Friday, September 22, 2017

Inner realities: Anger (part1)

Arthur pushed aside the thick curtain impatiently
Ah good, Orion was in.
He jerked the curtain fully open and stood waiting for the old master to notice him.
Orion looked up from the intricate device he was working on, his eyes lingered a moment on Arthur. Then he waved him to the cushions on the other side of the table.
"Master, I want to hit someone. I'm  REALLY angry.."  

"Ok ? You think it's ok ?"
Orion looked  at  Arthur, looked out at the desert  on his right and nodded.
He took a small piece of copper foil, bent it and attached it to others on the delicate looking structure.
"But you don't think it's ok," he looked up at  Arthur briefly, picked up the delicate device and held it out  against the  morning  light.
The air from the Sea  of Sand  whistled  past  the open  mouth of his cave, carrying the particularly dry pungent  scent of the desert in these northern parts.
"No I don't. I mean yes I do, I'm so furious with her. I just want to scream at her."
"But you came here instead."
"I shouldn't be this  angry should I ?"
Orion looked at him.
"You  are this  angry."
"But I shouldn't be......right  ?"
"Why not ?"
"You ask me 'why' ?"  Arthur took a deep  breath, spreading out his  arms in exasperation.
"You taught  me to be mindful to be calm, to observe my thoughts....and  now you ask me why I shouldn't be angry?"
Orion eyes flashed.
"I asked  you to be aware, to observe, not to force calmness where there is fire."
"I don't understand."
Orion stared at Arthur, "you are furious, yes ?"
"So observe that."
"But I'm sooo damn angry!"
"So? Are you trying to be calm or to observe ?"
"Humm... . "
"Calm may come eventually, but it's not what you DO."
"I know I'm not meant to judge, but I wanna  scream at her. I can't help feeling: Isn't it wrong to be this angry ?"
"Are you trying not to judge ?"
"Yes, but I can't."  
"Observe the judgement," Orion again looked at Arthur intensely, "Observe the  ' I'm so angry feeling...'."
"I'm just confused."
"Observe that. It is what IS."
"What  ? I don't get it."
"Whatever is, IS. There is nothing to DO, nothing to fix, nothing to clean and make presentable."
Orion turned the thing he'd been working on around very carefully, examining it, poking it here and there with a small metal rod..
Arthur stood up and  walked to the  edge of the cave looking down past his feet, six hundred and fifty meters to the rocky ground. 

In centuries past, many people had  "fallen" to their death from these caves. White bones, death and vultures had covered the bottom.  Now only grave markers lined the bottom.
That was when it had been the prison fortress of Ur-Ani-Ya. A place of such death and despair, - the scars were still healing five hundred years later.
Ur-Ani-Ya had mysteriously vanished, suddenly imploded in the last days of the month of Wendurath, 3178.
It was a mystery for five hundred years, until 3548, when the diaries of Aer-il-hambara, Chancellor of the house of Aer-Ayrus were found.
They were found deep in the cave system of Serianna, where the ancient fortress of Ur-Ani-Ya had stored its energy.
Now everyone knew the story of Aer-il-hambara the black eyed Aesinth, who had destroyed Ur-Ani-Ya, the most powerful fortress - and herself as well.

Arthur was sick of hearing it again again. The families of the the house of Aer-Ayrus knew nothing else to talk about.
He looked down.
Arthur's face turned red and beads of sweat gathered on his forehead, "I hate you."
He took  another deep  breath and stared at Umi-Jabour, the greatest desert in history, the Great Sea of Sand.  
Eagles soared past them on the updraft.
He turned around, looking at  Orion who was  still busy turning that thing he was working on from side to side and examining it very closely.
"Better ?" he asked without looking up.
Arthur sat down.
Orion looked at him, hid a smile, and  pushed the delicate structure to the side. He pulled out a bowl of dates from the shelf behind him and put it on the  table between them.
"I haven't really progressed  at all," Arthur took a  date,  "I just destroyed a year of practice  by getting  angry like that."
Orion shook his head, "you didn't. Omnia Mutantur, Nihil Interit".
Arthur frowned at the strange words, but let it pass.
"Calmness is not the aim, it's the result. If you aim for calmness you will not find it. You will get tight brittle control and more tension."
Orion spread his hands, "that's my experience. You may  be different."
He smiled and shrugged.
"So what, it's just the old 'observe, don't judge' mantra again, is that it ?"
Orion nodded, "yep, that's it,"  reached over to his right and  brought  out a steaming pot of tea.
"Even when I'm furious ?"  Arthur asked..
Orion nodded, "even  when I'm furious as hell. When I don't want to stop. I accept that. I watch it, I embrace it with love."
Arthur stared at Orion," are you joking ?"
Orion stared at Arthur, "wherever you are, take a step back. Look and see the 'me  that does not want to see'."
In another voice altogether Orion continued, "I see the resistance that never wants to give in, I see the hate that wants to murder...
I see and I observe."

