something, anything, nothing

No-Maske_Ko-Kasshiki_Museum_RietbergOLD NOTEBOOKS: Geneva, Switzerland: (originally dated September 29, 2012) I get on the Airport bus crowded with people and all their baggage, but I’m not going to catch a plane, I have to teach a new English class in the airport building, and feeling a bit nervous about that. Staff entrance, visitors’ ID, then I’m led along corridors to an elevator and down two or three floors into a network of underground rooms. Door opens and I’m in this claustrophobic space. No windows of course, a large white board, the smell of whiteboard markers, harsh penetrating fluorescent tube lighting. Find the air vents, adjust the air flow by remote and I can breathe better.

Three large athletic men enter; customs officers and senior security people, I see from my notes; shake hands with everyone. There’s a relaxed informal locker-room awareness of each other; deference among them, recognition of something about one individual I guess must be the most senior. Anyway I’m the foreigner in the group, and I have to give an account of myself.

Introductions over and we get started with the class. Pretty soon, something comes up, one of them stands, as if to attention, asks me a question about the use of ‘anything’ rather than ‘something’. After he’s asked the question there’s a hesitation, as if he’s going to say something else, then I notice he’s just observing my body behavior, the professional investigator…

So we’re looking at each other like this, and after I realize he’s finished talking in fact, I’m giving an answer to his question while gradually realizing I’m having a kind of out-of-body experience. I can hear my voice saying the words; the echo in the concrete room, feel the moisture and movement of the mouth but everything else is somehow unfamiliar.

It seems to work ok, I manage to articulate properly and tell him that ‘anything’ is usually used either in a negative context: “I don’t have anything”, and it’s also used in the interrogative form; you might ask a person: “Do you have anything to declare?” Me saying this with a smile, thinking of the Customs Declaration, and hoping to get the intensity to lighten up a bit.

No reaction (maybe he didn’t understand). So I continue with the example: “If you thought that person did have something to declare you could say: “Do you have something to declare?” Still no reaction from this hypnotic look and I’m feeling really weird. He sits down and discusses with the other two in French and they seem to agree about this. I’m still kinda not ‘here’… maybe it’s the underground room, the intensity of the officer’s stare

Somebody else in the group asks a follow-up question and an interesting discussion follows on from this. I sit down with them and can feel myself get back to ‘normal’ – learn not to pay attention to ‘the look’. Class time, comes to an end, shake hands (everybody shakes hands in the French culture), and I’m up in the elevator out along the corridors to the exit and the fresh air.

Wait at the Airport bus stop, it comes, and we’re off into town. The bus is full of wide-eyed people just arrived from distant parts of the world, large suitcases blocking the passageway. How can I say that there is no self, because, if there is no self, who/what is it that realizes this? There’s this feeling that I’m not here – clearly in the public eye but vanished away, invisible. Bus speeds off to town with passengers all speaking loudly in different languages.

Are you an object being watched by another Presence? Or are you the Presence in whose view an idea of yourself is watched? [Mooji]

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Notes also from David Loy: Enlightenment in Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta: 
Are Nirvana and Moksha the Same?) Image source

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…

always here, always now

IMG_1216POSTCARD #127: Delhi: Jiab sent a photo from Madurai in South India, people go to work, life goes on. Meanwhile I’m hanging out my laundry on the roof terrace here in Delhi in an immense dryness of heat, knowing I’ll have to take them in an about one hour because if not they will become crisps, weather conditions being as they are and also the leaves of the bouganvillia plants and palms all around are soaking up the moisture in the air. I water the plants too of course but every day they’re dry in the morning. Somehow, everything survives.

It’s an ordinary day. And I was starting to write about that… then there was the small earthquake in Delhi, buildings shook for a few moments, nothing compared with the 2nd quake 7.4 Richter scale in Nepal. In fact I was there in Kathmandhu in the earthquake in the early 90s The thing I rememember about it was I was in a hotel on the 4th floor and suddenly the sky was full of birds, pigeons dashing around, hovering in the air… then the building started to move. The birds felt it first.

