what is ordinary

POSTCARD#303: Chiang Mai: I picked up a carton of milk in the supermarket with the label, “Plain Flavor”… looked at it disbelievingly; hmmm, if it is plain, how can it have a flavor? I was wrong of course, according to my Thai niece M (see the M posts) who is now 14. She explained to me that a Thai company makes the milk, and it is ‘plain flavor’, in Thai; รสจืด rod jeud, because there are so many flavors in Thai food, something that is ‘plain’ has its own flavor, doesn’t it? How could it not be like that?

Yes but the milk in that carton is manufactured, created in a laboratory with cow’s milk as a starting point for all kinds of elaborate subtleties in taste. So let’s agree that cow’s milk is the ‘real’ taste, okay? Extensive experimentation and proliferation spin-offs arrive at the so-called ‘plain’ flavor, a laboratory product that mirrors the real taste of milk. I see it this way because in the West (and that includes the whole of the Indian subcontinent), we are part of the Great Cow Culture; consumers of cows’ milk, we are the children of the bovine deity.

From South East Asia to the Far East, it’s a rice culture, so there’s a proliferation of rice products parallel to the milk culture – no real familiarity with milk. I heard from Japanese friends that in a confined space like an elevator, the Western body sometimes gives off a noticeable smell of sour milk. Ah well, I lived in Japan for three years and nobody said anything to me about such odors. Maybe they were being polite. I drink milk, therefore I am (an upright, standing-on-it’s-hind-legs, cow person).

Jiab says what difference does it make, the whole thing is perception anyway, and why do I have to go on and on about something as ordinary as cow’s milk. It gives me pause, as some things in Thailand do, but what does ‘ordinary’ mean? I’m deeply familiar with the taste of cows’ milk, from childhood in the North of Scotland, the place I was born. I remember warm cow’s milk from the body-heat of mama cow at breakfast time on my grandfather’s farm, there in the half light before dawn.

I remember the constant wind, the sharp clear air, and summer sun shining all day and all night (latitude: 57.4778°). I couldn’t now say it was ‘ordinary’ there, a Viking consciousness of the North, proximity to the Arctic circle where morning emerges from the glimmer of light all night, because it never gets dark in the summer time (see ‘Insomnia’ movie 2002 starring Robin Williams and Al Pacino). The school holidays, full of light, all through the summer months… an endless time.

Winter is the other way round, there’s hardly any light at all. Sharp rebound on the opposite wall of the court. Extreme is not the word, when I bade farewell to the windy, blustery North and headed South, it was hard to believe weather conditions could be so … ordinary? What is ordinary? The absence of that vital quality of what a thing essentially ‘is’. At that time, the adventure had been intense, ordinary things were extraordinary – I didn’t know of any other way to see the world. I didn’t see that the polarization was caused by this confusion of thought underneath everything, just circulating around a great chasm of uncertainty.

Never-the-less one perseveres with the needs of the journey and on to locations where the surroundings are extraordinary, and familiar in that sense. I just kept on going, driven by the need to fill the empty space inside me with something – that underlying Buddhist sense of lack (although I didn’t know that ordinary things are, somehow exceptional), and learning how to not want to fill the emptiness with everything and anything.

Then seeing the Truth of strawberry, vanilla, chocolate, and coconut flavor, as well as the Plain Flavor, along with all the others to form an endless proliferation of choices that distract the mind for no purpose other than alerting the innate creaturely hunger.

Thus hovering on the edge of awareness, I fall into the realm of samsara without end, but Awareness picks me up and I’m back in wakefulness again. Mindfulness (of awareness) exists because my attention to remembering it is activated as soon as it’s not there …

A sense of the universe, a sense of the all, the nostalgia which seizes us when confronted by nature, beauty, music – these seem to be an expectation and awareness of a Great Presence. [Pierre Teilhard de Chardin]


Thank you M for writing the Thai for rod jeud (plain flavor)

a kind of subjectivity

IMG_0671POSTCARD#56: Bangkok: I’m the one that got away, the escapee, the spiritual refugee. I followed the road that led away from the place I was born and never went back. The link with ‘home’ is broken and even if I could get it reset there’s no connection now. Somehow it fits with the history of where I came from; of war and battles lost and won, victory, defeat, the pibroch, the dirge lament, death like a flood sweeps away a sleeping village; the kamma of immense grieving, Celtic calamity, the catastrophe, the ruins, the mourning, s’affliger, generations of the dispossessed, and all the elders are gone.

