Sunday, September 12, 2010


"We are all one breath away from being fully awake." (Pema Chodron)

In addition to being emotionally present, I have begun to work on being physically present as well. This is much harder for me. Yesterday I read a very challenging book called “Waking” by Matthew Sanford. He lost half his family in a car accident, which left him a paraplegic at age 13. The trauma of the accident and ensuing painful treatments led him to completely check out of his own body. He said the following in a 2006 interview:

“When trauma is not transformed over time, you become less present. You end of being kind of a shell of yourself. You don’t take in the world with pleasure, you don’t let it flow through you and you don’t let it out. When you lose that presence, you lose connection to the world. That’s when trauma turns into depression, and the more you become separated form the world, the deader you become.”

Since surviving leukemia at age 5, I can count on my fingers the number of times I have actually felt physically present in this world. They are all times of joy: jet skiing on the South China Sea, para-sailing in Mexico, dance rehearsals in graduate school. So seldom do I notice the hard wooden chair on which I sit, the cool water I’m drinking or the faces of the people around me. One of the reasons I love Scotland so much is that the landscape demands notice. The ocean cliffs make me stop and take a long look. The cold wind and rain remind me where I am and the people insist on speaking with strangers.

I often check out of physical pain, even fainting at times. When I was a child, I felt every needle prick and every cough, soon learning that the best place to be at such times was far far away. Now I often pass out when having blood drawn, like the reminder of that early trauma is too much to process.

My goal now is to take notice of the physical world. I’ll notice the mosquito bites, the clouds, and the coffee. Maybe I’ll still faint during blood tests, but at least I’ll take notice of the band aid.

Song of the Day: Wild Child by Enya

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