grown-up children

POSTCARD#301: Chiang Mai: I got back to the apartment in the afternoon, slightly deaf and the feeling of being shipwrecked. It was the immediate sense of the journey that brought me here, the tuk-tuk, lady driver’s alertness and skill in what was for me a sudden urgency of speed. And those of us who don’t know the Thai tuk-tuk, it is a three-wheeled vehicle with a low canvas roof and no walls. The sound of its 2-stroke engine enhances the sensation of the whole vehicle entering into the passenger’s body/mind consciousness in a strange embrace, and it’s this, only this, that prevents you from falling out. That’s how it was for me; like gale-force winds, the whole outside, rushing through the inside, and everything on either side shielded from view because of low headroom and overhang of canvas roof. So the only place to look is over the driver’s shoulder, through her small windscreen and thus captivated by the directionality of the journey hurtling through a wormhole in space/time, and plunging towards a vanishing point that looks like it never arrives.

Definitely, it would have been easier without the large cork notice board I was clutching, fingers adhering desperately to this ‘thing’ measuring 47½ inches by 31½ inches, that wanted to be a sail in a sailing ship. Perhaps buying it in that discount place slightly out of town (and taking it back in a tuk-tuk because no car available) was a foolhardy idea, now it was tugging in the wind, and I’m seeing the very real possibility of it escaping my fingers and flying away like a kite without a string. But it didn’t, we reached the place, and tumbled out on to terra firma. The board and its sudden flatness, placed on its narrow end, up in the elevator and into the room.

Why this sail-like notice board, uncomfortably dwarfing nearby objects which shuffle out of the way to make room for it? Well, I could fix it on the wall with a hook, but right now it’s good just standing and leaning against the wall. I can move it around and pin things on it with a small box of pins I got at the discount shop. What things get pinned? Drawings that would be otherwise hidden, animated scribbles, and things developing more and more into what we can say is Art.

Let them see the light of day! Exhumed skeletons from long ago and far away, when and where I was an artist, intending to be an easel painter, studied 4 years in art school, exhibitions and all of that. Then one day my investigations led to a dead end, a place where everything was called into question, Creative Block… one’s own worst enemy. So I gave up, became an anarchist, conceptual tight-rope-walker, then stepping into the light, a teacher and the world of respectability. Anyway, the path led me to where I am now – that was decades ago and I’ve carried this sense of incompleteness all that time. So now, thanks to voices of encouragement from blogging friends, and my Thai niece M aged 14, I’m beginning to see that there is a way out of this conundrum.

Bring them out of hiding, pin them on a board: I had planned it only this morning. I have a printer so, cut, crop, say it’s finished, print and pin it on the board. Rediscovering these old plans for pictorial adventures and voyages long forgotten, pin them on the board as they are. With that, no tugs and pulls, push and shove, everything becomes neutral, non-intrusive random thought mechanisms that function at the edge of a dream pull me into the gentle whirr and flicker of thinking-about-things.

Each page of the world turns over and there’s another, and another. We’re all grown-up children, every song that’s sung, spoken in rhyme, is done in a spontaneous leap of words that, falling to the floor, arrange themselves, themselves.

See the Art page in this blog. Note: photo taken in a quiet moment at the red light


monuments to playfulness

POSTCARD#300: Bangkok: Writing this in the house we’ve had for fifteen years. It’s in the suburbs, a gated community, mature trees, landscaped, and the birds and critturs moved in, settled, as if they had always been here. “Return To Go”, we come on the weekends nowadays, this is the nearest thing to home, our point of origin. Feels like home, looks like home, although most of its history the house has been empty, except for a cleaner coming once a week and D, our nephew, acting caretaker. He got married in 2014 and I wrote a post about that. Now there’s a boy-child in the house too, born 20th December 2017, almost the Christmas story but not quite.

