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

terrestrial ocean

POSTCARD #255: Bangkok: Elevated passageways and corridors in the mind creaking like we’re on an old sailing ship, swaying with wind and air currents, the swell of the sea and the flip of waves at their peak. These lightweight structures hold the sails, huge areas of stretched canvas sailcloth – I can only see a part of the whole. The creak and strain of long hemp ropes, tarry old wood decking and a wide-open sky. Then the pain comes, ringing the urgency bell… see how it triggers all systems in a wild inarticulate way… make way! Allow the alarm to ring and let there be absolutely no resistance, no tightening up, just letting it be there… the worst of it subsides and the emergency mode is switched off. In the Buddhist sense I’m drawing attention to an awareness of Suffering and the cause of suffering, but not just labeling it; ‘the cause’ of Suffering is the 2nd Noble Truth, no, I’m asking, what is this ‘cause’? No labeling from here on.

What is the cause of Suffering and what is the cause of the cause? The desire for it to not be there, the confrontation, the avoidance, resistance… obstructing it, subverting it by any means. Running away from it, wanting things to be different than the way they are in a totally impossible way.

Childlike, I can see my (child) self as a baby, attending to whatever object appears, comes into range, immediately focused, the totality of each thing, as it arises – conscious experience without language.

Flickers of memory like this… food is a wonderful experience, it’s not Food, it’s Wonderful, it’s not ‘wonderful’ – no words for it, it’s a feeling(?). Then, just as easily, the bad, the awful – then the aftermath of the disaster, early childhood systems of understanding the world – but for my (child) self there’s no ‘understanding’, because there are no words in infancy to describe anything. Catastrophic! I am the cause of this hurtful chain of events. How it was then, and how it is now are no different. I am the same ‘me’ as I was then, language acquisition is here now, I’m expanded, filled out, developed and extended into the world but still the same ‘me’ (time can disappear in this kind of investigation), so how can I help protect the ‘me’ that was then, with the ‘myself’ that is now, equipped with adult skills?

Meditation. I’m sitting on the meditation cushion like a chick in the nest, cheep-cheep… waiting for the return of the Parent Bird (mother, father, both or neither) and, beak totally wide open, like a suitcase lying open on a bed waiting to be packed with things, my (child) self perceiving the Parent Bird visiting the nest (or not visiting), and for me now seated on the cushion too, there’s the acceptance, the wide-open giving-way-to it.

Maybe also in adversity, how much I’d prefer to not do this any more, because the recognition of the familiar forms of interaction between my (child) self and authority figures in the family group are too scary – for a moment I ‘see’ the blocking… but there aren’t any words, it’s something felt.

Simply how it came to be the way it is, but no words. A wetness at the eye, a glimpse of my (child) self receiving conscious experience, and the perception of it has shaped, formed the person I am today – it is the person I am today.

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 the intention to be open and accept the pain, hidden from ordinary wakefulness, buried deeper than the pain can reach.

It’s this that tells me, when all other options are gone, there’s no running away from it now, I have to turn around and go back into the pain… for a split second the pain eases, an extraordinary and out-of-this-world feeling.

Absolutely no escape from the pain… then finding this window I know that’s always here, and everything is swept away like a flood of water finding its way through a landscape, rapidly filling up all the spaces and getting into all the corners… I am a sailing ship on a terrestrial ocean.


 

finding the way out

POSTCARD #254: Bangkok: The story of it is I went downtown to a government hospital to see a well-known anesthesiologist, about the 24/7 headache I’ve had since September 2015, in the hope that, aside from more needles and what-have-you, ablation? I’d discover the right way to switch it off. And to cut a long story short – getting through all the underground labyrinths and corridors, crowds and noise and waiting 5 hours with my headache being as it is, although for the most part, staying with mindful attention – I was finally in a white room with her, dressed in white, and three residents in white too.

