P N C O

Mostly photography, with the occasional philosophical contemplation

25: Priorities

5 Comments

Sometimes i wonder if i’ve got my priorities straight. The amount of distraction can be overwhelming from time to time. Willingly i let myself get carried away by endless little things which keep me from seeing what truly is important. Yet all of this existence, whether i am aware or distracted, will dissolve in the end. Like a bubble floating on the surface of a rapid river, my life can end at any point.

I used to fear death and i tried to hide this fear from myself by endlessly distracting myself. I could get caught up in gaming, having fun with friends or randomly surfing the internet. But i knew that i couldn’t hide forever. When i was younger, death had already visited me a couple of times. At one time, thinking about the incredible size of the universe somehow ended up with thoughts of death being the only certainty. And a few years later, in my first year of high school during a lunch break all over sudden i realized that all of these individuals that were there with me at that time sooner or later would die. Not an easy thing to digest as a young teenager.

So i know death has always been with me. Not so much in the physical sense, though i did see my grandparents go. Death has long been a reality in my thoughts and mind. I just wasn’t ready for it just yet. I first had to undergo suffering. The lesson came when out of the blue a former roommate of mine died. It took me many years to really deal with his loss. Eventually i found a way to cope with the loss which death brings. But i hadn’t come closer to death itself.

This all changed once i got interested in Buddhism. Death is a major part in philosophy and religion and Buddhism is no exception. When i read Buddhist teachings i soon found out that there was this openess about the reality of death, the emphasis on the importance of understanding our own mortality. It would be foolish to ignore such a basic fact, and yet if i looked back at my life, it was precisely what i had done. And what was taught to me in school, by the media and the social structure. Death was ugly, something to put away and not to look at.

In the last few years i’ve learned to look my enemy straight in its eyes. And i saw that he was not my enemy at all, but a teacher and a friend. Death taught me to see the fear within me. Death itself is nothing to fear, but the change which accompanies it, is something we may find hard to accept. But death is coming regardless. So every now and then i try to take some time to really experience the reality of death. Each moment, each second brings me closer to death. It is not something to become depressed about or sad. Rather, i use this as an opportunity to check whether i have got my priorities straight.

Life became so much simpler, so much easier once i’d accepted the reality of death. There is always this basic ground to resort back to in times of difficulties. Is this really worth all the suffering? Does it help me to understand and accept my mortality? Or is it just a mindless distraction which does not help me on my life’s path? Most of the time i’ll know within an instant that i was taking a detour, instead of being aware of the reality of death. I now try to be guided by the certainty of death. In a way it can be liberating once you allow death into your life. As long as you keep death out, you keep yourself from being whole.

I’d like to explain the image i choose with this blog. The patterns on the photo remind me of bubbles. The bubbles in the stream i’ve talked about earlier. They represent our lives. Vulnerable, very easy to break and very short lived. Yet we think we will live eternally. But reality shows us that everything which is born, will ultimately die. Next time you see a stream of water, or perhaps even your cup of coffee or tea, be aware of the few bubbles. That’s us, our lives, fleeting moments within time. Choose death as your friend and teacher, instead of as an enemy to be feared. If you become more aware of death in your life, you’ll be able to appreciate the value of life more. You’ll find it easier to make a distinction between what is important in life and what is not. And you will be able to let go of a lot of things you don’t really need. Realize that our life is like a bubble. Don’t hold onto it, you’ll have to let it go in the end anyway.

I’d like to close with a few lines from the Diamond Sutra, a famous Buddhist teaching which has inspired me a lot and helped me to deal with the subject of death

“So I say to you –
This is how to contemplate our conditioned existence in this fleeting world:”

“Like a tiny drop of dew, or a bubble floating in a stream;
Like a flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
Or a flickering lamp, an illusion, a phantom, or a dream.”

“So is all conditioned existence to be seen.”

Thus spoke Buddha.

Advertisements

Inner riches

2 Comments

Once you start to notice, it’s intriguing to see everything which goes on inside our body and mind system. Various parts call out for our attention, while other parts try to take the house down and yet other parts try to be the ruler of the inner universe.

Yet all of this happens within one system. Parts may not like the feelings which accompany other parts, or choose to ignore, but there’s always an overview available. The sum is greater than all of its parts. This field of awareness is the ground for all of the parts to play their games.

If one can learn to stay in contact with the field of awareness, integration becomes a possibility. Mindfulness, simply being with all the various parts, not being overwhelmed by the accompanying and often conflicting emotions. This helps to create a compassionate attitude to whatever arises from within.