This is when blogging becomes a kind of mind-bogglingness. The aloneness of the solitary blogger in some time-zone in the world – an aloneness, maybe that’s what motivates this reaching out. ‘The internet is an extended sense organ’, bloggers in the world scattered around the planet, but really all contained in conscious awareness – we couldn’t be connected in any other way! I can’t see you, or hear you. I can’t touch you and will never ‘meet’ you in the normal sense of the word, I just know you’re there, or here inside me, or where we all are… curious how it’s the awareness of the connection that activates it.

‘There’s no other time than now, so how could we be elsewhere? We’ve always been “here and now” ―there’s nowhere else! Whether we think we are living in the past or in the future, we’ve always been squarely in the present moment. When we “stroll down memory lane” or “boldly go where no one has gone before”, we’re still exactly wherever we are, in the same time and place. Our memories of the past and plans for the future are nothing but present mental fabrications. Wherever we are, that is “here”. Wherever we were before, that was “here” then. Wherever we go later, that will also be “here” then. We can never return to yesterday, nor can we advance to tomorrow. Yesterday was now, only then. Tomorrow will be now, only then. It’s always now.There are no geographical or temporal alternatives. It’s HOW we live “here and now” that matters: avoiding harm, doing good, purifying the mind.’ [Nying Je Ling – Jonang Buddhism]

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Update 13 May 2015 The Hindu Newspaper. Nepal again on edge as second quake kills 57. 7.3-magnitude earthquake strikes 68 km west of Namche Bazaar, close to Mount Everest. [Further update, the Himalyas dropped by three feet after the earthquake]Quake’s power a fifth of the 7.8-quake that struck Nepal on April25: US Geological Survey. 8 tremors hit Nepal in two hours, quake an aftershock of April 25 Quake: IMD.17 dead in India: 16 in Bihar, 1 in UP: MHA. More than 160 after shocks recorded since the first April 25 earthquake: Nepal Seismology Centre

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Excerpts here from an earlier post: interconnectedness. Special thanks to Michael for: “The internet is an extended sense organ”

the construct

IMG_1192OLD NOTEBOOKS: East Anglia: [post written in New Delhi] A group arrives at the mall coffee shop sorts out the chairs, a few remarks, laughter; look at the menu the waitress comes over. Give their order, then there’s nothing left to say. Silence. Each one pulls out a mobile device, phone or iPad, stares at screens whose reflected glow illuminates the face of the user. Heads tucked in to examine the picture, body crouched over in fetal position; hypnotized, fascinated with the object, unlearned, never thinking of the question ‘WHY?”

Dominated by thoughts of, who am I? How do I relate to everybody else: you, he, she or it – we, you they? “Me’ as an individual doesn’t seem to be anything more than just a member of a particular socio-economic group. From this way of thinking, I can see (my) self situated favorably – or it could be unfavorably if I’m caught in being the victim; subject to the karma of former circumstances – product marketing gently nudging at the elbow. I need to be thinking about the next option – expectations, responsibilities, things I ought to be doing. Thoughts thinking thoughts, thinking more thoughts and thinking about things to the extent that it all becomes habitual – embedded in the self-construct I recognize as ‘me,’ subject to causes, conditions in the world, which is also a construct, I am some kind of imaginary character in a fictional landscape.

There is so much that we cannot know, limitations of the senses, including the cognitive sense. But everything arises due to thought, the duration between one thought and another is non existent – thought knows nothing of it because thought only knows an object; all objects appear only in thought – no object, no thought. STOP THINKING and there’s the enigma… the empty space where that thought used to be. Nothing there now, if it is just ‘nothing’, I’d need to have ‘something’ there to confirm it is nothing. I can’t find the ‘something’. So it’s not ‘anything’, it’s ‘not something’ – it’s a feeling of no-thingness. But then I’m thinking about it again… it’s an easing-away from that heaviness of thought, that which built the construct; buildings, welded metal, concrete, brick and iron embedded in stone. All of it can be demolished in a day. It all just fades away. ‘Melted into thin air… the baseless fabric of this vision… we are such stuff as dreams are made on…’

