the construct

IMG_1192OLD NOTEBOOKS: East Anglia: [post written in New Delhi] A group arrives at the mall coffee shop sorts out the chairs, a few remarks, laughter; look at the menu the waitress comes over. Give their order, then there’s nothing left to say. Silence. Each one pulls out a mobile device, phone or iPad, stares at screens whose reflected glow illuminates the face of the user. Heads tucked in to examine the picture, body crouched over in fetal position; hypnotized, fascinated with the object, unlearned, never thinking of the question ‘WHY?”

Dominated by thoughts of, who am I? How do I relate to everybody else: you, he, she or it – we, you they? “Me’ as an individual doesn’t seem to be anything more than just a member of a particular socio-economic group. From this way of thinking, I can see (my) self situated favorably – or it could be unfavorably if I’m caught in being the victim; subject to the karma of former circumstances – product marketing gently nudging at the elbow. I need to be thinking about the next option – expectations, responsibilities, things I ought to be doing. Thoughts thinking thoughts, thinking more thoughts and thinking about things to the extent that it all becomes habitual – embedded in the self-construct I recognize as ‘me,’ subject to causes, conditions in the world, which is also a construct, I am some kind of imaginary character in a fictional landscape.

There is so much that we cannot know, limitations of the senses, including the cognitive sense. But everything arises due to thought, the duration between one thought and another is non existent – thought knows nothing of it because thought only knows an object; all objects appear only in thought – no object, no thought. STOP THINKING and there’s the enigma… the empty space where that thought used to be. Nothing there now, if it is just ‘nothing’, I’d need to have ‘something’ there to confirm it is nothing. I can’t find the ‘something’. So it’s not ‘anything’, it’s ‘not something’ – it’s a feeling of no-thingness. But then I’m thinking about it again… it’s an easing-away from that heaviness of thought, that which built the construct; buildings, welded metal, concrete, brick and iron embedded in stone. All of it can be demolished in a day. It all just fades away. ‘Melted into thin air… the baseless fabric of this vision… we are such stuff as dreams are made on…’

“After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small-complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.” [Alexis de Tocqueville, 1805-1859]

a world of things

sycamore 1“Those who float away their lives on ships or who grow old leading horses are forever journeying, and their homes are wherever their travels take them.” [Matsuo Bashō 1644 –1694]

OLD NOTEBOOKS: East Anglia: It’s the last day, I’m leaving, this is it… the end – no more departures and arrivals I’m leaving now for the very last time. The house is to be sold, the rooms are empty, all remaining things ready to be put into boxes for the recycling people to collect after I’m gone. Right now it’s all arranged in two groups: a) stuff to be given away and, b) ‘stuff that I can’t let go of YET’… still some reluctance, lingering over things I want to keep. Gazing fondly at a pile of books, a framed picture, pondering, hesitation, attachment… but how will I get all this into checked-in luggage for the flight to Thailand? Some time spent considering this but, impossible, let’s face it. In the end it’s a decision pushed along by the momentum of leaving; there’s a car coming for me in the afternoon. Out of time, ok, pack up and leave… and I move everything into a), the stuff-I’m-giving-away group. That settles it.

But I’m tugged back… did I just do that? Hands reach out to take the stuff back again. Pause for a moment to think about it and everything stops, emptiness, there’s nothing there… thought is an elaborated construct built in a landscape of no-thingness. An awareness event turns up out of nowhere, the kind of thing that couldn’t happen in any other circumstance: let someone else have these things. It’s the letting-go thing, the generosity of easing, the release of all that tight energy – giving it all away, giving it all back to the world, returning to the context of how it all arose in the first place. I stop for a moment to think about how that feels, but there’s no thought, everything is still wonderfully clear and completely empty. There’s a world of things, then there’s not.

Suddenly it feels like everything I’ve been holding on to doesn’t matter anymore, and that’s okay. The loss is only there if I ‘think’ it into being. Sit down, close my eyes and everything  becomes invisible. Feel the pressure points, lower back, seat in chair, feet on floor, elbows on the arm rests – but no body, no head – it occurs to me that sometimes the universe doesn’t exist… takes my breath away. Only a curious intensity in the place where the thought used to be contained; something that really never happened… years and years of nurturing a dream about something that wasn’t there.

