the look of flowers

POSTCARD #261: New Delhi: looking at Facebook pics of my niece M aged 13, in New Zealand, reminds me of how it was when I was her age; studied many things in school but never learned (or escaped from learning) what lay beneath the overlay of becoming some ‘body’ – a person with a job, an identity and this is ‘me’ how are you?

Intuition told me it wasn’t the whole story. Living a lie, I must have thought. Nobody taught us about the art of living (or maybe I wasn’t listening), somehow missed the bit about being at peace with the sense of I-am-ness, only that jittery feeling of physicality, and living on the edge. Mind searching for motivation in situations that offer comfort, gratification in pleasure, gratification in displeasure too, justified raging and things out of control, everything thrown to the wind.

Stumbling and crashing through the successes and failures of many lives, and coming to India more than thirty years ago – there to be suddenly awakened to The Whole Thing. So much can be said about that, but now here in New Delhi on a Sunday morning, no traffic noise, just blue sky and birdsong. Flowers seen in a passing eyebeam with that look of being looked at.

Then, ‘regret’ arrives from somewhere thousands of miles from here and in a great expanse in time. It appears in the form of a small boy, bowed head, scruffy uniform, string showing at the collar, latch-door key kid. Headmaster in a huge voice says, ‘you have to think about what you’re doing before you do it, okay?’ Small boy nods, says some words of respect, and shuffles out of the room. Headmaster was talking about mindfulness decades before it came to be what it is today – for me, it was something intuitively know but still unlearned.

In a split second I see that moment there and then encapsulated in the here and now of present time. The boy in a state of anxious urgency every day, no real home, slightly unstable and the struggle to get it right without anyone to reassure him that yes, you can use intuitive guesswork even if you have nothing to go on. The built-in reasoning of mind in these circumstances is enough. So I’m the adult here, now playing the part of headmaster, saying, ‘yes kiddo, you’re right, and it’s allright, you can do that, no problem!’

Even now when I see the English word ‘ignorance’ translated from the Pali word ‘avidya’, it brings a slight twinge of anxiety of school days, built-in conditioning and authoritarian adults. Then, reaching out to that kid with the burden of failure, standing before the Headmaster, I can correct the thought enslavement of ignorance, because it’s not that. You need to have the context of stability, look at this state of not knowing, and being as open as you can to it, see that it’s not not-knowing, it’s ‘knowing’. Then it becomes the Pali word ‘vidya’ The seed of knowing planted deep in the ground of what is not known… the metaphor of the lotus rising from the mud.

Looking through M’s photos of her in New Zealand, being who she is, and for me it’s surprising to see it’s as easy as that. Thus stepping into my own timeline to make these corrections so that everything unfolding from there and then to here and now is free of obstructions – gone is the dark fear experienced by the schoolboy and in its place is the light of knowing.

“And the bird called, in response to the unheard music hidden in the shrubbery, and the unseen eyebeam crossed, for the roses had the look of flowers that are looked at.” T. S. Elliot, The Four Quartets


Photo: sunflowers in our garden. I took the photo not expecting to see the bee in the flower head!

fighting a war with myself

POSTCARD #260: New Delhi: I’m now upstairs for most of the day, the art room is a catastrophe of pieces of masking tape, cut tracing paper flying around and skittering across the floor in gusts of air from ceiling fan. Stuff everywhere, hardened acrylic paint mixings on my palettes and smeared on the table. The cleaning lady gives me bad looks, can’t understand why I’m doing this – it’s got to do with the social hierarchy here; dirty work done by people whose job it is to do that. The logic is if I do it, those workers don’t have a job, no work, no money, starvation. But anyway, foreigners break all the rules, clean up their dirty floors themselves, say sorry, please and thank you very much, so often it loses all meaning.

I find her disapproval on cleaning day intimidating. Art has no meaning, defeated by the perfumed smell of cleaning agents which amplify my headache and I can’t do anything till the next day. After that, all effort with the canvas self-destructs over and over… I don’t know where I am these days, thought dwelling in the darkness; the impact of 59 cruise missiles, shot to pieces, fighting a war with myself, heat and concrete dust from demolished buildings.

