Thursday, July 30, 2009

Vertigo Zen

As I write this is my fourth night of dealing with Vertigo. For those of you unfamiliar with vertigo it is an inner ear problem that causes intense nausea and dizziness. Just imagine car or motion sickness amplified one hundred times. I've been through this before since an auto accident about seven years ago. Ever since I have been susceptible to it, especially when I get hit in the head or sustain a neck last weekend.

Well, my post isn't to complain so much about vertigo, but, what it has taught me. For one it has taught me that I am getting older and have to slow down a bit and realize I am not 23 anymore...and make adjustments to my personal approach to Karate and Budo in general. With vertigo you have to slow down and really focus on what you are doing. Mindfulness of your activity is important or you end up lying on the floor with the room spinning around you. Like a stern Zen Master, vertigo was keeping me here and now...on a different level than I had experienced in the past.

During one of my evenings of bed spinning I had a small epiphany that is easy to understand with words, but more difficult to get the actual awakening experience. Well, during a very uncomfortable evening my head was hurting from lots of pressure, my neck ached and I was very nauseous from bed spinning. I applied some mind-body therapies to reduce my headache and neck ache but nothing relieved the spinning and nausea. In an attempt to escape my suffering I applied a simple hypnotic technique of 'going to my happy place' and hopefully just get some sleep. Didn't work.

It then dawned on me that my happy place is not somewhere in my imagination but it was in the middle of the suffering of this moment. This moment is the only 'happy place' there can be, even if it is puking into a toilet that seems to keep on moving. Whether this moment is uncomfortable or comfortable, this is where I am and there is peace within it. Just like finding freedom in structure there is only peace in this moment's reality. As I write I find these words not quite right but it is as close as I can get.

I share this in hopes to encourage you that when life becomes very uncomfortable, like standing in kiba or sanchin dachi for long periods of time or performing numberless reverse punches your arms feel like falling's okay. Rather than trying mental tricks of escaping the discomfort...go into it. Remember the old saying, 'to get to the sweet you have to go through the bitter.' Vertigo, for me, has been very bitter and I am just now beginning to taste the sweet. Life will always bring us bitter is up to us to find the sweet.

Well, it 3 am CST and I better get some sleep.

In Gassho,


  1. A very hard proposition..but true.I've had trying moments, physical and emotional, where I've had to put karate to one side..but not really. There was always the breathing, the mental katas, and all the truths I had learned on the dojo floor to sustain me. Pain and fear are very exacting teachers, forcing me to go within in search of the necessary flow and the calm to carve a "new" space wherein to be.

    My best thought and solidarity are with you as I pray for your prompt recovery.

    Fondest regards,

  2. Thank you. I am feeling better today and actually have made it to work...though I walk like a drunken sailor.