My back is throbbing and my right butt cheek is sore. In a gentle gongfu class today, my sparring partner – a young, adept, physically fit young man – did a perfect push, starting in his core and expressed in a full body contact, and I went flying backward landing thump on a mat. Stunned and aching I took his hands as they reached out to help me up. I sat along the periphery of the room with an ice pack for the rest of the class, not being able to stand up fully erect.
At the end of class, the teacher encouraged us to talk about our experiences. In pain and shocked, I kept silent until someone else explained how she felt when she also fell to the ground, even though she wasn’t hurt. She suggested having a third person stand behind the person receiving but the teacher said that it was important for the receiver to learn to stand on her own and not rely on someone else. I had secretly soothed myself by figuring that I would deal with my sore body and feelings when I got home.
Amidst the intimate discussion I couldn’t hold it in any longer. The flood gates opened. With tears running down my face I explained how stunned, off balance and afraid I was being out of control and how I had no vocabulary to express that. I didn’t want my partner to feel bad or to portray the image that I was fragile or vulnerable. I hadn’t allowed myself to authentically feel or acknowledge what happened. We all supported each other as we explored our feelings and the teacher guided us in ways to handle them.
As we got up to leave, my partner came over, took my hands and, looking into my eyes, said, “I am sorry for hurting you. I would never intentionally do anything to harm you. I hope that you heal very soon. I hope that we can work together again. If I can do anything to ease your pain or if there is anything that comes up as you process this, please reach out to me.”
We both acknowledged how important that sharing felt. He offered a genuine apology and was certainly not solicitous. He didn’t apologize for delivering a perfect push as that what was what we were doing. He shared how freeing it was for him to learn how to talk to me after the fall and for him to try it out in the safe class space. I felt complete. Our teacher talked about how a false apology or being contrite would not have been satisfying. It was the first time that a stranger and I shared a truthful, compassionate, caring and generous interaction. Although my body is still aching, my heart is at peace.