space and thoughts


white buddha dreamstime

New Delhi: It’s that Sunday morning feeling again; so silent, the neighbour’s dog feels uneasy about barking too loudly – maybe there’s nothing to bark at. Sadly, it walks to its place on the balcony and looks out… nope, still nothing happening out there. No intruders on the property, no people anywhere to be seen. The world is asleep… the zzz, zzz ZZZZZs, slow breathing of sleep; the no-work-today comfort zone. No need to get up until early afternoon. Sleeping off the excesses of the night before; dinner started at 10pm and the party went on until sometime after two o’clock in the morning.

I didn’t get to sleep until late but it wasn’t because of partying, it was the neighbour (not the ‘dog’ neighbour, the other one). These people decided to have a medium/large social event last night – verging on the mildly-obstreperous. The noise and kerfuffle became kinda abstract to me, drifting in a coma of half-sleep, sounding not like people having a party, more like a party among the animals at the zoo; two or three hippopotamuses (hippopotami?) trying to get comfortable in a room too small for them – getting up and sitting down again and disturbing each other in the process, smashing small breakable things, reversing into corners and making squelchy sounds along the side of the wall with their great weight squidging around awkwardly. Slightly frenzied but not ‘losing it.’ A bit farmyardish too, with yelps and howls, crowing chickens and meowing cats and geese and ducks; somebody with hiccups. On the other side, the dog barking on the balcony – dogs of the mind bark – and the whole thing reached a kind of pandemonium of people talking over each other in a flowing jibberish of words, scraps of music mindlessly playing in two different places, punctuated with the odd crash, squeak and shout. Other percussive noises, the smell of beer floating out into the air and a cloud of cigarette smoke from men standing outside the house, speaking on the phone, lengthy shouted monologues in a language I don’t understand.

It’s really noticeable that the mind grabs at something immediately; velcro fastening, unpleasant rip as it comes apart, so you leave it attached: Yep, I could get really angry about this… There is nothing pleasant about this feeling at all, no reason for it to be there other than simply the desire it has to adhere-to, and ‘be’ something. It’s ‘birth’ in the Buddhist sense. No matter how mindful I am, there’s that driven brooding thing, the scenarios of outrage. I concentrate on letting the mind untangle itself from the problem; just letting it get on with it; it goes away for a while. Then it comes back again and eventually I move through to the front room, wrap myself in a blanket, sit on the cushion, and get ready to remain there until it’s over – watch the breath…

See where the mind leads, where it goes how it reacts to ‘me’ trying to hold it, how it is able to concentrate and how it does that. A bit like getting to know it as if it were a stranger, rather than thinking it’s ‘me’ and I can control it. It really is undeniably noisy next door, it needs attention and I give it what it needs and what’s left over gets focussed on the struggle to be in a state of peace – not a placid thing, mostly it’s like swimming in dangerous waters, but knowing that as long as mindfulness is maintained, there’s no threat at all from the carnivorous species of the deep. Just letting them be there. Anger/distress is a passing mental state, same as everything else, nothing special.

There is the body, the heat, the cold, the hard, the soft, and the thinking mind starts to drift. Let it go where it wants; a sense of travelling behind it, follow it, be curious about where it goes. Disengage from the attachment, just enough to feel safe from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, flying around dangerously and ricocheting off the walls and ceiling.

There is Rupert Spira’s example [Link below] about a room filled with people. ‘I’  am the space in the room, the people are my thoughts and images, bodily sensations and world perceptions. All kinds of people in the room, large, small, kind, unkind, intelligent, unintelligent, loud, quiet, friendly, unfriendly, etc…, each doing their own thing. But what they do or say has no effect on ‘I’, the space of the room. The space is there now and it will be there when the people go home. The space, is/was there before the building was constructed and will be present after it is demolished, it’s always present.