"Wow," Arthur sat back exhaling deeply, shaking his head, "wow."
"Why ? You think some things are excluded from the oneness ?"
"I'm not supposed to, but, yes."
"That's honest," Orion smiled, "whatever you exclude, judge, cut off - you make it your enemy, you give it more power."
"Can't I win ?"
"Yes, if you will pay the price."
"What's the price ?"
"That another will win over you."
"No I mean win finally, total victory."
Orion took a deep breath, looked at Arthur for a long time.
"You mean win once and for all, always on top, always king ?"
Arthur squirmed uncomfortably, "I guess so".
"Why ?"
"To be King forever, to be safe forever."
"And others ? To be your 'subjects' forever ?"
"OK, you got me."
Orion shook his head, "no, I don't want to 'get you'.
Winning over the 'bad guy', is the illusion that keeps the endless fight going. Each side fighting for goodness, purity and safety through the annihilation of the other,... " he opened his hands, pointing his head to the desert on his right, "you get endless war."

The desert, Umi-Jabour, had been created in the greatest war the ancients had ever fought, over three thousand years ago. Their civilization had ended.
The continental plate had split, land had dropped, land had risen, and the cliff Orion's cave was carved from, had emerged.
"Yet each side only sought safety from the other...." Orion sighed.
He pushed a cup of tea in Arthur's direction, and they both leaned back.  
"The question is," Orion smiled his upside down smile, " what do you want most ? Safety or being in control ?"
"I would be safe by being in control, having the power behind me."
"Hmmm....," Orion looked at Arthur, "you can answer that one yourself, does power and control lead to safety ?"
Arthur  shook his head, "true safety comes from within yourself, - knowing that you can look after yourself better than anyone or anything."
Orion chuckled, "a textbook answer, but we'll let it stand."
Arthur sipped his tea, looked out at the Sea of Sand. A few windriders were circling in the updraft, Ari sensei and his students.
He faced Orion, "ok, let's say I have the power and the control: I am king forever, I am safe."
"Safe from what ?"
"From being powerless."
"So you have power and control just to have it, for its own sake ?"
"No, not quite. I have it to be safe."
"Safe from what ? Pain ? Death ? Unhappiness ? An assassin ?"
Arthur nodded.
Orion chuckled...., "we humans have tried that path over and over again. And fortunately it doesn't work."
"Why ?"
"It's not how reality is made. I can't explain to you 'why'. You just know it in your bones."
"And if you don't ?"
"Then you join those who try that path over and over again... until you truly know."
Orion sipped his tea, slowly lost in thought.
Arthur watched him.
The master's eyes moved to his visitor, "...and isn't that what we're here for ? To learn, to know - through experience ?"
Arthur was surprised at the question.
He had expected the usual insights and the masters touch.
They looked at each other.
Orion sighed, and hummed a tune from a well known song:
"Yes you who must leave everything that you cannot control
It begins with your family, but soon it comes around to your soul.."

Arthur looked at Orion, a long time.
He was different these days.
"Tea ?" Orion pushed the pot of spicy tea towards his visitor.
Arthur poured himself a fresh cup.
"You came here to ask, 'what do I do with the rage, my murderous feelings, right ?" Orion said.
"You know what to do."
Arthur shook his head.
Orion looked the young man in the eye.
"Ok, I won't follow my anger, and I know I can't 'kill' the anger.  
What else ?", he waited then added, "ignore it?"
Orion shrugged, "an interim solution, it will surface again, and again. The ancients tried that until everything surfaced at once," he  again indicated the desert with a tilt of his head.
"What then?"
"You know."
"You are repeating a text book answer.
What you think I want to hear.
What is YOUR answer ?"
Arthur sat back, looked at the desert.
"It's no different from any other thought or feeling is it ?" Arthur mused.
"Yes, it's another thought, it's another feeling."
"But stronger."
"Yes, much stronger, but essentially the same as all the others."  Orion agreed.
"Then why don't I just treat it the same as all the others. See it. Watch it arise, watch it be, watch it fade." Arthur watched Orion's face.
Orion smiled his upside down smile, the scar on the left side of his face stood out clearly.  
He reached for the teapot and poured himself a cup of tea and dragged his strange device back to work on it and became totally absorbed with it.

