Posted by: Bruce Black | June 1, 2013

A Different Kind of Practice

Since a surgeon in Tampa removed a benign tumor the size of a walnut from the hypoglossal canal behind my right ear several weeks ago, I’ve had to step away from my mat and usual practice of asanas.

I can’t very well do a forward bend or downward dog, never mind a handstand, after brain surgery, you know?

Nor can I do very much of anything except sit with my eyes closed listening to the magical sounds of life flowing all around me and learn to be patient and hope that my strength and energy will return one day.

The surgery made me realize how much I have to be grateful for. The simplest tasks — opening my eyes after a nap, being able to take a deep breath, or managing to balance as I take a step from the bed to the bathroom — become reminders of the gifts that I am given each day.

Even sleep is a gift when each night becomes a challenge for me to close my eyes because the slightest pressure against the back of my head makes it painful to rest on the pillow.

It was only a few weeks ago that I returned from the hospital with a 12 inch crescent-shaped incision covered by 44 staples behind my right ear and looked like the King of Punk!

Today the incision is almost invisible. But it serves as a reminder of the five hour operation and the careful and precise work of the surgeons to remove the tumor.

I still feel dazed by gratitude … and by all that’s happened. I know I am very lucky.

I know the operation, despite the lingering pain and fatigue, was successful.

I know the risks that I feared going into surgery were avoided thanks to the skillful hands of the surgeons (and divine guidance).

And I know how many friends and relatives offered prayers and sent healing thoughts to help me make it through the surgery and to begin the recuperation process. (Many thanks to all of you for your kindness and support!)

It seems like a miracle that I can sit here typing or can sit on my mat again, not for long, just a few minutes at a time, and do easy stretches and simple twists.

When I unrolled my mat on the floor that first time and sat on it, I felt as if I’d awakened from a dream.

I swept my feet back and forth. I gently moved my knees. I twisted one way, then another, each movement slow and deliberate, careful not to strain my neck where the surgeon had cut through the muscles, tendons, and bones to reach the tumor.

I’m learning to do less than I want to do and resist pushing further.

If I feel pain, I stop.

I’m not writing in my journals.

Or on my blogs.

Or on Facebook or Twitter. (Not much, anyway.)

And it may be a while (until after the next stage of treatment which involves radiation) before I return to writing and posting.

For now it feels like I’ve turned off a noisy radio and can hear the music of silence, the restorative rhythm of life.

I am practicing patience.

It’s a different kind of yoga, but it’s still yoga.



  1. And thank you for writing this wonderful post. I am grateful for the many lessons you continue to teach me about the whole of everything. Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers!

    • Life has an endless number of lessons to teach us if we’re open to them, doesn’t it? I’m still amazed at what I’m still learning. Thanks, Bobbi, for your note.

  2. Before I read this post, I have known two dear people in my life to have brain surgery. They both have recovered quite well, but it was the scariest thing for them and for me as their witness to the events. There is something about brain surgery that calls forth courage, for both displayed incredible courage and both are among the wisest of all people. Courage and Wisdom are huge gifts. You, dear Bruce, now join those ranks of rare courage and wisdom. I salute you and say Nameste!

    • I don’t know if I have courage or wisdom, just an understanding of what needed to be done and a willingness to trust in the surgeon (and divine guidance). Maybe that’s courage and wisdom, I don’t know. Many thanks for your note, Debbie.

  3. Bruce- you are an inspiration.

  4. I have missed your writing and was delighted to see this new piece. Thank you for the reminder of all we have in our lives that is good. ❤

    • So much in our lives is good, only we forget or rush through life, too busy to look. One of the unexpected blessings of the past few weeks is how the surgery forced me to slow down and notice all that is good in life. Great hearing from you. See you soon!

  5. Thanks so much to all for your kind words.

  6. Life is beautiful in all its ups and downs… thank you for capturing your experience and sharing with us. Light & love to as you heal and find your practice on a new path.

    • That’s one of the things that I’ve learned from my yoga practice (and journaling)–to see beauty in both the easy and hard poses. This has been one of the hardest poses, and yet in it I’ve found such unexpected beauty. Many thanks for sending light and love to help the healing process, Lynn Marie.

  7. Bruce…Sorry to hear of your struggles. I know you will use this journey as another learning experience of life. Continue moving forward day to day with no regrets, you deserve this. Say hi to Sue for me too.

    • “Continue moving forward day to day with no regrets.” Wise words to live by, I think, and I try my best to follow them (not always with success). Thanks for the reminder that sometimes you can’t move forward until you let go of regrets. Hope you are doing ok. Susan sends hugs. (Me, too.)

  8. Namaste..Bruce..practice srivasana and stay calm. Sue Fenwick Toronto

    • Without the teachings of yoga–and the ability to rest in different poses–my post-op experience and recuperation would have looked and felt very different. Staying calm has been key, and yoga helped me find that calmness again and again. Thanks, Susan, for the note.

  9. Oh, my, Bruce. I’m so glad this went well. For a long time, you’ve been an inspiration to me in the areas of calm and wisdom. I’m holding you in the light as you heal.

    • The hardest (and riskiest) part of the process is behind me, thank goodness, and I’m hoping that I can maintain that calmness as I begin radiation treatments. Good to know you are keeping me in your thoughts. It means a lot, Cyndy. Hope all’s well, and that you are writing!

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