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]



 

finding the way out

POSTCARD #254: Bangkok: The story of it is I went downtown to a government hospital to see a well-known anesthesiologist, about the 24/7 headache I’ve had since September 2015, in the hope that, aside from more needles and what-have-you, ablation? I’d discover the right way to switch it off. And to cut a long story short – getting through all the underground labyrinths and corridors, crowds and noise and waiting 5 hours with my headache being as it is, although for the most part, staying with mindful attention – I was finally in a white room with her, dressed in white, and three residents in white too.

Blinking in this dazzling clarity, I was asked all kinds of questions I’d never been asked before. Really it was just one question she was asking me and that was, how far do you want to go with this? Like a fairy godmother, she gave me new, stronger meds, saying try this before getting into these other procedures and treatments. So yes, I went home, took the meds and suddenly the headache got switched off. Hooray!

Wake up next morning and the headache is back. Oh no! Take the new meds and it gets switched off again. Hooray! There have been other times when it has switched off like this, but now there’s definitely a feeling that something else has changed too. I’m feeling more optimistic than I have done for a long time, why?

And I begin to focus and see it’s because of a new kind of acceptance I learned about (indirectly?) from the lady in the white room. She was saying, in so many words, okay I admire you for the effort you’ve gone to in coming to this place, but realize that we’re getting down to worst case scenario levels here; this where we DESTROY THE NERVE and it’s done in two procedures…

But I wasn’t listening, I’d just bounced right out of there thinking maybe I can live without this ‘procedure’. No needles or RFAs (radiofrequency ablation), ‘a minimally invasive procedure.’ There’s this electric needle and it goes in and precisely zaps the nerve. If that doesn’t work then we can put in another needle… but no-no-no, I was running away in my mind, ok, ok, what other options are there?

So I was back where I started and it was giving me a headache just thinking about it! Acceptance, looking more carefully into the Buddha’s Third Noble Truth (nirodha); the realization we don’t have to remain stuck in an unsatisfactory state. Finding the way out of Suffering begins when we let go of the craving that feeds it. An easing of the suffering of mind that takes place by seeing it is caused by holding on to… whatever, the longing for impossible things. Yep, what is causing this? To see what it is I need to accept that it’s there, the giving way to it the frank actuality of it. That was an eye-opener. Finding the way out of the Suffering in the mind means seeing the cause for what it is, a complex attachment/ resistance tied up with the suffering itself. Unravel the knot let go of the whole dang thing, and that’s the way out.

What to do? Train the mind to live with the Buddha’s Third Noble Truth, and I’m better equipped to accept the headache being there. Or go and see the lady in the white room and her worst case scenario ‘procedures’.

“… suffering smashes to pieces the complacency of our normal fictions about reality, and forces us to become alive in a special sense—to see carefully, to feel deeply, to touch ourselves and our worlds in ways we have heretofore avoided. It has been said, and truly I think, that suffering is the first grace. In a special sense, suffering is almost a time of rejoicing, for it marks the birth of creative insight. [Ken Wilbur]


 

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]


 

are birds free?

img_5495POSTCARD #242: New Delhi: Early afternoon flight yesterday, from Ch’mai to Bangkok gets in around 2pm, and Jiab was waiting for me at Arrivals. She had travelled up from the south that same morning. So we go by taxi into town, planning to get there for the 4pm appointment at a central Bangkok hospital to have the needle in the scalp, right occipital nerve (PHN nerve block treatment).

Clear road, all the way in, elevated highway, seemingly afloat without support, and pointing in a line between these tall skinny glass/steel buildings on either side, reaching up into the sky from foundations somewhere down below – a futuristic sci-fi city perspective image drawn with straight road penetrating into the urban landscape reducing down to a single vanishing point. Our exit comes up about 45 minutes into the drive, and the outside lane slopes off down into the shadowy gloom of street level – traffic yes, but no hold up at all. Good, it’s that time of day when lunch hour is finished and school-pick-up traffic not yet begun.

Suddenly we’re in town and what struck me was, so many people wearing black. Everywhere… you could say the entire population was dressed like this. I’d forgotten the country is in mourning. TV announcers wear black, the backgrounds against which they sit are in shades of black. Blackness is a tangible thing, a world devoid of color, now into the third month since the death of their exceptional King.

