a kind of ignoring

PP5POSTCARD #26 Delhi: Putting in eyedrops and I’m not used to it, eyelid reacts just as the drop is coming, blinks before the drop hits the eye, face is wet with eye-drop fluid. Try again… drip. Same thing happens. I’ve just started a two week schedule of eye-drops because of a dryness in the eyes after the recent operation. Hoping it’ll get easier and learning how to not-react, to resist the body’s automatic knee-jerk response to whatever it is that’s coming into the eye. There’s this natural tendency to reject, to refuse, to say ‘no’. The mind has it figured out but the body is still unconvinced.

It’s something like a deliberate not-seeing; the not-wanting-to-have-anything-to-do-with-it thing. Not wishing to engage; a kind of ignoring. It’s denial… “Who me? … in denial? I’m not in denial!” (denial of denial). I’m not going to pay attention to what you’re saying about me ignoring you. Pretending it’s not there and maybe it’ll go away? Ostrich-head-in-the-sand syndrome [see note1 below] The ‘self’ illusion itself, is a trancelike state. Even though it’s really obvious, people are conditioned to ignore basic truths that conflict with the habitual way of doing things. ‘We don’t look at things, we overlook things’ [Alan Watts].

Ignoring the truth about climate change, seemingly unconcerned about what kind of future we’re passing on to future generations. Ignoring deeply held misgivings about wars created by politicians, weapons of mass ‘distraction’, slipperiness, underhandedness, cunning ploys and guile. Ignoring the 1st Noble Truth of Suffering; tolerating the suffering permits a sort of attachment to it? Or maybe we are genuinely searching for another way to live our lives, but we’re sidetracked by Television, consumer goods, and fall into the world of ‘choices’ and ‘preferences’; burdened with these dependencies. So we might say: NO, this is not it at all… go to the doctor, tell him about it and he says take these pills, something to get us back on track – education cleverly teaches children there’s only one option: consumerism, and to engage with that you need to learn about career, job, debt, house, rent, marriage, car, bills… It’s doesn’t say WHY (ignore that question). Consumerism is what people believe in; consumerism is ‘God’.

Try another eye-drop… head back, look at the ceiling. The eyelid flutters, blinks involuntarily, and an eyelash deflects the intrusive drop, fluid trickles down the cheek like an actual tear drop and falls into the ear. I wipe it away with a tissue – this action triggers a memory of something emotional – why am I crying… trying to do something I can’t, and don’t know why. It’s the squeezing of the bottle between thumb and forefinger, a small intense muscular action, that’s in conflict with the feeling of vulnerability. Reluctantly I see, in close-up, the bubble of the drop emerging from the point of the bottle and glance away from it, anticipating the tiny impact on sensitive eyeball… splish! I have to learn to look elsewhere – a skilful ignoring – and focus on something like the ceiling fan, a light bulb, the flaking piece of plaster in the corner of the cornice.

Mindfulness and being calm. Earlier today, I downloaded 11 hours of Tibetan Healing Bell Chimes and as I’m writing this now I’m already on hour 5. It’s playing quietly in a different window; sweet random sounds, intentional wind chimes; the IS-ness of it. Meditation practice means I can gently ease back from the intensity the mind creates for as long as it takes to see what’s going on; this action feels right – I’m able to emerge from ignorance into the knowing. A wonderful emptiness or the wholeness of it? A great peace in the space of the mind.

‘The sensation of “I” as a lonely and isolated center of being is so powerful and commonsensical, and so fundamental to our modes of speech and thought, to our laws and social institutions, that we cannot experience selfhood except as something superficial in the scheme of the universe. I seem to be a brief light that flashes but once in all the aeons of time—a rare, complicated, and all-too-delicate organism on the fringe of biological evolution, where the wave of life bursts into individual, sparkling, and multicolored drops that gleam for a moment only to vanish forever. Under such conditioning it seems impossible and even absurd to realize that myself does not reside in the drop alone, but in the whole surge of energy which ranges from the galaxies to the nuclear fields in my body. At this level of existence “I” am immeasurably old; my forms are infinite and their comings and goings are simply the pulses or vibrations of a single and eternal flow of energy.’ [Alan Watts, ‘The Book: On The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are’ (link to downloadable pdf)]

