to let there be no resistance at all

OLD NOTEBOOKS: POSTCARD#359: Bangkok: I’ve had the pain in the right side of my head for five years, and swallowing these expensive forget-me-not capsules every wakeful moment since the whole thing was diagnosed. So every now and then I get round to reducing the habitual intake of pharmaceuticals and see how that works out. This time it was different in a significant way. Instead of having the meds everywhere in my bag, my pockets, my purse, gather them all together and keep them in one place, slightly out of reach. Up on the top shelf of the bookcase – not impossible to get to, but not easy to access… went to sleep that night and forgot all about it.

Then, somewhere in the darkness of early morning, the pain comes… ringing the urgency bell, louder and louder, nearer and nearer. Still in the dream state, ‘I don’t want it to be here!’ Panic and the fear of unknown things. Wide awake now and the fear is dispersed, but the reality of it triggers all systems in a wild inarticulate way – the avoidance, resistance. Obstructing it, subverting it by any means, running away from it.

‘What can I do?’ There’s nothing I can DO about it, except to reach out for whatever comfort there is nearby and see how that goes. But there’s just no getting-away from it. This is a no-choice situation and, strangely enough, things start to improve as soon as I stop trying to do something about it.

The immensity of the pain is occupying all the space and I’m backed into a corner. No escape, the only thing I can do is turn around to face the pain and step into it. Fearlessness, but really no other way to go, no choice – then the discovery; dropping the resistance to the pain causes a moment of ease to arise.

It was this action (or non-action) that led to a glimpse of consciousness without an object, quite an extraordinary, out-of-this-world feeling. There was desperation all around but just enough of an easing in the pain to tell me that whatever it was I’d done was the right way to go. Just letting it be there, without backing away. It was somewhere here I noticed the easing. Allowing the alarm to ring and finding the conviction to let there be no resistance at all, no tightening up. For this one insightful moment, the worst of it subsides and the emergency mode is switched off.

Then the pain comes back, deep stabs of it like bolts of lightning passing through, but the intention to allow space for the pain is still there. As the immensity of it become less and less, acceptance opens more and resistance begins to fall away. I see now there’s the intention to be open and accept the pain, hidden from ordinary wakefulness, buried deeper than the pain can reach.

An old friend sent me a link Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) It’s a mindfulness training to assist people with stress, anxiety, depression and pain. So I’m going to look into that.


 

this and then that

OLD NOTEBOOKS: POSTCARD#358: Chiang Mai/Bangkok Flight: Phone alarm goes off… there’s something I’ve forgotten! It takes a moment to realize I’m leaving today, not tomorrow. Oh no… I’m not ready! Sit up, legs over the bed… cool floor tiles on naked feet. A flash of movement, brush teeth, shower, fling clothes in bag. Quick tidy-up of rooms, swallow 3 headache capsules, bag on wheels, into taxi and we’re off.

Even after sitting quietly in the taxi watching the streets go by, I’m still rushing and bumping into things in my head. Breathe slow and deep and just let the driver take me to the airport. We get there, bag on wheels, mask attached over the face. I think of the aloneness of Muslim women.

Struggling to be mindfully aware of immediate realities; the layers of security, and being shuffled through the portals and gateways: this, and then that – this, and then that. A sea of white masks and black hair… black irises and pupils show the whites of the eyes.

The parts these thoughts come together in the space of a moment. Did it happen before I was aware of it, or was it my becoming aware of it that required the parts to come together, and making sense of it in that moment. Are all moments the same? Whatever, each thought appears in its own window and I’m tugged away, involved, engaged in the story of it. Identikit assembled in each case for it is always a story about me as subject or object, features selected to match all the characteristics of who I think I am in each instance. And always the same, variations on a theme of Me and Mine.

It seems I have my headache to get adjusted to, now there’s now less need to rush through the crowds. So, how best to get along with things, having swallowed the meds before breakfast. Head spinning slightly, slow down and shuffle in the directional momentum through remaining corridors, doorways. Eye contact with people here and there over the tops of their masks… (a masked foreigner in their midst). Passing through the last portal, and down the narrow tube that brings me to my tiny seat.

A small space of window and looking out under the blue dome of sky, pink-white heavenly clouds: Here we are cruising at 35,000 feet and this is your captain speaking, we will soon be descending to Bangkok where the weather is sunny and bright with a temperature of 34° Centigrade and 94° Fahrenheit

Dialogue summarized like text messaging minimalism, words tell me what things are, fill a perceived empty space, create distance – it’s ‘out there’. Language gives everything a label, gives ‘me’ an identity; name and form (namarupa), creates a separateness, subject/object duality.

