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

thank you for five years

POSTCARD#273: Chiang Mai: Woke up this morning and it was my birthday, go gently into that septuagenarian world and remember there’s gravity, mindfulness is a necessity. I’ve been here since Tuesday, wandering around these rooms looking for words… unfamiliar with the aloneness, and all this enclosed empty space. Just ‘me’, mirror reflection of the world out there, in some form or other. Consciously aware of it sometimes, other times not. There’s seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching and cognitive functioning – the all-of-the-above option, an all-inclusive experiencing of awareness receiving itself. What I don’t know is assimilated (we are Borg). Walk to the window; look out (no ‘out-there’ out there separate from what’s in ‘here’). Go back, sit at the desk for a while, look at the laptop monitor, the keyboard… write something, get up and walk around again.

Then I’m off downtown in a tuk-tuk, engine noise and wind in the face blows away all thought. What is the story so far? My niece M reached the age of 13 and now she is an elongated stalk, turns sideways and disappears. Taller than her mom by one inch – but, looks to me like M remains the same height and her mom is shrinking away, squeaky voice nobody pays much attention to. M still calls me Toong-Ting, the foolishness of it insists on dignity. I feel like I should have something wise to say… there’s no self, or there’s only the ‘self’ appearing in the awareness that’s here and has always been here “Pretending you’re not “it” is exactly the same as “it”‘ [Alan Watts]

You could probably say the illusion of self is part of what the whole thing is about… an all-inclusiveness, buy-one-get-one-free acceptance and given over to the care of a Higher Power, Brahman, God. Or whatever it is that carries meaning; the optimum reality, selecting the data that fits the theory; looking for the story that makes it all make sense. Hard to say, for me, it’s not there, unless I focus on it being there… maybe that’s just what it does.

Culture is a link that needs to be updated all the time and if I’m not in that culture, the software isn’t updated. More than thirty years living with other people’s preferences, and only returning to how I choose to live my life when there’s an opportunity. As the years go by, one forgets what some of the original choices were, and those are replaced by some of the more recent familiarities.

And there’s this blog and all my blogging friends and their friends, and I’m really so glad to know you. Thank you for five years of dhammafootsteps.com

‘Wandering through realms of consciousness like a refugee, thought looks for a home. Thought thinks that perhaps by clinging to this or to that, it can find a home. In this way, thought forms attachments with names and forms, with concepts such as “is” and “is not,” “self” and “other,” “me” and “mine,” and with emotions like envy, pride, and desire. It is the mission of thought to form these attachments in hopes of finding a home. Thought wants to own its own home.’ [Thought Is Homeless/The Endless Further/ 2012 July 16]


 

ends and beginnings

POSTCARD#272: Delhi – Bangkok journey: TV drama going on as I’m packing, I see it, stop and watch: intense dialogue, close up on faces, directors’ exercise in portraiture. Carry on with my packing, gathering things from here and there – then the TV catches my eye again, sit to watch, and the credits come up… is that the end already? But it’s not the end it’s the beginning. An extremely long intro to an old series of The Walking Dead… oh no, morbid curiosity, and too much for me. The scenes of zombies being stabbed in the head are too similar to the stabbing pain of the PHN headache I live with.

But anyway, it’s okay today, taken my meds, and time I wasn’t here. Dress up in the clothes of who I think I am. Passports, ticket, fiddle with the key, open, close the door. I am the person who lives here – note to mind. Bye-bye to house, into the taxi and away.

Wheeled luggage through airport hallways and corridors… check-in desk for Bangkok, and check it all through to Chiang Mai; transit time in Bangkok is one hour – note to mind, beware of misleading signage in Bangkok, arrows don’t seem to point in the right direction to the Transfer Desk.

For a moment, future time invades the present, and I feel I’m already gone, but it’s just that mild urgency of airports, and ‘the journey’ which is forever ‘here’ and never ‘there’.

Flight number, gate number, passport number, visa details, watched by hidden cameras, facial recognition software, security procedures: Passengers are reminded not to leave baggage unattended at anytime.’