“After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small-complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.” [Alexis de Tocqueville, 1805-1859]

context

IMG_1071POSTCARD #126: Delhi: Jiab went to Jaipur and sent me this pic of a cow walking past the Hanuman Ji Temple. This lovely cow seems so unconcerned, passers-by too; harmony, things just moving along. All kinds of beings going on their way, dressed in this body given to us – not perfect maybe but this is not a perfect world – and I’m saying that because of waiting here in the hospital drinking bottles and bottles of water before I have the ultrasound scan of the abdomen. Anyway no urine pressure yet, the nurse says with a frown, and tells me to drink more water.

So I’m sitting on the hard chair in the corridor watching the strangest people go by. There’s an Imam dressed in white with long grey beard, ancient men in strange costumes I’ve never seen before – could it be Afghanistan? There’s an Arab lady dressed in black, head to toe with a slit for eyes to see the world through. All kinds of amazing beings… and I suppose I must look pretty strange to them too.

Then I receive the pic of the cow on my phone… wow! There’s something about India; this enlarged context, the all-inclusiveness. The first thing you notice is how it looks from the outside rather than what’s inside, the context is where the thoughts are situated, the content is what the thoughts are about. In India the diversity is tremendous; language, culture, behavioral protocol. People can’t easily share thoughts, that ordinary intimacy is not there in the way we know it in the West.

Anyway, I’m still having this problem, and think maybe if I walk around a bit that’ll help create urine pressure. I have to go to the pharmacy section to pay the bill for some medicine so I’ll do that. Ask how much it is, and it’s 294 Rupees, so I give the man a 500 note and he asks me if I have smaller change – this is always an issue in India – so I have a look and manage to dig out all the small notes I have to give him 300 rupees, I get my 6 rupees change and the man looks pleased, I paid the amount in full and the fact that I have no small change left, is not his concern – how could it be? What to do? Only the 500 note and the rest are thousand notes. I have only a few tens but this is not a good situation to be in, nobody has change for large notes.

Go to the canteen and buy a bottle of water for 15 rupees, I give him 20 rupees and he asks me if I have the 5 rupees… here we go again. So I can’t find the 6 rupees anywhere – where is it? Lost deep in my bag somewhere. Okay never mind about the 5 rupees, keep it. Mumbling and unhappy about all these hoarders of small change, go sit in my place and gulp down the bottle of water. Still no urine urge, have to drink more water, go back to the water guy and give him my last 20 rupees, assuming he still hasn’t got 5 rupees change. He gives me the bottle for 10 rupees in lieu of the extra 5 rupees I paid last time!

Suddenly my faith in the world is restored, and immediately I have this urgent need to go see the ultrasound nurse. She admits me and there’s that cold slithery thing moving around the lower abdomen. But it’s done, next stop is the toilet and all is well.

“The Dalai Lama once said that the things he found most surprising about Westerners was their self hatred […]. In Tibet, he said, only the village idiot feels self hatred.” [Thanissaro Bhikkhu]

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it can happen any time

DE13_CITY_PG3_3COL_1142586fPOSTCARD #125: Delhi: Taxi at Bangkok 5 am to the airport, first flight to Delhi. Travelling with Jiab who’s busy with meetings about the Nepal earthquake. I came along to Delhi because M is busy in Chiang Mai, and it’s a high stress situation, not only the earthquake but also my BP is still high and I thought the Indian doctors might provide a second opinion. The Delhi doc was very nice, so good that everyone speaks English here, and he put me on a new set of medication; let’s see what happens.

So it’s back to the snarl of traffic further complicated by the construction of an overhead metro and underground train system – enough to give anyone high blood pressure. You go through a very crowded place, with lots of people you don’t know, so you tend to close in a little bit; lots of things going on and you can’t process it all. You can imagine taking a horse into a railway station and it would go crazy because horses have feeling and impression and there’s just the overwhelm. Somehow we’ve gotten used to this; the world we create. I am a theatre of processes, transitions… going along with what is assumed to be true. The construct is everywhere, staring back at us. And yet it can simply disappear in a matter of days – as in the Nepal earthquake. The media, TV and newspapers, a filter through which we see things… is this the received wisdom of hundreds of thousands of years? Self-evident; something we can see. There’s no mystery about it. Maya is a beguiling concealment – a kind of enslavement… the world as duality. Necessary to decontaminate ourselves from the media, move away from that noise. Looking for the karma that uncreates all bad karma… when this is, that is. When this is not, that is not.

