img_0042cPOSTCARD #228: New Delhi: I have developed prehensile palms and soles of feet to walk like a gecko upside down on the ceiling. Vertigo of spiral staircase (going up is easier than coming down), and up to the room at the top of the stairs where I’ve put into action a plan, carefully considered all through these months since February. This will be my quiet place, doorway open to the sunlit terrace, the roof is the sky, birds fly through, inhabit my world.

Climbing down again and up with more boxes and bags, an electric kettle, cups and teaspoons. Playing a sound track on speakers, it sounds so different here, in the new acoustics. Sit in the doorway to listen, intervals of birdsong, voices of neighbours below in their homes, windows open to the world we all are contained in. Wash floor, wipe windows, boxes of acryllic paint, Cadmium Red, Bleached Titanium.

I shall be an Easel Painter, energised by how much the weather has changed here, suddenly it’s cool like an English summer. Air con shut down, ceiling fans switched off, and windows open wide. The hearing mechanism dulled by the usual hum and click of background noise 24/7 we live with in order to have our artificial temperature. But the hot season is over, ears strain to receive the sound of these machines, and it’s not there… only this shocking and shocked silence.

Surprised how everything that’s outside the dwelling comes inside; in through the windows, the doors and apertures of the skull, into our rooms and down through our corridors, into our corners, arriving in these enclosed spaces where only the Hoover has recharged the air these months of heat. A cool breeze moves the curtains as if an unseen presence just passed by.

Somebody’s ring tone somewhere; pause… voice says hello? Dialogue in a language I don’t know – the quietness of not having to be being pulled into it. Stillness of mind, ease of breath, calm and sitting on floor cushion with folded legs

“How much better is silence; the coffee cup, the table. How much better to sit by myself like the solitary sea-bird that opens its wings on the stake. Let me sit here for ever with bare things, this coffee cup, this knife, this fork, things in themselves, myself being myself.” [Virginia Woolf, The Waves]


29 thoughts on “silence

  1. Pingback: silence | dhamma footsteps | O LADO ESCURO DA LUA

  2. This looks a peaceful window through which to contemplate the world.. And it seems the world is reaching through to your senses..
    Have a peaceful day within the silence of your thoughts..
    Blessings Sue

  3. Oh, it is lovely to get an image of your house and a somewhat scary staircase. It sounds wonderful, the solitude and space open to the sky. What a great place to paint. Ideal. Thanks for bringing us into your special space. And I love Virginia Woolf, a fellow Bipolar. Have you read her ” A Room of My Own?”

    • Virginia Woolf, bipolar, I’d forgotten. I read A Room of One’s Own long, long ago. So I found it on Google very early this morning and read the whole thing again from a free download. Stepped back into that world from where I am now, here in North India. My room on the roof and sky above…

  4. T.S. would have liked it! 🙂

    At the first turning of the third stair
    Was a slotted window bellied like the figs’s fruit
    And beyond the hawthorn blossom and a pasture scene
    The broadbacked figure drest in blue and green
    Enchanted the maytime with an antique flute.
    Blown hair is sweet, brown hair over the mouth blown,
    Lilac and brown hair;
    Distraction, music of the flute, stops and steps of the mind over the third stair,
    Fading, fading; strength beyond hope and despair
    Climbing the third stair.

    • Yes, interesting to think that T.S. must have had this experience I had (and others too) of climbing a stair and becoming lost, forgetting which floor is which, pleasantly surprised when the top is arrived at earlier than expected – or puzzled to find the top has still not been reached. I have always assumed he used the staircase metaphor as a means to express his 1927 conversion to the Anglican faith (coming closer to God), but haven’t read anywhere that this is the case.

      • Thanks for pointing that out, he was such a focused poet I’d find it hard to believe he was so totally committed to his recent conversion to Anglicanism…

      • Despite his lengthy prose promoting Anglicanism, he (one is more than sure) was slyly putting himself in the middle of the sheep flock! (Critics even say that is prose promoting Anglicanism lacked any real passion.) He was even knighted for his services to literature. Always puts a smile on my face! It takes tremendous intelligence to do this. It’s like a piranha in an aquarium of goldfish being prized as one of the best goldfish of them all!

