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

thank you for five years

POSTCARD#273: Chiang Mai: Woke up this morning and it was my birthday, go gently into that septuagenarian world and remember there’s gravity, mindfulness is a necessity. I’ve been here since Tuesday, wandering around these rooms looking for words… unfamiliar with the aloneness, and all this enclosed empty space. Just ‘me’, mirror reflection of the world out there, in some form or other. Consciously aware of it sometimes, other times not. There’s seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching and cognitive functioning – the all-of-the-above option, an all-inclusive experiencing of awareness receiving itself. What I don’t know is assimilated (we are Borg). Walk to the window; look out (no ‘out-there’ out there separate from what’s in ‘here’). Go back, sit at the desk for a while, look at the laptop monitor, the keyboard… write something, get up and walk around again.

Then I’m off downtown in a tuk-tuk, engine noise and wind in the face blows away all thought. What is the story so far? My niece M reached the age of 13 and now she is an elongated stalk, turns sideways and disappears. Taller than her mom by one inch – but, looks to me like M remains the same height and her mom is shrinking away, squeaky voice nobody pays much attention to. M still calls me Toong-Ting, the foolishness of it insists on dignity. I feel like I should have something wise to say… there’s no self, or there’s only the ‘self’ appearing in the awareness that’s here and has always been here “Pretending you’re not “it” is exactly the same as “it”‘ [Alan Watts]

You could probably say the illusion of self is part of what the whole thing is about… an all-inclusiveness, buy-one-get-one-free acceptance and given over to the care of a Higher Power, Brahman, God. Or whatever it is that carries meaning; the optimum reality, selecting the data that fits the theory; looking for the story that makes it all make sense. Hard to say, for me, it’s not there, unless I focus on it being there… maybe that’s just what it does.

Culture is a link that needs to be updated all the time and if I’m not in that culture, the software isn’t updated. More than thirty years living with other people’s preferences, and only returning to how I choose to live my life when there’s an opportunity. As the years go by, one forgets what some of the original choices were, and those are replaced by some of the more recent familiarities.

And there’s this blog and all my blogging friends and their friends, and I’m really so glad to know you. Thank you for five years of dhammafootsteps.com

‘Wandering through realms of consciousness like a refugee, thought looks for a home. Thought thinks that perhaps by clinging to this or to that, it can find a home. In this way, thought forms attachments with names and forms, with concepts such as “is” and “is not,” “self” and “other,” “me” and “mine,” and with emotions like envy, pride, and desire. It is the mission of thought to form these attachments in hopes of finding a home. Thought wants to own its own home.’ [Thought Is Homeless/The Endless Further/ 2012 July 16]


 

ends and beginnings

POSTCARD#272: Delhi – Bangkok journey: TV drama going on as I’m packing, I see it, stop and watch: intense dialogue, close up on faces, directors’ exercise in portraiture. Carry on with my packing, gathering things from here and there – then the TV catches my eye again, sit to watch, and the credits come up… is that the end already? But it’s not the end it’s the beginning. An extremely long intro to an old series of The Walking Dead… oh no, morbid curiosity, and too much for me. The scenes of zombies being stabbed in the head are too similar to the stabbing pain of the PHN headache I live with.

But anyway, it’s okay today, taken my meds, and time I wasn’t here. Dress up in the clothes of who I think I am. Passports, ticket, fiddle with the key, open, close the door. I am the person who lives here – note to mind. Bye-bye to house, into the taxi and away.

Wheeled luggage through airport hallways and corridors… check-in desk for Bangkok, and check it all through to Chiang Mai; transit time in Bangkok is one hour – note to mind, beware of misleading signage in Bangkok, arrows don’t seem to point in the right direction to the Transfer Desk.

For a moment, future time invades the present, and I feel I’m already gone, but it’s just that mild urgency of airports, and ‘the journey’ which is forever ‘here’ and never ‘there’.

Flight number, gate number, passport number, visa details, watched by hidden cameras, facial recognition software, security procedures: Passengers are reminded not to leave baggage unattended at anytime.’

I am part of a network of beginnings, middles and endings, always leading on to the next journey. Jettison clutter of the mind, travel lightweight, be minimalist – ‘it’s better to journey than to arrive’. It’s always about the journey to get there. Arriving is the departure point for the next journey, and another opens up after that.

