the word ‘nothing’

POSTCARD#406: Bangkok: Eyes looking out for anyone I know in a world full of face-masks. This displaced familiarity… we’re all strangers here but it seems like we’re friends. We’re all together in our locked-in state, thinking in quiet colors, blues and shades of gray. I’m seeing it in slow motion today due to my old friend, the pain in the head – triggered by wearing a mask too small for me – the elastic bands around the ears pulled tight, squeezing on the nerve.

Awareness of the headache as it peaks and breaks through like a Chinese Firecracker, the holding-on becomes the letting-go; hold-on, let-go, hold-on, let-go…

Suddenly mindfulness facilitates the disappearance of ‘self’… there’s no ‘me’ to whom this is happening. There’s no ‘self’ suffering from head pain, there is only pain… detached, seen as a quivering of the air held for a moment then gone.

There is no You, no I. No He, She, or It. See the third person singular, sitting there, an object in objective reality. No worries, no We, You, They. Personification and the lack of it, is a shared thing. It happens to all of us.

There is no permanent unyielding ‘self’ in a kind of mind-made algorithm that gets it to make sense and the knowing of it too. Self is a construct, language is a construct, everything is advisedly devised, contrived, improvised – perfect disguise. Cross my heart and hope to die: “this is who I am!”

The gypsy glancing glass-eyed gaze, searching through a sea of face masks for that sudden déjà vu, a hidden identity revealed: the prodigal son re-found, taken home embraced by long large arms of an extended family, comforting and warm.

Words strain and stretch to carry meaning. No sudden movement, no end, no beginning, leave everything in the continuous form of the present moment. No past and no future except for the placing of things in the right order.

Finding my way through a lifetime of sensory input remains the indefatigable task. Living with and looking after the mind/body organism and the world that is part of it; all this continues, quietly and with care – becoming an ongoing open-ended, analysis of the observed world and the observer of it, together as a oneness. Everything is integrated, nothing exists outside of this – really nothing, not even the word ‘nothing’.

“…we do not experience a succession of nows. This present now is the only now there is. The now in which the body was born is the very same now in which these words are appearing. It is the only now there ever truly is. [Rupert Spira]

Note: Not able to concentrate enough this week to publish the latest installment of the Ten Paramis. Look out, it’ll be there ASAP.

thoughts like clouds

img_4536POSTCARD #243: New Delhi: A photo in the photo library of the mind got lost. I had it in a special place because I wanted to use it for this post, but now it’s gone and I didn’t make a note of the file name, I’ve forgotten where I kept it and worse still, I’ve forgotten what it looks like. This is the problem. All I know is that it was a photo of sky that sent me off in the direction of thoughts like clouds drifting through the empty space of mind… blue sky, high altitude clarity – that’s all. So, how will I recognise it if I don’t know what it is? Hmmm I’ll know it when I see it, I suppose, hoping there’ll be some kind of familiarity about it, a pause before moving on to the next, thinking… that reminds me of something, what is it? And suddenly there’s recognition, like meeting an old friend you haven’t seen for half a century. But as I start to go through something like 4000 images, it seems unlikely.

I shall sit quietly for a moment in the space of no thought and, instead of trying to remember the photo, I can contemplate the empty space where it used to be. But that’s not working because the empty space where it used to be suggests an identity for the lost image. Fragments of remembered lost-photo imagery remain, I need to have the mind clear of remembered images, no identity, even the word itself – no ‘it’ and no ‘self’, the Buddhist anatta, ‘no self’, nobody at home.

It’s not working because the effort to create ‘no self’ results in a mind running around everywhere, taking ‘selfies’, you could say, in different places and with various friends. Smile please, pose… click and take another one, okay? Click! And it’s happy doing this, but deep down it’s not satisfied, seeking always for a way to become whatever it is that is permanent happiness. But it’ll never happen, everywhere I look there’s another ‘self’ seeking an identity and becoming that form… but again, it is never satisfactory. Seeking the next opportunity to ‘become’ is the default aspiration; it’s this that holds beings in the cycle of rebirth. Caught in the predicament of becoming.

So I give way to it… and curiously, there’s an immediate awareness of the restless mind held in endless searching. Another kind of awareness enters the picture, seeing the ‘self’ that sees itself seeking. The seeking ‘self’ turns its awareness on the seeing ‘self’ and is, at once, seen. There is seeking but no seeker, and no object is sought. Seeking non-objects is seeking the motionless space in which the answer is, before the question is asked. The place where everything is and is not. No-self is another way of saying nothing exists anywhere, anywhen, ever. Deathlessness, the death of death… this too shall pass, and the fragility of newly born beings, all finely tuned things which appear briefly; vulnerability, perishability, limited lifespan, and all that remains is the breathtaking tracery of what this was, a moment before it passed.

“Consciousness veils itself from itself by pretending to limit itself to a separate entity and then forgets that it is pretending.” [Rupert Spira]

Note 1) some parts of this post taken from earlier posts, and edited pages for the next volume of Postcards From the Present Moment.
Note 2) the photo, Ladakh, Himalayan North India, taken by Jiab. I opted for this in the end, and maybe it was the one that got lost, or maybe it became the image formed in the mind which recognised the ‘no self’ quality in the expanse of sky, and distance on a scale that overwhelms the small self…


tipping point

IMG_3184POSTCARD #220: Chiang Mai: A long story short is that I fell, gravity got me, it gets us all in the end – flactured lib, the X-Ray man said, with poor pronunciation, in a Chiang Mai hospital. They took me home, but later that night I was having such an awful time sleeping, family members took me back, I had an injection and spent the night there. The ‘self’ is a sensory experience; everything I see, hear, smell, taste, touch, feel and think; cognition is a sense that responds to stimulii received through the senses. I inhabit a simulation.

Not possible to see it any other way – well, it is possible, you could see it another way but it’d just be ‘another way’of seeing the same thing. A dream-state set in the context of my being awake… There’s something about this that’s obvious, so clear and evident yet, again and again, when I look for it, it’s not there – the answer I seek is difficult to find because by seeking for it I create the state of seeking, and this makes it difficult. What happened? I’d had in fact, two falls; the first was straight back-over past the tipping point and down, crash. My PHN headache meds have something to do with that.

The second fall was some hours later when, getting up too quickly from the lying down position, then in slow motion; forgetting about the pain in the lower back, attempting to allow for that in mid-air, and the whole thing came down, collided with some hard-edged furniture on the way  … and that’s what did it for the rib.

So now I’ve two problems, one is the headache that returned, the returnee from some time ago carrying with it the strong pain meds; two is the fractured rib and mysterious, discovered bruises and scrapes. The disorientating pain meds for that too. I tread carefully, the world is a dangerous place… mindfulness is necessary. If the ‘I’ construct isn’t what this is, what is it, then? I can change the pronoun from ‘me’ to ‘it’ but it’s the same thing only there’s an ‘it’ that recognizes ‘itself’ everywhere.

“The apparent reality of the mind, body and world is imagined with the thought that thinks it. In other words, the constructs of thought, that is, the beliefs we have about the mind, body and world – are only real for thought itself.” [Rupert Spira]


knowing knows knowing

IMG_2910bPOSTCARD #204: 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]

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


photo-8bPOSTCARD #111: New Delhi: Half asleep in the shade on the roof terrace, palm fronds swaying in the warm wind. Resting after the endeavour to get Ng on her flight to New York. She was staying with us for a couple of days because her mum was away in Calcutta on business. Ng is 15, her mum is Thai and her dad is American. Ng has a white, almost ivory skin coloured complexion; Caucasian type with oriental eyes – child of the distant future. You could say she’s unique; the feeling there’s only one Ng in the world. That quality of individuation, disentangled from the social archetype – self is a figment of the imagination; I am a unique individual not separate from an infinite number of other unique individuals in the world. The magnitude of it is beyond ordinary comprehension… takes my breath away. Ng is quietly being herself, getting on with it, planning to leave at 8pm to meet with her school dance group for a 16 hour flight to perform at Brooklyn Bridge Park, NYC. But the flight has been postponed, departure time changed to 5.00am and the group will have to meet at the school at 3.30am. Oh… should we go to sleep for a few hours, or stay awake all night? We decide to go to our rooms at 7pm and mindfully lie down for the hours remaining. It goes quickly, we’re up at 2am, bags in car and away across town.