On a Sunday morning there’s only birdsong and beneath that silence, I’m fathoms deep in sleep. Then I hear the child crying downstairs… a reminder I’m not seeking a forever state of contentment, just content with the state of things as they are. Not easy, even though, but I am deeply glad, grateful too that I don’t have to go and tend to the child – sympathies for his parents, bleary-eyed from lack of sleep.

No reason for Jiab and I to go beyond the joy of having a baby at home, into the harder reality of it all, because we are only there at the weekends and on Monday morning, we’re back in our very small rented downtown apartment. Only 10 minutes on the Skytrain from there, to the glitzy shopping malls and huge exotic foodhalls, I go there nearly every day, buy one fresh bagel for our breakfast and a few things I can pack in my small back pack, then home again.

So I’m learning how much everything has changed in Bangkok these days, after being away for 7 years and before that, temporary residency since 2003. Astonishingly elaborate Mall architecture, monuments to playfulness, shrines to maya (Sanskrit: illusion). More and more of these in Bangkok, new spending to suit a lightweight upbeat city culture, low labour cost and lavish “investments” … construction projects are ongoing.

It becomes more and more like a world-class city as the years go by, typically Asian, company staff dressed in bright floral uniforms hand out gifts to passers-by at the Skytrain exits. Usually I decline the offer but the other day it looked like they were giving away packets of shampoo, so I accepted. Then, laughter… a second woman took them out of my hand, saying ‘No, not for you,’ and gave me what she was handing out – hmmm, I don’t know what that was about, but this must be men’s shampoo, I thought.

When I got back to the apartment, I was putting away the bagel and things from the mall, then there were the brightly coloured packets – no product name displayed… oh-oh, not shampoo! Packets of contraceptives! I didn’t need to open the packet, could easily feel the contents with my fingers. So they all got flung in the bin.

I don’t understand how the first lady could have mistakenly offered me the product used by the female gender. I’m so obviously male, head and shoulders above the women, and a bristly, untrimmed beard. It’s the kind of mistake Thais make when they are ‘sapsong’ (confused)… maybe she was new to the job?

My mistake really, the sort of thing that happens when I don’t understand the language well enough, and anyway I’ve never had to use the Thai word for contraceptive ‘toong’ – in fact it’s the same word as plastic bag (it does what it says it does). I sometimes hear giggles when I buy something and they ask me, do I need a bag for that?


not anything

POSTCARD#298: Bangkok: 3:30 am: Almost awake in the darkness of a warm insect-click, whispering night; dreamscape/ language interface and a question arises… floats in air motionless, then ascends, as light as a feather. Which way will these air currents take it? Something about the usual way I perceive my surroundings is different. The pronoun ‘I’ becomes ‘him’ over there, engaging in active thinking… looking for words to make sense of it all. Curiosity shifts, rolls over and retrieves the word ‘pain’.

By this time, the session with the Pain Clinic yesterday has returned to memory and now I’m nearly awake – so the big question is… has the headache gone or not? Focus attention again on the location of that pain, as a particular point on the headache ‘map’… is it there? Push myself up in bed, swing legs over the side, soles of feet on cool flooring. No, the pain I feel is where the needle went in, and all around that, is a totally pain-free zone. It worked!

I want to fling open the bedroom door and go running up and down the stairs, but I can’t do that because we have a 5 weeks old baby in the house… it’s a long story. Compassion for those having no understanding of the Buddha’s teaching on the Noble Truth of Suffering – Suffering? Not for me, no thanks, it sounds awful. I want to be happy. There they go hungering after that happiness, and trying to keep it all in balance, the tipping point, verging on total disaster.

Systems developed from the recognition of the kind of suffering that’s caused by resistance. Seeing myself fighting against it, as it’s appearing in present time, sometimes hating it, and holding on in some way to a temporary pain-free state, short-lived because unknowingly I’m pulled away by a yearning for something else and the round-and-round of wanting things to be different than the way they are.

