high altitude pain

259982750POSTCARD #187: Bangkok/Delhi flight: The journey is by way of a series of crowded corridors connected like tubes in a telescope, one inside the other, becoming smaller and smaller, reduced to squeeze us into the self construct; the way we are and the lifetimes lived with it. The ‘me’ in the body, the voice in my head, the narrator telling the story. This is how it is… and already there’s a sense of distance from the world (‘this’ was). Keep moving, we pass through security as if it were the eyepiece of the telescope, examined through a lens; cameras watch us standing in line. We are subject to causes and conditions… shoes off, gentlemen remove belt, anything in your pockets Sir? Take off watch please. Enter the X-ray cubicle, stand with legs apart, arms extended, wind blows clothes aside and hair ruffled. I’m suddenly aware the viewer behind the lens can see everything underneath clothing. Shoes on, thread belt through loops, pick up watch and things. Collect computer from tray put it back inside bag and get organised. Step out of there, aware, balanced, easy breathing and it’s okay right now (except piercing high frequency air-conditioning sound, waiting for pain to arrive but it doesn’t come), sensory mechanisms function without my involvement. Continue with the slow foot shuffle (high pitched voices, mysterious kerfuffle), but we’re all moving along here. I’m like an antenna receiving data; seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching and cognitive functioning receptor, waiting for things to happen.

Hand passport to officer, look at the camera, facial recognition, the self I inhabit… this is who I ‘am’ (the same as everyone else ‘is’). The officer stamps twice, thump… thump (the sound of it), walk through and out to the duty-free extravaganza (piercing light enters neural pathways), suddenly blinded for a moment in the reflected glow of gold watches, jewelry, the made-up lips and eyes in vivid, max-pixel pictures, videos of popular celebrities, cosmetic dentistry, facial alterations, images in unflawed focus and good-looking lighting; commonplace works of art, masterpieces of trivialities. I could use the television analogy; I’m watching this channel and all the other people are watching their channels – and if there were separate channels for every single being in the world, that would be the correct analogy.

We’re in another tunnel sloping downwards, becoming smaller at the end where painted ladies wait, show me where I have to go; turn right into an even smaller tube with seats on either side of a corridor, and I’m in my numbered seat. It’s made to measure, low ceiling, knees touch the seat in front, elbows touching the guy next to me, hairy arms. It’s like being on a bus at night, except less space. No view from the window, can see only the blank video screen at eye level, 18 inches in front of me… everything is too near and a feeling of blackness. Try to read my book on the Kindle but the words appear strange, three-dimensional, as if embossed on the screen, the lines of text are not straight; flowing in a gentle curve. Then I feel the pain behind my right eye like a sharp steel knife entering my head, and pushed right up to the hilt. Gasp! The painted ladies bring me a plastic glass of water. Searching in my pockets for the meds…the huge pain has reached its max, the steel blade withdraws; a devastation of everything, catastrophic, frantic looking for something to hold on to, or let go of, and it all tips over like a building falls on its face in slow motion, desolation, wreckage and some relief as I see it’s not happening to ‘me’ – it’s not ‘my’ pain, too big for that, much too big. It’s the force of pain on its own, like the huge wind blows, the vast rain falls, a storm at sea. Swallow two capsules, lie back, close my eyes and the curve I was seeing earlier becomes the curve of a thick dark smoke rising up from my head, swirling up through the paper-thin structure of the plane, the sky above and space all around.

Relaxed with the seat back, pain gone and all that remains is the sound of the engines at 600 mph and altitude 38,000 feet. The mind makes a ‘story’ out of it, a stretched sense of reality that includes the video I’m watching in the darkness. Memory allows all kinds of out-of-context events to be there and acceptably part of it.

Landing, bump… bump, long lumpy runway to get to the airport buildings, then the clamber and struggle for overhead baggage, push, shove. Intrude, squeeze as they do here, full body contact with total strangers, and out into a tunnel again, more tunnels becoming wider, wider then a corridor and out onto the miles of ochre coloured carpet with patterns of planets and stars. High speed moving walkways and we’re in India.

“God is a mythical word, a mumbo-jumbo word that is the invention of the priesthood. Actually, to ask whether God exists is absurd. God is existence, the very isness. When we say God exists we create something out of the word God, then God becomes a thing. But God is not a thing, nor is God a person, he is pure existence. The word is misleading because the word personifies. It is better to use the word existence. The totality of existence is God.” [Osho]


Photo: Free internet image
Quote: Source, God is Existence itself – Osho

28 thoughts on “high altitude pain

    • Thanks Val, yes the quote really sums it up, describes the situation in a way we recovering Westernised Christians can understand. In the East they know this without asking the question, even kinda amazed that we think the way we do. All this is part of my condition I’m coming to see and my practice includes all of it. The plan is that I’ll do less travelling from now on…

  1. Great piece!! Great description and, yes, the detached visuals are so effective, demonstrates the higher consciousness. Love the part about all of us having separate films in our heads or whereever! Pain without self-pity. You nailed it but I hate that you’re in pain! In Reiki, Ellen

    • Thanks Ellen, the fact is the headache is always there. Mostly I don’t notice it because of the meds. Sometimes it comes through even so and the action is a slow stabbing. Then more meds and it goes. Thanks to the pharmaceutical companies but they make too much of a profit to seem honourable. The visual imagery seems to leap out at me and the craft is in summarising the whole thing with many edits and rewrites to get it to fit into a smaller space than it would otherwise be comfortable in. The television thing only works properly if we see that we are making the movies too by ourselves, as a species maybe. Thanks for your thoughts and best wishes to you

  2. I admire your writing style, compelling and so easy to read. Draws one in and flows like a river until we spill into the delta, and are left floating away on a current of visual imagery, experiences and emotions.
    Thanks for the Osho quote. An answer- or perhaps non-answer, for the ever-popular and rhetorical question.

