hidden in plain sight

img_0006bPOSTCARD #234: New Delhi: Traffic comes to a standstill, fierce displays of male feathers in ritual acts of outrage, shouts and gestures through wound-down windows. Eyes sparkling with diamonds of malice… but even this settles down. Things aren’t ‘held’, the silence of no-thought is possible. At least for me in the back seat of the car, disengaged, conscious only of sensory awareness in a body/mind world. It’s not meditation; I just have to remember to not be caught in thought stuck in the traffic jam of Mind.

Particularly these days of push and shove, and the fierce, blunt Donald Trump intrudes with his collection of body-slam syllables that make up a name which rhymes with: bump, lump, rump, thump, sump. The strategy of devil’s-advocate one-liner tweets, “better to reign in hell than serve in heaven”, make it necessary to wake up and feel the urgency of mindfulness – this politician has extended reach. Be aware of puzzle-headedness. Stay poised, balanced and alert.

Otherwise, in forgetfulness, I may go back to stir the ashes of defeat; return to that place of locked-in conditioning, reading pedagogy of the oppressed, the myth of freedom and other demons itch like a skin irritation you have to scratch. Isn’t it remarkable that outrageous remarks, in-your-face disregard and proud indifference wins the Presidential race… what does this tell you? Pre…tty scary. I need to remove myself from here, forget I ever knew such a thing was possible. Turning a blind eye? No, it’s not that. What I’m scared of is the unspoken denial, “I see no ships”, (Horatio Nelson turns a blind eye at the Battle of Copenhagen). People know they’re expected to turn a blind eye – not turning a blind eye is to be labeled conspiracy theorist. I try to stay free of what all this means, meditation is about the skill of staying with the feeling of all the tugs and pulls of it demanding attention, but undisturbed and steady – just letting the mind unstick itself.

In the East the world is an illusion; a discussion point that goes back at least three thousand years. There’s only the quality of experience, nothing else. Gone is the ground beneath our feet, there never was anything there in the first place. The opposite of how it is in the West where we are embedded in the illusion, overlay upon overlay, believing it’s real and uneasy, of course, about the intuitive feeling that it’s not. As a rule, politicians speak with forked tongue; doctors say there’s something wrong with you, take this medicine. There’s no one else to turn to, so we’re feeding the craving of the mind with consumables to quell the fear… but it’s never enough.

Thus we arrive at the core of the illusion itself: “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.” (Adolf Hitler, große Lüge). A sleight of hand (this must be when I pretend to not see it), and before your very eyes, ladies and gentlemen, the Truth is hidden in plain sight… now you see it, now you don’t – those not turning a blind eye fall into a yawning chasm wherein everything is sucked away not held on to with tenacity of grip, as with all things inexorably lost, Amen Or, a better idea, you can disappear off the grid and become a Buddhist.

The traffic is moving now, engines starting up, and we are on our way. I console myself with the thought that there’s a possibility DJT will root out the bad guys hidden in the woodwork for decades, albeit for the wrong reasons, he and his cronies will just take their place, but somewhere in there we will stumble upon a revelation and things take a turn for the better…


 

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]

knowing knows knowing

IMG_2910bPOSTCARD #205: DELHI: … like suddenly waking from a dream, an unfinished story and something just happened – so fast that everything is out of sync, skips a beat. It’s because I’ve been unknowingly holding this pain in my head that’s now breaking through and the holding is not as important as the getting away from it… this is not happening to me! With that recognition, suddenly there’s no ‘me’ to whom this pain is happening just the velocity of it, like a wind storm and I’m lying flat in the grass as it passes over.

Some time after that, having taken my meds and the pain is now walled off in a corner of the head, I’m sitting in a straight-backed chair, just to see how that feels. Breath enters the body like a wind gusting in, withdraws, comes back, blows through everything then it’s not there again. Focus shifts to a great emptiness opening up – opening and opening… I might easily believe this will never end, but moving along with it to see what the next thing is. The purpose of my life is the on-going experiential response to the impact of sensory contact – what else could it be about? Skin, muscle, flesh, and these mysterious organs held by ligaments bonded into a skeletal structure. It’s as if there’s an electrical charge in there, sparks flying out. I am the context for the outer content. The whole investigation is one that is open to following where the knowing of it leads, see where it’s going, how it reacts. Conscious awareness of how the mind is able to concentrate and to what extent – passageways of insight open in an instant and a great flood of things to think about pours in.

