tilt

Photo 1-2POSTCARD 147: Delhi: Phone rings. It’s a message from Jiab in Mumbai… image downloading, a photo taken from her car window. Reflections in the glass make it look like the yellow-top taxi is fusing into the back of the red bus. She’s stuck in a traffic jam; same here in central Delhi (on my way to Khan Market), rivers flowing through all the urban creeks and tributaries, as one vast river and this curious thought that it’s the same time at any point along its route. Or extended through every passageway in the city, as a mass of end-to-end steel/chrome-plated metal, creaking along like the glacier I visited a long time ago in Switzerland moving so slowly, the end of its 133 kilometer length is four hundred years older than its beginning.

Placing parenthesis around a block of time creates a beginning and an end, the world seen in a particular context… ‘my’ view of reality and the actual state of things out ‘there’ appears separate from me. I live in an illusion, riding around like a passenger seated in the vehicle of the body, input from data received through sight, sound, smell, taste, touch – and a mind that creates meaning based on memory files of similar events occurring in the past. There’s this identification with the thing-ness of things, thoughts, solutions and problems, reviewing, seeking, and memories of past times.

Yet, I can see the mind as an object; I am an organism contained in and created by the ‘world’, a body made of earth, water, fire and air. And if they’ve invented something that can break up the molecular structure of solid objects, concrete and steel, I find it impossible to believe, of course, more likely to disbelieve – but, given this all-inclusive subjectivity as the nature of the world, I’m inclined to believe it is possible, and everything tilts in an unexpected way.

Traffic seized up here in the approach to Khan Market, but the signal is still good so I take a picture and send it to Jiab in Mumbai, 1400 kilometers away.

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‘Things are not what they appear to be: nor are they otherwise.’ [Śūraṅgama Sūtra]

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immediacy

IMG_2161dPOSTCARD 146: Delhi: The early flight from Bangkok arrives in Delhi mid-morning local time. It feels like everything that brought me here has vanished; a curious missing piece of time, the four hours of travelling, and before that the Thai departures, the check-in desk, and before that the taxi that took me to the airport from my house in the darkness of very early morning, more like the middle of the night – all that has gone, the past is like a half-remembered dream.

I suddenly wake up in the middle of a Delhi traffic jam and it’s really confusing to be in this bright daylight after the darkness of the aircraft cabin. The transition into this reality so rapid, the split-second required for it to take form is… missing, yet an awareness of it having taken place remains – or the feeling that something just happened, whatever, and having to allow for the curious delay in the time it takes to recognize what’s going on. Suddenly there’s the blare of car horns from behind and vehicles overtaking as the driver adjusts to avoid a motorbike coming towards us on the nearside (why’s that man driving on the wrong side of the road?).

There’s an alertness, anticipated danger, preparedness… the car is buffeted around, rock-and-roll, accelerated, braked, jerked, vibrated and three lines of speed bumps one meter apart cause the vehicle to jolt six times. Then it stops. There’s an obstruction up front. Horns continue to blare and protest. What to do? The one-way system in Delhi is unrelenting; it can take a very long time to get back to where you want to be. So when the driver sees a gap in the flow and makes a smooth wide U-turn straight across four lanes of traffic, I feel like breaking into applause as we speed away in the opposite direction.

A few short turns through streets I’ve never been in before and we arrive at the house. Me and my suitcase of compressed, flat-pack clothing, ‘self’ assembly; get into the bathroom, shower, put on new clothes, and become someone else, an assumed identity. Step into the room: So, how was the flight? Yes okay not too crowded. Suddenly aware of having to speak in codes, chunks of language created by air forced through vocal cords squeaks like the reed of a wind instrument, and rolling articulated back throat cavities, deep volumes of sound, gasp and split bits of wet air that whistle and chirp for an instant in tongue, teeth and lip. Thought associates words which insist on naming things, integrate pieces of the jigsaw puzzle; a picture emerging as I speak, yet changing constantly according to the way the parts fit together.