Blinking in this dazzling clarity, I was asked all kinds of questions I’d never been asked before. Really it was just one question she was asking me and that was, how far do you want to go with this? Like a fairy godmother, she gave me new, stronger meds, saying try this before getting into these other procedures and treatments. So yes, I went home, took the meds and suddenly the headache got switched off. Hooray!

Wake up next morning and the headache is back. Oh no! Take the new meds and it gets switched off again. Hooray! There have been other times when it has switched off like this, but now there’s definitely a feeling that something else has changed too. I’m feeling more optimistic than I have done for a long time, why?

And I begin to focus and see it’s because of a new kind of acceptance I learned about (indirectly?) from the lady in the white room. She was saying, in so many words, okay I admire you for the effort you’ve gone to in coming to this place, but realize that we’re getting down to worst case scenario levels here; this where we DESTROY THE NERVE and it’s done in two procedures…

But I wasn’t listening, I’d just bounced right out of there thinking maybe I can live without this ‘procedure’. No needles or RFAs (radiofrequency ablation), ‘a minimally invasive procedure.’ There’s this electric needle and it goes in and precisely zaps the nerve. If that doesn’t work then we can put in another needle… but no-no-no, I was running away in my mind, ok, ok, what other options are there?

So I was back where I started and it was giving me a headache just thinking about it! Acceptance, looking more carefully into the Buddha’s Third Noble Truth (nirodha); the realization we don’t have to remain stuck in an unsatisfactory state. Finding the way out of Suffering begins when we let go of the craving that feeds it. An easing of the suffering of mind that takes place by seeing it is caused by holding on to… whatever, the longing for impossible things. Yep, what is causing this? To see what it is I need to accept that it’s there, the giving way to it the frank actuality of it. That was an eye-opener. Finding the way out of the Suffering in the mind means seeing the cause for what it is, a complex attachment/ resistance tied up with the suffering itself. Unravel the knot let go of the whole dang thing, and that’s the way out.

What to do? Train the mind to live with the Buddha’s Third Noble Truth, and I’m better equipped to accept the headache being there. Or go and see the lady in the white room and her worst case scenario ‘procedures’.

“… suffering smashes to pieces the complacency of our normal fictions about reality, and forces us to become alive in a special sense—to see carefully, to feel deeply, to touch ourselves and our worlds in ways we have heretofore avoided. It has been said, and truly I think, that suffering is the first grace. In a special sense, suffering is almost a time of rejoicing, for it marks the birth of creative insight. [Ken Wilbur]


 

finding suññatā in Lucknow

16maya3POSTCARD #249: Lucknow, North India: A short flight from Delhi brought us here, hired car to the Ambedkar Memorial Park. A vast space of nothing but polished marble flooring – no trees, no earth left uncovered. Two and a half acres of marble paving rising in a gentle slope, with some monuments and an avenue with hundreds of life size elephants carved in stone.

The panorama of it, an oasis-mirror-like flatness as far as the eye can see; a heaven realm… hold that thought, from two thousand five hundred years back in the distant past, comes rushing towards us now, into present time, 2017, the Buddha’s First Noble Truth – as valid as it was all these centuries ago.

‘The Noble Truth of Suffering’, yes, I’ve been wondering what that bad feeling was, gnawing away at the innards… the urgency of the human condition applies to everything I can possibly experience or do, or think concerning the past, the present or the future. The relief is in knowing the Buddha has a name for it.

That’s what it is, situated at the heart of everything, caused by the constant craving for something, anything that’ll satisfy a created hunger; the yearning for it not to be like this, please, no, I want it to be better than this. Thus, relentlessly on the run from what we don’t want it to be, towards what we want it to be; that just-out-of-reach object, or state of mind, or any way of seeing it, by any means possible.