I’ve learned that the best way to keep your balance in these investigations into the way things are, is to not want anything, and not seek anything, because there’s ‘not anything’ there – not ‘nothing’, not ‘anything. If I can see it like that, the holding-on thing is not getting in the way. What I’m left with is a contemplation of the question rather than looking for the nearest-match answer. We can’t know what it is in the conditioned realm; beyond the point of no return, and there are no words for it. In the end maybe, all that remains is the word ‘it’ – there’s a metallic click-sound to it as that too is cut off, extinguished, the cessation of the conditioned world. This is as far as it goes in Theravada Buddhism – other Eastern teachings may have more to say about ‘it’.

‘The real is not something, it’s not anything. It’s not a phenomenon. You can’t think about it, you can’t create an image of it. So we say unconditioned, unborn, uncreated, unformed. Anatta (not-self), nirodha (cessation), nibbana (liberation). If you try to think about these words you don’t get anywhere. Your mind stops, it’s like nothing. … if we’re expecting something from the meditation practice, some kind of Enlightenment, bright lights and world-trembling experiences, then we’re disappointed because expecting is another kind of desire, isn’t it?’ [The End of the World is Here, Ajahn Sumedho]


a trumped up story

POSTCARD#296: Bangkok: Passivity is killing the endgame (thanks Kismet) this is it exactly. Watching CNN reporting on POTUS’s latest scandalous remarks ignites a fire within and I can’t seem to break free of how ‘bad’ that is; thinking for a moment there’s safety in apathy: Ah well, here we go again. Sticking with it, falling for the overwhelm, rolling thunderous clouds of imponderable thinking. Thus the history of my own rumble and tumble… starting up all that again? A flash of  justified outrage illuminates the room – fans the flames. This is a bizarre form of entertainment, we’ve seen the Punch & Judy show before of course, we know how to sidestep the action/reaction.

And suddenly we’re among the crowds in a market place, 17th Century England. Hungry for performance, anything’ll do, follow the noise: it’s over there, over there! Outrageous, disgraceful behaviour gets everyone’s attention… the trick is to have them all hate you, and in the push-and-shove, jeer, boo, a sleight-of-hand in that unseen instant, and suddenly things appear to be other than what they are. Derisive laughter at disbelievers, Mr. Punch in the spotlight, brazenly facing the uproar and law and order doesn’t seem to have the wherewithal. Then, as all this is taking place, the same kind of concealed actions change the scenery, Kuroko on stage, switch it all around and bit by bit, we start to get hooked on the drama, as we do in a Netflix series binge-out.

The world becomes a big hungry, greedy, grabber of things – a devourer, a multi-mouthed feeder of objects presented by way of the five (six) senses – isn’t that what they’re there for? But seeing the need to tread carefully here, I let go of all things hateful, burning hot thoughts scald the tongue, lip, and fingertip. For everyone else, let go and run for your life. I’m looking for the way to stay alert, camouflaged from fearful imagery, allowing only sleep to find me.

The glow of the city at night turns the sky orange, up here on the 7th floor of my hotel, looking out the window and down there at the trucks reversing back up the hill, round the corner at the top. It takes a moment to see it’s because they missed the sign that says the road’s closed… here comes another one. There’s something about this noise of high accelerated reverse gear… a nightmarish absurdity. Yet fascinating how the drivers are able to do this at speed. Well, everything is as it should be, the seemingly obvious really has no other meaning. It’s all a trumped up story… yes, but beware, thievery abounds – mindfulness is a necessity.

