[This post is written in response to a Time Machine Challenge from Linda, at Litebeing Chronicles.] October 10, 2015, Chiang Mai, Thailand: I’ve had this intense headache and neck pain since the beginning of September. Postherpetic Neuralgia (PHN), nerve damage caused by herpes zoster, and trying to come terms with the fact that it could be like this for the rest of my life – what does that mean? Now the pain is cushioned, I’m on Neurontin 100mg x 3 per day and they say this drug changes my attitude to pain. But at the beginning there were intervals when homeopathic remedies had an effect and the pain was gone for a time. The relief was overwhelming; how could the pain just disappear like that? I needed to know. The inclination was to turn towards it, questioning – rather than turning away in defence… finding some relief in switching off the default sense of: this pain is happening to ‘me’… and suddenly finding there’s no ‘me’ the pain is happening to.
In that heightened state of mind I’d get on to my meditation cushion, carefully… any slight movement and the headache returns. And it’s as if I’m sitting at the edge of the sea, beach sand beneath my folded legs. An incoming wave of thought enters, swirls around for a while then spins away with the outgoing tide – nothing remains. There’s not anyone engaging with these thoughts. Shortly after that another wave comes crashing in; incidental mental conversations scatter on the beach sand… things of no consequence, attention-seeking chatter of the mind dwindles away as it recedes, and it’s gone; returning to the silence of no thinker, falling into a landscape of pain-free, ease and gentleness.
What strange karma could have led to this? Present time conditioned by past experience, yet there’s also the possibility that the past can change according to how it is perceived in present time. Returning to old memories with such vivid clarity that it all seems quite different – I recreate an object in memory according to present circumstances. Reopen a remembered event that’s troubled me for decades and, for the first time I see it in a kindly way. Either it was ‘me’ that got in the way and that’s what caused the problem, or it was somebody else’s ‘me’ that obscured the issue. Forgiveness and compassion for the way we’re all caught (everyone is), trapped in thought and driven by the suffering of ‘self’ wanting things to be different, other than what they are. I’m aware of circumstances I’d not noticed at the time and that past event becomes redefined in the process of reviewing the situation.
The past is a remembered ‘now’. There’s the scary familiarity of bad memories – but it’s not as it was before; same story but somehow seen clearly and portrayed differently… a new production of an old movie, there in the altered past, seeing the present moment as a kind of back-to-the-future thing. Kindnesses and sorrows over the denial and avoidance – how could it be like this? It’s an acceptance in a no-choice situation, a giving-way-to-it action; passive understanding that there’s got to be a willingness to relax the resistance and allow everything to pass through, unheld…
“If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should see sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.” [Henry Wadsworth Longfellow]