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’

prasada (karmic intrusion)

POSTCARD#277: Delhi: The story so far: I went to see a well-known anaesthesiologist lady doctor, professor in a government university hospital, down-town Bangkok, about the 24/7 headache I’ve had since September 2015. To cut a long story short, she performed the PRF microsurgery on the nerve, 25 July 2017 and when I woke up the next morning, the headache was significantly gone.

Unbelievable… only a tingling sensation in the place where the pain used to be. No time to ponder on that, I had a flight to Delhi in the afternoon. So I sent an email to the Doc saying, the pain has gone, treatment successful. Thank you so much. Bye, packed my bags, taxi to the airport, checked my phone and the Doc had replied; possibly three pain-free months like this, no headache, and after that, when it returns (because this is not a cure), the pain will be noticeably less than it was before. Feels like a gift, I’m amazed, monks and other holy people have induced karmic intrusion, prasada.

On the plane over to Delhi there was this special consciousness of having been blessed, I felt like dancing in the aisle. “These are the days of miracle and wonder. This is the long distance call. The way the camera follows us in slo-mo. The way we look to us all, oh yeah”.

Sit back in my seat and review the experience of it through notes made just after: Here I am, back in the white room with the doc, my fairy godmother, dressed in white. Residents and other persons in white too… getting kinda crowded in this small room. More of her assistants squeeze in… there’s not enough space for me, the patient… claustrophobic, and a moment of panic. It passes. I stay calm. They get me to sit on a chair, lean over, face-down with head on the edge of a pillow placed on a gurney. It takes a bit of organizing, small hands in green cotton cuffs gently shifting the pillow until it’s comfortable, and I’m looking down at the floor, darkness, people’s feet in black, overshoe, rubber boots.

I’m in the operating room, OMG I’m not anaesthetized, hey! somebody! you forgot to give me a shot! After a while, as if they’d forgotten then been reminded, a surgical assistant, miniature lady in green cloth gown squats down close into my space . A chair is pushed in where she puts her stainless steel tray. Wearing rubber gloves, shower cap and face mask, she heaves my arm, like the branch of a tree, around and on to the chair, ties tourniquet, smack, smack, smack on the back of my hand, finds a vein and sticks a needle in. I’m taped up with a hard plastic valve set in place, ready to go. She plugs me into a relaxing woozy cotton-woolly sedative, and nothing matters anymore.

Cloths and plastic sheeting placed over my back and neck, and I can’t see anything but floor tiles. Darkness and the sounds of quiet voices chatting, somebody makes a joke, they laugh, another joke, more laughing. I’m thinking, hey what’s so funny? Sounds of shifting chairs scrape clunk! And I can see sideways they’re carefully wheeling in a large machine on a trolley with rubber wheels. A small hand comes down, seeks out the electric socket, plugs it in, switch on the switch… is it going? Yes. This must be the unit that generates the radio frequency pulse to stun the nerve.

More people coming in and out, I feel them brush against me… someone says ‘sorree.’ Trying to picture what’s happening out there and above my head. Thais are small in stature and used to this kind of closeness with each other. I’m the big foreigner one step removed, but with head leaning over and surgical cloths spread over my upper back, it’s as if I’ve disappeared.

It was over in 45 minutes, the central event was, after the deep probing needle to find the nerve, the PRF itself. Doc says, now I’m going to send the pulse, okay, are you ready? And it started; an awareness of the huge intrusive spike. An electric shock obviously, sustained, intense, deep hard pressure. As if it were penetrating the bone itself. More like a deafening sound than an agonized experience almost unbearable, it felt like I was being permanently bonded to the metal and concrete of the floor.

Then it stopped and that was it. I’m allowed to sit up, look around, people everywhere. Surprised to see the doc wearing a green gown and shower cap to cover her hair. Facemask removed from smiling face; how are you feeling? And I was just fine.