Thought sequences and memories become apparent when they reach the point of “being”… before that they’re in the uncreated state – arbitrary, disassociated. Things don’t exist at all, until I observe them. There’s the Observer Effect in quantum physics, the experiment showing that when one is observing the movement of electrons it changes their behavior. In Buddhist thought, the ‘observer’ is not the ‘self’ but the self-construct arising from responses to sensory input via the Five Khandas. Received data is formed according to the mechanisms of the human sensory process – including cognition, which is a sense like all the others, and the great dome of sky above. Mindfulness is a returning to that place where I see how things change through my engagement with them…

‘All we know of a thought is the experience of thinking, all we know of a sensation is the experience of sensing, all we know of a sight is the experiencing of seeing, all we know of a sound is the experience of hearing…. And all that is known of thinking, sensing, seeing, hearing, touching, tasting and smelling is the knowing of them. And what is it that knows this knowing? Only something that itself has the capacity to know could know anything. So it is knowing that knows knowing.’ [Rupert Spira]

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Note: excerpts from an earlier post titled: ‘it’. Photo: Buddha rupa on the my working desk and the view of the garden

voice-over

IMG_3377POSTCARD #198: THAILAND: Arrived in Bangkok, then a small propeller plane to Hua Hin, 41 mins flight, ninety miles down the coast. Unaware of the Brussels bombings we walked on the beach, no people anywhere, where’d everybody go? Came upstairs to our room on 6th floor, switch on TV and there it was; the Brussels Bombings filling our hotel room from nearly ten thousand miles away. We were stunned by the coverage; BREAKING NEWS, coming to you live from CNN Center in Atlanta. CNN reaches the whole of the US, and as far West as Pacific Islands and Japan. Then the other way from Atlanta, all countries in South America broadcast in Spanish and Portuguese, East through Europe in all languages including Arabic and the whole continent of Africa. On through Asia to Australia who are so far down-under, the rest of the world is up-over to them. CNN facilitates this news and within minutes, the bombs in Brussels are exploding all over the world.

FullSizeRender (5)We wake up the next day and it’s the same thing, the assumption is that many people in the world haven’t heard the news yet. At breakfast there are developments that seemingly, we need to hear about, also in-depth analyses of what happened and why, with experts discussing it – showing the same footage with voice-over and the production beginning to take a particular form. But we can’t pay much attention to it, busy with getting ready for our walk along the beach. Understandable really, I think, being the only white guy here. Brown people over here and everywhere with black hair and dark eyes, who are not Americans but the majority of the world’s population, puzzled and a bit embarrassed by the CNN presentation. Inclined to ask what caused the extremists to do such a thing? Sorry but that’s the wrong question… CNN is broadcasting its opinion in all countries of the world, stepping into everyone’s lives and figuratively speaking blasting everyone with the aftermath of the bombings using the dismay, distress, and consternation as a vehicle to convey the consensus point of view.

My niece M who is 12, asks me ‘Why?” I have to provide a satisfactory answer, but the same ‘why?’ follows me and my explanation. Then the extended form: ‘but why?’ all the way through my reasoning as we get into the elevator and she stops asking only when we reach the bottom, running out and down to the sea. Our early morning walk along the sand, and again we are the only people there, leaving a trail of footprints and the only others are those of the birds, M running ahead stopping to take close-up photos with my phone and her ‘why?’ more concerned with why do the footprints look as if they’re embossed on the surface, relief sculptures, rather than hollowed in the sand, strange – once you see it that way it’s difficult to see it the other way.

M footprintsBack up to the hotel room and the show must go on. Intense music, bright red colors and talking heads appear. They seem to ask and answer questions but the dialogue has been scripted. Frightening scenes of devastation from an on-the-spot location in the danger zone while we are in a safe place at home, made to feel like voyeurs at the battle scene: ‘This is coming to you live’ yes but it’s an act, rehearsed, decided on by an editorial team  who take advice from those obscure unseen advisors making decisions, about how the facts should be portrayed.

The dialogue looks spontaneous, and informative (I’d like to be a fly on the wall of these studios and see how much of an act this really is), welcoming the invisible third party, that’s us, the part we play as passive listeners mesmerised by the act, struggling in a bewilderment of feelings, holding on to this induced attachment to TV that we’re kinda comfortable with anyway and only later realise that by passively acknowledging this version of events, we are committed to seeing it that way.

CNN is now established ‘in the danger zone’, with easy-to-understand explanations and we allow the hypnosis to deepen by passive acceptance of it entering our living rooms – George Orwell’s 1984 propaganda TV reassures the population it’s all being taken care of by those who know what to do, although the threat of it continues. We know there’s something happening, it’s as if it were orchestrated, quite obvious really, but somehow hidden. Curious why we allow it to be there, but we feel we’re already committed to the CNN point of view, and that rewarding, induced, comforting mind-state takes over as we fall into our places in front of TV.

IMG_2852The next day I go into Google and find it has a Wikipedia entry already. Still there’s the question: why are these Islamic extremists targeting us? Could it be that it’s the result of something we did to them? Sorry but there’s something wrong with that question. History is made by those who won the war.

I’d like to explain to M how this illusion is constructed but cannot. So I’ll just have to hope she’s has a good enough grasp of English soon so she can read this post sometime and understand it after I’m not around any more.

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Photos:  view from our hotel room at the top and the others are footprints made by a bird and M’s footprints as she studied the image on the screen that made it appear to be embossed on the surface.

no ‘out there’ out there

Best Travel And Vacation In China - Giant Buddha - Statue RenovationOLD NOTEBOOKS: When I came to the East in 1989, it took me a very long time to get used to the idea that the way Eastern people think is indirect, rather than direct. It seemed back-to-front; rather than saying ‘the Truth is this’, it’s expressed in the negative form: the Truth is not that. The Truth and the way leading to it are shown by discussing what they are not, rather than what they are [apophatic theology]. If I hadn’t had that early experience of the indirect way, like most people, I would have found it difficult to think of it in these terms – I don’t really like things that are negative, I prefer a belief based on affirmative statements: the act of creation and heaven. So I’m unwilling to accept the truth that the ‘heaven’ I’ve been taught to believe in is, of course, indescribable – absolutely beyond words, language doesn’t go that far, ineffable, therefore anything written or spoken about ‘my’ heaven is not real, it’s imagined.

Yet, even knowing this, I might still hold on to the way I’ve been taught. We come from a lineage of ‘believers’, if you can’t believe in it, you believe you believe in it and everything’s sort of ok. You believe in ’self’ and the ‘self’ of others. The separation of subject and object; in your own mind, there appears the self (the subject) as an observer and the other (the object) as thoughts and emotions. ‘God’ is out ‘there’ (object) and I am in ‘here’ (subject) – not for a moment thinking God could be in ‘here’ too and, of course that’s all-inclusive, so that there is no ‘out there’ out there. It’s all in here – it’s all ‘me’, the whole story.

I can’t even say it’s a ‘oneness’ because that suggests it’s an object out there somewhere. So I call it non-dualism rather than ‘oneness’ and that seems to place it somehow, but it’s not necessary to call it anything. Recently I’ve had to include the experience of pain in my life. Severe headaches. It’s not the first time, about 20 years ago I had colonic cancer and was rushed to a Bangkok hospital where they opened me up and removed a section of intestine, sewed me back up, having sewn up the exit too and attached a plastic bag to the outside of the abdomen over a hole about 1 inch in diameter, held open by a plastic sphincter. Excreta went in the bag and I had to learn how to change it every day. Three months later I went back to hospital and they undid the stitching of the normal exit, removed the plastic bag and sphincter, stitched that up and I was done.