Jiab will be busy with Kathmandu plans for the whole of May and to allow time for other work to go on. Then she will go there for June; organize labor, seek out ‘the bare-foot technician’. Rebuild the construct, the world we live in. I’m going to be stuck in Delhi for the hot season, waiting for an extension to my Indian Visa. Then I have to apply for a new UK passport (no pages left). I shall mostly be pacing the rooms, outside temperature 40°+C (hopefully air-conditioned if the electricity holds out) Time for considering the construct, I need to have a project, maybe collating the posts into a book. A friend told me his father was in ICU for 17 days then expired last night… it can happen any time.

‘… we have no way of knowing from within the waking state, whether or not it is a dream, just as we have no way of knowing from within the dream itself, whether or not the dream is real. However, we are not in the waking state any more than we are in a dream. We are Awareness and the waking state appears in us as does the dream state.’ [Rupert Spira]

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This post contains excerpts of a talk by Ajahn Succito. Also excerpts from a video sent by SeeingM
~   G   R   A   T   I   T   U   D   E   ~

change in plan

IMG_1935POSTCARD #124: Bangkok: Ah well, life’s like that, we made a last minute booking after M went to Koh Krabi and Jiab and I got a flight to Bangkok. No traffic on Sunday so we were at the house before we knew it. The plan is Jiab goes to the Bangkok office on Monday, leaves for Delhi Tuesday and goes to Kathmandhu in a few days to organize the rebuilding, after the earthquake, using local staff. ‘Bare-foot technicians’, on-the-job training, they get paid quite well, mostly clearing rubble and then re-establishing infrastructural stuff. It could take a long time. For a more up-to-date account of how things are check out garyhorvitz’s blog: Kathmandu Komment, Everything is Everything and more recent posts.

IMG_1369I’ll go back to Ch’Mai and continue with care-taking duties of M until 16th May then back to Delhi. If I stop and think about it, I find I’m starting to take a position against it, locked into the suffering and looking for some kind of punishing way to develop the problem – a grasping reaction, I have the cause but no effect. Let the mind unstick from it. the karma of cause/effect/ flowing like a torrents in a river. Present time contained in the here-and-now of where I am, as if it were contained in a book I’m reading… open at the page where I was, re-enter at the same place and time when I was last here. I am a character in a story about a world seen through clouds of thoughts thinking thoughts embedded in this self I recognise as ‘me’.

How am I to inhabit what remains of this lifetime, feels like I’m at the end of the railway track, can’t go any further, step down from the train and there’s this open view out to sea.

“Lal Shabaz was wandering through the desert with a friend as evening began to fall. The desert was terribly cold, so the two pilgrims began to gather wood for a fire. With their pyre neatly constructed, they realized they had no way of igniting it. Lal Shahbaz’s friend suggested that he transform himself into a great bird and fly down into hell to collect coals for a fire. Lal Shahbaz considered this a wise suggestion and flew away. After many cold hours Lal Shahbaz returned to his friend empty-handed. Puzzled, he asked why he had not returned with fire to keep them warm. Lal Shahbaz replied, “There is no fire in hell. Everyone who goes there brings their own fire, their own pain, from this world.” [William Dalrymple]

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upper photo: a Thai mythological creature guarding the gates of a Buddhist temple.
lower photo: a Buddha Rupa unharmed in the Nepal earthquake
With thanks to Gary Horvitz ~   G   R   A   T   I   T   U   D   E   ~

you can only experience something if you’re separate from it

IMG_2144POSTCARD #123: Chiang Mai: We’re on the second day at Doi Ang Khang, not far from the border with Myanmar. Living in a created log cabin structure built on a hill. It’s possible to walk up to the main hotel building because it’s not far but there’s a public vehicle, song-taew that M likes to go on, so we have to call for it every time. M gets on first then I clamber aboard. She laughs: Toong Ting, the whole thing goes down – paloomph – when you get on! Ah well, it’s nice to be noticed… it’s because I‘m heavier than most Thai people. Jiab gets on and the suspension of the vehicle hardly alters.

