POSTCARD #81: Newcastle: Five days in a Buddhist monastery in Northumberland, sitting meditation in the early morning and last thing at night. The photo above was taken at 5.15am. I wanted a picture of the sunrise and didn’t see the sheep in their places next to the wall – slightly startled by a human being leaning over into their enclosure and the click sound of the phone camera. They wait to see if he comes back, forget about it and only the fragrant grass remains… early on a summer’s morning.
After that I’m in the Dhamma Hall, sunlight shining through the roof windows on the Buddha statue, benign and welcoming. Monks with shaven heads sitting on the floor, faded tangerine-brown robes, flowers, incense and candles. Focused on the silence, watching the inbreath/outbreath, seeing the thinking process coming and going. Fragments of a thought pieced together from associated thoughts, memories of a past time brought into present time, together with things thought about in future time. Pause for a moment and everything stops… just the circumstance itself. It takes some effort to get it started again. Maybe there is only one moment – only one, all the time.
Everybody sitting completely still, listening to this shared silence. Suddenly there’s the faint sound of somebody outside doing something. He whistles part of a tune… it’s not noisy, quite pleasant. Nobody moves, of course, nobody turns around to look. We all continue to sit, the quietness interrupted by a small clunk noise… then he whistles his small tune again. It’s the farmer next-door, busy with things. A wooden door goes bonk… something is dropped on the ground, and there’s an interval of quietness. Then a rustling noise, and the whistled tune re-enters, invading the space. It’s an amazing sound, a kind of warbling around a melody. It trills like a bird – how could anyone whistle so well! It’s a chorus from an old song I can’t quite remember. Then it’s silent again… waiting for the whistle to come back, but it doesn’t come back and I realise he’s gone.
Consciousness seems to move from one moment to the next and there’s only just enough time to decide what this is before it changes into something else. In the interval that the mind is engaged in ‘thinking it’, everything moves on and I can never seem to catch up – can never find the right words to express it… wordless and indefinable. Language is an overlay placed on reality, gives everything an identity, tells the story, creates a fiction I get lost in. Nothing is what I think it is. The present moment feels like it’s an immediate event occurring ‘now’, but there’s also a feeling that maybe it’s not. Time is a measurement I apply – applied time. Maybe this is something that’s not happened yet… it happens later, gets reflected upon and what I think is ‘now’ is actually a fraction of a moment of hindsight situated in future time. How can I be sure things are what I think they are when I’m only always just feeling my way through something not experienced yet? Looking at what it’s not and everything on the other side of that, must be what it is. The absence of ignorance…
I, however, am now
The thingness of things.