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25th March

I am the sky

This morning while working out, I was suddenly overcome by a feeling of discontent. I felt bad for not writing enough but also felt I had to travel more even though the two are hard to combine. I became concerned that I had put on weight—despite the fact that the scale showed no difference—and I was displeased with the photo of myself on the inside flap of the book we just produced, a photo I had chosen with care and was perfectly happy with up to yesterday.  In fact, I became so anxious that I got off the cross-trainer to look for another photo, a pointless action because the book has already been printed and distributed.


Where was the sense of equanimity that had become my default mode over the past years? What caused this sudden alteration?


Then I remembered that, very much against my habit, last night I had stayed up late watching a series showing the boredom and discontent of wealthy people in a luxury resort. Was I contaminated by their dissatisfaction? If watching something on a screen affects me that much, what other unknown influences trigger my feelings?


Could it be that a smell I’m not even aware of is somewhere in my brain associated with the perfume my mother wore, causing an unexpected feeling of nostalgia? Could a high-pitched sound that only dogs perceive release a hormone in my bloodstream that makes me feel anxious? And does the man with reddish hair I passed on the street the other day unconsciously remind me of the dentist I used to go to as a boy fifty-five years ago, and is that why I felt a sudden pang in my stomach?


How can I take these feelings seriously when they are in fact echoes of what went on inside me during situations that occurred long ago? And how can I take seriously feelings about events that I imagine happening in the future, when they may never take place? Over the years I’ve found out that when they actually do take place, it often turns out very different from what I had imagined anyway.


In Buddhism feelings are compared to clouds: they come and go, while the mind is as the sky, open and empty. I like the idea of being the sky. Its endless blue expanse and sense of freedom appeal to me.


So the sky is what I’ll be tomorrow when I sweat away on the cross-trainer and uninvited thoughts crop up.

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