The city functions as it normally does and for us, a clear pathway opens up through traffic, green lights all the way. Into narrower streets, and narrower still, then the one-way urban lane (soi) network, typical of Asian cities, with minimum clearance between walls on either side for cars and motorbikes traveling at high speed.

The acceleration and rapid gear change sounds, insistent GPS voice on the driver’s phone in Thai and on Jiab’s iPad in English, overlapping each other, causing them to have to shout to be heard – identifying the turnings to take, no, not this one, the next one the urgency and confusion of it was exactly the wrong thing for my headache. But we’re there in no time, arriving at the place exactly 4pm.

Tumble out of the taxi, along the corridor, into the small neurology/pain management outpatients, and my name is called just then, as if I’d been sitting in the waiting room for half an hour. Good to not have that nervous anticipation of worrying as the clock ticks on. So I get up on the gurney and into the lying-down position, left side, with head on pillow. The nurse pulls curtain: shweesh, all the way round: shweesh, Doc is saying; now you may feel a little pain here. Needle slides in… the initial shock of it is astonishing, barely a hair’s width, narrow-gauge hypodermic, and I’m aware of pressure; he’s pushing it around, trying to get the nerve, then the time it takes to void the syringe. Everything moves up a notch, jaw clench, rigid body and holding in the mind – is this what hell is like? Immediately the small ‘self’ leaves the body. A voice says now take a deep breath, and the needle comes out.

The ease of the anesthetic kicks in immediately. Euphoria and laughter, the silliness of rubbery knees articulating legs, and shock of feet unexpectedly impacting with floor as we walk along the corridor and wait there for a while. It’s over; I’m folded into another taxi home, and must have slept all the way through. Awake again at 3 am for the first flight over here to New Delhi. Anesthetic has worn off by this time and there’s the pain of the bruise where the needle went in and I don’t remember much about that journey, only later I realized the headache came along too.

One good thing is I’m getting nearer to an acceptance of it; the actual pain, and what I make of it, are two different things. At the start, September 2015, all the doctors I spoke with said it would get better after a year, and when you pass the 5-year milestone, it would be much easier. The sort of thing prisoners doing a life sentence might depend on, I thought at the time. But it is true – hectic it may be, I can see in the interval of time passed, the headache seems to be not as bad as it was, because there’s no memory of what life was like without it.

Ah, my friends from the prison, they ask unto me, “How good, how good does it feel to be free?” And I answer them most mysteriously, “Are birds free from the chains of the skyway?” [Bob Dylan, Ballad in Plain D]


 

night and day

img_0125bPOSTCARD #232: New Delhi: Awareness expands to include landscapes of President-Elect Donald J. Trump’s hate/fear, bully/victim and finding the middle ground in these conditions of duality is not an option these days, it’s absolutely necessary. Urgency of the imperative; ‘I’ have to find a place of equanimity here; mindfulness is a requirement, awareness rather than ignorance (ignoring). I am aware of the ‘me’ I live with; the tug-and-pull, push-and-shove… me as the observer of the ‘me’ I think I am, as revealed when I’m drawn towards beautiful objects placed to catch my attention or to repulse me; encountering obstacles, uncomfortable circumstances and giving way to situations, which I recognize as simply aspects of the human condition. I am that which is observing the thoughts of ‘me’, cool and at ease. I listen rather than just hear. I watch rather than see. I think rather than have thoughts – as more and more of us are doing nowadays, I am consciously engaged, night and day, in the revelation of it.

The everyday ordinary human experience – no more, no less, but said with compassion for those trapped in extreme difficulty and adversity hard to believe. Every aspect of the human experience examined and identified by the Buddha two thousand five hundred years ago and passed down through the generations as the Teaching on the Eight Worldly Dhammas we have today. The constantly changing forms of: pleasure and pain, gain and loss, praise and blame, fame and disgrace.

All that I love and all that I hate become an insatiable craving for gratification deemed to be rightfully ‘mine’ in view of the suffering endured to get here – then it changes again, and we are held in the never-ending cycle of rebirth, of grasping for that we cannot quite reach; the same Teaching can be applied today as it was in historical times; the structure of the condition as disease, diagnosis, cure and treatment. Awareness of the suffering inherent in the human state that we are all subject to; compassion for those in fierce denial of lies and fabrications created by perceived enemies, stonewalling obstructionists built into the social cultural default, all the scientists and psychologist witchdoctors who manipulate conscious experience to fit with consensus reality. Embracing also all of us who are trapped in this illusion, convinced that it’s real.