Objects have that strange familiarity, rush towards me like old acquaintances… remember me? There’s a book on the desk, open it at the page where the marker was left the last time I visited. Return to that place but can’t recognize anything. The ‘now’ moment is here and in all other locations at the same time. All I can do is dig up a few artifacts from recent history before I have to go on again; the point of origin is so distant, I’d never find the way back to the beginning …

“The intimacy and immediacy of the now… is our only security. It is utterly vulnerable and completely secure. No harm can come to us in the now, no sorrow and no death. All our longing longs only for this.” [The Intimacy and Immediacy of the Now, by Rupert Spira]

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why?

matichon.cov1827POSTCARD 145: Bangkok: The front cover of the Matichon newspaper weekly supplement shows pictures of the Erawan Shrine with the headline: ‘why’, ทำไม (tham mai). Whoever is responsible for the bomb would have been aware of the damage to relationships with China, and aware of the damage to the Thai government for failing to protect the public. Seems strange to me that even though it’s a four-headed Hindu, Brahmin shrine, worshippers are mostly Chinese Thais and it’s popular with Chinese tourists from Hong Kong, Singapore, and the new wealth of mainland China, group-tours of families and young people mostly. Maybe it’s not political, an act of madness – the shrine has a curious history. Inevitable, though, that everyone assumes it’s political; the small cartoon character in the lower right appears in every edition of the Matichon weekly. In this one the character wears a black armband and is saying: “So now we have finally come to this!” A provocative statement – a comment about anti-government groups, trying to harm the Thai economy.

IMG_2291It’s a mystery. I visited the shrine yesterday, most of the barriers are moved away now, some repairs still to be done to the roof where the explosion blew off roof tiles. The pedestrian bridge is cordoned off with tape to stop people leaning over to take photos. The same great cloud of incence hangs in the air above a continuing throng of hundreds of people visiting throughout the day and night with their offerings and countless bowings of head and hands, burning incence sticks held in hands, and palms together as if in prayer (anjali). I’m amazed by the passion of the ritual, there’s always been some intensity of thought here – not an open free mind, it’s not meditative… it’s something ‘willed’. There’s an undercurrent of some sort of unknown energy, people cling to the idea of it, the deity can save us if we believe in Him; we worship somebody else ‘doing it’ on our behalf – we are subject to that.

Strange to see this, because Thailand is a Buddhist country and Buddhism is about not engaging with the ‘story’, it’s about understanding the constructed nature of what has been handed down to us and stepping outside of that to see the non-duality between ourselves and the world. Like the original Jesus Teachings, you simply ‘see’ the Truth of it; the reality that surrounds us all the time; like the Hindu Brahman, the Oneness, the God-state that’s here and now.

The people who visit here every day must be sincerely involved in mindfully finding their way through the busyness of their lives. Others may visit when they have an extreme situation they’re worrying about, they come for help; a desperate prayer for what ‘I’ want, what I think I need. I can’t imagine what they receive from this, only more of a focus on situations that are absent of that thing that is desired. Why? What can I learn from this? Is there a Teaching here? Or maybe there’s something wrong with the question. It could be superstition, misguided intentions, living in illusion; ‘the futile pursuit of happiness’ it’s always disatisying because it doesn’t do enough, I want more of it – the fleeting happiness found in consumerism doesn’t hit the spot.

Traffic noise echoes off the concrete structures all around. Heat and incence smoke rising…

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‘The ego’s attachment to power of any kind is linked inextricably to the fear of losing that power and thus becomes a source of suffering.” (Ramdas)

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History: In 1956, an astrologer advised building the The Erawan Shrine to counter negative influences and the bad karma believed caused by laying the foundations of the Erawan Hotel on the wrong date. Furthermore, the Ratchaprasong Intersection had once been used to put criminals on public display. The hotel’s construction was delayed by a series of mishaps, including cost overruns, injuries to laborers, and the loss of a shipload of Italian marble intended for the building. In 2006, the shrine was vandalised by a Thai man believed to be mentally ill. After smashing the statue with a hammer, he was himself beaten to death by angry bystanders.

gentle ways

IMG_2243POSTCARD 144: Bangkok: Impossible to write about Thailand without reference to the car bomb last night in downtown Bangkok, the Thai word for it is ‘baa’ (insanity), was it a madman or was it a politically motivated act intended to provoke retaliation? There’ll be a long investigation and what it means is ordinary people will endure the traffic jams as roads are blocked off; life will go on as usual. Extremists give Thailand a bad reputation; it’s a story we know all too well these days – a created enemy.

