P N C O

Mostly photography, with the occasional philosophical contemplation

Mortality

Leave a comment

 

 

Reading Buddhist literature makes me question mortality and impermanence. Or not so much question, it makes me think of it.
In fact, it’s such an obvious fact that we’re all going to die that it’s almost weird that we tend to look the other way. We picture it a great drama or keep it far from our every day life. But death does not seem normal in the west. We tend not to talk about it.

I think i’d rather follow the Buddhist advice, which is to think of impermanence and death all the time.
It may sound depressing, but I know from my own experience it’s not. It actually helps to deal with difficult situations more easily.

Why quarrel and fight if you could die tomorrow?

And yet all these things – or distractions – lure our minds into busily debating sports, politics and the latest technical gadgets. Short term happiness is what we strife for.

But in the end we’re going to die. Even if we amass great quantities of wealth, we can’t take any riches with us. Why not give up attachment right now? Why not stop fighting over unimportant matters? Would it not be wise to consider death some more?

Advertisements

26: Tree of Life

14 Comments

Seeing you feels enchanting
You swirl your way to the top
With leaves so soft and smooth
Colored in the most subtle colors
This little paradise is your domain
Although small others are dwarfed
By your enormous presence
In the silence which surrounds you
I cannot help but wonder..
Can this be the tree of life?

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.

24: Waking Up

3 Comments

Slowly i seem to be waking up
But still the wondering:
Who is waking up?
The city betrays a deeper layer
What is this dream?
Penetrating all the senses
Human existence so dense
Living twenty-four-seven
The city invites me to go further
‘Look beyond the old dream
I offer a new dream of hopes sky-high
Speed up and lose control!’
But i know i am tired of dreaming
All these old and new castles of illusion
Try to lure me back into deep sleep
But i know this dreamworld
Has nothing to offer me
It’s just a circle of never ending stories

 

Lesson learned?

3 Comments

I forgot that I knew

I now know that I forgot

Cause once more I remembered

What I knew but had forgotten

 

It took an old familiar pain

To point out the obvious truth

The reason why I left you

You only cause me harm

 

Now or in the near future

You may tempt me again

Lure me into your deadly trap

Full of your poisonous lies

 

I may even fall for you again

I know my flesh is weak

And so is the craving mind

Which blindly follows

 

But it no longer matters

So easily the winds blew away

Your so called stronghold

Tumbling house of cards

 

I can now see that in the end

I’ll know and I’ll remember

Trust

2 Comments

When I first met you I was still young.

You played along with my childhood games as we both shared the fun.

Unaware of the challenges of life I gave in to you without a doubt.

The fullness of life was so overwhelming I did not have to choose.

Later when doubt had entered the arena, you slowly disappeared to the background

Life became complicated with rules, relationships, expectations, punishment and reward.

The simpleness was replaced by intricate thought mechanisms which locked me into place.

Each day my life became more and more an experience of dull and boring rationality.

Playfulness was thrown out of the window in order to make sure I would fit in with everybody else.

But the more I fit in, the less free I felt.

Trapped by tempting promises and nightmares of hope and fear, the web of illusion closed in on me.

The one thing I had lost I had no idea I was missing.

Only when I found you back I knew I had been wandering in a cold and barren desert forever trying to clench my thirst.

The walls build around the inner temple squeezed the life out of me.

I tried to forget, suppressing everything I did not want to hear – I did not want to know.

Cause forgetfulness was better than to be reminded of not having you near.

Oh trust, life saviour, love giver.

On your shoulders I long to build my life.

Better than the sweetest dream, you wake me to a reality which is profound in its evidentness.

You are the atoms which hold the universe together.

Universaly revered because you are so humble.

I can now see myself again when I trust.

Naked with arms wide open, laying myself to rest in the heart of the world.

To trust is to know.

The wise among us know how to trust.

Trust. Let go. Fly.

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!

