POSTCARD#68: Phuket: We’re leaving today. Packing the bags takes up most of the early morning and M doesn’t say anything. Very soon we’ll check out, say goodbye to our rooms and never be back. The enigma of the hotel room, a location in time and space inhabited for a short time then it’s gone. Furniture is used; marble floor walked on – years and years of housekeeping staff have swept, swabbed and polished this floor. Such a beautiful thing ignored, M sits with me. Internet connection not good, no iPad – flying away in her mind already. Jumps up and goes over to the thin lace curtain at the window, pulls it around her narrow body, extends a leg and points her toe – looks along and down at how the folds of fabric fall like an exotic gown to the floor, then spins around in a twirl and skips away to somewhere else in the room.
The others are busy packing away bathroom things; nothing remains for me to do here. Sitting in the upholstered chair, see how that feels…. breath enters like a wind gusting in, withdraws. It comes back, blows through then it’s not there again. A great emptiness opens up, I might easily fall into a joyful state and believe that this is “it” but everything changes, anicca, everything changes. It’s about the on-going experiential response – what else could it be about? Skin, muscle, flesh, and these mysterious organs held by ligaments bonded into a skeletal structure. I am the context for the outer content. The whole investigation is one that is open to following where the mind leads, see where it goes, how it reacts. Conscious awareness of how the mind is able to concentrate and to what extent – passageways of insight open in an instant and are gone.
Then later in the breakfast room, M selecting food items from silver dishes, everything done in a dream, eyes glazed over; watching a movie in her head, a story about what’s going on around her. Holding her big white plate so it’s level, places it with mindfulness on the table, descending like a UFO landing. Sits next to me – I feel her presence/absence. She likes the hotel silverware flashing like swords. Takes the large fork and stabs a sausage as if it were trying to escape – that wriggling sausage can’t get away. Begins a vigorous sawing motion with knife held in the right hand, breakfast table moves with the vibration, coffee nearly spills from the cup. Cuts off less than 1/4 inch, lays down knife, fork transferred to the right hand like a weapon in battle… stabs the tiny portion of sausage and the trapped morsel travels up to the mouth. I count more than 20 chewing movements, up/down up/down, masticated beyond belief. She’s lost interest, forgotten about it. A few other nibbles and the rest of it is left untouched.
Wait in the hotel lobby, look at people we don’t know, will never see again, then into the van and away to the airport. Through the crowds, check-in, departure gate, boarding and we’re in our seats. The takeoff sends me to sleep, I have a short dream: gentle voices of friends talking, I hear my name mentioned with loving-kindness… it occurs to me that I’m dead. Wake up suddenly and ask M, beside me, did she say something? No answer, playing with her prince and princess dolls on the fold-down table. Silence, one held in each hand – relationships, a dialogue, events taking place in the mind…
‘The world outside is our consciousness…. It is not something separate and distinct. The object and the subject of perception inter-are. Without subject, there is no object; without object, there is no subject. They manifest at the same time. To see means to see something. The seer does not exist separately from the seen; they manifest at the same time. If you imagine that the seer is independent and goes out in order to see the seen, that is a mistaken perception.’ [Thich Nhat Hanh, “The Buddhist Understanding of Reality”]