downshifting

POSTCARD#286: Chiang Mai: 04.30 hrs: Waves of coolness enter through wide open window, and air that’s almost as warm outside as it is inside, wraps itself around me like a thin light quilt on my shoulders. Soft and comfortable, gently quiet, no sounds disturbing conscious awareness. There’s an easy silence about this place, surrounded by trees near the foothills of the mountain rising up from the town to an elevation of 5,499 feet. This is what it feels like, sitting on the meditation cushion – I’d forgotten how simple it is, in this place, to fall into a contemplative state and the mind becomes still (samādhi).

Maybe it’s because at this time of the day, and all around us here, the monks are also sitting in quiet meditation, and everywhere in Thailand too, of course, as it is in a Buddhist country. Centuries of meditation, mindfulness and the quiet still mind of the monks has had an historical effect on the outer environment. This is still the Old World… or you could say simply that it’s just a gentle place, no extreme life-threatening weather conditions – except it does get hot in the hot season in the middle of the day. But then, sensible people have a nap in the afternoon, not exceptional, just sort of normal here.

I can’t rule out the fact that maybe this is simply me, a foreigner in Thailand, experiencing the easing away from the stress and dukkha of Northern Europe. Over there we don’t have so much of an awareness of metta, loving kindness – more like Greed, Hatred, Delusion (sounds like members of a Heavy Metal band?) means it’s warlike by comparison to Thailand.

People here are rural, humble folk, shoes off at the door, and everything is done quietly, with the family and the community and anybody passing by outside – including me, ‘Where are you going?’ someone asks and smiles pleasantly as I pass their door. A simple friendship we don’t have as a rule, in the West. ‘Going to the shop to buy things.’ I tell her. An understanding arising from mutuality; the shared experience of being alive. It’s this trusting quality that’s everywhere, all around. It says something about social behaviour, the Thai quietness.

That’s all well and good, the sceptics might say, but Chiang Mai is engaged with Western strategies of greed, and if Western consumerist greed can get a footing in Thai society, the evangelical aspect of it follows… worshipping a consumerist God. It will undermine existing systems, powered by right-wing fundamentalism and then you discover you have to buy your way into the halls and palaces of the Kingdom of the Consumerist God.

In these terms, you could say there’s almost no belief in God at all, here in Thailand, but there is a deep understanding of integrity… if it’s ethically good, it’s the right thing to do. If it’s thought to be ethically bad, or mai dii, no redeeming attributes and not good at all, it’ll create bad kamma – think superstition, ghosts – and it’ll be dropped immediately.

Straightforward, uncomplicated and what’s all the fuss about? On a certain level, the Thai expression, ‘don’t worry about it’, (mai pen rai’), and ‘there’s no problem’ (‘mai mi panha’), suggests there’s nothing impossibly difficult about this. But there has to be a profound understanding of ordinariness – the word is: dhammada: the dharma of everything. In everyday usage it just means that; ordinary.

In the West, the word ‘ordinary’ doesn’t have meaning for most of us, holding on, as we are, to a mild anxiety most of the time; the uneasy gnawing away at the innards, and ‘ordinary’ seems like something extraordinarily complex… we have to struggle for an understanding of it.

In Thailand, things are straightforward. You don’t feel ‘obliged’ to accept the consumerist way of life, disguised as a sort of social responsibility. For the Thais, that’s crazy! All your hard-earned income is going into the pockets of the corporations and the government taxation systems, isn’t that obvious? The economy works for the people, not the other way round. Even Thai politicians know that social responsibility is about how the population relate to one another in society, through kindness, generosity and compassion. There is Greed, of course but that’s just uneducated and plain weird.

Who knows, maybe there is something about the Thai reaction to the influence of consumerism – if it grows into a genuine social movement, TV and media dependent on advertising revenue will in some way see the wisdom of ‘downshifting’, a voluntary simplicity, in order to (at least) be seen as aligning with national opinion in this small country. It may be enough to swing the emphasis and change the direction from the way things are presently going in the Western world.

