Bangkok: In a taxi on the expressway and it looks like the whole route is blocked with traffic but we are moving along slowly. A small voice is saying, we’d’ve been better off taking the ordinary route through streets with traffic lights and the congestion of that would’ve been quicker than this… yes, possibly, but hypothetical. And I’m not getting pulled into that scenario, thanks, no. Strangely, I feel no frustration sitting here. The taxi driver’s radio is playing; it’s a call-in chat dialogue with music.The mind isn’t absorbed into it, the sound is just there. It’s not loud, it’s not demanding; sometimes I notice it consciously then the mind moves on somewhere else. And, there’s that small voice again saying, wow! this could get really boring. But it’s not like that, it’s a neutrality maybe, there’s just this experience right now; the reality of being here. Nothing else to do, so obviously it’s okay to stay with what’s ‘here’ and see where that gets me.
One thing that helps is that there was this really nice post I read the other day [‘The Path of Waiting’] and I’m thinking of that now in this place where traffic is at a standstill, nearly. It’s the idea that we’re always waiting on something, somewhere, most of the time and it helps if you can be ‘willing to stand hand in hand with your waiting for a few moments.’ It was that, I think, that started me off in this mind direction of, let’s see what this waiting thing feels like. So now I’m hand in hand with my waiting and it feels nice.
The mind is clear, free and empty. There’s a careful observation and contemplation of everything that’s happening, it’s like being focussed on balance and openness – poised between things, in a sort of high altitude mind-place of emptiness. That’s all, and everything just seems to be slowly moving along here, the moment transforms itself and there’s this attitude of gentle curiosity, like what’s this now? I hear the small voice again; a shadowy question hovering on the periphery: how come I’m not frustrated by this endless traffic situation? Nope, it’s not necessary to go there; no desire to get pulled into that. It’s the wisdom of just mindfully placing one foot after the other on to stepping-stones that lead over the river to get to the other side. There’s something about the easy lightness of this that makes it obviously the right thing to do, and what else is there to do anyway? Not a lot, I look out the window and see the gridlock of slow-moving metal parts in this tremendous heat.
Amazing really because I’m not feeling the frustration of it. There have been times in the past when it would’ve resulted in a semi-suppressed raging inferno and getting engaged with it, or trying to get rid of it, would seem like the way to go. Getting rid of stuff always seems like the right thing to do; a kind of righteous feeling; got to clear up this mess, okay, let’s get on with it! But that hasn’t worked for me, experience has shown…. Long ago and far away, I remember the Ajahns telling me about this – well, I didn’t know what I was doing at that time – and the teaching was about how I was unintentionally holding on to some unpleasant mind state, even though I was sure that trying to get rid of it was the thing to do. The desire to get rid of, vibhava-tanha, is a desire, same as the desire to have something is a desire; they are the same. So the teaching is that trying to get-rid-of-it is like trying to get rid of the desire to get rid of it, and it doesn’t work like that – all I’d be doing is creating more suffering.
It’s fortunate for me that I’m seeing it like this today, I need to remember how it works. The problem is really with the resistance to frustration – so, relax the resistance, allow the frustration to come in. Know what it’s like when it’s present, know what it feels like (the holding on to it) when it’s there. Knowledge replaces ignorance, we are not deluded by it any more. So, I’m just moving along now; looks like the traffic flow is easing up a bit – getting there…
‘… in the context of the four noble truths, the origin of suffering (dukkha) is commonly explained as craving (tanha) conditioned by ignorance (avijja). This craving runs on three channels:
(1) Craving for sense-pleasures (kama-tanha): this is craving for sense objects which provide pleasant feeling, or craving for sensory pleasures.
(2) Craving to be (bhava-tanha): this is craving to be something, to unite with an experience. This includes craving to be solid and ongoing, to be a being that has a past and a future, and craving to prevail and dominate over others.