Prasada: a gracious gift that is first offered to a deity, saint, or an avatar, and then distributed in His or Her name to their followers

mindfulness of circumstances

POSTCARD#276: Bangkok: I’m in a taxi stuck in traffic on the way back from the supermarket with four bags of groceries and can’t understand why everything seems so difficult today. Okay, take a deep breath… then I notice the different deities fixed on the driver’s dashboard, unusual to see them placed together. There’s Ganesh the elephant-headed god, the Buddha and familiar wandering saints. How to read this? Seems to me it’s a cautionary statement, blessings for everyone entering this space and mindfulness of our circumstances, whatever they might be. The blessing for me is the headache is gone, lessened to almost nothing. The mindfulness part of it, I don’t see until now, is that things are difficult because I’m trying to get too much done, too fast and this level of energy is not easy to work with.

Besides, part of me is holding back, unwilling to say the pain is entirely gone because the child in me thinks it might come back if I say it’s gone… but yes, it’s gone – for now at least, it’s gone. I remember this hesitation from the last time; free from the headache for a month. That was the ‘nerve block’, an injection to numb the nerve that’s causing the pain, and a relatively superficial treatment compared with the Pulsed Radio Frequency Procedure I’m now recovering from.

The area in the head where the headache used to be is no longer the catastrophe that it was. It’s now reduced to a flickering light in the darkness like a failed neon tube that needs to be replaced. This is how it is right now; the treatment I’ve just had is not a cure, it’s temporary, the headache will come back when the numbed nerve recovers, in 3 months maybe sooner. For now I’m free of it, and there’s a great urgency suddenly to cover lost ground. At the same time a steadying hand to hold the horses, let’s see it in the longer term.

I woke very early this morning from a strange dream that I was blind. Then totally awake and I realized I wasn’t blind it was just the darkness of the room at 4.30 in the morning. I’d broken through the heaviness of pain meds to help me sleep, I’ve been using for months… maybe they’re not needed now. So I pulled myself up in the folded leg position on the bed, with a pile of pillows to sit on and the wide-eyed alertness became the meditational state of awakenedness immediately.

A curious light illuminating the space behind the eyes, slightly to the right where the flickering light of headache remains. The focus shifts to the breath entering the body, impact of incoming air in the nasal passage… for that moment revisiting the birth experience, initial sensory awareness sweeps through the body/mind organism; earth, water, fire and air; the turned-inside-out experience of being born into the world. Inner world, outer world connected by the sensory mechanisms. Mind linked with form and function of the body, seemingly trapped in this limited temporality; thin skin of eyelid slides over surface of smooth eyeball and moist lips lying one on top of the other.

Just this… glad the ordeal is over, conscious of sensation and to what extent the pain is absent, here and now. Not able to see it as wellness, choosing instead to think of it as well-being.

“… your real nature is not-knowing. It is a total absence of all that you think you are, which is all that you are not. In this total absence of what you are not, there is presence. But this presence is not yours. It is the presence of all living beings. You must not try to be open. You are open.” [Jean Klein]


photo: traffic jam on the way back from the supermarket

when words run out

POSTCARD#275: Bangkok: I don’t remember much about the flight except for the continuity of monsoon rain from Delhi and flying through it at 600 mph – between raindrops, then above the rain clouds where it is always blue sky. Descending again into the rain over the edge of Burma and the north of Thailand. From there, a taxi into town. Slow moving traffic, floodwaters  slosh around under the floor of the car alarmingly. I ask the driver if there’s been a lot of rain and he says not much.

But before that, there was a moment sitting on the aircraft when I became startled by the presence of my hands; left hand held in right – one the mirror image of the other. So I search for a pen and write this example of duality down in my notebook, and disturbed further when I see the left hand lying there by itself, fingers curled inwards, as if asleep. To whom does this hand belong? Maybe, in this crowded space, someone sitting behind me left it there, or does it belong to “me”? That edgy feeling.

When words run out, there’s only the silence left behind… raindrops dripping somewhere. Metaphor becomes reality, water finds its own level, everything seeps through the barriers I build to keep it out. Close the door on reality and it comes in through the window. Polarizations, ‘good or bad’, or whatever in a library of reversals, schisms and splits. It’ll be two years in September with this constant headache, and truth be told, part of me is still in denial, inventing reasons why I don’t want to admit the headache is part of me.

The fact is I’m on the run, putting distance between me and the thought I’ll be with it for the rest of my days. “(The) mind’s ear, hearing what it’s feeling, substituting imagination for the lack of investigation” – as HK says, and although time would be better spent with pain management exercises, it’s pain treatment I’m after… seeking the one-size-fits-all drug that sends the pain away.

