POSTCARD #85: Delhi: The house seems different; everywhere there’s the sound of Thai voices like the songs of birds echoing off the walls, ceilings and tiled floor. Guests in the spare room, girlfriends of Jiab here for a visit. They are greng-jai with me (reluctant to impose themselves) knowing I’ve had to move some of my things out of the way to allow space for them. I try to convince them, mai pen rai khap, no problem. I don’t mind having to use the bathroom on the roof… there’s a bathroom on the roof? Yes, it’s a partially built second floor, just the stairwell and the bathroom up there (see photo). There are also two thatched shelters to create shade in the hot season so that it’s cooler in the rooms below.
Hot, though. I can feel it as I’m going up with my bathroom things, but there’s a fan in there. Close the door and I’m in this personal space. Only one small window I can’t see out of. Feels like I’m hidden away from the world… birds sit on the roof, wondering where I’ve gone. Trees and the sky wait for me to come back. There’s a small mirror on the wall, I see my own face looking back at me, always the eyes are held – the awareness that looks out of the mirror. Is this my “self”… is this it? I feel like I’m “it” in the hide-and-seek game: Do you want to be “it”? No, not me thanks, I was “it” last time. Then I decide to volunteer, okay, I’ll be “it”, the one who has to stay at the designated base, close my eyes and count to 100, while everybody runs away to hide.
Commence ablutions, run the shower, get under the showerhead, hoping for cool water but it’s hot. Fierce sun shines all day on the outside water pipe that connects to the water tank on top. So I’m standing there waiting for the hot water to be used up and the cool water that’ll come from deeper down the water-tank. Sure enough, the cool water starts to come through… nice. Then it gets too cold, a gust of cool air from the fan whips up the cool temperature. It becomes icy for a moment – sharp needles – jump back from the shower to let the cold water run through, then under the showerhead again. The cool water starts to be replaced by surface tank water, which is warm, nice, and then it’s scalding hot – woa! Jump back from the shower again, dry off and open the door.
The world outside opens it eyes… ah, there you are. Towel around the middle for decency’s sake and step out. It’s possible to dry off in the sunshine – stand in the doorway of the bathroom to brush my teeth, shoosha-shoosha-shoosha… stop for a moment and look again at the face in the mirror. Is this the same “it” who played these hide-and-seek games so long ago? Is this the seeker? Looking out of these eyes in a reflection of itself, and seeing a world that’s separate from the sense of “me-ness” situated inside this body. We see each other like mirrors of ourselves, even though there’s no self to speak of, nobody at home. The closer I look, the more it’s not found. The enigma of stuck-ness…
Laughter of the Thais coming up from below, I go downstairs and make my way through them all… cognitive hybrid who speaks their language like a simpleton – they say I speak it well, this is why I never learned to be fluent. Really no need to ‘be’ anything, living in both worlds…
“You will never find it, because you are it. Therefore, seeking it is the denial of its presence. In seeking it, you compel it to seem as if hidden or lost. It is You that does not alter, You, Awareness. You are that for which you long and your longing is this very presence of love coupled with a thin veil of belief that it is absent, that it is an object that can be lost and found.” [Rupert Spira, All We Ever Long For]
Beautiful post! Sitting here with ice pack on head, fighting a migraine, trying to analyze what I like so much about your writing. Of course, there is the higher message which the soul takes in. But there is also an examination of the most mundane details of everyday life, like showering and brushing the teeth, all told to build up to a point. It is hypnotic writing that draws a picture of your world but also allows us in your mind. You dissolve boundaries.
Have fun with guests. Sounds sort of nice on the second floor despite the tricky shower.
Thanks Ellen and sorry to hear you’re down with a migraine, I get them sometimes and just have to give way to the situation. It helps not to fight against it. Your comments are v helpful for me, I don’t really know how it works, just the moment by moment conscious awareness unfolding as I go along. This may be the thing about allowing readers into the mind, dissolved boundaries that you mention. Nice to have Thai guests here, there’s a lot of laughter…
‘I’ve often said, the only thing standing between me and greatness is me.’
Ah yes, Woody Allen, maybe that’s it. One thing that really blew me away was this: ‘I’m not afraid of dying, I just don’t want to be there when it happens’.
Ha-ha, that’s a great one! XD Yes, Woody has a way with his little aphorisms. Your references to seeking – the hide-and-seek game – reminded me of the aphorism I quoted.
This seeking is a devil of a conundrum – to do nothing and rest with the dukkha that no one experiences, or to follow the path on which no one may walk, seeking a Nibbana which no one attains.
And I leave you Tiramit, with one more of Mr. Allen’s profundities:
Time is nature’s way of keeping everything from happening at once.
‘Time is nature’s way of keeping everything from happening at once.’
