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

the look of flowers

POSTCARD #261: New Delhi: looking at Facebook pics of my niece M aged 13, in New Zealand, reminds me of how it was when I was her age; studied many things in school but never learned (or escaped from learning) what lay beneath the overlay of becoming some ‘body’ – a person with a job, an identity and this is ‘me’ how are you?

Intuition told me it wasn’t the whole story. Living a lie, I must have thought. Nobody taught us about the art of living (or maybe I wasn’t listening), somehow missed the bit about being at peace with the sense of I-am-ness, only that jittery feeling of physicality, and living on the edge. Mind searching for motivation in situations that offer comfort, gratification in pleasure, gratification in displeasure too, justified raging and things out of control, everything thrown to the wind.

Stumbling and crashing through the successes and failures of many lives, and coming to India more than thirty years ago – there to be suddenly awakened to The Whole Thing. So much can be said about that, but now here in New Delhi on a Sunday morning, no traffic noise, just blue sky and birdsong. Flowers seen in a passing eyebeam with that look of being looked at.

Then, ‘regret’ arrives from somewhere thousands of miles from here and in a great expanse in time. It appears in the form of a small boy, bowed head, scruffy uniform, string showing at the collar, latch-door key kid. Headmaster in a huge voice says, ‘you have to think about what you’re doing before you do it, okay?’ Small boy nods, says some words of respect, and shuffles out of the room. Headmaster was talking about mindfulness decades before it came to be what it is today – for me, it was something intuitively know but still unlearned.

In a split second I see that moment there and then encapsulated in the here and now of present time. The boy in a state of anxious urgency every day, no real home, slightly unstable and the struggle to get it right without anyone to reassure him that yes, you can use intuitive guesswork even if you have nothing to go on. The built-in reasoning of mind in these circumstances is enough. So I’m the adult here, now playing the part of headmaster, saying, ‘yes kiddo, you’re right, and it’s allright, you can do that, no problem!’

Even now when I see the English word ‘ignorance’ translated from the Pali word ‘avidya’, it brings a slight twinge of anxiety of school days, built-in conditioning and authoritarian adults. Then, reaching out to that kid with the burden of failure, standing before the Headmaster, I can correct the thought enslavement of ignorance, because it’s not that. You need to have the context of stability, look at this state of not knowing, and being as open as you can to it, see that it’s not not-knowing, it’s ‘knowing’. Then it becomes the Pali word ‘vidya’ The seed of knowing planted deep in the ground of what is not known… the metaphor of the lotus rising from the mud.

Looking through M’s photos of her in New Zealand, being who she is, and for me it’s surprising to see it’s as easy as that. Thus stepping into my own timeline to make these corrections so that everything unfolding from there and then to here and now is free of obstructions – gone is the dark fear experienced by the schoolboy and in its place is the light of knowing.

“And the bird called, in response to the unheard music hidden in the shrubbery, and the unseen eyebeam crossed, for the roses had the look of flowers that are looked at.” T. S. Elliot, The Four Quartets


Photo: sunflowers in our garden. I took the photo not expecting to see the bee in the flower head!

fighting a war with myself

POSTCARD #260: New Delhi: I’m now upstairs for most of the day, the art room is a catastrophe of pieces of masking tape, cut tracing paper flying around and skittering across the floor in gusts of air from ceiling fan. Stuff everywhere, hardened acrylic paint mixings on my palettes and smeared on the table. The cleaning lady gives me bad looks, can’t understand why I’m doing this – it’s got to do with the social hierarchy here; dirty work done by people whose job it is to do that. The logic is if I do it, those workers don’t have a job, no work, no money, starvation. But anyway, foreigners break all the rules, clean up their dirty floors themselves, say sorry, please and thank you very much, so often it loses all meaning.

I find her disapproval on cleaning day intimidating. Art has no meaning, defeated by the perfumed smell of cleaning agents which amplify my headache and I can’t do anything till the next day. After that, all effort with the canvas self-destructs over and over… I don’t know where I am these days, thought dwelling in the darkness; the impact of 59 cruise missiles, shot to pieces, fighting a war with myself, heat and concrete dust from demolished buildings.