Last thing to do is bless the rooms, hands held in anjali in that small dwelling: Wishing in gladness and in safety, may all beings be at ease… There’s a clear sense of closure. Going through the door… I’ve been in this house 36 years and it’s gone in a flash. Standing outside, blinking in the bright daylight, surprised to discover it’s a just a day like any other day. A last look inside, sunlight extends in from the doorway… goodbye little house! Pull the door closed, lock. Get in taxi, door slam. We’re off across the landscape…

‘When this exists, that comes to be. With the arising of this, that arises. When this does not exist, that does not come to be. With the cessation of this, that ceases.’ Samyutta Nikaya 12.6


Many thanks to Jeff for: ‘stuff that I can’t let go of YET’ – source: Leaving Lexington. Photo: a stand-alone Sycamore tree at the top of the hill

the light of memory

12052011016eOLD NOTEBOOKS: East Anglia: [post written in New Delhi] The old house is sold. A printout of the email from the lawyer signed, enveloped, stamped and sent by DHL to England, 4000 miles away. A small packet of A4 paper folded once, bearing all the correct documentation, tucked away in a bundle, squeezed into an aircraft for a night and a day. At the other end, registered, signed-for and unlocked, unpacked, seals broken, it’s confirmed by officials, checked, stamped and placed in a folder and delivered by a guy on a motorbike to an office in East Anglia. Smoothened out in the bright white electric light of a cold January morning (by a mature female hand probably, cosmetics, manicured nails and a silver ring), and there’s my signature, exposed for all to see; idiosyncratic squiggle recognised by law as being ‘me’ saying ‘yes’ I agree to the foregoing; I relinquish, renounce, I have read and understood the above-mentioned; box ticked, it’s all yours… sayonara, goodbye little house that sheltered me for 36 years, my small cave, hollow, burrow in the side of a hill. Everything there that was ‘me’ is fading away, even as we speak, already feels like I was never there. It’s like a death… all that remains is a memory of so many comings and goings, arrivals/departures, and in the 36 years I was there I never stayed longer than 3 months. There are only the journals left; words written in old notebooks, hard-to-read writing in ball-point pen etched into the surface of old yellowed paper:

OCTOBER 10, 2012: Today is the last day. Getting ready for the flight to Thailand… that familiar feeling of departures is in the air. This time tomorrow I will not be here. I’ll not be in a room that has split floor boards stacked in a cupboard next to the fireplace in the sharp coldness before the fire is lit. Yes, at least I’ll be away from this stunningly cold house where I have to wear a coat indoors, going around with kindling, paper and matches first thing in the morning, rushing to get the fire lit, the flames going and some heat started up. I notice a certain… vigour in everything that seems to be necessary to keep warm. Words come out in steamy puffs of breath, and a kind of gasping breathlessness: haaaaah! It’s cold.

There’s a fragrance of cleaning products around the house. Yesterday was a day of hoover and broom and the place is clean now, pity I’ll not be here to appreciate it. Everything gets a major clean-up a couple of days before I go. It’s always like this; then, on the last morning, I have breakfast, wash out my coffee cup, place it on the edge of the sink; wash my breakfast plate and leave it to dry in the dish-rack – it’ll have plenty time to dry…. The house is locked up, sealed like a time capsule until I return; into the taxi and I’m gone. The house remains as I left it, exactly like this, for countless days and nights and afternoons and early mornings, sun peeps in the window, nobody at home; all through winter, all through Spring and then one day I come back, open the door, break through the spider webs, trip over the mountain of junk mail and enter into this same moment enclosed here now. Same cup sitting on the edge of the sink, same plate in the dish-rack. And the whole house says: Hello, how’ve you been?

