Last night I spent an unusually long time in an emergency room. This happens to me a lot. Pretty much any time that I call a doctor and the words “chest pain” and “prior heart surgery" come out, they send me right to the ER. So when I called my GP and asked if someone could just give me a quick listen as I was having some unusual chest pain (and the reality is that I have pretty much constant chest pain), they insisted that I head right to the hospital. Unfortunately I got to the ER in the middle of a flu outbreak and days after New Year’s resolutions started, so the place was filled to the gills with sneezers, coughers, and people retching their way through detox.
Throughout it all, I remained calm. Funny how yoga does that to you.
When other people were raging “I’ve been here for two hours! Where’s the fucking doctor!”, I would follow up with triage and say, “Excuse me, I told myself I would only check in every 90 minutes or so, but would you be able to tell me where I am on the list? Another few hours to go? Thank you very much”. I spent roughly seven hours in the waiting room, with one paperback book (The Man Who Never Missed, a kung-fu & yoga filled sci-fi novel) and a half-charged Itouch. Between chapters I spent a lot of time practicing pranayama. A lot. Seriously, hours and hours of controlled breathing, each breath in taking four heartbeats, each breath out four heartbeats. Since I have a mechanical aortic valve each beat carries an audible tick that I can always hear, so I learned over the hours to time my breath to the four beats. Once in an examine room I switched to meditation, and kept the breath practice between x-rays and blood tests. Around 3am they sent me home with a couple of Tylenol.
Today I went to my standard Tuesday night yoga practice, which involved a little less movement than usual and a lot of holding strong poses. After half an hour or so I noticed that there was change in the way I held poses. It was the breathing. The four beats in, four beats out rhythm that I established to pass the time in the ER was the same breath that I used throughout my practice.
Sometimes adversity is just an opportunity to learn. Namaste.