Present time feels like it’s not completely arrived, not quite yet becoming future time – as if held in that one long elongated moment before it all gets to where it should be going, but it doesn’t, and is replaced by a great nothingness that invades everything and it becomes something like a huge freshwater lake – small islands appear on the horizon…

… Restrict the role of advertising on the grounds that today much of it has become as bad for our psychological and spiritual health as tobacco is for our physical health.’ [David Loy, ‘Pave the Planet or Wear Shoes’]


Image: Metropolitan Museum of Art, Head of Buddha, 5th – 6th century, Afghanistan. http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/38228

sad sausage dog story

POSTCARD#285: Bangkok: Taxi to the airport for the flight to the island … did I remember everything? Packed and unpacked so many times, pause for a moment and I can’t remember if this was a pack or an unpack – ah well… I know it’s a continuance of the journey from Delhi because so much of the space inside the bag is taken up with clothes not yet unpacked. We had one night in Bangkok and now we’re headed for Samui, a small island in the Gulf of Siam.

Layers of folded, flat-pack clothing, still chilled from the 4 hour journey over from Delhi, ready to leap out and take human form, when we get to the island. Bag contents include another layer on top of folded clothes; the cables, adapters and sockets we need to recharge our batteries; “Oh no, my battery is running out!” Jiab says, collapses into her seat with a sigh, as if exhausted. No power source until we get to the hotel. And the remains of my bag capacity is filled up with the soft pillow I carry with me everywhere, fluffy and light, full of air, and placed on top of the cables, so that, when the bag is zipped shut, it holds everything in place.

But, is there something I still have to do? Still there’s the lingering doubt… I’ve had to double check on actions ever since the last stay in the Delhi hospital – large bruises all over the back of my left hand and right forearm, where the nurse unsuccessfully probed for a vein – they’re hopelessly small, but she got it in the end. It was just a flu virus, thankfully not dengue fever or anything more nasty. Three days in there, and TV watching – television must be a very good analogy for something I could write about, but do I want to do that? No. Discharged after 2 nights, and next day, into the aircraft. Now we’re in Thailand, on the way to get the one-hour flight to Samui.

I’m so forgetful these days; can’t remember how to do things that used to be automatic. Simple actions like going upstairs, now I have to consciously create the necessary coordination, otherwise I’d trip on the steps. Going down is the same… hesitation; it seems like such a miracle that I get to the bottom safely. The necessity of mindfulness in everything I do from here on.

I’ve experienced a few forgetful and confusing things lately, forgetting ordinary words, and the honesty of those freeze-frame blank moments. Particularly the sad sausage dog story, that inspired this post. We had to give up our rented house and stayed with our Japanese friends for a while, in a small 3-bedroom ground floor apartment. Long corridors extending out from a central living room, and a bedroom at the end of each corridor. Very good for privacy, but confusing for the cute little Dachshund (sausage dog) our friends were looking after while the owner was away.

I’d be lying in bed and hear the click, click, click, of toenails coming along towards where we were. Then the poor creature would arrive at our open bedroom door, look around as if to say, “Is this where I’m supposed to be?” Pause for a moment, then turn around to go back. That was when I witnessed, for the first time, a Dachshund dog perform a 3-point turn to face back the way she came. The front legs seemed to have all the action worked out; the rear legs just sort of stumbled on things lying in the way, and followed the action of the front two. The pink doggie diapers it was wearing at the end of the long body accentuated the action. Then it would go off again, click, click, click, and pink diapers with tail sticking through would disappear in the long straight corridor. After 10 minutes  we’d hear it again approaching our room. Hesitate in the doorway: Hmmm. here again?

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” [Melody Beatty]


Photo: Jiab in the front seat of the taxi

background brought forward

POSTCARD#284: Delhi: Jiab was coughing and coughing, day and night. She went to the doctor, got medicine. After a couple of days, I started coughing too. Appointment for the doctor; we went together, doc looks down my throat, holding my tongue in place, and shining a spot of light to see what the problem could be; say ahh please. “Ahhh”. Okay, it’s a virus (Flu), but we don’t know what kind of virus it is. She asks me for my age and says she’d like me to come into the hospital for a few hours for more tests and observation. Wow! I wasn’t expecting this, a nurse appears and I’m whisked away, abducted by aliens … a few hours turned into two nights and three days trapped in a hospital room with a TV, restricted diet, throat feels like I’d swallowed a mouthful of broken glass. Headache too, but not the same as the PHN headache. Nothing better to do than figure out how the TV remote works.