And now I know I’ll never be back there again. Stirring the ashes of a fire gone out, a life I think I wanted but never had – maybe I should have tried harder… maybe it was meant to be the way it is. Maybe I’ll go there one day with my Thai niece M – we’ll drive down that road and I’ll show her the house where Toong-Ting used to live. Slow down and stop, look at the old place for a moment and drive on. It’ll all be ancient history by then …

“The light of memory, or rather the light that memory lends to things, is the palest light of all…. I am not quite sure whether I am dreaming or remembering, whether I have lived my life or dreamed it. Just as dreams do, memory makes me profoundly aware of the unreality, the evanescence of the world, a fleeting image in the moving water.” [Eugène Ionesco]


nostalgia for winter

back of shedOLD NOTEBOOKS: East Anglia: Writing this in New Delhi, the winter chill has a familiarity; the cold-nose-sniffing days of UK winters long ago at the old house in East Anglia, before I had proper heating installed. A massive quantity of firewood; they cut down some Elms that had fallen over and all I had to do was chop it up with a long-handled axe. Thus, entire days were spent swinging axe, volumes of breathy vapour air then sitting by the fire. Everything that had to be done indoors was done there, next to the fire. A cup of Oolong tea placed for convenience on the edge of the hearth… cold fingers on warm porcelain.

And one day in particular, here in this low ceilinged house, staring at the flames, thinking I’ll have to go to the woodshed with the wheelbarrow again to get more logs. Walk through to the back door, not focused on anything but the task ahead, then for some reason there’s a joyful little skip at the wrong moment and I whack my head on the oak crossbeam protruding dangerously from the kitchen ceiling – the karma of wood fighting back… more like a sound than a feeling; an audible BONK! Fall to the floor, wow! Hands rise up and hold the head. It’s not an immediate pain; it’s an investigatory, how bad is it this time?

Stay there for a moment, inward searching directionalised towards the perceived centre where ‘self’ resides; awareness of the vulnerability of ‘head’ situated at the top of the body; eyes looking out, a world seen as if through a window at the front of the skull. Pause for a moment and consider the phenomenon of ‘me’ and the body I inhabit as a curious plurality; it’s not an ‘I’, it’s a ‘we’. I’m issuing commands and body just does what I tell it; addressing oneself as if ‘I’ were someone else: hmmm, the blunt-force trauma and brutality of the present moment… let it pass – get busy with something. Go upstairs and see if there’s a pair of gloves I can wear. The body obediently goes there because I’ve just told it do that.

Stumbles along, gets to the staircase then up, step by step, plod, plod, plod. Get the gloves and stand there for a moment, looking through this ‘window’ as if from a position inside the skull, seeing things at eye-level, then down the length of the body to my feet standing on the step, and the steps below that, leading down, and down to the ground floor… plod, plod, plod, downstairs again; it seems like a long way.

shed with logsOut along the garden to the wood shed and, instead of just gathering a few logs and going back, I decide to cut up some more. WHACK, axe cuts through wood in a pleasing way. WHACK… so what’s to be done about this low headroom situation? WHACK… again and again I’m caught by it, even though I know it’s there. WHACK… return to ‘the plan’: excavate the floor and lower the level by one step to create more headroom. WHACK… isn’t it satisfying how the wood splits and falls to either side of the axe blade, forming two piles of equal number. WHACK… everything comes in twos, and there’s this feeling of companionship; that good friend, the body. It has a familiar feel to it; the aches, pains, grumbles and squeaks. The wheelbarrow filled, I push it back to the fireside and the rest of the afternoon is spent planning how to dig up the floor…

“I am and the ‘I’ that I am, is aware that I am. This knowing of our own being – its knowing of itself – is the most familiar, intimate and obvious fact of experience and is shared by all.” [Rupert Spira]


Third post in the series about the house in East Anglia I had for 36 years. Click on the links to follow the thread: house on a hill, and presence.


back stairsOLD NOTEBOOKS: East Anglia: Aunt Liz was an unusual person because she didn’t speak much, lived like a recluse and it’s only recently I realized she may have been Bipolar – it was so long ago, nobody knew about it then. I was often away and when I came back, she wouldn’t speak to me. The neighbours would tell me she was sometimes socially active, then after a few days she’d go back to her silence and not speak to anyone at all for months. Aunt Liz lived in that house for 23 years. She was alone, preferred to be alone and at the age of 85, she died alone. Bottles of milk left on her doorstep for two days, the police forced the back door and found her sitting on the sofa. It was 1989, I was in Japan, didn’t know it had happened until a relative called me on the phone (no emails in those days) and in a screeching, long-distance voice told me about it; said she’d inherited Aunt Liz’s house and was going to sell it – or did I want to buy it? Yes I did, so we got the paperwork done, I had the contractor go in and do renovations, but it was more than a year by the time I got back to the house.