This great marble-floored landscape of Ambedkar Park is exhausting; it needs to have something immense in it. The sense is of something huge that’s missing perhaps. Or is that what it’s intended to be? Can’t think, there’s nowhere to sit, then we see a marble bench over there, so we head towards that and stop for a rest. Thinking still of those who are caught in the conundrum of chasing foreverness, conditioned by society into this way of thinking.

dr-bhim-rao-ambedkar-samajik-parivartan-sthal-in-lucknow-images-8-1Now I’m in fear of this floor dissolving under our feet into a lake of water, grasping at anything and everything, but I’m sinking anyway. Then I see something I can hold on to coming towards me as if it were a boat… but it’s not a boat, it’s dry land, so it must be me who’s on the boat. Step on to this small island… a space opens in the mind: this must be the neither-here-no-there place… this gentle detachment from things, neutrality, “the middle way”… and I find there’s room enough to see how I can think about what a thought feels like without getting involved in the content of it. Flames of desire flash all around but do no harm. Allowing it all to ‘become’ without becoming it. Recognizing the sense of self without that solitary aloneness of the enclosed ‘me’.

There’s just this huge space, maybe one day filled to capacity with the ‘many crores’ (millions) of people gathered here, to be part of this vision of Shakyamuni Buddha as a political and social reformer. According to Ambedkar, a person’s unfortunate conditions are not only the result of karma or ignorance and craving, but do also result from “social exploitation and material poverty – the cruelty of others.”

Until that happens, there’s only the empty space, a sense of the vast no-thingness, suññatā.


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Top photo source, with Gratitude. Centre photo source, with Gratitude. Lower photo, the author with two Theravadin Monks at Ambedkar Park. In the centre Thai, on the right India.
~  G  R  A  T  I  T  U  D  E  ~

night and day

img_0125bPOSTCARD #232: New Delhi: Awareness expands to include landscapes of President-Elect Donald J. Trump’s hate/fear, bully/victim and finding the middle ground in these conditions of duality is not an option these days, it’s absolutely necessary. Urgency of the imperative; ‘I’ have to find a place of equanimity here; mindfulness is a requirement, awareness rather than ignorance (ignoring). I am aware of the ‘me’ I live with; the tug-and-pull, push-and-shove… me as the observer of the ‘me’ I think I am, as revealed when I’m drawn towards beautiful objects placed to catch my attention or to repulse me; encountering obstacles, uncomfortable circumstances and giving way to situations, which I recognize as simply aspects of the human condition. I am that which is observing the thoughts of ‘me’, cool and at ease. I listen rather than just hear. I watch rather than see. I think rather than have thoughts – as more and more of us are doing nowadays, I am consciously engaged, night and day, in the revelation of it.

The everyday ordinary human experience – no more, no less, but said with compassion for those trapped in extreme difficulty and adversity hard to believe. Every aspect of the human experience examined and identified by the Buddha two thousand five hundred years ago and passed down through the generations as the Teaching on the Eight Worldly Dhammas we have today. The constantly changing forms of: pleasure and pain, gain and loss, praise and blame, fame and disgrace.

All that I love and all that I hate become an insatiable craving for gratification deemed to be rightfully ‘mine’ in view of the suffering endured to get here – then it changes again, and we are held in the never-ending cycle of rebirth, of grasping for that we cannot quite reach; the same Teaching can be applied today as it was in historical times; the structure of the condition as disease, diagnosis, cure and treatment. Awareness of the suffering inherent in the human state that we are all subject to; compassion for those in fierce denial of lies and fabrications created by perceived enemies, stonewalling obstructionists built into the social cultural default, all the scientists and psychologist witchdoctors who manipulate conscious experience to fit with consensus reality. Embracing also all of us who are trapped in this illusion, convinced that it’s real.

Truth hidden in plain sight, layers of disinformation; genuine plans for world peace prevented by tactics of endless war. The containment of wealth, greed, hatred and delusion. Cool calm acceptance and understanding of this protective barrier – not a passive allowing, more a patient endurance (khanti). Seeing through their constructed facades of truth as if it were exposed for all to see. It’s enough to register the fact that this is ‘seen’, and publish articles so others can free themselves from conditions of adversity. It’s all we can do at this time. It’s enough to know we are not caught by the hook of negativity and confused misunderstanding, or perversely immersed in the proliferation of not having things the way we would like them to be – rather than that, seeking freedom from all unwholesome states of mind.