I am part of a network of beginnings, middles and endings, always leading on to the next journey. Jettison clutter of the mind, travel lightweight, be minimalist – ‘it’s better to journey than to arrive’. It’s always about the journey to get there. Arriving is the departure point for the next journey, and another opens up after that.

Watching the signs above and mindful of body movements, there’s only the walking. Watching the duality of steps below me, left, right, left, right… flooring surface beneath spins underfoot. The way, directionality, as if held in one long continuous moment leading to the imaginary place of arrival, like the vanishing point in a perspective drawing doesn’t actually exist.

And there’s something about the flow of faces I see, pulling their luggage, holding their children. I can see the unique identity of each person as I pass, as they must recognize the same individuality when they look at me. But somehow we’ve all become blank, there’s nobody here

We are all in transit; on the way to (or coming back from) somewhere else… a glimpse of the nothingness situated at the centre of everything the Bardo of the in-between. The ‘me’ I live with is not a substantial thing – sometimes not there at all. Present time is more connected with the past, where we arrived from, than with the future where we are going to, a place of speculative conjecture and hypothetical likelihoods, stumbled-upon in following the here-and-now.


Photo: Barges travelling from Holland to England, taken from the window of the aircraft from Aberdeen to Amsterdam.
Note: This post written as the news arrived that we are leaving India in September 2017 after 6 years working here, and returning to Thailand. It’ll be sad to leave, that’s life…

monsoon

POSTCARD#271: Delhi: It’s a warm rain to me, of course, coming from the far northern part of the world. Here in Delhi (28.6139° N, 77.2090° E), it’s not a cold rain, it’s cool – a huge respite from the fierce dry summer that’s been hammering down on us. Almost volcanic, self-combusting temperature these last few months. Now it’s like a champagne party for the team that won the race and everyone joins in. Disregarding danger, street kids up to their knees in deep puddles, completely wet, clothing stuck to their skinny bodies, and dashing around in traffic. One of them jumps daringly close to my window as we drive through at speed and send up a shower of shlooshing and splooshing, laughter in the great waves splashing over their heads.

For a moment I’m in awe, it’s like being in the car wash. The all-surround-sound of rain rattling down on the thin vehicle hood, trunk, windows front to back, to the left, then to the right, and a few inches above my head the deafening roar of water like a fireman’s pressure hose. The dynamic environment becomes something I don’t recognize; images in the mind of death by drowning, instant recall of an apocalyptic fear, the Genesis flood narrative, and looking for shelter, anywhere will do… but I’m safe here in present time, the car is a watertight bubble, a Noah’s Ark, carried along, and self-propelled in the deluge,

Streets suddenly engulfed in volumes of water I’m not used to, and we’re giving way to waves, not driving in cars any more, we’re in small power boats, jostling for space in the midst of the great sweeping along of flotsam and jetsam. Everyone, everywhere, giving way to the force of it, running for shelter, motorbike riders huddled under a bridge fiddling with mobile phones… images on Facebook, Twitter go out to everywhere in the world.

Then we’re home, out of the car, under umbrellas that don’t open correctly, hopping and sloshing through deep puddles and jumping over small rivers in the driveway. Shoes off in the hall and into the house. The strange darkness of rooms and the deafness of sound of rain on the roof. There’s nothing to be done, the deluge takes priority, get in and lay low for a while. See how the trees and everything in the garden; all growing things, leaf, stem and root, are connected totally with the downpour. Fused into one and the same thing. Like an electrical charge, a large voltage, long and deep stab of energy thrust into the earth, activates everything below ground, more than enough, generosity, Biblical abundance.

Brahman is full of all perfections. And to say that Brahman has some purpose in creating the world will mean that it wants to attain through the process of creation something which it has not. And that is impossible. Hence, there can be no purpose of Brahman in creating the world. The world is a mere spontaneous creation of Brahman. It is a Lila, or sport, of Brahman. It is created out of Bliss, by Bliss and for Bliss. [Lila (Hinduism) – Wikipedia]


Upper photo: from the car. Lower photo: WSJ/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images/Children on a waterlogged street during rain in New Delhi, July 12.

