POSTCARD#389: Bangkok: Somebody asked me if the headache was physical or mental, and it is difficult sometimes to say which is which, because the physical pain takes place in the same general area where mental or cognitive functions take place. Let’s say, it’s physical pain with associated mental events that are the origin of it sometimes; alarm signals that may bring my attention to some physical problem. Also, mental/cognitive activities in the form of discernment, investigate the best means of easing the discomfort. At the outset, I find it helps me travel through the pain if I can attribute it to the pain itself or to what extent it’s the pain I feel about having pain.
There are other situations, where I identify specific pain locations and relax the tightness. But these are all things I used to do at the beginning, finding my way around in a state of urgency. After five years of it, the actions have become automatic, I suppose. Or I don’t feel the pain as much as I did at the beginning when it was full catastrophe living, not the title of a book by Jon Kabat-Zinn, I was the escapee trying to disengage from the pain, but it would catch me again and again.
Remembering my lost non-pain state of mind, with a yearning for a world of impossible things, leads to nowhere (now here). There were some pain-free intervals created by nerve block treatment and pulsed radiofrequency procedures, lasting a few weeks only. Now there’s no motivation to continue with these neurological techniques because that non-pain state is long since dead and gone. Thinking about pain is pushed out of the way most of the time, there’s a particular focus of mind that just doesn’t go there. The meds sometimes give me a pain-free space – serotonin receptors and dopamine signaling, techno-speak, mumbo-jumbo… applause, and the curtains open on a short performance where the pain is almost not there at all.
Recently I bought a set of DIY tools and during these pain-free times I fixed a flat-screen TV on the wall and mounted a set of shelves in the kitchen. But it took me a very long time, due to actions carried out in slow motion and short term memory loss; forgetting what I was doing and having to go back and do things again (and again), and sitting down to think about it for long periods.
Despite these blank states and on-going projects I ponder over, what I’m aiming at is simply a heart-felt state of well-being and regular visitors here will know that many years ago, I learned the Buddhist steps that lead to the end of suffering. There was a deep familiarity about this, as if it were a genetic code built into consciousness just waiting to be discovered). [Gratitude to the monks in Thailand, Switzerland and the UK]
The First Noble Truth: Pain is caused by wanting it to not be there (in a manner of speaking). The Second Noble Truth is finding the way out of suffering means I let go of the craving that feeds it – seeing it is really caused by holding on to the longing for impossible things. Then looking more carefully into the Third Noble Truth; the realization I don’t have to remain stuck in an unsatisfactory state. There is a way out: the Fourth Noble Truth; the Path and getting to know what all this actually means.
I understood the headache as an entity with detachment, it goes without a self to whom it would otherwise cause suffering. Long before it comes to be a headache, when it’s just neural sparks and a kind of ‘jitterieness’, there’s a transparency about it – a ‘becoming’ but no one who ‘becomes’. There’s no become-ee; a headache but no ‘headache-ee’ – it doesn’t belong to ‘me’. There’s an awareness of the headache, but no awareness of to whom it is happening. This is how it is at the best of times, less satisfactory states are forgotten and lost to memory.
“..when you listen to a thought, you are aware not only of the thought but also of yourself as the witness of the thought. A new dimension of consciousness has come in. As you listen to the thought, you feel a conscious presence your deeper self behind or underneath the thought, as it were. The thought then loses its power over you and quickly subsides, because you are no longer energizing the mind through identification with it. This is the beginning of the end of involuntary and compulsive thinking.” [Eckhart Tolle]
Many your welcomes to one who has helped me find a path to mind control through the inspiration of his many blog pieces. And for confirming of Eckhart Tolle as a good way to go when I was presented with three spiritual teachers at once. Eckhart Tolle works for me for now. Thank you! Again wishing you painless times.
P.S. Are you still painting? Every time I think of painting, I think it not worth the effort and day dream about a lazy feeling coming over me and I fantasize about giving away my paints to an artist friend. Anxious to hear your thoughts.
Thanks Ellen and thanks too for these inspiring words on how I’m an inspiration to you and your way of steering the mind through difficult pathways. Wow! It’s your own action remember that’s brought you to this point in time. In the same way, I set myself the task about 6 months ago, of doing one post per week no matter what. That was my action, and I can’t remember what it was that caused me to take on this challenge. I knew at the back of my mind, I could do it. I’d allowed the dhammafootsteps blog to slip and I lost so many followers – remember there used to be 30 – 40 likes on a regular basis. These days I struggle to get 20. It doesn’t matter, the important thing is I have communication with people in my blogging community like yourself.
Reminds me, something I need to do now is answer those who make comments ASAP and not allow days to pass before getting round to it.
I’m grateful for Eckhart Tolle and your action in telling me he was/is a good way to go. I’ll search my old notes for it, that’s 6-7 years ago! Time is just slipping away. I need to raise my creativity a notch or two to get it all said before I get on the last bus.
Same thing I could say about my painting. All my tubes and containers of Acrylics are at hand and I look at them from time to time… a handful of brushes, pallet knives and various marking tools. That’s what they are, tools of the trade. I haven’t done much since the last time we spoke and that must be 3 years ago.
Even though, I’m holding on to this and will wait and see. The action of gathering them all together and donating to a younger person is a project in the mind, same as many other creative projects in the mind over a lifetime. So don’t do it, because there’s a self-harming side to it. Instead of that, get it all up and running and have a painting blog, say one painting per month.
Sorry if I’ve said too much, maybe I’m saying it because I’d like to do something like that. That’s not in the current plan, too much going on in writing projects.
Thank you for your reply to my comment. No, you didn’t say too much at all. It is great you have got this once a week blog investment going. Your posts are very inspiring.
I haven’t blogged in over a year except for one recent post and it was not a good effort. The pandemic has me busy getting in supplies and food online for delivery. I spend so much time doing that and disinfecting, etc. Tom is ultra high risk so it is vital for me to do all I can. That mindset is not good for anything creative. And I have lost being nature as my artistic inspiration. We hardly go out and, if we do, our walks are worrisome, rather than relaxing and inspirational. NYC has a ruling on masks but many don’t follow it. So the pandemic is good motivation to learn how to deal with mind from Eckhart Tolle but not fertile ground for creativity. But I will listen to you and Tom and keep the paints for now. Painting has left me before and then burst forth. I thank you for your input and caring!
As always a very insightful blog post. Especially the part of the Four Noble Truths and not-me
Thanks Pieter, there are so many ways of understanding the Four Noble Truths, I’d like to try out a few more versions.
And there’s anatta. It’s such a relief to know the ‘self’ does not have power over the mind: “… you are no longer energizing the mind through identification with it.”[Eckhart Tolle]