Things moving so fast it’s all getting to be history too soon. Earthquakes in Mexico, hurricanes in the Caribbean, and pending volcanic explosion in Bali. The impact on people’s lives; the tragedy of how the hurricanes entered people’s personal space, and swept away everything. Dismayed, the 100 yard stare, where’s my home? Chunks of the environment gone missing, stuff we just take for granted, pieces of it like parts of a huge jigsaw puzzle, disappeared, lost. Reality can be this too. The mind must be fundamentally changed, after an experience like that.

At all hours of the day and night, thus held by TV, fixed high up on the wall. This is CNN bringing you Breaking News, volume fills the room: the President threatening us with his inept diplomacy, possibly bringing on a nuclear war. Hoping for the best, we are hovering on the edge of imminent disaster. He returns to his home base frequently to appear with his fans, in a created reality, televised in networks and shown all around the world; that jolt of paid-for breathless waves of applause. And does it matter if it’s not genuine spontaneous applause? Seems not, the appearance of things is good enough.

Am I going mad? It could easily be a scene from a Marvel Comix, or Manga comics’ series. Or gaming – something to do with the performance, the act – too much for me, in the end I shall just disappear in Thailand somewhere. Not here yet, but it’s getting there. Halfway through the second day of lying on a bed too small for me, sniffling and sneezing and I really want to get away from this TV. The cough is throaty, like the bark of a dog, and it feels like I’ve gone through a lifetime of watching TV, trapped in the illusion; seek, find – instant gratification, claim your prize, reward, congratulations. Have your cake and eat it too. But there’s no real satisfaction, TV stimulates a hunger that only leads to a sharper edge to appetite.

When I was discharged and away from that TV room, it felt like every bone in my body was bruised and painful. Vision blurry in the totality of natural light. Quite emotional, so much happening at the same time, things jumping in to get my attention. This is normality I guess. It’s hard to keep track of which is what, who said that, and how things came to be like this. The minimalism of events occurring in a few seconds, as fleeting as a moment in time, the arising and falling away of it, the unfolding of circumstances divided and subdivided in a multitude of miniature events…

“Don’t clap too loudly—it’s a very old world.”
[Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead]


attachment becomes generosity

POSTCARD#284: Delhi: Packing household objects for the move is simple enough, there are two categories: a) things to Give Away, b) things to Keep. There is, also, c) things I have to give away, but want to keep. Still some reluctance there, gazing fondly at these possessions, do I really need this? In the end it all gets caught up in the momentum of leaving. I begin to see how it belongs in the ‘Give Away’ group, except there’s this tenacity of attachment; fingertips adhere to surfaces of the object – it would have to be pulled from my grasp.

The urgency of having to pack up and leave, sweeps the attachment into another place where it becomes generosity. Much-loved objects become gifts, rather than possessions. Generosity is letting-go, and the Buddha’s teaching on self/no self reveals the suffering inherent in the human condition caused by holding on, when we should be letting go. Compassion for those of us caught in the suffering of possession and ownership; the system creates the predicament – across the board consumerism stimulates a hunger that doesn’t lead to satisfaction but to a sharper edge to appetite.

A change in acoustics, the rooms are emptying fast, the sound of a single handclap creates an echo: “clap!” Household objects are disappearing at the same rate as large sealed boxes are appearing – rooms starting to vanish, space enters through the windows, floor gives way, and for a moment, everything turns inside out. Then seeing it the way it was before this, is impossible… memory gives way and it’s gone.

Parts of the interior are deleted; a blank space appears where something large used to be – the place where a thought used to be but it got forgotten; what was I thinking about there? Can’t remember. More of these blank spaces, objects wrapped in bubble wrap lose their identity. Everything packed away in boxes, cubed, diced up on the chopping board. I can’t remember what it was before this… there’s a world of things, and then there’s not.

This is a difficult time, earthquakes, hurricanes, and natural disasters of the Trump kind. The world is watching, not sure, uncertain. The urgency of thought seeks the safest place to be, the midway point and holding the balance; a place of equanimity in the midst of uncertainty, find a calm abiding there and cultivate the disposition to be free of bonds of ownership – attachment becomes generosity, relinquishment, letting go, metta and loving kindness.

