POSTCARD #89: Delhi: Why is it that the back of somebody’s head is so much like a closed door? I’m standing in a line of people in the food store waiting with my purchases for my turn to pay at the check-out. It’s taking a long time and I’m wondering if I’m feeling a bit miffed about that, yes or no – anyway there’s this quiet awareness, curious and interesting. When I see the back of somebody’s head I immediately want to turn that person around with a hand on the shoulder and see who it is…. Hi there! How’re you getting on? But, can’t do that in the food store check-out line, of course, we’re all strangers and each of us isolated in this slightly tetchy discontent about having to wait… what’s happening down there? This is our predicament, looking at the backs of people’s heads in front of us, all the way down to the front. I’m moving my head from side to side, trying to see past all the other heads. But all the way down the line, other heads are doing the same thing and my line of vision is blocked by somebody else’s head moving from side to side because the head in front of them is in the way too. Funny to see all these sideways wobbling heads. I have a quick look behind me and everybody is having to do the same thing to see past me… no laughing matter, there’s a grumbling in the air.
Stand quietly, feet apart, evenly balanced and look at the back of the head of man in front. There’s a kind of frontality about the head. The face is on the front, of course, eyes look forwards, incoming data is received mostly from the front – ears are on the sides, but sideways functioning is limited. No sensory receptors on the back that have the function of sensing what’s going on in the world. Any backwards movement is blind, no rear-view mirror… trucks reversing out with that automatic beep-beep, beep-beep, beep-beep sound.
The human body is like a picture painted on a flat cardboard cutout. The whole back of my head and body is one large blind spot; a not-seeing that I know is there. Turn away, and suddenly the thing I was looking at is gone! Ignorance is a kind of ignoring – it has intelligence. I have the ability to overlook things, watch TV every day, and have ‘preferences’. I choose to be unconcerned about wars created by politicians. Prefer to be mesmerized by the reflected screen-glow of the digital device...searching for an object and never finding it. Move on, click something else, the appearance of reality holds my attention for a moment, then click on the next one. Am I really the ‘me’ I think I am? I can see that the ‘self’ is a construct, but the truth is hidden from me because there is no solid enduring self that sees it like this.
Idiosyncratic humanness caught in an unexpected circumstance. Waiting, but not that suspended state of waiting for the thing I’m waiting for; more like just waiting with the waiting. Being with the gentle in-breath/out-breath, the temperature of the air, the feel of the body standing there, and an easy observation of everything that’s happening. Balance, openness – poised between things in a place of emptiness. It’s all just moving along. There’s a gentle questioning of events as they arise… what’s this now? The moment transforms itself, observing the curiosity of it, mindfully placing one foot after the other, slowly and carefully, on stepping-stones that lead out into the river and over to the other side.
Let the water settle and you will see moon and stars mirrored in your being. [Rumi]
Upper image, ‘Not to be Reproduced’ (La reproduction interdite), a painting by Magritte 1937. excerpts from an earlier post: a sea of people. For the insight into ‘waiting’, special thanks to Zen Doe and The Path of Waiting – G R A T I T U D E –
The arresting of will.
The enigma of selfless willing.
No ‘you’ in view in the queue.
Get the heck out!
Thanks for the poem Hariod. In India the waiting thing becomes part of life. The circumstances indicate only one reasonable option, a comfortable easing away from the self that’s waiting to go anyway. Many times I’ve thought the only thing preventing me from letting go is I’m still holding on to it…
‘Many times I’ve thought the only thing preventing me from letting go is I’m still holding on to it.’
Spoken like a true meditator. 😉
Holding on to letting go…I love the idea of this.
What can be if I am not me? What will occur if I am not waiting anymore and rather just let passing time be me? Deep thought juju afoot here sweet sir. Thank you. -x.M
Thanks M. Oftentimes just looking at where the question is going is enough to see such a thing is possible. Click the ‘undo’ button, tip the balance, some ease enters into the intensity…
It brings to my mind a story of Eckhart Tolle in line at a check out. The cashier apologizes for keeping him waiting. He replies “I wasn’t waiting. I was being.”
I love the shift from lack of connection to frustration to mindfulness in this post!
Nice example, somehow it’s easy to picture Eckhart Tolle in that check out line! It’s the circumstances that cause this automatic shift to mindfulness, suddenly notice you’re standing outside the usual boundaries…
Interesting… I was waiting in line in a pharmacy earlier today, trying to practice “just seeing,” as I often do in such situations… Looking at the sandalled toes of the man in front of me and trying to let go of concepts of “toe,” foot,” or even “another human being…” The really mind blowing thing is that, if I’m able to loosen my grip on my conditioned preconceptions just a bit, looking at others in this way is not objectification, it’s an incredible doorway to compassion. The objectification comes with my preconceptions of who or what I think this other being is. There’s always separation there. If I can “just see,” separation starts to blur. Anyway, it’s nice to know I’m not the only one who lapses into viewing the world in this way from time to time… Jeff
Thanks Jeff, compassion for the human predicament – opening up to this makes it easier to see the self-created intensity. Yep, we’re all in the same boat. Here in India I’m not picking up on language cues, can’t hear the current of dialogue, and an opportunity arises to disengage from the ‘I’ we all suffer from. It’s the situation itself that pushes me out of the claustrophobic ‘self’… what else is there to do anyway?
I’ve been appreciating the conversation this post has inspired. Interesting, that we’ve all been standing on lines, having these thoughts and experiences, which we only have alone, yet have come here to share them together. There’s something about your quiet way that invites opening.
Queues as orderly lines of suppressed hatred?
Best wishes Elizabeth.
Hariod my friend, I have to say I’m a bit puzzled by this comment. Could you say a little more by way of explanation?
Just want to add that it took me a while to “like” Hariod’s initial comment, because I wasn’t sure I understood it. Then I thought I finally did, and now I’m again unsure. I think that Hariod is perceiving a dimension I don’t see but would like to. There are always so many layers!
Thank you for your comment and follow-up. Yes, there are mixed feelings about being in the line, of course. Normally, when people have to stand together for a period of time there’s movement and we can see each other’s faces even if we don’t speak. Being in the line is solitary, we can’t really have any dialogue, just take our place in the sequence and the imposed directionality. I wrote the post in an attempt to see it as a walking/standing meditation exercise. I like your idea that those who visit here have an opportunity to share the experience. Thanks again…
We are always being, and we are always being in one place and cannot be in another. If we truly see our being, it makes no difference where we be. Why must being still in a queue or in stopped traffic or the throes of calamity be any different sort of being than stillness in our beds or gazing at our loved ones or sitting long enough to watch a beautiful sunrise?
When I am being in a line or other crowd, this is the only place I can be and these are the beings being with me (frankly I include non-human beings as well). We are by fate and circumstance suddenly and instantly a thing. We are the queue of people waiting (being) together. By this I am bound to the beings around me.
We are no longer disconnected strangers, but a throng of beings participating together in a mutual activity. I talk to them, I sing, I offer assistance, I pay for the coffee of the being behind me. We are one.
Be at peace,
Thank you Paz for this wonderful description of the universality of being. Standing in a queue or stopped in traffic, lying in bed or in any kind of situation that provides an opportunity to focus on being – all of it is valuable. I’m really grateful for this, it cheered up my day. Thanks for your visit…
A WINNING HAND
Patience trumps annoyance
Mindfulness trumps irritation
Non-attachment trumps ego
Absolutely right Ben, thank you for this. It came just at the right time, I was feeling a bit defeated but now everything is in balance again…
Wheels within wheels. 😉
Like the circles that you find in the windmills of your mind…
Just so. 🙂