Is integration the opposite of disintegration? If so, I came from a world in disintegration, I stowed away on a ship, sailed over many horizons and by happenstance got shipwrecked on a strip of land in the South China Sea. I am the Western urban migrant, assimilated, integrated here, got the password, userID and blessed to find the Buddhists in Thailand. A sense of connectedness, although it hasn’t been easy these 30 years, carrying the weight of Western thinking, causes and conditions from early times, likes and dislikes. And, being the only foreigner in the family, I’ve learned to go along with the preferences of others when it comes to food. As it was this morning, for example, faced with Korean kimchi at 10.30 AM because somebody thought it was a good idea to go to the Korean food buffet downtown, and if it were up to me I’d have chosen something less exotic so early in the day, but Jiab thinks our niece, we call M, needs to eat something substantial so maybe she’ll like this. Okay go for it.

M tries the kimchi and tells me: not spicy, Toong-Ting, her name for me (see the M posts). She’s waiting for a response… I taste it, blood red and trailing strands of human skin and tissue –  a vampire thing? But there’s nothing wrong with kimchi really, I’ve had things far more out-of-this-world than that. I nod with approval and give her a smile I think is convincing. But M can see kimchi doesn’t quite hit the spot. She comes over and tells me quietly they have ice-cream here too. Yeh… well, ice-cream at 10.30 AM? If I said I didn’t like that either I’d lose all credibility. So I say, Nice! Do they have caramel/toffee? Thirty years further on in the journey and I’m eating ice-cream with a nine-year-old. I’m amazed that she likes me… maybe she responds to this quality of improvised simplicity I’ve developed, anyway it’s a privilige and quite wonderful how things have gotten very much easier since M came into the world. She corrects my Thai pronunciation (the tones), has a continuous chattering bird-like dialogue with me and discovers useful-to-know things about my phone I never knew were there. M is an empath – no words for it, it’s a kind subjectivity. Maybe because she’s a child in a bilingual situation and has to find the easiest route to understanding others, or maybe all children are like this and because I never had any children of my own, it seems special to me.

Being part of her world means there’s less of the holding on to ‘self’. Anyway, there’s less of an emphasis on individuality here in Thailand, things are shared, a largely Buddhist population. And my ‘self’ is so totally different from everyone else’s self, it’s not appropriate to be imposing my ‘standards’ here, creating supporting statements to prove what I’ve already decided is the correct way of going about things, and convinced about this simply because my continuing engagement with it somehow seems to confirm it has objective reality. In the East, the ‘object’ is not the goal. The starting point and the answer are revealed in the interaction with the context of the question – inductive reasoning, it takes longer, it’s more revelatory, exploratory, open-ended.

M runs off to look at what kind of drinks they have. Comes back and tells me about one she thinks I like but can’t pronounce the name, I ask her how do you spell it? Never mind she says, can she borrow my phone? I give her the phone, she’s always ‘borrowing’ my phone. M runs off to the drinks section again and comes back immediately; she’s taken a photo of the drink, shows me: Chrysanthemum tea, wow! A difficult one to pronounce. Nice, I’ll have that. M is gone for a moment then returns with a glass of iced tea held in both hands, places it on my table without spilling a drop; loving-kindness, she steals my heart away…

‘There is ultimately no individual self or soul (jiva), only the atman (universal soul), in which individuals may be temporarily delineated just as the space in a jar delineates a part of main space: when the jar is broken, the individual space becomes once more part of the main space.’ [Gaudapada] source: Non-Duality America (Link to original)

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Lower photo: M‘s Pic of the Chrysanthemum Tea dispenser

the forever war

POSTCARD#307: Chiang Mai: The image here, was taken while we were on a visit to the holy Buddhist sites in North India. It shows a group of men involved in some sort of argument, viewed from the window of our tour bus, as it was moving through crowds of pedestrians and various kinds of vehicles. The sound of very loud angry voices and heavy blows got everyone’s attention, all I could see was the top of their heads because other passengers crowded the bus window. No room to squeeze in, so without seeing where to point the camera, I held it in a downward position and ‘click’. It was guesswork, thinking it’ll probably not come out, but it did – the group perfectly positioned in the centre of the frame. The bus made its way slowly through the crowd then accelerating along empty streets and we were gone in a moment.

