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Finding Mindfulness Through a Gnarly Bike Crash

Last week Brett Boyar’s post on this blog, titled “Use Your Non-Dominant Hand”, got me thinking about being more mindful about the tasks I do every day with my hands. As Brett described that week’s mindfulness exercise, and the interesting insights he gained from it, I started to wonder if I should give it a try once in a while and see what would come of it. I tried writing notes at work using my opposite hand and a few other tasks too, but soon forgot about it in the midst of life’s ever-present Busyness, hardly to be thought of again.

And then I got thrown off my bike and injured both my hands (among other things).

At the moment my bike hit the unassuming bump in the pavement and my body tumbled and skidded onto the hard, cruel pavement of Flatbush Avenue, I had time to visualize just what a debilitating week or two was in store for me. And as I trudged back towards the nearby pharmacy to pick up bandages and Bacitracin, made the 11-mile trip back to Greenpoint, and tended to my burning wounds, I realized that I was about to engage in Brett’s mindfulness exercise full-swing, whether I liked it or not.

I guess you could say that I’m dominant right-handed – except when it comes to about a half dozen tasks like using a pen, chopsticks, and so on. Maybe that makes me semi-ambidextrous depending on how you look at it. The way I look at it, though, the first two days were hell as I struggled to perform basic tasks like brushing my teeth, writing notes, working on the computer, picking things up, washing myself in the shower, putting on clothes, opening food containers, and opening doors – whether with my left hand or my right hand.

I suffered abrasions all over the top of my left hand and bruises on my left wrist, while my right hand suffered abrasions on the knuckles and a large, ugly one on the palm. It was a no-win situation – and still is, as I’m still healing from my accident.

Although my wounds will heal, it wasn’t long before I started to wonder if I would be stuck like this forever. I wondered what my life would be if, later in life, arthritis conquers my limbs and joints. What if I ever lost a limb entirely? How would I function, if I could barely do simple things with relatively minor scrapes?

Similar thoughts entered my mind when I temporarily lost my senses of taste and smell for a week after catching a nasty cold in Japan (the best souvenirs are always free, haha…) and when I suffered a mysterious but debilitating foot injury that left me barely able to walk for several days (during Pride week, no less). I am reminded of my weaknesses and fleeting capabilities whenever I succumb to fainting spells when I’m sick with a bad flu.

If nothing else, my bike accident, as well as the aforementioned mishaps, has forced me to be more mindful about my everyday actions and has reminded me that any physical faculty I possess can be taken away in an instant. I’ve been learning one of the dharma truths the hard way – that all these things are impermanent and fleeting, and that one cannot take them for granted.

So until my wounds heal, and until I can shake hands and open jars and hold a bar of soap in my poor scraped-up hands, I choose to use this situation as a constant exercise in mindfulness and the impermanence of this, my own body. (I also choose to wear proper biking gloves next time I ride.)

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Comments

ouch and wonderful post

Thank you for this wonderful blog and I hope you completely recover soon!

Heal and Thanks.

Thanks for being so willing to share and practice even with pain and injury.

I like the "best souvenirs in life are free" take. Never thought of colds that way. We don't pay anything for them! Nor for our injuries or death.

Recover quickly!

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