off the top of my head

OLD NOTEBOOKS: POSTCARD#357: Bangkok/Chiang Mai Flight: Rushing through the airport, late for my flight, with an urgent headache seeking attention like an inconsolable child. At the first opportunity I take off my mask and swallow another three capsules of forget-me-nots together with a small bottle of water I carry with me for this purpose. Losing track of the number of capsules I’ve taken already in all the discomfort of the journey. Another problem is wearing a mask intended for smaller heads than mine. There must be XL size but us big-headed folk are in the minority.

The flight takes about one hour and I’m in a half-sleep state, wakened by stabs of headache. Try supporting the head with one hand and an elbow on the chair frame. There, it’s seen as if separated from the neck and body. Feeling its weight, 5 kg (Wikipedia tells me), it becomes an object, the brain, the skull, eyes, teeth, facial muscles and skin. Vivid images conjured up by enhanced imagination, and the journey goes on.

Then landing… the aircraft swaying like a ship on the bumpy runway, all the rock-and-roll, accelerated, braked, jerked, and we’re here. Airport taxi to the apartment. I feel dizzy and my face is hot. Anyway I get there safe and sound, remove face mask.

So, how was the flight?

Yes, okay, not too crowded.

We found some large face masks for you.

Great, thanks

For a moment it’s strange to be speaking, looking for something to say. Thought associates words, pieces of the jigsaw puzzle.

How’s the headache?

Not too bad.

The head is an acoustic device resonating like a wind-instrument. Breathlessness of ‘voice’, tone quality created in volume of throat, in void of mouth and intricate cranial cavities. Small sounds like the reed of a wind instrument. Rolling articulated back throat cavities’ deep volumes of sound. Gasps and split bits of wet air that whistle and chirp for an instant.

I go to my room and sleep quite early.

Completely awake again at 4 am, and no headache. I roll over and pull the bedclothes around the shoulders and over the head, keep out the chill mountain air. Get myself up in the sitting position and with pillows stuffed under me, make the preparations for a half-hour sit, maybe 45 min.

Meditation for me, means relearning the practice of Vipassana, insight, seeing things clearly. I was quite active 10 years ago, when I got the headache 5 years ago it fell away to almost nothing.

But once learned, the practice remains, perhaps here and there, remembering it as we go along. Watching the in-breath and out-breath, only that. Stop the mind flitting around like a shape-shifter. On the way, I may briefly arrive at the place of no-thought, no ‘thingness’, nothingness but in a moment it becomes ‘somethingness’, its opposite – and again no thingness. Treading carefully through the landscapes of tranquility. Return to the actuality of the breathing and be aware of these kinds of things entering and leaving the mind.

The head, positioned at the top of this column of body wrapped in bedclothes, is seeing, observing what is coming into internal consciousness. I am not looking out at the World, the World (consciousness) is looking into me, into my eyes, takes the form of a visual object, now this, now that. And feeling through the other senses into this experience of sitting upright on my bed, this space of the room, this place. It’s like I am (we are) a sense apparatus for sensitive life, complex consciousness, which feels through us as sensory instruments. The reality of this, for some of us… is Brahman.

Come back to the breathing. Hard to do this, mind is not familiar with the ‘unthinking’ state… learning that it’s just this physical awareness and everything is as it is for a moment of consciousness, and another – then it changes again. I’ve got nothing to think about and that’s okay; thought, itself, is a downloadable software. Thinking is the whole story; random episodes, snippets, individual words. Then nothing, without thought, there isn’t any story. Training the mind to keep a note of the meds taken, rather than an off the top of my head figure, based on the remaining capsules, always at hand, for pain or for the small comfort that’s in it.

Ease the mental activity caused by things not being as I’d want them to be, them to be, need them to be, expect them to be (Dukkha: Buddhist suffering, dissatisfaction). First Noble Truth. Necessary to investigate this because doing nothing about it and just tolerating the suffering permits a willful attachment to it and that’s not the way we want to go.

Defeating all the mechanisms of mind with their crinkly acetate enclosures for these three capsules of forget-me-nots. Let go of the internal struggle, reach out for the universal truth. Birdsong and daylight slowly fills the room.

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

There is nothing external to Brahman… a non-dual, self-luminous consciousness, [expanding] to encompass the entire universe, which is but the appearance of Brahman; everything is the Self.