Looking at the image now, the man in the green shirt is trying to do something with that pole and the other guys are preventing him or pushing back. The tremendous intensity coming from the green-shirted man is noticeable.  Murderous thoughts ready to explode on the surface. There’s another emotion too, he looks determined but tearful, as if he might start to cry. It was significant, I suppose because there we were on a tour of the Holy sites where the Buddha had spent most of his life, and now this 2500 years later, an example of Greed Hatred and Delusion. The Buddha must have come across many such disputes, and quietly observed aspects of the argument, or sometimes he would have been asked how best to resolve the issue.

Looking at what’s written about the three defilements, or three poisons, and contemplating these, I see that the natural human preference is that conflict be forgotten, and as long as no effort is there to keep it going, conflict falls away by itself. There’s all kinds of other stuff that engage the mind however, conflict is gratifying, feeding the base sensory driven state. We fuel the fires to maintain conflict in the mind; in our world media coverage and war-mongering, the opportunity arises to build up tension, involving narratives in the mind, peaking in justified outrage. If the political manipulation of circumstances were not there, we could just as easily allow the conflicted mind go, but we’re drawn in, and it gets to a point when engagement with the consequences of conflict is inevitable; this is always how it is.

I started up my laptop this morning Thai time, and discovered that the US led coalition had sent missiles into Syria. I wanted to write something about it, then found an old post titled ‘Conflict and Release’ that seemed somehow unfinished, waiting for events to be right for its conclusion. So that was all I could do, and here it is rewritten. Regarding the event itself, all sorts of things come to mind, mainly to do with cover-ups, otherwise the same as all other kinds of war and arguments forever unfinished. The Buddha offered a way to understand how the mind works and to see, through ordinary human experience, the way to bring an end to Suffering.


I seem to be rewriting old posts these days, rather than writing new posts. This is how it is at the moment, busy in the studio and not active in front of the screen. I hope to be able to offer up some examples of new Art soon.
Be well
T

 

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…

 

the world disappears

img_0019POSTCARD #224: New Delhi: Learning how to sleep without the pain meds and all those chemicals that used to help me so much before, but I’m just left there thinking about things in the darkness. Stories come and go, pondering over this and that, and the awareness of being caught up in the thinking thing gets included in the wandering. Searching for a way out, but if I think about how to stop thinking, the mind gets busy looking for a solution; finding something and comparing it with other reasons why I can’t stop thinking. Thinking has its own momentum, takes time for it to slow down, there’s the opportunity to allow it all to fizzle out. Everything evaporates for a moment.

In that instant there’s a no-thinking state, a great space opens up – an awareness of being aware. Silence and emptiness, held on pause. Then, somewhere on a different screen, the mind is alerted, there’s the desire to be actively thinking again, and an invitation to be engaged with it, but that fizzles out too. “Footfalls echo in the memory, down the passage we did not take, towards the door we never opened, into the rose garden.”*

The outbreath from the nostrils, so faint and light, stirs only the tiniest thing; the movement of a single strand of hair could wake me. No other sensory input the mind needs to be engaged with, no sense object activates the chain of events and all that remains is the mind’s cognitive function. A curiosity about this stirs; ‘self’ is a sensory experience. The experiencer is an experience – there is only experiencing.

Another wave of thoughts comes rushing in, stays for a moment and goes out again. I see it as if there’s an watcher seeing it from some hidden place, aware of it. Then the watcher disappears and it seems like only the awareness itself is left there. Then the awareness disappears and in its place, a sequence of half-seen obscure mental events, each one linking with the next. Some time later sleep comes and the whole world disappears.

‘The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice, there is little we can do to change; until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds.’ [R. D. Laing]

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Photo: Dhammakaya monk collecting alms by boat.
*Excerpt from Four Quartets T. S. Eliot
This post was rewritten from earlier posts

 

parts of a whole

IMG_0015 (1)POSTCARD #209: CHIANG MAI: Sorry we’re closed for renovations, editorial work and improvements; facilitated and inspired by friends I’ve met here in the blogosphere. I wanted to take things a step further, turn the energy of the posts into a completeness; thinking of a book. I’m trying to see how all the posts could simply become that. I’m happy to go on writing and engaging in dialogue with friends in the comments box, but I’m wondering where does it go from here; just more posts, adding to an ever increasing number of posts, and no objective other than taking things to pieces to see how they fit together as parts of a whole.

