P N C O

Mostly photography, with the occasional philosophical contemplation

21: All clear

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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

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18: Flower of Compassion

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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

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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

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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

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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

7: Vulnerable

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With eyes wide open looking into the world
I can feel depths i have never felt before
Emotional states of being come and go
The variety of feelings seems never ending

Pain, joy, sadness and laughter
All blended together in the stomach
The head is full of profound thoughts
While it tries to think no thoughts at all

How can i bare all of life’s bombarding
The senses in continuous overdrive
To keep up with this exhausting rhythm
Though i never felt his much aliveness

As the cocoon slowly breaks and opens up
Life touches and tickles in many ways
This new found sensitivity is very special
It just requires time to learn how to play

6: Winter, Spring and everything in between

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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

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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

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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?

2: Follow the Heart

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As you take your first few steps
Know mother´s always there
Right behind you helping you out
She guides you along the way

Be brave my little one
Let go of fears and doubts
In this sacred dance of life
Go beyond all suffering

Be strong my little child
Just enjoy the ride
Trust and follow your own heart
Then nothing’s left behind

We were all young one day
Learning from mistakes
So if you fall to the ground
We help you to stand up

There will be pain and tears
And joy and happiness
So whatever you become
Don´t take life too serious

Listen to your own heart
It´s the wisest thing to do
All you need to know is there
Just follow it right through

Trust and just let it all go
The loving heart will flow
Trust and follow your own heart
There’s nothing else to do

The heart, she waits for you
Are you coming soon?

The heart, she calls for you
Can you hear her too?

© PNCO 2017