what is ordinary

POSTCARD#303: Chiang Mai: I picked up a carton of milk in the supermarket with the label, “Plain Flavor”… looked at it disbelievingly; hmmm, if it is plain, how can it have a flavor? I was wrong of course, according to my Thai niece M (see the M posts) who is now 14. She explained to me that a Thai company makes the milk, and it is ‘plain flavor’, in Thai; รสจืด rod jeud, because there are so many flavors in Thai food, something that is ‘plain’ has its own flavor, doesn’t it? How could it not be like that?

Yes but the milk in that carton is manufactured, created in a laboratory with cow’s milk as a starting point for all kinds of elaborate subtleties in taste. So let’s agree that cow’s milk is the ‘real’ taste, okay? Extensive experimentation and proliferation spin-offs arrive at the so-called ‘plain’ flavor, a laboratory product that mirrors the real taste of milk. I see it this way because in the West (and that includes the whole of the Indian subcontinent), we are part of the Great Cow Culture; consumers of cows’ milk, we are the children of the bovine deity.

From South East Asia to the Far East, it’s a rice culture, so there’s a proliferation of rice products parallel to the milk culture – no real familiarity with milk. I heard from Japanese friends that in a confined space like an elevator, the Western body sometimes gives off a noticeable smell of sour milk. Ah well, I lived in Japan for three years and nobody said anything to me about such odors. Maybe they were being polite. I drink milk, therefore I am (an upright, standing-on-it’s-hind-legs, cow person).

Jiab says what difference does it make, the whole thing is perception anyway, and why do I have to go on and on about something as ordinary as cow’s milk. It gives me pause, as some things in Thailand do, but what does ‘ordinary’ mean? I’m deeply familiar with the taste of cows’ milk, from childhood in the North of Scotland, the place I was born. I remember warm cow’s milk from the body-heat of mama cow at breakfast time on my grandfather’s farm, there in the half light before dawn.

I remember the constant wind, the sharp clear air, and summer sun shining all day and all night (latitude: 57.4778°). I couldn’t now say it was ‘ordinary’ there, a Viking consciousness of the North, proximity to the Arctic circle where morning emerges from the glimmer of light all night, because it never gets dark in the summer time (see ‘Insomnia’ movie 2002 starring Robin Williams and Al Pacino). The school holidays, full of light, all through the summer months… an endless time.

Winter is the other way round, there’s hardly any light at all. Sharp rebound on the opposite wall of the court. Extreme is not the word, when I bade farewell to the windy, blustery North and headed South, it was hard to believe weather conditions could be so … ordinary? What is ordinary? The absence of that vital quality of what a thing essentially ‘is’. At that time, the adventure had been intense, ordinary things were extraordinary – I didn’t know of any other way to see the world. I didn’t see that the polarization was caused by this confusion of thought underneath everything, just circulating around a great chasm of uncertainty.

Never-the-less one perseveres with the needs of the journey and on to locations where the surroundings are extraordinary, and familiar in that sense. I just kept on going, driven by the need to fill the empty space inside me with something – that underlying Buddhist sense of lack (although I didn’t know that ordinary things are, somehow exceptional), and learning how to not want to fill the emptiness with everything and anything.

Then seeing the Truth of strawberry, vanilla, chocolate, and coconut flavor, as well as the Plain Flavor, along with all the others to form an endless proliferation of choices that distract the mind for no purpose other than alerting the innate creaturely hunger.

Thus hovering on the edge of awareness, I fall into the realm of samsara without end, but Awareness picks me up and I’m back in wakefulness again. Mindfulness (of awareness) exists because my attention to remembering it is activated as soon as it’s not there …

A sense of the universe, a sense of the all, the nostalgia which seizes us when confronted by nature, beauty, music – these seem to be an expectation and awareness of a Great Presence. [Pierre Teilhard de Chardin]

Thank you M for writing the Thai for rod jeud (plain flavor)

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 window opening

POSTCARD#297: Bangkok: 6pm: A coffee shop near to Banglampoo, plugged into an iTunes track, when another sound breaks through; someone calling my name – there’s a man coming towards my table. I stand up too quickly and the headache stabs me, one earbud yanked out, and the phone spins away on the other one still attached, falls off the surface and hits the table leg; crash, bash.