The curious urgency of driving at night through empty streets, headlights shine the way through the tunnel that our direction takes. The city is dark and indistinct like an old sepia tint photograph, its colour enters into the interior of the car; I see Ng’s profile, intense eyes lit up in her phone’s screen display, reflected colours on her face – checking her messages… no need to have conversation, everything’s been said. Stop for a moment to turn into traffic at a T junction and on my side there are two men wrapped in shawls crouched around a small fire they’ve lit on the sidewalk. One ghostly head swivels around on its axis, looking out from the glow of the flames, mediaeval eyes connect with mine; a patriarch from the remote past. Hold that gaze for a moment and the car moves on. We get to the meeting point, other kids are there, I offer to carry her bag over but Ng says it’s okay – so it’s time for me to go now, bye-bye, take care of yourself. I get in the car. U-turn in the empty street and just before accelarating away, I see a pale white hand waving in the darkness… small windscreen-wiper motion… I wave back, bye!

Home, sleep and somewhere in an accumulation of hours of nearly a day later, I’m here on the roof terrace in the shade because now it’s too hot to sit in the sunshine, and I’d forgotten about it all when the text message comes in from Ng’s mum in Calcutta, saying she had an email from Ng. She just arrived, plane was late. Total journey almost 24 hours. They had to change clothes quickly at the hotel and were going now to do their dance performance in the Park. I google the time difference and distance from Delhi to New York, trying to focus on the fact that Ng is probably dancing in Brooklyn Bridge Park round about now, 7300 miles away….

“The apparent reality of the mind, body and world is imagined with the thought that thinks it. In other words, the constructs of thought, that is, the beliefs we have about the mind, body and world – are only real for thought itself.” [Rupert Spira]


‘the world is the mind’


POSTCARD#77: Delhi: There’s nobody here. Step right out of myself and look in, peep through the windows, knock on the door, ring the bell… anybody home? Try the door handle, it’s not locked, go in… hello? Walk through the empty rooms; the teapot is warm, teaspoon in the sink. Evidence, somebody lives here – look, there’s the laptop on the desk, a brightly illuminated screen. It’s a Google map of India. Click on the little yellow man and place him in a location to get ‘street view’. There he is standing on the surface of the planet. We are in Delhi, presently facing South and on our right, 4000 miles away in a westerly direction is London, 4½ hours behind Delhi time. Keep going on from there over the Atlantic and we come to New York, 3500 miles further on, and 9½ hours behind Delhi time. Further west, over the mountains and many horizons, arriving in San Francisco, another 2500 miles, and 12½ hours behind Delhi time. On we go in a westerly direction until time comes to an end in a zigzag line in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It’s the International Date Line. After that it’s officially a different day. Continue from there, and we come to Japan, and Seoul, Korea, and South East Asia, then Bangladesh and I’m in Delhi again, back to the time zone I’m in now, except that it’s yesterday… it’s not, of course, it’s the same day, it’s always the same day.

Absent from present time, there’s this long journey that lies ahead… I’m already on the plane. And now I’m arriving at the destination, going around in that place and here and there, everything is squeezed into just three weeks. Then the long return journey, exactly the same as it was going out only the other way round, and glad to be back again. Wow! How was the trip? …no I haven’t left yet, I’m just flying around in the world in my head. Got a ticket with my name on it, date of departure, passport valid – confirmed, registered, subject to limitations, and causes, and conditions, and the operating system that’ll take me there. I am ‘taken’. It’s about the process, no Controller, it goes on automatic pilot. There’s no ‘self’ in the equation – the deed is done and there is no doer – using the Passive Voice language function to express the Buddhist Truth of not-self (anatta).

Sounds are heard, food is tasted, and the chill wind of the southwest monsoon is felt upon the skin. And there’s nobody there that feels it unless I put together an identity composite in Active Voice: ‘I feel the chill’ – ‘I think, therefore I am’. It has to be a strongly assertive statement because the sense of ‘I’ has arisen simply through thinking it’s there and when I stop thinking about it, it’s not there. There are only the Five Khandas. Necessary to have conviction, believe it’s there. *‘I believe for every drop of rain that falls a flower grows, I believe that somewhere in the darkest night a candle glows’. Not impossible. Language tells a story, creates a fiction that I can get lost in; only partly aware that it’s a constructed thing and most of the time I’m clinging to a concept of selfhood, maintaining an assumed identity that’s dependent on updates and new software. Selfing is grasped-at, held, identified-with. Consumerism insists ‘self’ is a religion, but the world is seen to have moved on just a little bit, always, and all this is included in its diversity in the process of becoming something else.