    Wishing you better days,


    • Thanks Paz, some days are good, without the sharp clatter, and inexplicable fact. So much coming in, there’s an overflow of words and figures of speech; it’s like this, it is this, one thing becomes another, metamorphosis, chrysalis to winged creature and the vast space of air.
      Osho fires his words aimed at targets, unfortunate ‘collateral damage’ sustained…

    • Thanks Tom, feeling better this morning at my home in Delhi, no pressure, it’s the weekend. Something I learned some time ago and you know about already; suffering is not yours or mine. Maybe it’s just ‘there’ because we want it not to be. We’re ‘divorced’ from it as you say. It becomes the object we’re related to as its subject. The only option in extreme situations is to accept its vastness; let it in and overflow, sweep through everything and out to the sea…

  3. Thanks for your posts. All the way across the planet, here in the frozen and bare Cairngorm mountains I am reading and imagining things and places as you describe them I have a question for you: suffering – real human suffering: although we know that all things pass and suffering is an integral part of life, and there is no escape from it, just ways to live through it and emerge, hopefully, with deeper compassion than before – what can a person do whilst in the midst of suffering to best get by? One clings to the teachings and the teaching images and understands them, but wonders: why? and how? and wishes things were otherwise.

    • A good question. What can a person do… but wishing things were otherwise contributes in a big way to the fact there is suffering in the first place… but I know exactly what you mean. I suppose we’re forced into a closer fascination with this enigma, life itself, the miracle of it or whatever, and the ongoing investigation into how this can be. Pragmatic stuff, breathing, the inbreath makes me high for a moment, cultivate that. It shifts the focus from the mind’s habituality. Contemplate the situation where there is no mind:
      Where there is the mind, where there are mental phenomena, mind-consciousness, things to be cognized by mind-consciousness, there a being exists or the description of a being. Where there is no mind, no mental phenomena, no mind-consciousness, there a being does not exist nor any description of a being. [SN 1.65]

      It’s not wishing it were otherwise, sometimes it’s the genuine experience for a moment of not possessing this body or anything; not being there (or here) or anywhere. There’s just a presence…

  4. Your writing makes me feel every inch of your movement in travel. So much to go through at an airport these days, but since I last travelled overseas in 1979, it seems like an unworldly experience to hear you recount it.

    My sympathies for your pain state.

    (my prescription painkillers take 45 minutes to work, so I try and use them only when desperate. 2-3 years ago a walk out in nature with my camera sometimes distracted me enough to ‘weather’ that pain storm, but not now. Sometimes counting the breathe in and out with deep breathing for 5 minutes works. Once, playing my singing bowl erased all pain, but only one time did that work).

    • Thanks Vicki, I’m going to reduce my overseas trips, it’s just not possible these days. Air travel is mostly about sometimes quite intrusive security zones, at both ends of the journey. The journey itself has been downgraded for economy (coach) passengers in recent years as airlines go for max profit, if they squeeze another row or two of passengers in and shuffle all the rest of the seats back, they earn an extra few thousand bucks per trip. So if you have long legs like me there’s not enough space… On long haul flights, I have to go on business class to avoid the discomfort? Particularly on Asian airlines where passengers are smaller usually. I just pay the extra these days, the headaches are bad enough without having to suffer while packed like sardines.

      About the meds, it’s the same with my prescription painkillers, they take 45 minutes to work, so I was overdosing to start with, thinking I need to get rid of this pain fast. Then I’d have the added problem of getting dizzy and eventually starting to fall into a kind of half-sleep. The doc says to take the prescribed dose as soon as there’s a sense that a big headache is coming, thus allowing that 45 mins to pass before the big headaches start to come.

      Being with the pain is the only way, rather than avoidance and mind grumbling, hating, ruminating which just makes it more problematic. This is the true meaning of mindfulness – not easy. I try to go with a clear mind that allows each wave of pain (it’s a slow stabbing in the head for me) and sometimes a wave comes that blows me away totally. It takes a long time. I think you learn. Keep trying different things, free music on internet; all kinds of soothing things with bells and flutes a special sound frequency for easing the mind.

      Thanks for asking about the pain, I think there are lots of people out there suffering in some kind of way. I’d like to hear from anyone who’s got my condition, PHN in the head area, maybe it’s quite rare. I wish you well. Speak later…

  5. Wonderful writing as always, Tiramit, though I am sorry the subject was such a close observation of pain. Traveling a little less sounds good. Relaxing. Health is so easily taken for granted when it’s all we know, and then so challenging at times to recover when things are a little off. My wife has been having headaches for a while, and after many attempts at healing approaches seems to have found a working modality. It is hard to not know. Hard not to personalize our pain. It’s a bit like being angry with a computer, which in my experience is almost always doing exactly what was asked of it! Ha! We just can’t see the simple things lurking in the complexity of it all sometimes…

    Wishing you peace and ease–

    • Thanks Michael and yes it’s hard not to personalize the pain. This is the true meaning of mindfulness. It’s the wind blowing, it’s the rain gusting, it’s not ‘mine’. But a lot of the time I’m high on pain killers in a mad sort of way. It would just be so good to be normal, simplicity is a complex thing to acquire…

    • Good to hear from you Liz, I’m living on painkillers. Butan is a place I’ve always wanted to visit. I expect we shall see some Butanese colours in your paintings as a result…

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.