IMG_2132We start going up the hill and at the top get into another vehicle that takes us all around an amazing wild garden titled Suan 80, created by the much revered King of Thailand on his 80th birthday, at the time of writing he is 87. The whole of this area was planned and created by the King and is titled The Royal Project. M runs and skips along the ascending pathways through exotic flowers and fields of vegetables. The simplicity of it. While Toong Ting lumbers along stopping at places where you can sit down, M runs back and asks if I’m okay, then runs off again.

I’m struggling with mind states that do more harm than good. Years spent busy with the traffic of thought, intensity, uncertainty and believing simply that this is NORMAL – this stress is how life is supposed to be lived. No instruction, advice, no indicators; it never occurred to me that maybe I should stop pretending I have control over what happens and just let it be… a lifetime of small events that I couldn’t do by myself – it’s simply taken out of my hands. Okay, give up control and I’m carried along in the wave… am I simply selecting the data that fits the theory? Mindfulness of the question is enough for the present time.

Otherwise pretty much immersed in thinking about what other people did and failed to do and should have done but didn’t and the true purpose of life is seemingly missing… thus finding my way out from the complex untruth created by those with whom I had placed all my trust. But I’m past that now, can see through it; karma being as it is, it’s not impossible that in some future time there may even be a quality of gratitude for so-called elders’ ignorance (their ignoring). This is the human condition.

A small bird appears out of nowhere, lands on a thin tree branch, The tree branch takes its weight, swings low and springs back up – bird folds away its wings, looks around, experiences the swing of the branch. Do trees know the birds are there? Does water know the shoals of fish that swim through it; is the blue sky aware of flying flocks of migratory birds… then the thought arrives: you can only experience something if you’re separate from it.

IMG_2145“There are forms, shapes, colors and so forth, but there is no thing there. There is solidity, and no self-existent reality. All there is is the quality of the experience itself. No more, no less. There is just seeing, hearing, feeling, sensing, and cognizing. And the mind naming it all is also just another experience.” [Ajahn Amaro]

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Upper photo: The Border point with Myanmar (Burma). Middle photo: Thai Script tells us this is Garden 80. Lower photo: The road continues on the Myanmar side; same terrain, different country

everything is a metaphor

IMG_2142bPOSTCARD #122: Chiang Mai: Jiab suggested we hire a car with driver and  go to Doi Ang Khang, the mountain, for some fresh air and hill walking – beneficial for health for someone in my condition. Do I want to do this? Ask a question, and the answer comes with it – as if it were part of the question. The answer is in the asking. So off we went. M sitting beside me in the car and I had my passport in my jeans pocket. She felt the hard square shape: What’s this Toong Ting? I said it was my passport. M knocked on it with the knuckle of her finger:
Knock, knock!
Who’s there?
Hank…
Hank who?
You’re welcome.
It’s playing with the idea that Thais cannot pronounce properly the ‘th’ sound in ‘Thank You’. Then another one:
What kind of dessert do ghosts like?
I don’t know.
Ice cream (I scream).
That led to the pronunciation, and difference in meaning between ‘dessert’ and ‘desert’. For example, the whole central part of Australia is mostly a vast area that consists of nothing but custard and bananas and blobs of ice cream, fruit and currants.

It was a four-hour journey, pretty scary steep incline of roads and sharp bends kept us alert. Also gulping of air to get rid of the ear pops until we finally got to the top, into the hotel room and M runs through all the space, jumps on the three beds and into the bathroom. Mirror takes up the whole wall. I see her looking at herself – not satisfied. Ah well, we don’t usually fall in love with our reflected image, there’s always something judgmental – things that are always not as good as they could be (the Buddha’s teaching on Suffering Dukkha). The antidote is alert watchfulness, mindfulness, sati; mindful of being mindful, remembering to remember to remember. Learning how to learn.