I wasn’t able to discuss it with M my Thai niece in Chiang Mai, who’s thinking of things much more important than crazy people with bombs and anyway I’d left for Bangkok the day before, and had no idea there was a bomb because my place there is nowhere near the disaster area and I don’t watch TV. M told me when I called her about the pictures of the chocolate tart she sent me that we made when I was in Chiang Mai. She got the recipe from a YouTube video; created from a packet of Oreo cookies and 2 bars of good quality dark chocolate and one bar of milk chocolate. Open up the cookies and discard the pasty yucky bit in the middle. Smash the Oreo itself to a fine powder and mix with butter to make the base. Then break up the chocolate and melt in milk in a bowl inside a larger bowl of hot water. Pour on top of the Oreo base and put in the freezer overnight.

It’s a kinda reconstituted thing, I thought, yeh nice! Fun thing to do with M and she liked the idea that we are engaged in this activity together, impressed that I was able to scrunch up the Oreo with a spoon really well because of large strong fingers. I was rushing to get it finished though and M was holding things up with her attention to detail, The sequence is important, you have to do properly Toong-Ting, its work like that, she says. I correct her because, well, it’s natural to do that: ‘it works like that,’ I say. She looks at me, then goes back to her scrunching of Oreo: Why he, she and it have ‘s’, and the others don’t? And I say it’s because it’s Third Person Singular, you know? (knowing I’ll have to think up an explanation fast).  But… Why? So I decide to try this: it’s just the way words relate to each other, the way things fit together, and the he-she-it one is different from the others. Just different, that’s all. M accepts this explanation and I’m relieved. We go on scrunching…

The Thai culture values peaceful, gentle ways. The Buddhist teachings guide people through the delusion arising from hot emotions like confusion, anger; the mindfulness of knowing that whatever arises, falls away. Thais have this deeply felt jai-yen (keep a cool heart) attitude that’ll hopefully allow things to remain calm in the years to come. Everyone is quite well aware of the danger. It’ll take more than a single bomb at Erawan Shrine to cause a reaction.
(Note: At the time of writing a second bomb has exploded in the river at Sathorn Bridge)

“Security is mostly superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do children as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” [Helen Keller]

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Note about Helen Keller: Helen was frustrated, at first, because she did not understand that every object had a word uniquely identifying it. [The] big breakthrough in communication came when she realized that the motions her teacher was making on the palm of her hand, while running cool water over her other hand, symbolized the idea of “water”.
Photo: Flower seller Phuket

looking out and looking in

IMG_0627POSTCARD 143: Delhi-Bangkok-Chiang Mai flight: The flight from Delhi arrives at Bangkok a bit behind schedule so we have to move along quickly to the transit desk and transfer to the domestic terminal for the next flight to Chiang Mai. In-flight bags on a small trolley, and we’re zooming along on the moving walkways in this celestial structure of steel and glass. As yet, passports are unstamped, les frontaliers, the no-man’s land between country borders. We’re unregistered, no identity, invisible data.

It’s always the journey to get there… after I get to where I think is ‘there’, there’s another ‘there’ to get to, and all of it leads back to ‘here’, an ‘everywhere’ place made up of everywhere else… then it’s extending away again. It can only be the journey itself, not the destination – the Path is the goal, this is where we live. Isolated scenes from parts of the surroundings seen flashing by as we’re soaring along the high speed walkways; smooth as swans gliding on the surface of a lake. Two thousand miles of transportation corridors from Delhi to here, flight corridors connected end-to-end, through which we travel in the sensory cloud of transient ‘now’ consciousness looking out and looking in. There is nowhere that consciousness isn’t present. Consciousness is everywhere, so vast – indeed everywhere is included in consciousness, “And the deep lane insists on the direction”, an extended corridor projected out towards the designated destination where everything in the perspective it creates seems to disappear in a vanishing point.