‘How to escape from the horror of Trump?’ A question without an answer. Repeated on loop cycle until it becomes an enslavement. A passive allowing locked into place. Escapees become the fringe, hunted down, arrest on sight. But no, it’s not over yet. I have Russian TV (RT) and Arabic, Al Jazeera TV in English, also the French and Chinese TV channels in English. RT says specifically that it wasn’t Assad who dropped the first bomb, it was the ‘rebels’ who planted the chemicals to draw fire from Trump – or maybe it was all staged by the unseen roots the West have everywhere… everything is fiction.

And although Putin is what he is, I have to respect him for holding back from the obvious reaction when US and UK ambassadors came with their untruths to the UN Security Council. Weapons of Mass Distraction, their baited untruths – two of them, one placed on top of the other so it appears to justify itself. A simple trick, we fell for it before – their long term goal is a kind of colonization of the world, but not this time around. We see through the facade…

There are birds in the early mornings here. As the day begins, heat rises and it gets quiet… chirrups in the trees from time to time. Sometimes the artwork I’m staring at suddenly is seen. Is what it is, and I wake up to that… is that what I thought it was? I get so totally lost in it sometimes, pondering possibilities, forget to wake up. Large areas of it have to be painted over to allow for the new direction it’s taking. Constantly refining and refining. I’m inside the Mystery, working the canvas with mixed-up acrylic on palettes, hardened and lumpy, like landscapes and mountains seen from the air. Small pieces of cut tracing paper race across the floor in gusts of air from the ceiling fan…

“It’s all dry land to the shipwrecked…” [Jac Forsyth]



 

a story to be told

POSTCARD #257: New Delhi temp: 38° Centigrade (100.4° Fahrenheit): Too hot to be out in the middle of the day, stay indoors, everything is internalized, giving way to the illusion. Lucky to have this comfortably cool room – two ceiling fans spinning in the half darkness of noon-day filtered light. This old house was nicely designed; corridor goes around three sides of the room with large window at the front, looking through the corridor space, out through a second window to the garden – and same at the back.

Enclosed in a room inside a room, lost to the ‘real’ world, we choose the window of Netflix – a story to be told about me and the Netflix illusion getting to know each other here in Asia, where I’ve been resident for 30 years, a Scot married to Jiab who is Thai. I’m distanced from the Western cultural model, a part of my past surgically removed, and all immigrants will know how that feels. Nowadays, the best audio, video devices have made it here to this part of the world and raised to a level equal to, or higher (some would say), than the Western model. So I bought myself a large, flat-screen TV, and stepped into sound and color.

Getting emotional, just listening to the sound of Western voices conversing in the mother tongue – the familiarity of it quite strange. Sudden recall of whole pieces of my life, forgotten until that moment. I’d get quite tearful about just seeing the streets, the traffic, and the easy pleasantness of it. The pace and the way things move along, created for TV by the director and advisors from the political realm, those unseen, propping up the Western model of the world as they see it.

How wonderful to have all these generous close-ups of immaculate faces, portraits, talking heads, good-looking news anchors in Breaking News. Ordinary faces are extraordinary on TV shows, super-ordinary, the face is an act in itself, head swings, facial gestures, lovable laughter and dentistry, cosmetics, lighting – more than enough, and all these nice interiors, a gallery of created spaces with artwork on the walls. Everything looks better when it’s framed, presented with image enhancement, studio lighting… my room as a selfie! Smile please! Take another one, smile click.

I’m falling in love with it more and more each day but I’m also somewhere in a story of the past in a black-and-white world, sad shades of grey. The irretrievably lost, a la recherché du temps perdu. A part of me died while I was away, I’m back there now just in time for the funeral, and relatives I’d forgotten about, greying and smaller than I remembered, look at me as if I were a ghost. I am a ghost, an actor in a movie, playing a part so well the audience believe it’s real. About this, unknowingly we accept, and to an extent engage with. The skill of the illusionists, the politicians, or anyone with the gift of the gab, convincingly dressed for the part, standing against a nice backdrop and there you are.

The story I’m in is different from but similar to those of migrant populations from Europe who came to the US with their belongings and heritage of things past. I went in the opposite direction, back to the places all those young and able-bodied left behind. Similar in the sense that now they’re hidden in the background, like me, off-stage or behind the scene. But theirs was a story of hardship and endowed with the sharp intelligence of living on the edge. The great great grandmothers and great great grandfathers of today’s success stories in the West, you could say. In two generations the memory of the old world is completely gone, death is a vanishing trick.

