A couple of days ago, it was a prolonged bout with vertigo. Today, it's the knee. It started yesterday morning with a few small twinges and grew throughout the day into full-blown pain. This morning, getting out of bed was agony. Without movement--i.e. when I'm sitting or lying down to sleep--it seems to freeze up, then screams at me when I attempt to get it moving again.
Now, I don't want to seem to be whining about this pain, but it does seem important to observe it. As the Buddha wisely pointed out, the body ages and gets sick. Eventually it dies. This particular body I happen to inhabit is doing the aging part. I look at my face in the mirror and barely recognize myself for the wrinkles. My skin is drying out, particularly, I have noticed, at the extremities--arms and legs. Blotches appear. The skin bruises at the slightest bump, and blotches appear without apparent cause. The torso inexorably expands: what belonged once to a wiry youth has become heavy, lumpy, loose. In the past quarter century I have effortlessly put on an extra forty pounds. And I will spare you news about the plumbing.
As for the joints... This morning's pain in the knee surprises only with its ferocity. The hips and knees--the weight-bearers, along with the small of the back--have been troubling me for a while. They have served me faithfully, thus far, for more than seven decades, giving me trouble mostly only when I have treated them unkindly. They have earned the right to complain a bit now that the cushions that facilitate their comfort wear thin and the juices that keep them oiled flow less easily. I make every effort to be kind to them with recommended dietary supplements, exercise, and a measure of circumspection when it comes to putting them to work. I have no idea, in the present case, what I might have done to offend the ailing knee, but it is there to act as a reminder of the aging process.
I am glad to have had the good fortune to encounter the Buddha along my path. His teachings remind me that what I am now experiencing is entirely natural, and that my mind is the only reliable aid in moving further forward into old age and, eventually--not too soon, I hope!--death. What's truly important is to be able to observe today's pain without rancor and without attaching to it. I am grateful to have been given the tools with which to do this, and regret only that my skills are sometimes inadequate to the task...
I breathe, I direct the breath to the place of hurt. I work to let it go--if not the pain, at least my stubborn need to cling to it, which only makes it worse. And breathe again.