P N C O

Mostly photography, with the occasional philosophical contemplation

25: Priorities

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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.

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Pooh for this weeks Monochrome Madness

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Beautiful Pooh was lying in the garden staring like cats can stare.. this weeks entry for the Monochrome Madness challenge hosted by Melbourne based Leanne Cole (http://leannecole.com.au/blog)

What are you looking at?

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Witte Vlek in het gras

My dear friend, what are you looking at?
You stare in the distance certain of your aim
As your glance penetrates the grass
Your ears pick up the sounds around us
What do your senses tell?
How wondrous to sit right beside you
And seeing a whole different world

As the camera points towards you
You let me know with a familiar meow
That it surely is a cats’ honor and duty
To look as if one is deeply involved
In a staring contest twenty-four-seven
And know that no one can beat you
If I promise i won’t mention the birds

 


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Up close

Pooh klein

As Bailey Boat Cat would say: happy caturday 🙂
Portrait from Pooh lying on the ground. Saturated the eye a bit and desaturated the rest of the image. Looking into a cat’s face is always intruiging..


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A dedication to Pooh

Pooh2Pooh

Today a bit longer post, since i feel that i want to write some things of my chest.

My deer feline friend Pooh is suffering from Diabetes. For the last few months it’s been on and off to the vet, trying to restore his blood sugar to normal levels. Sadly giving him insulin hasn’t worked out. So now he’s no longer on insulin, only on diet cat food. He is experiencing increasing difficulty in walking and it’s sad to see him not being able to do what a cat normally does.

In meeting with his suffering i receive an important lesson from Pooh. He shows me what it means to be truly compassionate. As his health decreases a motherly care came over me. At the same time i was confronted with me being attached to him. This mixture has caused quite some confusion within me as i try to help him without projecting my own fears and insecurities onto him. Pooh is a powerful mirror!

As i practice and follow the Buddhist path, i´m confronted with my own impermanence. Nothing lasts forever, so it is only natural to have to let go of the ones you love. But earlier experiences in my life have made it difficult for me to accept it once it´s really up close and personal. As i don´t want Pooh to suffer, neither do i want to suffer. And yet, the truth is that there is always going to be a little inconvenience, or major pain in our lives. To see Pooh accepting his faith without complaints is really an inspiration.

I never expected this moment to have come, to see my little friend suffer like this. I guessed part of me had the childish belief that they would live for a long time. I never realized that a cat could get seriously ill. And yet, that is the case now. The vet told me the last time i was there that Pooh is no longer having a cat-worthy existence. And that might be true. I don’t know, never been in this situation before. I see him having difficulty walking and yet i also still see his essence shine on through.

So i did a little research on the internet and with friends, asking what would be the best to do. Putting your good friend to sleep is no easy decision. And from a Buddhist perspective it’s better to let the animal die a natural death. I don’t know at this point what to do. I’ve noticed that i’ve been delaying making the decision for weeks now. These two views run counter to each other, but they exist side by side in my mind. On the one hand i don’t want Pooh to suffer and so i think it’s best to put him to sleep, and on the other hand i want to give him the opportunity to die a natural death. I don’t know how long it will take before Pooh will die of a natural cause and i don’t know how much he suffers. It is not my intention to make him suffer more. But i find it hard to having to take the decision to put him to sleep.

And so my mind has been in confusion for quite a few weeks now. It affects me on quite a few levels, though i’m beginning to see that maintaining the daily practice and relaxing the mind by meditation and mindfulness will help me best as i go through this phase. It’s weird to allow the grief to be here, while Pooh is still alive. But on the other hand, denying the grief only makes it stronger. So as i try to do my best, i realize that there is no true answer to it all. And so i wish for wisdom to do what is right and to support Pooh the best way i can.

Thank you for reading!

Enjoy the ride

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DSC_0357-2
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A friend of mine enjoying the view while on a boat. We rented two boats and had a great afternoon on the Frysian lakes in the northern part of the Netherlands. (Horizon is a bit off, due to the panorama function of the phone i used.. couldnt keep it straight on the boat)