28 May, 2009
As this month has rolled by, one thing sticks in my head through my experience at this time. That whenever a person loves you they are doing it their way. The moment you want something more or different is where we get in trouble. Pure love, I was taught over and over in Dharma lessons is wishing for the other person to be happy. Not with the idea that they have to make us happy in return. But this is done with wisdom, not masochism. Looking at the big picture instead of getting hung up on minutiae of your own insecurities. Maturation, even for me still comes in waves, with a few deviations along the way. If I am to light the path for my partner, friends and family, I have to be on the path. Not acting, talking or even just entertaining wise ideas. And believe me it is work in almost every instance. You have to act with some reflection as to why you are doing such. Look at why you are hurt over the most minor differences in thought and actions. Seeing success sometimes, and failures in others(not in a grand sense, it is usually in minor circumstances). I am doing better at this as time goes on, but I can’t really stop there when I have seen how well this works. I have experienced marked changes since last year, maybe not visible to others but my own internal experience.
And one thing I think that is so cute, is how my partner knows he will be thought of when I am at temple. He said he won’t tempt me with calls or a visit, although allowed to. It doesn’t quite register with him how strong my desire is for a sharper mental awareness. Tonight, he will take out my one earring in preparation. And if I am truly wise, I will leave it out.
27 May, 2009
from the desk of Was Once, after coffee:
If Thais are so close to their parents especially their mother then why does not translate to mother earth? Obviously, some of which can be attribute to Buddhist teachings.I see klongs full of sewage, and who knows what else to the point of popping on the surface. I have seen people walk their trash and dump it in the Chao Phraya river. One never really knows the origin of the fish they sell, and which klong it comes from. In some places birth defects have resulted and no one really is screaming. Is this survival of the fittest in action?
If I am walking around off the beaten path, I rarely get bothered as Thais leave you alone. A few hellos from kids or saweedees from adults. If I ever get approached out there, it is only for transportation mostly like motorcycle taxis that give you the heads up if need a ride. They come in real handy. It is in the tourist sections that I get hassled, but if I don’t give eye contact and look down and press on then I look like I have a clue. It is problem photographing, because I am inquiring with my eyes, and sometimes misread as naïve.
I am also aware of the daily costs here, even when living on the cheap, so I appreciate how hard is to live on my partners salary. He does it quite well, and rarely asks for help. He is proud of what he has done on his own, proud to share and has great respect for my love. One of his long range goals is a doctorate and travel so even while being funny and joking he has his head in the right place. He did joke about me being a monk to avoid his hugs. All I really provide him with is consistency and freedom to be himself. I am always learning how do this.
26 May, 2009
How often do we judge our experience down to every single moment on whether we are pleased? Be it food, drink, temperature, the views and/or the sounds we hear. If I find myself wanting a constant pleasant experience for myself, I find that I am constantly on the move. This seems so immature when I really contemplate this. More a mental experience than physical, always leap frogging to something perceived as better than what I have right now. It becomes even more pronounced when things might be difficult, even slightly. I have brain damage so severe that when I get too much input, be it noise or perceived chaos I get overloaded because my brain cannot narrow down a single person conversation from background noise. It is even more pronounced on the phone if the other party is in a really noisy area. Although this is a common problem with my injury, I am looking into how I deal when it happens because it like life, you cannot control every instance. If I examine personally at how I try to control life in general, and relax, I am in fact easing the stranglehold we sometimes carry around with our life experiences. Trying always to make them pleasant to our senses.Then in the big picture of life, I might be more prepared for the more difficult aspects of aging, sickness and death. We often daydream a fairy-tale ending to our life, or put in so far on the back-burner that the only existence it plays in our life is a certain child like approach to real life connections with friends and family. People are in our life for a reason and we sometimes take it so for granted that we dismiss any feelings surgically on a regular basis with no remorse.
As I got a massage in my favorite family run shop-house, they guessed why I am on the path. Saying, "Broken heart or a family death?" I said, "No, a logical conclusion." I survived my near-death not because of my strong will as most will surmise, but for the kindness of others. How could I have strong will if not for having love in my life to give me the strength? My mother played a very important role, giving me life for really the second time! My friends and even the night nurse who has since passed, saw the fact that I was more “there” than the doctors at that time said. And now look I can write this, when they predicted a vegetable like life, post injury. Can you imagine how a mother would take what they said at that time about her first-born son? To prepare for me to die. How can one possibly pay this back?
