How I Nearly Died but Felt Pretty Good Otherwise

As many of you know, I spent four days in the hospital just before Thanksgiving, followed by a surgery the day after I got out.  Turns out I had bilateral pulmonary embolisms or, in English, multiple blood clots in both lungs.  Any one of these clots could have easily killed me by cutting off my airway completely or by lodging in my heart or brain.

diadelosmuertosPrior to that, I was running around town teaching umpteen yoga classes per day, re-investing myself in my Ashtanga practice, and taking long flights to do even more yoga for 5+ hours per day.  All of that when I should have been still and quiet.  The thing is, I felt fine except for a little shortness of breath when my heart rate became elevated.

I’m lucky.  Very, very lucky.  When I met with my radiologist again recently, he kept shaking his head while looking at the CT images.  “You have a really large clot in the left lung,” he said, “with another big one on the right, plus all of these smaller clots.”  Okay, I get it.  I just won the lottery of life.

My pulmonologist put me on some serious blood thinners, which come with their own array of side effects (hence, the surgery).  He suspects the birth control pill is the culprit, compounded by the flights to and from Maui.  So it’s taken a little bit for my body to find its sense of “normal” again in light of all the changes.

Now that I have my feet back underneath me again, I feel compelled to write this post because I want to urge you to listen to the messages your body sends you.  The irony is, I advise my students of this daily during class.  “Honor your body.  Trust the wisdom there.  If something doesn’t feel right, back off.”  Why didn’t I heed the warnings I was getting six weeks prior to the ER?  Why did I think the red lights I kept encountering off the mat were any different than those sent during practice?

Maybe I didn’t listen right away because it didn’t seem that serious.  As I described in the title, I honestly did feel pretty good.  But I knew somewhere deep down that panting while I tried to demo and describe a pose was not normal.  I knew that in my bones.  That’s what led me to seek help.  Next time, I won’t wait six weeks to do that though.

My mantra is now the same whether engaged in my practice or not:  LISTEN TO MY BODY.  There is more wisdom there than I could ever hope to learn in a lifetime from books or any other intellectual pursuit.  I will make time to tune in on a daily basis.  I will honor what my reality is on any given day.  I will take time to nourish my physical being as well as my spiritual being.  And I will never, ever take another moment for granted.  I read something recently that really struck me and I’ll paraphrase it here:  None of us are going to get out of here alive; choose to drink the expensive wine now.

My wish for all of you this holiday season is that you have the time to stop and savor a glass half full… of the expensive wine.