Watching the signs above and mindful of body movements, there’s only the walking. Watching the duality of steps below me, left, right, left, right… flooring surface beneath spins underfoot. The way, directionality, as if held in one long continuous moment leading to the imaginary place of arrival, like the vanishing point in a perspective drawing doesn’t actually exist.

And there’s something about the flow of faces I see, pulling their luggage, holding their children. I can see the unique identity of each person as I pass, as they must recognize the same individuality when they look at me. But somehow we’ve all become blank, there’s nobody here

We are all in transit; on the way to (or coming back from) somewhere else… a glimpse of the nothingness situated at the centre of everything the Bardo of the in-between. The ‘me’ I live with is not a substantial thing – sometimes not there at all. Present time is more connected with the past, where we arrived from, than with the future where we are going to, a place of speculative conjecture and hypothetical likelihoods, stumbled-upon in following the here-and-now.


Photo: Barges travelling from Holland to England, taken from the window of the aircraft from Aberdeen to Amsterdam.
Note: This post written as the news arrived that we are leaving India in September 2017 after 6 years working here, and returning to Thailand. It’ll be sad to leave, that’s life…

monsoon

POSTCARD#271: Delhi: It’s a warm rain to me, of course, coming from the far northern part of the world. Here in Delhi (28.6139° N, 77.2090° E), it’s not a cold rain, it’s cool – a huge respite from the fierce dry summer that’s been hammering down on us. Almost volcanic, self-combusting temperature these last few months. Now it’s like a champagne party for the team that won the race and everyone joins in. Disregarding danger, street kids up to their knees in deep puddles, completely wet, clothing stuck to their skinny bodies, and dashing around in traffic. One of them jumps daringly close to my window as we drive through at speed and send up a shower of shlooshing and splooshing, laughter in the great waves splashing over their heads.

For a moment I’m in awe, it’s like being in the car wash. The all-surround-sound of rain rattling down on the thin vehicle hood, trunk, windows front to back, to the left, then to the right, and a few inches above my head the deafening roar of water like a fireman’s pressure hose. The dynamic environment becomes something I don’t recognize; images in the mind of death by drowning, instant recall of an apocalyptic fear, the Genesis flood narrative, and looking for shelter, anywhere will do… but I’m safe here in present time, the car is a watertight bubble, a Noah’s Ark, carried along, and self-propelled in the deluge,

Streets suddenly engulfed in volumes of water I’m not used to, and we’re giving way to waves, not driving in cars any more, we’re in small power boats, jostling for space in the midst of the great sweeping along of flotsam and jetsam. Everyone, everywhere, giving way to the force of it, running for shelter, motorbike riders huddled under a bridge fiddling with mobile phones… images on Facebook, Twitter go out to everywhere in the world.

Then we’re home, out of the car, under umbrellas that don’t open correctly, hopping and sloshing through deep puddles and jumping over small rivers in the driveway. Shoes off in the hall and into the house. The strange darkness of rooms and the deafness of sound of rain on the roof. There’s nothing to be done, the deluge takes priority, get in and lay low for a while. See how the trees and everything in the garden; all growing things, leaf, stem and root, are connected totally with the downpour. Fused into one and the same thing. Like an electrical charge, a large voltage, long and deep stab of energy thrust into the earth, activates everything below ground, more than enough, generosity, Biblical abundance.

Brahman is full of all perfections. And to say that Brahman has some purpose in creating the world will mean that it wants to attain through the process of creation something which it has not. And that is impossible. Hence, there can be no purpose of Brahman in creating the world. The world is a mere spontaneous creation of Brahman. It is a Lila, or sport, of Brahman. It is created out of Bliss, by Bliss and for Bliss. [Lila (Hinduism) – Wikipedia]


Upper photo: from the car. Lower photo: WSJ/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images/Children on a waterlogged street during rain in New Delhi, July 12.

