Ten years ago I fell off a circus ball and the entire experience changed my life in miraculous ways.
As a full-time working mother when my kids were young, I rarely chaperoned field trips. There were many demands in life (and I honestly didn’t really like being a chaperone all that much), so I picked one great trip to attend with each daughter. With my older daughter, it was an overnight camping trip. With my younger daughter, it was a class trip to circus school! Her fourth-grade teacher was a circus artist and thrillingly shared this passion with his students each year. I think I requested to go as early as Back to School night!
The kids had already been practicing their circus artistry so when we arrived, they began whirling, twirling, climbing, and juggling right away. After the warm-up I initially lurked in the back of the room, mesmerized by the rhythm of their movements. In minutes, I was literally champing at the bit for my chance to jump in.
If you have ever been to Sea World, you have likely seen a seal balance atop a ball. In circus artistry, there is a similar piece of apparatus…the weighted ball. Right before my eyes these 9 & 10-year-old kids were hopping up on these balls and walking, running, and jumping from one to the other. I wanted my turn. I know… how responsible was it of me or the teacher to let me do this, but up I went anyway.
Are you kidding me?
These kids were walking, running, hopping, and jumping and I could barely stand!
I probably don’t have to finish this story for you as you can likely guess where this is going, but here goes… With the teacher’s help, I did eventually balance for a split moment on this spherical wonder. Then, an instant later, I was lying on the floor beside the ball trying to paint an ‘everything’s just fine’ smile on my face as my leg throbbed in agony. I couldn’t wait for the trip to end so I could complete my duties to safely transport the students back to school and tend to my leg.
What does all this have to do with miracles?
A few months later, after an ACL replacement and repair to my meniscus and the cartilage in my left knee, I was suddenly facing a lengthy rehabilitation period. It would take about 6 months to get back on my feet and about a year to restore my movement and exercise to anywhere near my pre-accident levels.
At that time in my life, my exercise was part of my sanity control. I could keep my stress and my moods stabilized by working out hard. From the moment I learned about the surgery and the rehabilitation time, I began to panic. Typically it only took about two weeks without exercise for me to lose my mind and become grouchy and bear-like! How would I survive this?
At first, “How will I survive this?” was not a very courageously curious or productive question. It was an expression of panic. Eventually, however, it gave rise to something else. Around the same time as my accident, I had also taken my first class in mindfulness and learned about the practice of gratitude. I had begun to experience the power of mindfulness to settle and direct the mind and I had a glimpse into the ways in which mindful gratitude could absolutely transform my inner world.
As I faced my first post-surgery month on the couch, I began to ask the question in a new way: “What might I do that I have never done before that will transform this period of physical rehabilitation into a time of beauty rather than a time of despair?”
Building upon what I had learned in my mindfulness course, I decided to position a journal on the coffee table beside me. Every morning, I awoke to a quiet household and the sunrise at about 5:30 – 6:00 am in the morning. I was greeted by the view of the trees and wooded areas outside the family room window, and after sitting for a period of quiet noticing, I picked up my journal. For about 15-minutes each morning I harnessed the inspiration of the dawn and entered into a dialogue with gratitude. I was amazed at how easy it was – with my leg in a brace turning different colors of the rainbow each day – to fill the pages with things I truly and deeply felt grateful for. It was a very simple practice… “I feel grateful for…” line after line, and I truly felt grateful for everything on the page.
This period of rehabilitation turned out to be one of the most miraculous times of my life and I was filled with joy. I moved slower than I ever had before and came to appreciate things that I was typically too busy to notice. I marveled at the power of the body to heal itself and loved to watch my knee change colors and increase mobility day after day. Moving slowly, observing intentionally, and experiencing deep gratitude started me on a journey of seeing life as filled with as many miracles as I was willing to notice.
To hear more about how questions can and do inspire miracles, check out this week’s podcast: “Why miracles begin with the right question at the right time.”