Reaching for phone suspended on-cord-pulled-tight, thus thrust into real time, all-around sound… a face without a name appears. Mind-rush-through-memory-files, searching for nearest match. A hand extends into my space: ‘I saw you in the window!” he says, by way of explanation. It’s Jim! Remember me? How’re ya doin’ pal? – How long has it been? I shake his hand held out for handshake, warm firm grip.

Yes, it’s Jim, same face, older, threads of hair combed carefully over a bronzed skull with brown age spots on smooth old skin held at the corners like curtain folds beneath which, enquiring eyes look out… an unfinished sentence. Recognition starts to kick in, laughter – good-looking teeth, I see a row of white back molars, and for an instant, the smile seems to go all the way round 360 degrees, so that the upper half of his head becomes separated from the lower.

This is too weird; I manage to swallow a headache pill with a swig of water. How is it possible, running into each other like this after a decade or more in old Bangkok? He tears a piece off my paper coaster and writes his phone number on the back in large emphatic numerals. Sorry but he is on his way to somewhere else right now but I have to remember and give him a call. We shake hands again and he’s gone in the crowd.

Running into someone I know from decades ago; small world, I suppose – now I’m resident here until who knows when. My coffee cup balanced unevenly on a torn coaster, and in the centre of my vision, the other part with his phone number written on it. Should I call him tomorrow? It’s been so long, so much water gone under the bridge. What to say? Tell him about my headaches? Nope, that’s a whole discussion in itself. I pay the bill; get up and out into the huge sound of evening traffic.

All kinds of changes since I’ve been away, a proper place for pedestrians to walk, these streets seem to have moved into gentrification. Either that or I’m becoming part of recent history. My old buddy Jim would remember how it used to be, streetlights with bare wires twisted together in junction boxes, broken paving stones and the infrastructure of the city poking through into ordinary reality.

There’s always been a particular care in Thai behaviour, but these days there’s a civic responsibility that wasn’t there before. Streetlights show the patina of small slippered-feet-shuffle over smooth sidewalks. The handrails on pedestrian over-bridge, polished and worn smooth with Thai palms, fingertips, sliding along – I feel I’m part of them, holding on.

Should I call old Jim? Would it be relevant to him, me saying that I just moved back to Bangkok after a great number of journeys between here and Delhi, North India? Nope, that’d only confuse things; he would assume I’d been here all this time. Why go anywhere else, he’d ask. We are refugees from the West embedded in Thai society, gratitude to the population who just move over and make space for us.

What is it then? Under what circumstances do our paths cross here in this part of town after nearly 3 decades? Maybe it’s nothing, no reason… a window opening onto karmic flows, and for a moment we can see the functions of our relationships with each other – always a ‘birth’ of some sort in the creative unfolding, and then it moves on.

I should tell him, a child was born downstairs from us, 22nd December 2017, like something biblical. The baby son of Jiab’s nephew, I held the tiny being in my arms, a haze of soft black hair. We never had a child of our own; maybe we can borrow this one for a while. Recognition of body heat, breathing, moisture of mouth, the small weight. Eyes slide open at the sound of my voice, a blue glaze of filminess. Could be an ancient artifact – the only thing that doesn’t change is change itself: anicca dukkha anatta.


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.

it seems

POSTCARD#294: New Delhi: Received this photo from a friend and at first glance it seems like a full moon in the sky. Then I can see it’s a street light seen from above and some distance away. Curious illusion, I was drawn to it for a moment; the memory of seasons of darkness revisited and inside each of us the light of the universe shines. Nostalgia for winters so long ago, the seasonal snowy days and nights don’t exist for me any more, the sun shines nearly every single day.

Something to be thankful for, some would say, to be away from the cold, but exhausting for me now, it seems, the permanent headache starts in the morning. I put up with it for as long as possible before going on the meds because they slow me down over the course of the day and by nightfall I’m like the Walking Dead. Then sleep and a few hours free of it in the early morning, before the cycle kicks in again. Otherwise comfortably at home here in our Japanese friends apartment. They went back to Japan for the holidays, taking with them their little dog named Noina – the name of a Thai fruit, Custard Apple in English (see below).