An incidental episode of familiarity comes along… the déjà vu of cups of coffee taken at these restaurants, bars where they have wifi. Have I been here before? Must be the last time I came through, or was it the time before that? Was I going – or was I coming back, transit to New Delhi? I spoke with some people there, if I happened to meet them now, I wouldn’t remember. No time this time, we’re at immigration, passport stamp thump! through to security, take off my belt, shoes, my watch. Laptops out of bags and put them into the tray together with my phone to go through the X-ray machine.

Just then, the phone rings… reflex movement to reach for it, but it’s too far and the security officer shakes her head… let it go through. Phone ringing happily as it rumbles on its rollers into the machine. I pass through the X-ray, muffled ringtone continues then lovely ascending increased volume as it comes out the other side. I want to pick it up but people are waiting, a bit harrassed; there’s the putting-on-of-the-belt and shoes. Security officials seem unmoved by the tremendous ascending 4D heavenly ringtone, probably happens all the time… eventually I get the phone. Hello?’ It’s M, my Thai niece: Where are you now Toong Ting? I tell her we are boarding the plane in a minute and will be in Chiang Mai in about one hour. Silence for a moment, then she says: I make choc-o-late-cake. Clearly punctuated percussive articulation, she speaks English as a second language. I tell her, oh nice! and try to explain how the phone got X-rayed as she was calling me, but she can’t find anything to say to that… attempting to find a link with something else it could be related to, mind travels away with this information. No time to discuss, we have to go now, bye. Speedwalking through to the Departure gate and they’re boarding just as we get there; processed, find seats, strapped in and ready for take-off… engines roar, climbing again up into higher altitudes.

You hide me in your cloak of Nothingness
Reflect my ghost in your glass of Being
I am nothing, yet appear: transparent dream
Where your eternity briefly trembles [Rumi]

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before the beginning

IMG_0124POSTCARD 142: Delhi-Bangkok flight: We are reading the newspaper, sharing parts of the Bangkok Post. Jiab also has the Thai newspaper and other pages spread over the seats and folded into the magazine pocket. Comfortable environment; the aircraft furniture, cushions, colourful papers and books. It’s a pleasing, at-home feeling; this is our space – looks like a hotel room, not an aircraft. There’s the hmmmm sound of the engines and shhhhh of the air, not unpleasant. Soft pale daylight coming in through the window, and out there, the blue sky above the clouds stretching on and on, curvature of the planet… it all seems so strangely still.

Stewardesses come with the drinks trolley, five or ten minutes go by and the sky, the horizon of clouds remain the same. It feels like the aircraft is stationary, suspended in space, no landmarks, no indicators of time, no beginning and no end. If I say there is a beginning, I create linear time. Encapsulated inside this aircraft there’s the duration of time – there was a beginning (we got on this plane at Delhi), and there will be an end (we get off the plane at Bangkok). But outside the cabin window there’s only the vast present time – the continuing ‘now’ phenomenon enfolding and unfolding, transforming from the past into future in one continuous surging-through movement that cannot be explained. What a strange mystery it is; future time slides into present time, tomorrow becomes today, ‘now’ falls back into yesterday… something ‘remembered’ because it’s gone now.

Mind creates a structure to explain time, otherwise how could we understand the enigma of how the past has ‘gone’ and the future has not arrived yet? Hovering on the brink of the smallest pause before it gets here; the empty space of not-knowing what it is, and held like this for an instant. We are time itself – how to understand that? It’s as if I were standing at the bow of a small sailing boat floating with the current flow, the sense of moving forwards but no shoreline, nothing to judge which direction the boat is going in, or the distance from (or to) something or anything – nothing to say where we’re going or where we are.

I glance down the aisle at my fellow passengers; Japanese staff based in India, they’ll transit at Bangkok and go on to Tokyo. Wealthy Indian tourists heading for a shopping experience in Bangkok… are they aware we’re presently suspended in timelessness? Probably choosing to not think about it – never arriving, always on the way to get ‘there’ (but where are we going?). Mostly choosing to focus on whatever is happening ‘now’, and creating a story about that. Focus on my presence here in a seat contoured to fit the human body, tight squeeze, enough space for legs and knees with an inch of space from the seat in front – beyond that I can see into the business class section… always the grass is greener. I am one of perhaps 300 passengers receiving services from the staff; a baby bird, beak wide open, help… feed me, please.

Before the beginning there were no beginnings or endings; there was only the eternal Always, which is still there – and always shall be. There was only an awareness of unflawed oneness, and this oneness was so complete, so awe-striking and unlimited in its joyous extension that it would be impossible for anything to be aware of something else that was not Itself.” [Disappearance of the Universe page 122]

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Excerpts from an earlier post: flying time

inertia of TV

inertia-001-jason-decaires-taylor-sculpturePOSTCARD 141: New Delhi: I passed a shop selling TVs, walked in and stood there for a moment in the zizzling static of huge glowing plasma screens. We don’t have a TV at home, haven’t owned one for nearly 5 years. It seems alien to me now, ‘entertainment’, compulsive Bollywood movies with high-power advertising every five minutes. I managed to kick the TV habit many years ago in the house in East Anglia. Reblogged below are some excerpts from the post I wrote about that event.

(Originally dated October 2, 2012): There used to be a TV here but I gave it away. A big old fashioned dinosaur TV, too large for this little old cottage. No room for it; limited floor space, low ceiling height, clutter and junk (jutter and clunk). I manhandled the TV upstairs but it was no good there; then downstairs again and hurt my back in the process. It was always in the way; just too big. I had it under the table for a while but it looked silly there… and I started to see that it had to go.

But I was dependent on TV watching; every other activity took second place to that, and attempting to disengage from TV was a struggle. What to do? I’d try switching it off suddenly, right in the middle of something, a chat show, whatever, just to see what the room felt and looked like without all the noise, bright lights and rewarding, congratulatory applause. But every time I did that, the absolute silence of a world without TV was devastating! The lack of colour and severity of greyness in the house was just… sad! I had to switch it on immediately. TV was like a friend, I couldn’t say goodbye to it. I kept on doing that, though, switching it off and on again, in the middle of programmes, to surprise myself. Eventually I started to get interested in the idea of the silence that remained without TV, typical of the location I was in – a house surrounded by quiet fields and nature.

But TV-cold-turkey was no fun and I was in denial for a very long time. Then one day I was watching the BBC news and noticed the newsreader pronounced his words with a weird sort of ‘smirk’… kinda disgusting, and then the whole ugly ‘self’ aspect of it was revealed. Shocking, but I was glad it happened because it was obvious then that I didn’t feel comfortable with TV in the house – it had to go. I carried it out the back door and left it in the garden; went back inside and discovered this huge space in the room where it used to be. Interesting to see the directions in the room created by a focus on TV; chairs arranged so that viewing could take place comfortably. So I rearranged the furniture, changed it all around, and that was really quite liberating.

I’d return to the kitchen window from time to time and look at the TV out there in the garden – holding my attention, still… thinking, that object should be ‘inside’, not ‘outside’. Completely out of context in the garden, but I just left it there; no longer connected to it. Later that day, it started to rain and drops were falling on the dusty black surface – the urge to take it back in… that was difficult. The neighbour dropped by and he said it’s not a good thing to leave a TV out in the rain. I told him I didn’t want it anymore, maybe he’d like to have it for his spare room? Okay thank you very much… and, you’re welcome. So I gave him the channel changer and that was it. Off he went and I watched him carry it into his house, happily bewildered by my generosity and failing to understand my joy at having escaped the inertia of TV.

‘Like a thief entering an empty house, bad thoughts cannot in any way harm an empty mind.’ [Padmasanbhava]

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Photo: Jason deCaires Taylor’s underwater sculpture, ‘Inertia’. Click here for more images.
Excerpts from an earlier post, titled The End of TV.

mindfulness and the sound of rain

170620131885POSTCARD 140: New Delhi: 6.30am Sunday, wake up, turn over on my back and watch the ceiling fan spinning… waves of air movement and coolness on the surface of wet eyes blinking. There’s this rhythmical creak. The fan needs to have oil. A familiarity with the small sound; it’s been going on all night as I was sleeping – half-awake, I’ve been singing a song in my head around the rhythm of it. A curious rising tone, it’s as if it were a question: creak? And, occasionally but not always, there’s a lesser sound, in offbeat syncopation, a small ‘quack’ sound, like a duck, a flat tone, not complying with the question; quack, a response that’s sort of dismissive: quack… creak? quack… creak? creak?… quack. Sometimes the rhythm alters and the ‘quack’ comes before the ‘creak?’ – as if the creak? is asking the quack to confirm what it just said, quack… creak? (What did you say?) creak?

