I remember with pleasure striding down the street as a young man filled with energy and nothing on my mind except reaching the place I was going to with speed and graceful movement. In New York City, I could zigzag across intersections and avoid traffic lights for ten blocks or more. Certainly I never considered the stress I was putting on my ankles by constantly moving so fast and so heedlessly down the streets.
Then one day my stride was broken as my right ankle twisted and I tumbled to the pavement in pain and disbelief. I took a cab home and immediately applied cold ice packs to my swollen ankle. Wayne Winnick, a chiropractor and sports doctor, told me that ankles are the most commonly injured body part – some eight million people sprain an ankle each year. Many will go on to injure the same ankle in the future, as it becomes weak from the injury.
In order to avoid this fate for my ankle I took a six-week treatment program involving rather painful deep tissue massage. The idea, which seemed counter-intuitive at the time, was to break up any scar tissue that might form so that the ankle would be stronger and more flexible for the future. It worked. I have not sprained my ankle again.
This injury and its long recuperative process convinced me not to continue viewing my ankle as a small and minor body part. After all, it plays an important role in helping me stand upright, walk and run. Since the collapse of my ankle I have slowed down my walking pace and have paid more attention when stepping off a curb and negotiating uneven stretches of pavement. I have also given up fantasies of wind-surfing and water skiing. (Maybe in another lifetime.)
I've learned something else too. It's best to be pro-active about body work. Now I'm practicing standing on one leg to improve my balance and tell my ankle I still need it. My intention is not to wobble. I recall the advice of Zen master Ummon who said: "If you walk, walk! If you sit, sit! Just don't wobble, whatever you do!" This good advice combines the body and spirituality.