There was an old grandmother clock in Mr. Foibles office. He had brought it to remind him of home. It was getting late in the afternoon now and Mr. Foibles was a little tired. The ticking of the clock began to call him home. There were so many memories in that ticking sound it remained in the back of his mind a bit like an inner prayer but also a reminder of time passing.
When his day at the office came to its close he knew that he would bring his whole life there gently to a close some day fairly soon and that his wish was to turn to living and working in nature with his family. At home he had his study, this could be his office. This is where the revolution must begin, he thought. It was time for man to leave the cities. The cities had estranged us from our bodies and become a deluded mental realm. In the forests and the pastures we must begin again to gather and to trust our neighbour. Symbolically he took the pictures of his family from his desk and put them in his briefcase. They don't belong here, he thought.
Still the clock was ticking in his mind, bringing a new rhythm and urgency to his heart.
As he left the office. Mr. Baltic, the security man, nodded to him as he approached the main door.
Mr. Foibles bid him farewell as usual, “Goodnight, my friend,” he said. There was no reply, as usual from Mr. Baltic. His little room was dark inside. The pictures from the security screens flashed across his face. His eyes were sad and vacant. Mr. Foibles left feeling a little melancholy wondering how ever he may reach poor Mr. Baltic.
His home was a short drive away in the suburbs. When his key entered the lock of his front door he realised he had been so lost in thought he had hardly noticed the journey so much was his sense of time predominant in his mind.
He felt unsettled.
His wife greeted him at the door with the customary peck on the cheek and update on dinner. She returned to the kitchen and Mr. Foibles headed for his armchair. Alone in the living room his mind was flooded with the past.
His attention turned to his old grandfather clock which had been in the family for generations. As usual it stood silent, its mechanism ceased up long ago. The tick-tock of his mind fell silent and his time-bound automatic mind fell silent too. Time stood still.
The old and gold grandfather clock remained like an aura in his mind, catching the light this way and that, still and mellow.
He cast this new light around the room, at the old family photographs, the familiar paintings on the wall, the souvenirs from many a journey. These were all the things that had made home for Mr. Foibles. He could still remember as he placed his mind on each in turn and thought about it but they no longer called to him from the walls and his home lay now in the heart.
His wife served dinner. It was usual for Mr. Foibles to be quiet and pre-occupied on his return home. She knew to give him time and then gently enquire as to his day.
“I love you, dear.” said Mr. Foibles.
“I love you too dear,” she said and placed her hand on his.
“I shall retire,” said Mr. Foibles.
“Very well,” she said, thinking that he would retire to bed.
Mr. Foibles did not explain his plans but returned to his armchair. His funny old head sat on his shoulders like a golden pumpkin on the shelf of his garden shed, rocking gently as life thumped by. His silence hung so softly in the air that summer evening that life simply came and went. He smoked his pipe and looked out of the window. There was a little forest behind the house. Mr. Foibles in his heart was at the cabin and his house had become a cabin too. The office, like a dream, faded in his mind. He nodded off a little and dreamt that he flew from the city with a chain of children holding his hands. He was so happy. He was home and there was a new peace in the air, as still as glass, as dusk approached. The silence was golden.
His family had gathered at the end of the day. A golden sunset poured into the room like an angel. His dear wife and three children sat in their accustomed places and Mr. Foibles spoke in a way that he had never spoken before:
“Please listen, my dears. I have something to say to you all. As I hope you all know I love you all very dearly, like my own life. I have realised something that I wish to share with you as best I can. For much of my life, as you know, I have lived in my thoughts and I realise now the extent to which I had become estranged from my own body. This last weekend at grandpa's cabin that changed and I discovered, in a very natural way, a truth, a love, a joy and a sense of freedom in the body I had never discovered before. At the office today I realised I had not been alone. All around the city I saw people lost in thought and unhappy. We are so lucky here that we have the forest to return to but what I realised this weekend is that the body is part of nature too. We belong there and not in the city. This realisation has changed my life. I shall retire from the office and work from home. I will be here all the more to love you and keep you safe. I will grow pumpkins and spinach and sing lullabies to the silly city. We will not be so rich but I believe we will be happy.”
