OLD NOTEBOOKS: POSTCARD #361: Bangkok: Expanding into the spaces in the interior we never looked at before. The breakfast table 27 March 2020: I lift a glass of home-made juice to the mouth, apple and guava, and drink it all to the end… the very last drop, slowly dribbling down the frothy glass towards my mouth. The almost vertical glass held against open jaws, teeth, lips, tongue, and head thrown back as far as it would go. I stay in this position for a moment and glance across the ceiling up there, beautiful forgotten dry white space. The fan spinning and these recessed ceiling lights. Oh no! Bad move! The eye will automatically focus on an aspect of the light (I can’t get it to not do that) and what followed was an intense stab piercing the right eye like a bolt of electricity down inside the skull and pain in my head so bad I nearly fell off my chair.
Disabled for the rest of the day! It stayed with me even after taking the prescribed three capsules of pain killer – the meds couldn’t stop it, they only make me feel better about having the pain. So why was it so bad this time? Something to do with the unusual way to sit… head back into the shoulders, then the stab of light entered the neural network in a way that hadn’t happened before.
Stepping into present time: the world is experienced in duality, as in; there’s ‘me’ and there’s ‘it’, the Headache. ‘I’m here and that’s there’. How can ‘I’ get away from ‘it’? It’s no good thinking ‘I hate this pain, I want it to go away’, because it doesn’t just go away. What happens instead is, I get more and more attached to how bad it feels. There are views and judgments about ‘it’, the object in question; the Headache. I’ve had different forms of this Headache for five years, and was thinking I’d seen it all, but this one with the ceiling light was like being hit on the head hard, with a metal hammer.
Okay, so where to go with this? One thing I discovered that’s helpful, is that the ‘me’ I live with is not a substantial thing – sometimes not there at all. No-self, anatta, there’s no one here to feel the pain. Where does it go? Nowhere because it wasn’t there to start with. An illusion. The important thing is, if there’s no ‘self’ there’s no pain – the pain is there but doesn’t hit its target. Thus I’m motivated by the pain not to discover anatta, I just want to find peace and quiet and no pain.
Some years ago before the Headache arrived, I learned to play with the space between thoughts (Link to post “in-between thing), the space that’s absent of thought. Staying in the space in between, I see on either side and all around is the confused traffic of thought and I’m aware of that but not part of it. Depending on what’s going on, I seem to be able to pass through or over or under these thought items.
I can focus on one item of thought or whatever and then focus on another and maybe there’s a bit more focus on one than the other but I see it’s possible to be focused on both at the same time. What I see now that I didn’t see then is that this is about letting go of some of the constructs of a separate ‘self’.
“The Buddhist ‘Suffering’ dukkha has to be understood in terms of its cause: the origin of dukkha is our attachment to the sense of a separate self that makes the judgment, and creates ideas rather than seeing things as they are.”
“All life is a single event: one moment flowing into the next, naturally. Nothing causing everything. Everything causing everything.” [Wu Hsin]
Oh dear, isn’t it also a mindful practice to allow self to embrace the headache and in acceptance we become it… the human, divine love becoming one with it❤️🌈 Here’s to confinement and exploring deeper meanings of our oneness. Much love Barbara x
Sorry Barbara if this post has led to you being upset. I can understand that the concept of anatta no-self may be difficult to come to terms with. You’re completely right that it’s a mindful practice to allow self to embrace the headache and in acceptance… the human, divine love becomes one with it. From a Theravadin Buddhist perspective there’s more to it than that and this post was sourced entirely from Ajahn Sucitto’s talk: “Gnosis and Nondualism” part 2. See the link at the end of the post.
Another thing is that my headache continues to be here, no matter what is written or discussed. Sometimes it dominates everything and I’m in desperation. This is where mindfulness comes in.
Thanks for your comment please come again with any questions or things you’d like to share.
Good stuff. I almost feel guilty about ‘liking’ something that causes you pain, but I suppose that every act of suffering has its important messages embedded, not unlike our current viral times. BTW I recently started a Facebook group with the theme of ‘Buddhism without rebirth’, so if you’re sympathetic to that style, you’re certainly welcome to post your writing there: https://www.facebook.com/groups/buddhism2020/
Hi there, thanks for being in touch. Yes, writing stuff about Buddhism using pain as an example might not seem a bit too much considering we are all under the same roof these days and closer to an introspective view of our collective state. I’m looking into my fb account which has been in neglect. As soon as that revives I’ll click on your link
Lately, I, too, have been thinking about that “gap between thoughts.” If I remember correctly, I sought it as a panacea, an escape from pain (dukkha), a place of peace. Like you, my pain is always present and some days, completely dominant. It just is. So I meet my day as it is, not seeking something separate but being a part of what it is. I am constantly amazed at what that reveals.
I have read and reread this post as is true for me with much of your work. Thank you for that. As well, I appreciate what you say about the pain pills. They are not there to take away my pain but do “make me feel better about it.” Indeed. That made me a chuckle. 🙏
So good to hear from you again! Finding that gap between thoughts as a way of loosening up the structure of perception… I remember your situation now and staggered at your ability to stay with it, and just see how that goes. Everything here is pretty much as it was, I did have a bad spell for a few months but maybe I have a better idea now of how the pain meds work best.