“Having lived through the transition from totalitarianism, I am acutely mindful of the need to never take for granted the basic freedoms of thought, expression and belief that democracy brings.” [Daisaku Ikeda]

Image above linked to the story of the Buddha,  reinterpreted by 12th Century Christianity, having arrived there by way of Hebrew, Persian and Arabic legends.

in the end there is no ending

POSTCARD#292: New Delhi: Packing has started here, the rental agreement comes to an end 18th December, and we stay with our Japanese friends until 22nd December, then it’s goodbye everyone, we’re on a flight to Chiang Mai via Bangkok. Gone from India with all our possessions, after nearly seven years here. Gone too from this sweet little apartment – I want to have something to remember it by… steal some cutlery or a bath towel? Can’t do that, relinquishment… accept that that part of my mind where it once was, is now claimed by new tenants who walk around these rooms, saying; well, this is nice, thinking for a moment, who lived here before we came? Territorial self kicks in and it’s gone, bearing a new identity.

Gone is gone, but the PHN headache is with me again… a buzzing old fluorescent tube light that needs to be fixed but never gotten around to doing. Under the influence of powerful pain meds then, you could say, I’m writing to my future self about living here, in order to open a window on this thin slice of time, and revisit these rooms, the conversations and all that was said here, received, held, seen, nurtured… noticing the tendency for a particular memory to be displaced by the next moment of remembering… and on and on until sadly, the whole thing dissolves leaving no remainder.

But that hasn’t happened yet, events are still unfolding. On 26th December I go to the Pain Clinic in Bangkok to see the headache doc about a date for the next electrical pulsed needle into the right occipital nerve in the scalp. Until then, a malaise of discontent rules; flashes and flares in spurts and sparks nearly all through the day and waiting for me to wake up in the morning for the start of another day of jostling push and shove, tug and pull. Not writing much, only the wild lightning flickering of illegible words scribbled in notebooks, keyed in just before the crash and burn, and assimilated into the whole as it forms.

The present moment seems as if it is forever waiting in the transit lounge on the brink of becoming future time while engaged in contemplative pondering over the past. The present moment is always underway, and even if it feels like I have to hold it, tether it and adhere to it in single-mindedness, there’s no need because the present moment is inclusive of all of that too. I’m the one falling into and out of hypothetical mind states, spinning across the ceiling in speculative conjectures; a runaway from frightful things unforeseen – disaster movie showing it crashing through the restraints of planning; too much for the flimsy structure built to keep it in place… and I’m suddenly back in the present moment again.

We’re always only part the way through anything, anyhow and anyway at any time; here, there, or anywhere it’s always somehow incomplete, never reaching the end, letters I’ve written, never meaning to send – how could we reach that final completion and know what happens after that? Nobody ever came back from What Happens After That to say what it was like. All we can say is that the world, as we know it will come to an end eventually, collapsing like a dead star, matter reduced to an atom and gone in a flicker, a spark, pftt…

Or maybe it’ll be slower; bits start to fall off, clink, clatter, crash – you hardly notice it, and there’ll come a day when the Final Ending and all who sail in her begins to fall in on itself, as do great empires that have spanned the centuries, like castles made of sand, tumble to the sea eventually… but surprise-surprise, in another kind of temporality, the Final Ending rises with the waves on to the surface again and we can continue where we left off. It makes good sense to say that everything is subject to change, anicca and in the end there is no ending.

“We are like the dreamer who dreams and then lives in the dream. 
This is true for the entire universe.” [Aitareya Upanishad (Inland Empire)]

Picture shows sun setting on the lotus temple, Delhi, a Bahá’í House of Worship

sad sausage dog story

POSTCARD#285: Bangkok: Taxi to the airport for the flight to the island … did I remember everything? Packed and unpacked so many times, pause for a moment and I can’t remember if this was a pack or an unpack – ah well… I know it’s a continuance of the journey from Delhi because so much of the space inside the bag is taken up with clothes not yet unpacked. We had one night in Bangkok and now we’re headed for Samui, a small island in the Gulf of Siam.

Layers of folded, flat-pack clothing, still chilled from the 4 hour journey over from Delhi, ready to leap out and take human form, when we get to the island. Bag contents include another layer on top of folded clothes; the cables, adapters and sockets we need to recharge our batteries; “Oh no, my battery is running out!” Jiab says, collapses into her seat with a sigh, as if exhausted. No power source until we get to the hotel. And the remains of my bag capacity is filled up with the soft pillow I carry with me everywhere, fluffy and light, full of air, and placed on top of the cables, so that, when the bag is zipped shut, it holds everything in place.