‘Consciousness doesn’t ‘see’ or ‘experience’ a world through a mind, but rather the world is the mind (in the broadest sense of the word) that is ‘seen’ or ‘experienced’ by Consciousness.’ [Rupert Spira, The Ever-Present Seamlessness of Experience]


Excerpts from an earlier post passive voice based on an idea that arose from a post found in: Just A Little Dust
*Note: ‘I believe that every drop of rain that falls….’ is a quote from the song “I Believe” (1952) composed at the start of the Korean War.



how it seems (2)

080220131699New Delhi: Travelling across town, Shym is driving. He drives slowly and carefully, surrounded by vehicles honking their horns, cutting in on the nearside; they don’t like it that he’s driving slowly. But Shym remains calm – much ado about nothing – he’s an older man. Out there, fierce displays of male feathers in a ritual display resemble pure outrage, shouts and gestures through wound-down windows. If looks could kill… eyes sparkling with diamonds of malice, giving him ‘the daggers’…. Shym stays solidly as he is. Ah well, people, you can’t always get what you want. Sometimes you’re just stuck with it, you know? It’s how you respond to that unhappy state of ungratified wanting that determines the future for you; cause/effect – if you react with anger, it’ll lead to more anger. But these drivers seem to have gone way past that stage: up-to-their-eyes in the world of anger. Without their anger there’s no purpose in life. They thrive on the struggle; mythical realms of the Titans, and the Asuras, declaring a state of war that lasts an eternity. All this doesn’t phase Shym, at the correct time he slides the steering wheel slowly through his fingertips, indicators flashing clicka-clicka-clicka, telling the world, I am now turning right, and the car sweeps around like a large boat in a wide arc. The surrounding traffic forced to move out of the way. The response is plosive, to say the least. But, well that’s just how it is.

I’m sitting in the back, looking out through tinted windows, incognito, people can’t see me in here – a car wearing dark glasses. Nobody knows I’m inside, the voyeur, the invisible man, looking out at the world all around. I feel like I’m not here. Everything passing by outside the windows of the car; events come and go, arrive and leave. Things occur in random order and drift away without leaving anything behind, video images recorded on security cameras from various places in the 360 degree coverage, showing the car entering the car park, that I’ll never see. I say something to Shym and I hear my own voice in the acoustics of the car; the sound of it causes me to pause for a moment. Everything stops… it takes an effort to get started again. Before it happens, just this silent space. The body feels light and I’m seeing through it.

We turn into the car park. Parking attendant looks like ex-military, sharp uniform, whistle held in his teeth, a piercing blast, signals for us to go left but Shym indicates right. Outrage, more whistle blasts, and he comes up to the car, peers in through the tinted glass, hand cupping the space around his eyes to shade from the sun, I see a large bristly moustache and yellow teeth, the glass fogs up slightly and there are small bits of spittle from his hot breath and shouted words. But Shym gently points with an inclination of the body and politely insists that he’d prefer to go right, not left. More displays of warlike behaviour but I can see this is an act, it’s only how it seems to be. So we are allowed to go right, there’s no problem.

I’m amazed how this system works. All my assumptions are wrong. Attachment due to causes and conditions, that’s all. It’s like everything is a continuation of how things have been; inherited from some former time, or former life, the outcome of actions still hanging around due to tanha, attachments… velcro fastenings, super glue, magnets, welded bridge structures and all the mind stuff about wanting things to be like this or like that or wanting things to be different from what they are. The created ‘self,’ seeing the world according to likes, dislikes and preferences, obscures cessation; doesn’t see that things stay as they are only for as long as it takes. Then it all dissolves in a myriad of changes, disintegrates, crumbles away. We can’t hold on to anything. It all comes to an end.

[Link to: how it seems (1)]


‘…when attention is drawn to the presence of the Knower, to that which knows and experiences, whatever that is, it immediately becomes obvious that there is something present that is conscious of the body, the mind and the world. As we do this, whatever it is that knows seems suddenly to become more present. It shines. In fact it is simply discovered to have been always present, but apparently eclipsed by our exclusive focus on the known.’ [Rupert Spira, ‘The Transparency of Things’]

space and thoughts

white buddha dreamstime

New Delhi: It’s that Sunday morning feeling again; so silent, the neighbour’s dog feels uneasy about barking too loudly – maybe there’s nothing to bark at. Sadly, it walks to its place on the balcony and looks out… nope, still nothing happening out there. No intruders on the property, no people anywhere to be seen. The world is asleep… the zzz, zzz ZZZZZs, slow breathing of sleep; the no-work-today comfort zone. No need to get up until early afternoon. Sleeping off the excesses of the night before; dinner started at 10pm and the party went on until sometime after two o’clock in the morning.