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Note 1: I discovered that, in fact, the ostrich doesn’t bury its head in the sand when there’s danger, it’s digging a hole and covering the egg with sand and, seen from a distance, it just looks like that’s what it’s doing.
Note 2: ‘If You Are Having Trouble Getting The Drop Into Your Eye: Lay on your back, and place a drop in the inner corner of your eyelid (the side closest to the bridge of your nose).  Tilt your head, open your eyes slowly, and the drop should fall right into your eye.’
Note 3: ‘slipperiness, underhandedness, cunning ploys and guile’ taken from Ajahn Sucitto’s ‘Parami: Ways To Cross Life’s Floods’
Note 4:  Listening to 11 hours of  Tibetan Healing Sounds in Zen Flash
Note 5: Reference to: ‘career, job, debt, house, rent, marriage, car, bills, children…’ taken from blogpost: What Do You Want? by Jack Saunsea
Note 6: Upper image taken from the series: “Only In India”

lonesome highway

IMG_0063POSTCARD07: Bangkok: Travelling along the highway to the airport in a taxi that has past its best – seen better days. It’s veering off to the left, trembles for a moment then corrects itself. There’s another problem, the driver has it revved-up because the engine stalls when we slow down, so the sound is a bit alarming. We stop at the tollway to pay the fee, engine stalls, driver gets out to push. Fortunately there’s a little slope at the tollbooth and the car moves forward easily. Driver jumps in, ignition on, and the engine comes to life. Big sigh of relief, driver apologizes to me: koh tod khrap, polite. A nice guy, just trying to earn a living with a rented vehicle that’s barely roadworthy. The Thai compassion for this kind of predicament means it’s tolerated more than it would be in other Asian countries.

In a moment we’re accelerating down the road again with this huge noise and there’s still about 20 km to go. I’m thinking that if the engine fails, we’ll have to stop at the edge of this long and lonesome elevated highway with nothing around except sky up above… this really is the middle of nowhere. I drop into a state of alertness; being mindful is exhilarating, the inclination to be awake, watchful. All senses switched on, an awareness that sees also, at the edge of this, some anxiety – the Buddhist term: samvega/pasada describes it – a sense of urgency. There’s clarity too, even though things are not looking good at all.

It’s like a death, just stopping at some place on the road, anywhere’ll do and that’s it, engine conks out. Nothing extraordinary about death; we die and come to life again from one moment to the next. Physical death comes along and instead of coming to life in another moment, we find ourselves in another lifetime. This is how it is, according to what I’ve read, and it could be time’s up for our taxi, it’ll die anytime now. Worst case scenario is waiting in the heat of the tarmac with no air-con running because there’s no engine and hoping another taxi will come along – unlikely… empty taxis don’t normally go out to the airport. What to do? Ah well, miss the flight, I suppose, go tomorrow – yes, but I’m getting ahead of myself here, it hasn’t happened yet.

In the end, the taxi holds on to life and we arrive at the airport okay. Get the bags out of the car with engine still racing and the last I see is the driver heading off in the direction of Arrivals; hoping he’ll pick up another passenger and make it back to the city again. I wheel my luggage into the cool airport and go look for the check-in row. Doorstep to the world. Goodbye Thailand, next stop Delhi…

BKKairport‘The universe I’s (using the word ‘I’ as a verb) in the same way that a tree ‘apples’ or a star shines, and the center of the ‘appling’ is the tree and the center of the shining is the star, and so the basic center of self of the I’ing is the eternal universe or eternal thing that has existed for ten thousand million years and will probably go on for at least that much more.’ [The Essence of Alan Watts, Vol. 4: “Death”]

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Upper photo: approaching BKK tollway. Lower photo: BKK airport departure gate area