the way out is the way in

POSTCARD #262: New Delhi: A papaya tree just seeded itself in our small flower bed. It grew and grew and became a giant among the flowers, created shade in the noon day sun. Glory be to the bird that flew by here one day and the fortuitous dropping of a whole papaya seed which landed in exactly the right place. When the small plant appeared above ground we cleared the weeds away and it grew to a height of 2 meters in a few months. This is the karma of the tree thus far, like one of those random, stumbled-upon truths which appear in awareness when the introspective state of mind is present.

Whatever form it takes, there’s always the return to the human condition and finding a way out of attachment, the Buddha’s Third Noble Truth nirodha, (There Is A Way Out). I was reminded recently the way out is not an escape from the world, it’s a reappraisal of the situation without the attachment factor, the clinging adherence to objects of mind or body. This is what it comes down to, the way out is the way ‘in’, obstructed by the various forms of hunger and thirst in the human organism. The task is to get rid of desire, getting it unpeeled, unstuck and we could spend a lifetime searching for these and knocking them out, one by one – or maybe the whole thing just falls away by itself in an afternoon, and suddenly it’s done.

All that remains then, is equanimity like a vast still ocean mirroring the sky above. Some small event may arise, a puzzle, and one may choose to examine the circumstances of it, resolve the issue and allow it to disappear. For me it was a world of unsolvable tricks, riddles and switcheroos, created by an uncle only five years older than me. A nerd, long before his time. He’d show me a puzzle and conceal the answer so I’d never find it… sometimes dangled a clue like a carrot baits the donkey.

This was in a lonely farmhouse on top of a hill in the middle of nowhere. A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma*, it was before the days of mobile phones, before even the days of black and white TV. This was so long ago nobody could remember what existed in that place before it. We would have to go there for the school holidays, and I’d then be confronted by this strange cloned uncle, who looked like me, was near enough to be a brother but wasn’t – no, no… definitely not.

Sometimes I would escape from his forever hold on the secret I needed to find, and go for help from my other uncles and aunties there, but they were all his older brothers and sisters, had a fondness for his snarky wit. Yep, enough said.

The years went by and I’d come back from long journeys in the world to visit him sometimes, but he never changed from his middle-of-nowhere mind state. I’d see him age and think that’s what I‘ll look like when I’m his age… expecting to see him change in some way, but he didn’t, right up until the day he passed away… holding the secret to himself.

There was this release when it happened… there is no answer to the puzzle – no answer, no puzzle. It’s got to do with letting go, and everything is seen. It can’t be hidden, nothing can, concealment is not possible in the middle of nowhere because in the middle of nowhere there’s no concealment. No subject, no object… nothing there at all.

“Feel nothing, know nothing, do nothing, have nothing, give up all to God, and say utterly, ‘Thy will be done.’ We only dream this bondage. Wake up and let it go.” [Swami Vivekananda]


Gratitude to Val for her comment: ‘the way out is the way in’
“A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” Winston Churchill

inertia of TV

inertia-001-jason-decaires-taylor-sculpturePOSTCARD 141: New Delhi: I passed a shop selling TVs, walked in and stood there for a moment in the zizzling static of huge glowing plasma screens. We don’t have a TV at home, haven’t owned one for nearly 5 years. It seems alien to me now, ‘entertainment’, compulsive Bollywood movies with high-power advertising every five minutes. I managed to kick the TV habit many years ago in the house in East Anglia. Reblogged below are some excerpts from the post I wrote about that event.

(Originally dated October 2, 2012): There used to be a TV here but I gave it away. A big old fashioned dinosaur TV, too large for this little old cottage. No room for it; limited floor space, low ceiling height, clutter and junk (jutter and clunk). I manhandled the TV upstairs but it was no good there; then downstairs again and hurt my back in the process. It was always in the way; just too big. I had it under the table for a while but it looked silly there… and I started to see that it had to go.

But I was dependent on TV watching; every other activity took second place to that, and attempting to disengage from TV was a struggle. What to do? I’d try switching it off suddenly, right in the middle of something, a chat show, whatever, just to see what the room felt and looked like without all the noise, bright lights and rewarding, congratulatory applause. But every time I did that, the absolute silence of a world without TV was devastating! The lack of colour and severity of greyness in the house was just… sad! I had to switch it on immediately. TV was like a friend, I couldn’t say goodbye to it. I kept on doing that, though, switching it off and on again, in the middle of programmes, to surprise myself. Eventually I started to get interested in the idea of the silence that remained without TV, typical of the location I was in – a house surrounded by quiet fields and nature.