All the inner riches await us. They may be covered in dark layers of soil, but they’re there. As so often in life, to reach these places within requires hard work, effort and resilience. One needs to learn to deal with conflicting emotions instead of fighting them. Being with emotions, allowing them to show what they’re hiding from us, is a process which can be aided by it curiosity. Curiosity is the key to unlock the treasures within.

If one can befriend one’s inner demons, the inner riches can be uncovered. All the beautiful traits of our childhood can be integrated. Not in one attempt, but as one progresses, each time it becomes increasingly easy to deal with everything which arises within.

All the inner riches are waiting to be explored!

16: The Extraordinary Ordinary

Leave a comment

So often we tend to look for the extremes.
It has to be fast, beautiful, precious and rare.
It has to be true, profound, smart.
But having explored these realms of inner riches,
i’ve found that all the beautiful things my mind can create,
have never been able to really fulfill me.
Sure, there have been days in which i’ve been thrilled and exited by an insight,
but as the years have passed i’ve come to learn
that these fleeting moments don’t define my existence.

The extraordinary experiences can become addictive,
like drugs they lure you into the next big high.
But never high enough, as the sky is the limit.
I’ve decided not to give in any longer,
not to crave for that which is delusive.

And so i’ve turned away from getting the next kick,
instead, i’ve learned to recognize what was always there.
The normal every day life which i took for granted,
has learned me life is full of surprises.
That which i once deemed boring and to be avoided,
turned out to be the exact place where the magic happens.

The extraordinary is that the ordinary is extraordinary!
Whether we recognize it or not, each moment is pure magic.
But we don’t need to describe it eloquently with words,
or try to grasp it’s innermost secret meaning.

We are part of the extraordinary ordinary.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is extraordinary!

6: Winter, Spring and everything in between

2 Comments

In the Netherlands the climate is moderate. The winters are not too harsh and the summers are not too hot. Because of this, i’m not always aware of the changing of the season. There is just a constant flow of the seasons coming and passing. Right now it’s summer and in a few months autumn will be here again. The cyclic nature of the seasons has always been there, but the way i see this cycle has changed a lot since i was young. When i was young, there was the expectation of hot summers at the beach and snow at Christmastime. It was all about enjoying the possibilities each season held.

Now i observe the seasons from a different perspective. Spring means i can start going out again with the camera more easily, do some work in the garden or just sit and relax outside. Winter triggers me to go inside. Both on an external and internal level. Like the bears who go into hibernation, i tend to become a little more seclusive and contemplative during wintertime. And springtime brings the much needed sunshine. After all the long dark nights, it takes some time to recharge the batteries and start enjoying the arrival of spring.

The most important thing i’ve learned to observe is that everything is impermanent. Although things may seem solid and build to last hundreds or thousands of years, in the end everything which is made will eventually break down again. Glasses and cups fall to the ground and break, flowers grow until they fade away, and grandparents are there until they pass away.
At first i was quite intimidated by impermanence. With my youthful enthusiasm i thought that life would last forever and that i would always be healthy and sporty no matter what. But when a good friend and also former roommate suddenly passed away at the age of 28, i realized after going through a lot of denial, pain and frustration, that i am going to die one day too.

And that’s why it has become important for me to recognize and acknowledge impermanence. Not to be nihilistic, but more in a sense that i become more sensitive to the changing which is happening all the time. Every moment is impermanent. Everything changes, although we might not recognize this. Some things we can easily learn to deal with, as they are mostly on a mental level. Take for instance cold and hot. We suffer a lot because of these two. In the office, a colleague might think it’s too hot and open the window. Then another colleague will start complaining that it’s cold. So why would i bother with this? If it’s warm, then it’s ok. If it’s cold, that’s also ok. I can dress accordingly. Accepting the inevitable change of the weather makes life so much easier. It helped me to actually enjoy the rain instead of feeling sorry for myself for becoming wet. By seeing the larger picture, i can now see the benefit the rain brings to farmers and the land.

To come back to the image. This young fern was at the start of its life and now a few months later i’m sure it has grown a lot bigger. And at the end of the year all of it will be gone again, after the seeds have been spread onto the earth. In the end it doesn’t really matter that the fern grows or dies. What matters is its relationship with everything else. Without the earth, without the rain, without the shade of the trees, without the sunshine, there would be no ground for the fern to grow. And the same goes for us. We tend to cling so much to what we want and who we are, but we tend to forget that we can only be in relationship to everything. Not to mention that there is just one me and 7 billion other humans. Pretty presumptuous to say to myself that i’m the most important one huh?