Thus spoke Mr. Foibles. And this was just the beginning of a new life and love for the world. For the world would come to love Mr. Foibles, in the golden silence and peace of history, just as Mr. Foibles had come to love the world.
And Mr. Foibles was beginning to wonder about the future of the cities,
“It’s an unnatural way to live, I get the feeling something could go terribly wrong,” he thought.
The Mr. Foibles Trilogy
Mr. Foibles woke on Monday morning to find his life quickly rushing like blood to his head. But it was a funny new head, his whirling habits newly crowned with a mess of white hair unwashed and uncombed in the faint dawn light. Under the sway of habit his body prepared itself to stand up and go to the bathroom. He was literally getting carried away. I will get ready in my own good time, he thought. He triumphantly messed his hair up a little more.
He walked his body outside. The sun was rising above the forested mountains. The air was crisp and clear. This was a brand new day in the world, never seen before. He felt so alive, so real. Breathing the cool air he felt it right down into his lungs, breathing out he returned the air to the sky. His feet, still in his tatty old woolly slippers, were as if rooted to the earth. From the crown of his head to the soles of his feet he was full of love.
Turning back indoors, through a gentle application of restraint, his mind offered patience to his morning habits. He washed and modestly covered the body in the usual attire fitting to his role and purpose. The socks looked a bit pointless without his shoes, he laughed as his head hung down. Looking at his hairy old legs they appeared to be upside down as if the floor were suddenly the ceiling, he giggled. Life seemed so absurd. He stood in front of the mirror and tried to feel important about his smooth grey suit to make up for the fact that he no longer felt important in it. As his finishing touch he chose a light blue silk tie as cool and crisp as the morning light. Its sheen was a reminder of the inner light, the truth of the body that shone through, cool and bright. Both literally and metaphorically the time was now right. He left the cabin for the city.
As he travelled his usual route to work he saw everything in a new light.
He drove a little slower than usual to take in the scene. The car was like an extension to his body, one vehicle inside another. As he paused at the traffic lights the sun shone through the windscreen and warmed his hands that were beginning to look their age. His heart beat quickened a little and he gazed back at the sky as though waiting for heaven to come in cool blue pyjamas. The green light came, he would go on.
The farmland around gave way to suburbs swarming with children on their way to school. The little ones bounced their bodies along the street like rubber balls. The teenagers found a strength that as yet tensed under the gaze of others. The adults walked responsibly. The morning world whirled on, driven by the invisible assumptions that formed the day ahead. His heart was an open question.
Through the outskirts there were the highs and lows of the bridges and tunnels. Underground life was dark and driven, he thought.
There was an order and cleanliness to it all that aspired to style and meaning. In awkward spaces a sculpture would be thoughtfully added to bring the scene together and make it look as though it was all meant to be just the way that it was.
But today, in his playful mind, the office blocks looked like massive fridges or kitchen units making everything else look tiny, of no consequence. He was happy to be a nobody.
Then another underpass and this time, without thought or judgement, his mind was calmed by the simple grey concrete and the lights reminded him of Christmas.
Approaching the city centre he drove over the brow of the hill and drew breath as a brand new city was laid out before him. It looked like a toy. In the bright morning sun it looked like plastic.
Holding the steering wheel he played with his new toy as if he held this precious human world right there in the dexterous warmth of his hairy old hands. He held on but not too tight and the touch of his mind was lucid and bright. Seeing fellow bodies abroad in the brilliant morning light his heart softened and he took every care. He slowed and gestured elegantly for pedestrians to pass before him. I some there was pride in their wealthy clothes and groomed hair. He gently mocked their vanity with his gestures.
But these were genuinely good people. It was not just that they paid their taxes and loved their families. The children were happy for their life was full of promise, like gifts wrapped with ribbons in the sky. They held the innocence and the hope of the adults. It was true, there was hope.
I wonder if the sky likes being blue, he thought.
It was harder to see past the glittering act or the hard fact to the bodies that walked and talked, sold and bought, but the bodies were there as a purpose as soft as putty. As crude and rude as on the farm they were a deeper perspective entering on the scene as real as the feel of it all. Yet all the body's needs were displayed in anonymous ways and everything duly taken for granted. The shop was around the corner, the health centre was down the street and nobody needed anybody in particular. People could get the impression they were self-reliant and in control.