      • Thanks again Tom for this picture of T. S. Eliot as wolf in sheep’s clothing. I’m not one to identify with the Anglican form myself, being more interested in Buddhism, but can see that the mind and intellect of TSE was too large to be satisfied with the confines of Anglicanism – I’m thinking of the sheep huddled together in a flock example, and how that kind of response in itself would be an open invitation for a genius like TSE in playful mood to hide in their midst at times, simply because he had the skills to induge in camouflage strategy. His poetic persona and creativity included this disregard for appearances, how things seem to be.

      • Yes. that sagacious wolf was a philosophical genius among the mindless sheep that he infiltrated. Most people haven’t the faintest clue as to the depths he penetrated. 🙂

        In the fall of 1911, Eliot commenced work in philosophy at the Harvard Graduate School. He had previously taken an M.A. in literature and, if T. S. Matthews is to be trusted, he had decided to pursue the Ph.D. in philosophy after attending Bergson’s College de France lectures in 1910-1911.[7] In that same fall, Eliot elected to take Indic Philology 1A and 1B(elementary Sanskrit) under Professor C. R. Lanman, the most prominent American Sanskritist of the time. The following year, alongside his studies in Western philosophy, he continued to work under Lanman, taking Indic Philology 4 and 5 (Pali), also, in 1912-1913, he elected Indic Philology 9 (Philosophical Sanskrit) with Professor James H. Woods and studied the Yoga Sutras of Pata~njali. In his third year–along with seminars in logic (with Royce), ethics, and metaphysics–he took thorough notes in Professor Masaharu Anesaki’s course on “Schools of Religious and Philosophical Thought in Japan,” a lecture series which detailed the development of Buddhist philosophy in both Japan and China. His course selection shows a marked tendency toward Buddhist studies, as distinct from pure Indology: Eliot left his Sanskrit studies during the second year in order to study Pali, the language of the early Buddhist texts; and, in electing Anesaki’s course, he demonstrated a desire to follow the development of Buddhism outside India. According to Stephen Spender, as late as 1922 Eliot “almost became a Buddhist.”[8]

        “Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
        Teach us to care and not to care
        Teach us to sit still”

  5. My “self” as a separate self. And also not. I’ve missed too many of your postcards recently. Here, you melt a little into your surroundings, sublimely acting in the stillness, the “outside” dissolving into the “inside” and vice versa, even for only a moment. But that moment, ahhh………….

    • Good to hear from you again Gary. The Theravadin take on Self was the entry point for me. Very much later I realised that it wasn’t the case that the Buddha said there is no self, he just didn’t think it was worthwhile to discuss it. And it’s only been these last few years since I started to understand what non-duality means – the concept. The moment of seeing that reality does occur from time to time, and is as you describe…

      • Another comment on Self that I posted recently in response to “the world disappears”:
        “Self” is a construction of mind, a derivative of sensory experience, that is gradually limited by the lack of attention Liang describes.
        Each Self is a unique pattern of inattention. HA!!! I love it!

      • I studied the comment on “the world disappears” but wasn’t sure if I was seeing it in the way you intended. We could say that the self construct arising from sensory experience is not the Self we believe it to be. There’s never been anything in Western education to help young people to question whether there is a ‘self’ or not. The result is we’re driven by a fundamental fear that possibly there is no self. Consumerism thrives, because of the need to ‘have’ whatever it takes to fill up that deep sense of lack; addicted to sensory experience, love/hate, bliss/pain, etc. Have you ever read anything by David Loy? Here’s a link:

    • With this nice warm weather we are having here :), the roof terrace is so accessible, space for seats to lounge on etc., it’s as if it’s a room in itself – the sky is the ceiling…

    • The fact is, I’ve become so used to the weather conditions of India and Thailand, Chiang Mai particularly, that I don’t think I could ever see out my days in UK. Sad to say I’ve been living in a dream world about returning there, as the sailor from the sea, and only quite recently I’ve woken up to the actual reality of burning bridges. No going back, I will always be the outsider living in someone else’s country.

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