 

more than words…

POSTCARD#270: Delhi: Sitting in the garden these cool days, and the world as it’s seen, suddenly falls into an enhanced version of what it is. Alice in Wonderland… things are not what they appear to be. The presence of my cup and book, my phone and a pen, just lying there on the garden table, extensions and extrapolations of the environment I’m in – who I am. Everything I see becomes unfamiliar, yet known – uncanny recognition of every-day things, strangely out of context here, but also fit quite well in these surroundings of birds, sunlight shining through the trees and a pattern of moving shadows through layers of leaves.

A momentary easing… the ‘beholder’ sees beauty through the glass of eyes to the world out there and the self, as ‘me’ in here, disappears completely – a flow of words just tumbling out and I’ve got to get it all written down… if not, it will vanish. It’s the writing of it that gives it life (of course), the quickening. Words snatch at a direction, fractals of the original instance. Too huge, I cannot see the whole pattern, only what is here and now.

We interrupt this program to bring you breaking news. Everything falls into a vortex of shattered ends and beginnings as the focus shifts to the headache mode – It’s part of me these days… take meds, wait for it to pass, allow healing, nurturing. And now it is later. Fragments of imagery of the story appear in the mind so fast I can’t keep up with it. Scribbling it down on scraps of paper, and rewritten on the back of till receipts found in wallet, pockets. The back of my boarding pass… reduce the size of handwriting to get it all in the space, then take a photo of it and zoom in to see. A flow of utterance, stumbling incoherent urgency, activates extensions, developments, and completions… and I arrive at an ending. It changes the beginning (I thought it might), and there, it’s done. Refined, defined, in the form it takes, chunks of language jigsaw together, trim the edges and placed.

Extreme minimalism… the story contained is edited out. The Absolute is in all things, omnipresent means it’s everywhere and there’s nothing that it’s not a part of. Ponder that for a moment. Where is it not? There’s no ‘nothing’ and no ‘thing’. Gone is… even the word ‘gone’ is gone.

light through glass (20170613) by crow

for a single moment
perhaps that pause
between heartbeats
the sun shone through
the wings of a butterfly
and i understood
the reason for cathedrals

(reblogged from: Words and Feathers)


unblinking gaze

POSTCARD#269: Delhi: There’s always this curious silence when the end of the journey comes, I find the place-marker and disembark into life as it was before the great hop-skip-and-jump to the other side of the world and back again in 12 days. It’s a slight re-entry burnout landing somewhere along the karmic sequence route, cause leads to effect, then someone comes along and asks: “So how was it?” (eyes glaze over in the asking of the question) “Fine, yes, good, thank you.” The past is a remembered ‘now’, open eyes wide and see. Find rather than seek. Listen rather than hear. See rather than look – the verb: to see, is intransitive, doesn’t require an object, I just ‘see’ in an unblinking gaze… creak of the open/close shutter mechanism of eyelids as it widens into the corners.

But the huge experience of the journey doesn’t mean much to my listeners, I couldn’t expect it to be much more than a pleasantry lost in the uncanny quietness where nobody can think of anything to say, and deep thrusts into trouser pockets, rummaging around in other pockets, and in handbags – out come the phones, androids, iPads, ear buds stuffed in. Long hair like curtains almost hide the face lowered into hand-held devices, coloured displays reflected on skin of nose and cheek… and conversation shrivels up; occasional sing-alongs, sudden remarks about YouTube videos, and a patchwork of quotes from Wikipedia and Google.

Everywhere I went on the journey, it was the same, crawling through caves of populations in London, blind, deaf and dumb, glued to their soundtracks in the dark public transport corridors carved into the earth and immense push and shove, clatter of metal wheels on rails, spurts and sparks of electric energy and no-words-at-all in the haste of getting there.

