For the last seven years I have been kneading the dough for a few dozen breads every week. By hand. For the last few weeks, my right arm has been rather sore, a pain that seems to come from the shoulder and radiate down into my whole arm, making most movements painful, sometimes horribly so. I have been trying to understand as I feel there is always something to understand from what happens to our bodies : perhaps the worktop is too high, and this has over the last months created a strain. So since last week I have been perching on a small platform that I push around the kitchen with one foot in order to ease the possible strain, it seems to help a little. Perhaps I am to use this opportunity to notice that I ask too much of my right arm and that there is a lot that my other arm can share, there is always something to learn from what happens to us. I can write with my left hand (in an amusing manner), I can do a lot, as I have had to realize lately, and yet I would always use the right hand out of habit, and perhaps this current pain is a great opportunity to teach my arms to share the load and, who knows, to use the other part of my brain. As I am never able to instinctively tell my left from my right, this should be good discipline.
In her wonderful book, The Path of Practice : A Woman’s Book of Healing with Food, Breath and Sound Bri. Maya Tiwari describes healing practices in accordance to Ayurvedic principles. A woman who has survived a horrific car accident “with nothing more than a concussion and a fracture” despairs at the difficulty she has at regaining the use of her arm. She is told to lie on her left side, her forehead almost touching her knees, in an embryo-like posture and to inhale fully and direct her breath into her arm.
After five minutes or so, I had her sit up, cradle her right arm in her left, and rock it as she would a baby.
Reading this brought home to me how many times I would send disapproval to my aching arm (or in the past a “non-functioning” part of my body) when all it was asking for was understanding and love. How many times have I accused my body of letting me down, instead of lending a sympathetic ear to its pain? I decided I needed to appraise all the hard physical work that I have put in over the years and allow my body to teach me how to look after it with more compassion. Seven years of weekly hand kneading may amount to anything between five and ten thousand loaves of my own sourdough bread, what a great achievement for my two arms! How grateful I am to have such an able body.
I would not like to have to give up kneading by hand (good mental practice, great resulting crumb) and I do hope my little platform, tiger balm, and breathing will help here—but I am also able to hear what my body says, and I now answer “I am listening”, and I am learning to not let the mind dictate stubbornly what should be done.
We don’t have to be able to do everything. We don’t have to know everything. We don’t have to be fast and efficient. We don’t have to win, or even take part in the race.
What we do have to be is ourselves, what we were created to be. What we do have to know is what our own gift is. What we have to do is to reach out with joy in love.
Sister Stanislaus Kennedy, Gardening the Soul