Gain/loss, status/disgrace, censure/praise, pleasure/pain: these conditions among human beings are inconstant, impermanent, subject to change. Knowing this, the wise person, mindful, ponders these changing conditions. Desirable things don’t charm the mind, undesirable ones bring no resistance. His [or her] welcoming and rebelling are scattered, gone to their end, do not exist. Knowing the dustless, sorrowless state, he [or she] discerns rightly, has gone, beyond becoming, to the Further Shore.

AN 8.6 Lokavipatti Sutta: The Failings of the World


Thanks to Jill Shepherd for the Sutta reference

astonishment

pigeons3bPOSTCARD #231: New Delhi: Trumpets blare, the sharp impact of it hits immediately, a cloud of birds fly up in a flutter of uncertainty. Trees splash outwards in branches, twigs, leaves, blossom and seed. Astonishment… how could this have happened? Eyes open wider and wider, like a camera aperture opening so far it exceeds structural integrity, implodes, buildings collapse in controlled demolition made to seem like a natural disaster, the ground beneath us opens up in sinkholes. Words explode into fragments of meaning… thus, the un-expect-ed-ness of this unnerving turn of events.

Curtains open on the First Act. Enter, stage right, the President of the Disunited States, Hollywood version of narcissistic Third World dictator, well-dressed gangster with his carefully balanced coiffure and infrastructure of war, catastrophe, greed, hatred and delusion – a victorious returning to power, with paid-for breathless wave of applause. Financial Advisors grab all the wealth stolen by the Bank (who knows, maybe it’s the same family), memories of Geo Dubbya, the fall of the twin towers, the war in Iraq and weapons of mass distraction. Fear, lies and distrust in Government. How can I find stability in all this, how to let go of this dark uncertainty?

When all else fails, the Buddha’s subjective damage-repair comes into play. Rediscover the natural ability to relinquish, give way to, put aside and desist from – difficult perhaps because we are not skilled in the act of surrender. But in these circumstances of adversity we can look for the muscle that’ll release tenacity of grip, jaw clench…. Let it go, watchful too that nothing might be indirectly fanning the flames in the process, such as: I don’t want it to be like this, because wanting it not-to-be-like-this is difficult to disengage from.

Do not hold on to it, let it go… and suddenly I’m not thinking about the “why” of things anymore, just sitting quietly here, watching the in-breath/out-breath. I might want to take immediate action but the wisdom (and effectiveness) of this is to learn how to wait and see. Go against all the urges to have your cake and eat it too. Intelligent control over the energy of thought… and when there’s an opportunity, seek for a place in the middle ground. Find equanimity in the midst of uncertainty, the balance, the midway point. Find a temporary abiding there and cultivate the inward disposition to give, to have compassion for, generosity, kindness, gladness.

I understand how everything fits together today up here on the roof terrace with flowering plants in the sunshine, birdsong and a clear blue sky. I can see the compelling, driven-greed in the world. I can see how to be free of it too. People are caught unknowingly in all kinds of habitual, seek/find instant gratification. Everything, everywhere, consumerism, schooling, television, the media encourages this hunger that doesn’t lead to satisfaction but to an even sharper edge to appetite. These are the ways of the enemy.

