POSTCARD#54: Chiang Mai: Situated at the top of a column of words (at the time of writing), light and easy, a feeling of no-thingness, the world is here but no serious attachment to anything. Emptiness of space in the place where “I” have not yet arrived and the sensory mechanisms that give the world meaning for me are still offline. Look at the altitude app, it says 1043 ft. above sea level, add 180 feet for the height of a 7 floor building and my location is identified. I am standing with my bag here on the top floor of said building, waiting for the elevator down… everything goes down from here. Doors open, step in with my bag on its little wheels, doors close, and down we go. It’s a small elevator space with large mirror. Is this good or bad; the witchcraft of mirrors. Study my reflection, hmmm… look into my eyes and see my eyes looking back out at me – slightly scary, stop doing that. Elevator stops at the 3rd floor, doors open, nobody there… a volume of 3rd floor air enters, doors close. We go down again, floor numbers on the indicator decrease as we descend further. Look at my reflection like a friend standing next to me. Examine the teeth in a large wide grin; watch myself holding this grimace, weird guy. Try to be normal; this is how I’m seen in public. Elevator reaches the ground level.
The people in the lobby are engaged in a conversational event that started before I got here and there’s a pause in the dialogue as I step into their space. Eyes look… do we know you? Smile, show teeth, no cause for alarm folks, just passing through. Walk out the main door and lift my bag down the steps. Street restaurants, the smell of exotic cooking, noise and clatter, a child cries, bicycles creak, rubber wheels on hot tarmac, a motorbike fills the place with sound. I have the feeling that I’m now situated at the top of a column of bones, ligaments, tissue, fluidity, and looking out of two holes in the skull that bond together into a single screen monitor – just the edges seen and the side of the nose. If I focus on something in the environment, through sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, there’s a curious ‘entering’ takes place… the outside world invades totally, no boundaries, and my whole head disappears* (funny how it does that) and there’s only the world, with me in it, headless. Everything switches back to normal view, when I want it to, and back to watching my feet appear and disappear on the ground below, one at a time: left, right, left, right. My bag following behind, rumbling along on its little wheels, slippers flip-flop on soles of feet…
Looking for a passing tuk-tuk or some means of public transportation that’ll take me to the airport. Reality check: am I at peace with myself? Is there an easefulness or am I busy thinking about things? How am I feeling? Allow the software to do its job; the facility of reflecting on how all this is going so far. Outer noise and heat find a way through the senses and have an effect on the mind/body organism in its ambling walk down the road – that stumbling gait, typical of lanky Western folk. Pleased to know how it feels and I can be aware of the sensation without making it into something I love or hate. Letting the events of the mind go unheld; give it all away, the great generosity of relinquishment. Be kind to myself, the ongoing practice of learning how to live my life. Tuk-tuk arrives, get in, wind in my face….
‘Human beings have a reflective quality that steps back from experience and says: “I don’t like this. It shouldn’t be this way. Stop it!” The aim of the spiritual path is to fully understand that the main problem of life is not that the government is unfair, that one isn’t getting enough money, that there is hunger, violence, pain or sickness, not even that one isn’t loved – but the feeling in the reflective mind of being bound down by these circumstances. Once we have clearly understood the mind, we can experience patience, equanimity, and release – even in predicaments that can be difficult or unpleasant.’ [Ajahn Sucitto, ‘Making Peace With Despair’, from the volume: ‘Peace and Kindness’]