thoughts like clouds

img_4536POSTCARD #243: New Delhi: A photo in the photo library of the mind got lost. I had it in a special place because I wanted to use it for this post, but now it’s gone and I didn’t make a note of the file name, I’ve forgotten where I kept it and worse still, I’ve forgotten what it looks like. This is the problem. All I know is that it was a photo of sky that sent me off in the direction of thoughts like clouds drifting through the empty space of mind… blue sky, high altitude clarity – that’s all. So, how will I recognise it if I don’t know what it is? Hmmm I’ll know it when I see it, I suppose, hoping there’ll be some kind of familiarity about it, a pause before moving on to the next, thinking… that reminds me of something, what is it? And suddenly there’s recognition, like meeting an old friend you haven’t seen for half a century. But as I start to go through something like 4000 images, it seems unlikely.

I shall sit quietly for a moment in the space of no thought and, instead of trying to remember the photo, I can contemplate the empty space where it used to be. But that’s not working because the empty space where it used to be suggests an identity for the lost image. Fragments of remembered lost-photo imagery remain, I need to have the mind clear of remembered images, no identity, even the word itself – no ‘it’ and no ‘self’, the Buddhist anatta, ‘no self’, nobody at home.

It’s not working because the effort to create ‘no self’ results in a mind running around everywhere, taking ‘selfies’, you could say, in different places and with various friends. Smile please, pose… click and take another one, okay? Click! And it’s happy doing this, but deep down it’s not satisfied, seeking always for a way to become whatever it is that is permanent happiness. But it’ll never happen, everywhere I look there’s another ‘self’ seeking an identity and becoming that form… but again, it is never satisfactory. Seeking the next opportunity to ‘become’ is the default aspiration; it’s this that holds beings in the cycle of rebirth. Caught in the predicament of becoming.

So I give way to it… and curiously, there’s an immediate awareness of the restless mind held in endless searching. Another kind of awareness enters the picture, seeing the ‘self’ that sees itself seeking. The seeking ‘self’ turns its awareness on the seeing ‘self’ and is, at once, seen. There is seeking but no seeker, and no object is sought. Seeking non-objects is seeking the motionless space in which the answer is, before the question is asked. The place where everything is and is not. No-self is another way of saying nothing exists anywhere, anywhen, ever. Deathlessness, the death of death… this too shall pass, and the fragility of newly born beings, all finely tuned things which appear briefly; vulnerability, perishability, limited lifespan, and all that remains is the breathtaking tracery of what this was, a moment before it passed.

“Consciousness veils itself from itself by pretending to limit itself to a separate entity and then forgets that it is pretending.” [Rupert Spira]

Note 1) some parts of this post taken from earlier posts, and edited pages for the next volume of Postcards From the Present Moment.
Note 2) the photo, Ladakh, Himalayan North India, taken by Jiab. I opted for this in the end, and maybe it was the one that got lost, or maybe it became the image formed in the mind which recognised the ‘no self’ quality in the expanse of sky, and distance on a scale that overwhelms the small self…


28 thoughts on “thoughts like clouds

  1. I know just what you mean, T. I keep tons of photos in the cloud so I can get them anytime. Unfortunately, they’re all in one big collage, so I have to scroll through and see them all to find the ones I want. C’est la vie, I guess. I’m just so thrilled to have digital photos. When I used a 35mm film camera, or even a digital one, there was the effort to access them and put them on the computer, or worse, stuff the package in a drawer. I still find those packets every once in a while and marvel at what once was.

    • Yes it’s like that, one big collage of overlapping photos and you can only see a part of each one, and when you zoom in, it’s not what it seemed to be before you did that. Maybe it was better when we had only 35mm film and these booklets of photo prints – but then there was very much less of a ‘collage’ and so much more navigable. Yes I’m amazed too when I look at these old photos… can it really be half a century? I marvel at what once was…

    • This had an effect on me when I read it just this morning:

      “To the separated searching individual, it seems that what we are was once born and so will one day die. But when non-separation is seen and it is known that what we are is awareness itself, pure being, Oneness, it is known that this was never born and so can never die. Just as a night-time dream ends when we awake in the morning, so this day-time dream ends at death. But the dreamer, Being itself, exists outside time and so is without beginning or end.” [FullEmpty Awareness Meditation (Richard Sylvester on Death)]

  2. I searched for a photo of a beetle the other day, I knew when I took it but couldn’t find it anywhere. Too many files and folders! I went here and there and doubled back and re-checked and swore and wracked my brain, but it was elusive. Then I gave up and went to bed, and the next morning remembered we’d been looking for a particular mushroom when I took that pic. There it was with those particular mushroom pics! I guess it was the ‘giving up’ of the ‘attachment’ to finding it that allowed the thought to come!

    • Wow Jude, exotic beetles and mushrooms in your image files! This is it exactly, the ‘giving up’ of the ‘attachment’ to finding it allows the thought to come. Maybe we learn how to do this with practice; consciously giving up the attachment to finding it (the endless seeking) and the mind changes gear. The mistake is we are so totally in the searching mode, we couldn’t find what we are looking for even if it was right in front of us. So switch off for a while, then switch on again, and there it is. I do this with my wifi modem sometimes and it just works.

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