For me the journey is now about honoring the relationship, the interdependence of things. It’s about the act, the doing. Not the subject or object, but the verb. Cause everything changes, everything flows. We are all part of this flow, we can not be separated from this flow even if we think we can. And even if we separate ourselves by living our illusory dreams and thoughts in our minds, we’re still one with the flow. So i’ve decided that i will just let go. As said in the movie Waking Life: “Go with the flow. The sea refuses no river”

4: Vulnerable

2 Comments

Vulnerable

To allow myself to open up
To finally show what is hidden
To express what really moves me
How come it is so scary?

Yet the prospect of having to live
With all the pain locked inside
Emotional blockades ruining me
Can only lead to depression

So the urgency is very clear
I have to allow myself to open up
Fear of rejection and failure
Will surely be my guide for some time

Yet many have walked this path before
Teaching that in being vulnerable
Seeing the others are no other than we
We can share our most precious gifts

From this moment onwards
I let the free heart speak
With its shaky unstable voice
Stepping into an unknown world

Cause the world needs me to be
Vulnerable opening all senses
To the suffering and pain
Of the world in which we live

Instead of looking away again
I feel that this time i can stay
Let life run through my veins
As the heart cries out its song of hurt

3: Butterflying my life

2 Comments

I´m always amazed by all the beautiful butterflies. So delicately build and yet so agile in flight. They´re in our stomach for a reason. Tingling, joyful, exciting, almost too much too bear. And yet also very gentle, colorful and peaceful. They call to me in a way i can´t describe.

The most amazing part of the butterfly is its capability to transform. Starting as a small caterpillar, they morph into pupa before the final metamorphosis is completed. I often feel the same. One day someone said to me i was not yet showing who i really was and he compared me to a butterfly in pupa stage. Funny enough i sometimes feel like that. Knowing that it’s me who prevents the final transformation. Luckily every night i sleep under a blanket filled with butterflies.. and i’m working on transforming myself. I’ve come to realize it’s all about letting go. Letting go of my expectations, of thoughts, feelings and ideas about who i should or should not be.

In this way the butterfly becomes a powerful reminder to wake up to what’s actually here. Dealing with everything as it is, is so useful. At this moment there is no need to improve anything. Once the moment is here, it is all here. Nothing is left out. So i can rest and just enjoy whatever arises. If i make the transition or not is not even the point, cause everything i need is already here. I just need to recognize. Clearing my thoughts, creating space by being mindful and meditating, accepting.. all are part of the ongoing process of self(less) inquiry.

Searching for the truth has always led me to the same conclusion, whatever angle i used to tackle it. See the ego for what it really is. For me it’s the cocoon. It has its purpose and is very useful in my every day life, but it is not who i really am. The first time i recognized i was identifying myself as the cocoon, it was wild. I could feel the space which lay beyond. But also there was fear and anxiety. What would happen, once i let go of this cocoon, of this protection i had been carrying for so many years?

I’m still learning to let go of the cocoon. Every now and then i get the change to see through the holes which are now there and see the wild open spaciousness which lies ahead. The experiences have shown me that this spaciousness is my true home. Pure from the beginning, simple and full of love, wisdom and understanding. Which gives me the breathing space i need to deal with the cocoon which is still here. No longer it is necessary to fight it. As the caterpillar´s instinct tells it to create the cocoon, so i now know from deep down inside that everything is ok. I know it´s safe to let go. With the cracks appearing in the cocoon, i can taste more and more of the freedom which lies ahead of me. And with that i´ve learned that death too is another transformation.

Am i ready to let go?

Experiental

6 Comments

Today i’ve wandered through the forest, seen and heard many birds.. came back home full of experiences and photographs

The interesting thing about all these experiences was that earlier today i was reading a book by Lama Tsongkhapa in which he describes how much we’re attached to our senses.. and indeed, in the forest i was constantly on the watch for sights and sounds. Perhaps that’s the downside for me of taking the camera with me. Or better said, it’s a lesson for me. First relax the mind, eyes and ears and then engage with the forest, connect with it without wanting to grasp at certain experiences (like seeing a kingfisher or a squirrel)

So today ended up being both rewarding in terms of photographs and in applying wisdom..

 

The last Lion King

4 Comments

They once called me the king of the world
The whole animal kingdom was mine to rule
I was respected and all who were wise feared me

Once I was a king living the wild life
Now all that remains are distant memories
The waters of my dreams all but dried up

Today I’m still a king
But what respect does a king get
If he’s locked behind bars?


2 Comments

Thank you, Mark Cavendish

Thank you, Mark Cavendish

Yesterday just before going to bed i read an article about a crash which had just happened during the Olympic omnium (a discipline within track cycling) involving multiple Tour-de-France stages winner Mark Cavendish. After reading some comments on Twitter i found a video of the said crash and i was surprised there were no consequences connected to this crash.