That’s what I notice particularly about this apartment lacking its usual inhabitants, the presence of a little dog who is not here.  I like the words, ‘it seems’ as if she’s here. There’s something cautionary about ‘it seems’, there’s the appearance of it but we know it’s not real – walking the tightrope of mindfulness. Anyway, I’m picking up on some of Noina’s doggie-world context here. She used to come to investigate me, very timid, looking from a safe distance with silent eyes. Listening and nose searching the air for olfactory smell-data – never barks unless someone is at the door and such a small sound comes out, only one isolated yap, voiced warning. The quietest dog I’ve ever known.

It’s the silence she’s left behind. I keep thinking she must be in one of these rooms somewhere listening, tuned into the doggie wavelength. But she’s doing all that in Tokyo now, 3630 miles away. It’s where she came from, and here’s the thing, Noina is not at all what she seems to be, there’s a remarkable story to tell.

Noina was rescued from a breeding kennel known as a “puppy mill” that raises dogs in cramped, crude, filthy conditions. She had had four litters of puppies, all sold for high prices in pet shops, and was so weak, no longer any good for breeding. Who knows what would have happened to her then. That’s not all, Noina had been attacked by a much larger dog in the cramped kennel space and the lower part of her front left leg bitten off.

Her new owner, Aya Chan, found her in the kennels as part of an investigation into cruelty to animals in these puppy mills, and decided to take her away. That was more than two years ago, and now Noina is very well looked after as this photo shows – the missing leg you can’t see, unless you know the story.

We’re here until Friday morning, then to the airport, a flight to Bangkok, and Chiang Mai. More than once, in my forgetfulness, I’ve started to look for the return flight info, but there isn’t a return flight, this is a one-way ticket. The letting-go, farewell India after a stay of six and a half years, older and wiser and sadness too; it feels a bit like leaving the family. All of it swept up in the embrace of the Christmas season, end of year clearance, closure and Jiab’s new job In Bangkok starting 2nd January 2018.

Note: this post had its beginning in an email discussion with Ellen Stockdale Wolfe and her post, the light within, on Moonside. Upper photo, one of a series, this time by Berti Buffy’s son in west Germany. Middle photo a portrait of noina in Tokyo after the flight. Lower picture shows the Custard Apple fruit, called “noina” in Thai. See the coloring inside the fruit is nearly the same as Noina’s fur, and the similarity between the seeds and Noina’s eyes.


this too

POSTCARD#293: New Delhi: Getting ready now for a change in surroundings, mindfulness is not a choice but a necessity in these preparations for the last hop, skip, jump through the window leading to another reality. First is the enthusiasm (viriya), Right Effort and an attitude of gladly engaging in wholesome activities and virtuous actions. Thus I am here, candlelight, and seated on the meditation cushion, heavens above, earth below. There is foundation in this locality, weight; gravity prevents attention from flying away. A large bathroom towel wrapped over the legs and tucked under to keep out the cold. Blanket over the shoulders and upper body and head enclosed in the darkness surrounding flame flicker of a single yellow candle.

Respect for the the noise of neighbors in rooms nearby… a muffled clatter bang crash from next door doesn’t disturb me, watching the in-breath, out-breath, and this is how it is. Familiarity of place, not looking for anything, not trying to find ‘it’, or whatever, just sitting here. Cool air on my face, framed in the small opening at the top of a warmly wrapped body – and even if at times, attention is drawn towards a small enactment of accelerated thinking, it can be asked to leave here for the time being… this too is overseen by another awareness.

The fact that there is peace in the absence of stormy times, helps of course and seeing that, the sensation of peace becomes bliss. Even so, all this is seen by all pervading non-self awareness, and with that thought I find that everything has side-stepped the sense of ‘wanting’ this and that and the next thing – ‘I’ am not creating it, got nothing to do with it, ‘seeing-awareness’ remains as it is; awareness of the awareness. Seeing the seeing, knowing the knowing. It moves on as I return to the breathing.