Emptiness and a lack of self, the deep knowing there’s nothing there triggers the reaction to fill the empty space with a self-construct, an image, a movie celebrity, a child’s doll, the sphinx, the totem pole, dependency on a perceived creator. I can rest in this fictional state and know it’s just the way the software works, it’s like this. Knowingness is at the base of it all, in every way.

‘… impossible to be aware of an experiencer because it is always the experience itself that momentarily occupies that space.’ [Alan Watts, ‘The Wisdom of Insecurity’]

off the top of my head

OLD NOTEBOOKS: POSTCARD#357: Bangkok/Chiang Mai Flight: Rushing through the airport, late for my flight, with an urgent headache seeking attention like an inconsolable child. At the first opportunity I take off my mask and swallow another three capsules of forget-me-nots together with a small bottle of water I carry with me for this purpose. Losing track of the number of capsules I’ve taken already in all the discomfort of the journey. Another problem is wearing a mask intended for smaller heads than mine. There must be XL size but us big-headed folk are in the minority.

The flight takes about one hour and I’m in a half-sleep state, wakened by stabs of headache. Try supporting the head with one hand and an elbow on the chair frame. There, it’s seen as if separated from the neck and body. Feeling its weight, 5 kg (Wikipedia tells me), it becomes an object, the brain, the skull, eyes, teeth, facial muscles and skin. Vivid images conjured up by enhanced imagination, and the journey goes on.

Then landing… the aircraft swaying like a ship on the bumpy runway, all the rock-and-roll, accelerated, braked, jerked, and we’re here. Airport taxi to the apartment. I feel dizzy and my face is hot. Anyway I get there safe and sound, remove face mask.

So, how was the flight?

Yes, okay, not too crowded.

We found some large face masks for you.

Great, thanks

For a moment it’s strange to be speaking, looking for something to say. Thought associates words, pieces of the jigsaw puzzle.

How’s the headache?

Not too bad.

The head is an acoustic device resonating like a wind-instrument. Breathlessness of ‘voice’, tone quality created in volume of throat, in void of mouth and intricate cranial cavities. Small sounds like the reed of a wind instrument. Rolling articulated back throat cavities’ deep volumes of sound. Gasps and split bits of wet air that whistle and chirp for an instant.

I go to my room and sleep quite early.

Completely awake again at 4 am, and no headache. I roll over and pull the bedclothes around the shoulders and over the head, keep out the chill mountain air. Get myself up in the sitting position and with pillows stuffed under me, make the preparations for a half-hour sit, maybe 45 min.

Meditation for me, means relearning the practice of Vipassana, insight, seeing things clearly. I was quite active 10 years ago, when I got the headache 5 years ago it fell away to almost nothing.

But once learned, the practice remains, perhaps here and there, remembering it as we go along. Watching the in-breath and out-breath, only that. Stop the mind flitting around like a shape-shifter. On the way, I may briefly arrive at the place of no-thought, no ‘thingness’, nothingness but in a moment it becomes ‘somethingness’, its opposite – and again no thingness. Treading carefully through the landscapes of tranquility. Return to the actuality of the breathing and be aware of these kinds of things entering and leaving the mind.

The head, positioned at the top of this column of body wrapped in bedclothes, is seeing, observing what is coming into internal consciousness. I am not looking out at the World, the World (consciousness) is looking into me, into my eyes, takes the form of a visual object, now this, now that. And feeling through the other senses into this experience of sitting upright on my bed, this space of the room, this place. It’s like I am (we are) a sense apparatus for sensitive life, complex consciousness, which feels through us as sensory instruments. The reality of this, for some of us… is Brahman.

Come back to the breathing. Hard to do this, mind is not familiar with the ‘unthinking’ state… learning that it’s just this physical awareness and everything is as it is for a moment of consciousness, and another – then it changes again. I’ve got nothing to think about and that’s okay; thought, itself, is a downloadable software. Thinking is the whole story; random episodes, snippets, individual words. Then nothing, without thought, there isn’t any story. Training the mind to keep a note of the meds taken, rather than an off the top of my head figure, based on the remaining capsules, always at hand, for pain or for the small comfort that’s in it.

Ease the mental activity caused by things not being as I’d want them to be, them to be, need them to be, expect them to be (Dukkha: Buddhist suffering, dissatisfaction). First Noble Truth. Necessary to investigate this because doing nothing about it and just tolerating the suffering permits a willful attachment to it and that’s not the way we want to go.