WordPress admin page tells me there are 368 posts 815 followers and 4,878 comments. Unbelievable, it just goes on and on, and I’m so grateful to all the friends out there in the blogging world who are reading this, and those who have contributed in the comments box. I’ve been posting since December 2011 and twice a week from then until now, May 2016 – with only one other break when I got ill. A turning point if ever there was one; next thing was the PHN condition; learning to live with a headache that doesn’t go away… but enough said about that.

So having decided to stop blogging for a while, the first thing I notice is it’s hard to do that… hard to stop blogging. I haven’t properly figured it out yet, but I can see there’s an attachment to it, the blogger is driven, every few days, to get that post out. Same as how the potter flings a lump of slithery clay on to the wheel and holds it spinning there with hands and fingers moulding, shaping, forming it into a beautiful hollow object with mouth so open it feels like the whole outside is inside. Like the sculptor hacks and cuts and chips at the block of stone to release the form that got trapped inside there.

That’s the creative itch identified, and I will be adding more posts to the art page, otherwise not blogging for a while and I’m hoping this means I can turn my whole attention to the pain in my head. Why’d I want to do that? Just to be with it, understand it, see why it’s there – why there is a pain in my life, not as a question… more like a statement of fact and it becomes an object of contemplation. Is there a no-self space beyond the pain? (as Karin has said?) Some people would pray and ask a higher power to help them remove the pain or at least help them to see it differently and to guide them. Do I do that? Do Buddhists pray? Or is it all about just noticing sense perceptions with compassion and detachment?

IMG_0015cI’m hoping to make some progress into this and find the energy to work on the book project motivated by the transformation, piece by piece, of the whole blog/book project – working title: ‘Postcards From the Present Moment’. Various people have suggested I should do this, I’m grateful to Ellen of stockdalewolfe.com and Karin at karinfinger.com, this is not an ending, I’ll be back with updates from time to time. As we get near to completion, there’ll be pre-publication news and a new beginning…

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UPPER AND LOWER PHOTOS: CABLES & SINGAGE, CHIANG MAI

Art

IMG_2665bThis is the Art Page, an ongoing event that starts at the end and comes back to the beginning which keeps jumping forward every time I add to it. It’s the chronological order created by WordPress and thus I need to be thinking backwards like this, always writing in present time, remembering that the ‘now’ is shifted into the past as soon as I hit Update. With that in mind, I’ll just say briefly that it suits me well, things being as they are, considering this is an attempt to breathe life into that old/young easel-painter-that-was-me long ago and far away in the days of blue jeans dotted and splashed with spots of paint, and bring that being back into the world; a renaissance, a reawakening, revival, rebirth and updated as time goes on.

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5 a. b. c. d. & e. Figures in a landscape

Updating this Art page has given me a reason to explore in the ‘old files’ which otherwise would have remained undisturbed. Are there, any evolving forms left unfinished a decade ago? I found this image, almost complete, and these other four – in fact there was a 5th and that’s already on this page, down below here: 9b, IMG_005. It’s a different view, the image is turned anticlockwise. It was originally intended to be a composition of two figures, with a ‘dialogue’ between them. Looking at it now, the dialogue is between three totem-like heads.

img036The next image (b.) is the original sketch I think. I see it’s made up of four pieces of paper stuck together with scotch tape. I have no memory of doing it, but that’s not important because much of the original has morphed into something else.