“As democracy is perfected, the office of the President represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and a complete narcissistic moron” [H. L. Mencken, The Baltimore Sun, July 26, 1920]

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Photo by Melinda [melindaruck.com]

the two-hundredth

watpohguardian-e1459584335688bPOSTCARD #200: CHIANG MAI, THAILAND: the two hundredth postcard leaves this keyboard with a question I’m hoping will find an answer. There’s more of a familiarity with the characteristics of my perpetual headache, but the months slip by and I’m postponing the plan I had to come to terms with the dependency on the medicine I need to numb the pain. Future time slides into present time, tomorrow becomes today, and everything I was doing a moment ago has disappeared into the past again – the enhancement created by the meds masks many things. No sooner has it been seen than it’s gone. On the rebound, senses are alert, listening, feeling, searching… how can this be? But I’m caught in the conundrum of not being able to see it’s the searching for the way out that maintains the state of being lost.

After the illness came to stay (September 2015), it took a while to focus on the functioning of Mind as I’d previously known it; as the cognitive sense, the sixth sense that knows the other five senses and knows itself as the ‘self’ until attachment to that self aspect is seen through. Everything from there onwards is understood in a different way. There’s the seeing of events without the story and it all can be deconstructed carefully – indeed nowadays, there’s a fascination with this investigation, somehow believing that by taking things to pieces I’ll be able to see where the problem of dependency lies. But the investigation goes deeper and deeper, Mind changes its focus, and I discover I’m not able to find what it was I was looking for because I’ve simply forgotten the train of thought that brought me here. An uncomfortable place of attachment to something but no idea what it is. It doesn’t seem worthwhile to try to return to how things were before I started this, even if I could remember how it all fits together, which I can’t. Besides, things being as they are, putting it back together is impossible because everything has changed.

The confusion of mind like a jigsaw puzzle with pieces missing that can only be put together in chunks and not ever completed, means there’s always this dissatisfaction and returning to it again and again; this coming-back to look for the beginning of it… then, as if to remind me, and before I am properly aware of it, the parts come together as a felt pain. A thought now appears in a small window and the recognition of it as pain unfolds with ‘me’ suddenly playing the role of the person to whom this is happening – this is a story about ‘me’ and I’ve learned to take the dosage as soon as possible, and I leave the story and the window closes.

In the vast ease that follows I recognize an important piece of the puzzle; selected attention affects perception. What I think is the solution has been displaced by my attachment to searching for it. So, it just looks like it’s complete because time has moved on in the duration of thought arising, and everything now has the quality of being seen in hindsight.

In the peace and quiet ease of those moments when there is no driving urge to take the meds to correct this perceived pain, it’s possible to see that my attention to it is both the problem and the solution; trying to get what I want or to get rid of what I don’t want, but unknowingly caught in attachment to it. The desired state I’m seeking already belongs to ‘me’. Everything I have, everything I want, all of this is ‘mine.’ Even the pain, that which I consider to be the thing I hate the most, is also ‘mine’. What to do? How to learn the skill of detachment in these circumstances?

How wide are the horizons of the spinning earth! The moonlight leads the tides and the sun’s light will not be confined within the net of heaven. But in the end all things return to the One. The deaf and the dumb, the crippled and deformed are all restored to One’s perfection. [Hsu Yun]

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Photo: detail of a Wat Poh Guardian taken by P Henderson. Note: special thanks to Ellen Stockdale Wolfe who kindly sent me the link to the video below of Mooji’s remarks about pain. Go to 25.50 to bypass a lengthy introduction

http://mooji.tv/freemedia/he-sees-only-the-infinite-sky-of-your-being/

of this faring on

IMG_2061 (2)POSTCARD #197: DELHI: Skating along with our trolleys on the smooth floors of airport halls and passageways, all these people coming and going. That feeling of familiarity, that déjà vu… I become you, he, she or it, we, you, they. We’ve been away and on our way back, or we’ve gone away and gone is gone… surrender your documents to the immigration officer, passport examined for as long as it takes the facial recognition system to get a hit. Passport stamped thump and through to the other side. Take out computer, remove your watch, phone, belt, and shoes and stand up on the box for a full body search. Wow! By the time we’re done and getting dressed again I feel like I’m a member of the family.