(3) Craving not to be (vibhava-tanha): this is craving to not experience the world, and to be nothing; a wish to be separated from painful feelings.’ [dukkha samudaya (wiki)]
When I’m the passenger I care a lot less,
when i’m the passenger on the back seat, I barely care at all.
As a driver patiently waiting for the bridge, train or orderly jam to pass – hmmm – there are limits to patience i suppose.
Standing still for more than an hour is difficult.
When I’m the driver and I have to endure the relentless greed of the other roadplayers, it is often difficult.
What makes it worse is that cell phone impatiently asking you when you will be ‘there’.
I’ve learned over the years to take my distance and see my sadness when treated badly with fingers and faces or even breaks, and go into watch mode. The sadness can raise the heartbeat, or is it the fear that often comes along?
Thanks Bert, I understand what you’re saying. I suppose the question is, what does it take to be able to not engage this mind reaction – not easy, right, with the fear and anger and everything. But what would it require to have things turned around so that one could start seeing it in a way that’s accepting it? What would be the circumstances, within which one could see what to do so that I could find a way of allowing it all to enter? It’s something to do with adjusting the ‘watch mode’…?
In watching mode, for me that is, only the sadness remains, and it is fleeting like a passing train (in europe, nor in india) – between 2 and 5 minutes.
I do not always succeed. Only when we change our reaction into a habit, success is possible.
If I watch myself I see that my conscious action takes a couple of seconds, habits take only 0.3 seconds. The anger is usually the habit.
Again, this is something that I see in my own being, but it might be different for another.
Same for all of us – conditioned behaviour and the liberation from that, cessation: Third Noble Truth. It’s an on-going process…
Yes! My gosh, you’ve got it! Thanks for the pointer to the windhorseblog.
Yes, it’s about being at ease with ‘waiting’, difficult to do but in a no-choice situation, you have time to work on the skill – like an artist learns a technique. Thanks for creating the initial idea.
In the West, we are like spoilt children. Always wanting and expecting everything NOW…. and it still doesn’t make us happy. Grit in the wheel…. Lovely piece of writing. Thankyou 🙂
This is it exactly. It doesn’t make us happy and that’s the beginning of the Path…
Sounds like your practice is working!! Noticing how you react, while you react/respond; feeling what you feel & just looking at it ………….. very skillful:) That’s a lovely phrase, btw, “standing hand in hand with it” — seems so friendly, lol.
Thanks for your comment and nice words; I think you’ll agree it’s about seeing it happening as you go along? The lovely phrase: ‘standing hand in hand with it’ came from The Path of Waiting… have you read Zen Doe’s post, over there? http://windhorseblog.wordpress.com/2013/03/29/the-path-of-waiting/
As I learn to watch myself, my mind, my doings as they are happening, I find that I laugh more ……… sometimes because there’s nothing I CAN do about what’s going on, sometimes because there is. It’s making me understand a little more about all those images of the laughing Buddha:)
Thanks for the link; I’ll go look at it
Thanks for the reminder: saying ‘there’s nothing I CAN do…’ means I give up ‘control’ and that opens up all kinds of possibilities…
Yeah…….. taking me a long l o n g time to learn that one! It makes the world so much more interesting though.
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“The problem is really with the resistance to frustration – so, relax the resistance, allow the frustration to come in.”
Needed to read that today 🙂 Nice post, filled with great reminders
Thanks Rory. We’re all the same. Suffering dukkha is like this… accepting it, I see what needs to be done to let it go
Wise words 🙂 The acceptance is the key to the transcendence I believe
Thanks. Yes, that’s it and (starting to think) a lot more of the I-don’t-know ingredient; letting go of everything…
Yup, the letting go is really the key to being at peace in any moment. I had a huge letting go epiphany just today after working myself into a bit of a frenzy, which is way uncharacteristic for me. The letting go didn’t come easy but the relief was …immense!