Defeating all the mechanisms of mind with their crinkly acetate enclosures for these three capsules of forget-me-nots. Let go of the internal struggle, reach out for the universal truth. Birdsong and daylight slowly fills the room.

“Consciousness veils itself from itself by pretending to limit itself to a separate entity and then forgets that it is pretending.” [Rupert Spira]

There is nothing external to Brahman… a non-dual, self-luminous consciousness, [expanding] to encompass the entire universe, which is but the appearance of Brahman; everything is the Self.

[David Loy, Enlightenment in Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta:
Are Nirvana and Moksha the Same?]

 

the extraordinary moment

2013-04-27 MtwinsPOSTCARD #114: Chiang Mai: When we get back to the apartment, M flings off her shoes at the door, goes running along the corridor and comes back with her two cute little doggy toys; shakes them sideways and their tails wag. For a moment I’m caught in the illusion they’re alive. Children can reveal the ‘moment’ – something magical. M animates a self then animates another self; skipping away from one identity to the next, like an actress constantly engaged in playing a role has developed the skill in letting go of her individuality – she can ‘be’ anybody.

It must have been like this for all of us when we were kids, a direct understanding of the definitive present moment – the ‘now’ I experience was the future for me when I was in the past? The extraordinary moment, no need to analyze it, the ‘now’ moment includes all moments everywhere that ever there were; millions of years of present moments combined and reduced to this single experience of the here-and-now phenomenon.

M is wearing stage make-up today; she had her school performance. Sadly, nothing glamorous or interesting, it was a presentation about the human body. I ask what part of the human body she played? She was the esophagus – pronunciation of esophagus is perfect. So what did she do in the performance? I say my words, Toong-Ting: “I am the esophagus, I convey food and fluids from the mouth to the stomach.” So totally memorized it flows out in one complete utterance without pause. Then I stand in my place with the other body parts. Not exactly a major part… did she have a nice costume? No costume, just a box… doesn’t want to talk about it, no grace, embarrassing. An exercise in patient endurance, respect for an imposed structure; putting up with an idea the teacher had that nobody in the class liked but accepted without question – very Thai. M’s friend was the brain and another friend was the heart and that was ok. Twin boys were the lungs: ‘We are the lungs, we convey oxygenated blood to the heart.’ The lungs couldn’t remember their lines, got stuck every time with the word ‘oxygenated’. Teacher often made the whole class stay late to get the rehearsal perfect – everybody blamed the lungs for it.

M is ten years old, nearly eleven… childhood becoming distant. I feel just a tinge of sadness; spontaneous behavior restrained by ‘preferences.’ We look at some old photos in the computer, find the one of her and the tiger with another set of twins, and I ask her if I can use it for this post? She looks at the photo, smiles like an adult… yes, there’s the tiger, of course, but that girl was someone else, compared with who she is now. Tells me, yes you can, if you want… (deference, and limited by using English as a second language). How about the tiger, were you frightened? No, she says, no further discussion – that time has passed, not relevant anymore.

‘… there is no gain or loss; one instant is ten thousand years. There is no here, no there; infinity is right before your eyes. The tiny is as large as the vast when objective boundaries have vanished; the vast is as small as the tiny when you don’t have external limits. Being is an aspect of non-being; non-being is no different from being.’ [Seng T’san]

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endless horizons

IMG_2054POSTCARD #113: New Delhi:  Carrying stuff upstairs, laptop under arm with notepad, phone in pocket, pen held in teeth, water bottle neck clasped between first and third fingers. Pause at the top of the stairs to turn the door handle (how much better it would be if we had three hands), it opens by practiced handle-lever push with thumb, and timed shoulder-shove. Out into the bright daylight of the roof terrace, carrying everything to the table, and unload piece by piece.

Bring the chair over and sit… now maybe I can relax for a bit in this warm spring-like weather. But the voices start up again as if they’ve been waiting off-stage for their big entry: What’s with all this control-freakery? Why try to do everything at once? Leaving on Saturday 28th night, red-eye flight to Bangkok, change for the Chiang Mai flight and arrive there early Sunday morning on 1st March. I know it’ll be hot in Chiang Mai and as we get nearer to April, hotter still. Then 1st May to UK because I have to get a new passport (no pages left), and two weeks later, back to Thailand on a tourist visa. One week later, the return to Delhi before my India visa runs out… and I need to have that renewed too. Then, to crown it all, it’ll be impossibly hot by the time I get back here, temperatures reaching their peak, 46°C.

