Delivered at Resurrection Catholic Church, Aptos, California, on February 25, 2015.
Interlude — Psalm 32, by Steve Bell, as performed on Story and Song [Live], finishing at 2:45, before the applause
I had foot surgery six weeks ago, and I am here to report that I’m still recovering. For those of you who have had surgery, or a broken limb, you might remember what it’s like. Pain management, needing help from others, frustration at what you can’t do — or can only do with great effort– and occasional surprises at what you can do, and gratitude for the depth of care and attention from your caregivers — professionals and volunteers.
Some of the nicest surprises I experienced were the ways I had, without knowing, been preparing for recovery after surgery. Activities that had been bringing me closer to God, on a physical level and a spiritual level, have been immensely helpful. Let me explain.
I am a kayaker, and paddling on Elkhorn Slough is one of my favorite activities. I love seeing the pelicans and shore birds, and sea otters and harbor seals, and other wildlife, and I’ve spent many hours on the water, limited only by my own stamina, and the weather. Time on the water is rejuvenating for me, in body and spirit.
In order to improve my stamina, and make it easier to paddle when I have a headwind, I enlisted a personal trainer to design a routine for me at the gym. The exercises were simple enough, and I was beginning to see the results in my kayaking, but what a treat it was to find out the strength I had started building for paddling has been quite helpful as I maneuver around on one leg.
Even classes from years ago have been helping me — the improved flexibility and balance from my t’ai chi lessons, and the pain management techniques from long ago birthing classes have been quite useful from time to time.
As you might recall, recovery isn’t just about adapting to your physical constraints — there’s a mental component, too. It can be stressful, not to be able to do what you want to do. There’s the guilt that comes from being the one who relies on others, rather than the one others can rely on. And the episodes of disappointment and sadness, at activities you’re missing, at how long it’s taking. But here, too, I found that preparation had been underway — right here, and in my meditation practice at home.
When we meditate, the first step is always to find a comfortable place, attending to our bodies. In meditation, we learn to rest, to let the emotions of the week or the day or the hour flow past. We let the ideas of what we want to do next drift by. Good idea, but later. Not now. We learn to breathe, observing an itch or discomfort, acknowledging it is there, and continuing to breathe, until it subsides. And on the days when meditation isn’t going as well as we’d like, we know that that’s okay, too — the session doesn’t last forever.
We all have our reasons for meditation, and whatever other self-improvement activities we make time for in our lives. Preparation for recovery after surgery probably isn’t one of them. But I propose this to you — the things we do that bring us closer to God –whether it is God out in nature, God in our fellow humans, or God in our prayers and meditation — things we do that bring us closer to God in mind, body, and spirit, are good for us.
Remember Jesus’ words:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind.
I’ll leave you with the words from Job:
Agree with God, and be at peace;
in this way good will come to you.
Receive instruction from his mouth,
and lay up his words in your heart.
If you return to the Almighty, you will be restored