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Coping with limitations.

December 7, 2011

Rather than going after our walls and barriers with a sledgehammer, we pay attention to them. With gentleness and honesty, we move closer to those walls. We touch them and smell them and get to know them well. We begin a process of acknowledging our aversions and our cravings. We become familiar with the strategies and beliefs we use to build the walls: What are the stories I tell myself? What repels me and what attracts me? We start to get curious about what’s going on.

-Pema Chodron

The Places that Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times

I received this quote in an email today from Pema Chodron Heart Advice, a weekly inspirational email list.  I found it so appropriate to the topic I wanted to write about today that I thought I would share it.

Learning to live with new limitations is something that anyone with a chronic condition has to deal with.  These limitations might be small things like needing a little more rest than you used to or using an inhaler before working out.  Or they might be much larger, for example having to get help to carry groceries from the car when you used to do it yourself or having to choose between two activities because you don’t have the stamina to do both.  The list of types of limitations people face could go on and on, filling pages and pages of a very depressing journal.  The feelings that come up can be difficult.  The loss can be overpowering.

Some say accepting limitations is giving up.  I do not agree.  I believe accepting your limitations is a process of realistically appraising your own abilities and learning to live fully.  We’ve all had times we did too much and then paid dearly for it for the next few hours or even days.  Accepting our limitations allows us to plan and to perform to the best of our abilities.

I was at a yoga class yesterday, which is one of the places I meet my limitations.  With my heart disease, sometimes even relatively minor exertion can bring on chest pain.  At the beginning of this class, another student spoke about her vestibular damage which causes balance problems.  She said that although she was experienced with yoga, learning to gauge her limits with this disorder had moved her back to being kind of a “yoga baby.”  The teacher said that’s what yoga practice is all about for all of us, whatever our abilities.  As the class proceeded, I had more chest pain than I usually have.  I was hungry and had eaten something about an hour before the class.  I tried to keep it light, but it was enough to cause problems for me in the class.  I had to treat my chest pain with nitroglycerin and modify my practice.  I still followed along, but could not perform poses that required much exertion.  It’s frustrating, but at least this way I can continue practicing.

Going back to the Pema Chodron quote, this process of learning to cope with my limitations is similar to the process of exploring the walls and barriers she describes.  Sometimes the sledgehammer comes out when I am frustrated, but I strive to stay with the gentleness and honesty as much as I can.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Ruth permalink
    December 7, 2011 9:22 am

    The quote from Pema Chodron is so appropriate! I have learned to smile and slow down when I come to a limitation. Smiling relaxes the atmosphere and slowing down gives my heart time to catch up!

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