But, is there something I still have to do? Still there’s the lingering doubt… I’ve had to double check on actions ever since the last stay in the Delhi hospital – large bruises all over the back of my left hand and right forearm, where the nurse unsuccessfully probed for a vein – they’re hopelessly small, but she got it in the end. It was just a flu virus, thankfully not dengue fever or anything more nasty. Three days in there, and TV watching – television must be a very good analogy for something I could write about, but do I want to do that? No. Discharged after 2 nights, and next day, into the aircraft. Now we’re in Thailand, on the way to get the one-hour flight to Samui.

I’m so forgetful these days; can’t remember how to do things that used to be automatic. Simple actions like going upstairs, now I have to consciously create the necessary coordination, otherwise I’d trip on the steps. Going down is the same… hesitation; it seems like such a miracle that I get to the bottom safely. The necessity of mindfulness in everything I do from here on.

I’ve experienced a few forgetful and confusing things lately, forgetting ordinary words, and the honesty of those freeze-frame blank moments. Particularly the sad sausage dog story, that inspired this post. We had to give up our rented house and stayed with our Japanese friends for a while, in a small 3-bedroom ground floor apartment. Long corridors extending out from a central living room, and a bedroom at the end of each corridor. Very good for privacy, but confusing for the cute little Dachshund (sausage dog) our friends were looking after while the owner was away.

I’d be lying in bed and hear the click, click, click, of toenails coming along towards where we were. Then the poor creature would arrive at our open bedroom door, look around as if to say, “Is this where I’m supposed to be?” Pause for a moment, then turn around to go back. That was when I witnessed, for the first time, a Dachshund dog perform a 3-point turn to face back the way she came. The front legs seemed to have all the action worked out; the rear legs just sort of stumbled on things lying in the way, and followed the action of the front two. The pink doggie diapers it was wearing at the end of the long body accentuated the action. Then it would go off again, click, click, click, and pink diapers with tail sticking through would disappear in the long straight corridor. After 10 minutes  we’d hear it again approaching our room. Hesitate in the doorway: Hmmm. here again?

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” [Melody Beatty]

Photo: Jiab in the front seat of the taxi

background brought forward

POSTCARD#284: Delhi: Jiab was coughing and coughing, day and night. She went to the doctor, got medicine. After a couple of days, I started coughing too. Appointment for the doctor; we went together, doc looks down my throat, holding my tongue in place, and shining a spot of light to see what the problem could be; say ahh please. “Ahhh”. Okay, it’s a virus (Flu), but we don’t know what kind of virus it is. She asks me for my age and says she’d like me to come into the hospital for a few hours for more tests and observation. Wow! I wasn’t expecting this, a nurse appears and I’m whisked away, abducted by aliens … a few hours turned into two nights and three days trapped in a hospital room with a TV, restricted diet, throat feels like I’d swallowed a mouthful of broken glass. Headache too, but not the same as the PHN headache. Nothing better to do than figure out how the TV remote works.

Things moving so fast it’s all getting to be history too soon. Earthquakes in Mexico, hurricanes in the Caribbean, and pending volcanic explosion in Bali. The impact on people’s lives; the tragedy of how the hurricanes entered people’s personal space, and swept away everything. Dismayed, the 100 yard stare, where’s my home? Chunks of the environment gone missing, stuff we just take for granted, pieces of it like parts of a huge jigsaw puzzle, disappeared, lost. Reality can be this too. The mind must be fundamentally changed, after an experience like that.

