POSTCARD #213: Chiang Mai: Mine is the get-out-of-jail-free card… nothing I’d heard about or read about indicated that an injection in the head, the Right Occipital Nerve (don’t ask me how), would give me this wonderful pain-free life again; the absence of headache 24/7 for the last 10 months, the lack of things to think about or things I think I should be thinking about. I don’t have the burden of it. Weightlessness, a state of suspended disbelief, there are no words, emptiness empties itself, gone, no nothing, inability to articulate, indescribable. I’ve heard from others who’ve had this kind of a sudden easing, an opening, and after the fact they’ve said that it’s this or it’s that, but really there are no words for it. If it could be described, it would be no-self, rather than ‘Self’, it would be non-duality… but that state is indescribable.
Then one day I looked out the window and realized they’d changed the flight path, the planes are now arriving rather than departing. Every 5 minutes one flies over. I’m fascinated by the sudden presence of this low-flying high-speed double-decker tourist bus with wings coming in to land; another planeload of passengers from Southern China. Strange, the engine sound comes after it, demanding attention, and there is the plane, flying silently ahead of the sound wave; seen first in one window then in the other. It enters the space I’m in – appears and disappears as if it were flying through the room.
The repetition of it, one plane after another. Seen in slow motion, in time-lapse it appears as if the plane is rushing through between the buildings in a great catastrophe of joy. Out there and in here, things merge together so much it’s difficult to distinguish, no need. Even having to click the Pause button on the Netflix movie I’m watching, until the plane sound flies through the room (because I can’t hear the soundtrack), even that isn’t an inconvenience, the ease is such, these things don’t matter.
Suchness, thusness, Thatāgata. The answer to a question I haven’t even thought of yet. And I wake up from it for a moment. These easy days of lounging around on the sofa, watching the planes go by, are coming to an end. Wasting away the last afternoon instead of getting ready to go… okay, time I wasn’t here. Drag myself into the upright position and go pack my bag, the flight to Bangkok leaves at 14.30. A few hours in transit, then another flight into the darkness and early rains of North India. Placed on the ground, monsoon, pleasantly cool, a man without a headache. Put on the clothes of who I am there, become the person who lives in that location. Pick up the thread, the sequence of time unfolds by itself, events occur in the forward momentum I create by facing the direction I’m in. The identity I have is where I hang my hat…
‘All conditioned Dharmas are like dreams, illusions, bubbles, shadows. Like dew drops, a lightning flash. Contemplate them thus.’ [Diamond Sutra]
Wonderful if you have found a solution to the headache 🙂
Reality changes to match our expectations as we move through it. Which begs the question of what the reality is that we think we see.
Could be it’s realities, plural… ? The headache-free condition will last for maybe a month or two then I go back for another injection and that goes on and on and I’m told, a bald spot appears in the place where the needle keeps going in. All of this combined with other realities go to make up one very much larger reality, I speculate, and consider that this too must be another reality to be included…
I think that multiplicity of realities comes closer to the mark.
It is a shame it can’t be a permanent relief, but after ten months of that, this new reality must seem quite strange.
Buddhist teachings remind me nothing is permanent, nothing lasts in the way we expect, in the way we perceive it to be. There’s always another mind state/reality appearing and the post-headache state is a welcome change as well as quite strange, a hiccup in the continuum…
I’ve always found that the absence of accustomed pain seems stranger than its presence. Which again questions our notion of reality and how easily we can accept Maya.
And I have always had this respect for the pain women experience, the particular way it’s seen. Could be that maya arises more often in these circumstances. She becomes more and more familiar with the proliferation of thoughts and the (ordinary) notion of reality includes so much more imagery derived from pain, the absence of it seems stranger than its presence, as you say.
As I mentioned a while back, I think much of the pain we feel, both physical and emotional.. real though it is to us… is caused by our attention becoming fixed on it..then we tense up and it gets worse as we react and creates a feedback loop. In that respect, at least, there is much illusion in our perception.
One way or another it tries to get our attention, ‘warning, warning, something is wrong, fix it please’. But the human body/mind organism is faulty, or is it that we expect it to do what it cannot, or wilfully ignore it (ignorance), or pretend it’s something else? The thing I’ve noticed is that it’s only possible to open up to pain as a last resort; when there really is no way out other than to go towards it. An understanding takes place then that provides ease for a while…
It is an excellent alarm system… you have to admire Nature’s design. But if we give all our attention to the pain, we wouldn’t even begin to know how to fix it.. or accept its presence.
Turning around to face the pain is like stepping into a forest fire, but it somehow breaks the holding on to it. We start to learn how to accept its presence. As you said earlier, much of the pain is caused by our attention becoming fixed on it…
Like passing your finger through a candle flame…
So happy you are pain free! Namaste _/l\_
A kind of awakening, like the book by Oliver Sacks, except that as long as I can keep on having the right injections I’ll be okay
Great post again tiramit. It is as i read through all the stories you’ve wrote and see the equanimity which is their common ground.
And your ‘inability’ to give any words to it reminds me of the Heart Sutra.
“Beyond words, beyond thoughts.. and yet it can be experienced as the nature of our own mind.”
May the four boundless qualities never seize to grow in you my friend 🙂
Thanks Pieter for the word, equanimity. I like to think of it as a kind of composure, no matter what.