Again and frequently there’s the enactment of thinking arising and turning now to how I see it in the mind’s eye; the last of our things packed and the flight to Bangkok leaves in the morning of Friday 22nd December. Getting through the airport congestion is of course a way of preparing passengers for the contained experience of air travel. Rows of seats with as much personal space as there’d be in an elongated flying bus, you could say. Walking with cabin bag on wheels following behind, through a series of corridors like tubes in a telescope, one inside the other, becoming smaller and smaller, reduced to gradually squeeze us into the self-construct; the way we are and the lifetimes lived with it. Finding my seat number, the ‘me’ in the body, the voice in my mind, the narrator telling the story saying, this is how it is… we are seated, please fasten your seat belts, a small window to see blue sky out there, above the clouds.

Landing at Bangkok and another flight into the early evening of Chiang Mai in the North of Thailand. Landing, exit, placed on the ground, carrying the medicated headache as if it were a luggage item at the belt. Taxi and we’re at the apartment. Hello everyone, put on the clothes of who I am here, become the person who lives in this location. Pick up the thread, the sequence of time unfolds by itself, events occur in the forward momentum I create by facing the direction I’m in. The identity I have is here-and-now, home is where the heart is… hold that thought, Seasons Greetings and Best Wishes fellow Bloggers for 2018.

Photo by Berti Buffy: An official at the Sri Harmandir Sahib (lit. “the abode of God”), also known as Golden Temple and the Darbar Sahib, is the holiest Gurdwara and the most important pilgrimage site of Sikhism – also an open house of worship for all men and women, from all walks of life and faith.


sadness of passing things

POSTCARD#288: Chiang Mai: It’s all coming to an end here, I go back to Delhi tomorrow and today is the 5th of November… remember, remember the fifth of November. Scary things, monsters and Halloween coming to an end too, for my Thai niece M aged 13 who is not interested in it any more. Not interested in witches hats and dressing up – dressing up maybe yes, interested. Or dressing down, torn jeans and earbuds in, and deaf to the world. It’s about how one is seen, ‘selfing’ like an actor playing a part, and the audience is swept away. “Bye-bye Toong-Ting, see you in December”, and she’s in the car and gone. I go downstairs to get something, along the lane to the main road, warm air, tall buildings create shade. Sadness; remembering M as a cute kid holding my hand and skipping along beside me… these days are gone.

Sadness still, over the passing of the King, noticeable in the absence of remembrance wreathes that were there everywhere in the town (and all over the country) for a year of bereavement. The feeling that something important has been taken away; this is how it is all through Thailand these days. A sense of his presence remains in the hearts of the population, manifest in all of the thousands of rural projects he initiated over a lifetime. I feel the presence too, it’s simple, the King lives on… he was a devout Buddhist, and the way I see it now, he reached enlightenment – I thought, surely it must be that everyone else can see it this way too, but then understood such a thing was best left unsaid.

This is how the experience was for me; I’d been watching the cremation ceremony on TV until quite late, and in the morning I felt his presence all through the apartment, out on the balcony, in the sky, the clouds, reflected light in the fields of paddy and all the way, it must be, to everywhere in the country. I feel his presence in the air, assimilated in the structural elements of materiality; the buildings and all through my surroundings now walking along the lane, as I used to with M as a child, holding on to one of my fingers as if it were the branch of a tree.

Out of the shadow, into the sunlight. Same sunshine we all feel as it strikes the retina… reaching for my sunglasses. A wetness in the eye, vestiges of mourning almost gone with the experience of the passing-away of someone dear to us. A large part of the Thai has simply gone… yet things just go on. Behind me comes the sound: toot-tootle-toot! And a man on a three-wheeled bicycle gets my attention with his little horn: toot-tootle-tee-tootle-too. He’s selling pieces of cut fruit – inquires with raised eyebrow if I’d like to buy some. I fell drawn to it but politely decline, thanks no; I’m just looking around.

As silence is not silence, but a limit of hearing.
As some strings, untouched, sound when no one is speaking.
So it was when love slipped inside us.
As this life is not a gate, but the horse plunging through it.
The heart’s actions
are neither the sentence nor its reprieve.
Salt hay and thistles, above the cold granite.
One bird singing back to another because it can’t not
[Jane Hirshfield, Come, Thief]

Photo, Buddha Rupa Ayutthaya: http://13966960783_a630225cb8_b.jpg

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

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