At all hours of the day and night, thus held by TV, fixed high up on the wall. This is CNN bringing you Breaking News, volume fills the room: the President threatening us with his inept diplomacy, possibly bringing on a nuclear war. Hoping for the best, we are hovering on the edge of imminent disaster. He returns to his home base frequently to appear with his fans, in a created reality, televised in networks and shown all around the world; that jolt of paid-for breathless waves of applause. And does it matter if it’s not genuine spontaneous applause? Seems not, the appearance of things is good enough.

Am I going mad? It could easily be a scene from a Marvel Comix, or Manga comics’ series. Or gaming – something to do with the performance, the act – too much for me, in the end I shall just disappear in Thailand somewhere. Not here yet, but it’s getting there. Halfway through the second day of lying on a bed too small for me, sniffling and sneezing and I really want to get away from this TV. The cough is throaty, like the bark of a dog, and it feels like I’ve gone through a lifetime of watching TV, trapped in the illusion; seek, find – instant gratification, claim your prize, reward, congratulations. Have your cake and eat it too. But there’s no real satisfaction, TV stimulates a hunger that only leads to a sharper edge to appetite.

When I was discharged and away from that TV room, it felt like every bone in my body was bruised and painful. Vision blurry in the totality of natural light. Quite emotional, so much happening at the same time, things jumping in to get my attention. This is normality I guess. It’s hard to keep track of which is what, who said that, and how things came to be like this. The minimalism of events occurring in a few seconds, as fleeting as a moment in time, the arising and falling away of it, the unfolding of circumstances divided and subdivided in a multitude of miniature events…

“Don’t clap too loudly—it’s a very old world.”
[Tom Stoppard, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead]

attachment becomes generosity

POSTCARD#284: Delhi: Packing household objects for the move is simple enough, there are two categories: a) things to Give Away, b) things to Keep. There is, also, c) things I have to give away, but want to keep. Still some reluctance there, gazing fondly at these possessions, do I really need this? In the end it all gets caught up in the momentum of leaving. I begin to see how it belongs in the ‘Give Away’ group, except there’s this tenacity of attachment; fingertips adhere to surfaces of the object – it would have to be pulled from my grasp.

The urgency of having to pack up and leave, sweeps the attachment into another place where it becomes generosity. Much-loved objects become gifts, rather than possessions. Generosity is letting-go, and the Buddha’s teaching on self/no self reveals the suffering inherent in the human condition caused by holding on, when we should be letting go. Compassion for those of us caught in the suffering of possession and ownership; the system creates the predicament – across the board consumerism stimulates a hunger that doesn’t lead to satisfaction but to a sharper edge to appetite.

A change in acoustics, the rooms are emptying fast, the sound of a single handclap creates an echo: “clap!” Household objects are disappearing at the same rate as large sealed boxes are appearing – rooms starting to vanish, space enters through the windows, floor gives way, and for a moment, everything turns inside out. Then seeing it the way it was before this, is impossible… memory gives way and it’s gone.

Parts of the interior are deleted; a blank space appears where something large used to be – the place where a thought used to be but it got forgotten; what was I thinking about there? Can’t remember. More of these blank spaces, objects wrapped in bubble wrap lose their identity. Everything packed away in boxes, cubed, diced up on the chopping board. I can’t remember what it was before this… there’s a world of things, and then there’s not.

This is a difficult time, earthquakes, hurricanes, and natural disasters of the Trump kind. The world is watching, not sure, uncertain. The urgency of thought seeks the safest place to be, the midway point and holding the balance; a place of equanimity in the midst of uncertainty, find a calm abiding there and cultivate the disposition to be free of bonds of ownership – attachment becomes generosity, relinquishment, letting go, metta and loving kindness.

In Asian languages, the word for ‘mind’ and the word for ‘heart’ are the same. So if you’re not hearing mindfulness in some deep way as heartfulness, you’re not really understanding it. Compassion and kindness towards oneself are intrinsically woven into it. You could think of mindfulness as wise and affectionate attention. [Jon Kabat-Zinn]

Contains excerpts from an earlier post

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!