P N C O

Mostly photography, with the occasional philosophical contemplation

Farewell dear Pooh

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My dear friend Pooh has left the earthly plane today. He had become very skinny and almost didn’t eat and drink any longer. 2 years ago we were in a similar situation, but back then i had the feeling that his life was not over yet. This time it felt different. It felt that he was ready to leave. So when i came home from the vet yesterday, i thought about what he said. He told me it was better for him to go to sleep. I could not decide immediately but after a few hours i realized that he was right and that i was ok with Pooh having to go.

So this afternoon the vet came and gave Pooh the injections which caused his death. Pooh was calm and died within no time. I’ve been doing a lot of Buddhist practice the last few days and playing a lot of Vajrasattva mantras for him. Pooh was to me a true Bodhisattva, a big hearted lovely creature who taught me patience, being calm and how to rest when turmoil is trying to take over the mind. I am thankful of the many years we have shared together and i wish him a safe journey to the other side.

OM MANI PADME HUNG

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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

The Creating Process

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Normally i only post pictures with a small explanation of what is to be seen. For this one i like to share a little bit more, cause i had fun in the process of creating this image. Since i’m interested in Buddhism, i already knew a little bit about mantra’s and stuff. But i never expected to have a Singing Bowl with which i can work creatively. And of course being creative also means taking photographs. Yesterday it was raining and yet i felt like photographing. So i put on the macro lens and starting scanning the room for interesting objects. The Orchids from yesterday were amongst them. After some initial trial and error, i found that i needed more light for a picture of the center of the singing bowl, so i waited until today. If you want to hear the Singing Bowl ‘sing’, I’ve uploaded a video with the pictures you see here below: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTt6y3EFJSg

Singing Bowl

This is the original picture with the Tibetan syllables OM AH HUNG (from left to right)

So far so good. I wanted to focus on the text, because i couldn’t get a nice and sharp picture with the whole of the surrounding circles on it. So after straightening, i knew i wanted to make it into a panoramic size, so i could really work on the syllables. After i’ve done that i tried a little bit of experimenting with the colors, giving me the following result:

A little bit reddish in color, nothing like the original color lol

A little bit reddish in color, nothing like the original color lol

I liked the touch of it, but it still wasn’t what i was looking for. I felt it should become something more golden, with the circles removed from the image. So i started again with the original picture and did an extra cut out. Using the Vignetting tool in Photoshop Elements i could emphasize the text and it started to feel i was getting somewhere.

Vignetting added, yet still a bit dark

Vignetting added, yet still a bit dark

I played around with the colors using the Orton Effect and the Saturated Slide Film Effect and the golden colors were really coming forward. For my final touch i’ve used the Zoom Burst effect. I really wanted to emphasize the text, so i had to use trial and error as to get as little background noise as possible. After this was finished i actually started all over with the zoom burst, but i couldn’t get the nice golden shining light i got on my first attempt. So after i re-edited the image in Lightroom, using a Radial Filter to increase the contrast, i ended with this picture – nothing like the original photo 🙂

Enhanced version with golden light shining through the syllables

The final result!

You can find many video’s on Youtube, where this mantra is being sung but i think its enough to give a small explanation on what the text actually means; i found the following quote on This site:

The syllables OM AH HUM have outer, inner, and “secret” meanings. At each of these levels, however, OM stands for the body, AH for the speech, and HUM for the mind. They represent the transformative blessings of the body, speech, and mind of all the Buddhas. Externally OM purifies all the negative actions committed through your body, AH through your speech, and HUM through your mind. By purifying your body, speech, and mind, OM AH HUM grants the blessing of the body, speech, and mind of the Buddhas.

Hope you liked the post; Blessings to you all!
Pieter