no more than this

161120121610Chiang Mai/Bangkok flight: Sitting on the plane with M beside me, my Thai niece, and her coloured Tshirt, funny hat; her iPad mini and her 9 year old vision of the world. I’ve been watching her use these kiddy’s applications; cute kittens with large eyes and she shows me how they respond to your voice; all kinds of stuff. We can make fruity ice-cream drinks, waffles and cup cakes with different kinds of toppings and M insists I have an opinion about what kind of toppings to have – lemon or strawberry? It’s important! M asks me in basic English; only the key words: What you like, Toong-Ting? So I choose a lemon topping. When it’s finished we eat the cup cake by tapping a finger on the screen. The name Toong-Ting is part of her former baby language she doesn’t use any more but, somehow, M decided to keep it as my name. She selects things in this unique way because English is a second language. Maybe it’s easier to say Toong-Ting than my actual name, or she likes the idea of being cute (I think it’s this).

And so the time is taken up with M asking me about various things like this. I engage with her on these points and in the intervals, when she’s busy with the iPad, I’m simply aware of our physical presence. There’s really not anything left to think about… mindfulness, waiting for the next question. In the silence there’s a curious emptiness, just a quiet awareness, bhavanga, the space in-between; not reacting to stimuli, there’s nothing happening. Just being here; the knowingness of it. My responsibility is to take care of M; to respond to her small requests in a way that’s in tune with her way of thinking and her use of English. That’s all. We are linked in our present-time mutuality and there’s nothing else coming into consciousness from the outside world unless it’s something very interesting or something we need to be careful about. Right now, here in the aircraft seats, it’s all very bland and neutral. Somehow I seem to have sidestepped my own mental activity; the usual state of affairs of the mind, the way the ‘self’ attempts to perpetuate itself is seen; there’s only this, being here…

Then the cup of coffee is served and M says I should have the powdered creamer in the packet that comes with it: ‘Why you not put that in your coffee, Toong-Ting?’ and she looks at me with these almond shaped eyes and little face… so I put the powdered milk in, even though I normally take black coffee. She watches me open the paper packet and pour it in, her eye level is much nearer to the brim of the cup than from where I’m seeing it. I lean over, we watch this together, powder dissolving in the cup in small clouds and imploding movements. I never really noticed it before… children are here to teach adults (I read in a blog recently?). M tells me to try it and see if it tastes nice. I try it and say yes.

Looking out the window, down on the land below, there’s the surface of the planet; swirling movements of rivers and patterns of vegetation, land shaped by many hundreds of years of the wind and climate, and it looks like the powdered milk dissolving in the coffee. Liquid in a small plastic cup 38,000 feet above what’s seen on the surface of planet below; macro/micro, the oneness, all things have the same characteristics. ‘Look, look at this, Toong-Ting!’ and I have to look again at something else M is doing and make a comment about that. We discuss it for a while, then back to considering the powdered milk in the coffee and I’m feeling this same continuing state that’s empty of thought. I know that M is going to ask another question soon so part of my attention is occupied with being ready for that with a clear mind; metta, loving kindness. I’m a passive passenger transported on an aircraft, aware of the immediate surroundings; a gentle bumping of the plane, the hiss and hum of the engines. Just a sort of space I am occupying right now, no more than this…


‘Bhavanga literally means “factor of life”; bhavanga is usually translated into English as “life-continuum”. The bhavanga-citta keeps the continuity in a lifespan, so that what we call a “being” goes on to live from moment to moment. That is the function of the bhavanga-citta.’ [Introduction to the Abhidhamma]

Photo Image: Flowers growing in a Thai temple in Buddhist India

3 thoughts on “no more than this

    • Thanks for this. Isn’t it amazing how kids sometimes lead you to noticing things you weren’t aware of before? It’s all a new experience for me…

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