Suddenly he  looked up, at Arthur:  "Ok, then, tell me, why you are here" he waved at the bowl, inviting his visitor to take some more, nuts and dried fruit, "what really happened ?"

End of part 1

By Tengra Ngiam
Hong Kong, 2017

This is an old prayer it came to me to rewrite. It’s about surrendering.and
I don’t know which side everybody’s on any more, and …I don’t really care. There is a moment when we have to transcend the side we’re on and understand that we are creatures of a higher order. It doesn’t mean that I don’t wish you courage in your struggle. There is on both sides of this struggle men of good will. That is important to remember… on both sides of this struggle. Some struggling for freedom, some struggling for safety. In solemn testimony of that unbroken faith which binds a generation one to another, I sing this song: “If it be your will”.

Leonard Cohen:


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

What's behind the mind ? ...and what's behnd that ?

Seven hundred meters of sheer cliff forced the air from the great desert Umi-Jabour up into the forested lands above.
The Buteo hawks rode the air currents in long leisurely circles, barely moving a wing. They were expert gliders and used the natural air flow to spiral up.

Orion, had been sitting in meditation for hours, facing the desert, from his cave in the side of the cliff, when the room was filled with tension.

The heavy curtain behind him separated noiselessly in the middle and a face with bright eyes and dark hair watched him. 
"Please make us some tea Elsa" Orion's quiet voice carried just far enough for her to hear. 
Just as noiselessly the newcomer entered, filled a kettle and put it on the hotplate. 
Her movements betrayed the calmness of the long distance windrider. 
She sat on a mat by the table behind Orion and waited.
Orion remained sitting as he had been for the last three hours. 

The kettle boiled and Elsa moved to prepare the tea. 
She pulled the power cord from the kettle in a hard sharp jerk and poured the hot water into the already prepared pot.
Of all the guilds, windriders were the most opposed to the ways the ancients. They utterly loathed electricity and all things electronic. Waste was anathema to their creed and everything was put to purpose. 

She wore the elegant and smooth clothing of a master windrider.  Cloth mended and tended, repaired re-formed over a lifetime.

"What's behind the mind ?", she whispered. 
Orion remained as he had been. 
The wind soughed and ruffled her hair. 
The dry dusty scent of the desert made her feel at home. 
Originally from the far North, where snow and ice covered the ground for most of the year, Elsa had found her calling in the hot dry desert winds, soaring and gliding like one of the hawks. 
She had found again the old ways of entering a deep level of awareness, where mind and body fused and time moved differently, sleep-waking.  
Windriders now used sleep-waking, to cover vast unimaginable distances, flying for days on end. 

Yet some never returned. 
Their families blamed Elsa. 
Some brought back news of settlements isolated since the great cataclysm three thousand years ago. 
They praised Elsa. 

Orion, stood, stretched, and faced his visitor as he continued to bend and stretch.
"You mean who chooses what your mind thinks about ? 
The fears, the desires ?"
Elsa nodded.
Orion smiled. 
He walked to the back, carried the steaming teapot to the center of the table and poured tea for Elsa and himself. 
"Some people would say your mind chooses."
"No. My mind finds reasons for a choice, once it is made. 
But the choice is made elsewhere."
"You are sure ?" 
Orion sipped his tea, savouring the scent of cinnamon and liquorice root and watching a hawk soar past his cave.
"That's what I found too," he said after a while.  
Elsa knew better than to ask him, she waited for him to continue.
"You are wondering why you chose to be a windrider, and found the way of sleep-waking ?"
Elsa shrugged, "in a way, yes. But not only."
"Who am I?" Orion asked. 
"Yes. Exactly."
Orion took a deep breath, "the answer can't be put into words." 
"Elsa nodded, "yes. Words compare, describe in terms of the known."
"And who you are is not describable that way." 
"Yes. I am who I am." 
Orion nodded his head and watched Elsa intensely. 

Tengra Ngiam,
Hong Kong




These soaring hawks have long, broad wings and wide, fanned tails. Buteos are built to glide effortlessly on air currents. They can soar for long stretches without flapping their wings. Their soaring ability lets them hunt for prey while circling over open areas. They will perch on trees and utility poles and wait for unsuspecting prey to move below. Buteos include the Broad-winged Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk and Rough-legged Hawk.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Plastic culture -"we love Ya !"

"We have told people how bad plastic bags are for the environment, we had advertising campaigns, but people still use plastic bags."
Joseph had dropped himself on the sofa in Madame Pickwick's house in Syngapore's1) Chinatown.
"The government has even asked businesses to charge for plastic bags. But it's not made much difference so far."