Ever notice a Thank You never seems to be sufficient when someone does something good and loving for you. The best way to return this favor is to be loving with others, transform your gift from them into something as worthwhile as theirs. Letting go of the power they gave you because it would be mature.
If anyone loves you then this really means they are sacrificing a part of their sense of “I.” Lowering their self-cherishing enough to look beyond. A gift we sometimes overlook.
I watched two policemen enjoy ice cream, brought to them by a superior when I stopped coincidentally to put a bandaid on my toe. I enjoyed the look on their face, and I did not even have to pay. We exchanged smiles, one of the free gifts of life.
The first part of my discussion is looked at it depth with Paticcasamuppada(Practical Dependent Origination) in Buddha’s teachings.
23 May, 2009
One of the things that marvel me about my partner of eight years is his ability to not confuse minor disagreements with his or our love for each other.
His firm, unwavering love is brought forth by my love and concern for him. He knows my heart and motives as I know his. For this we are both lucky.
So, when I say it time for us to get our teeth cleaned, he may put up a little resistance thanking he is fine, but if I just direct us to the dental office, and not be angry or ugly…he is fine. And when I need twice as much work as he, redoing old cavities…he doesn’t gloat at his good fortune.
While they were re-drilling my teeth, I was thinking about seeing a Thai crematorium near a temple on Friday, and how it will too soon when all these teeth will be burning up along with my body. The slight pain I perceive to experience now gone up in flames, and it often seems so pointless. Do we do this to further the idea we carry of being immortal? Fix your teeth and you have cheated death?
Anyway, I am also very lucky he is not needy in the sense of reassurance about anything he does or needing to hear how much he is loved. He has that mature sense of himself. I am a better person by loving him, seeing a totally different world through his eyes.
For this and all good fortune that has come to me, I am going to be a novice monk. To get to know my mind even better
unfettered by life’s distractions.
My partner says there is no need for me to be one, but he will let go and let me try. His only fear, joking he said, “ I might like it so much I will stay.”
I say I know so little dharma, even with 5 years of being on the path that the temple will be happy to let go of me. Just kidding. There really are times in life that have to be thankful for what you have, and still be willing to give.
21 May, 2009
I had a recurring dream I have perhaps once a year, last night. Always, a bit new. It consists of accessing and going to a secret tiny penthouse that I only have the keys. With 360 degrees windows in a small room, that you have to access though a wild set of dark passages, sometimes crawling up through. Now, I have set here trying to figure out where it exists in my memory bank of past experiences, and the best I can come up with is a mish-mash of details. It appears so clear to me at times and especially in my dream that I could spend hours rewinding the mental tape piecing it all together. I have had in the past keys to buildings, some of which had unfinished penthouses. I would go sometimes to get a view at night, at off hours and many times after I quit working, in said building. I have always had grand daydreams as well as those at night. Raw industrial size office buildings while I worked in the floors below. And I have seen some cool lofts made out of old brick buildings that I have gone to parties in. The image that fits the dream that comes close was the rooftop of a tiny studio apartment building I had in my early 20’s with nice views of downtown. I can, now, hours after I am awake, travel back to crawling up passages to show some people what other rooms I have. Knowing that they really don’t exist, and are composed of several other dreams. It amazes me and stops time. The lights are on, and yes, somebody is still home.
20 May, 2009
After nearly finishing the Muhammad Yunus book on the way to and from work each day, my partner and I met on his way home. I was carrying dinner: 2 fish, som tum salad, morning glory soup and sticky rice. Last night he cooked for me, so it was my turn. He was excited, eyes lit up because the Yunus book inspired him to pursue trying to sell a new product he knows of. He told me the idea, and his plans to make it work. Wary of all the hurdles, but willing to try, even if he just learns from the experience, because he has a full time job, and soon will be in college for his masters. Even if it fails, it will allow him to use his college learning and put it to test in real life. It was great to see a book I bought him launching new ideas. He said he will finish the book today and I will see the product tomorrow. Days like this, full of hope and future and watching the gears work in his head. Ah, the simple pleasures of life. What more could I want?