Intrusive thinking about ticketing, schedules, filling in forms; uninvited thoughts gate-crash the party, insist on getting attention and shouting out: What’ll happen if the flight from Delhi doesn’t arrive in Bangkok on time, and I miss the flight to Ch’Mai? Noisy internal dialogues about the whole itinerary – I need to ease out from this clamour of conjured-up scenarios, imponderables and enigmas – searching for something creates the idea that it is lost. Delete the ‘my’ in my-self. They’re not ‘my’ thoughts; they belong to everyone – the generosity of letting go. None of it is ‘mine’, I don’t think these thoughts, these thoughts think me. I don’t breathe the air – the air breathes me. Cognitive functions synchronize things so the world appears the way it does. I don’t see the world; the brain selects what is seen. Sounds are heard, but there’s no listener. The ear is a musical instrument. The body is a sensory-acoustic device that plays an immense chord of vibrating harmonics at 432 Hz, the natural frequency of the universe.

Mind contemplating the experience of ‘me’ seated on the chair; aware of the pressure points where legs touch the seat, bearing the weight, arms on armrests, and everything else is empty space, just this invisibility. I’m not aware of the mass of internal organs… slightly unnerving; get up and walk around. Feet appear down below on floor surface: left, right, left, right. The roof-terrace enters my vision, floor, wall, the plants – objects seem to pass through the body. Meanwhile, far away over endless horizons, another place begins to stir with aliveness; this time on Sunday I’ll be ‘there’ in Ch’Mai – or Ch’Mai will be here in ‘me’….

scotland-trip-jan-15-385

“And men go abroad to wonder at the heights of the mountains, and the mighty waves of the sea, and the wide sweep of rivers, and the circuit of the ocean, and the revolution of the stars, but themselves they consider not.”
[St. Augustine]

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The photo of the sea at St Andrews comes from Sue Vincent’s post: The Elasticity of Time
–   G  R  A  T  I  T  U  D  E   –

the seen

IMG_2020POSTCARD #112: New Delhi: Birds fly low between the buildings, suddenly see me sitting in the sunshine on the roof terrace and swoop straight up into the sky… not expecting me to be there – usually there’s nobody around on these rooftops, the human domain should be down below. I’m in their flight path and feeling a bit uneasy about that, move my chair out of the way… avoiding collision with bird flying at 30 mph.

But they seem to have communicated with each other about it somehow – is it possible? No birds pass through after that. I’m looking out from the roof terrace level with the treetops, birds flit, zoom, dart, leave no tracks in the sky. Perch on a branch for a moment, flick their head in my direction – aware of my presence, and away without warning in unexpected directions; ‘up’ is not necessarily up and neither is down – ground level is not the reference point.

And these ominous birds of prey circling high above… I’m thinking I want to take a photo if one comes near. Take out phone camera and stand in the middle of the roof, point it at the birds. They’re too far away… no, wait, there’s one coming towards me. Take a few photos as it comes closer. It seems curious, coming over for a look – nearer and nearer; our eyes meet in a strange encounter, it knows it’s being looked at and I’m on the edge of being hypnotised by it watching me here in the centre of this pool of intense vision, like a spotlight moving over the landscape.

Are these smaller birds aware of the predator – is this why they move so quickly? All this and more; an extraordinary alertness, joyful, immediate. They’re in a different kind of temporality. Their world is forever the same moment here-and-now taking place in all other locations and everywhere at the same time. I’m in slow motion, don’t see it, burdened with human mechanisms of sensory perception and lost in thought. I have to consciously look for the way to get back to ‘here’… telescopic sights of mindfulness on crosshairs of past/future that focus on the ‘now’, the point of reference – discovering I don’t have to try to create it because the present moment is already here, always present… it’s the mind that goes away.

Traces of these last thoughts vanish. If I don’t reach out for the next thing to think about, there’s just the stillness of the event itself; a transparent curtain through which there’s a transparent stage in a transparent theatre and all the actors with the illuminated background shining through from behind.

“…sound does not exist, separate from our hearing; sights do not exist, separate from our seeing; tastes do not exist, separate from our tasting; smells do not exist separate from our smelling [….] our projection of an “external world” — of objects “out there” which we then interact with via the sense-organs of a seemingly individual bodymind — is a claim that can never be experientially verified.” [Elizabeth Reninger, “If A Tree Falls In A Forest …” – Bishop Berkeley Meets Laozi]

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Another  post about birds of prey: seeing with alertness.  Note: Our young friend Ng arrived back from New York on the night of 17 Feb, there were storms when she was there and the dance performance at Brooklyn Bridge was cancelled