But TV-cold-turkey was no fun and I was in denial for a very long time. Then one day I was watching the BBC news and noticed the newsreader pronounced his words with a weird sort of ‘smirk’… kinda disgusting, and then the whole ugly ‘self’ aspect of it was revealed. Shocking, but I was glad it happened because it was obvious then that I didn’t feel comfortable with TV in the house – it had to go. I carried it out the back door and left it in the garden; went back inside and discovered this huge space in the room where it used to be. Interesting to see the directions in the room created by a focus on TV; chairs arranged so that viewing could take place comfortably. So I rearranged the furniture, changed it all around, and that was really quite liberating.

I’d return to the kitchen window from time to time and look at the TV out there in the garden – holding my attention, still… thinking, that object should be ‘inside’, not ‘outside’. Completely out of context in the garden, but I just left it there; no longer connected to it. Later that day, it started to rain and drops were falling on the dusty black surface – the urge to take it back in… that was difficult. The neighbour dropped by and he said it’s not a good thing to leave a TV out in the rain. I told him I didn’t want it anymore, maybe he’d like to have it for his spare room? Okay thank you very much… and, you’re welcome. So I gave him the channel changer and that was it. Off he went and I watched him carry it into his house, happily bewildered by my generosity and failing to understand my joy at having escaped the inertia of TV.

‘Like a thief entering an empty house, bad thoughts cannot in any way harm an empty mind.’ [Padmasanbhava]

————————-

Photo: Jason deCaires Taylor’s underwater sculpture, ‘Inertia’. Click here for more images.
Excerpts from an earlier post, titled The End of TV.

grounded

Rooftop2POSTCARD #91: Delhi: The laptop crashed. Not once, many times. I had to take it to the technician and he said he wasn’t sure if he could fix it but anyway it would take a few days. Doesn’t speak English well, confusion, then there was the weekend too, another two days to wait and see, catastrophic feeling arising: Oh no! There’s something wrong, it feels like an illness, a kind of death; ‘All that is mine, beloved and pleasing, will become separated from me.’ I’m offline, the blogging world goes sailing by and I’m marooned on a desert island. Standing on the beach waving, shouting, jumping up and down, trying to get the attention of passing ships but they don’t see me. What to do? Sit at the desk among all the unplugged cables where the computer used to be. Write with a pen on a pad of paper – doodle and draw pictures instead. No focus in my life, no screen to look at. No need to be at the desk… why am I sitting here?

Rooftop5Get up and walk around; phone in pocket, go upstairs and walk on the roof terrace. It’s a sort of walking meditation path, jongkrom. Up and down, thirty five paces from end to end. Fifteen-hundred paces equal one mile, I need to walk the path 42 times to cover a mile – quite often I lose count and forget… the mind wanders. Basic mindfulness is about remembering what it is you’re supposed to be doing. Returning to the action itself, looking at the feet touching the earth one by one: left then right. The human body, this place I inhabit; it seems strange. I was a child once, learning to walk. How did it feel? Getting myself up here in the vertical position, stumble and fall – world goes sideways, get up again, walk… fall down. Try again, learning how to live my life. Seeing it all through the eyes of a person called ‘me’, a localised experience in a world of fifty million square miles of land space to walk on, and one of seven billion people on the planet. I’m the guy in the street; the ‘you’, the ‘me’. I am a single cell in an organism so vast it’s inconceivable.

Thirty five paces to the end, turn around and walk back. The brick floor looks like an abstract painting, take some photos, back to the walking. How does it feel? This sensation of stepping out from the past into the future but never getting there. Always in transit, housed in a kind of wobbly, thud-thud-thud, rubberoid, physical experience of present time that’s just rolling along. Awareness sees the ground spinning towards each foot like a treadmill driven by my walking… hamster in its spinning wheel. A fun thing to do, hamster’s idea of meditation. Everything happens in the movement towards a place I think I’m going; an arrival point that’s one among many, fixed end to end and disappearing into the perspective. I am the vanishing point; no beginning, no end, always only a part of the continuum. The seed sprouting from the earth is not how the story began, there was another tree before that…

Phone rings, Hello? It’s Jiab saying she’s on the way home with a laptop borrowed from the office. Relief floods through me – aware of the craving; that which is always seeking engagement. I understand what attachment is, so good to see it like this. I’m glad the laptop was taken away… glad too that another one is coming back. The walking has a new kind of ease. Electrical energy of Mind is grounded through footsteps touching the earth.

‘The purpose of walking meditation is walking meditation itself. Going is important, not arriving. Walking meditation is not a means to an end; it is an end. Each step is life; each step is peace and joy. That is why we don’t have to hurry. That is why we slow down. We seem to move forward, but we don’t go anywhere; we are not drawn by a goal. Thus we smile while we are walking.’ [Thich Nhat Hanh]

Rooftop4

————————-