Everything had changed of course, fresh paint, new plaster; the emptiness of a newly renovated house and nothing left to remind me of Aunt Liz. She was just not there any more – something about it strangely familiar; she was never ‘there’. So many times in the past I’d ring her bell, but no answer. Then I’d be in my house next door, listening for sounds, holding my breath and maybe I’d hear the clink of a cup or plate, and know she was there. Mostly she was simply a presence, so silent sometimes I’d forget about her completely.

That time I came back from Japan, the first thing I did was look for something to use as a floor cushion and sit for a few minutes of meditation in the place where her sofa used to be. This is where she would read her newspaper, do her knitting, watch the six o’clock news … this is where she died. Maybe it was on a day like this; the quietness, the sound of the birds in the trees all around, an ordinary day, and she paused in a quiet moment and listened to the birds; the same birds I’m listening to now, some of them their descendants. Maybe she contemplated this sound as I’m doing now, and had the same awareness of the hearing mechanism that carries the sound.

Get up and open all the windows, landscape reaching out to the horizon; hazy blue sky, the smell of the sea. The sound of birds enters the room, tiny fragments of a hundred melodies merged together in a flow of incidental harmony; no beginning, no middle, no end; blackbirds, thrushes, sparrows and in the quiet intervals, the distant mewing of gulls flying in from the sea.

Whatever living beings there may be;
whether they are weak or strong,
omitting none,
the great or the mighty,
medium, short or small,
the seen and the unseen,
those living near and far away,
those born and to-be-born —
may all beings be at ease.

[Karaniya Metta Sutta: The Buddha’s Words on Loving-Kindness]


The second post on the house on a hill – click the link for the first post.
Photo shows the back staircase built during the renovation and a new window in the wall opposite so the light can enter the otherwise dark kitchen.

house on a hill

23-05-2010 09-13-22OLD NOTEBOOKS: Chiang Mai: I used to have a house on a hill in England, so far away from here – it’s just a memory now. I had it for 36 years and it was sold just a few days ago… feels like a part of me has become extinct. Another part of me says, what’s gone is gone, let it go because I never really lived there. I’d stay there for a while, go away to Asia for a year, then come back; very long grass in the garden and generations of spiders.

Curiouser and curiouser it was part of a larger building owned by my Great Aunt Liz, a spinster, a recluse and she could read fortune-telling cards. Aunt Liz gave me the house by Deed of Gift in 1978, then became a bit distant and elderly and quite stubborn about allowing me to help.

I’d send Aunt Liz postcards from the places I’d been and bring back gifts but she became more and more remote. Our communication dwindled and in the end she hardly spoke to me. When I knocked on her door, she would open it on the chain, smile and say: ah, so you’re back. You’re looking well… then close the door. I’d hear the lock go: click, and I was left outside.

This is how it was, a kind of companionship, no more than that. She was probably disappointed that I wasn’t going to just come and settle down in that place and be what she’d imagined I’d be. But what could I do? Her decision to create a situation for me to have a ‘home’ next door to her was just so kind. There I was in the centre of rural life and the simple rumbling-along of things, but… never for very long, always moving on to somewhere else.


She died in 1989… I was in Japan and it was impossible to return. I negotiated with a relative who inherited Aunt Liz’s part of the house and to cut a long story short, eventually I owned the whole building. Contractors were hired to renovate the place, but it was two or three years before I managed to get back. The house on the hill had long since become a dream… years and years spent thinking and planning how I could go live there in the end, and just get old sitting by the fireside. These last few days I have revisited that same place in the midst of these rememberings, knowing that sometime soon I have to disengage from it – it’s not my house anymore it’s somebody else’s. People I don’t know walk around in these rooms where I used to be, sit by the fireside stare into the flames.