In Asian languages, the word for ‘mind’ and the word for ‘heart’ are the same. So if you’re not hearing mindfulness in some deep way as heartfulness, you’re not really understanding it. Compassion and kindness towards oneself are intrinsically woven into it. You could think of mindfulness as wise and affectionate attention. [Jon Kabat-Zinn]


Contains excerpts from an earlier post

tick-tock-tick

POSTCARD#283: Delhi: We’re clearing away everything from this house, piece by piece. Today is exactly two weeks to the time we have to vacate the premises, and the demolishers enter our rooms with their steel hammers, remove ceiling fans, knock out windows and doors, then take down the entire building bit by bit, clouds of brick dust rise and rubble everywhere. World coming to an end, collapsing like a dead star, all matter reduced to the size of an atom and gone in a flash.

Time is just slipping away, I pause for a moment to look at the little clock we brought back from Switzerland: tick-tock-tick-tock-tick-tock, pendulum madly dashing to-and-fro for the last three years without a stop. The strange urgency of it going on unnoticed like this, all through the days and nights and times I’ve been away. This time we go away and we’re not coming back. The Swiss clock goes on measuring out the time until somebody takes it off the wall, removes the battery from its tiny wooden compartment, and it’s placed in a box wrapped in bubble wrap.

But the time for that is not here yet – tick-tock-tick – there’s only an awareness of the pause, before it happens. Future time slides into present time; tomorrow becomes today, and the ‘now’ falls back into yesterday. The sound of the clock, tick-tock-tick is the context for a sort of back-to-the-future thing. The ‘now’ I experience at this moment was the future for me when I was in the past.

Where are we now? Let’s see, time stretched out to include packing of suitcases, filling of boxes, things ticked off the list, but the whole project is too large, it’s nowhere near being completely done yet. I’m held in the awareness of the pause before it gets here – a shavingth of an instant before it does. If I say there’s a beginning, I create linear time. Without that starting point there’s no causality, no ending, no beginning – the empty space of what it could be, held for as long as it takes me to notice it’s there.

Gathering up objects and labelling with a code so the shipping company can pack them in the correct boxes. Language creates an identity for things, and they become events in space-time, ‘this’ happened here, ‘that’ happened there, (but) ‘there isn’t a that without a this, and the that is essentially inseparable from the this.’

What I was thinking about disappears in the space between things, and I fall back into the emptiness of no thought, the observed world and the observer of it… where does it go from here? It feels like this moment is just one screenshot taken in the making of a video about my whole life… well, I suppose that’s what it is. The seeing of it happens, and I can’t ‘unsee’ it. I am the context for what it is. Parts of me in disarray, deconstructed, the opposite of a catastrophe.

Bags and cases lay open, clothes taken from wardrobes, folding and placing, folding again. Unfold, enfold, enclose, embrace, wrap, package, I am my name only; the ‘me’ I live with. Not a substantial thing – there’s a fragility about it – sometimes not there at all. If I’m curiously adrift in a future time, a place of speculative conjecture and hypothetical likelihoods, the constant sweeping along of things brings me back always to the place I set off from, to see what remains to be done… there’s an alertness, sensory mechanisms waiting for things to happen – it’s in their nature to do that. The awareness is all there is.

“…Not a single particle out “there” exists with real properties until it’s observed… reality is a process that involves consciousness.” [Robert Lanza]


 gratitude to blogging friends for the discussion on past, present and future time

sky become sea

 

OLD NOTEBOOKS [282]: East Anglia, England (originally dated October 8, 2012): 06.00hrs: I’m upstairs in the cottage, sitting at the desk placed in front of the small window looking out at the world. What a strange sight, everything is chocolate brown. The field was ploughed yesterday, I remember now, a man in a red tractor ploughing the earth into neat chocolate furrows, moving by small increments across the field and back, followed by a flock of pale grey seagulls making a tremendous mewing sound. It took him the whole day.

Furrowed chocolate fields forever, like lines drawn in the earth, as you would draw with a pencil on a piece of paper, but on a huge scale; a measurement made across the field. Furrows as neat as a comb passes through hair and it leaves the strands precisely separated from each other. The strange thing is though, it’s done and no evidence of it having taken place remains. Just the mystery of this energy left behind. The field devastated with precise lines marked deep into its surface; an orderly catastrophe.

