I’M ON THE DOWNTOWN BUS, on the way to meet Jiab to help her choose a new pair of shoes. There is this short piece I’m reading from ‘The Essential Ken Wilber’: ‘… the mystics are not describing the real self as being inside you – they are pointing inside you. They are indeed saying to look within, not because the final answer actually resides within you and not without, but because as you carefully and consistently look inside, you sooner or later find outside. You realize, in other words, that the inside and the outside, the subject and the object, the seer and the seen are one, and thus you spontaneously fall into the natural state.’ I have an understanding of this but cannot experience it right now because I’m holding on to something that’s causing it not to happen. I’m a ship sailing away but only as far as the anchor chain allows… tug! The anchor is firmly embedded in the duality of the world – I need to see that the anchor is part of subjectivity too.
Bus arrives at the stop and I get off. Go find Jiab and we look at a few pairs of shoes. She is browsing so I slip away unnoticed and wander into the men’s department to look around there. In the corner there’s a chair in the section where they have folded socks placed in display stands. Nobody here, secluded, I could sit on the chair and read my book. Okay, sit down, open at the page and then thinking there’s something interesting about this totally unknown place, it feels nice. And a quick decision, I’ll try some meditation, let go, and see what happens.
Eyes are closed for a while but flickering eyelids: the ‘public’ aspect of it is making me a bit uneasy. There is the tendency to open my eyes whenever there’s a sound nearby, wondering if somebody is coming. Difficult to concentrate, so I try it with eyes half-open. After a while I can gradually relax into this state of focusing, not on anything in particular, just focusing on focusing; the act of focusing itself. Looking at everything that occurs with mindful alertness.
It’s about the experience of just being here; random sounds, voices, and the patterns of socks folded in packs to show off their colourful designs. Folded socks all around, up above my head and down almost to floor level. There’s a kind of peripheral vision thing going on, pulsating colour: maroon, bottle green, cream coloured diamonds and brown/orange diagonal dashed lines – like North African ceramic floor tiles. All the sock patterns start to move and vibrate. This must be exactly how the sock manufacturers would want the sock-buying customer to view their product.
Phone rings; it’s Jiab. I have to go and take a look at shoes she likes. I can hear my voice in this small space I’m in, but it’s somehow not the ‘me’ I’m used to. I get out of there and next thing is I’m looking at Jiab’s feet in different types of stylish footwear. A purchase is made and we head for the exit. I have to wait there for a moment as Jiab goes back inside to get something and really for the first time I’m able to let go of a whole lot of habitual stuff.
Just standing there at the exit watching the people go by, the traffic, the noise; there’s something about doing this in a public place that makes it more meaningful. It’s also the first time for me to enter this kind of contemplative mind state outside of Asia – and in the familiarity of European surroundings. Then walking through the streets, I’m seeing blurred images of people going by in a strangely different time and space. What I’m thinking is that this kind of contemplation in Europe, in close proximity to other human beings in a public place where, normally, nothing like this ever happens, initiates a special kind of mindful alertness; and it is, what you could call, quite exceptional.
It goes on like this; moments of mindful alertness all over the town; easily falling into a state of no thought, just colours/sounds in the immediate environment. Then waiting for the bus, just watching that moment, and suddenly the bus looms up silently, fills my vision, get on, sit down and we sail away as one group contained in a large vehicle. Public transport is wonderful. All senses awake, functioning. Alert and wakeful about the surroundings, idle thoughts just become silence.
I am a human being on a moving bus, large windows and whole landscapes move through the interior of the bus in waves, washing away mind processes as we go on. Here, in all this movement, I can have a sense of: ‘…what I am looking out of is what I am looking at’, and what that means right now. I can see it’s about the journey to get there rather than the arrival because after that there’d be the full understanding of it and none of this would be important.
‘The Absolute Subjectivity that can never be objectified or conceptualized is free from the limitations of space and time; it is not subject to life and death; it goes beyond subject and object, and although it lives in an individual, it is not restricted to the individual.’ [The Essential Ken Wilber, The Real Self, page 23](see summary in Texts)