 

more than words…

POSTCARD#270: Delhi: Sitting in the garden these cool days, and the world as it’s seen, suddenly falls into an enhanced version of what it is. Alice in Wonderland… things are not what they appear to be. The presence of my cup and book, my phone and a pen, just lying there on the garden table, extensions and extrapolations of the environment I’m in – who I am. Everything I see becomes unfamiliar, yet known – uncanny recognition of every-day things, strangely out of context here, but also fit quite well in these surroundings of birds, sunlight shining through the trees and a pattern of moving shadows through layers of leaves.

A momentary easing… the ‘beholder’ sees beauty through the glass of eyes to the world out there and the self, as ‘me’ in here, disappears completely – a flow of words just tumbling out and I’ve got to get it all written down… if not, it will vanish. It’s the writing of it that gives it life (of course), the quickening. Words snatch at a direction, fractals of the original instance. Too huge, I cannot see the whole pattern, only what is here and now.

We interrupt this program to bring you breaking news. Everything falls into a vortex of shattered ends and beginnings as the focus shifts to the headache mode – It’s part of me these days… take meds, wait for it to pass, allow healing, nurturing. And now it is later. Fragments of imagery of the story appear in the mind so fast I can’t keep up with it. Scribbling it down on scraps of paper, and rewritten on the back of till receipts found in wallet, pockets. The back of my boarding pass… reduce the size of handwriting to get it all in the space, then take a photo of it and zoom in to see. A flow of utterance, stumbling incoherent urgency, activates extensions, developments, and completions… and I arrive at an ending. It changes the beginning (I thought it might), and there, it’s done. Refined, defined, in the form it takes, chunks of language jigsaw together, trim the edges and placed.

Extreme minimalism… the story contained is edited out. The Absolute is in all things, omnipresent means it’s everywhere and there’s nothing that it’s not a part of. Ponder that for a moment. Where is it not? There’s no ‘nothing’ and no ‘thing’. Gone is… even the word ‘gone’ is gone.

light through glass (20170613) by crow

for a single moment
perhaps that pause
between heartbeats
the sun shone through
the wings of a butterfly
and i understood
the reason for cathedrals

(reblogged from: Words and Feathers)


the space where it hasn’t happened yet

POSTCARD#268: Amsterdam – Delhi flight: KLM passenger jet, Boeing 777-200, rapidly moving into the darkness of an evening already turned to night. No view from the cabin window, it’s a nocturnal blackness from here on. I try to picture it, high above the clouds, a sliver of waxing crescent moon reflected in the silver streak of thinning atmosphere – too fast for the human eye to follow. The tarot pack Fool contemplating the sum total of everything as nothingness or ‘somethingness’. Up here there’s nothing to compare with the speed of the aircraft, only what is inside our bubble of contained ‘here-and-now’ – not ‘there-and-then’, in a past or future time, awareness of how it is, simply that.

Laptop fits exactly on the small fold down table. Wi-Fi on board and I’m busy with the relative speeds of this aircraft travelling West to East at a speed of approx: 500mph in the same direction of the Earth’s rotation which is approx: 700 mph, West to East. The aircraft can never catch up with the speed of rotation of the earth but their speeds are close enough, and if we could see the land below, there would be the sense of it all being almost stationary, a phenomenon I have noticed in relative speeds of aircraft and their surroundings.

Words appear in the mind and tumble out onto the page in structures which only need a little rearranging – the mechanism of transferring thought into syntactical forms which one can normally trust just happens by itself. But in the time that it takes to write it down, everything has moved on. Not possible to describe it… language doesn’t stretch that far – it seems as if the world is an illusion. It’s not what it appears to be, no, nothing is what I think it is…if it’s not that, then, what is it? Make a list of what it’s not, and everything on the other side of that must be what it is. A feeling that’s wordless and indefinable, or one could quite easily say God is the sum total of everything that exists.

Thought as stories of past and future created in the mind. Knowing this brings it all to a standstill for a moment… awareness of how it is, simply that. Then something triggers thought again and the narrative requires me to ‘believe’ in it before it begins. I’m teetering on the brink of what it could be, still contained inside that little space that’s neither here nor there… do I want to get swept away by this story, when I’m quite comfortable being here? It’s telling me I have to engage with it, become it… yes, but I’m also able to stay here in the space where it hasn’t happened yet.