During that time I had extreme bouts of pain in the centre of my body (the centre of my whole being) and didn’t fully understand that the way I was dealing with the pain was by taking it ‘in’ rather than rejecting it – there really was no choice other than to ‘step into’ the pain completely – everything turning inside out quite easily. And now twenty years later I contracted PHN in the nerves on the right side of the head and neck so there are these times of terrible pain in the head, I’ve had to ‘become’, to ‘allow’, to ‘be’ in the same way, rather than reject or try to push it ‘outside’. The outside is the inside, same as it was then. Of course I’m not in pain all the time because I have medication to deal with it now. I’m just considering the whole situation, going through these old notebooks trying to include and integrate everything, having this new understanding of how the whole thing works, and seeing it bit by bit.

“This life of yours which you are living is not merely a piece of this entire existence, but in a certain sense the whole; only this whole is not so constituted that it can be surveyed in one single glance. This, as we know, is what the Brahmins [wise men or priests in the Vedic tradition] express in that sacred, mystic formula which is yet really so simple and so clear; tat tvam asi, this is you. Or, again, in such words as “I am in the east and the west, I am above and below, I am this entire world.” [Erwin Schrödinger]

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Source for the header photo
For the Schrödinger quote see more at: http://scienceandnonduality.com/did-the-vedic-philosophy-influenced-the-concept-of-free-energy-and-quantum-mechanics/#sthash.9XY3ux7z.dpuf Note about the title of this post: Many thanks again to hipmonkey for his wonderful observation: ‘there’s no ‘out there’ out there.
This post was written after reading an article by David Loy to whom I’m very grateful but seem to have mislaid the reference at the present time.
G   R   A   T   I   T   U   D   E   ❤

snatch, fly, eat

sparrowPOSTCARD #184: Geneva, Switzerland, August 28, 2012: The number 9 bus drops me near a shopping mall coffee shop. Order something and open my book: ‘Satisfaction is a moment of relief from the pressure of wanting.’  That instant relief from the pressure of wanting comes with a thirst for more.

Just then, a little bird appears at the table; hops over, quite close to me, where there are crumbs scattered, looks at me with a flick of the head, picks up a crumb and flies away, whrrrt. Mall sparrows are incredible; evolved as these urban forms in an artificial environment that doesn’t really look like what it’s trying to be; high ceilings, glass roof, obviously ‘real’ foliage descending from stylized pillars made from polystyrene, surfaced with a resin that makes it look like marble – a hybrid reality form, an act, stage-set for a performance.

I go on reading and the bird comes back, picks up another big crumb and flies off, whrrrt. I can see it going up to the top of a pillar and now perched on the plastic leaves, then disappears in the foliage. Hmmm… a nest constructed from woven drinking straws, paper serviettes, fragments of cash till receipts, hidden in the simulated foliage up there? Generations of sparrows and other creatures have lived inside these places for years, long since lost the inclination to find the way out. The birds wouldn’t survive out there, they’ve adapted to conditions in here; proximity to table crumbs…

The small sparrow comes back to my table, takes another crumb, flies off again, whrrrt. The speed of the action… snatch, fly, eat. Feed the offspring and that’s how it evolved here. The dukkha of endless searching is not an issue for this bold little bird. It has everything it needs. I wait to see if it comes again, there are still crumbs, more than enough. But I don’t see it again, time for me to go. Across the road and the tram I need is arriving at the stop, traffic lights change just at the right time, I cross over and jump on. Light and easy, moving from one thing to the next. Not driven by wanting things to be how I’d like them to be and never quite getting enough. It’s got to do with the way you see it; the tram speeds up and glides along on smooth rails.