19 May, 2009
"The field of mental health perpetuates this myth with the very concept of "mental health," which implies a state without suffering."
"It(meditation) teaches a way of looking at problems, observing them clearly but not necessarily trying to fix them or solve them."
"Mediation suggests to people that they begin to see all their thoughts as just thoughts, whether they are positive, negative or neutral."
"The Gap is the silent space between thoughts. It is the space where the mind stands still. No thoughts exist in this space. Hence, it is in the Gap that you can experience present moment awareness. From cultivating present moment awareness, inner wisdom and joy arises."
18 May, 2009
I bring this subject up to remind myself one of the many errors I possess. Oftentimes, we or I should say, I offer help to others when they don’t really want it when they engage us only as an ear. Friends rarely say, 'What should I do?" They might imply that, once told of their problem, knowing you would chirp in your fix. But trying to fix someone without walking in their shoes is damn near impossible. Silence comes in handy, being there to listen and be concerned. I know I have to quit trying to “fix others,” if only to acknowledge that my way is not always right. I can instead say, when asked, what I would do. Personally, for myself, but it can never replicate their particular conundrum. My near death brought me closer to being human, and actually further away from god status. That is where Buddha’s teachings can answer anyone’s questions about the frailties of life much better than I can. It comes with introspection as to why we act as we do, holding so close that “I” that is us and makes us feel so different from others. Photographed here is Avalokiteshvara, the embodiment of the compassion of all the Buddhas, whos thousand arms reach out to aid all the sentient beings sufferings.
17 May, 2009
This past weekend we spent time again with my partner’s close friend in Chinatown for all kinds of great food and a look at the dark market. He is a nice guy from Laos, and I can see why my partner likes him. He is positive and never moody. He has been over several times to eat and workout with us. So, when I finally took notice of his hands, I was shocked I did not see earlier. This is perhaps because he is so happy and positive. He is bigger than his hands, so as to speak. Anyway, his hands have severe enough rheumatism that they cannot bend correctly and are somewhat deformed. I asked why, and my partner said, “Because his parents were exposed to Agent Orange.
All from a country that is supposed to be developed(USA)." My partner is just acknowledging our part, but not confusing me with the cause. Some of the great maturity he possesses. He said further that his friend’s brother is worse off from the dioxin, and that his father has red bumps all over his body. This made me feel helpless, because I know the Vietnam war vets have been trying to expose this for years to help them get compensation and care from their exposure. All the more reason to know war affects a lot more than the supposed enemy. I still thank my father, for talking me in 9th grade and saying do not sign up for social security at school, that is how they find out to draft you. And if they do draft you, we are going to Canada. He was very much against this war, and any war.
I did get my partner to get a Tetanus shot, and this first Hepatitis A shot(next one in 6 months), which the Thai Dr said you don’t die from, but do you have B? He told him yes, and it should be in his chart. I had him do this shot years ago. I said Hep A and B are common in the developing world and he can’t afford exposure with his Thalassemia.
Two shots were enough for him, even though I have had four vaccinations in a day, before coming here last year. I am happy to pay to keep him healthy and on track for his masters.
Sunday night, we talk as we lay in bed talking about our collective history and the fact that is our longest lasting relationship for both of us. I tell him that he is my best investment, jokingly, but it is really the truth.
15 May, 2009
My partner was slogging through a Khmer History book, probably because it was too dry, or the translation into Thai not very good. He made the comment that why do only foreigners write about Khmer history? He threw out there that Cambodians don’t care about their history, but I told him that Khmer Rouge killed most intellectuals and that is probably why.
So, I bought him in Thai, “Creating a World Without Poverty,” by Muhammad Yunus and he is speeding right through it. He loves it and it is well written. It is something he is very interested in the idea in coming from poor roots himself. I try to inspire him to think big, that good ideas trump complaining. And some great ideas come from regular folks like you and I. If I give him the freedom to think perhaps he will change the world, too. I got him into reading years ago and he told me no one at work enjoys like he does, besides cartoon books. They also don’t ask him about the books he reads, so what is this with lack of curiosity here? Is it part of the non-thinking ideal here? I hate to generalize, but it seems more a product of education level. They are short-changing themselves is all I can think. The lights are on but no one is home!