02062011038How long do memories remain? One time I was sitting there burning some old floorboards removed during the renovation of Aunt Liz’s bedroom. The wood was dry and old and good for kindling. They were also painted along the ends – she had a carpet in the middle and painted floor boards all round the edge. It all came back to me when I found it… stuck in the paint on a piece of the floorboard, a human hair – a single strand of hair, quite long. It got stuck there as she was applying the paint. I kept it for a while; would hold it between thumb and forefinger for a moment and pull the tension of it gently… still attached to the painted wood. Then one day I placed the wood piece in the flames and watched it burn away.

Everything is always in the process of ceasing to be, turning into ash. There’s a reluctance to leave, drawn towards the extinguished fire; something peaceful about the absence of everything…

As fire, through loss of fuel grows still [extinguished] in its own source, so thought by loss of activeness grows still in its own source… For by tranquility of thought one destroys good & evil karma. With tranquil soul, stayed on the Soul, one enjoys unending ease. [Maitri Upanishad 6.34]


over the horizon

Harnham_Lake crop

‘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 itself.’ [Alan Watts]

POSTCARD #83: London – Delhi flight: Clouds cover the landscape, with openings here and there where I can see the ground below. England is a patchwork quilt of very small fenced enclosures, little houses built with brick and stone that last for hundreds of years. Concrete bulwarks along the coastline, the idea of the sea engulfing the land is psychological. A united Kingdom huddled together on land space so small it’s almost not there at all. Travel across from East to West and in a few hours you come to the sea again. Geographical aloneness, an island mentality, the idea of ‘self’, marooned, I am contained, separate from everything, surrounded by water, the world is out ‘there’. Not much room, just enough space for everything, a smallness, memories are close by and everything is near at hand. The buildings and the land were all here before I was born and will be here after I’m gone. Children learn about the everlasting ‘soul’ living in an objective world; belief in a ‘self’ yet… seeing only the lack of it, a lifetime spent looking for an answer to this puzzle – it must be… over the horizon somewhere.

Somewhere far away from not ‘being’ but being busy doing things. Somewhere distant from the default settings the world of money and power depends on. The system hijacked the Jesus Teachings and now there’s no place in society for a contemplative spiritual life. Nothing to encourage children to look beyond sensory gratification and see through perception because it works better to have an unknowing population addicted to television and consumer goods. Living with an intensity fueled by greed, hatred and delusion, instead of generosity, loving-kindness and insight. The worship of self rather than selflessness.

In a discussion with one of the monks at Aruna Ratanagiri Monastery in UK the question came up, what does the word ‘contemplation’ actually mean? Contemplating contemplation… the state of mind where everything is seen as an awareness of present experience, circumstances which can’t be explained in any terms other than what they are. Thinking stops and the mind opens up to experience as it is – not as it’s verbalised. Sometimes language just gets in the way. Like waking up after a good night’s sleep and there’s the solution to the puzzle I was thinking about before I went to sleep. No words, no memory, no markers in the mind for thought to attach to and somehow everything falls into place.

We call it a grain of sand,
but it calls itself neither grain nor sand.
It does just fine, without a name,
whether general, particular,
permanent, passing,
incorrect, or apt.

The window has a wonderful view of a lake,
but the view doesn’t view itself.
It exists in this world
colorless, shapeless,
soundless, odorless, and painless.

The lake’s floor exists floorlessly,
and its shore exists shorelessly.
The water feels itself neither wet nor dry
and its waves to themselves are neither singular nor plural.
They splash deaf to their own noise
on pebbles neither large nor small.