In the third picture (c.) there are signs of Photoshop work img035the head on the left is more totem-like, has a cartoon quality, large eyes, round mouth – could be a circus clown. The figures on the right are less clear, there’s a vertical shape and what looks like a doorway next to that. The composition is held by the black hole in the lower right centre.

img034The fourth picture (d.) shows the same thing reversed/ inverted in Photoshop. Maybe it was at this stage I started to see the figures more clearly, I don’t remember setting out with the intention of creating heads, they just emerged of their own accord. And from here on I tried to keep in unstated, holding the composition, as far as possible, on  the foundation created by the black hole – only now it’s a white hole with left side chopped off in the way Photoshop does. The software is decisive in this way and it’s here that I notice how the lower section, almost at the bottom of the frame, is forming a kind of platform – suggesting a theatrical stage for actors to perform a drama.

img032The last pic in the series (e.) shows the figures as they are in a Photoshop image and after that the final shown above with white is applied by hand from a bottle of white-out and some acrylic white. The original is approximately A4 size, fits into an A4 frame. I always wanted to enlarge it and bring in some more applied paintwork but never managed to reach that stage seen in the minds eye – when was it never like this? There was one attempt and I have that in a different folder I need to look for…

6 a. b. & c. Structures

Untitled-1I have this fascination with enlargements of line drawings, zooming in to an insignificant portion shows its structural qualities. The pencil line becomes a metal rod and the loops are held by welded metal joints, immovable. The whole structure depends on an even distribution of weight and these joints. I like to explore handwriting with a magnifying glass, take photos with my phone camera, zoom in, select and send to Photoshop for some cut and move, reverse, invert the image and find a temporary connection then print out. The image is assembled3then on paper so I can use a pencil or pen and white-out liquid. Then scan into its digital form again and do what I can with Photoshop – still learning and trying out different ways to develop the structure. I like to see them as massive things made of heavy metal. Othertimes I could see them as the structure holding colour values superimposed as shapes which agree with particular parts of the structure. The limiting thing about this is that it’s difficult to decide on the perimiters, where the structure ends. I feel it must stand independently on a stable footing and the whole weight of it is steady, held in that position. Or fixed to the frame. Another possibility as yet unexplored is a layered structure, or structures which appear to be behind and there is depth. I’m looking for the best way to do this.

rsideRight now I have a collection of these structures some of which bear similar characteristics and could fit together, appearing behind and in front. The only way of having this done is to project on to a large canvas support and work on the whole thing with acrylic paint.

7 a. & b.  Conflict

1WARThese two images have evidence of the dialogue between two forms, left and right. The relationship between the forms is conflict, now frozen in a metallic stillness. The upper image shows it has been worked on with pencil on a printout of the original, then scanned and developed with the software tools. In the second image there are some signs that it has been also worked on with pen on printout a number of times but the files created in between were lost in the process.

WAR2Looking at the lower image, it’s as if the two forms are fused, locked together in stillness and stand as a 3D sculptured piece. The sharp edged shapes arose from the way I got the software Paint to work, the light shapes indicate the obscured moonlight effect, a sense of space outside.

Since this Art Page has started I find some new life and new light shining on these old objects that have been dormant for ten years. Now I’m trawling through the hundreds of images in All My Files and exporting a few files on to the desktop to see, to meet again like old friends. There are some stirrings of life now that they’re being seen again.

8 a. b. & c. Development of a doodle

img003Stage 1. (top image) This is the original doodle, I think except that it’s been been worked on with a pencil. I remember it began with a marker pen (quite small) which might have been yellow then I took a photo and changed it to gray tone, worked on the enlarged print-out image with the pencil.

img005Stage 2. (middle image) The tracing, done with an A4 sheet of tracing paper held sideways against the screen of the laptop. Some changes where the original did not seem to be going anywhere.

img006Stage 3. (lower image) The A4 tracing paper sheet scanned, and lines redrawn in places using Photoshop tools, also Fill in gray tones; light, middle, dark. Incomplete, stopped to think about a few things… I’m interested in how the depth illusion occurs with darker tones seemingly behind something standing in front. In the same way, the white seems to create a hole outside of which is the sunlight source. It’s these small discoveries that motivate me to go on with it. This how it is right now and there’s probably some way to go yet, the image tells me when it’s done. I’d like to use colour after I get all the tones done

It’s helpful for me to see the development of the doodle like this because there’s no other easy way of showing all three on the same page. So the post functions for this purpose too. I could of course print out all three and see them in ‘reality’. I will have to do that sometime… at the moment they’re trapped as pixels in digital form inside the computer disc.