Nevertheless, I will focus on someone I can inspire and make a difference in. And today, he showed me how much I mean to him in his excited enthusiasm about life... after coffee, that is!
14 May, 2009
I was talking to my sister about being here, living in my brain most of the time, because most have no idea of the extent of my brain injury. It makes me physically tired to deal with others, especially when trying to communicate. I know that my sufferings are minor compared to what others deal with on a day to day, just trying to find money to eat for example. Perhaps this negates my suffering, because it only dwells within the confines of my mind.This alone is one good reason to pursue Buddhist Dharma, to get of the self-concern I sometimes have.
On a brighter note, I went to view the progress on Wat Traimut’s new temple to give the proper glory to the solid gold 5.5 ton Buddha. It is marvelous, and almost done and it looks they are shooting for dedication on the King’s birthday they missed last year. I was hoping to find a CD of the moving of the Buddha to the new location by crane. It was a crane accident many years ago that exposed the plaster to view gold underneath. I can’t really express how impressive it is and I have not even walked up the steps. I can easily understand the delays in finishing, and I could see in some workers eyes their honor in working on this while laying marble stone at the base .
Later much to my amusement I ran into a Chinese Mahayana Avalokiteshvara temple, she is known in Tibet as Tara and in China as Guan Yin. I was involved in a Tara empowerment before I left home and she found me here. I missed this in previous trips here, so maybe she is seeking me to remind me that my suffering is meaningless and have more compassion for others.
I was given impromptu, a Guan Yin cast statue by friends of my aunt and uncle last year as well. While I am posting this I was listening to "Drala, Child of Illusion," and for the first time I realized that they chant in the song, Om Tare Tuttare Ture Soha. I replayed it to make sure, because this is too weird. So, I guess she working hard to find me.
13 May, 2009
I am thinking of aging and dieing without major long-term pharma-ceuticals use. This might sound great now, when I have no major illness to maintain or control. But when I was just out of ICU, I quickly convinced the doctor to take me off of blood thinners. Later when they prescribed anti-depressants to help my speech(they did somewhat), I hated the feeling and quickly got off.
I have seen so many older folks end up taking so many pills, that they have no idea of how they combine and react over the long term. Or one drug made for one symptom could easily cause another. Just read the fine print, which I am quickly finding is too damn small for me. Plus, Dr’s in USA are pill crazy, no preventive answers. We all know that aging make your blood vessels smaller and many times ends up with high blood pressure naturally. I posed this in a forum, and one person said my view is provocative and could easily agree. But he was worried about illegal drugs, and the ease of legal drugs and often they are consumed. He did confess he was on High Blood pressure drugs and a statin for cholesterol. Further he said that feels to be in good shape, yet says he doesn’t exercise enough. Signs that he like me could keep on top of our own health better as always.
We all have seen Grandma or Grandpa with their daily pills regime, often times taking multiple pills with nothing but water or juice. Just imagine what your stomach and upper intestines look like. My polyp in my upper intestine was caused by vitamins over the years, lying there dissolving in mass, oftentimes without enough food to absorb. Later, in his further replies were more about addressing life and thinking death is not imminent. Yet, we do not know ever, how soon it will come knocking.
We all probably know someone who died when it wasn’t there time and the shock experienced with this. But, hello …the shock was even more pronounced with the person thus described. Unresolved feelings and appreciations for all life has brought so far. This is why I am going to be a novice monk next month. It will allow such a space to really contemplate life and to give appreciation and thanks to my mother and all my friends, and especially those that stuck by me after my injury. In the midst of life’s total upheavals, I have been fortunate to have love and heart felt concern for my wellbeing. I could only repay this by helping others and making it my life focus. It is good that the money I give to the temple and the foundation attached to be a monk, help disadvantaged Thai and Burmese in schooling and income generating projects.
Next, I will try to convince and pay for my partner to go get his first eye exam at age 30 this weekend, and get his teeth cleaned which he now does every year with my suggestion. Wink. I finally had to get glasses to read outside of home, because it became hard to compose photographs in camera. Oh, well little signs of my stubbornness. We were made for each other.