‘How to escape from the horror of Trump?’ A question without an answer. Repeated on loop cycle until it becomes an enslavement. A passive allowing locked into place. Escapees become the fringe, hunted down, arrest on sight. But no, it’s not over yet. I have Russian TV (RT) and Arabic, Al Jazeera TV in English, also the French and Chinese TV channels in English. RT says specifically that it wasn’t Assad who dropped the first bomb, it was the ‘rebels’ who planted the chemicals to draw fire from Trump – or maybe it was all staged by the unseen roots the West have everywhere… everything is fiction.

And although Putin is what he is, I have to respect him for holding back from the obvious reaction when US and UK ambassadors came with their untruths to the UN Security Council. Weapons of Mass Distraction, their baited untruths – two of them, one placed on top of the other so it appears to justify itself. A simple trick, we fell for it before – their long term goal is a kind of colonization of the world, but not this time around. We see through the facade…

There are birds in the early mornings here. As the day begins, heat rises and it gets quiet… chirrups in the trees from time to time. Sometimes the artwork I’m staring at suddenly is seen. Is what it is, and I wake up to that… is that what I thought it was? I get so totally lost in it sometimes, pondering possibilities, forget to wake up. Large areas of it have to be painted over to allow for the new direction it’s taking. Constantly refining and refining. I’m inside the Mystery, working the canvas with mixed-up acrylic on palettes, hardened and lumpy, like landscapes and mountains seen from the air. Small pieces of cut tracing paper race across the floor in gusts of air from the ceiling fan…

“It’s all dry land to the shipwrecked…” [Jac Forsyth]



 

renewal

POSTCARD #259: New Delhi: Humbling to think Easter is all marshmallow bunnies and chocolate eggs in the North when, for the ancients, it was a time endowed with meaning. Sometimes I feel a deep part of me responds to this pre-language mystery of the stars and phases of the moon. A Buddhist interpretation of Easter could be Suffering and the End of suffering. An emergence into new life, perhaps. The festival occupies the place where the Pagan goddess Ēastre used to be, and the Spring Equinox predates everything.

According to ancient Maori tradition in the Southern hemisphere, the first new moon after the rise of Matariki star cluster Pleaides, signals the start of the Maori New Year (I know this because my Thai niece M is there on a 7 week English program). Easter is the Thai New Year, Songkran, and in every other culture in the world the Spring festival is a time of change and renewal. The Frangipani tree in our small garden begins to blossom (image above), a sign the winter cold and darkness in North India is at an end.

And on a darker note, because this is our reality, President Trump’s monstrous bomb on Afghanistan, the day before Good Friday says something about the assertive Western world. We don’t know, of course, if it was the intention but the darkness of Good Friday coming towards light on Easter Monday, fits with the parody of Trump’s actions these last few days… posturing before the eyes of the world as superhero, stirring up the fundamentalist sense of retribution.

Is it the intention to have the Churches in North America, over this Easter weekend, include this as part of the imagery preceding the Christian awakening? Or maybe it’s intended to have the Islamic world see it that way. Darkness with no sign of light…

“I’d be glad of a retaliation that wouldn’t recoil on myself; but treachery and violence are spears pointed at both ends: they wound those who resort to them, worse than their enemies.” [Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights]

terrestrial ocean

POSTCARD #255: Bangkok: Elevated passageways and corridors in the mind creaking like we’re on an old sailing ship, swaying with wind and air currents, the swell of the sea and the flip of waves at their peak. These lightweight structures hold the sails, huge areas of stretched canvas sailcloth – I can only see a part of the whole. The creak and strain of long hemp ropes, tarry old wood decking and a wide-open sky. Then the pain comes, ringing the urgency bell… see how it triggers all systems in a wild inarticulate way… make way! Allow the alarm to ring and let there be absolutely no resistance, no tightening up, just letting it be there… the worst of it subsides and the emergency mode is switched off. In the Buddhist sense I’m drawing attention to an awareness of Suffering and the cause of suffering, but not just labeling it; ‘the cause’ of Suffering is the 2nd Noble Truth, no, I’m asking, what is this ‘cause’? No labeling from here on.