Interesting, I read that in Jack Kornfield’s ‘A Path With Heart’, not realising it was the wisdom of Woody Allen. I’m so glad you mentioned it. Let’s see, that was about 20 years ago? I was just starting to look at these kinds of mysteries and it seemed to explain everything – still does…
Woody’s a decent philosopher!
“Really no need to ‘be’ anything, living in both worlds…” I recognize this feeling and like it. Been looking, for a while now, at “no need to have an opinion.” Every time I remember these words, the body relaxes, the breath releases. What a relief!
Appreciating, too, your awareness of the sky, the birds, the trees, noticing your coming and going: lovely expansion into “we!” — Elizabeth
Thank you Elizabeth. This is it, an awareness of multiplicity while still functioning as the ordinary self…
Enjoyed this postcard – thanks.
You write: “cognitive hybrid who speaks their language like a simpleton”. Or maybe like an aphasiac.
Thanks yes, that’s it! I have a dysfunction in the brain 🙂 Having said that, I realise it’s only a dysfunction by comparison and there’s nothing to compare it with… just been over to look at your fascinating blog. Thanks for visiting here.
Bare skin under sky is such a healing way to be (I am in the discreet camp as well. No need to draw attention or make a scene)…although I do recall a church building in San Francisco that had to keep it’s blinds drawn in the summer because the neighbors at the apartment building next door would come out on the roof to sunbathe in the nude while the service was going on. I found this rather humorous and reminded by church going friends who were a bit upset (finding their ruffled feathers) of the story of Adam and someone named Eve 🙂 , -x.M
I often think about this kind of difference, being the only member of the family with light skin and pale pigmentation. Western folks come from a European culture that’s psychologically shut-in; having to wear clothes, shoes and the experience of bare skin under sky is really special – I know the feeling! In Asia, though, it’s the opposite. The sun shines every day, no walls, no roof and nearly everything happens outside; eat, sleep, bathe, watch TV. Actual nudity, though, is rare. Maybe because village life, the extended family wasn’t so very long ago and there was no need for clothes anyway so why bother – that’s how it had always been. Who know, maybe that’s what the garden of Eden was actually like? The problem came when Christian missionaries arrived and introduced the concept of sin, so everybody had to read the Bible and go around in suits and bowler hats. Before that, there wasn’t this built-in sense of shame. Could be that we’re stuck with it now…
Lovely clear descriptions as always, and the discussion about bare skin and the way in Asia everything is lived out in the open, but without nudity, reminds me of my home stay with a Nepali family last autumn. The washing facilities were public, basically a tap on a corner where two public paths met. Before trying myself I watched other women use it for a couple of days. Such deft and modest use of sari and towel, Getting everything washed while baring nothing. My own essential attempt was much less graceful 🙂 A true lesson for me, a 58 year old pale skinned, slightly overweight woman, in humility, community and acceptance! 🙂
I’ve been in a situation like that. Advance planning is necessary. A small crowd of children form around the tap to see what the white man looks like under his clothes… is he any different from the rest of us? But we’re all the same really. I felt I had to protect the dignity of the pale skinned, slightly overweight senior citizen that I am. And I watched, as you did, how other men washed by slooshing plastic jugs of water over the body, wearing a loongi tied around the waist and folded up as far as decency allows. The towelling off was good enough because the sunshine does the rest. So I managed it and felt I was a part of the community afterwards… a kind of baptism maybe?
yes, absolutely 🙂
That’s why I always to prefer a bath or strip wash. Ever the control freak. 😛
Thought you might find this (and maybe the whole album).
Thanks, yes I listened to that, then watched the (rather long) BBC documentary on Robert Wyatt and remembered of course the Soft Machine, in the sixties. Wonderful, a small piece of the past returned for me. And things I’d been puzzled about, in a way, not properly ‘seen’ – all that was resolved. Happy ending. Good, yes, and I’ll probably investigate that thing a bit further now, so thanks again…
Just an intuition, to send that track your way. 🙂
And now I am struck by the way that memories play hide and seek with us.
You have to know what you’re looking for – sometimes it seems like a contradiction in terms…
Not sure I have a fixed idea about where “I” may start and/or finish, or how accurate referring to memories as “my memories” might be. I certainly question how far I initiate anything I am experiencing
Maybe that didn’t come out the way I meant it to. To know what I’m looking for can be a contradiction in terms because if I know what it is, why am I looking for it? Mind you things would have to be really abstruse for it to reach that level where I’m seeing it all as a continuation of where it was last when somebody else remembered it and not ‘me’…
This is the kind of place where I wake up to the factthat I haven’t been here and it’s time to return to simply breathing. (Until I wander off again.)
I know the feeling…