9 a. b. & c. Obscured light

IMG_0003The next three were done around the same time. There’s a fascination with a hidden light source; light colours and white are light or reflected light. Returning to Europe in 1994 and everything seemed strangely masked, no sunlight, I felt like there was a light illuminating the interior of my being. I’d see unusual lights in meditation – not the actual light source itself, like the moon is seen behind clouds and about to break through. A wonderful yellow white light, it seemed to me although I don’t think I ever saw it. I’m still looking and that was more than 20 years ago. I’m writing this because it’s an opportunity to find out if anyone reading this has had the same experience. I’ve read in a couple of books the word is ‘nimmita’. A simple explanation for it is the mind having to cope with something it has never had to reference before, in fact no reference at all: a European person comes to Asia for the first time and has to understand a whole set of different rules. The intensity of that maybe shifts the mind out of the way, or nearly but not quite…

The black and white, IMG_00030, above left was developed from a pencil sketch scanned and worked on using Paint software then printed out and the copy worked with ink and pencil, scanned again and developed further using Photoshop. The next one: IMG_0005 lower right is a detail from a larger piece (see above: 5 a. b. c. d. & e. Figures in a landscape). It has the same history except there was a lot of white-out used and it’s got this painted effect. I mislaid the final version, so thisIMG_0005 image shows how the printer can’t cope with the subtle pixelated areas. I”m still interested in the ‘counter’ shapes, the black/dark toned areas between the shapes of white light.

The dark brown, IMG_001 is a detail from a larger image that is still not finished – maybe I went too far with it. Acryllic and shapes made with masking tape and a craft knive. An endeavour that proved something I’d thought about before but was never able to let go of until I’d done it… exhausting. There are others from the same image on canvas board I’ll post later; the whole thing became dispersed into smaller parts and started to take a new direction I’m posting these images to try to understand better where I can go from here, or maybe these smaller parts are enough and I can move on to other things. It’s a conversation I’m having with myself…

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10 a. b. & c. Set of three.

IMG_2060This group is not linked. In no particular order, start at the end and we find our way back to the beginning; edit, delete, consider how best to describe it… Image left IMG_2060, the black and white shown here is one of the early drafts for the idea that brings two forms together, left and right, and the interaction between the two just starts up by itself. There are sketches for this in a file somewhere. It continues to be a dialogue…

Image below right, IMG_1962, detail, unfinished. The stage it’s at right now is like something underwater. The central motif needs to be explored a bit more and I’d like to bring in a slightly green element maybe. I can’t see beyond lines containing form as it stands, a tightness that’s restricting, I’ll come back to it later. It’s the kind of thing I’d like to see on a much larger scale.IMG_1962 Somehow I’m not able to do that, it’s a kind of trapped feeling; I try to see it in the mind’s eye but it doesn’t work like that. I’d need to try a sample and see how that looked. Anyway I don’t know if there’s enough lifetime left to do that. Things have to be simple, otherwise it gets to be burdensome. This is how I’m feeling about it now looking back at these old works and the last of the set, below left, IMG_2664, detail, unfinished, is rather a pale thing now, some ten years it’s been lying around in my things and put in with the shipping of goods and chattels from Switzerland to Thailand to Bangladesh, and back to Thailand then to Delhi. I take it out and study different parts of it then put it away again. Too restrictive, the tremendous tightness of form that’s held by line. What to do? It’s like being held captive.

IMG_2664What I’ve learned is that (obvious really) you can’t keep on expecting new life to emerge from something that’s long since past its Best Before date. There’s the attachment to it, this is the thing; the pervading sense of let-it-go, let it fly away, so hard at times. The posts in the blog are all saying the same thing, identify the habitualities, tendencies to stick like glue to something Mind-driven – even though it’s not doing me one bit of good. This last one has to remain as a shadowy entity that can’t stand direct sunlight. I have thought about the stake-through-the-heart option but can’t bring myself to do it. That’s why I’ve left it at the end of this tall column of words. And that’s all there is to say here except thank you for reading, and please come back to this page for regular updates.

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birds nest update

IMG_2537POSTCARD #183: Bangkok: I have to say that there’s not a lot happening here. One bird is tucked away down inside the ceiling fan wire guard and the other bird flies in with two or three longish springy lengths of leaf growth I can’t really identify. The seated bird inside takes the nest-building material in its beak, pulls it inside the enclosure and tucks it in around the space. The other bird watches for a while then flies away. In the photo you can see the long tail of the seated bird sticking up. The bird is inside the wire cage of the ceiling fan and the other one perched on top watching me take the photo.