Truth hidden in plain sight, layers of disinformation; genuine plans for world peace prevented by tactics of endless war. The containment of wealth, greed, hatred and delusion. Cool calm acceptance and understanding of this protective barrier – not a passive allowing, more a patient endurance (khanti). Seeing through their constructed facades of truth as if it were exposed for all to see. It’s enough to register the fact that this is ‘seen’, and publish articles so others can free themselves from conditions of adversity. It’s all we can do at this time. It’s enough to know we are not caught by the hook of negativity and confused misunderstanding, or perversely immersed in the proliferation of not having things the way we would like them to be – rather than that, seeking freedom from all unwholesome states of mind.

Gain/loss, status/disgrace, censure/praise, pleasure/pain: these conditions among human beings are inconstant, impermanent, subject to change. Knowing this, the wise person, mindful, ponders these changing conditions. Desirable things don’t charm the mind, undesirable ones bring no resistance. His [or her] welcoming and rebelling are scattered, gone to their end, do not exist. Knowing the dustless, sorrowless state, he [or she] discerns rightly, has gone, beyond becoming, to the Further Shore.

AN 8.6 Lokavipatti Sutta: The Failings of the World


Thanks to Jill Shepherd for the Sutta reference

gone, gone, and gone

img_4482POSTCARD #222: Bangkok/New Delhi flight: An awareness of things as they are. The main event was the injection in the head and the constant (PHN) headache gone instantly. Wake up next day and it was still gone, gone as I write this, and it remains gone. So reassuring to know the transformation to ordinary things is possible, the car is back from the garage and out on the road again.

The release from head pain is still held back due to the pain of broken rib but so much easier to cope with now the headache has gone. Walking the miles in airports was thought to be a problem though, so Jiab convinced me to request a wheelchair. Wheelchair from check-in to the lounge then wheelchair to the plane, straight in and the first seat in C class section of the plane. Stewardess puts my bag away in overhead luggage space. Wonderful, I’d never been a wheelchair passenger on an aircraft before, my first time. Plenty of space in this expensive seat, a meal with endless courses, and I slept the rest of the way; so comfortable since these recent days of sudden pain, tossing and turning at night and discovering the only way to try to sleep is sitting up on an inclined wall of pillows.

The odd thing about being in a wheelchair is you approach silently, moving along very smooth floor surface feeling the vibration of small jolts of joints between tiles below, crowds part immediately. If anybody is still standing in the way friends will pull him away or the wheelchair guy says excuse me please? and they move straightaway. A few sideways glances and I resist the temptation to say Hi, how’re you doing? And sometimes feel I should try to look really sick, to provide a reason for being like this, problem is having a broken rib is not a noticable thing. But I keep looking ahead exercising the right to be in a wheelchair and humbled by the generosity of everyone giving way. Astonished by the experience of sitting on wheels in a public place, the great perspective of long airport walkways ahead and seeing the surroundings move towards and go through me. Also the thing about travelling long distances while seeing the world from a lower eye level – a familiarity, déjà vu, the memory of being a child again.

The wheelchair experience means an understanding of what helplessness is, understanding vulnerability, aging… it’s all coming unglued, bits dropping off, but the revelation comes along too there’s no point in feeling bad about yourself because you are simply incapable and that’s all there is to it. At the same time, being (temporarily) disabled gives some insight into the existential plight; the realization that most of us are held prisoner in a trance-like state, incultured into the ‘self’ fiction through the mirror of society’s fear of the unknown, living with a sense of purposelessness and not able to see it.

Not able to cope with pain, tragedy, loss; unable to see the awareness that accompanies our ordinary joys and sorrows – there’s more than one kind of awareness, this provides some relief from pain, ease and understanding; I can step back from the trauma and see it as coming from somewhere else. I can be engaged in clinging and at the same time be in a position to see that this is what’s happening. Letting go, it’s not ‘mine’ anymore.