Today’s refugees and migrant workers are waiting in the wings, with their own stumbling through a colonial and demolished past, singing their songs about forgotten things out of time and place. Ready for the next re-build… another story to be told.


Photo: Siam Paragon Mall in Bangkok the day it opened, December 9, 2005. I walked into a glass wall, split an eyebrow and there was a lot of blood. Not serious but it looked bad and, uncharacteristic of the Thais, no one came forward to help. I had to find my own way out of the place, clean up in a washroom and get a taxi home.

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]


 

all that is born

img_3877POSTCARD #244: New Delhi: Early morning light, people wrapped in shawls, long scarves bound around the head and tied under the chin. Dark faces, eyes looking out and they see me for an instant in a diamond eye-lock as I struggle to look away. They look with curiosity; I think they see me as one of those lost in maya, not in the real world for them, I’m living in a dream. They might laugh to themselves, but not in a hurtful way – I’m pretty sure they see me as a naïve person, like a grown up child, dependent on support mechanisms I pay for with an impossible wealth, as far as they’re concerned, removed from everyday values. They’re right, from where they stand. It’s true, and I’m in awe of them, their existence is unreachable. The actuality of their lives, I know nothing about. My ongoing practice of ‘self’/’no-self’ investigation, and awareness of awareness reflecting upon itself, is maybe something they know about so completely and utterly that if I were to ask the right question, I’d be swept away in the tidal wave of their wisdom. A received knowledge from generations past, centuries and thousands of years for them is the same as today, an ordinary reality.

Inside the dark interior of their houses, I see shadows moving in the dim light of an old-style incandescent 25-watt bulb, flickering in unsteady current, candles, oil lamps and small cooking fires. Pots and plates, carefully placed on the stones outside to dry in the open air, and I feel these things should be inside the house, in a plate rack in a drawer inside a cupboard, which closes with a magnetic door-fastener click.

A pregnant woman gazes at me for a moment as I go by; deep eyes, there’s something supernatural about this woman. I look away. Everything in this neighborhood is alien to me. The houses all look like they’re only partly built. Bare brick walls and there’s one incomplete upper floor, or some part of the house seemingly under construction. I heard it’s because they don’t have to pay tax if the house is still ‘being built.’ These half-built houses are everywhere; a family living on the ground floor and upstairs there are bare brick walls reaching up like pillars with just the sky where the roof should be. There’s an underlying uneasiness about it all, it seems to me, inadequate shelter, no protection, and a fierce tenacity of holding on to life.

There are others in more hazardous circumstances, street people and those with no dwellings at all, the dispossessed. Beyond that the sadhus, bearded men with matted hair in yellow robes, colored pigment smeared across the forehead, incense and candle-wax – hovering in a kind of other dimension – a living statement that all that is born, ceases. We die because we were born, there’s birth and death in every moment. So obvious, but almost all of the time I can’t see it.

Death is drawn to sound
like a slipper without a foot,
a suit without its wearer,
comes to knock with a ring,
stoneless and fingerless,
comes to shout without a mouth,
a tongue, without a throat.
Nevertheless its footsteps sound
and its clothes echo,
hushed like a tree.
[Death Alone by Pablo Neruda]


Photo by Melinda Ruck
~ G R A T I T U D E ~

thoughts like clouds

img_4536POSTCARD #243: New Delhi: A photo in the photo library of the mind got lost. I had it in a special place because I wanted to use it for this post, but now it’s gone and I didn’t make a note of the file name, I’ve forgotten where I kept it and worse still, I’ve forgotten what it looks like. This is the problem. All I know is that it was a photo of sky that sent me off in the direction of thoughts like clouds drifting through the empty space of mind… blue sky, high altitude clarity – that’s all. So, how will I recognise it if I don’t know what it is? Hmmm I’ll know it when I see it, I suppose, hoping there’ll be some kind of familiarity about it, a pause before moving on to the next, thinking… that reminds me of something, what is it? And suddenly there’s recognition, like meeting an old friend you haven’t seen for half a century. But as I start to go through something like 4000 images, it seems unlikely.

I shall sit quietly for a moment in the space of no thought and, instead of trying to remember the photo, I can contemplate the empty space where it used to be. But that’s not working because the empty space where it used to be suggests an identity for the lost image. Fragments of remembered lost-photo imagery remain, I need to have the mind clear of remembered images, no identity, even the word itself – no ‘it’ and no ‘self’, the Buddhist anatta, ‘no self’, nobody at home.

