the way things appear to be

POSTCARD#349: Bangkok: It’s been three years coping with this pain hovering over me night and day. In the beginning my life was dominated by the headache (referred to here as: H) but I’ve discovered all kinds of things in the process. One thing not to be taken lightly; I learned the steps that lead away from suffering as if it were a code built into consciousness.

Another thing of course the severity of pain is not the same as it was. Maybe the mind gets used to it and there’s not the same urgency. But one aspect of it still strikes the nerve system on the right side of the head, the neck and shoulder. It can be any screeching sound like chairs being dragged across the floor, in a concrete room.

Here in Thailand there are some women whose voices, in laughter, are… utterly shrill. For me it’s a high frequency sound weapon, it penetrates through the auditory sensory organs and becomes something no longer heard. It feels like cold steel. I have to leave the room immediately, jump out the window into the garden and a forward roll gets me to a waiting taxi and away from that place forever.

But before anything else, it was necessary for me to be aware of the thinking mind. Mindfulness of it is not enough, it’s more like I needed to be aware of, how I think. I have to consciously take a step in that direction in order for things to have the momentum necessary to develop of their own accord.

So much of it is simply how it appears to be. The medicine plays tricks on me but I don’t pay it any mind. The effect begins to take place, H becomes non-hostile and becomes a tension band holding skull and neck muscles, tightly but secure. I can move away because there is nothing holding me. No pain. It’s detached, without a self to whom it would cause suffering. It’s the medicine that does this (necessary here to say). I put in these terms because that’s how it all seems to fit.

What is leftover is that part of the medicine that is the antidepressant. This is the place where I can gather up the mind, get it all in there, close the door, and melt into the darkness. From this comfortable place I can focus on the rest of the body/mind in a meditative way – an insightful contemplative state of mind.

As the years go by I see I’ve missed so much about the quantum world and how there seem to be groups of Buddhists who realise that we are consciousness itself. ‘When we rely on others to tell us their truth, we lose our power to actually realise pure spontaneous consciousness of independence.’

In the beginning I had to stay still for the medicine to have its effect. Nowadays I’m able to go around and just live with how it’s coming down. The large amount of medicine means I’m a bit unsteady on my feet, and I forget things – otherwise I’m okay.

‘see beyond the way things appear to be.’ Ajahn Munindo “Acceptance and Relinquishment” Volume 18

christmas day 2016

img_5138POSTCARD #239: Chiang Mai: Seasons greetings blogger friends. No snow here, only the memory of it falling in the silence of mind, like a dream I can’t wake up from pulls me back, over and over. Tree branches without leaves, black figures in a white landscape – image invert.

Words come out in gusts of steamy vapour puffs. Reflected light seen fading to zero white, pixelated edges of peppermint, menthol and bright electric blue-turquoise. Thinking of ice-rinks, chilled nasal passageways, and cranial cavities discovered in the sharp-edged inbreath. The cold is motionless presence. Little hanging earlobes are slowly freezing, teeth are cold, lips are a rubbery fumbling.

Eyes water in the looking-out between scarf and hat, but inwardly removed, seeing instead, the sunshine of some future time where I’m presently situated, at a table on a hotel balcony, remembering the past as we do, brought into present time. Coconut palms shwish-shwoosh in the benign climate of warm winds and the sea.

All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was. [Toni Morrison]

Photo taken from the hotel balcony in Bali.
Excerpts from backstory included here

falling out of the sky

flight-mapPOSTCARD #235: Bali, Indonesia: Twenty past midnight in Delhi, colorless and cold. Headache-bewilderment due to heavy meds; postponed boarding, delay before the story begins, before the catapulted leap up into the night, and a single star seen through my cabin window twinkling above the clouds of pollution. Four hours later down again to Bangkok where it’s six in the morning, stumbling in through security portals and out again then we’re up once more, into the clear blue sky where it’s still the same day. Wonderful to see, slept deeply through the five hour flight and woke only as we were falling out of the sky, down through the rain clouds into Bali.

I hadn’t realized how close we are here to the Land of Oz, where things are so far down-under, most of the rest of the world is up-over when you get down to that latitude. I’ve been to Oz many times (estranged father lived there) and right now I can recognize what this inverted view feels like in Bali. Anyway, I’m here for a short visit, Jiab has an international meeting and I have no part to play except to be he who is introduced in the breakfast room as, this is my husband, handshakes all round. Yes, quite nice really because I get to have a holiday while they’re all working… hooray! Scooting down the long corridors of the hotel and escape for the day.

I thought I’d be able to spend time on the beach, but it’s been raining all morning. So I get to explore craft shops for woodcarvings instead. Beautiful works of art, but then there’s the challenge of Indonesian currency; take a number with a great many zeros and divide it by 13 to get US dollars. I was doing it in my head at first until I suspected I’d given the waiter a $10 tip… generosity, ah well, he was a nice guy after all, but seeing the need to be a bit more accurate, therefore the necessity of using the calculator app, I realized I’d given the waiter $1 after all. Say no more.

More rain in the afternoon so I get to go around seeing the world through the windows of a taxi. Stopping at old temples, the puddles and mud of innumerable visitors splish-splashing like ducks, quack-quacking in the warm rain. Then suddenly, a huge noise of shouting up ahead, what’s going on? It’s a group of Chinese tourists trying to get everyone into their photo in an overly loud spectacle of disregard for their surroundings – so different from the quiet Bali people and the rest of us visiting here. I search for compassion for these survivors of a failed Communist regime. They really don’t know how to be polite… never had to learn.

Into the car again and off we go on the winding road, tarmac like a carpet on the narrow route North through Ubud town. We stop at a coffee place where they sell Luwak coffee produced by way of Asian Palm Civet cats (paradoxus hermaphroditus) who eat the coffee cherries and these pass through the animals’ digestive tract then the beans are collected and processed to make coffee. The woman sales staff calls it poop coffee, lips forming to make a delicate high-pitched plosive sound. We see the civets in their large cages just hanging out, gazing at all the visitors as if we were the ones in cages. The coffee, popular among tourists like me, costs RP 240,000 (US$ 18.00) for 100 grams – over-the-top expensive. I had a cup; it tasted like good coffee to me.

fullsizerender-6Easy going smile-a-lot local people living inside a hologram where visitors from everywhere in the world appear sometimes, pay money for goods and services, then leave. A woman gently chases a mother hen and her cheep-cheep chicks tootling around in the front of the guest house; soft handclap and gentle shooshhh sound, takes her broom and sweeps the smooth stone floor after they’re gone. And I’m in the car watching the breathless ease of her movements with the recognition of small things. All that’s required is to be fair and polite in actions, gentle and quiet in speech.

“The moment I have realized God sitting in the temple of every human body, the moment I stand in reverence before every human being and see God in him – that moment I am free from bondage, everything that binds vanishes, and I am free.” [Swami Vivekananda]