12 May, 2009
Monday, I decided to get an exercise stress test here because it is way less costly than at home and I am the age where a heart check-up would be smart. Even though I have a health plan at home that I pay $346 a month, it would cost me three times or more what it costs here. Plus, here you can walk in and ask for it, without a Dr having to first see you to order the test.
While waiting for the room, I saw a very handsome, and obviously well off African couple. The wife, looking worried, while her husband waited to see a Cardiologist. She was wearing a fine tailored silk dress, adorned with jewel-like sequins down the front in lines tastefully and on the cuffs all in great orange harvest moon color. But what made even more a study where how her feet were tattooed in ivy on the sole and up the sides, along with outlines on every toenail. My guess from a African Muslim country with her head-scarf in three stripes of raw silk. She looked proud and so beautiful I wanted to photograph her. But this was not the time and place to do so, but she is now in my memory. She stands out so much from the Arabic countries usually in Black silk, with that ugly face bondage that reminds me of medieval torture…a narrow, metal band on the forehead, and a wide metal band over her mouth, with a husband either in white silk kaftan or western clothes.
I got in within an hour, and the nurses started to put the electrodes on my chest and then tape them down so I could run. When finished she asked me to sit down, and I winced because the tape was so tight and pulling on my hair. She asked, “Are you having a chest pain?” Because most Thai’s don’t see a Dr until it is too late, she still could not figure out why I was there. I just replied, "No, just my hair being pulled by the tape." We did resting test for awhile until the Dr came out from ICU, then on the treadmill trying four increasing speeds on incline while monitoring my heart. The Dr just watched and took a couple of phone calls. It was pretty easy even in hospital clothes and shoes that were not mine. The blood pressure cuff on my arm messed up a couple of times because of how I held the bar, which I usually don’t do while running. The stress of my muscles bumped it too high so I changed position. The test was done in like a half hour, and my heart was fine. The doctor said my two small cups of coffee I had 4 hours earlier showed up as blips. I take no drugs besides allergy medicine in the spring. So he said to cut out coffee or have only a small cup a day. I know that coffee in me feels like speed, makes my eyelids twitch, and often makes short-tempered, so it was good to have him tell me to cut it out. Not bad for a bi-lateral stroke survivor. Damn, now I have no excuse not to exercise. Seriously, I want to keep pushing it to keep my body healthy and lean. Then out the door to see two more temples and back home to run.
10 May, 2009
We went to Wat Pathum Wanaram hosting Buddha’s and other monk’s relics on loan from Sri Lanka. My partner was not being irreverent but he did talk to me about some of them being fossils or in stone form when it is only been 2500 years. One in particular was a small mass of knotted stone that was supposed to be a monk’s brain. He just whispered it takes a lot longer to become a fossil, or to become stone. And he left it at that. One of the many reasons I love him. I did like the fact that the temple had an area to meditate set up and I will return. The rest of the weekend we spend with his friends, who I have known for years, enjoying the storm like ending of both days with a huge lightning and thunder downpours. On Saturday, we had to put up two of his friends stuck here with 2 ft of water flooding the street. I joked we can dive from the balcony. But it was so welcome giving the extreme heat I have seen since I have been here.
At Chatujak market on Sunday looking for a chameleon, had spicy noodles and walked around for two hours, before I left them and bee-lined home to read and relax in AC. I am currently reading, “A Year in Green Tea and Tuk-Tuks” about settling in Sri Lanka to have a organic farm. This is particularly interesting to me as both my partner and myself would like to settle there after visiting there a few times. The author runs Samakanda the bio-diverse idea that brought him to Sri Lanka and inspired this book.
08 May, 2009
There are times when you leave the mind and body connection and today was just one of those days. After taking the boat to the pier close to some temples I wanted to visit, I walked in the hot sun with the brain still ticking, constantly asking ….how will my stay at a temple change me?
I have already met and talked to a couple of people. Yesterday, while waiting to have my hair cut a monk walked in. He was tired from a bus ride back to Bangkok from Chiang Rai. We talked until it was my time for the chair came up and I offered to him. He said, “You go ahead.” A quick buzz later, and before biding good-bye offered to get him something cool, and again he said, “ No, thank you.” This short encounter showed me some of his wisdom and pure heart. He was friendly and interested in me as an equal …albeit suffering person.
