POSTCARD #117: Chiang Mai: Walking to school with M and we pass this 30 foot high sculpture of a cat with a moustache and a small handbag… too much. That’s how it looks to me, thinking of the many poets who died for love of the metaphor – and is this a monument to their too-muchness? But that’s only how I see it, a European living in Thailand. I ask M if she knows what it’s supposed to be? And look down at this small person walking beside me, backpack bouncing slightly always out of sync with the motion of her walk. She tells me something at length, but I can’t hear properly, so acknowledge with hmmm, really? Wait to see if there’s a follow-up response, but we’re focused on going to school and besides, we’re in this public place.
It’s too much – me being here, walking with this eleven-year-old Thai child holding my hand, and she with her Thai cultural behavior. When I ask M if I’m walking too fast, because she’s so small maybe I should slow down? She says, no Toong Ting, is okay and places her cheek against my forearm as we’re walking along in the heavy traffic, no pavement … it’s that too-much thing again. She’s on the inside all the way until we get to the main road and turn right. Then I need to change hands so I’m on the outside shielding her against the traffic and little M is on the inside. Three people on a small motorbike go past us, looks dangerous – but I’d be wrong to say that’s too much; it’s ordinary low budget. For them, it’s just right. What’s too much is that I think it’s too much, and my views and opinions are not relevant here.
A few people recognize us, smile; night shift security guards salute… too much; I’m not sure how to react when I’m being saluted at. We get to the school; other kids are there, the familiarity of it. M takes her shoes off, waves bye-bye and enters the building. I set off back the way we came, my too-much reaction is unavoidable and have to struggle to see it just as a reaction. For the Thais it’s different, there’s this built-in sense of ‘too much’; food is too spicy; too many colours in a room interior… that’s what they call ‘too much’. The word is bprung dtàeng, ปรุงแต่ง. There’s the mind form of it too; thinking too much, ‘conceptual proliferation’ the Buddhist term papañca. Human beings are like this; the reaction to follow thought is as automatic as the eyes see, nose smells… thoughts proliferate.
“It is quite amazing to watch as the mind takes the simplest thought, jumps on it, and runs off in all directions. Just as the ear hears without any effort (and in fact it takes a lot of effort to make the ear not hear), the mind proliferates effortlessly, and it takes a lot of effort and/or training to hold this tendency in check. It’s the unbidden “going” of the mind to so many different subsequent thoughts that is important, rather than the diverse places it goes […] By becoming masters of the directions in which our thoughts proliferate, we can achieve freedom. The Buddha recognizes that the mind’s tendency towards Papañca is unavoidable, and instead of fighting the inevitable, he teaches us how to ride (and tame) the tiger.” [Leigh Brasington]
Definitely mind is WAY too much, for me at least. I am trying to train myself to ignore it if possible, as Mooji suggests. And New York City is way too much of everything. I long for simplicity and quiet. Very touching post, with M. A wonderful relationship!
yes, the mind has its own momentum. even when we watch it play its games, it seems to still go on for a while. once we let off the gas, it tends to coast on its own. though, some have breaks.
This is it, could be that once we let off the gas and it’s just coasting on its own, an opportunity arises to not follow up on the next stage in the game? I’m thinking of steps 6 and 7 in the cycle of dependent origination, Buddhadasa version – it all depends on ‘clinging’
tiramit. absolutely! Just knowing and watching is really all we can actually do. We cant control what thoughts arise. Just watch them. I have not read stage 6 and 7 but know what you mean. It is not what happens or even what we think that makes us suffer. It is the stuff we pile on top of that that gets us. I find if I don’t make myself wrong for whatever sins I commit, nothing can stick. The key is to see that dialogue. Just seeing is Huge actually. It can be subtle and it is easy to get lost in it, until its not.
As you say, the key is seeing the dialogue, whatever and how complex/subtle it might be, knowledge replaces ignorance as well as offloading childhood conditioning about ‘sin’ (does more harm than good) and everything to do with ‘self’/ an eternal soul too… then nothing can stick; teflon coated pan, rinse under water and it’s as good as new. The turning point for me was this 6/7 step…
Thanks Ellen, observing M helps me to understand the too-muchnesss of everything – and definitely ‘mind is WAY too much’, a statement of fact, remembering Mind is a sense organ, same as the other five senses. All of them driven by sensory input and the habituality of responding in the way we do – just knowing this is a starting point.
Yes, it IS a starting point and I see teeny results from just seeing this. But “Miles to go before I sleep” — want to “die” before this body does. Mind certainly tries to take over and retain dominance in the form of the person.
I recognize this: Mind tries to retain dominance in the form of the person – it’s natural. I think we’re looking for the Middle Way between all the wanting, on the one hand, and what is skilful choosing… just seeing this is enough. These woods are lovely dark and deep. Wanting it to be more than just these ‘teeny results’ means we’re pulled into ‘wanting’ again…
Thank you for the pointing to the “wanting”– definitely needed that reminder! Very much!
You’re welcome Ellen, isn’t it true for all of us; the subtlety of wanting things to be other than what they are – it’s always present…
Oh thank you again Tiramit… I love reading your posts and watch how the mind bounces along with your words and the imagined images bring such delight to the sense… it’s all such a wonderful ‘too much’. Much love Mx
Thanks Melinda, it’s helpful to have comments like yours; helps me focus on things I wasn’t aware of, such as how the mind bounces along with the words and the images that arise from this. I’m so involved in the process of structuring the piece in as few words as possible, it gets more and more condensed maybe… this wonderful too-muchness of it all.
This is so useful i copied it: What I need to get to work today! “By becoming masters of the directions in which our thoughts proliferate, we can achieve freedom… instead of fighting the inevitable, he teaches us how to ride (and tame) the tiger.”
It’s a good one, isn’t it! What it means to me is a change in direction; the intention to face the issue rather than back away… and by doing so, allow it
Taming the tiger?
The courage, at least, to see it that way?
my housemate has a post-it note taped to the side of the pot holding a house plant. It says:
“if you don’t collide with the traffic in your mind, I think you’ll find a way out of this.”
as good a way to put it as many, and better than most, I think.
I think so too and will find a way to include it in a future post, sourced back to kum nye today. Thank you
Thank you. And thank you for all of your likes of Kum Nye today. It is nice to find others who connect to Tarthang Tulku’s words…
In fact I know so little about Kum Nye and have only read about Tarthang Tulku in Wiki. What I recognize is the wisdom in the quotes in your blog and the all-pervading sense of mindfulness in the movements. I’ll continue to look into this as time goes on, thank you…
Yes… Tarthang Tulku’s books all contain this kind of wisdom expressed in different ways. They are amazing. Sometimes it is gardens and nature, sometimes work, sometimes under the guise of yoga, he is able to relate all of life back to the essence of what is true for all of us.