And all this beneath a sky by nature skyless
in which the sun sets without setting at all
and hides without hiding behind an unminding cloud.
The wind ruffles it, its only reason being
that it blows. [Wislawa Szymborska]


The header image source: Aruna Ratanagiri Monastery.
Poem source: superaalifragilisticView With A Grain Of Sand
The Alan Watts quote source: Zen Flash, Through our eyes the Universe is perceiving itself 
– G  R  A  T  I  T  U  D  E –


arrivals – departures


POSTCARD #82: South East England: Somebody I know died. There was a ceremony, the monks came, chanted blessings and now she’s gone. All that remains is her absence, her empty rooms, her pictures on the walls, objects chosen, placed on shelves and now there’s no one here who made the choices. Sadness… her clock-radio still starts at 8.00 in the morning and the bedroom is suddenly full of classical music. Empty bed, bedclothes made up neat, tidy and not slept in. Nobody in the house can bear to change it. My task is to pull away the bed from the wall, find where the cable leads to the socket, and disconnect it. Orchestral music spinning around the walls and ceiling as I search for the socket. It’s next to the skirting board I can just reach it… click, the music is gone. Push the bed back in place and contemplate the silence. A nice, quiet room with morning light coming in through the windows. She was a musician who became a Buddhist, then was a Buddhist Chaplain visiting hospices and caring for dying people, until she finally reached that stage herself.

Memory is all there is… faded like an old sepia tint photo. The enigma, the empty space where that person used to be. There’s ‘nothing’ left here, it’s not ‘something’, it’s not ‘anything’. Try to see past the words, concepts in the mind and there’s nothing remaining, only the holding-on to whatever it is that was defined in words but was never really there in the first place. Language is a tool for explaining how it appears to be, what it resembles, what it’s like… a wonderful shared software that names things, identifies feelings, etc. Poets and artists are compelled to use words and there are others, spiritual advisors, who refer only to cessation. Truth is inexpressible, no words for it; a ‘nothing’ that carries the feeling of no-thingness and brings with it a great sense of release, of peace, of rest, of ease and gentleness. I no longer have the burden of my thoughts. I let it all in, let it all out and everything fades away, ‘melted into thin air … the baseless fabric of this vision… we are such stuff as dreams are made on…’ [The Tempest]

A lifetime is a story told. Details accumulate and it appears to have form and direction as it goes on, but only when the end comes near does it have a context. The route by which I arrived at this point becomes somehow, explained – it was the right way, the best way to come here and everything I did in my life seems to fit together now I’m at the end. A curious reversal… I’m on the way to get here and yet seem to be able to look back on the journey and know how it came to be as it is. Buddhist cause/effect is an illusion, sequenced in linear time. In the totality, everything is ‘now’, an ‘everywhere-shared instantaneity’ and each moment is simply a shift in focus.

Why does it have to be like this? There’s something about the question/answer relationship that’s always gently considered, without directing it too much. Trying to understand what this sort of thing might possibly be is enough to begin to know it – no need to go any further. More to do with indirect action. Death must be the true meaning of the ‘past tense’. Standing here in her room, the tidy bed, empty wardrobe, eyes move towards the window, look out at her overgrown garden. Birdsong, and the light of this particular time in the morning. Colour and images form, conscious awareness is the same for me now as it was for her then, standing as she was, in this same place….

“For life in the present there is no death. Death is not an event in life. It is not a fact in the world. Our life is endless, in just the same way that our field of vision has no boundaries.” [Wittgenstein”]


Excerpts from an earlier post: sense of release. Also Michael’s post: Special Effects, thank you for the word: instantaneity. Upper photo: Edinburgh airport, waiting for the flight to Gatwick
–  G  R  A  T  I  T  U  D  E  –

the thingness of things


POSTCARD #81: NewcastleFive days in a Buddhist monastery in Northumberland, sitting meditation in the early morning and last thing at night. The photo above was taken at 5.15am. I wanted a picture of the sunrise and didn’t see the sheep in their places next to the wall – slightly startled by a human being leaning over into their enclosure and the click sound of the phone camera. They wait to see if he comes back, forget about it and only the fragrant grass remains… early on a summer’s morning.

After that I’m in the Dhamma Hall, sunlight shining through the roof windows on the Buddha statue, benign and welcoming. Monks with shaven heads sitting on the floor, faded tangerine-brown robes, flowers, incense and candles. Focused on the silence, watching the inbreath/outbreath, seeing the thinking process coming and going. Fragments of a thought pieced together from associated thoughts, memories of a past time brought into present time, together with things thought about in future time. Pause for a moment and everything stops… just the circumstance itself. It takes some effort to get it started again. Maybe there is only one moment – only one, all the time.