Also for the 4 boundless qualities: love, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity. Wow! the quote from the Heart Sutra too, altogether you’ve changed my morning.
I can understand your choice for the word composure. It requires insight and balance to not be disturbed by all that transpires. And with the three other boundless qualities, equanimity becomes a way of life, a way of being.
The Heart Sutra is such a wonderful text. It really connects with ‘suchness’ and helps me to look beyond the intellect.
Wish you a lovely day
Thanks for seeing that Pieter, I’d been doing it and not really addressed the cause or really understood ‘composure’ in the context of equanimity until you pointed it out. The Heart Sutra is on my bookshelf, I’ll spend more time with it now…
Hehe reminds me of the movie ‘Waking Life’:
‘He’s all action in our theory, and we’re all theory and no action’.
And you are the ‘He’ in this case. Imho it is sometimes better to be in the action and not thinking. But we need a little theoretical background every now and then. At least that’s how it works for me. Just got back from a retreat and now the process of integrating has really started. To see life with different eyes, and a more open attitude.. such a wonderful gift. And not to cling to this, we come full circle back to equanimity. Glad that I can share a bit here. Think I’ll write a little blog or two soon too 🙂
It’s true, I’m more on the application side than the theoretical. Nearly 35 years of living in other people’s countries, having to find my way through by the learning-by-doing option, I tend to be intuitive almost all of the time. Discovering the extent of this headache has been a hard road, reading everything available on the internet and struggling with doctors who don’t speak English well and all of it in a hospital situation where many things you’d expect to be there just aren’t. Cognitive thinking is inductive rather than deductive (as we’re used to in the West), for me having to learn to not look for a subject, just allow the whole thing to fall into place in the telling, and often it’s just not there at all because I was brought up in a deductive learning environment. Having stumbled so often there’s now more than a tendency to fall (fail) and surrounded by a population who are simply puzzled by the strange behaviour of the foreigner who does things as a child would. It hurts, so I become hardened over the years. Getting up and moving on is essential. These days though I sometimes just don’t do it. Seventy next year, the enthusiasm is not there in the way it used to be…
I can understand the combination of difficult communication and being in the East with an entirely different approach to life makes you more intuitive. Probably helps you way better than deducting everything and then not getting anywhere. Guess the people in the East are a bit more practically oriented than we are.
And you write that you’ve become hardened over the years. In your writing it also shows that you’ve softened 🙂 And ofcourse, if nothing works, M is always there to tickle you into softening 🙂
The blog is a place where I can relax and just communicate, reach out, absorb, have insight. The Thais don’t seem to have these qualities in the same way. If they do I can’t see it because of the difficulties in switching to their way of seeing. It’s much to do with a subtle level of relationships all the way through society. I can see some of it but it stretches my patience a bit to see it all. It appears to be relaxed and smiling all the time but that’s not the whole story.
In the blog I return to using english conversations, dialoging and it does get softer because of the ease, things just fall into place of their own accord. And at the edge of vision, there’s my niece M, now 12, busy with her phone, line messages, social networking, and smiling at me – the womanchild she is…
I have seen it with a friend of mine who was together with a woman from Hong Kong. The cultural differences were subtle but have large impact. So i understand what you mean by ‘that’s not the whole story’. You need to know to be in the know. But sometimes that’s impossible.
It’s possible that you see it when you happen to be in circumstances that are difficult and it’s necessary to extract yourself from that place with the least harm. Afterwards the mind covers over all these details like a curtain, but if you’re aware of it, you see it’s only then that you see it. It wouldn’t be a situation you’d choose to enter. The more often it happens, the more likely you are to understand how it works…
Ten months and counting. May the relief you experience be with you for your lifetime. Besides… what’s a little shot every now and then? 🙂
This is it Eric, the doc says they can increase the dose bit by bit and there are options beyond that. I’m so glad I found him. Thanks fot the boost of confidence…
So glad that the shots help relieve your pain. 🙂
I get steroid shots every now and then for severe osteoarthritis pain. The natural herbs help with arthritis… but not nearly enough!
Thanks Tom, it looks like I need to get used to these Nerve Block shots from time to time. I’ve now got sufficient energy and enthusiasm to look into other cures and remedies.
Very happy for you, Tiramit! It must feel a bit like the catastrophe of joy you described with the aircraft. I can imagine the sudden and akward silence, like walking into an empty airport terminal or something, the knowledge of it being temporary and the need for injections, the physical changes the injections will bring, the acceptance of it all… The joy of relief. The catastrophe of the ever-changing new. We carry our hats with us from one catastrophe to the next, eh? Ha! Great post…
Thank you Michael, this is how it has been. Yes, crashing through the reality of pain like a wave breaks on the shore and suddenly it’s gone. I go looking for it but nope… it’s not there! Silence in the place where it used to be.
That was then, this is now. Multiple transformations since that time, ‘catastrophe of the ever-changing new’, becoming this, becoming that, like an actor becomes the part he plays, like the absence of the stand-up comic in a room full of laughter and applause…
No matter where you hang your hat or whatever hat you put on, I expect that knowing that the head is free from pain is liberating in a whole new way. 💛
True, and it’s a good metaphor, the headache has been like wearing a hat. I left it in a taxi and now it’s just, gone…
It brings joy to know you have found relief.
As your quote says, all these things are chimeras, transient.
As are we, no?
We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep…