passing through 1

tuktukChmai4POSTCARD#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’]


*Reference to: ‘On Having No Head’ by Douglas Harding
–  G  R  A  T  I  T  U  D  E  –

21 thoughts on “passing through 1

  1. Lovely writing. I particularly enjoyed the playful and loose relationship you conveyed between the mind and body– the awkwardness of witnessing your presence in the mirror, becoming headless as you enter the street and impressions flood into and overwhelm temporarily the observing mind. The way you described this conveyed a lightness of being, a mind that skips through the scenes from wave crest to wave crest, savoring the simple pleasure of the wind washing your face as you progress to the airport.


    • Thanks Michael, always helpful to have your comments, I see things about the post that were not obvious in the writing of it. It could be that I’m more willing to look into the actual physicality of things these days; what’s “really” going on… and it’s inevitable that it appears like an awkward stumbling – I also try to make it playful, body like a circus clown. But the fact is, it’s a miracle, of course, and (the unbearable) ‘lightness of being’ by Milan Kundera is worth reading if only for the wonderful title. Thanks too for pointing out the wave crest movement, I’ll probably start doing this more consciously now…

  2. Wonderful piece of writing. You brought us inside your brain and did it so well. Once inside, I found things very unsettled, almost disturbed, the way I feel most of the time in New York City. I encourage this voice and style of writing, finding it very engaging.

    • Thanks for these nice words. I went to New York City once, a long time ago, a strangely transient place and I see what you mean about the image of something disturbing and unsettling. It may not really be like that, of course, just the awareness of an immediacy of events happening in conscious experience moment by moment. Some time ago I started using 1st person Singular and cutting out pronouns where possible, so there are lots of sentence fragments but some flow of utterance maybe? It was also an attempt at minimalism and to acknowledge in some way the Buddha’s Teaching on no-self.

  3. that was better than a photograph, for I felt as well as heard, down to your flip-fops on a sidewalk with cracks….
    and I saw what you saw not what I would interpret an image to be to me…
    This was a wonderful walk with you, okay except the elevator ..I don’t do them very well…:) and I always wonder who’s looking back in the mirrors
    Thank you and I hope you arrive to something somewhere safely….
    Take Care…You Matter…

    • Agreed, elevators and mirrors in elevators are spooky. I left that bit in because it needed some kind of contrast and impact with the experience of the street scene and the feeling of being ‘grounded’ – not ‘up in the air’ or anything imagined. These days I’m looking at the reality of conscious experience and not an interpretation, as you say. Thanks for visiting again! I’m now in Bangkok for 2 weeks then back to Chiang Mai. Hope all is well where you are.

  4. Reality check: am I at peace with myself?

    Doesn’t work for me.
    Just tells me if I’m at peace with checking whether I’m at peace.
    “Does my head look fat in this?”

    • Not sure what the question is. Either way, if I’m at peace with myself or I’m at peace with checking whether I’m at peace, I’m asking is there an easefulness or am I busy thinking about things? The ‘peace’ is about the clarity of seeing, unobscured by thinking about things…

      • I guess the question(s) I was asking was as follows.
        If I look in the mirror and feel bad am I feeling bad about myself, feeling bad about my reflection or feeling bad about looking in a mirror?

      • I was just writing this when your other question came in… it’s not feeling bad about my(self), not feeling bad about my reflection (the ‘self’ that I’d like to be or don’t want to be) and not feeling bad about looking in the mirror – although looking in the mirror in the mind may be worthwhile 🙂 Just feeling bad, by itself… the non-attachment of feeling bad. Better that way, because if I have reasons for feeling bad, it supports and strengthens the bad feeling… I’m prolonging the feeling.

      • Better that way, because if I have reasons for feeling bad, it supports and strengthens the bad feeling… I’m prolonging the feeling.

        But doesn’t just asking yourself about a feeling (as opposed to simply acknowledging it if it makes itself felt) give you a reason for having it (or not)?
        Even if the reason is only to be able to answer yourself.

      • If it’s done with an open kind of generosity of acceptance, allowing the bad feeling to be there, not caught up in adverse thoughts about how ‘bad’ it is, then it can pass through because there’s no attachment, and aniccan everything changes, it goes on its way, unheld. It can be difficult and it takes a while, or it can be less difficult and it goes through easily. Depends on how bad it is and how skilled the practitioner is in dealing with it. Theravadin monks spend a lifetime studying exactly this. I have a problem with it but having a problem with it is not a problem for me nowadays…

      • Doubtless that is all true, whether you think there is a reason for the bad (or good) feeling or not.

        But what I’m trying to get at is whether questions like “Am I sad?”, “Am I happy?”, “Am I at peace?” are helpful or even valid.

        I get more long-winded about it in the most recent post on my blog.

      • Yes, I see what you mean, giving names to things gives them an identity. Next thing that happens is: “I am sad”, I become the sad feeling, etc. It’s maybe better to say ‘conscious experience’ rather than ‘feeling’, aware of the feeling, that’s all. Not making it into anything…

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