Bangkok: Getting into town from the airport is okay to start with, gliding along the elevated highway in a huge open landscape, and all the good-looking 21st Century buildings pointing up into the evening sky like some futuristic sci-fi heaven realm. Then, as we get near the exit, the traffic slowly starts to fuse together in a mass of end-to-end steel/chrome-plated metal units, creaking along like the glacier I visited a long time ago in Switzerland moving so slowly, the end of its 133 kilometer length is four hundred years older than its beginning. Struggling with the thought that I don’t want it to be like this, causes and conditions, the traffic is like nature, the ocean, the weather. Reminded of the Ajahn Chah image of leaves in the trees blowing in the wind in a rising and falling motion for as long as the winds last. And how it’s the moods of the mind blowing like the wind that cause the restless, uneasy feeling. In its original state, the mind is still and calm.
The next day I have to go to the eye hospital, blurred vision in the left eye, and procrastinating about that for a long time. Sometimes stumbling into things and I’m gently squeezing through the crowds at the skytrain entrance to get the ticket in the turnstile, remembering how it all works. There’s an alertness, awake and mindful, I am a foreigner living in someone else’s country. Getting off the train is complicated, it’s a place I’ve not been to before. Not finding the correct exit because the signs are unclear, I can read Thai but I choose to go with the North/South orientation of the map, knowing that if I face the way the train is travelling as I get off, in this case North, and as I go down the staircases and escalators to street level, I’m always orientated in that same Northerly direction and the traffic will be going North. All this because doing a U-turn can be a lengthy process here; somebody said the whole of Bangkok is one large, U-turn…. A pink and white cab is waiting and I tell the driver where I’d like to go – will he take me? He thinks for a bit (doing U-turns in his head), yes, ok. So we’re off.
At the hospital, it’s a long session. They put some drops in my eyes to enlarge the pupils so their equipment can see inside the eyeball. The doctor asks me if there’s anybody to take me home because the drops in the eyes will make things a bit indistinct for a few hours. Understatement. When I step outside the world is a blur, a smear, a sea of colour, yellow, green and pink taxis, red tail lights of vehicles in vivid splashes. No form or definition anywhere; I’ve lost my North/South orientation, having come in by a different door. Get on the first motorbike taxi that comes along and allow him to sort it out. We get up to a surprising speed going along what I believe to be the wrong side of the road, dodging oncoming traffic, weaving in and out of the other lane, wherever there’s a space. A great whoosh of hot wind, noise and get to the Skytrain station so fast it’s like we arrived before we set off. Give the guy a good tip and then it’s just a case of getting the North/South thing sorted out, following the crowds up the escalator, on to the train, and into the coolness of the AC carriage, with this wild wind blowing through the mind; papañca, proliferations arising from the single thought that I have an eye operation on August 9th. Necessity of mindfulness…
‘To be mindful means to have metta towards the fear in your mind, or the anger, or the jealousy. Metta means not creating problems around existing conditions, allowing them to fade away, to cease. For example, when fear comes up in your mind, you can have metta for the fear — meaning that you don’t build up aversion to it, you can just accept its presence and allow it to cease. You can also minimise the fear by recognising that it is the same kind of fear that everyone has, that animals have. It’s not my fear, it’s not a person’s, it’s an impersonal fear.’ [“Mindfulness: The Path to Deathlessness: The Meditation Teaching of Venerable Ajahn Sumedho.”]
Sounds like a hairy journey! Wishing you a good outcome for your sight. Beautiful quote from Ajahn Sumedho. Thank you.
Thank you Zen Doe, I’m reminded: ‘This is only thinking’, as you said in your post recently. And Ajahn Sumedho’s way of explaining it gives me the grounding I need…