. A friend had a boot on her foot at the same time as me. Strangers wished me a speedy recovery. I saw clearly how many people all around me are forced to deal with physical limitations and how lucky I have been to be free from those most of my life. I met with random acts of kindness.
I began to take lunch outside on the patio of my home, rather than eating a quick takeout meal in my car on the way to or from a meeting or exercise class or on a work call. Listening to the sounds of nature, watching my dog sniff the plants outside, feeling the warm sunshine on my skin became like a meditation that I looked forward to each day. Inspired by an online video of a woman practicing yoga with a cast on her leg, I returned to yoga class, modifying so that most of the practice was done on my knees. Freed from the self-imposed expectation to push my practice, the slower pace forced me to focus on my breath and movements in a new way that was very calming and liberating.
A shift in my thinking began to occur. I had been wasting precious time thinking about the future troubles that might befall me. As Mark Twain famously said “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened. Worrying is like paying a debt you don’t owe.”
This little accident showed me once again that staying in the present moment with mindfulness and acceptance is the greatest gift we can give ourselves. It isn’t always easy to reel in your thoughts—it is truly a practice—but it is one that we need to come back to time and again. I am grateful for my healing foot and for what I have learned. I am renewed in my commitment to start each day reminding myself to be mindful and in gratitude for each moment and not to waste time with worry. Why pay a debt you don’t owe?
Love and light,