My leg fell asleep in meditation. REALLY asleep - from toe to hip. Dead. Gone.
This presented an interesting dilemma. I was "supposed to be" meditating, but I couldn't stop thinking about my leg. The numb sensation. The excruciating pins and needles that would accompany its waking up. What should I do? Continue obsessing? Stop my meditation? Shoot, I don't know what to do.
So, I consulted my inner guru who told me to simply use the leg as my meditation focus. Weird advice for a guru - even if just my inner guru - but, OK. I'll try.
Guru turned out to be right.
I straightened the leg and set my inner observation on the leg. Without resisting, judging or thinking about the sensations, I just began to feel and experience them. Two truths were revealed to me. The first wave of insight was simple. I felt an intense sensation, maybe even discomfort, but there was actually no pain. I had always experienced this sensation as pain, but that wasn't accurate. Not all discomfort is pain. Sometimes it's just discomfort, and I don't have to be comfortable All the time.
The second insight wave was a tsunami. As the leg began to wake up, the heightened sensations and discomfort were almost impossible to tolerate. Part of me wanted to shake the leg violently, hit it, do whatever I cold to make it stop. But instead I sat, I breathed and I observed. I connected with the truth of waking up versus falling asleep. I had not noticed the leg falling asleep, it just slipped quietly into deadness. No fuss. No sensation. It was in the waking up that I felt all the discomfort. There was no pain in falling asleep, it was the waking up that was hard to do. But, the "pain" of waking up would not hurt me. I'd just feel it. And although the numb leg did not feel painful, in the long run, that could hurt me. Technically, if I left the blood supply cut off indefinitely, the leg would die.
I flashed back to periods of sleep in my life - entering a partnership I did't want to be in, pursuing friendships I was not truly invested in, attending religious services that did not inspire me. I was sleep-walking through my life. Although there was no acute pain, I was slowly, quietly fading into deadness. And then, as I began to wake up and the blood began to return to my life, I was faced with tremendous discomfort. I had to feel lonely and scared, to give things up and to disappoint people and face judgment. But the discomfort was not something for me to run from. It was not a sign that something was wrong. It was just the sensation associated with waking up and coming back to life.
We don't have to fear discomfort. Waking up is hard to do, and you're going to feel it. But just be patient, breathe calmly and know that you are not being destroyed, this is just what it feels like to
have lifeblood flowing through your veins when you have been cut off for so long.