Back to today, I walked to Wat Ratchapradit, just in time to sit and watch and pray with the Monks. They do it all in Pali, but the first prayer of refuge is to Buddha, Dharma and Sangha(Buddham saranam gacchami). That I can join in, knowing it in English, but thinking about next month I’m curious how much Pali I will have to learn. It was just me and older folks in a beautiful painted temple. Oh, wait I am old, I'm one of those, sorry I forgot. I watched the monks when they entered and during the prayers, holding hands in prayer for an hour(difficulty), and few times they would glance at the asperas painted on the wall above. It was hot, even with the fans in the temple, and I saw a couple of older people fight sleeping. But extreme peace came over me and made me separate mind and body. I moved with purpose with this calm.
I did not take photos after my battery needing charging from earlier. It was just as well. I think it would have been rude. Just outside I had a talk with a sangha member, who was in a chair because it hurts too much to sit. I sat down and talked to him, peaceful and attentive to his questions. The number one question I get is, You are not Christian???? Once I get past this, it seems to open a door with everyone including my cab driver later. I am a farang in looks only, but we all bleed the same!
07 May, 2009
I sometimes put pressure on myself to make the most of any visit, seeing temples I have not seen, and really getting out there in 95+ heat and incredible air pollution. This is after an early wake-up to enjoy coffee with my partner before his work. So, I venture out in fresh clothes, and a location in mind. Hoping to find something that catches my critical eye visually, and challenges me to be a better photographer. An hour into it, and even with 55 spf, and I am looking for the shade, and moving like a wilted flower and looking spent.
Looking around, Thai’s are fanning themselves in the shade, or napping. I half-way wished I were in AC and reading while sipping iced tea…and drifting into a nap.
With all this I am trying to smile, to lighten up my expectations of the location and myself. And yes, my meditation has slacked only because of the new schedule, and fatigue of doing too much. Making it to the temple I wanted to see, only to find out it was closed. Then I retreat to the river, for some breeze and refreshments. It is no wonder that it is just too hot to bother getting angry, and so now I see how “cool heart” was a logical way to deal under these circumstances. Today is Wisakha Puja Day, the sacred occasion of Buddha’s enlightenment or passing into Nibbana. It will make for an interesting day and perhaps a photo opportunity after I make merit.
05 May, 2009
I cry for you, Krung Thep. You are making a foolish mistake. I saw this time, the tri-point colonial house off Phet Buri is gone….flattened! It was pinned uncomfortably between ugly apartment houses. Can’t you please rehab them? Impermanence, you say. I have not learned, yet. Next the old firehouse on the river will go. If you have something better I would say fine and let go. But most buildings built here, never last 20 years with the poor maintenance. Now don’t get me started on the teak houses quickly leaving as well. Pssst. I know something hella modern you like so much, like a building made of bricks of IPhones. That kills two birds with one stone, name brand identity and it makes noise.
03 May, 2009
My plane was late taking off so I took the opportunity to meditate in a place away from people and in a corner. About 20 minutes into it(yes, I set my cell alarm for 30 minutes), I was kicked by a woman, who upon opening my eyes was bending down to pet my knee saying, " Sorry, I did not see you!" It was not like I was in high traffic area, and if she did she was walking straight towards a pillar that supports the structure with no possible way to go further unless she planned on jumping through the window. What was amazing, I was really not fazed, nor even expressed any anger, and only a bit surprised, so I just looked at her and said, “Don’t worry, I’m fine and it’s OK”. I continued with my meditation until the gate call. I was able to get a business class seat in my own row, only to be lucky to have a couple with a young son behind my seat, to keep me up the entire 10 hour flight. The child was not abnormally loud for his age, but even so, did not allow me to sleep. The parents apologized, but I found his hide and seek with me charming, far more than annoying. The plane after this, way was worse. I am trying to transform every experience this trip into a pleasant one, knowing trying to control the world, which I finally found out you can’t possibly do. Maybe I am slow learner. Nevertheless, it helped to make for a great three days upon arrival, running on nearly little sleep we packed a weekend with my nephews within two hours of arrival. Everyone knows two seven year olds can wear you out fast, but we still managed to teach them to swim in two days, go to the zoo, and more.