What is the cause of Suffering and what is the cause of the cause? The desire for it to not be there, the confrontation, the avoidance, resistance… obstructing it, subverting it by any means. Running away from it, wanting things to be different than the way they are in a totally impossible way.

Childlike, I can see my (child) self as a baby, attending to whatever object appears, comes into range, immediately focused, the totality of each thing, as it arises – conscious experience without language.

Flickers of memory like this… food is a wonderful experience, it’s not Food, it’s Wonderful, it’s not ‘wonderful’ – no words for it, it’s a feeling(?). Then, just as easily, the bad, the awful – then the aftermath of the disaster, early childhood systems of understanding the world – but for my (child) self there’s no ‘understanding’, because there are no words in infancy to describe anything. Catastrophic! I am the cause of this hurtful chain of events. How it was then, and how it is now are no different. I am the same ‘me’ as I was then, language acquisition is here now, I’m expanded, filled out, developed and extended into the world but still the same ‘me’ (time can disappear in this kind of investigation), so how can I help protect the ‘me’ that was then, with the ‘myself’ that is now, equipped with adult skills?

Meditation. I’m sitting on the meditation cushion like a chick in the nest, cheep-cheep… waiting for the return of the Parent Bird (mother, father, both or neither) and, beak totally wide open, like a suitcase lying open on a bed waiting to be packed with things, my (child) self perceiving the Parent Bird visiting the nest (or not visiting), and for me now seated on the cushion too, there’s the acceptance, the wide-open giving-way-to it.

Maybe also in adversity, how much I’d prefer to not do this any more, because the recognition of the familiar forms of interaction between my (child) self and authority figures in the family group are too scary – for a moment I ‘see’ the blocking… but there aren’t any words, it’s something felt.

Simply how it came to be the way it is, but no words. A wetness at the eye, a glimpse of my (child) self receiving conscious experience, and the perception of it has shaped, formed the person I am today – it is the person I am today.

Then the pain comes back, deep stabs of it like bolts of lightning passing through, but the intention to allow space for the pain is still there. As the immensity of it become less and less, acceptance opens more and resistance begins to fall away. I see now the intention to be open and accept the pain, hidden from ordinary wakefulness, buried deeper than the pain can reach.

It’s this that tells me, when all other options are gone, there’s no running away from it now, I have to turn around and go back into the pain… for a split second the pain eases, an extraordinary and out-of-this-world feeling.

Absolutely no escape from the pain… then finding this window I know that’s always here, and everything is swept away like a flood of water finding its way through a landscape, rapidly filling up all the spaces and getting into all the corners… I am a sailing ship on a terrestrial ocean.


 

out of context

airbridgesPOSTCARD #253: Chiang Mai: A short flight to Bangkok to see the needle man for the last attempt to anesthetize the head pain I’ve had for more than a year. Back to Chiang Mai the same day and it feels like it never happened, except for the pain where the needle went in – the scritch-scritch sound when needle point scratched the skull. I’m thinking maybe the pain is gone, walking through a small shopping area the next day, then I’m hit with three distinct stabs in the head. Knees bend, I want to lie down on the ground as if it were a soft bed… it would be so comfortable. No, no I need to find a place to sit. Suddenly a coffee shop appears with tables out in the street, waitress coming over as I sit. I ask for a bottle of water (waitress seems distracted, am I looking weird?), try to look normal while pushing out the capsules from their crackly celluloid enclosures, but what’s normal? It’s at times like these you notice the construct out of context.

Here I am, stabbed in the head and trying to act normal to everyone else in the street. I want to shout out ‘help me!’ but I go with the act. I can knowingly disappear in what is assumed to be the correct reality – an imaginary character in a fictional landscape. Everywhere we look the construct is staring back at us, as clear as clear can be… product marketing intrudes easily, interwoven and embedded for better or worse. And, like something direct from the mother ship itself, “the news” is inside our heads, a filter through which we see our world. The push-and-pull, towards or away from the things I love and hate, or love to hate.

I drink water, the trauma of head pain easing. People here don’t speak, hang out in postures of contemplation with devices, phones, the reflected glow of screens illuminate faces of the user. Maya is a beguiling concealment, agreeable enslavement. Heads tucked in, body crouched over in fetal position… absorption. Then, when it’s time to go, removing oneself from the enchantment, thinking how am I seen? How do I look to my ‘friends’, to all of us; I, you, he, she or it – we, you they? “Me’ as an individual… the world as my duality.

Next thing for me is an appointment to see the nerve-ablation lady 7th March. I expect the witchy neurologists will give me a hard time if I turn this down: radiofrequency ablation procedure (they stick an electric needle in and zap the nerve). Well, putting up with their negative attitude is better than getting zapped. Also, I’ve heard, the nerve grows back after the ablation, or the pain moves somewhere else. What then? Another one of these zap! ablations? zap! And does this zap! go on at intervals zap! for the remaining 10 good years of my life? I’m pretty sure I’ll say thanks but I’ll just see how it goes, go play with your procedures somewhere else, they say neuropathic pain gets more manageable as the years go by….

“The first noble truth of the Buddha is that when we feel suffering, it doesn’t mean that something is wrong. What a relief. Finally somebody told the truth. Suffering is part of life, and we don’t have to feel it’s happening because we personally made the wrong move…” [Pema Chödrön]


 

the time is not here yet

1POSTCARD #252: Chiang Mai: 05.00: When I open my eyes in the morning I don’t remember where I am. The great white neon light of the hotel sign across the way fills my room and takes away memory. I’m here so infrequently, there’s only a sense of the last time I came, an unfinished jigsaw puzzle with some pieces left over but no place where they fit. Or a thought appears in the empty mind like a beautiful small fish, and then it’s gone… where’d it go? Taking everything apart to see where that thought went, but can’t find it.

Ah well, pull the pillows together in a cushion and settle on top of that in a folded-leg sit. Aware of the breath, focus on nothing in particular. Early morning kitchen noises across in the hotel, clatter of plates, rolling-around-clunking sound of objects as they collide with their surroundings: bump, scrape; a cupboard door squeaks, water sloshing-in-sink noises, cutlery in metal mesh baskets becoming high frequency white noise received over here in the neon glow, seated in a third floor apartment on the other side of the street.

All and everything that occurs here, there and everywhere in the scenarios through life from start to finish pass through me now and the world becomes neutral. Non-intrusive, random thought mechanisms that function at the edge of attention pull me into the gentle whirr and flicker of thinking-about-things.

A far cry indeed from the western automatic-reflex-attached, “thou-shalt-not” society of the late 1940s when I was born, unaware and unschooled in Good Orderly Direction and seemingly by chance (?) narrowly escaped the fierce lock-down of a mortgaged future by means of sacrificed present time, with the simple thought that the thinker has no other form than thoughts… and with that, everything just drifted away from its moorings.

All that resolved itself somehow really very well. Now here in a street in a tourist town in the North of Thailand with a passport and inconsequential luggage… items of thought can pass through freely, fish uncaught – no reason to be holding on to anything at all. The emptiness of the moment is no-self. Nothing here except the operating system; form, feeling, perception, mental processes and consciousness [Link].

In a clamor of sounds, auditory events jump out in perceived grabs of recognition, registered, processed; memory updated. It happens so fast that trying to find words for it are like action-replays in slow motion, and I have to catch up after, as everything has moved on. Pause button; awareness aware of itself, the eye turns inwards, consciousness as a sensory organ, the ghost in the machine, no self. The process itself selects the sound – or the sound selects the process, and there’s no ‘it’.

Sensory mechanisms waiting for things to happen because it’s in their nature to do that, inseparable parts of the world out there/in here. Nothing happens, the time is not here yet. The alertness is all there is, receiving the world and, since we are also the world, so to speak, it’s an all-inclusive enfolding, unfolding, and remaining in the present continuous form, ‘listening’. Suddenly the great neon light is switched off. Blinded for a moment in the absence of it, traces of blue sky out there, birdsong. Without any sound, go quietly (whisper); the time is not here yet…


Photo of a young man named Namo (as in Namo tassa Bhagavato Arahato Samma sambuddhassa), French-speaking Thai/Swiss, who became a monk then left for a career in fashion modeling.

place

dsc_1977_00049POSTCARD #251: Bangkok: Sodium-orange street light illuminates tarmac and concrete in colourless shades of grey. Nothing to see at this time of day, on the road to get the 3am flight to Bangkok, awake as if in a daze, car headlights pierce the smoggy darkness in low visibility. Everything creeps in on itself, reduces in size… I am a cell in an organism, tumbling out of the car and into the crowd. Bags on trolley, head spinning around for signs in the usual urgency of searching for where I’m supposed to be, everyone else doing exactly the same thing; check in, boarding pass, queue for security, then immigration. Stamp passport, thump, duty-free, then boarding and take off… catapulted 5 miles up into the night sky, look out and see a few stars shining. No one interested in food or drinks on this raggedy old, middle of the night, flying bus to Bangkok. Large, long-legged Indian men, block up the aisles with limbs like tree branches, trying to get comfortable in the small Thai economy class seats.

In my place, eyes closed and there’s that wonderful light coming in at the edge of vision that I haven’t seen for a long time – a kind of unreal ‘heavenly’ warm creamy white moonlight light. Open my eyes again… where’s it coming from… any light on in here? Nope, totally dark. Close my eyes again, lying back, watch the breath, focus on the emptiness… in a moment it returns. Not seen, indirect, it illuminates the space as if it were a moon behind clouds, just about to appear.

I sleep as long as it takes for a neon tube light to be switched off, and switched on again, flicker, wake up, it’s blue sky morning time. Such a short distance from here to there, some people go home for the weekend. Glad I don’t have to do that, I stay where I am for as long as possible these days – some inconveniences, maybe I’m looking for a book and it’s just not there. I can see it in the mind’s eye, but it’s not ‘there’ in this house, it’s ‘there’ in the other house, nearly two thousand miles away. So I reach out my arm stretching like an elastic band, stretching and stre-etching… get the book, and pyang-ng-ng, back to where I am. Well, nowadays everything is on the ‘cloud’ so it doesn’t matter where you are – although I’m aware, there is ‘place’, the sense of the body grounded.

Out of the plane, expanding into normal shape, inflating back into size in the long walk to immigration , passport stamp, thump! Bags arrive, car into town and the day just morphs into shape, heat, dazzling brightness, and time difference is 1½ hours later. The feeling you arrived before you left… a quirky strangeness in the corridors of time. I’m not able to see the actuality of my situation in the midst of experiencing it, unless it’s something that gets my attention, usually I’ll reflect on it later – ‘later’ arrives and the hindsight of that recent past is forgotten. Flying time does this, I notice, not a scrap of it remains, except for a few words to my future self, scribbled on the back of the boarding pass: When time and space and change converge, we find place. We arrive in Place when we resolve things. Place is peace of mind and understanding. Place is knowledge of self. Place is resolution. [Abdullah Ibrahim]


Photo: Win Sein Taw Ya Reclining Buddha, Mawlamyine, Burma [dinksintransit.com]

valentine 2017 falling in love again

interior_of_lotus_templePOSTCARD #250: New Delhi: Completely blown away at the Bahá’í Lotus Temple with the monk, Bodhinando – and it could be that an experienced young meditator like him, now entering the world for the first time after 5 years of intense practice, was just giving off this unseen bliss and harmony when sitting in meditation. Or it could be the dome itself, the amazing acoustics with fragments of birdsong, trills, chirps and whistles from the high windows up there; acrobatics of sound echoing 40 meters above our heads.