Mindfulness of non-becoming. See how that feels, here with the hummm of the engines, and air pressure white-noise, shooshing sound and everything is always in present time. Passengers are lost in movies, transfixed by headphones and screen, sound & color, or asleep, seatbelts fastened in the shadowy gloom as we fall through the latitudes and on towards Delhi and home – thinking about things in the here-and-now, located in the there-and-then, which refer to events taking place somewhere out there in the thin air.


 

bent into shape

POSTCARD #265: Chiang Mai: I’d decided to use this image for the header thinking the way I cope with my headache is an improvised thing, much like the way this traffic sign has been bent back into shape after something has crashed into it – then as I write this I’m distracted by wind chimes from the balcony of the next-door house, which suddenly play a perfect chord in the air. I slip into wakefulness from the dream of that which I’m held by, and become an extension of the wind-chime’s notes. Horizontal on the bed as if shipwrecked on a sandy beach. Waves rushing in to the shore crash-crash, and the whole thing receding back. Comes rushing in again, crash-crash-crash, becoming a form that shapes into the body of the sea rolling over on its side like a great animal trying to sleep in an enormous bed. Then I realize I’m awake and have to give my whole attention to the headache that lives with me… just looking at it, seeing it as it is.

Wind chimes strike groupings of notes like the random sound of birds in the trees. I’ve been reading about knowledge which is so completely at one with the thing it knows, there is complete understanding, complete absorption into that knowledge. I can understand how that could be – it is of course a description of events, rather than the thing itself. Seems amazing to me, being as far away as I am, living in the world of attachment, the automatic bonding, even with things I dislike; seeing that and learning, by necessity, the strategy of no-avoidance….

I’ve had this headache for long enough to know that how it is right now, is the kind of suffering I can accept and live with for the time being. I can open up to the presence of it, as a form of recognition, accepting it as it is. Just the ‘me,’ being like this, still slightly on-edge, alert for the spikes which appear sometimes – but no, not this time. It becomes an energy accumulating with the in-breath, disintegrating with the long out-breath like the waves at sea breaking on the shore. I can open up to and experience the fact that it’s here, then it’s collapsing again as the out-breath distances it, like a long golf course, or a road winding into a landscape.

Curious, interested, and seeing the headache I experience as the First Noble Truth… just this openness to it. The contemplation is about calm, steadiness and everything else is swept away in a storm of liking, disliking, wanting, not wanting. Remain firmly in that same place as the wave returns and there it is again but I don’t need to hold on to it by hating it, or seeing it as something somehow construed and thought to be ‘bad’. See all of that happening, see it disassembling, falling to pieces; form, feeling, perception, fabrications, consciousness… and the ‘I’ can vanish into the totality of it.

Time to get the headache into the shower and get on with things. Then I’m at my desk, and at some point in the mid-morning, see how it feels, take the meds, then I’m falling back into a world of no pain, stumbling at the wonder of it. The day gets through in a dull fogginess. Sleep, and next morning I wake up with the opportunity to be back in this place of mindfulness again…

“To know yourself as the Being underneath the thinker, the stillness underneath the mental noise, the love and joy underneath the pain, is freedom, salvation, enlightenment.” [Eckhart Tolle]


The sign says: turn left, caution, traffic coming from the right

evening, the even-ing

POSTCARD #264: Bangkok – Chiang Mai flight: I could begin with the way the inflight experience is sliced up in manageable chunks and swallowed with drinks and gulps of air, which helps the ears adjust to cabin pressure, but the story of all that remains untold, replaced by the ‘impact’ of landing – in a manner of speaking. Time-and-space folds in on itself and suddenly we’re descending towards Chiang Mai… such a short flight. The plane is clearly pointed downwards, I become a little deaf, it feels like being underwater, and no amount of swallowing or holding the nose between thumb and forefinger and blowing of air into sinus cavities seems to clear it. Plane tilts over and makes a left-hand turn. Low sunlight comes in through the cabin windows on the right side and sweeps around the interior of our small space as the aircraft changes direction, circles around and goes further into descent. It’s as if it were in a flying house, spinning around on its axis and ‘we must be somewhere over the rainbow.’

