Sunday morning, as I was cutting wood panels in my basement, I sliced my finger open. I ran upstairs and did the whole pressure-and-gauze thing, followed by a trip to Urgent Care once I realized the bad boy probably needed stitches. (Actually, it was my wife's idea that I go. Thanks, hon!)
They gave me eight stitches on my left pointer finger and sent me home. The next 24 hours proved interesting.
I'm doing the hand equivalent of hobbling. Unlocking doors when my other hand is full, driving, washing my hands, all of these mundane tasks are suddenly challenging.
It's very humbling to see yourself reduced to a snail's pace or repeating the same task five or six times just to get it right, especially when you had no difficulties only 25 hours ago. For instance, even typing this is sloppy because my best finger on my left hand is wrapped in a thick sandwich of gauze.
The whole experience is really fascinating; new limitations can be very good teachers, as they reveal our expectations and demands. Fortunately, I have health care available and the injury wasn't too bad. It could have been much worse.
There's a koan that addresses this situation. the most important line is, "When cold comes, cold kills you; when hot comes, hot kills you."
Pain hurts and sunburn peels. There is no mystery to life. The trick is accepting it; that's all Buddhism is--increasing our ability to accept.
When you cut your finger, you scream, "AHHHH!" When they stick the anaesthesia needle in you finger, you wince. Ouch...yikes. Perfectly natural responses.
These are examples of pain. Suffering comes later, when we add the mental layer of judgment on top. Zen brings us back to...just this. The paint flaking on the wall, the din of motorists outside, the nervous tic in our eye.
Why did Bodhidharma come from the west?
Finger wrapped in gauze in a warm bed of Neosporin.