before the story begins


270420131799Delhi/Bangkok flight: People don’t normally go to Thailand for their holiday in the middle of the hot season – highs of 40°C –  mad dogs and Englishmen… No passengers, plane is nearly empty, fortunate for me with this back pain I’ve had for more than a week now. I set off on this journey knowing that really the last thing I’d want to be doing is getting into the overcrowded economy class section with no room to move. But the good kamma of plenty room today, I can position myself in the chair so there’s no discomfort and able to quietly contemplate the clouds in the sky. Everything seems so still, not really comprehending the phenomenon of travelling at 500 mph – 1 mile in seven seconds? I count to seven: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 and one mile further on. Hmmm, it feels like everything is stable and down-to-earth; stewardess smiles sweetly: something to drink sir?… I feel I’m a bunch of time-stretched-out spaghetti strings, going most of the way back to the point of departure.

Consciously watch the breathing and the mind settles. Soon there’s the quiet space of no thinking. Watch the breath for a while but then, after a moment, something triggers thought again. A story starts up and I remember Lisa’s post, Doing Nothing Out of Anger: ‘…we have to get the story of it going in our head’. Without the story, it doesn’t happen. Usually you fall into it and it’s more to do with convincing yourself it’s like this, rather than it actually really being ‘this’. But there’s the small space just before it locks in and I can see that this is the last opportunity to consciously let go of the story-building, and be aware of the unchecked habituality that’s there for no good reason.

I read something about this in Rory’s blog/Tao Te Ching 12: The Inner World: ‘It’s been estimated that we think around 60,000 thoughts each day… probably over 90% of them are simply recycled from yesterday and the day before…’ Thoughts about absolutely everything – most of the world is inside your head. No wonder the space of no-thought is such a novelty to discover, no stories unfolding. Training the mind to consciously monitor the randomness, yoniso manasikara, contemplate the act of thinking with focus and concentration.

Mind settles again in the space of no thought, no end, no beginning, everything is always in present time, no past, no future… then, in the mind’s eye, I’m with my mother in the Care Home, holding her hand and she stops breathing, I see the moment she dies and it’s like her last teaching to me: this is how you die son, just watch me… and I see her move from the present into the past – forever.

A long time spent coming to terms with the fact that all of that is now irretrievably in the past; there are memories but if I don’t start the thinking process, there’s nothing there. Sometimes finding myself cast away on a small island of thought with stories like this, then the peace returns, sound of the aircraft. No thought, not trying to find it, not engaging with the story of it. We’re all just seeing ‘the seeing of it’. There’s something about the human reaction to the world, sensory organs mostly positioned around the face, so the head moves in response to functions of eye, ear, nose, tongue, skin and mind – the mind and stories, the ubiquity of the story.

The story is everywhere and it’s necessary to see the input clearly and the habituality. As far as possible let there be no reason for Mind to step in and take control, create the story of ‘me’; someone at the receiving end and the whole subject/object duality starts up. Without that there’s just the sensory receptors and our shared world. There isn’t anything else to be done; only to ‘see’ the reality – seeing the seeing; awareness of the awareness; knowing the knowing. ‘I’ am not creating it. Awareness has somehow sidestepped that. Seeing the events without the story.

On a journey like this, you somehow think that, at the destination, that’ll be the end – no more stories. But you arrive and there’s just another set of stories going on and we’re always only part the way through whatever story it is – same as what’s going on with everyone, everywhere else in the world, all at the same time.

Landing at Bangkok, yawn and swivel the lower jaw to release trapped air in the cranial passages; ears go ‘pop’ and a whole new 3D sound enters…. didn’t realize how cotton-wooly it was before. Ah well, so which gate are we coming in at? There’s a long walk to the domestic terminal and the next flight to Ch’mai…

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4 thoughts on “before the story begins

  1. I could sense my own self sitting there on the plane with your descriptions (replace “back pain” with “head trauma” and “dizziness!”)…a thought and then story comes up…a recycled one…and if we do nothing (like you write about) and just observe and be with it…it shifts, it peeks and goes away on its own. I appreciate the line about how you thought you’d be all out of stories when you landed! Ohhhh how I fall in to that, too. I’ll think, “Oh I’m done with that. That’s healed.” And then another layer appears. I can also get caught up in the “oh why do I still struggle with such and such? I SHOULD be in such and such a place by now!” Then I’m humbled again, do the “work” again of doing nothing (and being gentle and softening and and softening and being compassionate and more compassionate!)…and it draws me closer to the divine, to my own self, to the rest of humanity. Many blessings, Lisa

    • Lisa, you’ve given me something extra to think about now. I’m looking at ‘layers’ and thanks too for reminding me about the I SHOULD be … thing – always at the edge of one’s vision. Also, ‘being compassionate… and it draws me closer to the divine…’ There’s a lot of meaningful stuff here. Grateful for these wonderful observations…

    • Thanks for this v good advice. I’m on the road at the moment, but as soon as there’s sufficient time in one place I’ll go see the physiotherapist. In the meantime there is mindfulness…

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