I felt it was injustice and went to bed. But then i started reflecting on what was happening inside. I realized that i was judging a situation on which i had absolutely no influence. And in my mind i was already condemning Cavendish. By contemplating on this feeling, it made me realize that no matter what the reason for his move were, it wasn’t up to me to judge.

So instead, i started shifting towards feeling compassion for Mark Cavendish instead. Whatever caused him to make his move, he wants to be happy just as i want to. Perhaps he thought he could win gold through this unorthodox move? As i concentrated on letting go of all this second-guessing, i realized that i just didn’t like the move. I thought the move was irresponsible, dangerous. But this move doesn’t make him a bad person. It began to feel more and more as an act out of ignorance. And i realized that i’ve made quite a few of those moves in the past myself. I was able to separate the act from the one who committed the act and realize that there is a difference between the two.

In the heat of the moment we’ve all made mistakes. Would i want to be condemned for mistakes i’ve made in the past? Or would i rather be forgiven and shown compassion and understanding, so that i can learn from my mistakes?

So in retrospect i realize that i have to thank Mark Cavendish for this opportunity to accept what i dislike and actually have compassion for just that.


Leave a comment

“The clock is running. Make the most of today. Time waits for no man. Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it is called the present.”
ALICE MORSE EARLE

first heard this quote in the movie Kungfu Panda. Today could be replaced by this very moment.. is there any other moment than this present one? 

wish you all a lovely weekend 🙂


Leave a comment

Out of the closet

Today I found out what an interesting thing the mind is. And for your information, this blog won’t be about my sexual preference 😉
As I was sitting in the train I wanted to do a bit of mantra recitation using a rosary. I did it the last few days, though I always tried to keep the rosary out of sight. Today while traveling it was way more crowded and so it felt inconvenient to do the mantras.
When I made my transfer it was more quiet and the next station was forty minutes travel, so I started there.

While doing the practice I noticed an ever increasing feeling of uneasiness and tightening in my stomach area. Even while I write this hours later, I can still feel the knot. This brings me back to the mind. I know that this has to do with I, the word and the thoughts, ideas and feelings which make up this concept. As a student of Buddhism I’ve been introduced to the idea that there is no separate entity called Pieter which lives independently from the world in which I live.
This idea really helps me to understand what is going on under the surface. Somehow I fear that people might see me doing practice. I meditated once at a pretty open and busy spot in the woods and while I sat there someone passed me and looked at me for quite some time. At that time there was also the tight knot in my stomach. Somehow I feel exposed.

This brings me to the title of this blog. It’s almost like I have the idea that I need to separate between my normal self and my spiritual self. Like there’s any difference.. the mind wants to control how I appear to the outside, so anything threatening this control will result in a response from both body and mind.
Today I was very keen on not being seen while reciting mantras. This eagerness to secrecy created the tension. As I noticed the rising of this sensation in the days before this, I know that the difference lies in my response to the sensations. Today I gave in to the fear of being seen as weird etc. And because of that I started experience more fear as a result.

This whole process is so interesting to watch unfolding as it is happening. Yes, there is discomfort. But I don’t have to fight it. The real nasty feeling is all due to the labeling of the mind. The knot in itself is neither good nor bad. My resistance to it is what keeps it in place.

So I’ve come to the conclusion yet again that much if not everything I hold for my ‘I’ is actually made up out of resistance (to what was and to what is). The past can only live on in the present, so a lot of what has happened in the past survives because of my resistance to it – whether on a conscious or sub/unconscious level.

As I remember hearing Adyashanti say, there will be resistance in the progress. But don’t resist the resistance.

So I let go of my efforts to ease the discomfort and instead shed a bit of light in the darkness. I have to come out of hiding.
Yes, I am a person engaged in spirituality.
Yes, I practice Buddhism.
And as a note to myself: and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that!

The Eye

3 Comments

Het oog

For the best view, see it large!

This image is the result of playing around with a photograph of a rainbow. At times i have a creative mood in which i start with an image and use the photo software to create something entirely different, most of the time fictitious and abstract. But it also resembles something of me and the creative process.

Now that i wrote that last sentence, i realize this also goes for this image. Life can be bright and colorful, if i am able to look and see it with my own eyes. If i block the view, life turns dark. But as the eye shows, its always up to me to take a look. Life is there, i just have to open my eye to experience it.

And to go one step further, i like to see the world not as different from me, but as one interdependent whole in which everything is interconnected. Nothing exists by itself, and yet nothing is entirely separate. All is contained within the whole.

All is well, even if nothing is well. And so i embrace the darkness and see it as the light of my own being…