Lunch came and before we could start to eat, M had to take a photo of it and send to her friends. It’s an amazing thing that we use the wonders of technology to send an image of somebody’s lunch over the Internet; a created postcard sent and instantly received. Then the actual lunch is eaten and gone forever. Except that M wouldn’t eat enough, and Jiab said something about she was too thin. I could feel the hopelessness in M, like… please don’t tell me this again! So I said I thought M looked nice, thin, elegant: What does elegant mean Toong Ting? I said she looked like a movie star, beautiful… then after that I kinda regretted saying it because she started acting strangely. We got back to the room and she’d hardly look at me and at the same time cuddle up against me. But it was soon forgotten when we got out and started the walk up the mountain.

The first stop was the pagoda, one hundred and ninety steps up and down. I couldn’t quite figure out why it was there, except that everything is a metaphor. Trees wrapped in coloured cloth, auspicious meanings I understand only because I’m expected to understand (to be continued)

“our world and the beings in it in all their diversities are but the illusive manifestations of mind. While the illusion is taking place, it is “real”, but its essence is unreal like a dream. Therefore regard all phenomena as insignificant, similar to a dream, and rest your mind in this perspective in the moment.”[ The Seven Points of Mind Training of Atisha]

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The Atisha quote comes from a comment by Ben Naga in a recent post
~ G R A T I T U D E ~

‘return to go’

traffic lights1 POSTCARD #121: Chiang Mai: I have an appointment with the doc about my blood pressure. It goes all right, arm placed in the tightening strap, BP is reduced slightly, get more pills and come back in 10 days. Downstairs and out; we have a slightly complex schedule today and I have to say there’s a small anxiety in me that’s saying maybe we can’t get it all done; M’s mommy is coming to pick me up in the car outside the clinic, then we’re going to the airport to meet Jiab coming from India. I get a call from M: How are you feeling Toong Ting? And I say yes I’m fine, where are you now? There’s a silence then M says: I’m in the car. I keep forgetting she doesn’t know locations… I ask, are you near? There’s a dialogue with mommy in Thai then: about 10 minutes from where you are. Okay I’m waiting outside the clinic bye-bye! Anxiety again about waiting there for an unknown period

Car arrives and I get into the back seat with M, mommy in the front, driving. I always have to get in the back with M – she insists. Jumps past the large arm rest in the ‘down’ position that divides the back seat to make space for my large body mass. A small smile as if to say you’re welcome, then the shuffling of play objects out of the way and debris of food wrappers on the floor and lately ‘the book’ she’s reading placed on the armrest. It’s her world, it’s where she spends a number of hours of every day going to and from school, and then stopping at restaurants to get fast food because Mommy has to work every day – there’s nobody at home to cook. I get in the back seat and there’s a sense that this is where M lives.

We get to the airport and have to drive around and around because there’s just nowhere to park. Anxiety returns. When it’s near the time I get out and meet Jiab, help her with her bags, car comes by and we’re in. Jiab has to sit in the front with mommy because M doesn’t allow her in the back – in fact there’s an immediate small resentment when Jiab speaks to me with some affection. Same thing when we stop at a Japanese restaurant Oishi Shabushi, I have to sit next to M. This is a place where there’s a moving belt of small plates of food and you have about an hour to eat as much as you want for a set price. The haste and urgency of it encourages M to eat a lot. The rest of us are required to show enthusiasm. So, once again I eat too much and we stagger out to the car park and drive back to the condo.

It’s obvious to me, with this high BP and expanding waistline I have to overcome this anxiety and try to get back to normality, the middle way, the Path; ‘return to go’ as they say in the monopoly game. Get back there and start again.

To be able to be unhurried when hurried;
To be able not to slack off when relaxed;
To be able not to be frightened
And at a loss for what to do,
When frightened and at a loss;
This is the learning that returns us
To our natural state and transforms our lives.
[Liu Wemin, 16th Century]

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