One Hour or 127 Hours: BE in Every Moment
March 28, 2011 10 Comments
In Bikram Yoga last Friday I practiced for ninety minutes in 111 degree heat and humidity that could rival the slums of Bombay at high noon. A young, fit Hispanic man practiced next to me and it took about 35 minutes before I noticed that he was positioning himself into the Hatha postures without a left hand and only a partial forearm. I thought about his obvious drive and perseverance as sweat soaked my yoga mat and towel. He didn’t alert the teacher to his disability, and he simply tackled tough two-handed postures like pada hastasana (hand to feet pose) and dhanurasana (floor bow) with a thin fabric band that he fashioned around his forearm and then his foot to secure holds worthy of the ancient discipline. Class was packed, warm rain outside, and I didn’t run into him on my way out as I’d hoped. I would have told him that he inspired me and humbled me and made me vow to never again curse the stubborn postures that haunted and challenged me. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without tears or without pure, embarrassing awe, so chances are I would never have spoken those words that day. I hope to be granted another chance and the courage to speak.
This experience made me make good on a promise to my son. I finally did it. I sat down in the comfort of my home to watch 127 Hours. When the movie hit the theatres late last year, I anticipated delving into the life of experienced outdoorsman Aron Ralston, who had intrigued me when I read of his solo trek into the desolate Blue John Canyon in southern Utah, and his subsequent fall into a three-foot-wide crevice with a dislodged boulder. He remained trapped in that crevice for 5 days (127 hours to be exact) with the rock perched between one of the sheer walls and Aron’s crushed right hand and forearm. See trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OlhLOWTnVoQ
You see, the promise to take my 11-year-old to see what I thought to be a survival movie was soon out-weighed by the fact that I would be viewing (according to all early reviews) an uncanny reality of the events that took place. I hated to admit it, but as much as I admire Aron Ralston’s courage, faith, and determination, the thought of watching a robust, young man in his prime cut off his arm with a dull switch blade called for some skilled procrastination. I told my son that we should wait to see if the reviews were favorable. Lucky for me, 127 Hours received accolades from all reputable movie pundits and earned Oscar nods for Best Picture and Best Actor in a Leading Role. Now, no excuses. Plus, my son, who is an odd movie buff for his age (i.e. he saw The Godfather andGladiator at eight and quotes The Big Lebowski and Raising Arizona whenever possible…I know, mother of the year here!) and a little sneak, surprised me as he ordered up the movie on Netflix one evening after dinner and it instantly arrived in our living room. I just love technology!
The movie is exhilarating and terrifying and brilliant. Directed by the great Danny Boyle, I expected thrilling, but not…truly moving. This is NOT a story of survival, it is a character study of a young man realizing in what might be his last hour, his connection to this world. This transcendence takes many of us years, decades, a lifetime (if we are lucky) to even begin to realize. But, in his hour of darkness, 28-year-old Aron finds himself alone in the canyon because he has escorted himself to this moment. He realizes that he has systematically isolated himself by shutting out friends, family, and his girlfriend. Aron (played by James Franco) says, “…I’ve been thinking. Everything is…just comes together. It’s me. I chose this. I chose all this. This rock…this rock has been waiting for me my entire life. It’s entire life, ever since it was a bit of meteorite a million, billion years ago. In space. It’s been waiting to come here. Right, right here. I’ve been moving towards it my entire life. The minute I was born every breath that I’ve taken, every action has been leading me to this crack on the surface.”
Aron Ralston was alone in that canyon, but, more importantly, he was alone in his life. He hadn’t told a soul where he was headed that weekend, hadn’t returned messages to his mother or friends, didn’t even leave a Post-It on his door. Two days into his ordeal and only a few gulps of water left, he calculated that the first person who would “miss” him would be his co-worker. No one should be “missed” by a co-worker!
At a yoga seminar last weekend in Encinitas, CA, renowned yogi, Tias Little, stated at one moment during his dharma talk, “We don’t exist in isolation.” So simple. He went on to speak of our need for human interconnectedness, how true spirituality is to be aware that we are interdependent with everything andeveryone else. Isolation is easy. It is much more challenging to find the “courage to stay involved, stay in service for the well-being of ourselves and others.”
Sure, we all make excuses to be uninvolved, dishonest, or downright absent, but when even YOU begin to believe your justifications (“my phone died”, “just so busy, I couldn’t make it”, “uhg…I’m exhausted”) there is a problem. My father-in-law, Ralph, used to say to my husband (often, I imagine in his formative years!), “You can justify anything…” and then, with a stare, would dare him to break the silence. I know this because I’ve heard the hubby use this sort of “truth serum, Jedi-mind-trick” with our own children. Believe it or not, these words allow them to quiet their minds and reflect. That’s all we can hope for.
My challenge for you is to connect with those who reach for you (you know who they are) and even with those who don’t. Years ago, when our kids were much younger, my husband and I participated in a parenting class led by Susie Walton, who raised four boys with ex-husband basketball great Bill Walton. She taught from the book, Redirecting Children’s Behavior by Kathryn J. Kvols (www.amazon.com/Redirecting-Childrens-Behavior-Kathryn-Kvols/dp/1884734308), and one of the most lasting lessons we took away was to give our children GEMs: Genuine Encounter Moments. Look into their eyes, smile and listen when they speak. Ask questions, laugh, show concern…lift your head from your Smart Phone, your laptop, the TV, and face them. We all require these moments.
I dare you to speak to strangers, smile, call them by name. Just yesterday, I waited in line at CVS Pharmacy with my overflowing basket and when my total appeared on the screen above the scanner I handed over my crumpled “Extra Bucks” slip that I had “earned.” The expiration date was yesterday, I was told, and my $4 discount would not apply. I looked up at the cashier, noted her name tag, smiled and laughed, “Aw, Katrina, you’re killin’ me!” Somehow Katrina knew just which button to press as she chuckled and reduced my total by $4.
“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Ghandi