I didn’t get to sleep until late but it wasn’t because of partying, it was the neighbour (not the ‘dog’ neighbour, the other one). These people decided to have a medium/large social event last night – verging on the mildly-obstreperous. The noise and kerfuffle became kinda abstract to me, drifting in a coma of half-sleep, sounding not like people having a party, more like a party among the animals at the zoo; two or three hippopotamuses (hippopotami?) trying to get comfortable in a room too small for them – getting up and sitting down again and disturbing each other in the process, smashing small breakable things, reversing into corners and making squelchy sounds along the side of the wall with their great weight squidging around awkwardly. Slightly frenzied but not ‘losing it.’ A bit farmyardish too, with yelps and howls, crowing chickens and meowing cats and geese and ducks; somebody with hiccups. On the other side, the dog barking on the balcony – dogs of the mind bark – and the whole thing reached a kind of pandemonium of people talking over each other in a flowing jibberish of words, scraps of music mindlessly playing in two different places, punctuated with the odd crash, squeak and shout. Other percussive noises, the smell of beer floating out into the air and a cloud of cigarette smoke from men standing outside the house, speaking on the phone, lengthy shouted monologues in a language I don’t understand.

It’s really noticeable that the mind grabs at something immediately; velcro fastening, unpleasant rip as it comes apart, so you leave it attached: Yep, I could get really angry about this… There is nothing pleasant about this feeling at all, no reason for it to be there other than simply the desire it has to adhere-to, and ‘be’ something. It’s ‘birth’ in the Buddhist sense. No matter how mindful I am, there’s that driven brooding thing, the scenarios of outrage. I concentrate on letting the mind untangle itself from the problem; just letting it get on with it; it goes away for a while. Then it comes back again and eventually I move through to the front room, wrap myself in a blanket, sit on the cushion, and get ready to remain there until it’s over – watch the breath…

See where the mind leads, where it goes how it reacts to ‘me’ trying to hold it, how it is able to concentrate and how it does that. A bit like getting to know it as if it were a stranger, rather than thinking it’s ‘me’ and I can control it. It really is undeniably noisy next door, it needs attention and I give it what it needs and what’s left over gets focussed on the struggle to be in a state of peace – not a placid thing, mostly it’s like swimming in dangerous waters, but knowing that as long as mindfulness is maintained, there’s no threat at all from the carnivorous species of the deep. Just letting them be there. Anger/distress is a passing mental state, same as everything else, nothing special.

There is the body, the heat, the cold, the hard, the soft, and the thinking mind starts to drift. Let it go where it wants; a sense of travelling behind it, follow it, be curious about where it goes. Disengage from the attachment, just enough to feel safe from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, flying around dangerously and ricocheting off the walls and ceiling.

There is Rupert Spira’s example [Link below] about a room filled with people. ‘I’  am the space in the room, the people are my thoughts and images, bodily sensations and world perceptions. All kinds of people in the room, large, small, kind, unkind, intelligent, unintelligent, loud, quiet, friendly, unfriendly, etc…, each doing their own thing. But what they do or say has no effect on ‘I’, the space of the room. The space is there now and it will be there when the people go home. The space, is/was there before the building was constructed and will be present after it is demolished, it’s always present.

Now it’s later, the morning after. Am I the only one awake? So quiet, the electric hiss of the computer seems loud. It may have been on a morning like this, in those historical times, that Siddhartha Gotama, the prince who became the Buddha, woke up in the rooms in the palace, where the  endless parties had taken place, surveyed the devastation of spilt drinks and furniture tumbled over, and seen the true reality of the event… he just knew, this is not where it’s at. Left the palace, gave away everything he possessed and set off across the landscape…


‘Our objective experience consists of thoughts and images, which we call the mind; sensations, which we call the body; and sense perceptions, which we call the world. In fact we do not experience a mind, a body or a world as such. We experience thinking, sensing and perceiving. In fact all that we perceive are our perceptions. We have no evidence that a world exists outside our perception of it. We do not perceive a world ‘out there.’ We perceive our perception of the world and all perception takes places in Consciousness.’ [‘The Transparency of Things’, Rupert Spira]