[David Loy, Enlightenment in Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta:
Are Nirvana and Moksha the Same?]

 

thinking about it

1ChannaiPOSTCARD #128: Delhi: After I finished writing this post I went back through the draft and changed it so much I forgot how it originally started and how it ended. Decided then the best thing to do is accept that this is not the beginning of the story; this is an entry point in a story that goes on and on and obviously it starts with Jiab’s photos of the visit to the coast at Chennai (Madras) South India, and the perfect silhouette of flying seabird upper right.

I came to Madras more than 30 years ago, and now remembering how things were then. I must have been convinced it was of real value at that time but the fact that it was all forgotten about later says that this was mind-created… things appear then disappear. So now I’m returning to the place I set off from but not the beginning – too remote and lost in time. Returning to this as a starting place riding the waves, flip from one journey to the next; it’s all connected. It’s not the destination, it’s the journey to get there – the Path is the goal.

And sometimes in the process of creativity you have to destroy all kinds of things you really like. Deconstruct everything to the point where you still kind of half-remember how to put it together again but usually it ends up as something very different from what you intended and surprisingly, somehow better! Sometimes, though, it can’t be reassembled in any satisfactory form at all, remains as fragments of rememberings and has to be let go of completely.

Mostly it’s thinking about it, thoughts, a function of the mind that synchronizes with the sensory data received and the world and objects appear the way they do. Fortunate or unfortunate, we may find ourselves with the karma/vipaka of received knowledge misinterpreted – maybe adrift on a boat without a sail, depending solely on the happenstance of things. There’s sadness about remembering how things could have been and having to accept they’re gone.

IMG_1262At first I thought how beautiful these little fish are … then I realized they had all been alive just a few hours before this photo was taken. Now they are dead. It’s like this in all fish markets everywhere I’ve been in Asia. People look at, feel, examine the animal they intend to consume, negotiate a fair price and it becomes the evening meal.

I remember my niece M when she was very small, crouching down close to a plastic bucket of water containing a beautiful yellow fish that mommy had bought at the market and she was watching it die as the man whacked it on the head a few times with the wooden handle of something designed for the job. Beautiful fish wrapped it up in plastic and then in a bag, sold! This was part of her education.

It’s difficult for me because I was brought up with fish and meat already chopped up and prepared for display in the supermarket. This is how it is, in the West we choose not to think about that, meanwhile the majority of the world sees the truth; the whole animal, head, tail; fully aware of what they’re doing. Yes in the West we decide not to think about that – even though thinking about all kinds of other really weird stuff from time to time – so we can decide not to think, we can stop thinking when we need to.

fishnet1This is why I try to give that great turmoil of thoughts a rest for a while… the whole thing. Stop thinking. The state of no thought, no language, no images, a great emptiness for a while; but eventually another thought comes along. I examine that for as long as it takes and let that one go too, then return to the state of no thought. Vipassana meditation, yoniso manasikara: proper, wise, or appropriate attention; skillful, wise, or critical reflection. Purposeful, systematic and methodical thought (please take a look at this link).

But then of course we all continue to eat fish. In UK it’s deep fried in batter with chips (French Fries), pretty basic but tasty. It comes in all forms. I remember walking through a fish market in Yokohama with a friend named Curtis Cairns and Curtis stopped me to look at a whole fish on display, pinkish grey in color, “I think that’s a Grouper’ he said, but I’d need to have them cut off the head, tail and part of the skin, take a slice of it and place it in a polystyrene tray held with Clingfilm with a barcode label and then I could recognize it.”

“… thinking I am this and you are that is what separates you or I from everything and we become something. In that something the ego is and as it is everything isn’t. That dream of thought the ego “knows” is the making of a reality that isn’t but thinks it is. So my ability to walk with one and see the other is what allows me the ability to see love in everything. The love I see is the love or “God” I have. The thought I think is the making of a reflection that wants and lives in need. The thought is an expectation of something to come. That something though isn’t real and what is real is left behind as the thought chases something it needs” [tommyg1231’s Blog “Tell Me Why?”]

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Just a note about Curtis Cairns. Hey Curtis I lost you! It’s been years. If you happen to read this, please be in touch…