East Anglia: Here in the cottage and wide awake at half past three. There was a full moon shining in the window of my little room like a headlight in the clear sky and it woke me up. Came downstairs and got a fire blazing in hearth. The last of last years logs in the shed covered in cobwebs. Nothing has happened here for a year except the neighbour coming in to clear the junk mail once a week. Cold, quiet and that alone feeling; fields all around. I must be the only one awake in a radius of some miles, except for party-people and the night shift down at the Quay. I’m in this wide-awake condition, alert and ready to get on with the day, ears buzzing with the absolute silence of the English countryside.
In this 200 year-old building, the main door is very low, 5ft 6 inches; duck your head to enter and exit. Sometimes the rising up occurs too early and the head collides with the door frame.
I know it well, it’s happened a number of times and thus I have this bruised head and resulting consciousness of the head situated at the top of the body that reminds me of Douglas Harding’s idea of Headlessness. I met him once at his house near Ipswich, not very far from here. He was my neighbour but I never knew him, met him only that one day when Jiab and I went to visit with two bhikkhus. We stayed for the meal and after we’d eaten, did the thing with the paper cylinder that Douglas used to demonstrate the headless reality. What I remember was seeing his cheerful pink-cheeked face at the end of the cylinder he and I were holding and the distinct fragrance of lunch. Sad to think he’s gone now. Douglas Harding passed away in 2007 at the age of 98. The photo above was taken in 2005.
After that I ordered his book: ‘On Having No Head’ on amazon and delivered here by Parcelforce, a company that sounds REALLY assertive. Looking at this now and the description of his visit to the Himalayas and that moment when he discovered he had no head: ‘…what I found was khaki trouserlegs terminating downwards in a pair of brown shoes, khaki sleeves terminating sideways in a pair of pink hands, and a khaki shirtfront terminating upwards in—absolutely nothing whatever! … this hole where a head should have been was … a vast emptiness vastly filled, a nothing that found room for everything—room for grass, trees, shadowy distant hills. I had lost a head and gained a world.’
The ‘headless’ condition he describes at length is something I’ve considered many times. Now seated here at the desk upstairs on revolving office chair, yellow vinyl floor surface, facing the small window, no curtains, dark black outside, the window glass reflects the interior of the room and back of desktop computer. I find the Douglas Harding Quotes page.
‘The lost Gospel according to Thomas, discovered “by accident” in an Egyptian cave in 1945, couldn’t have appeared at a more opportune moment in history, or with a message that speaks more directly to our condition and needs.’ [Link to: Douglas Harding Quotes]
Birdsong… sun is coming up and I see a flat landscape; low lying sunbeam illuminates a few remaining cornstalks in the harvested field, they are a golden colour. Blue sky, it’s a new day, clear away all the shadows of night and I’m pondering the evidence that all and everything is in the space where the head used to be. Is this what Jesus was really teaching? [Link to: Nag Hammadi Manuscripts]
‘… your humanity is like a disguise, an incarnation you have taken on to be here in this world. Inwardly you are God, outwardly you are a person – a unique person with a special contribution to make. Instead of thinking you are just that person, that appearance, you are awake to the Power behind you, the Safety within you, the Source of inspiration and guidance at the heart of your human life. This enables you to be yourself even more so.’ [Douglas Harding Quotes (link above)]