Then we’re in New Delhi, into the Indian wheelchair and out onto the miles of ochre coloured carpet. At the end of a long time of sitting, I’m looking up at the immigration official; passport thump and wheeled in, permitted to enter the country.

“How should we be able to forget those ancient myths that are at the beginning of all peoples, the myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses; perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.” [Rainer Maria Rilke]
————————–

Photo: Jiab’s collection from Ladakh

a buddhist’s sense of suffering

IMG_2872bOLD NOTEBOOKS: CHIANG MAI: I’m lying with an IV drip in my arm and exactly why, I don’t know right now, but there’s also a laser beam directed into my vein along with the needle. So presumably, laser light is present all through the circulatory system as the chelation fluid enters my body. This special treatment may provide a cure in the long term for the PERMANENT HEADACHE I’m learning to live with… who knows, I’ll try anything, and at least they treat you well here. I’m laid-back in a comfortable soft TV lounger but instead of TV watching I’m looking out into a small garden with birds to watch and scribbling notes on a print-out from the first draft of this post… careful of the pain from the needle in my left arm.

FullSizeRender (7)I have to say, this is about my experience of headaches, discomfort and suffering so if you don’t like the thought of reading more about pain, click the button and get away from here now! But if you’re curious and interested in the buddhist sense of suffering, think of any kind of discomfort you have experienced and consider this: it’s the struggle to get away from pain that causes the suffering. The energy used in trying to get away from it just fans the flames and makes it what it is. And, because it’s habitual, maybe a lifetime of doing it like this, things just go on and on until I see the only thing that’s preventing me from letting go of suffering is that I’m still holding on to it.

This insight into suffering comes about, not by choice, but by allowing yourself to be in a no-choice situation – or maybe it’s like that; there’s no other way, absolutely no escape. And, what I’m talking about here will be familiar to sufferers of chronic pain, usually you do everything in your power to not even think about this kind of thing, so there’s a kind of unpreparedness about it. Unknowingly you’re caught like the proverbial rabbit hypnotized by the circling predator. Helpless, you give up, go stumbling towards the pain and unexpectedly, a door opens inside that place and there’s an easing. You discover it’s a mind thing; the habitual action to get away from it is the cause of the pain… it’s this vortex you get to in the end that leads to the discovery of the moment of easing held in the center of pain. I feel the moisture of an eye-blink, the absolute physicality of being here.

There’s a strange kind of time shift about it, it’s somehow not until after it’s happened you notice time skips a beat. It’s somewhere around here that the realization happens; ignorance is displaced by the knowledge of it, awareness floods in and there’s an acceptance of this new direction towards pain; you let it in enough to somehow find a release from it. It’s an immediate understanding that somehow you know you’ve gone through it, so you can’t be ‘held’ by it anymore There’s a real sense of achievement, you are bigger than it; there’s motivation, energy, freedom.

How to apply this? A conceptual understanding of the release forms; it’s more than an acceptance of the pain, it’s an embracing of the pain – an expanding awareness that pain is not a thing you carry along with you. Dispose of all the heaviness; it’s something to be travelled through. It’s this that lets it go (frees it). The knot in the string is undone. Can’t be explained, not a conscious understanding… just that something is changed inside the thinking process, a felt difference – “felt” rather than “thought to be” – and the suffering is suddenly not there anymore.

‘We learn how to let go, in the process of observing the consequence of our grasping.’  [Ajahn Munindo, Dhammasakaccha]

————————-

Note: excerpts from an earlier post: things not being right and special thanks to Pennycoho for our short exchange in the comments box long ago   –   G   R   A   T   I   T   U   D   E   –

the two-hundredth

watpohguardian-e1459584335688bPOSTCARD #200: CHIANG MAI, THAILAND: the two hundredth postcard leaves this keyboard with a question I’m hoping will find an answer. There’s more of a familiarity with the characteristics of my perpetual headache, but the months slip by and I’m postponing the plan I had to come to terms with the dependency on the medicine I need to numb the pain. Future time slides into present time, tomorrow becomes today, and everything I was doing a moment ago has disappeared into the past again – the enhancement created by the meds masks many things. No sooner has it been seen than it’s gone. On the rebound, senses are alert, listening, feeling, searching… how can this be? But I’m caught in the conundrum of not being able to see it’s the searching for the way out that maintains the state of being lost.

