Thursday, April 2, 2009

Waking up to paradox

On 09 March 09 I wrote in a post called Fukuoka ghost:

It feels strange to be back here in Fukuoka. It's like visiting my old self, the self that used to have a life here but which seems to have vanished somewhere along the way in Nepal and India. I don't want to find that person. I'm happy to let him go.

A couple of readers picked up on this and asked to know more. I was curious myself. Over a couple of weeks I produced notes to fill up five pages of A4 paper in single-spaced, 12 point text, about 2500 words, perhaps 2000 more than anyone would ever want to read.

So I set myself the task of boiling it down, finding some way to describe the fundamental difference out of which all the other changes emanate. And I think I found it.

Here it is. Let me know if you need more. I have a lot left over. ;-)


When you sit quietly and watch, something paradoxical results. The world begins expanding, while at the same time contracting.

Right in your own body you observe the changes happening at the physical level, as itching comes and goes, pain comes and goes, numbness comes and goes, tingling comes and goes. You observe changes at the mental level, as emotions rise and fade, as ideas emerge and subside. You begin to see that not only is the physical world out there always in motion, always changing. It's not just the movement of cars and planes and buses and cars. It's not just that an old building was torn down and a new one put in its place. Its not just that yesterday's clothes are now out of fashion, or that certain foods are now in style, or a sports team is now on top while another is down. You are changing, too. Never the same from moment to moment, nothing but a stream of processes - of sensations, emotions, and thoughts - each leading to the next, a stream in which today, tomorrow, and yesterday, a stream in which inside and outside, you and me, physical and mental are arbitrary demarcations, where everything runs together as part of the process of life, the infinite expanse of being. Within the context of this infinitude our lives are exceedingly brief, even briefer than we might imagine since most of us go about our day without ever stopping to consider that today may be it. If you knew there were no more tomorrows, no more next weeks, no more next months, its unlikely you would get up in the morning and shuffle off to work as you normally would. You'd be raving mad to fill yourself up with the universe.

That's me now. The old interests and engagements seem like things intended for nothing but filling up time, occupying the mind and keeping it from the terror of standing on the edge of being, where today, now, this moment, is all that is.

It's not about having a new lifestyle. It's about having life.



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