Physical Therapy as a Spiritual Discipline?

I returned to physical therapy this morning after a ten-day hiatus for our trip to Florida. It was painful, but not as bad as I’d feared. (Isn’t that typical?) I noticed once again that the repetition of the exercises is calming and soothing, at least when they aren’t causing pain. When I have three sets of an exercise to do, with rests between sets, I usually time my rests with silent prayer. After the first set, I pray a silent “Hail Mary,” and after the second set, I pray a silent “Our Father,” which gives me a little more rest time before the final set. And when I am finished and leave the building, I offer heartfelt thanks that it is over. đŸ™‚

Seriously, though, the discipline of going to therapy twice a week and of doing my exercises at home each day is an important one. It’s not easy – I’d far rather be doing something else with my time than playing with hand weights and surgical tubing – but it is helping to heal my body, the body that God has given me stewardship of during my short time in this world. I am thankful for my doctor (the meanie who is making me do this) and for the physical therapists I work with (the meanies who keep making me do this on a regular basis) and for my job with a flexible employer who allows me the time and freedom to take care of my body.

I am feeling pretty bummed today. I’m tired of being in pain all the time, and I don’t like my new furniture arrangement at work. I found the chair in the office that would go the highest and set it to the highest setting. Then I put a couple cushions on it, behind my back, and a footstool beneath my desk. I find myself reluctant to leave my chair now, because I have to jump up to get into it. And, despite all of this, I’m still not sitting high enough to have my arms in a good typing position. I’ve put in an email to human resources, asking what the process is for getting alternative furniture – a desk that can adjust to a lower height and maybe a different chair – what kind of documentation I need and whether they want to get a consultation from an ergonomist.

The physical therapist recommended this morning that I try mousing with my left hand rather than my right for a few days. That effort is not going well; I’m mostly using the touchpad at the bottom of my laptop, while the mouse sits to the left of my computer, almost completely untouched.

I’m also feeling very disconnected and isolated lately. I moved from one team of seven people that were very close to each other, to a new team that has really only two people on it – me in southern Virginia, and my counterpart in Northern Virginia. We don’t have any sort of regular, formal communications set up between the two of us – it would feel goofy to schedule a weekly conference call for two people. I send a weekly status report to our manager and copy my counterpart on it, but I don’t get a lot of warm fuzzies in return. And truth be told, I’m not sure how to reach out, or even who I should be reaching out to.

I miss my old team, and I miss my classmates at Virginia Tech, and I’m not coping well with all of the stresses and changes that have happened in my life over the last six months.

But I have a silent retreat coming up… some quiet time between me and God. I plan to bring some books (bible and Book of Common Prayer, at a minimum), but to try to minimize even taking in language from reading or putting out language by writing. I may bring a journal to draw in – I can’t draw worth beans! – but I’m really going to strive for a non-verbal, non-intellectual experience. We’ll see how it goes.

Thanks be to God for the opportunities to heal ourselves. May we find the strength and the resources to take advantage of those opportunities, rather than continuing to beat our heads against all the stresses and changes of our short lives. May we know that we are beloved children of the Divine – know this from the hairs on our heads to the nails on our toes. And may we encounter the peace that passes all understanding today – no matter how fleetingly.

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2 thoughts on “Physical Therapy as a Spiritual Discipline?

  1. It may help, if you’re trying to use the mouse with your off hand, to switch the way the buttons work (in Windows, go to Control Panel, then Mouse, and select Button Configuration). My boyfriend is left-handed, and he usually uses a mouse reversed like that; I have a much easier time using it than I’ve had using my own mouse (unreversed) with my off hand.

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  2. Hedwyg –
    Happened upon this post while looking for connections between Physical Therapy and Spirituality. I’m fortunate to be consulting with a Rehab Hospital seeking to ‘meet the spiritual needs of our patients’ in a Rehab setting. My approach was to ask, “How can a patient’s spirituality support their Therapy – You seem to be taking the very oposite approach – how therapy deepens your spirituality. Thank you for brave and wonderful insights. If you have suggestions for a PT Rehab Hospital to provide for spiritual care, we’d love to hear them.
    Thanks
    Ken

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