The relief from officialdom, we’re through at last, and welcome to the duty-free shopping mall extravaganza. Gold, diamonds and good-looking people; Hollywood celebrities posing as themselves wearing a watch or a necklace that costs a small fortune. There’s that familiarity, I look closely, but can’t remember the name, Mark Wahlberg, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio? Trying to remember who is who, like this, and thus the idea is beginning to rise to the surface that I could get that watch and be like them, posing as myself. The three-quarter turn, they smile at me, comfortable with themselves, don’t seem to suffer from that great yawning chasm of emptiness situated in the center of everything – they become all I want to see, in my seeing of them: confident, secure happy and yes, this is how it should be….

With just the right amount of energy required to wrench myself free, the polished steel of the purchasing trap snaps shut on itself, and the ricocheted impact propels the escapee forwards in the direction we all seem to be heading anyway. You can’t miss it, the massive head sculpture in the departures hall – dramatic indeed (see photo above). I’ve walked around it a few times looking for an information plate explaining what it’s a sculpture of – the Buddha or a monument to the exaltation of self? It looks feminine, maybe somebody reading this can tell me. No time, no time. Into the queue, on to the aircraft, fasten your seatbelts, and we’re catapulted up in the air for a 3-hour flight. The hydraulics of retracting landing gear is such a reassuring sound, and audible click as it locks into place. We’re part of the sky and clouds, just this is enough.

Incalculable is the beginning of this faring on. The earliest point is not revealed of the running on, faring on, of beings cloaked in ignorance, tied to craving [Saɱyutta-Nikāya, Nidāna-vaggo]

tanhã, craving

Wheel.of.Life-largeOLD NOTEBOOKS: Craving perpetuates the fever of unsatisfied longing, this is the state of tanhã. The opposite of a sense of well-being, tanhã is not a happy bunny. It constantly feeds the hunger of desire but the action of feeding it only sharpens the edge of appetite. Too much is never enough. It explains very well the reason why some people are committed to ‘wrong view’ with an intensity that takes your breath away. Tanhã is this deep craving for the ‘self’ we construct in fear of ‘no self’, a result of tanhã. I am ‘me’, in this world, due to tanhã, the reason for rebirth.

In the story of King Assaka and Queen Upari, Queen Upari died and became a cow dung beetle in the next life. But she felt quite at home in her lowly existence as a cow dung beetle, because of tanhã which is delighting in whatever sense object presents itself and wherever it finds rebirth. Reborn as a dog, it takes delight in a dog’s existence; reborn as a pig, as a chicken, there is always delight in each existence. [‘Thoughts Without a Thinker: Psychotherapy from a Buddhist Perspective’ by Mark Epstein].

In the causality sequence that forms the 12 step cycle of the wheel of existence (paticcasamuppada), tanhã is step 8. The way to stop tanhã arising, is to cut off the conditions that lead to its beginning; interrupt the sequence before tanhã happens, and bring the whole thing to an end. The entry point in the cycle is just before tanhã: step 7 feeling (vedana). At the vedana stage, there are three possibilities: pleasure, pain or neutral feelings. If feelings of pleasure or pain arise, then craving or aversion will take place and tanha will be the result. If, by an act of will, only the neutral feeling is allowed to arise, the 7th link will be neutralized, de-activated. That being so, tanhã cannot arise, and the next link (upadana) will fail to arise and so on. [See “Fundamentals of Mainstream Buddhism”, p214-215, Eric Cheetham]

For me, the discovery that interrupting the sequence at vedana changed the momentum of everything was awesome, to say the least. This is how I quit the tobacco habit and my whole attitude changed. By allowing the neutral response at vedana to be present for a moment, I noticed an easing in the craving, a cessation, just enough to trigger my curiosity. The cessation took place when I noticed it was the way out of the cycle of repetition, and I understood then how to be free of it. The neutral feeling didn’t register as anything, just the awareness that there’s a space, a gap that wasn’t there before; a vantage point where I could see how to change the cycle of events. It’s in the nature of tanhã (as with everything else) to be transient like this, it’s something that comes and goes. Knowing it leads to Suffering, we can stay distant from tanhã for a moment, and allow it  to start the process of cessation by itself. Trying to confront or defeat tanhã will not work because willed action only causes it to arise again.