21: All clear

Leave a comment


Soon all will be clear
Bare trees remind of the fact
We’re all born naked

Stretching our being
Branching into ground and air
Longing warmth and food

Sheltering within
The ever presence of mom
As we learn and grow

Independence calls
Us to grow to great new heights
Let mom and dad go

The cycle goes on
Each new family member
Is like a small tree

Finally we reach
For the top of the forest
Seeing miles ahead

Our destiny clear
One day we’re naked again
Waiting for our death

18: Flower of Compassion

2 Comments

Flower of Compassion

Oh flower of the heart
Shine your light over us
Open up and show your beauty
The guiding force

You know what it is like
To be vulnerable
Naked and alone
You know there is no need
To be afraid of our tears

You grow so easily
As you are inherent within us
On the good soil of pure intent
Our wish for all to be happy
Stems from your seeds

Oh flower of compassion
Love is your guiding light
Teach us to be human
Help us to accept
The basic uncertainty of life

 

This poem was inspired by the documentary Crazy Wisdom (2011) about the late Tibetan Buddhist Master Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Rinpoche taught people how to become warriors of Shambhala, how to become genuine human beings. A beautiful and encouraging message worth contemplating.

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!

Self-Improvement

2 Comments

Self Improvement

Like so many of us, at one time I became somewhat obsessed with the idea that I could improve myself all the way up to enlightenment. I was convinced that I was here to make that realization and the best way to do it seemed to be improving myself on all levels. So I started reading a lot of philosophical and spiritual books. Also I started having some mysterious and unexplainable experiences which seemed to come from a different world. I was intrigued by my own success and it never came up to me that these things could just happen by themselves.

Alan Watts explained my situation to me in a video on self improvement. As a start, he pointed out that our whole educational system – and after that the business world – is only occupied with the idea of improving and growing. In school we get grades and degrees to show that we have learned something. But instead of seeing the learning as the real goal, the degree has become the goal in our society. So the curiosity of a child who just wants to learn about the world is seen as bad and is replaced by the insatiable mantra “improve yourself and you’ll become the best”.

The same goes for work. When we work because we like what we do, we tend not to focus on the money we earn with it. The money is not a goal in itself, but is a necessary good since you need money to survive and eat in this world. So far there is no problem with money. The problem arises when the money becomes the goal. The reason why you started working in the first place (e.g. because you like making good clothes) is pushed to the background and is replaced by the need to earn as much money as you can. Success is no longer measured by your ability to do what you really like doing, but instead is measured by the amount of money you can accumulate. More money means more improvement.

But it’s just an idea in our head. What if there is nothing to improve?  What if the world happens to be just as it is right here, right now? We’re in constant conflict with this idea. Because we feel the need to improve ourselves, we’re unconsciously telling ourselves that we’re not good enough. We think we need to overcome all our flaws in order to be a good person. But what if it is actually perfectly fine to have flaws? I’m not saying we should stick with old and toxic behavior; we should try to let go of the idea of improving ourselves.

Just look at growing up as a child. As a child, you’re not busy improving yourself and yet you grow. It’s a basic characteristic of human existence: you are born as a child and inevitably you will start to grow and learn. It’s part of being human. And it explains why we are so curious by our nature. If we can see that there is nothing to be improved, that there is absolutely nothing wrong with us at this moment, we can start to relax and breathe. We can start to observe the world in a new way. There is no need to look for something to be improved. Why make the world a better place, if it is ok right now?

To me this is a powerful mirror. If I look at my own situation; I think I want to help other people. What does this actually mean in the light of self improvement? It still reflects that I want to improve myself, helping other people being the disguise.  So I still believe at some level I need to improve myself in order to be whole. But where is me? If I look I can’t find it anywhere. The world seems to be rolling by itself just fine!

*The quote used in the image comes from the website https://www.tinybuddha.com

14: Nature’s Sonnet

6 Comments

Life of a Tree

As a tree admires her beauty by looking into her own reflection
Water flows gently beneath and carries along her mirror image
Birds singing from the canopy come down to see the spectacle
A moment in time connects the tree to her own past lifetime
Once she stood firmly and proud on the banks of the forest creek
She was a home and shelter to many animals who befriended her
Her roots went all the way down deep below the water level
The crown on her head was majestic full of the greenest leaves
Years went by as she grew and grew with many seasons passing
She saw humans dramatically change the landscape around her
But the forest was left untouched and remained a peaceful sanctuary
With her birth ground safe she started giving in to gravity
Letting go of her connection to both the air and the ground below
Her the faithful task was to become a bridge between life and death