By Jenny Keating
This year I have felt more fully the truth of Meher Baba’s words: “. . . I am the only Friend who will never let you down.”
On the 2nd of January this year I broke both my arms. I was climbing into an above ground garden at Meher House intent on removing the aphids which were eating the roses I had planted to decorate Baba’s room. I stood to my full height, lost my balance and fell backwards onto stone paving, my head narrowly missing a garden tap as I fell. At the hospital it was confirmed that I had broken my elbow on one arm and my shoulder and wrist on the other. My shoulder took the brunt of the fall and was smashed as well as dislocated and I had to have each of the breaks surgically set with metal plates and screws.
Then, during my recovery at home, in the first week, my mother who is in her eighties, had a ‘significant’ stroke and on her return home from the hospital needed an increased level of care. Contrary to the old saying that God only gives you what you can bear, it seems in Baba’s case that He gives you almost more than you can bear so you feel helpless and have to depend totally on Him.
The accident happened the day after my husband Ross and I had returned from pilgrimage to Avatar’s Abode. The past year had been turbulent with a lot of mental suffering generated by unresolved conflict in my life. By the end of the year I had all but given up trying to find workable solutions and I just wanted to go and lay my head at His Feet. Entries in my journal from last year expressed a longing for a ‘break’ – a break from the mental turmoil – though in the back of my mind I heard Mani saying to be careful what you wish for because you just might get it!
Sitting in His room at Avatar’s Abode on New Year’s Day, in the palpable atmosphere of His Presence, I had finally reached a state of calm and complete resignation and said inwardly to Baba: “Let it be as You want — I have no idea how to resolve or deal successfully with any of this. Just help me be strong enough to do what You want of me – whatever that may be.”
That same day we flew back to Sydney and by evening of the next day I was in the hospital with two broken arms. Baba saying in the Discourses that sometimes physical suffering comes as a blessing as it serves the purpose of taking our minds off mental suffering certainly felt true at this point – I stopped thinking of anything other than my pain and getting through basic daily functions!
During my recuperation from my accident I had a lot of visitors during the day but the nights seemed interminable as I couldn’t sleep soundly or get comfortable in my bed. I tried to focus on what Eruch had said one time in Mandali Hall Meherazad, about desperation, how one “shouldn’t get desperate but face one’s troubles boldly – one should develop patience and just bravely lead the life He has set for you.” He added: “one can get desperate but not so you want things taken away – one should accept whatever is given.”
All that has happened this year has made me think a lot about suffering and its place in the Divine Game. After my accident, so many people I spoke with knew of someone or were themselves going through extraordinary circumstances that were testing to the limit their capacity to endure and at the same time trust that everything happens for the best. And when we shared our experiences, although the circumstances of our difficulties were different, we found the outcome was the same – a feeling of helplessness and the realisation that the only answer is to depend entirely on Him and try to do what the mandali did so perfectly: do one’s duty and ‘wait for His Will to manifest in whatever forms He may choose’ (as Mani expressed in one of her Family Letters).
Seeing so much suffering around me I couldn’t help but wonder what it all meant – what was happening here? What was the message? Was it Baba’s doing or our own individual sanskaras that were being played out in this suffering? It seemed it was not even so much the physical or mental pain itself, but the awareness it brings of our own weaknesses, our capacity to endure, our attitudes toward suffering and to life itself. But the more I pondered the more I found there was no simple explanation or answers to why or what for – just helplessness, and dependence on Him. And I often remember Eruch saying sweetly to me one time: “Don’t worry Jenny; throw the burden on Him, He wants us to.”
So I’m taking one day at a time, trying to be patient, to keep cheerful, to be resigned to His Will. My mother is gradually regaining some of the functions she lost due to the stroke, and my arms are healing slowly but surely. After all that has happened this year I do find myself feeling that little less attached, that little bit more resigned, to whatever He has in store for me next.
Recently while Ross and I were talking of all that has happened so far this year we remembered Eruch describing suffering as the nerve endings of the soul: just as the nerve endings in our hands make us withdraw from fire, keeping us from being burnt, so the nerve endings of our soul – suffering — make us withdraw from the world – illusion – thus keeping us spiritually healthy and focused on Him.