When we started the sit, I was struggling with head pain and didn’t think I could do it… pressure over the right eye. I couldn’t get up and leave without disturbing others, so the only way out was ‘in’. I tried getting focused on the in-breath/ out-breath, but the mind scampered away, again and again like a playful puppy. I persevered with it, over and over, did my best but in the end, gave up, or it might be better said that I gave in; whatever… ready to get up and go. But, just then, things started happening, triggered by that decisive acceptance, release of tension, and a huge enfoldment began, with everything tipping over, collapsing into a gentle falling.

A slow-mo picture of what happens when falling off the top of a tall building and the fun aspect of it is there’s no ground down below. Pieces of thought imagery flying past me in the fall, some are on the same level as the whole thing remains in free fall like this. It was a giving-in to it, a kind of birthing, a relinquishing, transitioning, and a swoon, a falling in love again, again.

The fall was without gravity; direction ‘down’ had no particular meaning, nor was ‘up’ or ‘through’. I use word ‘me’ object, and ‘I’ subject, as location points in the description of the event, and not as me, the Person walking around in the world. In the slow spinning enfolding through all directions and dimensions, the ‘I’ aspect was everywhere, all around, above and below, and inside and including the ‘me’, the Person who is normally separate, walking around in the world.

Then there was a small noise, and in response I opened my eyes; a shocking brightness of the here-and-now… what’s happening? Some people were leaving and the rustling of their clothing had drawn my attention. Closed my eyes again and the inner enfolding sensation was still there. It continued like this and when we left I carried it with me, looked at my watch and maybe an hour had passed, completely enthralling.

The word is Jhana perhaps; there was a familiarity about it. I must have experienced this years ago, and knew how to just go with it and when the opportunity arose, I gave up (gave in), relaxed the intensity, and everything was enfolded in the fall. As we were walking in the huge grounds surrounding the place, I was describing the thing with Bodhinando and asking him about it. I remember he looked at me once with small smile, and didn’t reply. Then I was going to ask him again later but forgot what the question was…

1-1Love is everywhere on Saint Valentine’s Day (and every day). Upper picture: the interior of the Lotus Temple, click on this link for more from Wikipedia. Photo above: Heart shape in the folds of a blue towel our taxi driver had placed on his seat in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, North India… and Marlene Dietrich from 1930, falling in love again.

finding suññatā in Lucknow

16maya3POSTCARD #249: Lucknow, North India: A short flight from Delhi brought us here, hired car to the Ambedkar Memorial Park. A vast space of nothing but polished marble flooring – no trees, no earth left uncovered. Two and a half acres of marble paving rising in a gentle slope, with some monuments and an avenue with hundreds of life size elephants carved in stone.

The panorama of it, an oasis-mirror-like flatness as far as the eye can see; a heaven realm… hold that thought, from two thousand five hundred years back in the distant past, comes rushing towards us now, into present time, 2017, the Buddha’s First Noble Truth – as valid as it was all these centuries ago.

‘The Noble Truth of Suffering’, yes, I’ve been wondering what that bad feeling was, gnawing away at the innards… the urgency of the human condition applies to everything I can possibly experience or do, or think concerning the past, the present or the future. The relief is in knowing the Buddha has a name for it.

That’s what it is, situated at the heart of everything, caused by the constant craving for something, anything that’ll satisfy a created hunger; the yearning for it not to be like this, please, no, I want it to be better than this. Thus, relentlessly on the run from what we don’t want it to be, towards what we want it to be; that just-out-of-reach object, or state of mind, or any way of seeing it, by any means possible.