On the smartphones and in the shop windows the halogen lights outshone the light of the spirit, god of the day and protector of the night when nature failed to shine the way. And dreams ran in the nerves and the wires the same until the sinews of man jerked and this was life in the false and their false life and death. It was life to the banks and the advertising, the insurance companies and the meaningless sport. And security lay only in facts, in numbers half remembered by a mind divorced from the body that was as tired as it was wired and somehow wired into the city. The city of a billion buttons. Hearts would howl at night, he thought, as the numbers slipped out of view, dreams of the future becoming just a dream.
Tears came to his eyes.
Yet the gypsy beggar by contrast was as real as his hunger. He sat in the doorway on a sheet of cardboard. Most passers-by were modest in their offerings, proper citizens knew how to deal with this situation and thought there was no need to be touched or to touch that reality. Knowing not that such a reality could remain, beyond the facts, to guard our sleep.
But time would tell.
He arrived a little late at the office. Miss Springles at reception was flustered and jabbering in rapid lists. He took her hand, warm and damp, squeezed it with a gentle gesture of reassurance and smiled. For a moment time stood still as their eyes met. She paused.
“See, there is time,” he said.
And there was time. Measured in the new posture and composure of Mr. Foibles there was a time beyond time. His eyes sat in their sockets like a child's prize marbles. Here was the insistently real in the land of numbers. His real work was done. Now, with true love, he could play with the world.
He went to the toilet down the corridor. The faint smell of urine somehow tickled him. He entered an empty cubicle and locked the door. The man in the next cubicle was whistling some old song. It echoed strongly in the humid air. Mr. Foibles was trying to recognise the tune but for a moment he imagined that he was whistling through his penis. He shook uncontrollably as he tried not to laugh out load. If he could do such a thing he could be famous but how, in all decency, would he present himself, he thought? The toilet became a circus of feats and freaks and danced in his blissful mind. The light of his heart flashed free and white, mirrored in gleaming porcelain.
He returned to his office, trotting under a shower of giggles. He sat at this desk and as he settled again into his chair the worry that was his office habit dragged at his heart. He felt a little heavy and his mood sank with his frail old body. His body was disappearing into the plush upholstery. He felt a little helpless. He wanted so much to share the joy and sense of freedom of the last few days but who would listen. Would people just think he was crazy? He stared at the computer on his desk. The light from the screen shone into his face. The light felt so false, like the neon lights of the subway it seemed to emerge from darkness like a lie. The darker truth of the city was beginning to sink in as he sank even further into his leather chair. He put his old hands together and prayed...
Please help me Lord.
Oh, how sleep has stolen the light, the sleep of thought. Yet how I am driven to that thought to deal with the desires of others.
For it seems that the spirit is becoming lost to modern man. The senses it seems cannot help but believe the bright screen - brighter than the heart of modern man and as clean as heaven the bright screen sells the pleasures of the world so that lost in feeling and the hope of feeling is the spirit. And lost am I without the light of the heart in the eyes of my brothers.
Please help me Lord.
There on the ground shines the light of the spirit. There on the ground of the body where no man’s eyes find their rest. There where the heart is first composed.
And furthermore when the heart sees the suffering of the world it can be free and yet caught in the light of the bright screen that suffering seems as dark as eternal night and as death to the life of desire. Only when what was dark becomes light does true life, the life of the spirit, truly enter the heart of man and yet it seems that even the light of being and of space will be as the light of the bright screen in the dreams of the modern man.
And heaven will be but a movie in the heart of man.
Before the bright screen the heavy breath churns the world around and the storm of dreams is never still, the world of the mind dances to its tune and is a slave to its tides and reality is its deadliest foe. Are the spasms of passion to be the only life they shall know?
Please help me Lord.
Then Mr. Foibles came to his senses. No, I shall not grieve for the world, he thought. But should I hide among the beetles and the dragonflies and appease the reflex man with little white lies?
For all alone is there is only danger and would I best remain a stranger to the reflex man?