After the illness came to stay (September 2015), it took a while to focus on the functioning of Mind as I’d previously known it; as the cognitive sense, the sixth sense that knows the other five senses and knows itself as the ‘self’ until attachment to that self aspect is seen through. Everything from there onwards is understood in a different way. There’s the seeing of events without the story and it all can be deconstructed carefully – indeed nowadays, there’s a fascination with this investigation, somehow believing that by taking things to pieces I’ll be able to see where the problem of dependency lies. But the investigation goes deeper and deeper, Mind changes its focus, and I discover I’m not able to find what it was I was looking for because I’ve simply forgotten the train of thought that brought me here. An uncomfortable place of attachment to something but no idea what it is. It doesn’t seem worthwhile to try to return to how things were before I started this, even if I could remember how it all fits together, which I can’t. Besides, things being as they are, putting it back together is impossible because everything has changed.

The confusion of mind like a jigsaw puzzle with pieces missing that can only be put together in chunks and not ever completed, means there’s always this dissatisfaction and returning to it again and again; this coming-back to look for the beginning of it… then, as if to remind me, and before I am properly aware of it, the parts come together as a felt pain. A thought now appears in a small window and the recognition of it as pain unfolds with ‘me’ suddenly playing the role of the person to whom this is happening – this is a story about ‘me’ and I’ve learned to take the dosage as soon as possible, and I leave the story and the window closes.

In the vast ease that follows I recognize an important piece of the puzzle; selected attention affects perception. What I think is the solution has been displaced by my attachment to searching for it. So, it just looks like it’s complete because time has moved on in the duration of thought arising, and everything now has the quality of being seen in hindsight.

In the peace and quiet ease of those moments when there is no driving urge to take the meds to correct this perceived pain, it’s possible to see that my attention to it is both the problem and the solution; trying to get what I want or to get rid of what I don’t want, but unknowingly caught in attachment to it. The desired state I’m seeking already belongs to ‘me’. Everything I have, everything I want, all of this is ‘mine.’ Even the pain, that which I consider to be the thing I hate the most, is also ‘mine’. What to do? How to learn the skill of detachment in these circumstances?

How wide are the horizons of the spinning earth! The moonlight leads the tides and the sun’s light will not be confined within the net of heaven. But in the end all things return to the One. The deaf and the dumb, the crippled and deformed are all restored to One’s perfection. [Hsu Yun]

————————-
Photo: detail of a Wat Poh Guardian taken by P Henderson. Note: special thanks to Ellen Stockdale Wolfe who kindly sent me the link to the video below of Mooji’s remarks about pain. Go to 25.50 to bypass a lengthy introduction

http://mooji.tv/freemedia/he-sees-only-the-infinite-sky-of-your-being/

whispering winds

dreamstimefree_251662POSTCARD #193: VASANT VIHAR, NEW DELHI: An extraordinary battle with uncompromising traffic to get here on time for Head-ache’s appointment with the doctor at 5pm. Shrill penetrating, sharp horns blast, push, persist, insist on the direction we take, and suddenly we slice through the evening rush-hour, arriving at the place too early by half an hour. It’s like that sometimes; tumble into a parking slot by the park, uneven ground and the car tilts over and slightly back. Open all the doors to allow the fresh air and warm wind to blow through.

Things are suddenly rustled in the quietness here in the tilted back seat and I get loose papers weighted down or they will fly out the doors. It’s like we’ve always been here and any memory of the journey to get to this place has been somehow displaced by the wind passing through the interior of the car; a quick investigation here-and-there, then out among the trees, rustling the leaves in a great sigh of high frequency leaf-whisper sounds, masses of individual notes played in cluster upon cluster, swishing and swooshing foliage branches – a sound that seems to crash like waves on the shores of a sandy beach.

The first wind of its kind for many months comes at the end of the cold season. Its warmth enters everywhere, into every thing; blows out gusts, sucks in voids and spins everything around. Swooping down, so inquisitive, and filling up all the places and spaces, then out and up in the sky where only birds engage with it. A wind that’s present everywhere at the same time, a wind that enters into and out of all things as if it were something autonomous, an invisible entity. Where’d it go… have you seen the wind? How can that be possible, isn’t it formlessness? We know it’s here only by the sound of it, in the leaves and seeing the swaying of branches in a succession of movements, an expression of the air displacement itself; a manifestation of the wind – I can become the wind, the space where it goes.

