I’m sitting on a park bench when the first person to walk past me is an elderly woman. I suppose indeterminate would describe her age, and yet, what I notice more than anything, is her awkward gait. To me it’s fairly obvious that during her life she’s experience physical pain, and the way she carries herself now, has developed over the years as a consequence.
At first it might have been a slight, but nagging pain, in her left hip. In order to ease the pain she shortened the stride on her left leg. That’s better. Later came the backache: upper back around the right shoulder, and again, in order to compensate for this, she started to stoop down slightly on the right. Then came the lower back pain eased by a slight bend forward. Slower and older, bent and deformed, she has become.
The next person to walk past me is a gentleman of anywhere between sixty five and eighty; difficult to tell. He has a walking stick. He’s bent forward at the waist and walks slowly. Very slowly and carefully; looking intently at the ground as he does. He took a fall last winter. He’s very frightened it will happen again. It seemed to take months for the bones in his wrist to heal. The pain and inconvenience this caused him – not to mention his daughter – had been unbearable. So now he takes his time. A long time. That’s certainly the effects of fear.
On a separate occasion I remember seeing an elderly couple jogging. They came right past me. No stoop, no walking stick, no fear. Just laughter and conversation
We can think of the pain and stiffness that can set into our bodies as we age as simply that: old age, or alternatively, we can think of it as consequences. The consequences of a lifetime of burden. Guilt, duty, responsibility, resentment, stress, it all takes its toll. So what’s the difference that made the difference between the joggers and the stooped? Is it good genes? An easy life? Or is it perhaps attitude of mind? Is it a combination of all these things? One thing’s for sure, seeing this as a choice, is certain to make a difference.
For example, what would need to happen for the man to throw away his stick, quicken his stride, lift his head and straighten his back? Courage? Perhaps a wonder drug would do the trick. Although, I think the best method, would have been an awareness of the steady decline. Catching things early is something the medical profession advises. How about we catch the decline early too?
If we’re made aware of our excessive burdens early, we have a far greater chance of freeing ourselves, before they pull us down
Let’s consider the first example of the stooped lady who walked by. Perhaps it’s the case that throughout her life she’s carried a lot of anger and resentment. Used and abused by a man who turned out to be just like her bastard of a father. Perhaps she’s carried a lot of misplaced guilt with these kind of thoughts. In addition to this, it could be that she’s carried a lot of excessive responsibility for her children – raised alone – and the bodymind has reflected this with pain, in her upper back.
In her midlife, we can imagine there had been times of extreme stress surrounding money, and her lower back pain, (now gone but continued to be compensated with by stooping) was the result. All in all, the consequences of this, have stiffened her hip and back. Interestingly enough, a lot of these concerns may have vanished over time, yet her skeleton has become so atrophied, that she is now set in a permanent stoop.
Is it the case that the joggers who went by, are simply lucky individuals, who’ve experienced a lifetime of freedom from excessive burden? Or are they the individuals, who’ve made themselves aware, of the dangers excess can bring? Has this awareness enabled them to shed what might of held them down? Have they managed to unburden their bodyminds through the process of raising their awareness?
Are you carrying excessive burden?
We must be able to remind ourselves of how it felt to be free of the burdens adult life can hand us. We must become aware of how we unnecessarily create these burdens through an overblown sense of duty, responsibility, or guilt. We must become aware of the shackles we bind ourselves with.
Additionally we must become aware of the excessive demands placed on us by others. Nowadays, it is so often someone else’s fault, is it not? Are you the scapegoat used by blaming cowards. We must especially become aware of any anger or resentment, well before it sets itself, into, our very bones.
Learn to meditate. Become aware.