Yawn and ears go ‘pop’. A whole new 3D sound enters…. didn’t realize how cotton-wooly it was before. Near to landing there’s the sound of the hydraulics, out go the flaps, down go the wheels and the earth rises up to meet us; 300 people all facing forwards in the direction of travel, looking out the windows of a structure the size of a building travelling at 200 mph on what could be a collision course with the surface of the planet. For a moment there’s a glimpse of samsara and the great yawning abyss of existential fear; I need something to hold on to, but there isn’t anything that’ll prepare me for such a colossal event. This is the ultimate roller-coaster experience – and… the aircraft’s wheels take the weight, first the one on the left then the other one on the right, and the deep lurch, sink-down/bounce-back – for a moment it feels like we’re going to tip out of balance and disaster looms, but we’re on level ground.

There’s something about this being in a public context, a shared experience, we’re all in this together folks, spectators watching an actual event in our own lives, the collective sense of a letting-go of something tightly held: woooooo! The perception of Self is relinquished; nobody at home… no identity, just this unattached feeling that couldn’t happen in any other circumstance. A riderless horse, the empty seat… footprints left behind in the place where he was. Symbols of the Buddha before the Greeks created the Buddha likeness we know today.

Awareness of breathing, deeply in and all the way out, like a huge sigh. Watch the breath enter the body again and go through the whole awakened experience. Knowing, consciousness, clarity and the mind settles into the quiet space of no thinking.

Out of the plane and following the exit signs. We’re all just seeing ‘the seeing of it’ as TV monitors here and there tell us stories built upon stories, swirling around events that otherwise take place wordlessly. Colorful banners pasted on every available space with words and images that’ll get our attention and Mind takes over, creates the story of ‘me’ stepping forward, and me as someone at the receiving end. Who’s that mirrored in the glass wall? There, again, stepping out with luggage on wheels, rolling along happily? Subject/object duality locks into place.

The story is everywhere, all around the departure gates and small cafeteria, episodes of it heard in the corridor with the sound of somebody else’s cabin luggage wheels going ‘click-click’ and the clatter of feet. Excerpts of the story overheard in the bar, acoustics muffled by a floor carpet. We’re always only part the way through whatever story it is before another starts up.

Beginnings, middles, and endings of short stories noted while waiting in the cash desk queue at Boots chemist. Stories using words I don’t understand in Chinese, Korean, Russian and a whole world of other languages speaking in stories.

Then I’m waiting in a seat by the exit, with my receipt to give to my taxi driver, just watching the breath and seeing the darkness of afternoon become evening; the even-ing, the smoothening out of wrinkles on a silk sheet stretched over the ironing table. Flat horizon line over an endless sea, the laying-out, as darkness sweeps over us.


Complied with excerpts of a previous post. Photo by Jiab in the south of Thailand

the forever turning

POSTCARD #263: New Delhi: House agent came to the door, saying they are going to demolish the building, and when would be a good time for the architect to come to see the house – it was said like how we decide to delete a message on the phone. We knew about the plan and are prepared, but the emphatic bluntness of it…  what’s gone is gone, the forever turning wheel. “Don’t let the sun go down on me.” My world is tipping over, mind driven by some kind of energy, a curiosity and desire to get involved with it. Words come out grouped in chunks, searching for a connection as if they had a volition of their own.

The characteristic mind reaction when confronted with an immutable truth; when I understood that my PHN headache is a permanent condition. As Jude says, the mind is creative no matter what the stimuli. Imagination let loose like a racehorse, goes careering off then is yanked back unwillingly and all kinds of fearful things arise, created by the struggle. How to have mindfulness so I can catch that creative awareness before I get hijacked by how bad it seems.

World-wide monitoring of events, immediate media coverage, on the spot reporting in a here-and-now performance starring ‘he’ who is about to be demolished: boom, crash, bang! It’s finished before it began, the whole scene gets folded into itself and packed away, gone – like it never happened, no evidence remains. Grab the bags and let’s get out of here. ‘I’ become ‘him’ over there, third person singular, object pronoun, making an escape out the window before the walls cave in. Away in the car through a swirling cloud of masonry brick dust, and onto the long straight road to the airport.