Madame Pickwick stood smoking a long white cheroot and looking at her plants. Her place was like an urban jungle of flowering, medicinal plants. She put down the cheroot, capped the end, and and slowly blew white smoke through her nose, turning to face Joseph.
"Yes, you worked really hard, I saw the articles."
"Why do people not change ?
Don't they understand ?"
Madame Pickwick drummed her fingers on the table, looking at Joseph, evaluating what to say.
"Madame, some tea?" voice asked from the stairs. The speaker's head was just visible in the stairwell.
Madame raised one eyebrow and looked at Joseph. He nodded, Madame nodded and the head disappeared.
"What else can we do ?" Joseph held his hands palm up, "I've tried everything I can think of."
Madame Pickwick, looked at him, but said nothing, the question had largely been rhetorical.

The head that had asked about tea came up the stairs, carrying a tray of dried fruit, spicy tea, and three cups.
Madame helped her set the table. The tea bearer was about half of Madame Pickwicks age, a little taller and had classic Chinese features.  
"Let me introduce you," Madame Pickwick gestured to Joseph, "This is Joseph."
"I'm Chellah."
Joseph stood up to shake her hand.
Chellah simply stood looking at him, her hands at her sides then sat down.
Joseph tried to hide his shock  
Sat down abruptly and took a dried fig.
Chellah held out a cup for Joseph.
He took it, without making eye contact.
The sounds of the street markets in Chinatown drifted up to them.
"Balcony ?"
They moved everything to the balcony.
A broad couch surrounded by pot plants, some the size of small trees, decorated the balcony.
Shorter plants crowded as high as the bannister.

They moved everything to the long thin table in front of the couch.
The flat was on the top floor of one of the higher buildings facing north over Chinatown.
The towers of the financial center in the distance, the colourful houses of Chinatown below them.
Madame Pickwick caught Joseph's eye:
"How did you feel, just now ?"
"When you couldn't shake hands ?" Chellah added, she spoke with a slow melodic rhythm.
"You, you mean you did that on purpose....?"
Chellah laughed and looked at Madame Pickwick.
"How did you feel ?"
"Stupid, confused, a bit annoyed."
"You said couldn't understand why people keep using plastic bags."
"You mean habits ?"
Madame Pickwick shook her head.
"It's more than that, shaking hands is a ritual, it's what we do naturally," Chellah said.

"When you stop a ritual you need to replace it with something else. The momentum of expectations can't just stop, you need to redirect it in some other way," she continued in her melodic way, "otherwise people feel 'stupid, confused, a bit annoyed.' "
"Ok I get it, " Joseph took a deep breath, picked a date and some almonds and leaned back, "wrapping things in a bag, is a ritual. The sale isn't finished until it's in the bag."
Joseph looked at Madame Pickwick, at Chellah.
"You want to stop people using plastic bags."
Joseph nodded, picked up a cup.
"Before plastic, paper was used." Chellah looked him in the eye,
"And before paper ?"
"Bring your own bag."
"In Korea they used a bojagi to wrap and carry things in, a furoshigi in Japan. They're pieces of cloth," Madame Pickwick added.
"You use one don't you ?" Chellah asked.
"You had the same one for over 10 years, I think ?"

"Ok, so what can we put in place of the bag giving ritual ?" Joseph asked, standing up and  walking to the bannister.

Chellah laughed and shrugged, "Good question, and did you notice that with plastic bags it is the seller who gives something to the buyer ?"

"Hmmm.... that's a good point," Joseph paced between the bannister and the door.
He stopped looked at the two ladies on the couch, "Any ideas ?"
Chellah smiled and looked at Joseph, "you got the basic outline." She paused, "By the way: have you forgiven me yet?"
"You mean 'have I got over my embarrassment and wounded pride ?"  
MarketPlace supermarket, Sule Square, Rangoon.
"Have you ?"
Joseph laughed and reached for more nuts.
"Thank you, I got the message."
"But you didn't answer the question."
"How about I answer it tonight at Fullerton ?"
Chellah shook her head, "no time. I have an hour before a meeting at three, let me show you something you haven't seen in Chinatown ?"
Joseph, looked at Mme Pickwick.
"Twelve noon tomorrow ?"
She nodded and waved them away.
She looked out over the roofs of the houses.  In the street below she saw Chellah guide Joseph to the old warehouse,
She would introduce him to Master Wu.
No telling what the old master would make of Joseph.
She picked up her cup, added some more tea, and leaned back, watching the reflection of the sky on the surface of the tea. 

1) A parallel universe version of Singapore.