Situations that used to completely overwhelm and demolish me disappeared; other habitual behaviour began to fall away. I began to notice the wonderful emptiness, the wholeness, a peace of mind that comes about when you understand there is a way out of Suffering; everything that arises, ceases.

…there is a noble truth about the cessation of suffering. It is the complete fading away and cessation of this craving [tanha]; its abandonment and relinquishment; getting free from and being independent of it. [Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta]

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Source for header image
this is a summarized form of an earlier post titled, ‘too much is never enough

created fragrances

nose_sinuses_smellOLD NOTEBOOKS: Switzerland: Industrial Zone: Waiting for the bus home. There’s that slightly odd fragrant smell in the air again. Somebody told me about it; there’s a laboratory here that creates commercial smells: odorants, aromas. The air is always full of fragrances. It’s the smell of fruity jam today. Another day, it’ll be a different smell, a more subtle thing you can’t identify, a component of a popular smell – not unpleasant, just odd. The fragrance of fruity jam, which strikes the nose when I open a new jar, is  a ‘replacement aroma’ created under laboratory conditions by chemists.

The manufactured smell is a chemical compound designed to trigger an olfactory experience. I’ll react in the same way even though the smell/aroma/fragrance is completely artificial. I fall into the ready-to-purchase mode – mind is saying, yes, yes, yes, get it, own it, have it… the familiarity of the smell is all that it takes. A perfect example of the Buddha’s Paticcasamuppada, the chain reaction of consciousness (dependent origination). The wonderful smell of bread from the bakery section in the supermarket. I’m drawn to it because of the aroma even though there’s no baker’s oven in a supermarket. I know it’s an illusion, but still respond to it as if it were real.

The artificial smell starts a sequence of mini events in the mind instantly when it makes contact (phassa) with the memory/ recognition/ acceptance, and there’s feeling (vedana). As soon that point is reached there’s the craving for it (tanha). I experience a state of wanting, a kind of greed, (upadana) and it’s very likely that I’ll go into the ‘bakery’ just to take a look, caught by the nose… it’s not real, it’s a chemical compound pumped into the air or sprayed somehow inside the bakery section.

Airline food served at 600 mph, and an altitude 38,000 feet; an exotic olfactory experience of roast potatoes, beef, onions, cheeses, French cognac, a hint of cigar smoke, ground coffee, crème caramel, port, liqueur. And we are served sad-looking pre-heated food… a bit disappointing. Do they really expect us to not see through this? But I think that’s part of it; somehow we’re satisfied with the illusion, a puff or a spray that releases the manufactured odorant in the air we inhale. There’s a knowing acceptance of it: “well isn’t it interesting how they can create artificial fragrances these days?” It’s okay to do this. Not only food, there’s the smell of leather upholstery in a new car, that distinctive odor created by chemical processes sneaks into our consciousness and we allow it to happen. All kinds of products, the smell of a new carpet triggers something in the brain, a physiological change and in the mind there’s recognition and the familiarity about it. An acknowledgment of the illusion being part of the whole panorama of illusion we create in our world of perception. The characteristics of the illusion lock into place and it becomes as real as anything or everything else. Does it really matter if it’s artificial… the whole world of perception is artificial.

The bus arrives at the stop and we all get on. It rumbles off down the road into town and the smell of fruity jam is still in the atmosphere, I can smell slight traces, then I get distracted and soon after that I’ve forgotten all about it.

‘Though my view is as spacious as the sky, my actions and respect for cause and effect are as fine as grains of flour.’ [Sogyal Rinpoche]

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Summarized from an earlier post titled Fragrant Illusion, written during my time as a teacher of English in banks and offices and small industries in a small town in Switzerland.
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