It’s not working because the effort to create ‘no self’ results in a mind running around everywhere, taking ‘selfies’, you could say, in different places and with various friends. Smile please, pose… click and take another one, okay? Click! And it’s happy doing this, but deep down it’s not satisfied, seeking always for a way to become whatever it is that is permanent happiness. But it’ll never happen, everywhere I look there’s another ‘self’ seeking an identity and becoming that form… but again, it is never satisfactory. Seeking the next opportunity to ‘become’ is the default aspiration; it’s this that holds beings in the cycle of rebirth. Caught in the predicament of becoming.

So I give way to it… and curiously, there’s an immediate awareness of the restless mind held in endless searching. Another kind of awareness enters the picture, seeing the ‘self’ that sees itself seeking. The seeking ‘self’ turns its awareness on the seeing ‘self’ and is, at once, seen. There is seeking but no seeker, and no object is sought. Seeking non-objects is seeking the motionless space in which the answer is, before the question is asked. The place where everything is and is not. No-self is another way of saying nothing exists anywhere, anywhen, ever. Deathlessness, the death of death… this too shall pass, and the fragility of newly born beings, all finely tuned things which appear briefly; vulnerability, perishability, limited lifespan, and all that remains is the breathtaking tracery of what this was, a moment before it passed.

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


Note 1) some parts of this post taken from earlier posts, and edited pages for the next volume of Postcards From the Present Moment.
Note 2) the photo, Ladakh, Himalayan North India, taken by Jiab. I opted for this in the end, and maybe it was the one that got lost, or maybe it became the image formed in the mind which recognised the ‘no self’ quality in the expanse of sky, and distance on a scale that overwhelms the small self…

 

these days of illusion

e39f71_4f5a5a5ab85244aa87fb261af997e524POSTCARD #233: New Delhi: There’s an alertness in listening to the story, subject-object narrative, and I find I’m not caught in thought about what’s past or what’s future, knowing and recognizing how I feel, what I think, and who (and to whom) I have been who I am, who I was in former times and in quiet holy places, where it is always a historical here-and-now, anywhere and anywhen, over endless horizons of time.

A slight sense of foreboding these days where any serious applied thought seems to have gone right out the window, unless it’s got to do with greed or personal gain in some way. Thus we’re driven by nothing sensible to think about, craving for something, anything of substance. Hand-held remote glued to fingers in a multi-channel TV state of anything’ll-do, but finding nothing except the urge to find something that’ll fill that overwhelming sense of ‘lack’. Despondency of ungratified longing, dukkha; world-weariness and I see the only way out is to go in.

And it’s as if it were a light shining in darkness of mind (suffering is caused by wanting it to not be like this), thought processes maintain themselves hesitantly for an instant and fade away. Unless I consciously reach out for the next thought item, there’s nothing to think about in here (what ease there is to be found in that…), just a transparent curtain, through which I see a transparent stage, set in a transparent theatre. All the actors, transparent with background seen shining through, backlit and everything filled with light. Dazzling sunbeams in a snowy white blinding of the eyes. We cannot see we are filled with God because we are filled with a concept of God. World crashes into my small consciousness and reflected out again in a micro imploding ‘big bang’… oneness of time and space so utterly present the past tense has disappeared completely, taking the future with it.

Was the ‘Big Bang’ of all big bangs in fact caused by another big bang before that? And so on, and so on; big bangs inside other big bangs, consecutively reducing, smaller and smaller like Petrushka dolls fit inside one another until we reach ‘the nothing’? Is it that the origin of cause/effect stretches back so far, everything falls into the vacuum caused by it not being there during the time taken to find a good answer to the question? Or I could say, and it seems reasonable to me, the origin of it was/is neither existence, nor non-existence, the matrix – the quality of darkness because there is no light of sensory perception.

Here in India, to cut a very long story short, Brahman (God) is the original cause and the world we see around us is the effect. It leaves me thinking if there’s a context wherein I find myself  – yes or no. Without the cause, the effect no longer exists. Everything is real when seen with Brahman but false when seen independent of Brahman. Those of us who are unable to grasp the meaning of Brahman are living in illusion māya. It says a lot, really, about the way things are, these days of illusion, delusion and a glitzy casino owner for President…


Header image: painting by Jill Lewis

 

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]