‘When desire does not shape the mind and limit it to thought, consciousness becomes translucent. Entering into the spaciousness of the original mind, we become the vastness itself. Inseparable from all else, at one with all that is.’ [Stephen and Ondrea Levine, ‘Who Dies’, chapter 4: ‘The Thirsty Mind’]
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Reblogged, edited post, original title ‘bird in the mall’

not giving god a name

IMG_3405The Buddha taught us that there is positive thinking and there is negative thinking. The most important thing is to stay above thinking.” [Phra Ajahn Jayasaro]
(Thai text translation)
POSTCARD #160: New Delhi: I feel sad that most children in the West don’t receive the same structured guidance or instruction, as they do in the East, about experiential truths in the lineage of Zoroaster, Moses, Buddha, Krishna, Jesus, Muhammad – some of whom are called Gods and some prophets. I remember, years ago, asking an old Anglican priest in East London how to find God and he said: ‘are you going?’ Just left it at that. What he meant was: are you going to church? I wasn’t. When I was a kid we didn’t ‘go’, nobody ever ‘went’… there were weddings, funerals, and ‘God’ was never a topic of discussion. I’d had some spiritual insight in this godless condition and was asking the question because I couldn’t understand what the loud hymn singing and dressed-up-in-smart-clothes thing was about; what lay beyond the ‘thou-shalt-nots’ and instruction on the fundamentals of social behaviour. Later I began to see that what the priest meant was, ‘are you actively doing something about this?’ But where to begin? I felt slightly excluded and defensive; ‘going’, was something known only to those who ‘go’… an enigma I didn’t feel equipped to tackle. It didn’t compel me to go back and follow up the conversation with the old priest, and it’s possible he was waiting for me to come back… I feel quite sad that I never saw him again.

I was searching for a context for this state of Godlessness for a long time before I discovered Buddhism in Thailand and became immersed in those detailed behavioural teachings. That was more than 20 years ago, so all this is seen in hindsight. What I understood then, was what the old priest was referring to as ‘going’. The focus is on the immediacy of the here-and-now reality – what’s happening? Where’s it at, this mind/body organism, in relation to ‘the present moment’? What are the tendencies, habitualities in thought that cause me to wander off in my own and others’ suffering and unhappiness? What are the practicalities of the sequence? How can I train myself to break the chain of consequences – to not do whatever it is that causes stress or distress?

There isn’t a creator god in Buddhism, it’s an all-inclusive thing – in the same way there isn’t a ‘self’ outside of consciousness. There’s the operating system, Sila (virtue) Samadhi (focus) Panya (wisdom) and some might say this is God – for Buddhists, it’s better not to call it anything. By not giving god a name, I’m not inclined to develop an attachment to an idea of God according to what I’d like it to be. Better to think of it as nothingness – no-thingness, there’s not any ‘thingness’ about it… I’ve read how it’s a wisdom, a gnosis so completely at one with the thing it knows, there’s an absorption into it. No words for it. Maybe that’s what the old priest was thinking…

Since you cannot do good to all, you are to pay special attention to those who, by the accidents of time, or place, or circumstances, are brought into closer connection with you. [Saint Augustine]
Link to: Publications by Ajahn Jayasaro

deities in the hall of mirrors

article-2378854-1B00FA8A000005DC-995_634x1281POSTCARD #156: Chiang Mai: I arrive in the hospital waiting area with the pain, this intrusive stabbing pain in the head and neck, postherpetic neuralgia, a permanent headache; sounds worse than it is – could be I’m getting used to it. There’s a flat screen TV and a coffee place, maybe I should order something? I have the iPhone to fiddle with, get busy with that… not interesting. Okay so try thinking about something else, but at this particular moment, there’s nothing else to think about – only the pain all around the right side of my head and neck. Think of something… thought itself is a free app I have the option to download on the mind/body device (namarupa) but even though I don’t have to download it, some of it seems to be here already, appears involuntarily. I hear the thoughts, the ‘voice’ inside the machine shouting out: Hey! the pain is happening to ‘me!’ It’s not happening to you, or them, or him, or her, it’s happening to me! The pain is ‘mine’, I am ‘possessed’ by it. Everything I love and hate, everything I love to hate – it belongs to ‘me’… it’s ‘my’ enemy!