Now it’s later, the morning after. Am I the only one awake? So quiet, the electric hiss of the computer seems loud. It may have been on a morning like this, in those historical times, that Siddhartha Gotama, the prince who became the Buddha, woke up in the rooms in the palace, where the  endless parties had taken place, surveyed the devastation of spilt drinks and furniture tumbled over, and seen the true reality of the event… he just knew, this is not where it’s at. Left the palace, gave away everything he possessed and set off across the landscape…

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‘Our objective experience consists of thoughts and images, which we call the mind; sensations, which we call the body; and sense perceptions, which we call the world. In fact we do not experience a mind, a body or a world as such. We experience thinking, sensing and perceiving. In fact all that we perceive are our perceptions. We have no evidence that a world exists outside our perception of it. We do not perceive a world ‘out there.’ We perceive our perception of the world and all perception takes places in Consciousness.’ [‘The Transparency of Things’, Rupert Spira]

11 thoughts on “space and thoughts

  1. The mental network in our heads, is tuned to the human voice. It wants to really listen, despite what we would want as operators of our mind. Voice wants attention. It might be as deep as the instinct.
    I can stand many sounds, during sleep, or ‘silence sessions’ but a loud tv-set, people talking inside or outside on the streets, seem to interrupt regardless. Not doing effort is useless. Repression does not work for long.
    There is one sound even worse: children (people, animals) crying from physical or psychological pain. We want to help regardless, and if we can’t for whatever reason, we will find ourselves in a helpless space of desperate compassion.

    • Thanks Bert, I hadn’t thought of it that way. You’re right, the mental network has an automatic response to the human voice. It explains a lot about how hard it is to let go. And, now you’ve got me thinking, if I know that this is, actually, how it is – it’s an automatic (instinctive) response – there must be a way to ‘sidestep’ it; just let it be there and not engage with it? I think it’s a skill requiring some practice…

      • If it were a skill, it would not work. Silencing my mind is not a skill, it is the absence of conditioning. Sidestepping the hard-wired response to humanity might interfere with empathy.

        I’m a bit in a humorous mood …
        * I have ear-plugs, doing quite well.
        * You could engage your brain to see it as a song, or even a lullaby, but for me that will not work.
        * Probably the best thing to do is to join the party and make friends 🙂

      • Yes, good idea, join the party!
        There is one thing, though. The ‘skill’ is in knowing how to deal with the mind’s responses – and seeing through the conditioning (eventually). There’s an instinctive response that’s all, I’m not required to do anything (in this case) except feel empathy, compassion for human beings caught in desire/suffering. So I can learn to let that be there and sidestep it. There are ear-plugs if it doesn’t work 🙂 I was listening to the beat of the music like a pulse-rate (the beat of the human heart), tried singing along with it too, for a while, and all kinds of other things

      • A white noise generator created on my laptop did the trick for me, a long time ago, in some latin american hotel.

        Seeing the instinctive response is one thing. It’s like observing your own fear. But if it’s instinctive, like the fear for the crocodile, it is not going to be like seeing your own anger. that, often dissipates while being observed.
        Let’s just try to see what happens when our awareness catches this thing next time, an empirical approach might offer greater insights 🙂

  2. Very very nice. Really enjoyed this piece. Reinspires me to spend even more time on my cushion. I don’t anticipate it being because of a ruckus going on next door though. : ) The apartments I live in are tagged as “The Quiet Apartments”. And they live up to their word. Amazingly quiet. I have actually been playing my funk music loudly and dancing a lot lately. So far I haven’t been reprimanded! The party’s over by 10:00 though.
    Suzanne

    • Thanks Suzanne, there’s more of a community feeling here, less of the isolated ‘self’ we’re used to in the West, so I guess the other neighbours just accept that there’s a noisy party going on next door and don’t feel they need to ‘protect’ their space. Different for me, of course, but it doesn’t happen often and maybe that’s why I was able to approach the difficulty mindfully – the novelty of it. If it was a regular occurrence things would be different… so far, so good 🙂

  3. It’s not just the noise but the threats of drinking and out of control behavior… Mooji says sometimes anger is justified, to feel it, express it calmly if possible I would say and then he says just let it go. But anger is such a disturbing emotion. It seems to damage the one feeling it as much, or more, than the one on the receiving end. I say invest in a white noise machine. Living in New York City across from a student dorm, we use ours every night.

    • The whole alcohol thing is pretty scary, I agree, and I don’t know what to do about anger other than try not to go there. It’s the way the mind accelerates away at an alarming rate as soon as the trigger goes. Mindfullness is the answer – easily said though 🙂 Thanks for suggesting the white noise machine, Bert mentioned a white noise generator created on his laptop, and at the time I didn’t know you could buy such a thing. Good to know about this for future reference…

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