There was a knock on the door he knew very well. His secretary, Mrs. Tweedsome, popped her head around the door. “Can I get you anything?” She asked. She knew him well. She had seen him many times in reflective mood and knew not to disturb. Mr. Foibles smiled and shook his head and she disappeared. He was a little relieved. It seemed she hadn't noticed anything different about him. Despite his experiences he must have seemed normal enough. She was so kind and had been so loyal to him over the years. He would take her children to the ice cream parlour around the corner next time they turned up a little early from school, he thought.
He stood and gazed out of the window at the city below. The summer breeze gently caressed his wrinkly old face. No, I am not alone. We are all together, one body, one life, he thought.
He remembered William Blake:
“God appears and God is light to those who dwell in realms of night but does a human form display to those who dwell in realms of day.”
He sat looking at the pictures of his family on his desk. We can all be happy together whatever our reason and time shall tell. Let time be the teacher. I must be patient thought Mr. Foibles. I will say nothing about my weekend unless I am asked, he thought.
The sun blazed through the window of his office, he could feel its warmth on the back of his head. The light in his eyes was so bright it seemed for a moment as though it shone right through. The taste of freedom was so sweet. As a gesture and a reminder he would buy cakes for everyone in the office and offer them himself every day from now on. It was just the beginning of a new life of giving. Mr. Foibles was full of joy.
With his mind clear and happy he got down to his work. He played with numbers and words with his head and his hands, abiding in his new life, inside.
TO BE CONTINUED...
The Mr. Foibles Trilogy
"This is the story of a full immersion experience. I recommend you
retreat to your own cabin in the woods, or a deserted beach. If that's
not possible hide out in the bathroom or broom cupboard. Give it
quality time and attention. Life changing potential is much closer
than you imagine."
- Tim Price.
By: Ajahn Kalyāno
(with a little help from The Son of the Elk-Rider)
At weekends Mr. Foibles leaves his business in the city and seeks peace in the forest. Mr. Foibles stayed at his cabin in the mountains. It was a log cabin of traditional style with a grass roof. In the summer this was heaven. The forest stretched across the mountains as far as the eye could see. One could feel as though one could roam freely forever and a day.
By day he roams the forests – like a daring tourist returning to his customary resort – and by the night he would observe the stars, in an attempt to integrate the vastness of the universe into his own very heart. Arriving at this cabin was to Mr. Foibles perhaps somewhat similar to when orphans discover their true parents – an occurrence of reconnection with the heritage and fold which fate had ascribed, after having it concealed by the surges of the turning tides.
The cabin´s flagpole that served to raise the spirits with a defiant flag in the midst of winter was like a mast to a cabin afloat in the vast forest, the hills like the waves of the sea. The ship's bell that could call a helping hand lay silent in the safety and abundance of the summer. It would seem it would last forever. The grandfather clock stopped long ago and stands as if frozen in time. Only the rusty iron speaks of time from stillness, the sailor's chest that reminds of travels long past, extending the mind's horizons. The upright chairs speak of manners at dinner, the armchairs, thread-bear and sagging of the rest of a working man. His cabin was old with many paintings on the walls. Was this an expression of love manifested and made visible through a perfect symbiosis of diligence, artistry and meticulousness; or was it a vain sensualism? Or could it be either depending on the eye that was looking? The decoratively painted doors were to Mr. Foibles like the doors to his inner heaven.
From the verandah the scent of pine reminded him of summer days fishing with his father. This was a world of its very own which, wrapped in the innocence of a child, always held a freshness in his mind.
In the valley beneath the veranda two women were raking hay by hand and chatting with each other. They were Mr. Foibles neighbours. Sceptical onlookers would claim that they are trying to impose an outdated and ancient agricultural method, with its essential discomfort and inefficiency, on the world, sneeringly calling it silly nostalgia and eccentric waste of time and effort. Mr. Foibles, however, would now profess in the luxury of his summer leisure, that these women had re-attained a small piece of humanity's lost position in nature. Thus, not evading the real world but reconquering their place in the real world. Thus on this historical day he had finally taken a stand which, unknown to him was, over the next days, to shift his whole perspective on life.
As usual some of the neighbour´s sheep had greeted him at the gate on his way to the cabin. His reflections brought them back to mind with new affection. The sheep were of an ancient mountain breed. Carrying their horns raised their heads into a strong and dignified pose fitting of their history of endurance as their hooves danced nimbly across the rocks or planted themselves in the field as they stood and stared, their eyes lacking penetration yet soft and present. Would the sheep, being of the new generation, recognise the traditional methods of their masters? Would their minds be somehow preserved in a primordial state to be expressed in the quality of their gaze?
