By Kirk Souder
“Natura abhorret vacuum.” —Aristotle
It’s human when experiencing an amputation to define it as a loss. After all, something of importance is now gone. Yet while it’s true we have lost a limb, I am learning that the word “loss” does not accurately describe the actual outcome. I am experiencing new levels of truth in Aristotle’s observation.
What determines real truth for me is whether something is true on all levels of reality: the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. And for the new space that starts a few inches below my left hip and extends to terra firma, I am discovering that Aristotle’s law holds true in much more expansive ways than simply the addition of a prosthesis. That space has become a gravity field for attention, judgment, curiosity, and my own growth. It has audaciously invited in people, experiences, and new powers to fill it.
The space has been filled with a new, samurai level of discernment and action. Having conquered my fears to choose amputation over diminished life experience, I am now able to apply the same pristine clarity of thought and commitment relentlessly to all parts of my life. My consciousness is a bloodhound that sniffs out dysfunctional parts of my life and courageously prunes them, untethering me from lingering, festering nonsense so I can focus my energy toward what truly matters.
The space has been filled with an exponentially greater knowing of Spirit, as distinct from Body. I woke up from surgery with a significant part of my body missing but zero diminution of that which I am. If anything, limb loss has stirred even more of me into alert presence, filling the space with exquisite wakefulness. I have discovered elements of self that I never knew were there.
The space has been filled by greater mastery in my vocation as an executive and transformational coach. I more quickly sherpa my clients upward, spending less time at the lower altitude of story and problem and more in the heights of growth and creation. This hypothesis from a client after a session ten days post-amputation: “It’s like the amputation created less body volume so your energy became more condensed and thereby more potent. You go more deep and direct. I like it.”
The space has been filled with deeper friendship. There was the friend who upon first seeing that space started to weep. I then hugged them, and demonstrated the one they love is still wholly intact. Our conversation took our relationship to a new level of connection, truthfulness, and love.
The space has been filled with an even more profound appreciation of my wife of 33 years, and a deeper connection. For the two months prior to the amputation, when I was bedridden and needed her for everything, she never wavered. I only heard “Oh, stop it!” every time I apologized for being a burden as I handed over another urinal for emptying.
Recently, the space was filled with the innocent, wondrous curiosity of a four-year-old who, while I stood in line for a movie, pushed his hand into the empty space and asked: “Mister, where you hide your leg?” His delightful question inspired me to ask myself: “Where else in my life can that wondrous curiosity replace fear and anxiety for what I can’t see yet?”
Whenever I enter a redwood grove, the trees generously share wisdom. The first time I stumbled into a grove with my leg gone, I dropped my crutches and lay down, my eyes drifting upward. I saw that redwoods do an amazing thing: As they grow taller, they let go of lower limbs to grow new ones up where the sunlight and moisture of the clouds are. The barren bark on the lower half of the tree is starkly interrupted by a new green canopy bursting out above. I smiled at that, because the tree and I are both expressions of the same event we call nature and life. So what is true for redwoods must in some way be true for me. With the cutting away of my lower limb, new limbs are growing higher up—closer to the light that stirs wakefulness, and closer to the moisture that births wisdom.
Then I saw a fairy ring growing nearby. When a mother redwood senses it is dying, it enables saplings to grow from the roots around it. The intention is that new trees will be able to feed off her decaying body—her roots and stump. Where one tree once stood, one now sees a loyal ring of four, five, seven, or more redwoods reaching for the sky in tight formation.
In gratitude and reverence, they surround the stump that birthed them into the world, proudly filling the space above they were invited into, bringing with them countless new possibilities.
Kirk Souder is an executive and leadership coach who emphasizes creative, spiritual, high-impact leadership. Learn more at kirksouder.co.