Chiang Mai: Sitting at my desk and there’s somebody drilling in the floor of the apartment upstairs, just above my head. Renovations are going on up there. There’s been a lot of banging and drilling these last few days but this sound is incredible. It’s a hammer drill drilling through hard concrete; the sound is vibrating through the structure of the building and if I lean my elbow on my desk heavily, the vibration is conducted through the elbow and bone structure of my arm, to cupped hand holding my jaw, clenched teeth and the skull is vibrating in resonant frequency. I’d really like that sound not to be there and it takes a moment for the thinking mind to create a background to this event. Maybe I should go out for a walk somewhere. Is there somewhere I can hide away?
Then a child starts crying, it’s small voice going on in a seemingly inconsolable way. I can hear mother’s voice there as well. Yes, I’d be upset too if I was woken up by this kind of noise… and there’s a resentment about the noise building up inside me; a very large complaint-mode beginning to take shape. In an instant it’s formed. Who is responsible for this? I’m looking for somebody to be at fault here, who’s to blame for this? I come from a society conditioned by blaming; searching for the scapegoat. Blame it on somebody – or blame myself, that’s just as effective: I should never have taken the lease for this place…. Then that whole emotional thing just disappears as quickly as it arose.
I hear a plane approaching; it’ll fly over in a few seconds. We’re in the flight path here – departing flights, from Chiang Mai airport, flying quite low and heavy with fuel. Some are very large passenger jets that go to Singapore and this must be one of them. In a moment, the immense sound is present; everything in the apartment, and outside too, submerged in a collosal din. This is like an epic disaster movie! I can hear the hammer drill and the child crying but it’s as if I’ve gone deaf, the sounds are so faint. The thinking mind is quiet, only the presence of this noise; a great chasm opening up in the fabric of reality, getting wider and wider and the receiving of this whole experience.
I’m drawn to these strange moments when there seems to be no thought at all. The mind just stops, allowing the immense sound to exist. There’s mindfulness of ‘self’ continuing as it always does but there’s no connection with it. I can be aware of this automatic self, just go along with what it’s doing as if it were something separate. The applied thinking mind; just seeing it and everything that arises, ceases.
The totality of aircraft noise recedes and hammer drill sensory impingement returns. Crying child remains unconsoled and for a little while I give way to the raging fire of emotion again. The thinking mind is engaged: a kind of intensly gridlocked traffic of thoughts driven into near collision with other thoughts and backing up and trying to find a way out of this cramped condition.
Then I step out from it. There’s a pause and in the small space that exists I remember the Ajahn talking about sati-sampajañña, saying consciousness is a natural function, it is ‘uncreated’, there is no sense of self associated with consciousness. Outside the thinking mind there is only the uncreated. I look around for the pause… it’s still there, a curious extended, stretched-out moment when there’s just no thought at all….
It’s getting easier now, the child is not crying anymore. When the drilling stops, the silence is overwhelming. Mango trees outside my window; sunlight on leaves, branches move slightly as tiny squirrels leap around in playfulness.