Everybody sitting completely still, listening to this shared silence. Suddenly there’s the faint sound of somebody outside doing something. He whistles part of a tune it’s not noisy, quite pleasant. Nobody moves, of course, nobody turns around to look. We all continue to sit, the quietness interrupted by a small clunk noise… then he whistles his small tune again. It’s the farmer next-door, busy with things. A wooden door goes bonk… something is dropped on the ground, and there’s an interval of quietness. Then a rustling noise, and the whistled tune re-enters, invading the space. It’s an amazing sound, a kind of warbling around a melody. It trills like a bird – how could anyone whistle so well! It’s a chorus from an old song I can’t quite remember. Then it’s silent again… waiting for the whistle to come back, but it doesn’t come back and I realise he’s gone.

Consciousness seems to move from one moment to the next and there’s only just enough time to decide what this is before it changes into something else. In the interval that the mind is engaged in ‘thinking it’, everything moves on and I can never seem to catch up – can never find the right words to express it… wordless and indefinable. Language is an overlay placed on reality, gives everything an identity, tells the story, creates a fiction I get lost in. Nothing is what I think it is. The present moment feels like it’s an immediate event occurring ‘now’, but there’s also a feeling that maybe it’s not. Time is a measurement I apply – applied time. Maybe this is something that’s not happened yet… it happens later, gets reflected upon and what I think is ‘now’ is actually a fraction of a moment of hindsight situated in future time. How can I be sure things are what I think they are when I’m only always just feeling my way through something not experienced yet? Looking at what it’s not and everything on the other side of that, must be what it is. The absence of ignorance…

Moon unchanged,
Unchanged flowers.
I, however, am now
The thingness of things.


belief structures


POSTCARD#80: North-East Scotland: There are just so many stone circles here, it’s as if there was something mystical about this strange shoulder of land projecting into the North Sea (link). Massive volumes of stone weighing tons, how did they move them? It happened 4000 years ago, no technology, all kinds of theories. A simple answer may be that these huge chunks of granite were already scattered around in the landscape, the result of a major geological event that occurred millennia before. And the stone circles were built there, in locations where there were stones and the right kind of alignment with the moon and stars. Creating the structures would have been a major community effort, ropes and rollers and manpower. A huge task, like building the tallest building in the world, but motivated by belief and accomplished through this compelling Truth, whatever it was that’s lost to us now. In the primitive mind, the mystery was developed into some kind of myth, volcanic beginnings and culminating in these strange structures – gateway to the universe. Even so, 4000 years later there’s something I can feel here, an energy, the mystery of it… how did these stones come to be here  in one place, just lying around half buried in the earth.

Generations of these ancient folk looking at the moon and the heavens; experiential knowledge, wisdom not separated from the presence of the phenomenon. Everything carries meaning, words cannot describe it well enough, and it becomes a magical thing. I can picture them all standing up  here, the ancient people, watching the sun and the moon and the stars. The location carries the feeling of being in the Northern Hemisphere, the top of the world – just knowing intuitively this is the North. Or maybe it’s to do with altitude… something like being at the top of a mountain looking at the view, and what you see out there has the sense of vastness. Basic common sense tells me there’s a huge drop beyond the horizon – that way is ‘down’. Then the ‘above’ – the heavens up there, over my head and all around.

The flat stone (the recumbent) was the measuring device, or the altar, the portal, and the flanking stones on either side form a kind of frame through which they were able to view the positions of the moon. Mystical stargazing, an experiential wisdom; they were able to contemplate their location in space standing just here. Every 18.6 years the lunar standstill, where the moon appears to be motionless, caused by the coincidence of planetary orbits. You can still see marks carved on the stones where the major standstill moon rises or sets. The mystery is still here. Nobody knows. The ancients’ understanding of why it should be like this is as relevant as any scientific explanation today.

“… knowledge which is completely one with the thing it knows, complete understanding, complete absorption into that knowledge.” [Unsourced quote – I copied this from a fellow blogger’s post without making a note of the source. Please let me know if you are reading this…]


Photo: PeterH