Every now and then you meet somebody extraordinary. I met one in a park in Paris. I was in Paris for a week of Zen training at l’Association Dana, the official name of the Zen Center of my teacher Genno roshi (actually it is just her house which she makes available to students and for practice). After last weeks sesshin, I took the time to walk around the city. It was in Buttes Chaumont where I met him. After coming home to Amsterdam yesterday I decided to write about the fascinating story of my fellow follower of the Way M.
M. is a 29 year old guy who also meditates and became more serious about his practice only months ago. He doesn’t look that way though, he looks like a monk to me (and like Bruce Lee when he practices chigong). He walks with a crutch because he is recovering from a very severe accident. After getting drunk with friends on a roof somewhere in Tel Aviv he passed out and toppled off, falling down three stories. “I was so unhappy during the time before the accident that I had started drinking again since a month” he told me. “I hadn’t drank for years prior. Alcoholism runs in my family and I had problems with alcohol a during those years. But my life had came to a point where I was unhappier than I was when dealing with problems resulting from alcohol”. “I should be dead” he says and takes a sip from his coffee. “In a way I did die, and I’m actually grateful my old life is over”.
BAM! There you have it! The cycle of great despair, death and rebirth, manifesting right in front of me. M. continues with his story. He tells me about his newfound gratitude towards life and how he sees the beauty in going slowly, step by step, moment by moment. He is walking again where a few months ago it was not sure if he would ever get out of his wheelchair. There are good days and there are bad days, I assume. Sometimes I see his face cringe. But I didn’t hear him complain once. Suffering but no suffering. This is man on a healing path, momentarily devoted towards the healing of his body but his path will not stop there, I’m sure. He shows patience and is without expectation. Every bit of progress is a gift. I don’t think he sees the example that he is setting for us. I don’t think he realizes yet his healing will heal others. He is the embodiment of the wounded healer.
We are all wounded but we prefer to hide that. M. came to a point were he could not hide anymore. Due to the accident his internal suffering transformed into physical damage. Now he wears his wounds on the outside and he is unconsciously teaching about how to take care of those by taking good care of himself. And of course his wounds also come from childhood, the time when our family history seems to burnt into our systems. He had an absent father and a docile mother, just like me. He was probably pretty motivated to not step into his fathers footsteps.
The interesting twist of faith is that his father was a famous spiritual teacher. And as is the case with many great men, when they are busy doing great things their families suffer from their absence. Nothing else is new. When we become aware of our story, we can start a healing journey. But not often the path towards healing is paved by the same man who hurt us. M. is healing his physical wounds, his childhood wounds and his family wounds at the same time. He is closing the circle, consciously or unconsciously forgiving his father. What a relief it must be to be forgiven for your human flaws, especially when you are a so-called enlightened master who is carrying the weight of the expectations of being flawless. I can’t think of anything more compassionate than that. This is truly the work of a wounded healer.