Here the sheep together with elk and deer are free to roam, while man is chained to these wooden boxes, with all their comforts, to be able to survive the winter. Through their reticent endurance the animals have made themselves supreme rulers, resembling spiritual seekers in their wilderness abode. Hence the softness that comes into their eyes and the pride into their horns. This is a place where nature is king and man is but a poor immigrant. And the wooden structures of the human dwellings are but a loan from nature, which nature would in due course reclaim, according to its uncompromising law.
In the cabin the books, board games and jigsaw puzzles speak of the dark winter nights, of the refuge in the world of the imagination and the fairy tale. Gradually the refuge, inner and outer likewise becoming a prison. The stoves and the candles, the warm winter lights flicker and throw shadows on the ceiling, the world jumps and falters like a nightmare that could draw us to delusion or even derangement. The inner vision must awake and remain awake. But still if the cabin is used as our safe haven during winter, would not that in itself constitute a divorce from nature and from reality, he wondered. Would it make the cabin into our whole world during the cold nightly snowfalls. He was to discover that then only the body can remind us of our true haven and true nature. The body within which, he would find, the true spirit resides.
Now it was high summer. Nature flourished all around. Yet his encounter with the sheep and the reflections that followed had left him in a contemplative mood. Simply to the soft, present eye the tall pines and the delicate flowers merged into a single, open, unified image. Going for his daily walk he knew the way, a gentle intention could find its way along the path. If the touch of intention remained light and open, the image of the forest remained clear and open in his mind.
“And the wild flowers are so beautiful” he thought.
Yet when desire thus entered and placed its focus within the scene he was tempted along the way through feeling. The mind merely used the senses of the body to enter the world and the body, part of nature, was just a tool. This was a coming together of the organism on its goal yet it was a union merely at a point of feeling which as a part of the mind pointed back only at the mind and did not truly open into the world. Only when he stood still did the mind open and notice the stillness and peace of space that mirrored the spirit, settled in the moment. He felt so alive, so free.
Mr. Foibles had always taken desire to be like life itself. Now desire was showing itself to be the thief of a new life that he did not yet know he had.
He continued his walk feeling inwardly a little disorientated. This part of the path was rocky and as he felt himself stumbling. He was cruelly reminded of the agility of the sheep and felt suddenly somehow lost, defeated. Now in this moment of loss he had his first inkling of his new world. In the struggle to find his footing and to re-establish his sense of presence it was as though the new space of his mind was brought into the body, his movements became natural and fluid and, still half unknown to Mr. Foibles, he sensed for the first time in his life what it was to truly be a human being.
The space that surrounded his body seemed to shine with the light of love into the forest. Mr. Foibles loved the forest, but suddenly he questioned whether the forest loved him. Imaginably the forest rejected him on the grounds that in the past he had turned it into a kind of museum through his passive awareness that merely catalogued the species and added nothing.
“The forest has given me so much,” he thought. Perhaps it could forgive him for taking firewood – so abundantly did it replenish itself and he knew that he must do this to survive the winter, or rather he must do this for the sake of the body. He felt humbled and a little melancholy. Returning from the walk, the cabin he now clearly saw as the home of his mind, the creation of his mind and the minds and hearts of others, the carpenters and the painters. The cabin was a world controlled and arranged from which he ventured forth into the vast uncontrolled and non-arranged expanses of nature. Here the mind catered also to the needs of the body and it was this aspect that now came mysteriously to the fore. He washed and rested his body and gave it a little food, wondering what it really liked, after all. He went to the toilet, laughing out load at the little splashes made by his pooh entering the water. The body, he realised, could not be controlled and arranged like the chairs. This tool of his mind had its own demands. The body had a life of its own, like the trees or the deer of the forest. There was another shift of heart, an acceptance.
Here at the body, the mind experienced the elements only to find the warmth of the body and the warmth of the sun the same. Likewise the man-made warmth: the heat of the campfires of the North-American Indians – where the brave warriors of a lost civilisation would contemplate and form their destinies, or the heat of the saunas – where the successful captains of the market settled lucrative deals which would cause obesity and a hollow fulfilment in some and resentment and jealousy in others – were also a part of this same warmth.