Events generate their own time, an on-going transformation like clouds in the sky above speeding along in this cold and windy October day; they normally move so slowly you can’t see them moving at all. On a windy day like this they’re tumbling and spinning along, against a layered background of other clouds moving in their own air currents, in their own place in time. A wheeling clockwork of engaging cogs contained in the greater space above me and all around.

It’s as if the sky has become the sea, slow moving but clearly defined ‘waves’ created by a complexity of air currents. The eye/ brain/ visual mechanism, engaged with cloud watching in this way, becomes weary and things come into consciousness in small jerks. The smooth flow of movement is broken up into a speeded up sequence of ‘stills’ that seem to have their own life, unfolding as my consciousness apprehends the ‘knowing’ of it.

I go downstairs, step outside the door to see the sky, and the scale of it blows me away…. It’s immense, over the top of the hill and away in the direction of the coast a few miles away. Then in all directions in a pattern of huge arcs and smaller interlocking wheels of cloud forms reflecting complex wind movements that I can see only part of. There’s a sense of very much more than this and the rest of it is sweeping around, thousands of miles away over the curvature of the earth. Clouds transforming in vast spaces like blossoming flowers speeded up in time-lapse photography.

I go back inside the house and upstairs but the security of this building is not reassuring; I feel like I’m caught in a hurricane, held in freeze-frame motion. When I look out the window again the sky is still up there, doing its thing. The ploughman’s neat lines etched into the earth, row after row stretching as far away as the eye can see. This does not bring stability; there’s a feeling of unease that takes some time to settle. No ‘self’ to make sense of it. A mutuality of awareness in a world that’s not separate from me, but somehow I return to the familiarity of who I am. I have weight… gravity prevents me from flying away.

‘I am what the world is doing here and now. Trying to ground myself in constructed reality is not it. I am not inside my body, looking out at the world outside, so I don’t need to secure myself. Letting go of my self, there is nothing that needs to be made real.’ [David Loy, Linda Goodhew, ‘Consuming Time’]


Reblogged earlier post from 2012

goodbye the wind

POSTCARD#281: Delhi: This is the last whole month in the house, everything now coming to an end at the end of September. Goodbye this room, floor, ceiling, these walls, aperture of window looking out on to small garden, and beyond to the park where these exceptionally tall trees have given us so much shade from direct sunlight. Goodbye trees, goodbye everything deeply green tree roots and wide leaves in this warm humidity, growing even as we speak.

And always a rustling of the wind, I follow the movement of large branches lowering, rising, and see how the whole mass of foliage shifts in accord with the continuity of movement… the air displacement itself a manifestation of the wind. Where’d it go… have you seen the wind? A wind narrative that never comes to an end, a wind becoming animate intelligence, an unseen form, disconnected from everything. A wind that’s present in all places at the same time, a wind that enters into and out of all things as if it were something autonomous, an invisible entity arising and falling away, form and formlessness in a causality of change and movement.

There’ve been times when it was at its peak and I’d watch from the shelter of this window… sudden velocity of wind strikes the pane of glass against its frame, Bang! I fall back in a moment of shock and fear, as if it were a living thing! The whole garden in a massive transition of wind becoming foliage; metaphor becomes reality, magician, voodooist, witch, wizard of a wind in a nightmare of dancing trees, wild and waving, with a sudden pliability hard to believe.

Everything out there and in here gives form to the insane energy of a wind that enters everywhere and into every single thing. Blows out gusts, sucks in voids, spins it in a vortex and swooping down as if inquisitive about something, filling up all the spaces below there, then suddenly out and up, high in the sky where only birds engage with it.

The sudden sound of it when a huge bough appears, as if it were something alive, tumbles through the foliage in a rush of leaves whispering in thousands of voices that seems to crash like waves upon a beach, and rises up again in a great sigh of leaf-whispering. Waves upon waves of masses of clustered notes break upon the shore, becoming less and less in an ordered succession of movements.

Goodbye the wind that quietly gusts its way through the mind, my awareness of it rises as it rises, I’m more alert when it’s loud, and when it’s quiet again I feel more at ease. But only for a moment, another small wave of it becomes a parallel thought flow to a story in the mind; it never rests… swooping shadows plunging deep into patterns of foliage over and over.