There’s a limit to this kind of entertainment, even in a house where there’s no TV. Time to get up, the air seems different, humid, what is it? Upright position, legs swing over the bed; mindfulness of bare feet on cold floor… switch off the fan and the creak-quack-creak? slows down, stops. I hear rain on the roof window. Go through to the front room and look out; yes, it’s raining. An unusual darkness, heavy grey clouds up there form a kind of low-ceilinged sky. Pixel-filtered light has the quality of mother-of-pearl. Jiab’s slippers are outside, small puddles of rainwater beginning to form in the hollows where her feet have shaped the rubber – we live in a house where you leave your shoes by the door, step inside and walk around barefoot… should have taken them in.

I bring my chair to sit by the open door and look out at the rain, open the glass doors, take in the slippers, warm air enters. It’s always hot… when I first experienced monsoon weather I thought the rain would make it cool, but it just makes the ‘hot’ wet. So I sit there and listen for a while. The rain is a vast sea of tiny finger-snapping sounds. Individual collisions with the concrete seem to jump out of context with a sharpness – noticable against a background of random pitter-patter sounds that are always just on the edge of hearing – as if the listening process itself chooses the sound. Mindful of the mechanisms of focusing, receiving the ‘world’ in this unknowing pre-selected form.

Somehow it answers a question I’ve been pondering over for a while, but can’t quite remember what it was… what was it? Maybe I haven’t gotten round to seeing it as a question yet… answer arrives before the question? Mindful about the fact that I can’t get to where I want to get to, but seem to be trying anyway – mindfulness of mindlessness. Mindfulness of the times when I forget to be mindful – the tendency to fall into the dream, into the fiction I’ve created; the unaware habituality. Mindfulness as a lightness, an alertness surrounding thoughts. Intermittent rain continues for the rest of the morning.

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“Everything is created twice, first in the mind and then in reality.” [Robin S. Sharma]

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Source for lower image.
Note: low-ceilinged sky comes from the title of an album by stefan andersson

 

metaphor becomes reality

cow in street1POSTCARD 139: New Delhi: Lights change to red just as we’re getting near and traffic comes to a standstill. On the intersecting side, cars start revving their engines as the green light shows over there, and it takes a moment to see the elegant cow standing quietly among the cars, dressed in the body given to it, held in its place by the restrictions of stationary vehicles all around. Exotic and dignified, the animal has a calm and wise bearing; just looking at the world and waiting for the lights along with everyone else.

I’m thinking I should take a photo of it… yeh, good idea, but where’s the camera? Frantic rush to find it, deep in my bag, a pen, papers and things flung out on the seat then leaning out of the car window, take a photo click as surrounding vehicles start to move with the green light. There’s the cow walking at the speed of the others – not holding anyone up, no reason for any driver to be impatient, nobody toots their horn.

Funny how the cow is simply going along there in its own lane, not attempting to overtake, just slowly making its way in the limited space and in the direction of the traffic flow moving towards the next intersection, the next set of lights. It seems to know where it’s going, has probably travelled this route many times. I can see it disappearing in the distance, head held high above the cars, bobbing along with the rhythm of its walk – a being that’s in this world but not of this world.

To me it’s an extraordinary moment. I’m the Western cultural migrant assimilated in the East (resistance is futile). I have userID, password; there’s a sense of connectedness with the East, although still carrying some weight of Western thinking and childhood conditioning from the West. Thus insisting on a preconceived reality by creating supporting statements to prove what I’ve already decided is the correct way of going about things, and convinced about this simply because my continuing engagement with it somehow pushes it over the edge, the tipping point… metaphor becomes reality (although I know there’s really nothing there).