Now this – now that, long tree branches drifting and swaying patterns of light and shade over my clothing, look up at the sun and get pleasantly blinded by it in a twinkle. This wind blows through the mind, my awareness of it rises as it rises; I become more alert when it’s very loud, feel at ease when it’s still and quiet. It becomes the thought flow, gently restless in the swooping shadows plunging deep into foliage pattern. The oneness of it all includes everything seen and unseen. Better not be late for our doctor’s-appointment, we spill out of the car, hair-whiplash on forehead, gather myself up with my companion Head-ache and together we stumble across the road to see the neurologist witch-doctor, amazed by this persistent wind. Sunlight and shadow-shapes of foliage sweeping over the roadway and path, all around…

But do not ask me where I am going,
As I travel in this limitless world,
Where every step I take is my home.
[Dogen]
————————-

Related post: Memories and the wind
Image Source: dreamstimefree_251662.jpg

tanhã, craving

Wheel.of.Life-largeOLD NOTEBOOKS: Craving perpetuates the fever of unsatisfied longing, this is the state of tanhã. The opposite of a sense of well-being, tanhã is not a happy bunny. It constantly feeds the hunger of desire but the action of feeding it only sharpens the edge of appetite. Too much is never enough. It explains very well the reason why some people are committed to ‘wrong view’ with an intensity that takes your breath away. Tanhã is this deep craving for the ‘self’ we construct in fear of ‘no self’, a result of tanhã. I am ‘me’, in this world, due to tanhã, the reason for rebirth.

In the story of King Assaka and Queen Upari, Queen Upari died and became a cow dung beetle in the next life. But she felt quite at home in her lowly existence as a cow dung beetle, because of tanhã which is delighting in whatever sense object presents itself and wherever it finds rebirth. Reborn as a dog, it takes delight in a dog’s existence; reborn as a pig, as a chicken, there is always delight in each existence. [‘Thoughts Without a Thinker: Psychotherapy from a Buddhist Perspective’ by Mark Epstein].

In the causality sequence that forms the 12 step cycle of the wheel of existence (paticcasamuppada), tanhã is step 8. The way to stop tanhã arising, is to cut off the conditions that lead to its beginning; interrupt the sequence before tanhã happens, and bring the whole thing to an end. The entry point in the cycle is just before tanhã: step 7 feeling (vedana). At the vedana stage, there are three possibilities: pleasure, pain or neutral feelings. If feelings of pleasure or pain arise, then craving or aversion will take place and tanha will be the result. If, by an act of will, only the neutral feeling is allowed to arise, the 7th link will be neutralized, de-activated. That being so, tanhã cannot arise, and the next link (upadana) will fail to arise and so on. [See “Fundamentals of Mainstream Buddhism”, p214-215, Eric Cheetham]

For me, the discovery that interrupting the sequence at vedana changed the momentum of everything was awesome, to say the least. This is how I quit the tobacco habit and my whole attitude changed. By allowing the neutral response at vedana to be present for a moment, I noticed an easing in the craving, a cessation, just enough to trigger my curiosity. The cessation took place when I noticed it was the way out of the cycle of repetition, and I understood then how to be free of it. The neutral feeling didn’t register as anything, just the awareness that there’s a space, a gap that wasn’t there before; a vantage point where I could see how to change the cycle of events. It’s in the nature of tanhã (as with everything else) to be transient like this, it’s something that comes and goes. Knowing it leads to Suffering, we can stay distant from tanhã for a moment, and allow it  to start the process of cessation by itself. Trying to confront or defeat tanhã will not work because willed action only causes it to arise again.

Situations that used to completely overwhelm and demolish me disappeared; other habitual behaviour began to fall away. I began to notice the wonderful emptiness, the wholeness, a peace of mind that comes about when you understand there is a way out of Suffering; everything that arises, ceases.

…there is a noble truth about the cessation of suffering. It is the complete fading away and cessation of this craving [tanha]; its abandonment and relinquishment; getting free from and being independent of it. [Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta]

————————-

Source for header image
this is a summarized form of an earlier post titled, ‘too much is never enough