Most of the day I’m sitting next to the glass doors of the patio, reading my book and a small flicker against the sky tells me when a bird is either coming or going. Strange how this whole thing is happening a second time… some years ago in Switzerland a couple of birds built a nest on the balcony and I encouraged this in the same way I’m doing now; next thing we had a whole colony of pigeons and doves, creatures of the air perched out there on the balcony among old discarded objects and summer furniture. I wrote a few posts about the experience, excerpts follow:

Switzerland, August 29, 2012: Awake at 4:00 AM this morning, came through and switched on the kitchen light; old style fluorescent neon tube-light, flicker-flicker flick. And a bluish white light everywhere with electronic buzz you don’t notice after a while. The light shines through the windows illuminating the balcony of this 7th floor apartment and the pigeons wake up. A very loud sound: croo-croo, croo-croo, croo-croo, croo-croo! So I switch off the light again and they’re quiet as soon as I do that. Now I’m sitting in the darkness, held back in my domestic activities by the wildlife on the balcony. What to do now? Can’t read my book. Stand there in the darkness, and it takes a moment to notice the silence the birds are in. I sit in my chair and fall into meditation state… first thing I’m aware of is entering the quiet space of the perched birds – so silent here, 7 floors above street level. There’s a presence around these birds in roost mode; it takes my breath away, winged animals, so close to me… metta loving-kindness to all beings. I can’t see them but I know I’m very close to a small family group inhabiting the balcony. Two adults and two young birds and there’s another one – the mysterious ‘other’ … the alpha male has taken a second wife? I’m saying this because in the evenings there’s often some extended flapping of wings as they get their places in the hierarchy settled for the night – it’s like who gets to be next to whom. I can’t imagine… return to mindfulness mode.

After a while, and maybe I’ve fallen asleep, the wing-flutter, flap gets my attention, in the light of very early morning. Then there’s an odd silence in the bird group out there; no wing-flap. I get up quietly and go over to see. They’re poised on the balcony handrail; all looking out, little necks extended, heads focused downwards on the space below; the great swimming pool of sky. Still no movement. Then simultaneously they burst into an instant wing-flutter-flap-flick of feather tip flip of flight, and they’re gone. As one unit they drop over the balcony and down. A moment later I see them swoop and swirl in a great arc in the sky then on eye level with this 7th floor and in a direct line away from me, they vanish in the distance.

‘… so with a boundless heart should one cherish all living beings; radiating kindness over the entire world: spreading upwards to the skies, and downwards to the depths; outwards and unbounded, freed from hatred and ill-will. Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down free from drowsiness, one should sustain this recollection.’ [from: Karaniya Metta Sutta]

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Happy New Year Everyone all the best for 2016

changing the past

IMG_0577[This post is written in response to a Time Machine Challenge from Linda, at Litebeing Chronicles.] October 10, 2015, Chiang Mai, Thailand: I’ve had this intense headache and neck pain since the beginning of September. Postherpetic Neuralgia (PHN), nerve damage caused by herpes zoster, and trying to come terms with the fact that it could be like this for the rest of my life – what does that mean? Now the pain is cushioned, I’m on Neurontin 100mg x 3 per day and they say this drug changes my attitude to pain. But at the beginning there were intervals when homeopathic remedies had an effect and the pain was gone for a time. The relief was overwhelming; how could the pain just disappear like that? I needed to know. The inclination was to turn towards it, questioning – rather than turning away in defence… finding some relief in switching off the default sense of: this pain is happening to ‘me’… and suddenly finding there’s no ‘me’ the pain is happening to.

In that heightened state of mind I’d get on to my meditation cushion, carefully… any slight movement and the headache returns. And it’s as if I’m sitting at the edge of the sea, beach sand beneath my folded legs. An incoming wave of thought enters, swirls around for a while then spins away with the outgoing tide – nothing remains. There’s not anyone engaging with these thoughts. Shortly after that another wave comes crashing in; incidental mental conversations scatter on the beach sand… things of no consequence, attention-seeking chatter of the mind dwindles away as it recedes, and it’s gone; returning to the silence of no thinker, falling into a landscape of pain-free, ease and gentleness.