Nobody else here is paying the slightest attention to the cow in the traffic, just waiting for the lights to change. My kind of Western reasoning seems to confirm it has objective reality and that’s tolerated here, along with all the preferences, likes and dislikes that don’t fit. It doesn’t matter because the ‘object’ is not the goal. The answer may be one of many associated answers – maybe all. And related searches are revealed in interaction with the question – more of an exploratory thing, open-ended – the observed world and the observer of it in an all-inclusive oneness….

Smaller than a grain of rice, smaller than a grain of barley, smaller than a mustard seed, smaller than a grain of millet, smaller even than the kernel of a grain of millet is the Self. This is the Self-dwelling in my heart, greater than the earth, greater than the sky, greater than all the worlds. [Chandogya Upanishad 14.3, 8th-10th century BCE]

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multiplicity

IMG_2228POSTCARD 138: London/Delhi flight: Travelling by plane at night is a directionless experience, an invisible route that leads to the destination without any sense of the journey, just the sound of the engines and hiss of the air. I fall deeply asleep and wake up to daylight coming in through the cabin windows. We’re here, missed breakfast, no time for anything, quickly gather up my things, ready to leave the plane. Next thing is I’m in the huge emptiness of Indira Gandhi airport, miles of ochre carpeting, and zooming along moving walkways towards the queue at immigration. Get in line with everyone else, get comfortable with this, it could take some time.

Hello Delhi, nice to be back here, mid-morning in a different time zone, and just the ongoing continuity of it, as if I’d never been away… familiarity of bearded men, turbans, a mysterious woman with exotic nose rings, gold bangles jangle and flick of movement that adjusts folds of sari, consoling tired children with nanny; the whole clan goes everywhere together. In this place I’m glanced at, averted gaze slips away, a foreigner travelling alone, a partially visible stranger from a place of no sunlight, colorless eyes, pale pigmentation, like those creatures who live deep below the surface at the bottom of the sea.

The uncompromisingly here-and-now of it, no disappearing from or disappearing into – a dream and yet not a dream. Letting go of the experience in the North, only the memory of that extraordinary feeling there during the retreat in Scotland. The feeling I’d connected with something specific but now I forget what it was exactly. A scrap of paper in my pocket with somebody’s email on it, remembering… there was the old house, the people who were already there and the sadness when they left before I did. Then the others who came after me – I remember them all – and how they were the ones who said goodbye when it was my turn to leave.

Each one carrying this ghostly sense of familiarity, archetypal resemblance, the uniformity of distinct types. Faces I think I’ve seen before… there was a man who looked so much like Larry King (from Larry King Live), at first I believed it was him. Others reminded me of family members – I recognized Great Aunt B. from East Anglia, passed away long ago… wonderful to ‘see’ her again. And someone exactly like my old Uncle D. Everywhere I looked I saw the elders, all dead and gone now. So good to return to the memory that they were here once like me, I was inclined to think of them as being real. “Who am I? Am I you? Him? He, she, it? We, you, they?” So much of a multiplicity, sometimes it’s just seen… we are all of a oneness.

Thump! Passport stamped, out through the crowds and sudden heat, intense light switched on like a television studio. Shym is waiting with the car, bags in and we’re off into the noise and blare of Delhi traffic, reversed mirror image of the world I just left. Changing the sim card in my phone, changing channels, watching a different movie.

As silence is not silence, but a limit of hearing.
As some strings, untouched, sound when no one is speaking.
So it was when love slipped inside us.
As this life is not a gate, but the horse plunging through it.
The heart’s actions
are neither the sentence nor its reprieve.
Salt hay and thistles, above the cold granite.
One bird singing back to another because it can’t not

[Jane Hirshfield, Come, Thief]

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Note: This post was created partly as a result of keying in the term ‘multiplicity of faces’ in Google and finding the pdf in: perceptionweb.com. Check out the exercise of flickering faces in the picture of the girl’s face at the end.
Note2: Many thanks to Mindful Balance for the poem.
Photo: light switches in a corridor at the back of a government building in New Delhi