True, it’s about seeing through the resistance to letting go, obvious really but not always easy. There’s a skill in noticing it and sometimes that’s all that’s needed to tip the balance…
it’s a theme for me this week. A couple years ago I picked up a book called The Sedona Method, excellent and extremely simple technique for releasing emotions and resistance. I’m on a releasing frenzy right now haha 😉 very freeing!
I’ll have a look at that book, thanks. Well, springtime in UK, a perfect time of the year to be looking at the process of releasing all that ‘holding’ built up over winter…
yup it’s worth a look – I wrote a post a while back detailing the process http://beyondthedream.co.uk/2010/05/05/sedona-method-how-to-quickly-release-negative-emotions/
It is indeed! It’s a very late spring, it’s been the coldest March and April for 50 years and the trees and flowers are still hesitant to bloom, but they will come in their own time. And so will I, I guess 😉
Amazing. I looked at your post over there in: http://beyondthedream.co.uk/ Identifying something and welcoming it in, then am I willing to let it go? If so, when? Interesting, the first thing I noticed was that this particular issue is layered – layers below layers and it all fits together. Makes sense, I didn’t see it that way before. So, just this; it helps, and, thanks, I’m grateful! Working on it still and releasing it bit by bit.
You have reminded me of me, the old me. It was so easy to be disturbed in the traffic or another fellow cutting in. I guess my reaction to traffic situation has mellowed down. No idea if it is improvement or slowing of faculties 😉
Watching self, watching my breath has been my technique in tough traffic conditions.
Thanks for your comment, yes I recognize this. It’s about having greater awareness, improved, refined – an inexorable change. Once you realize it, there’s no going back to the old way, which is quite wonderful, I’d say…
“It was that, I think, that started me off in this mind direction of, let’s see what this waiting thing feels like. So now I’m hand in hand with my waiting and it feels nice.”
That is remarkable. You read the book on waiting first, and then you got the experience.
I have found that several times for me , too. When I think or read about something and wonder what it would feel like. the universe provides me with an opportunity. Sometimes with dire circumstances. So, I have become kind of careful about these self-invoked circumstances. It is a matter of ‘Be careful what you wish for’.
The experience is amazing. Wonderful that you didn’t feel the stress.
Thanks for sharing.
It was a good day in that taxi, fortunate, one of those things that just happen; ‘remarkable’ is the word. It was the post: ‘The Path of Waiting’. And I recognize this: ‘…the universe provides me with an opportunity.’ It’s worth looking out for these occasions, becoming ‘kind of careful about these self-invoked circumstances’ – combined with sila (virtue), all that feels right in the world and being aware of the possibility of dire circumstances. But moving towards sila always and developing the ability to know the right way to go. This is what they call ‘the practice’, the meaning of applied mindfulness. Listening for the shadow of a voice on the edge of hearing…
“But moving towards sila always and developing the ability to know the right way to go. This is what they call ‘the practice’, the meaning of applied mindfulness. Listening for the shadow of a voice on the edge of hearing…”
Thanks for educating me in Buddhism a bit here. I was always wondering whether Buddhist have that concept of the inner voice that nudges one to do things or to go into a certain direction. After what you wrote about ‘sila’, it seems that they do.
I looked it up on wikipedia and found this as part of sila in the eight precepts:
7.“I accept the training rule (a) to abstain from dancing, singing, instrumental music, and shows…”
I must admit, that would rule alone would have fully prevented me from making any further contact with Buddhism as I love dancing, singing and fiddling too much;-)
Hi Karin, I notice you looked for sila in the eight precepts, which is for people who actually live in the monastery or are visiting for a period of time. So, in ordinary life (for me), sila applies in the five precepts; something like a sense of right and wrong (morality is a loaded word) I like the word ‘virtue’. Another thing is, I’m saying we are moving ‘towards’ sila, there’s a lot of power in ‘intention’. It’s enough for me and ordinary people to just ‘know’ enough to steer a path through difficult areas and carry on with all dancing and singing, fiddling and musical joyful activities as you want 🙂 doing it all with this ordinary awareness of the mindfulness of things…