I broke my arm on March 6. A friend with whom I had been visiting took me to the emergency room. It was the last I saw of her. She “bailed” on me and I have had no further contact. Another person with whom I had been “hanging out” once a week also disappeared from my life. These three experiences over the next day or so shocked me into a sense of insecurity and despair and yet turned out to be a great gift.
A night-owl friend brought me home from the hospital and helped me into my LazyGirl chair, in which I stayed for a couple of weeks, my arm in a tight sling.
And then, the mystery began to manifest: Help began to come from compassionate sources. A friend came, arms laden with natural healing products from anti-bruising to bone knitting homeopathic, and a week's worth of the most delicious, ready-to-eat food. Another friend came and opened up cans for me and stood at the ready whilst I tremblingly took a shower.
A neighbor friend and his wife brought me food and he returned to cook up the aging veggies in my refrigerator. My son and his family came and did jobs for me that I couldn’t handle. The same goodie-laden healer friend returned several times to help, one day repotting all of my starts of tomatoes and peppers, bringing with her compost and cheerful companionship.
I was emotionally overflowing with gratitude and realized, as I thought back on the experience, that I had no negative feelings toward the two acquaintances who had disappeared from my life. In fact, I had warm feelings toward them and wished them healing and success in their lives.
My life seemed so much more spacious. I had nothing to do but sit and heal and I became aware of a compassion and gratitude that did not come from my thoughts but from an already existing matrix.
I think of the mishap with my arm as a wake-up call and call it the “big zen stick,” relating it to the stick used by a zen master to wake a meditator who is letting the personal mind wander in conceptual thoughts rather than focusing on the breath and the moment. It threw me into groundlessness where I didn’t know which end was up, but at the same time uncovered a ground of being which, up till now, I had only read about.
Knowing that compassion, wisdom, and gratitude are always available when I can still my thought patterns, keeps my heart from hardening and supports my being in the world.
It is not a permanent state for me. I need to zazen (meditate) every day to remind myself that the only true experience I have is in the moment and it is up to me how I create in those moments.
Sometimes I don’t want to meditate, thinking “this is horse hockey” or “it works for others but not me,” but I know in the depth of my being that spacious awareness exists within me and without me. It came without my seeking it; in fact, seeking to re-experience it gets in my way, because I form thoughts and descriptions of what it is. I aim to be as present as I can, resting in this awareness that exudes joy, gratefulness and kindness.
Jill Anne Iles, born in England, came to America right after World War II. She arrived in Oregon in 1972 and never left. She moved with her loving partner, Don, to Talent in 1992. In 2010 Don passed on to the Great Mystery and Jill continues to call Talent home.