What strange karma could have led to this? Present time conditioned by past experience, yet there’s also the possibility that the past can change according to how it is perceived in present time. Returning to old memories with such vivid clarity that it all seems quite different – I recreate an object in memory according to present circumstances. Reopen a remembered event that’s troubled me for decades and, for the first time I see it in a kindly way. Either it was ‘me’ that got in the way and that’s what caused the problem, or it was somebody else’s ‘me’ that obscured the issue. Forgiveness and compassion for the way we’re all caught (everyone is), trapped in thought and driven by the suffering of ‘self’ wanting things to be different, other than what they are. I’m aware of circumstances I’d not noticed at the time and that past event becomes redefined in the process of reviewing the situation.

The past is a remembered ‘now’. There’s the scary familiarity of bad memories – but it’s not as it was before; same story but somehow seen clearly and portrayed differently… a new production of an old movie, there in the altered past, seeing the present moment as a kind of back-to-the-future thing. Kindnesses and sorrows over the denial and avoidance – how could it be like this? It’s an acceptance in a no-choice situation, a giving-way-to-it action; passive understanding that there’s got to be a willingness to relax the resistance and allow everything to pass through, unheld…

“If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should see sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.” [Henry Wadsworth Longfellow]

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Thanks Linda! Look out for the next Litebeing Chronicles entry in this series October 11 by Sue. Note: excerpts from earlier posts included here. Photo: The moving walkway to the domestic terminal Suvarnabhumi Airport (Bangkok)

9/11/2015: perception

September_14_2001_Ground_Zero_02A Buddhist Reflection: Survivors describe how, after the debris and dust settled, there was only blue sky where the twin towers used to be. It was as if the awful devastation hadn’t occurred, mind turns away… natural reaction, a kind of sleight-of-hand,  conjuring trick – one thing becomes something else, what is seen and what it appears to be merge together. Human beings have a deep familiarity with the illusion – everything we see, hear, smell, taste, touch is perceived. Consciousness of the world unfolds and thought rationalises how it appears to be. It’s this, it’s that, the illusion insists on being there until things hidden and obscured are revealed and we cannot return to the unknowingness of how it was before… ignorance is a kind of ignoring.

Form and formlessness; there are planes, explosions and buildings disappear. The video running continuously on YouTube for 14 years, I know the sequence in detail. I also know how the mind habitually joins up all the loose ends of awareness input, interpreting reality, perception is interpretation. Now you see it, now you don’t… a technology that can break up the molecular structure of concrete, turns buildings to dust – hoover it all up, remove melted steel remnants and everything is gone. I try not to think about it anymore; war and disaster, samsara of violence, distress, pain, fear and that underlying sense that something about this is not what it seems to be… learning to live with that uncertainty.

Mind is powered and driven by TV news – forgetting that it’s just a presentation, a performance in the studio. Hair-styling, cosmetics, the newsreader is an actor reading from a script. TV news is a created product based on an event manipulated to get it to fit into media format. TV news producers create a scenario of righteous anger, Sodom and Gomorrah retributional justice; it’s all ‘their’ fault, not our fault, blame and guilt… complicity. The tendency to contract into self, ‘I’ caused it to be ‘wrong’ – no, I don’t want to think about this anymore, don’t want to dwell on anything sinister…

People living in war-ravaged countries (such as Iraq for example) know that when a traumatic event takes place everything changes. After the disaster, our surroundings are seen in a different way; in the aftermath of this truly catastrophic circumstance we come to realise that the smoke was actually dust. What we believed in before this happened disintegrates, a basic truth now included in our worldview… nothing is permanent – history taking place before our eyes. Fourteen years after the experience, some ease can be found in simply knowing the ‘terrorists’ created a shockwave that unknowingly opened a window of awareness to world attention.

Dependent on the eye and forms, visual-consciousness arises. The meeting of the three is contact. With contact as condition there is feeling. What one feels, that one perceives. What one perceives, that one thinks about. What one thinks about, that one mentally proliferates. With what one has mentally proliferated as the source, perception and notions resulting from mental proliferation beset a man with respect to past, future, and present forms cognizble through the eye (Majjhima Nikaya, I, 111–112).

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Photo source: Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:September_14_2001_Ground_Zero_02.jpg#/media/File:September_14_2001_Ground_Zero_02.jpg
[See also earlier posts:
9/11 2014,
9/11 2013
9/11 2012]
Related source: ‘Working with Perception’ by Ajahn Sucitto