context & content


AsokBTSBangkok: Near Asoke, downtown, on my way to the eye hospital for an appointment at 3.20pm. I have a lens implant in the left eye and the surgeon is going to take out the stitch that’s been in the eye for 2 weeks. Today’s the day… dum-dee-dum, sing a song and forget about that (resistance to the thought of needles and eyes). A space in the mind opens up for a moment, and I take refuge in there, calm abiding; if a feeling is not present, I am not aware of it. Thoughts return, the fragility of things; eyeballs and eardrums, taste buds and nerve endings, vulnerability, perishability, finely tuned, limited lifespan. Get involved with my surroundings; crowds of browsers in the Asoke shopping area, a wealth of attractive objects. There was something I was supposed to get but I’ve forgotten what it was; new input replaces existing memory. How much time before the eye appointment? The memory comes back again… somewhere else, the needle-and-eye situation is happening to some other person, not me. Abide in the space of no-thought, remembering about the thing I’m looking for that I’d forgotten (I’ll remember what it was later), and just contemplating the empty space where it used to be.

It’s not just forgotten, it’s not there at all; replaced with a kind of consciousness I can’t identify, an awareness of the seeking? Seeking leads to the sense that something is missing, the suffering caused by wandering in a created world of being lost. The mind that seeks is restless, searching for things endlessly but never finds what it’s looking for. Always, always reaching out for something beyond the here-and-now: the sense there’s got to be something that’s better than this. There’s a place somewhere else where I’ll find the thing I’m looking for… but how will I recognize it if I don’t know what it is… ho hum, depending on the belief there’ll just be some kind of extraordinary familiarity and recognition? Somebody wise said: ‘What we are looking for is that which is looking…’ The mind that sees this relentless searching sees that other mind that seeks this; two minds. What am I seeing? Mindfulness and the curious situation of just seeing the seeking – and there’s no object. Seeking non-objects means seeking the seeking itself; seeing ‘the seeing’, the situation before the question arose, the motionless space in which everything exists; context and content.

Walking through the doors of the eye hospital as if in a dream, wait in the waiting area for my number to be called, then into a cubicle. Lie down on the bed, stare at the ceiling and the nurse bathes the eye with antiseptic eye-drops every 5 mins for 30 mins, then into the surgeon’s room. Lean back and more eye drops, anesthetic this time. I sit facing the opthamologist, a lady, place your chin here, she says and there’s a kind of binocular device for seeing into my eyes in an adjustable stainless steel structure with chin-rest and my head is held in the steel frame. I tell her I’m nervous, Painless, she says, it’s painless… and smiles at me reassuringly. I hear a sound like plucking violin strings, pizzicato, in the upper registers, ‘ting, ting’. Am I really hearing this small musical sound? I catch a glimpse of the surgeon’s tiny cutting tool as it releases the cords of the held stitch. She says it’s over… can’t believe it.

Sometime later that day, I remember what it was I’d forgotten in the Asoke shopping area*. I’ll have to leave that until I come back for the next operation on September 20th.

‘… eternity is realized at the cessation of striving for any event, looking for nothing’ – not looking for anything? …. Not looking for anything reduces the constant searching for it, so you can discover it was there all the time…’ [David Loy]

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*I wanted to buy a jar of Chyawanprash at the Indian market near Asoke
This post contains references to the Betty Edwards text: ‘The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain‘ and the text ‘The Path of No-path: Śaṅkara and Dogen on the Paradox of Practice’ by David Loy.

3 thoughts on “context & content

  1. “Seeking leads to the sense of something being missing.” Such powerful words about attachment. I’ve found so often that when I learn about something and want it but don’t get it, I feel worse off than before even though I’ve actually “lost” nothing. The same of course is of true for getting it. I appreciate your lovely summation of alobha in this way. (Returning to our earlier conversation, I think I’ll write a post shortly about my favorite suttas 🙂 )

    • Thanks for your two observations on attachment – also true of aversion; rejecting things we don’t want. I like the idea of alobha being a form of generosity, giving away the attachment, allowing the object of desire or aversion to just be there without holding on to it or having resistance to it. And about our conversation on favourite suttas, you’ve given me an idea; a new WordPress Page devoted to suttas and excerpts of suttas that have that special ‘something’. I’ll start collecting these now…

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