I stumble over the reluctance to have it in my life. Things seem to get in the way, obstacles created in the mind – at the best of times it’s like this. Rain in Bangkok, the same rain 30 years ago when I arrived. The confusion and bewilderment then and even now, I’ll find myself facing a Thai reality; culturally remote, aware of what I know, but what I don’t know works better. Dismayed by a world I’m unfamiliar with – no kidding, the absolute honesty of it, and somehow that’s it. Done. All of it is seen, the perception of it revealed – no such thing as a headache.

Events have a momentum of their own; it’s Tuesday and I’m lying in a university hospital downtown Bangkok, prepped for the PRF surgery. Communication problems mean I don’t know much about the procedure that’s about to happen; I may or may not be told, it may or may not be painful. One thing I know, the operation will watched by a number of resident doctors, and their question/answer dialogue with the professor who stands over the patient guinea pig with an electric needle – what am I letting myself in for? There is only the capacity to be open to experience and it’s this that defeats fearsome images unfolding in the mind.
Time I wasn’t here…


photo: sculpture at New delhi Airport

incredible lightness of being

POSTCARD#274: New Delhi: about the permanent headache, the anaesthesiologist lady in the white room says there’s another kind of treatment available: Pulsed RadioFrequency (PRF), so I could consider this rather than coping with the pain by self-medication. The new procedure stuns the nerve that’s causing the pain. Agreed, let’s fix it for 25th July, and all of a sudden with some degree of excitement I’m looking forward to a major change in my life.

That was then, this is now. I got the flight back to New Delhi from Bangkok, all the usual rumble tumble and really, what’s all the fuss about, I don’t feel the pain as much now as I did at the beginning, nearly two years ago. The meds give me a space where there is almost no pain at all. The lingering ‘mind’ aspect of the pain (that re-minds me about other things to do with the pain) is pushed out of the way due to a particular attitude/ focus of mind that doesn’t find it interesting to be with these associated shadows of mind.

Forgetting, of course, the deep stabs of pain, which penetrate, like long steel blades, and there are no meds to make that go away, ringing the urgency bell in the dark morning of an environment that seems bleak, unforgiving, and just BAD. Anxiety and despondency, the evolving stages of pain and confusion in between, and retracing my steps that seem to have once brought me to a place of peace, like entering a room within a room, and there’s a door leading to another room and so on, until I’d forgotten which room was which, with no plan or diagram showing how it came back to the present time. Why? I think that somewhere along the line I must have said to myself, enough is enough, this’ll do! And a large chunk of it (The ‘rooms inside rooms’) was erased from memory completely. So now there’s no finding my way back to there and then, how it was before all this happened.

The meds seemed to be as much a problem as the headaches; the nightmarish Alice in Wonderland bottle with the label saying: DRINK ME appears and long after that experience I’d wake up in the morning, roll over on the pillow and it felt like I drank too much wine the night before, but I don’t drink any alcohol at all (unrelated: that’s another story) whatever, like a light that shines in the darkness, I’m a meditator; early Buddhism/ the lineage of Ajahn Chah.

The headaches have ricocheted through these quiet spaces so much I’ve had to expand the boundaries to include mind states that are more like contemplation than focused meditation. Every time I gratefully fall into the meditative state of mind, it feels like I’ve been away from here for such a long time… returning to the knower, the fundamental mind, addressing the objects of the mind, thoughts, and phenomena arising in the mind. Staying there with this incredible lightness of being, and happy enough to not reach out much more than that.

Right View and Suffering, okay once I’d gotten rid of the adversity attachment (note to self: this will change too). Now there’s an opportunity to know the pain is likely to ease with this new ‘procedure’, I’m into this new stage of what’s happening with this headache and the degrees of focus, (no-one seems to know) leading to the confusion again, the kind that had to go away, away and get out of here – not thinking at all that the desire to get-rid-of-it is the same as the desire to-have-it. Polarizations, there’s no difference between ‘out’ and ‘in’, good or bad’, and so much more. So I have to let it in through the barrier I built. Let it go and let it in, try that and see… close the door that wasn’t open to it.


PIcture at top: A wall painting in Bangkok’s Suwannabume airport