A recent experience taught me how quickly I can fall into the deceiving grips of fear and how important it is for me to practise awareness. For several weeks, my left leg has been swollen from the knee to the ankle. I convinced myself that it was a muscle spasm or cramp that wouldn’t let go, and I kept thinking that I would be able to work it out… or it would just disappear because I wanted it to be gone. It certainly didn’t seem like something I should see a doctor about, or so I thought.
As the swelling worsened over the past week, I began to limp more at work. Colleagues began to notice and question me. When I showed them the extent of the swelling, their reaction was immediate. Go to see your doctor now! It might be a blood clot. That caught my attention. When I told them how it felt like the skin was going to split although I knew it wouldn’t, one told me a horror story of how her horse’s leg had split from top to bottom like a boiled wiener because of uncontrolled swelling. I could feel the fear rising in my chest and throat. Had I left it too long? Was there something really wrong with my leg?
I went to the outpatients’ department at the hospital, and my doctor happened to be on duty. Things got very serious as soon as she saw my leg. She told me that she was treating it as a blood clot until proven otherwise. Thump! I felt the thud of fear within me. How was this possible? I was given a blood thinner immediately and informed that I was being sent for an ultrasound. No ultrasound technician was available in the area that day so I had to drive to the nearest city for the ultrasound and then return directly to see my doctor.
Against her orders, I returned to school briefly to make sure everything was set up for my students for the afternoon before I left. As soon as colleagues saw me, they showered me with their worry and concern… and I succumbed to the grip of fear. Frightened tears flowed as I prepared to leave and get on the road.
The shaky waters of my inner landscape calmed as soon as I got into my vehicle and started driving. I was able to observe how I was allowing myself to get swept up into all the “what if” projections caused by fear. I was able to witness what was rising within me and remove myself from the anxiety-ridden scenarios I was creating in my mind. I settled back to being present and enjoying the drive on a beautiful winter afternoon. That inner calm remained throughout the ultrasound, even when it was apparent from the young technician that she had found something, and throughout the long drive back. In fact, I texted my colleagues before I left to tell them that I was on my way back to hear the good news.
And I did, indeed, return to the good news from my doctor that it wasn’t a blood clot. Instead, it was a Baker’s cyst that had formed behind my knee and ruptured. The swelling in my leg was from the fluid draining from the cyst. There was nothing to fear and nothing that rest and elevation wouldn’t take care of.
I share this experience with you because of what I learned about fear. As soon as I was able to observe the effects of fear within me, I was able to let them go. I was able to observe from the awareness that I am and to return to an inner state of calm. Even as I celebrate my increasing ability to observe what rises within me, I realize that there will be many more opportunities to practise awareness. It is one thing to sit in inner quiet and be aware of what arises within me when I am at home. It is another to practise the perspective of the observer during our daily lives out in the world. I am learning, slowly but surely, why it is called a practice and not an accomplishment! Namaste, my dears :))