Wake up next day, Jiab has an early flight to Chandigarh; I’m up at 4.30 to make her small breakfast. Car comes and she’s away in a tunnel of headlights in darkness, just before dawn, birdsong and wakefulness. A Rollin’ and Tumblin’ headache, and I go through to the bedroom to lie down for an hour or so. Conscious of the ceiling fan above me suspended from a dusty whitewashed ceiling. A constant spinning cycle that seems to say something about the weight of the rotary blades. It looks like how it sounds – I turn my head and the whole room turns through 90° and it now looks like a spinning propeller of an old-fashioned aircraft… traces of British history are everywhere.

Consciousness of that image in my mind. Consciousness of the soft bedding I’m lying in. Consciousness of the smell of coffee left in a cup, and burnt crust of toast in the kitchen, the taste of it. Consciousness of thought and consciousness of no-thought. Consciousness of what’s going on by means of eyes, ears, nose, skin, tongue, cognitive functioning – and the mind always wants to make it into something more than it is.

Consciousness of something, anything or everything, or just consciousness itself, shining through soft translucent skin, held nicely like curtain folds at the corners, beneath which these old eyes look out. Consciousness without an object, unsupported consciousness – the unconditioned, the still mind. ‘I think, therefore I am’. Oh yeah, a strongly assertive statement, because the sense of ‘I’ has arisen simply through thinking it’s there. And when I stop thinking about it, it’s not there.

Disjointed memories of the flight, that don’t matter, everyone seated, and facing the same way, as if it were a movie theatre, the audience in darkness and there’s no screen, no movie. Phone goes ping! It’s Jiab at the airport; shuffling along in the security queues… practising very slow walking meditation.


Image: Open Hand Monument in Chandigarh

the space where it hasn’t happened yet

POSTCARD#268: Amsterdam – Delhi flight: KLM passenger jet, Boeing 777-200, rapidly moving into the darkness of an evening already turned to night. No view from the cabin window, it’s a nocturnal blackness from here on. I try to picture it, high above the clouds, a sliver of waxing crescent moon reflected in the silver streak of thinning atmosphere – too fast for the human eye to follow. The tarot pack Fool contemplating the sum total of everything as nothingness or ‘somethingness’. Up here there’s nothing to compare with the speed of the aircraft, only what is inside our bubble of contained ‘here-and-now’ – not ‘there-and-then’, in a past or future time, awareness of how it is, simply that.

Laptop fits exactly on the small fold down table. Wi-Fi on board and I’m busy with the relative speeds of this aircraft travelling West to East at a speed of approx: 500mph in the same direction of the Earth’s rotation which is approx: 700 mph, West to East. The aircraft can never catch up with the speed of rotation of the earth but their speeds are close enough, and if we could see the land below, there would be the sense of it all being almost stationary, a phenomenon I have noticed in relative speeds of aircraft and their surroundings.

Words appear in the mind and tumble out onto the page in structures which only need a little rearranging – the mechanism of transferring thought into syntactical forms which one can normally trust just happens by itself. But in the time that it takes to write it down, everything has moved on. Not possible to describe it… language doesn’t stretch that far – it seems as if the world is an illusion. It’s not what it appears to be, no, nothing is what I think it is…if it’s not that, then, what is it? Make a list of what it’s not, and everything on the other side of that must be what it is. A feeling that’s wordless and indefinable, or one could quite easily say God is the sum total of everything that exists.

Thought as stories of past and future created in the mind. Knowing this brings it all to a standstill for a moment… awareness of how it is, simply that. Then something triggers thought again and the narrative requires me to ‘believe’ in it before it begins. I’m teetering on the brink of what it could be, still contained inside that little space that’s neither here nor there… do I want to get swept away by this story, when I’m quite comfortable being here? It’s telling me I have to engage with it, become it… yes, but I’m also able to stay here in the space where it hasn’t happened yet.

Mindfulness of non-becoming. See how that feels, here with the hummm of the engines, and air pressure white-noise, shooshing sound and everything is always in present time. Passengers are lost in movies, transfixed by headphones and screen, sound & color, or asleep, seatbelts fastened in the shadowy gloom as we fall through the latitudes and on towards Delhi and home – thinking about things in the here-and-now, located in the there-and-then, which refer to events taking place somewhere out there in the thin air.