Suvarnabhumi airport: 05.30 hours, enter the check-in hall, and I’m one in a great sea of people, all pushing trolleys with luggage… amazing; takes my breath away. It seems to be divided equally over two check-in areas: H on the left, and J on the right. Quick decision, go right – I’m at the end of the line, I’m the last… I’ll miss the plane! Everybody is stumbling along, dismayed: how could it be like this? The slow-shuffle, steadily moving down a very long, snake-like line, doubling back on itself, for five rows – looks like about 100 persons in each line, 500 people in front? The paranoia of individuals acting-out in wild queue-jumping behaviour arises (protecting my place in the line…) then that ceases. Relax, watch the breath, and observe reactions: a narrative of events in the mind. Seeing it happening as I’m going along; emotions rising and falling like sailing over these large waves on the sea. Stormy thoughts rise up and activate the red light: stop thinking! There’s the experience of intense contraction in the mind and immediately there’s the insight into letting go of it, drop that one now. Back to watching the breath again.
Lose track of time and later I check my watch and realize it has taken about an hour to reach the check-in desk where I have to show my passport and get the space on the plane I paid for. Then it’s done, I’m processed, got boarding pass, making my way through the multitudes, contemplating thoughts on an archetype of Asian migrations and, always, there are 500 people in front. At the toilets 500 people ahead of me, into immigration and the continuing capacity flow of 500 people is passing through. In the larger departure areas there’s an ocean of people as far as the eye can see, and at my gate, again 500. Flight is boarding and the capacity of the plane is around 500. Take off and all 500 of us mind/body units are airborne…
Airline staff serves the meal, feeding the five hundred – sounds biblical. Through the window, sky, clouds, and the surface of the planet. It makes me feel like a tiny speck of life, a microscopic cell. The body is allotted a space in a chair moulded to fit, takes up volume and weight. The body composed of the four elements: earth, water, fire and air, is something like a car battery, positive and negative poles, chemical reactions, and the mind is the energy that comes from that, the nama-rupa compound. Who ‘I’ am is not important, and the idea that it is ‘something’ (it is ‘me’) is a concept, a digital display that comes with the software. The whole thing is more like ‘process’, a connectedness on every level. Origin unknown, just believing in an external creator doesn’t seem to be it – the only reason that comes to mind is my own Christian conditioning as a child. I need to investigate this. The metaphor helps me to transcend my existing situation, figures of speech; other than that it’s all speculative conjecture. How can I see it in any other way? Anything else beyond this present conscious state must be so remote from what I presently know that none of the rules I’m familiar with apply. I’m in awe – I simply don’t know….
‘… radiant emptiness should not be mistaken for the pure emptiness of Nibbana. The two are as different as night and day. The radiant mind is the original mind of the cycle of constant becoming; but it is not the essence of mind which is fully pure and free from birth and death. Radiance is a very subtle, natural condition whose uniform brightness and clarity make it appear empty. This is your original nature beyond name and form. But it is not yet Nibbana. It is the very substance of mind that has been well-cleansed to the point where a mesmerizing and majestic quality of knowing is its outstanding feature. When the mind finally relinquishes all attachment to forms and concepts, the knowing essence assumes exceedingly refined qualities. It has let go of everything – except itself. It remains permeated by a fundamental delusion about its own true nature. Because of that, the radiant essence has turned into a subtle form of self without you realizing it. You end up believing that the subtle feelings of happiness and the shining radiance are the unconditioned essence of mind. Oblivious to your delusion, you accept this majestic mind as the finished product. You believe it to be Nibbana, the transcendent emptiness of pure mind.’ [Luangta Maha Boowa]
Having just taken a long international flight (with much waiting) last week, I think you’ve hit on the experience well. It really is an exercise in both mindfulness and observing how we are composed of both nama and rupa.
Good to hear from you again. Hope you had a good trip and yes, this is it, in the context of long-haul flights, the namarupa compound really says it all – the five khandas, four elements and no abiding sense of self. Identified, processed, and transported over thousands of miles then having to reassemble the parts when you get there – that’s when you notice it…
LOL That took me back to a nightmare evening at that very airport when, for some MAD reason, they decided to close half the passport control counters. Take your 500, and double it… we were queued 5 wide, 100 yards long, snaking through the check-in area to get access to the half dozen, rather stressed looking immigration officers. Actually making the flight, with time to spare, could only really happen in Thailand. Must be something in the air… 😉
Thanks, yes I’ve seen it like that once before – like a bad dream. You can feel the stress but the odd thing is, there’s this noticeable appearance of calm; smiles and courtesy, despite the intensity. The skill in coping with a suppressed emotional state – it’s something that’s held. The Thai is focussed on ‘keeping a cool heart’ (chai yen). It’s an interesting aspect of the culture, here’s a link to some more info about it: http://www.thaiworldview.com/society/day3.htm
Wow! Wish I had that resource before. A lot of things make much more sense now… Thanks for that 🙂
It’s interesting, isn’t it? Quite unique and now you’ve got me thinking, in my next post I’ll try to include the chai yen aspect of Thai culture…
Look forward to it 😀