With the pain swirling like a dense, dark cloud around my head and neck, I step carefully over to the TV that nobody is watching. There’s a remote, so I can flip through the channels and see where that gets me. Bend down to get the remote and the storm of pain happening to ‘me’ is there again, overwhelms everything, too much, for a moment I give way to it… and it’s then I notice there’s a space of somehow being detached from the pain, it’s something that’s not felt anymore, enough of an easing back from it to see the pain is an appearance, like everything else.

Sit down in front of the TV. Focus on the remote, press the buttons… so many channels. Some channels I recognise, then up into higher and higher numbers; places I’ve never been in before. Almost all of the channels are hazy or white-noise then I break through into a place that’s loud, clear and colourful. A Korean game-show, dubbed in Thai. It’s as if the storm of pain is all around but outside of this curious place – I’m safe in here. The scene unfolds, all the characters are lipsticked and painted with cosmetics like grotesque clowns, with amazing hair and impossible teeth, an embodiment of consciousness deeply obscured in layers of ‘self’. Man created God in his own image; a mirror reflection of the ego.

It’s a serious competition about trivialities; guests make appearances, have to tell anecdotes related to the question to gain points. They gaze at each other and see themselves as their own reflections; deities in the hall of mirrors – adults dressed to look like ‘cute’, children (kawaii), a real live dream-world; and the winning of the prize! Lights, colours music, the reward, congratulations, created laughter, spontaneous and heartening applause…

Just then, the nurse calls my name, I have to go and see the doctor. I get up from the chair slowly and take my pain away from the transparency of this kind of joyful TV state that’s doing its best to cultivate a desire for everything that is pleasing and a loathing dislike of everything that’s displeasing, perhaps unintentionally encouraging the hating of it, the not-wanting-it-to-be-there inverted craving, that contributes to the intensity of driving the economic machine… a kind of mental captivity; never seeing that the business of the actor is in the nature of appearances. The art of the illusionist, the politician…

Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened, but go on in fortune or misfortune at their own private pace, like a clock during a thunderstorm. [Robert Louis Stevenson]

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Photo showing a product that creates a lower eyelid bulge. Source

awesome selfie stick

IMG_2296POSTCARD 150: Delhi: To start with, it felt like a small insect bite. The painful part was just out of my vision on the back of my shoulder – impossible to see it in the mirror, so I ask Jiab to come and take a look. She studies the mark on my shoulder and says, “it’s a…” (pause), silence for a moment – looking at it thoughtfully, “It’s a…” (can’t think of the English word). I find a small hand mirror and try to see my reflection in the large bathroom mirror. Twisted around, contorted and awkward, but still can’t see it so I ask Jiab to tell me what she thinks it looks like. She says, “peempo” (pimple) her voice is so close to my ear it’s like she’s shouting. Then, silence, focused on trying to squeeze it with fingertips… doesn’t answer my questions because one can’t squeeze pimples and speak English at the same time. I can hear her holding her breath, small sounds of effort: mmmnh… but I find it’s too painful; get the phone out of my pocket, go to the camera app and ask her to take a photo of it. She takes a close-up: click! Shows it to me… oh, I see! It’s not “peempo” (pimple), singular; it’s pimples, plural. Many of them… and then I’m aware they reach up under my hair too.

We go to see the doc, show him the unpleasant skin rash and tell him about the headache and neck pain all the time. He takes one look and says: herpes zoster virus, it’s Shingles – Jiab says chingo… in Thai they call it ngoo sawatdi (snake says hello again). The doc tells me it’s the chicken pox virus we get when we’re children that remains dormant in the body for decades, then “wakes up,” or reactivates. Why? Maybe because I just came back from four weeks in Scotland, fresh hilltop air, and must have lost the immunity to infection I’d acquired as a long-term resident foreigner in South Asia. Who knows… it just comes back.

