There is something special about the air this evening. I’ve just been standing on the front step after meditation, breathing in great gulps of it. Ahhh! Mmmm. Wonderful air, wonderful humid air. And the wind is up, blowing our flags against the guttering. That’s our International Buddhist Flags strung along the length of the house at window and door height. I see that they’re getting frayed as the wind snatches and catches them on the flaking paint. Ahhh, wonderful humid air. We might even be getting some rain soon. Perhaps a storm.
A chap came for meditation this evening. Together we stood on the step, admiring the air. He thought it even smelt clean. He could be right, the air could even be cleaner. Perhaps something to do with the extra moisture.
My discriminating sense of smell rarely comes into play, for the most part there is nothing that grabs my attention one way or the other around here. Nothing either heady and pleasant or heavy and unpleasant. Although there is a local wood mill that, when the wind is from the right direction, sends a cloying smell into this neighbourhood. It doesn’t last.
Now I’ve traveled back to the morning, in Reading England, when it dawned on me I’d just committed to living with sewage! That is, the almost constant smell of sewage. I was outraged. The smell was in the towel I dried my face on, the bedding I’d slept in. Gusts of it blew in around the window and door frames mixing with the incense smoke as we sat for meditation. There was no getting away from it and I was just about to take on the priorship at Reading. A permanent position with a permanent, truly terrible, smell!
Right there and then I had to come to terms with the situation, and accept it. In the process I was forced to look, not for the first time, at how the discriminating mind works together with the senses. Wanting and desiring the pleasant, rejecting and recoiling from unpleasant. There is nothing like entering into an all consuming, all embracing, stink to get ones attention. I grew to be grateful for my time in it’s presence. For one thing I learnt not to complain, make comment or draw attention to ‘it’. Complaining doesn’t make anything better. “It”, by the way, is called the “Whitley Whiff”, named after the neighbourhood most effected.
It is dark now and the wind is gently blowing a twig against the guttering outside of my room. But you should have heard the racket before we cut the branches! A monk once kindly said to me, “Where ever you are there will be sound”. He could have also said; “There will always be smell, sight, sensation, taste…and thought”. What we do with them is our choice. Ay?
Sense: The faculty through which the external world is apprehended.