“Through our eyes, the universe is perceiving itself. Through our ears, the universe is listening to its harmonies. We are the witnesses through which the universe becomes conscious of its glory, of its magnificence.”
[Alan W. Watts]


excerpts from an earlier post titled Whispering winds

a future un-lived in

POSTCARD#280: Delhi: Sunday morning, early, everyone deeply asleep. A dog barks, forming a single sound isolated in the quietness like the frog haiku (the old pond, a frog jumps in: plop!). The echo reflected off the walls, window glass, and metal of parked cars, ting! For a moment I feel like I’m not here, invisible. This is how it’ll be after we move away from here and the house is to be demolished as soon as we leave, the house agent says. A new apartment building will take its place. How does this feel? Hovering at the edge of vision, large men with jack-hammers, iron picks and shovels, restless, waiting for us to go.

There are huge profits to be made renting out apartments in this area. Our old house is wasted real estate. For us, the tenants, of course we suffer the loss. The entire space we inhabit right now will disappear completely, only the Frangipani tree remaining; leaves covered in masonry dust until the monsoon winds blow, then the rains come and wash the leaves clean again. I try to picture it; we move out and the same day demolition begins; roof is off before lunchtime, walls come down in the afternoon, trucks drive away with all the rubble and there’s nothing but empty space… birds fly through.

Long after this, maybe we forget our old house has been deleted from memory files, and try to remember what it was like being here… unsupported imaginings, totally gone, no evidence here of the building we used to call home – nothing to back it up. Is death like this? This is the end; a future un-lived in, present time has no materiality. I see myself here in an almost invisible house, standing on the second floor with vestiges of walls, floor crumbling away, and I’m just floating up there.

The vanishing of it also somehow associated with darkness, I can’t see anything; for example, entering a darkened room, and have to search for the light switch at the edge of the door by practiced palm and fingertip reaching over the cool wall until it gets to the switch click! In the other rooms it’s more difficult to find the switch and I’m often stuck there groping in the darkness but no light switch to be found. I close my eyes as if that might help, trying again and again. How can this be? Am I comfortable with the thought I don’t know, and knowing I don’t know? Yes, it was there, but it’s not there now.

No resting place, all is movement, a composition of joined-up pieces which fit together like a jigsaw puzzle makes a picture, then broken up into pieces and back in the box, lid closed. Next time it’s opened and put together, a different picture appears and different players. Transition of moving parts everything has changed again. Not ‘here’ for long enough to say much, just passing through. Sorry, can’t stay, got to go now. But wait, not yet… we’re here until the end of September. This short time we’re in right now is only one moment in countless tiny instances, citta moments, and in larger chunks of time, a sequence of images form movement like the ‘stills’ creating continuity in the old 35 mm celluloid film shown in the cinema, the Moving Picture Show.

annicam: all of conditioned existence, without exception, is “transient, evanescent, inconstant”. All temporal things, whether material or mental, are compounded objects in a continuous change of condition, subject to decline and destruction.


 

the bird is the messenger

POSTCARD#279: Delhi: The bird is the messenger, a leaf in its beak and a note tied around its tiny leg. Brings news, we’re moving from here at the end of September. After that, three months in temporary accommodation, then we’re leaving India for good.

There’s it is again, the tiny bird in the bush outside, and I’m inside the room, trying to get a clear photo of it through the window glass. There are three of them there, the other two out of sight right now. They move so fast, quicker than thinking. It’s the Purple Sunbird, olive green as youngsters; full size less than 4inches in length and these are so small, almost not there at all. I blink my eyes and they disappear… the quickening. See one for an instant then it’s gone – takes my breath away.

Even now, it all seems to be coming an end – a cancellation of everything that remains, no time to settle, before we’re gone. The disappearance of the past, a new direction, and return to Bangkok – return to “Go”… time is just slippin’ away.

It doesn’t seem so long ago that we came to this house, characteristics of the shift from house A to house B. At the edge of my vision, household items look at me as I pass… poised in choreography of dance steps, ready for their next move. The great leap… percussive landing, clatter, scrape, bump and hastily take up their positions in new rooms.

In the morning we wake up in somebody else’s house… a familiarity of objects out of context in these new surroundings. I’m in someone else’s life – stepped out of my own life, into theirs. Same world, just a different angle on how it’s seen, felt and understood– same sensory awareness mechanism creates the kaleidoscope of different coloured lights.