And yet the passions and pretensions of the mind seemed quickly to lose the simplicity of the moment, rippling the stillness of the image and throwing up the despair of an inner vertigo. When he grasped a view, the view grasped him. Only in the innocent comic book of the child could such expanse be won within the image, free of the history of feeling which was the hook of craving.
He quickly got out of his chair, feeling the need to play like a child and shake off the passions. At the body with its expressive posture and movement he found a reaction over which the mind held control. In its composure was a deeper coming together, one that truly listened to the world. He danced into the forest.
This forest had held an unbroken peace for many centuries, he thought. But was it a peace achieved by the rule of law, or was it the natural peace growing from an inner spiritual reality? Mr. Foibles had always thought that a life of discipline would be a life of oppressive misery. And yet his very own body could be the home of the spirit, free from desires and a source of compassion and moral sense, of a wise and natural inner discipline. The empty swings that once carried the excited screams of children he offered in his mind to carry the swings of moods he no longer required.
Coming together further in feeling were his mind and body. Yet there was no excitement that did not agitate the body's quiet repose. Only in stillness could an image truly mirror reality and within it hold a sense of space that held its own joy, the joy of freedom. He went back inside and sat. For once in his life he sat still.
Usually to sit would also be to think but he had realised too that there was no need for him to carry the world in his mind, with all its innumerable particulars, in order to understand. Only the reality of what is mattered, there was no need to form a mental image to achieve an understanding of existence. Furthermore Mr. Foibles had found that the simple experience of his own body, perhaps surprisingly, was all that was needed to attain to a deeper, primordial knowledge – and this was something which would not be imagined but would arise spontaneously from reality. The quality of this vision was surprising too: like the vision of a saint within the space of the mind as it grew to clearly know the body, the mind no longer trapped in the body but the body sitting in the bright bubble of the spacious mind.
Although Mr. Foibles felt clearly that he had entered a new world in his mind still outwardly he returned to his habitual weekend fashion. He would carry his new found peace with him, he thought. He picked up a magazine he had brought with him. Suddenly the wind was stirred up, grabbing a hold of the magazine. He momentarily panicked and the stillness of his mind was lost. As he held on tight, doubt gripped his mind, what was he doing? He realised at once how attached he was to his entertainment and to his reveries, yet the grasping contraction of his mind still took him and he felt like he was falling into darkness. Was feeding the imagination merely creating a false world inside, a world of phantoms that haunted his eyes? Am I merely led to compare myself with a dream or this place with a utopia as vague as if portrayed in a foreign tongue?
His mind turned again. “Yet do I not need to imagine to plan and decide my course in the world?” he thought.
“Imagination comes only to support weakness of vision,” came a thought from the space of his mind.
“And outer vision may be brought within if the mind is empty, full of space. Such is the relinquishment that gains everything,” he thought.
He paused and lit his pipe.
Within his silenced gaze a humble love of simplicity and a sense of balanced and orderly composition arose, the particulars unimportant, and the ordinary became imbued with a new significance and luminosity, turning it, in that very moment, into the pinnacle of all that has ever been and will ever be in the world. For that vision will have space and light in the very same way that it holds form within an integrated whole. This whole then becoming peace to a mind that no longer needed to run around to gather and form a picture. This was a very different kind of beauty, a beauty of order, an order that expresses a deeper meaning than the transient object. An order that, free of sensuality, does not close the heart to a point of feeling but opens the heart to a truer love. This is a love formed by the selfless heart and eye, not by the object but by an extension of the heart into the world of the mundane. Free from the limits of external form it could find itself even in the lowliest of places – unconditional and unconditioned.
Free also of the theory that will always generate doubt and then anguish, this spiritual aesthetics takes the mind beyond the aesthetics of the world – the ordinary like a bridge to the beyond. For what must we seek, when our eyes are beautiful we may see beauty wherever we look? This new vision in turn allowed the mind, abandoning sensuality, to find a natural moral sense and sensibility. The big rusty barbecue had been to him like a union between the primeval nature and the vanities of industrialism. But now that he had realised that he had a body, and the body also had him, he started to sense an aroma of guilt that tarnished its very core. The meat spoke back to him from the grill and he resolved, no more. With such a resolve he felt a sense of being at One with the world, not through sensuality but through a loss of the sense of self, through a freedom of mind from self concern that opened his heart to a wider sphere.
