headache and wind chimes

Soi 14 Oct 23POSTCARD#364: Bangkok: I wake up in the morning with the usual headache, and from the balcony of the next-door house, wind chimes play a perfect chord in the air! I don’t usually hear it so clearly. Movements of the air disturb the chime bars and strike the same groupings of notes over and over. A different arrangement every time – variations on a theme.

The leaves of the trees whispering together, it’s going to rain. Then I remember, this is Songkran, the start of the rainy season. It is overlooked and forgotten that Thailand’s Songkran celebration event has been postponed because of COVID-19. The coming of the rains, of course take place around that time and because we’re all working from home, we don’t notice these changes in the outside world… until they arrive on our doorstep. I see the dark sky out the window, small birds dash around searching for shelter.

I have to get out of bed, bring the headache into the shower, and see how that feels. I slip through the curtains into a pleasant wakefulness, released from the memory of that which I’m held by, usually, and even though I’m not thinking about it right now, I become an extension of the wind-chime’s notes as they gently intrude in consciousness…

The rain will continue, a total downpour, lasting for hours possibly – and it is a novelty for me even though I’ve lived here for decades. I come from the North of Scotland where weather events are not so overwhelmingly generous in such an abundance of plant growth. It amazes me too that the Thais have a composure about these sorts of things, which are seen mindfully and with respect, as phenomena appearing in consciousness.

It’ll be like this for the remains of the day, all night and well into tomorrow when hopefully, the sun will come out again: 36 Centigrade (96.8 Fahrenheit) which is tolerable because of the cool shadows where everything stays wet.

Shower pressurized water massages the headache – lulled it into a relaxed state, mesmerized by sound and sensation. I am a sensitive being these days, on the negative side, there are sharp penetrating light frequencies and high pitched resonances which activate the headache and it can take a long time to recover. So far, so good, step out of the shower and I’m deafened by the downpour on roof and balcony objects. Sensory mechanisms function without my involvement. There’s just an alertness, waiting for things to arrive in consciousness. Seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching and cognitive functioning identifies and directs everything; an all-inclusive experiencing of awareness receiving and transforming itself.

I’ve learned how to see the pain in the context of the First Noble Truth and can abide in the small space that’s neither here nor there, rather than suffer it as something that is ‘wrong with me’ – informed by a created self and stories of past and future created in the mind. Knowing this brings it all to a standstill for a moment… this is how it is, the awareness of it, simply that.

Stories of past and future arise again and the narrative requires me to ‘believe’ in it before it begins. I’m hovering 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 [Bhava]… 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 under the roof, with the deafening sound of it, the here-and-now of it – everything is always in present time. This torrent of raindrops is indescribable… like an incessant, fierce applause that goes on and on. I’m enthralled by it, spellbound maybe… time to get out of here and downstairs for breakfast then I can start the meds for the day. See how that goes.



IMG_2228POSTCARD 138: London/Delhi flight: Travelling by plane at night is a directionless experience, an invisible route that leads to the destination without any sense of the journey, just the sound of the engines and hiss of the air. I fall deeply asleep and wake up to daylight coming in through the cabin windows. We’re here, missed breakfast, no time for anything, quickly gather up my things, ready to leave the plane. Next thing is I’m in the huge emptiness of Indira Gandhi airport, miles of ochre carpeting, and zooming along moving walkways towards the queue at immigration. Get in line with everyone else, get comfortable with this, it could take some time.

Hello Delhi, nice to be back here, mid-morning in a different time zone, and just the ongoing continuity of it, as if I’d never been away… familiarity of bearded men, turbans, a mysterious woman with exotic nose rings, gold bangles jangle and flick of movement that adjusts folds of sari, consoling tired children with nanny; the whole clan goes everywhere together. In this place I’m glanced at, averted gaze slips away, a foreigner travelling alone, a partially visible stranger from a place of no sunlight, colorless eyes, pale pigmentation, like those creatures who live deep below the surface at the bottom of the sea.

The uncompromisingly here-and-now of it, no disappearing from or disappearing into – a dream and yet not a dream. Letting go of the experience in the North, only the memory of that extraordinary feeling there during the retreat in Scotland. The feeling I’d connected with something specific but now I forget what it was exactly. A scrap of paper in my pocket with somebody’s email on it, remembering… there was the old house, the people who were already there and the sadness when they left before I did. Then the others who came after me – I remember them all – and how they were the ones who said goodbye when it was my turn to leave.

Each one carrying this ghostly sense of familiarity, archetypal resemblance, the uniformity of distinct types. Faces I think I’ve seen before… there was a man who looked so much like Larry King (from Larry King Live), at first I believed it was him. Others reminded me of family members – I recognized Great Aunt B. from East Anglia, passed away long ago… wonderful to ‘see’ her again. And someone exactly like my old Uncle D. Everywhere I looked I saw the elders, all dead and gone now. So good to return to the memory that they were here once like me, I was inclined to think of them as being real. “Who am I? Am I you? Him? He, she, it? We, you, they?” So much of a multiplicity, sometimes it’s just seen… we are all of a oneness.

Thump! Passport stamped, out through the crowds and sudden heat, intense light switched on like a television studio. Shym is waiting with the car, bags in and we’re off into the noise and blare of Delhi traffic, reversed mirror image of the world I just left. Changing the sim card in my phone, changing channels, watching a different movie.

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]


Note: This post was created partly as a result of keying in the term ‘multiplicity of faces’ in Google and finding the pdf in: perceptionweb.com. Check out the exercise of flickering faces in the picture of the girl’s face at the end.
Note2: Many thanks to Mindful Balance for the poem.
Photo: light switches in a corridor at the back of a government building in New Delhi