Check-in for the overnight flight to Bangkok and the day after tomorrow I go to see the lady doc down-town in the white room (link to: Finding The Way Out), to discuss, again, the possibility of an electrical zap to the nerve and that’ll be the end of my constant headaches. Comparison with the stand-off in the Korean peninsula… I’d like it if the whole thing could be put on fast-forward so I can get it over and done with, but it hasn’t even started yet. I’m here on the plane and in my mind, are pictures of a house falling down around my ears.

The flight is a directionless experience. Look out the window, total darkness, no sense of moving forward, we could be flying sideways. When I try to think of it, there’s the image of a journey that leads from here to there, the route we take is an elevated highway in the sky, we’re in a long silver night coach with the moon and stars and stewardesses with the drinks trolley. Occasional air turbulence suggests small bumps on an otherwise very smooth road surface – sufficient to tip me over and fall asleep, with not even the sense that we’re going anywhere… just the noise of the engines and hiss of the air.

The present moment is not an absolute. It’s something that we’re [unconsciously] fabricating, and the goal of the practice is to learn how to fabricate it in a new [nirvanic] direction…. The present is here to be used, and the teachings are here to teach us how to use it wisely” [Thanissaro Bhikkhu, “The Use of the Present,” 2016-11-28]


photo by Jiab in the South of Thailand

the way out is the way in

POSTCARD #262: New Delhi: A papaya tree just seeded itself in our small flower bed. It grew and grew and became a giant among the flowers, created shade in the noon day sun. Glory be to the bird that flew by here one day and the fortuitous dropping of a whole papaya seed which landed in exactly the right place. When the small plant appeared above ground we cleared the weeds away and it grew to a height of 2 meters in a few months. This is the karma of the tree thus far, like one of those random, stumbled-upon truths which appear in awareness when the introspective state of mind is present.

Whatever form it takes, there’s always the return to the human condition and finding a way out of attachment, the Buddha’s Third Noble Truth nirodha, (There Is A Way Out). I was reminded recently the way out is not an escape from the world, it’s a reappraisal of the situation without the attachment factor, the clinging adherence to objects of mind or body. This is what it comes down to, the way out is the way ‘in’, obstructed by the various forms of hunger and thirst in the human organism. The task is to get rid of desire, getting it unpeeled, unstuck and we could spend a lifetime searching for these and knocking them out, one by one – or maybe the whole thing just falls away by itself in an afternoon, and suddenly it’s done.

All that remains then, is equanimity like a vast still ocean mirroring the sky above. Some small event may arise, a puzzle, and one may choose to examine the circumstances of it, resolve the issue and allow it to disappear. For me it was a world of unsolvable tricks, riddles and switcheroos, created by an uncle only five years older than me. A nerd, long before his time. He’d show me a puzzle and conceal the answer so I’d never find it… sometimes dangled a clue like a carrot baits the donkey.

This was in a lonely farmhouse on top of a hill in the middle of nowhere. A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma*, it was before the days of mobile phones, before even the days of black and white TV. This was so long ago nobody could remember what existed in that place before it. We would have to go there for the school holidays, and I’d then be confronted by this strange cloned uncle, who looked like me, was near enough to be a brother but wasn’t – no, no… definitely not.

Sometimes I would escape from his forever hold on the secret I needed to find, and go for help from my other uncles and aunties there, but they were all his older brothers and sisters, had a fondness for his snarky wit. Yep, enough said.

The years went by and I’d come back from long journeys in the world to visit him sometimes, but he never changed from his middle-of-nowhere mind state. I’d see him age and think that’s what I‘ll look like when I’m his age… expecting to see him change in some way, but he didn’t, right up until the day he passed away… holding the secret to himself.

There was this release when it happened… there is no answer to the puzzle – no answer, no puzzle. It’s got to do with letting go, and everything is seen. It can’t be hidden, nothing can, concealment is not possible in the middle of nowhere because in the middle of nowhere there’s no concealment. No subject, no object… nothing there at all.

“Feel nothing, know nothing, do nothing, have nothing, give up all to God, and say utterly, ‘Thy will be done.’ We only dream this bondage. Wake up and let it go.” [Swami Vivekananda]


Gratitude to Val for her comment: ‘the way out is the way in’
“A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” Winston Churchill