This post is part of ‘WORLDS WITHIN WORLDS’, a series of writings about Prunella (Ella) Smith, author, editor & reviewer, and the many worlds she inhabits: her physical reality; her online world where disgruntled author Dita stalks; the worlds of the books she edits; her dream world, and the world beneath the veil of her ordinary reality.
Click here for the previous offerings in reverse order, or here for links to them in order.
I’m relieved to leave the cyber-world behind. It’s unreal compared to the three dimensional world around me, and yet it can take on a frightening reality of its own. Like Kelee’s world, the cyber-world is merely black symbols on a white background, but our minds flesh out the symbolism and make it real – at least in our minds.
Right now, I need to get out of my head.
Merlin trots at my heels and yowels. I grab a sash from the back of the couch in the living room and dangle it in front of him. He leaps up and batts it with his cute little paws. I wiggle it along the floor, and he scoots after it and pounces. His claws dig in and hold tight when I try to pull it away.
‘Ah, Merlin.’ I sigh. ‘You always bring me back to reality.’ I scoop him up and carry him – purring all the way – to the shrine room. He doesn’t wriggle as we walk through the garden, just looks around wide-eyed. Little birds abound in this leafy garden in the rainforest, and Merlin loves watching them flitter from one shrub to another.
I open the rickety door into the old one-roomed cabin that houses my shrine, and plonk Merlin on the floor. He’s off in an instant, sniffing for mice, and I have to growl at him when he looks like he’s about to jump on the shrine. He shoots me a look that says, ‘Okay. Fine. Whatever!’
I light the candle and sit on my low meditation chair. I used to be able to sit on a cushion, like a real yogi, until The Back made it impossible.
Tension falls off me as soon as I sit. The expression ‘rolling off in waves’ comes to mind. It’s very apt here. The meditation posture and the sacred silence in a room imbued with the remnants of countless hours of meditation does it automatically. My gaze softens and I smile; the problems of the cyber-world fade from my mind. Dita may think he’s causing me pain, but he’s the one who lives in a mind filled with hate.
My meditation teacher stares back at me from his photo in the centre of the wooden shrine. Photos of his own teachers flank him. They’re like my spiritual grandfathers and grandmothers. On each end of the top shelf sits a gold and brass statue, Guru Rinpoche – the precious master of the Nyingmas – on one end, and White Tara – the goddess of compassion – on the other. Below them, on the table top, are images of meditation deities and mandalas. My silver offering bowls with the traditional offerings sit in front of them, and the embroidered wall hanging of a four-sided vajra hangs across the front of the shrine.
I drink in the inspiration. Each image is a reminder of a teaching, an experience, an understanding, a mind state. A wealth of wisdom and compassion graces this room. These images represent the whole of the Buddhadharma, a vision both vast and profound. I open my mind and heart and transform beneath their gaze.
The veil parts.
I simply am.
Everything simply is, as it is.
Time passes. I do not measure it.
A different place and time emerges from the as-it-is-ness. A different me, yet the same, I sit in meditation posture on the ground high above a valley. Gravel covers the sides of the surrounding mountains, a smatter of snow dusts the top and a village sits on grasslands at the foot of the valley. I recognise the place, though in this life, I don’t know its name. I am in Tibet outside the cave. A man struggles up the path towards me – my patron with his supplies. A good man, simple but clear in his beliefs. He knows without a doubt the value of his support. He has no time to practice, so he supports me and I practice for him. Every step I take towards enlightenment, I take for him as well. Did I say he was simple? No, he is wise. He has me do the hard work for him.
This other place and time is like an overlay on my present. I am both this grimy Tibetan yogi and this modern writer half a world and heavens only knows how many years apart. I am here and I am there, and there is not the slightest conflict. I sense that I am many other places as well; in worlds within worlds in a multiverse vaster than any can imagine.
I suspect that my mind has latched onto the view from the Tibetan mountain across the broad valley topped by an endless blue sky because it is symbolic of my present mind state, and the yogi who watches the man draw closer knows that mind state intimately. His accumulated practice makes it easy for me to slip into that vast space. I know it. It is like coming home.
The glimpse dissolves but the yogi’s mind is always with me.
Do no harm: precept one.
Always help: precept two.
Train your mind: precept three. Get this one together and the others are a cinch.
‘You may be doing more harm than good.’ Sally’s final words the day of her warning return to me.
‘Goodness does not always look like goodness,’ I had replied.
‘It depends whose side you’re looking from,’ she’d said in a rare display of insight.
I know why Dita left that review. He wanted me to feel what he felt when he saw the one star review I had given him. He didn’t need to bother, though, because I already know how he feels. I’ve always known. That’s why I wrote such carefully worded detail. I hoped that the clarity of my appraisal would help him to see past his shock.
I remember the pain in my heart when I read the first – and last – professional feedback on my first book – the one that now resides in my writing archive folder. I went through the usual kind of defensiveness – you don’t see what I’m trying to do; you don’t understand the characters; it’s not your usual genre so you don’t really know what you’re talking about and so on. I came up with every possible reason not to recognise what my friend was politely trying to tell me: the book simply didn’t have what it takes to make publication.
Though I’d felt at the time as if she’d battered me with a block of wood, I eventually came to appreciate the care my friend had taken to make sure that I understood the problems. I look back now with gratitude. And, boy, am I glad I didn’t rush out and self-publish that one. What an embarrassment it would be now.
My second book took her feedback on the first one into account from the very first draft. Catnip Creek scored an agent after only two queries and Allen and Unwin snapped it up. My friend’s feedback didn’t seem very good at the time, but in retrospect, it was the best thing for my writing career.
I rest my case.
I visualise Dita as best I can. I have no idea what he looks like, or even if he is a he – his Facebook photo is a galaxy – so I see him as a kind of generic human-shaped blob. I know it’s him though because I fill the blob with all his pain and frustration, all his shattered hopes and dreams – the ones I shattered with my truth! I see the residue of his actions in that blob body with its featureless face; the derogatory Facebook comments, the abusive emails and the forum threads, much of it shouted in anger with the caps lock on. That and the pain that drove it manifests as black smoke swirling in the form. The poor man is filled with it. How painful it must be to live in a mind filled with hate and vengeance. I want to help him; I really do. I’m not sorry that I wrote the review – he did ask me for one, after all – but I’m sorry he’s taking it so badly. There is no need for him to suffer in this way.
Inhale: the black smoke curls into my heart centre and dissolves into the space of love that resides there.
Exhale: a stream of healing white light flows from my heart into Dita and floods him with a love so profound that it washes away his misery and fills him with hope.
Over and over I repeat the prayer, like an air conditioner removing the stifling heat and replacing it with refreshing cool air. He may not be able to feel it, but I know that on some subtle level it does have an effect.
After a while I add to my visualisation all the other authors who feel the same way, then all the people in the world who feel the same way, then all the people in the world who are suffering. I think of Tibet, of Syria, Afganastan, the Sudan and so on, and my visualisation is filled to overflowing, the people fade into dots spreading endlessly around me. I breathe in their suffering and breath out peace, love and happiness.
Then I dissolve the visuals and rest in the knowledge that there is peace for all of them.
It’s time to return to work. Kelee’s world awaits.
I know why I don’t want to go to Tibet. It would break my heart to see it now.