“Here at he body the two worlds truly meet, the world of the mind and the world of nature,” he thought. “There must lie the whole truth, the unified picture in which his mind could rest from its endless wandering, from its endless efforts to paint a coherent picture within the mind. “
He sat in his armchair and sought to direct his mind into the body. Yet he could not regain or intensify this state through desire. To try to place the mind here at the centre, at the bodily intersection was not then the great coming together. For the mind to touch the body and find feeling was a moment of over-sensitivity and despair. The mind turned to stimulate itself could form no coherent image. Feeling as an end in itself was both confusing and compulsive. Only when the mind was able to form an image of the real body, in place, was there a return to sanity. Yet even then the feelings would call, like a temptress until the mind went calm. Only then could the mind find itself clear and open and the objects both of the world and the mind find their place within its open geography. He sat on.
When he next arose it was already dusk. Looking down into the valley the women were still working and he felt closer to them than ever before, closer than all his admiration could take him. He realised that the simple, clear presence of his own body was a bridge to his fellow man. No longer divorced from his companions and locked into the world of thought, nor closed into the world of personal feeling, his mind was truly empathic. New open feelings emerged from a clear image, not merely an evaluation – given not merely taken, they had a new life and love, strong and free.
From now on he determined to take his body wherever he went to find this union and to cool his fevered mind. He stood and walked to the window.
Looking out into the garden it was as though his thought was then part of nature through the cabin and the armchair the same as through the hammock and the woodpile, adding new meaning and consciousness to that of the forest. Losing the sense of inner and outer. No longer did he hang on to his creations - the wood carving or the sledge no longer took on an excess of meaning from his proliferating mind. Meaning that could find no place in the world but merely turned endlessly within his mind without rest. Instead nature was drawn within by the harmony of inner and outer. He had a place and a purpose. Yet his sense for the body left him cool and calm, free of desire, at peace. The life of the body was simple and humble and gave a new perspective to the ambitious mind.
He pottered around the cabin. The stoves and the heavy beams spoke of the winter darkness usually denied in the rush of summer. He knew without thought that he must prepare the firewood. He found himself taken to the workshop. The axe swung straight and true, this chore was now a natural integration of mind and body, his action arising out of a perception of the world not out of desire or worry. It was part of the seasonal pattern, the cycles completed externally in an accepted history becoming the cycles of thought and action completed inwardly. And riding parallel in the mind a higher meaning could find the space previously occupied by the proliferations of life. For the mind seemed to find in this space a new existence, a light that could both guide and penetrate. A light lost with grasping or holding and brighter with letting go as though the hand of work were now also the gestures of an inner moral sense in a life claimed back from the spasms of desire.
And to play with the world and the mind together reached a new understanding beyond that of desire. A new understanding that was itself beyond desire. To try to work it all out was to find trying working things in and out of his mind until he nearly went out of his mind. The trajectory must start from the looked at thing and find no self that looks, merely a mirror to the world. A thing is happy to be looked at by other things when it is convinced that it signifies itself and nothing else. To make the forest thus happy he must abandon his inner life, his inner world, for an image of his body, drenched in the light of the spirit. Only then would he truly be at One with nature. Now the forest would love him as he loved the forest.
Before he departs he must catch the light of summer in his body and mind. The peaceful lake in the midst of the forest, the light of the sun reflected from the water and broken into sparkles by the breeze mirrored his new mind. He knew in his heart he would never leave the cabin and return to the city. His heart would forever remain in the forest, taking its place there in the space and light. He now knew the home of the mind and could no longer roam even on his return to the city.
“Now in the city I will know how to truly work in a way that harmonises with nature, to do my part to provide for mankind through love and compassion, not through greed and power,” thought Mr. Foibles.
TO BE CONTINUED...
Words and reading by Ajahn Kalyano.
Background music and editing by Gordon Oaks.
Reading - voice only version
The Mr. Foibles Trilogy