Where am I? Maybe I’ll find myself in the Lost and Found Department. Searching among the ghosts there, for a self that’s missing – but if it can’t be found, any one will do. I can bear with the tendency for “self” to think it’s different from all the other “selves” going around thinking they’re different too.

Who am I? The world is how I/you perceive it, he/she, perceives it. We/you and they see and look into each other’s eyes. A window opens into another realm inhabited by him, her and them. The sense of their presence inter-lacing with the presence of others before them and as yet nothing of our own. Generations and generations of karma in an arrangement of cause and conditions and interconnected lives

I remember coming here with the house agent. Walking up the path, open the door… ghosts of previous tenants rush away to their hiding places in a whisper of movement. For me there’s only the dust of empty houses everywhere in the city – looking for somewhere to sit in a room with no furniture. Leaning thus, in a doorframe, and maybe this will do. Maybe here we can invent a life we’ll be happy with. Awareness takes it all in, puts it away in a new folder. A new reference point: ‘this’ is where the heart is, home is where I hang my hat.

“It is not as it were that one, dropping out from this world, is born into another but there is continuity of causes and conditions.” [From Madhyamika, quoted by T. R. V. Murti]


Excerpts from an earlier post: quicker than thinking

‘extrinsic’

POSTCARD#278: Chiang Mai: I’m in this 3rd floor apartment, lying on the sofa and the balcony door is open. The sound of a plane coming in to land (this building is near the airport and on the flight path), I’ll resist the impulse this time to try to take a photo of it – lean over a low balcony rail… scary. So I lay down flat on the sofa, ready for the immense noise, and the aircraft flies over. The sound is absolutely devastating. The glass of windows, masonry walls, ceiling and floor vibrate at a deafening frequency… and just at that moment I see the upside-down reflection of the plane in the highly polished floor tiles. It’s there for an instant, flying away across the floor, out to the balcony, and leaves my vision at the same time as the huge sound ends.

An upside down passenger jet flying across my room; such an extraordinary event, I think I need to write that down – where’s my pen? Something to write on? Look in my wallet, and a piece of paper falls out. It’s an old, creased, folded, coffee-shop receipt and on the back of it is written the word ‘extrinsic’. Hmm? I made a note of that word for a reason and I can’t remember what it was. Now here it is again: extrinsic: adjective: not essential or inherent; not a basic part or quality; extraneous’ (extrinsic at Dictionary.com).

There’s no context, it doesn’t seem to belong anywhere – an existential anomaly. It’s here, yet it’s not here; the integral substance of something that doesn’t exist. Something external that would perhaps answer the question: What is its ‘whatness’? How is its ‘howness’? Somewhere in the realm of seemingly incidental meanings that arise of their own accord as if they’d been consciously created, contained in words, and language itself is the metaphor – I could think of it as the unstated ‘I-am-ness’ of things, the grounded, certainty of being.

I’m feeling more at ease since the passing of the big headache and, without the meds, ordinary life is creeping back. I’m much more in contact with the mind/body quality of ‘I-am-ness’ than I used to be. Not necessarily the identity, this is me (((self))), I can choose to be separate from thinking it’s like this … the sense of there being a thought process that ‘somebody’ is separate from. The extrinsic sense of ‘I-am-ness’ is an aspect of conscious experience. It comes and goes, changes, disappears and returns.

The word ‘extrinsic’ appears to be outside of the moment I’m in, and as soon as I think that, everything shifts to include it. It’s as if ‘extrinsic’ is a location in the ‘world’, the object is seen from the outside looking in. And ‘intrinsic’ is another location; the subjective sense of the object in the ‘all-aroundness’ and the ‘all-it-isness’ totality of the ‘world’.

All this is interesting, maybe because I’m now outside the aircraft and usually I’m inside the aircraft, going between India and Thailand… but what’s this? The sound of another passenger jet approaching. Drop everything and lie back on the sofa to get the full impact of the sound. Incredible! Upside down plane reflection flies across the floor.

“All life is a single event: one moment flowing into the next, naturally. Nothing causing everything. Everything causing everything.” [Wu Hsin]


this is a re-blogged and re-written earlier post named ‘no-thingness’