This is how it is for me now, headache, pulsating on and off, all over the right side of the head and neck. Doc gave me ant-viral tabs, ointment and pain med, saying it’s a neural reaction to the skin lesions, and (interestingly) the nerves below the surface of the skin tell the brain there’s pain inside the body. This sets off major alarm systems and you feel it deep inside. I have to get around the fact it’s telling me all the wrong things about the location of the pain – stated also with a kind of urgency, like, Pay attention! This is serious… so I’m starting to worry it’s a brain tumor. And it’s not that, it’s actually in the upper skin layers.

Sometimes I sit on the meditation cushion and wait for quietness to come; thinking and thought has its own momentum, takes time to settle down, then the openness to the pain experience is just totally there for a moment. There’s the default sense of self: hey, this must be happening to ‘me!’ then an initial frantic search for an alternative that runs on automatic takes it out of the normal context. Mind does a bypass, and for an instant the pain is not happening to anyone – there’s no ‘me’ engaging with these thoughts. The awareness that a thought was just there, but now nothing remains except the awareness that I can’t remember what it was… and the sensation of pain, like the hummmm of an old fluorescent tube light that needs to be replaced.

‘The mind is the canvas on which our thoughts are projected and is part of consciousness. Our body is a holographic projection of our consciousness.’ [B. M. Hegde, cardiologist]

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Photo source: PnnB on Thai social network

mindfulness and the sound of rain

170620131885POSTCARD 140: New Delhi: 6.30am Sunday, wake up, turn over on my back and watch the ceiling fan spinning… waves of air movement and coolness on the surface of wet eyes blinking. There’s this rhythmical creak. The fan needs to have oil. A familiarity with the small sound; it’s been going on all night as I was sleeping – half-awake, I’ve been singing a song in my head around the rhythm of it. A curious rising tone, it’s as if it were a question: creak? And, occasionally but not always, there’s a lesser sound, in offbeat syncopation, a small ‘quack’ sound, like a duck, a flat tone, not complying with the question; quack, a response that’s sort of dismissive: quack… creak? quack… creak? creak?… quack. Sometimes the rhythm alters and the ‘quack’ comes before the ‘creak?’ – as if the creak? is asking the quack to confirm what it just said, quack… creak? (What did you say?) creak?

There’s a limit to this kind of entertainment, even in a house where there’s no TV. Time to get up, the air seems different, humid, what is it? Upright position, legs swing over the bed; mindfulness of bare feet on cold floor… switch off the fan and the creak-quack-creak? slows down, stops. I hear rain on the roof window. Go through to the front room and look out; yes, it’s raining. An unusual darkness, heavy grey clouds up there form a kind of low-ceilinged sky. Pixel-filtered light has the quality of mother-of-pearl. Jiab’s slippers are outside, small puddles of rainwater beginning to form in the hollows where her feet have shaped the rubber – we live in a house where you leave your shoes by the door, step inside and walk around barefoot… should have taken them in.

I bring my chair to sit by the open door and look out at the rain, open the glass doors, take in the slippers, warm air enters. It’s always hot… when I first experienced monsoon weather I thought the rain would make it cool, but it just makes the ‘hot’ wet. So I sit there and listen for a while. The rain is a vast sea of tiny finger-snapping sounds. Individual collisions with the concrete seem to jump out of context with a sharpness – noticable against a background of random pitter-patter sounds that are always just on the edge of hearing – as if the listening process itself chooses the sound. Mindful of the mechanisms of focusing, receiving the ‘world’ in this unknowing pre-selected form.

Somehow it answers a question I’ve been pondering over for a while, but can’t quite remember what it was… what was it? Maybe I haven’t gotten round to seeing it as a question yet… answer arrives before the question? Mindful about the fact that I can’t get to where I want to get to, but seem to be trying anyway – mindfulness of mindlessness. Mindfulness of the times when I forget to be mindful – the tendency to fall into the dream, into the fiction I’ve created; the unaware habituality. Mindfulness as a lightness, an alertness surrounding thoughts. Intermittent rain continues for the rest of the morning.

delhi-rain-three (1)

 

 

 

 

 

“Everything is created twice, first in the mind and then in reality.” [Robin S. Sharma]

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Source for lower image.
Note: low-ceilinged sky comes from the title of an album by stefan andersson