This great marble-floored landscape of Ambedkar Park is exhausting; it needs to have something immense in it. The sense is of something huge that’s missing perhaps. Or is that what it’s intended to be? Can’t think, there’s nowhere to sit, then we see a marble bench over there, so we head towards that and stop for a rest. Thinking still of those who are caught in the conundrum of chasing foreverness, conditioned by society into this way of thinking.

dr-bhim-rao-ambedkar-samajik-parivartan-sthal-in-lucknow-images-8-1Now I’m in fear of this floor dissolving under our feet into a lake of water, grasping at anything and everything, but I’m sinking anyway. Then I see something I can hold on to coming towards me as if it were a boat… but it’s not a boat, it’s dry land, so it must be me who’s on the boat. Step on to this small island… a space opens in the mind: this must be the neither-here-no-there place… this gentle detachment from things, neutrality, “the middle way”… and I find there’s room enough to see how I can think about what a thought feels like without getting involved in the content of it. Flames of desire flash all around but do no harm. Allowing it all to ‘become’ without becoming it. Recognizing the sense of self without that solitary aloneness of the enclosed ‘me’.

There’s just this huge space, maybe one day filled to capacity with the ‘many crores’ (millions) of people gathered here, to be part of this vision of Shakyamuni Buddha as a political and social reformer. According to Ambedkar, a person’s unfortunate conditions are not only the result of karma or ignorance and craving, but do also result from “social exploitation and material poverty – the cruelty of others.”

Until that happens, there’s only the empty space, a sense of the vast no-thingness, suññatā.


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Top photo source, with Gratitude. Centre photo source, with Gratitude. Lower photo, the author with two Theravadin Monks at Ambedkar Park. In the centre Thai, on the right India.
~  G  R  A  T  I  T  U  D  E  ~

the days are running out

img_0459POSTCARD #247: New Delhi: “The days are running out”, Jiab says, in her improvised, short-cut English, and I imagine the days like small objects with legs, running out through the open door, down the step and escaping into the garden. It’s February already and we’re going back to Thailand on the 18th. Visas to be renewed, stamped, and the hurriedness of getting bags checked in. Then join the queue shuffling through security portals and on to the plane. I have to fast track but still in slo-mo… hard to get my head together; not ready, unwilling and not able.

Am I prepared for another catapulted leap up into the sky? One hundred thousand horsepower velocity, wings over the landscape, look out the window and see the mountains through the clouds down below. I want to go there, climb that mountain. So I go down to where it is and start to climb… but it’s not there; only the steep slope, and sparse vegetation, some rocks – the mountain has disappeared. Is it that mountains seem to disappear, as well as the days spent engaged in activities just start to run out because this is my 70th year in the world?

Is it because I learned that the vast abundance of the Buddhist no-self is everywhere, in everything? Looking at a thing and the identity of it being a thing is just gone. Slowly, slowly getting to be okay about that, and okay too about not having to want to know anything more than that. The smallest details of conscious awareness, and a lifetime of sensory input, all arising and passing away, associated somehow with the karma of the circumstances I’m in, without attachment and nothing is held, it just folds in on itself and sent like a letter to someone you love.

No end, no beginning, sometimes I can leave it all in the continuous form of the verb: breathing, eating, sleeping, and living ‘now’ in present-moment-awareness… beginningless, endless, all of the past, all of the future, and no “time” passing. Then it breaks free of that and returns to a beginning (so there has to be an end)… and there lies my reluctance, only ten good years… the days are running out. A story is created in the mind, a few pieces get stitched together, switched around, and let’s say this is how it began; a story inside a story (inside a story) leading back through all the previous moments like this and linked to a lineage of stories interconnected through a great number of former lives in the distant past. And all of that has resulted in this; a twinkling held in forever-present time.

The days are running out, language wakes up – I want, I want, I want to be ‘happy’, and I don’t want to be ‘sad’ – no, no, no. Creating a self where there wasn’t one before, and rushing around, naming things, describing things, creating a photo ID. Sign here please, thump, stamped and there’s a picture of ‘me’. Then other days just come along, as they do, with a light that chases all the shadows away and illuminates everything… this is how all the beginnings are connected up: ‘Once upon a time’… il était une fois, (it was once), ‘and they all lived happily ever after.’

Clouds come by from time to time
To give men a chance to rest
From looking at the moon
[Basho (1644-94)]


Photo: Buddha head at Dhammavinaya Buddhārāma Monastery, Hubli, Karnataka State, India.
~   G   R   A   T   I   T   U   D   E   ~