loving-kindness for the critical mind


Chmai arrivalPOSTCARD#92: Chiang Mai: Writing this on the iPhone keyboard, shadowy index finger blocks out the whole letter. The letters ‘O’ and ‘P’ are difficult, I try to type ‘M’ and hit the backspace instead. Requires a certain kind of patience… it’s amazing what you can do if you have to. My computer is with the technician — went there immediately after arriving in Chiang Mai Tuesday morning. A red-eye flight from Delhi, only three and a half hours, no time to sleep – watching videos all night. Arrive in Bangkok at 5.30 am, a huge commercial project, the bright lights and glitz of 24/7 enhanced shopping experience. Passengers from all parts of the world gather at the domestic terminal lounge — we all wear a yellow transit sticker on the lapel — everybody having spent the night in an aircraft, bleary-eyed and hypnotised by inflight videos.

Then dispersed on different domestic flights North, South, East, West, and I arrive in Chiang Mai at 9.15am, a bit bewildered in the daylight of the arrival hall. Waiting for my bag… waiting, and waiting, but it doesn’t come. All the other bags have gone and now there’s just the belt itself moving round. Where’s my bag? My small volume of clothes folded flat, papers, books, computer cables zipped up tight, X-rayed and pushed into its space in the aircraft baggage. WHERE is it? My bag is ‘me’ an assembled ID, a costumed and shoed, hair-combed identikit. This is who ‘I’ am!

Man in uniform comes along, competent, in-charge attitude; looks at me over his glasses and asks to see my luggage tag number. He takes it to his desk, studies his document for a moment and makes a call (I’m watching him at his desk), comes back and informs me my bag was not loaded on the plane and it’s still in transfer at Bangkok… pause, he looks me in the eye, assessing my capacity for patience. Please write your address here and we will deliver it later today. His demeanour tells me he knows about this problem; he also knows how to handle worn-out passengers living in a video world. There’s an empathy and ease about his movements. Maybe he used to be a monk, a Maha Thera, all men in Thailand become monks for a short time. Some for a long time.

Meanwhile, I’m standing there like a satellite dish antenna pointed at the sky, receiving the signal, interpreting data – how should I respond to this devastating news? Make a huge scene? No, let’s not do that, long inhalation of in-breath, relaxed release of the out-breath. Man in uniform still waiting for a reply… there’s  something quiet and easy about him. Just looking at me… calm eyes, one eyebrow lifted slightly, as if to say, is that going to be okay with you sir? Inner well-being, and there’s a feeling that, yes, it could be okay. Even if I did get upset, it still means my bag is not here, and having to wait for it anyway.

He walks me over to his desk and holds the form in the centre of my vision, finger pointing at a space where I’m supposed to sign my name. Is this the no-responsibility waiver? Am I signing away all my rights? Everything written in Thai, do I have to get my dictionary out? Oh no, it’s in the bag. Sign it, sign it! Thank you very much, bye-bye, nice man. Walk away to the taxi area with no bag, no trolley, hands free, hands in pockets, hands swinging by my side as I walk. Get to the apartment, shower and dress up in a bizarre arrangement of light cotton beach-wear. Fall asleep on the sofa for two hours, then the doorbell goes ping-pong, it’s my bag delivered and rolling in on its wheels, just like the man said.

‘… have loving-kindness for your dislike of the way it is, so you are not even criticizing yourself for being critical… Even if you are sitting here hating yourself, thinking of yourself as selfish and critical and not a very nice person, you can have metta for that; you can have loving-kindness for the critical mind.” [Ajahn Sumedho, ‘ Liberating Emotions‘]

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23 thoughts on “loving-kindness for the critical mind

    • Thank you Eric, what really did it for me in the end was finding the Ajahn Sumedho text: ‘Liberating Emotions’. In some ways I’m glad the inconvenience led to this discovery.

    • Thanks Stephanie, it was finding the quote that put the whole situation into this context; ‘have loving-kindness for your dislike of the way it is’, it says it all…

      • I feel myself ready to explode at times and do at times. But I find myself being pulled back and find a calm. It gets easier and easier. But funny this calm use to be one of my defining natures when I was young and I was thought to be weak.

      • Yes, it’s a learning experience. I recognise the feeling, we’re constantly challenged, responding to expected confrontation. In Thailand they don’t have that kind of received behaviour. I had to relearn everything, now after 30 years, only traces of the old Western conditioning remain.

      • Such “flickers of a reaction” are to be appreciated! It’s like getting a massage: tense muscles just show you what area needs relaxing. No tests, no mistakes or faltering, less growth! This is beautiful, another lesson woven well with the quoted theme — Elizabeth

      • Thanks for visiting again Elizabeth. These tiny reactions are immediately familiar; trigger a process that takes me away, not towards. I see them as feelings without engaging in the content, accepting them in this context. Interested in the quality of energy they contain, not holding, all things are subject to change — eventually they disappear of their own accord.

  1. As a single candle can light a darkened room, so shone this gem. It has never occurred to me to have loving-kindness toward my own critical mind. We (mind and I) must talk about this.

    Thanks, and be at peace,

    Paz

    • Thank you Pazlo. Your comment caused a yelp of laughter in the darkness of early morning over here, brought a small light into the room. The plurality of me and my mind means it’s ‘us’ 🙂 I’m going around all the time looking at a mirror reflection of what I do and think — thanks for reminding me.
      Ajahn Sumedho talks a lot about having loving-kindness for the things we are averse to; loving-kindness for the resistance to loving that which is unloved. It brings ease to the struggle I experience in not being able to accept the reality of the unloved; the presence of it in my world…

  2. Thank you for the post. Have loving kindness for your dislike ….that may mean the difference between your bag arriving in a timely fashion, or at all. I believe that nice man expedites the bag rounding up of those who don’t bitch…lol

    • Thanks, trellabrazil. You could be right about the man expediting things according to those who bitch and those who don’t. But I notice us Western folks tend to anticipate confrontation in a situation like this, and the Thais don’t have that kind of psychological reaction. I think what I was seeing in his eyes wasn’t an automatic preparednessess for confrontation. If there was, it was based on his experience of being intimidated by Western directness and that’s what could destabilise the proper way of doing things.

  3. Love the Ajahn Sumedho quote here and I believe on your next post. I am struggling with a slightly different approach. Don’t know if I can summarize… Mooji’s teaching to find self within and not to go to ego or personality or mind. This is challenging for me but helpful. Do you know of Mooji? Not on regular laptop– away– so cannot give a link.

    • Thanks Ellen, yes I’ve watched many Mooji videos and have a lot of respect for this approach. My feeling is that Mooji’s teaching wouldn’t reject the Ajahn Sumedho idea of slowly becoming familiar with the usual characteristics of ego, personality, mind as we go on with the investigation. We start to see through our habitualities by accepting them in a understanding way as they arise – the obstructions are dissolved more and more and the direction is clear.

      • Thanks for your good wishes. There is this thing about having an opportunity to be open to life’s difficulties – not usually done through choice :-). At the moment I’m composing posts and answering comments seen on a tiny iPhone screen. I have to rest the eyes from time to time. Learning so much from reactions to the inconvenience of it – everything is part of the Teaching.

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