Tight Spots

I recently had my first MRI (due to an infection in my arm from a kitten bite)… And the MRI wasn’t a fun experience. But, wow—what a great opportunity to observe my mind! It’s interesting how things that trigger me often prove to be my biggest teachers.

In her book, Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change, Pema Chodron writes:

“When life is uncomfortable, when we’re highly agitated and don’t know where to turn, that’s the most difficult time to stay present. But that’s also the time when doing so could be the most rewarding. It’s a challenge to practice staying present when we’re despondent or distressed or overwhelmed, when our backs are against the wall. But right then, when we’re in a tight spot, we have the ideal situation for practice. We can do something radical: accept suffering as part of our home ground as human beings, and relate to it straightforwardly.”

That part about tight spots being the ideal situations for practice?… Uncomfortable, but oh-so-true. Here’s the journal entry I wrote immediately following the MRI, delving deeper into the subject:

I’d like a gold star for having just survived an hour and a half in the tiny, tunnel-like MRI machine sans earplugs—even though the sound was akin to jack hammering an inch away from my ears…. AND I’m INSANELY claustrophobic.

Yes. There were tears.

Yes. It felt like torture…

BUT, I somehow managed to connect with my breath.

And then to the senses that were not feeling smothered or bombarded…

I kept hearing “make friends with the moment” in my mind…

And after telling that voice to f*ck off…

I softened and allowed myself to fully be in the moment, without wanting to escape – which, I discovered, was (of course) the very root of my suffering….

I started listening to the jack hammering sounds. Really HEARING them this time….

And, instead of going apeshit about them not stopping…

I heard music in between the “beats” of the hammer.

I started humming “om” and feeling the harmonious vibrations in my chest.

Felt the cool breeze of a fan on the tip of my head.

The smooth plastic of the MRI’s “panic” button in my damp, wet palm.

The warm tickle of tears rolling down my cheeks, pooling into my ears…

And then I thought of my mother, who suffered from even worse claustrophobia than I – and who was far shorter and thicker than I….

And how she must have suffered with far more vigor than I when she had her myriad MRI’s, stuck in that long, narrow tube back when she was battling cancer.

And then GRATITUDE set in…

For my height.

For my somewhat-slender figure.

For the strength my mindfulness practice has given me.

The strength I didn’t know I had.


That. Very. Moment.