P N C O

Mostly photography, with the occasional philosophical contemplation

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”

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?

Enjoy the moment

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Had a marvelous week in France.. also enjoyed a few beautiful sunsets..
Being there helped me to really be present and to enjoy the moment.
Let the mind talk, there’s no need to follow all those thoughts
As i relaxed into this mood of being, thoughts vanished by themselves

Experiental

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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..

 


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Re-minding

The mind is such a weird creature. It could have its own episode at ‘weird wonders of nature’. Its capability to create everything ranging from beautiful to grotesque, its illusive nature.. only when it is looked into by scrutinizing analysis, can we learn to see some of its workings. If we leave the mind without looking into its nature and essence, the mind will not be seen for what it is. The trickery of the mind is grand, so our investigation should be thorough.

A good first step into our research is to calm the mind. Mindfulness can create a spaciousness which makes it possible to see how the mind operates. To just be aware of what is going in the mind, gives one the opportunity to recognize and break free from the habitual patterns which normally dominate our experience. To see through our feelings, thoughts and inner demons is a task which demands determination and diligence. At first one may run away, but with time it becomes increasingly better to stay focused and aware.

Another great way of working with the mind is focusing on loving kindness and compassion. To open oneself to the reality that all beings want to be free from suffering and want to be happy, helps to break out of the confinement of self grasping. We are all interconnected.  Once this truth is realized, the circle of compassion can be widened from our loved ones and friends to strangers, animals and our enemies. Mindful giving of love and compassion combined with taking in all the suffering from others is a powerful tool to transform ourselves. At first it may seem odd to take in the suffering of others, while giving away your best, but as time progresses it becomes natural to wish for the best for others. It actually is a great recepy for happiness and joyfullness. 

As one becomes familiar with the workings of the mind, the path to wisdom and clarity lies in resting the mind. This was written as a friendly reminder to myself. May it be of benefit. 

Would you judge a tree?

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trees

Ram Dass on self judgment:

I think that part of it is observing oneself more impersonally. I often use this image, which I think I have used already, but let me say it again.  That when you go out into the woods and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it. You appreciate it. You see why it is the way it is. You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get all emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree.

The minute you get near humans, you lose all that. And you are constantly saying “You’re too this, or I’m too this.” That judging mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees. Which means appreciating them just the way they are.[..]

Source of the quote – read more at: Ram Dass on Self Judgement

I’ve read about this idea in the past and today i was reminded of the story of the trees. Such a wonderful analogy Ram Dass makes here. What if we would be able to just see each other without all these labels and judgements in our minds? Next time you’re ready to judge a person, try remembering him/her as a tree. Perhaps it can help to stop judging and be more open to who’s there in front of you. I’m gonna try this 🙂


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Job interview

Today I had a job interview. The days counting towards the interview were mentally a bit exhausting and thrilling. And now afterwards I’m wondering whether I said the right things. And now I realize waiting is even more exciting. So a good moment to pause and see what’s going on inside.

Very intriguing how the mind works. This whole process has created lots of body specific  sensations which it then deems tension and thus stressful. But in reality these are just sensations. Neither good nor bad. I’ll just have to breath into them and be mindful.

In the end I’ll just have to wait a few days for an answer. In the meantime thinking or stressing about the situation won’t be of any help 🙂 Patience is my friend here..

Dreamlands

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kade-forest

Dreamlands

Being on the other side as the magic slowly comes alive
Dream of lands full of mystical places long forgotten
Fairy tales escape from the minds of their creators
And find their dwelling in this land of in between
Playing on the land, in the water and flying through the sky
Nature performs her dance right in front of my very eyes

 

Calm breathing

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When the body is in unrest, the mind is in unrest
When the mind is at rest, the body can rest
When the body is at rest, the mind can rest
How wonderful this connection between body and mind

No wonder that so many practices focus on the breath. The key to unlock the connection between body and mind.

As Thich Nhat Hahn teaches in this practice (in your thought say the words on in-breath and out- breath)
In                                Out
Deep                          Slow
Calm                          Ease
Smile                         Release
Present                     Moment
Wonderful               Moment

 


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Inner landscape

Dreamfields full with clouds of wishes, hopes and fantasies

Those who enter in here are in unchartered terrain

The landscape is sometimes rough, loaded with traps and pitfalls

Where snakes and demons wait to lure you in

Inside the dream are worlds within worlds within worlds

Layer upon layer of complex patterns are revealed

This landscape is the sacred place for the Oneironaut

With angelic beings who speak of the holy and divine

Where forgotten wisdom is still available to those who seek 

This inner landscape, the inner core of our being

Is connected to the world around us through invisible threads

To be awake in both worlds and explore the origin

Is to recognize the dreamer and the dream are dreaming together

All of this happening within the space of the mind

Rest the mind and experience the inner landscape, just as it is


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Boeddha Shakyamuni klein

I realize that it’s quite a while since i last blogged about anything different from photography. But lately i feel inspired to also give some attention to writing, as i was reminded of the fun of writing. Just got back from 2 weeks of working for the tour of my Buddhist teacher. At the end of it was a 5 day silent retreat. Really interesting how 2 weeks not doing the regular job can shift things. Before the tour i was wondering what it would be like, whether things would go as planned and how the retreat would be. Now it’s all retrospect. And yet it’s all still so fresh.

I’ve noticed that the balance inside has shifted. Perhaps more than once. It’s very interesting to watch the movement of the mind. A few years ago i would be left perplexed by the process, but as i get to know the process better i now know what is the most important. And it’s surprisingly simple. Rest the mind. The rest will follow naturally. And perhaps you’re now thinking ‘easier said than done’. And it is, exactly because of our mind. So used to habitual behavior of chatting, thinking, judging and liking and disliking, the mind becomes uncomfortable once you enter the silent space within.

It has been a week since the retreat ended and my mind seems to be quite happy to be out of the silent zone. It got me engaged in some pretty rusty habits again and it’s trying its best to convince me that these habits are good for me and enjoyable. But as my mood gets worse, i know that these habits are actually not good for me. This was what helped me to give up on drinking. I noticed that each time i drank, the next few days i was more edgy, less patient, less friendly, less happy, less relaxed, less rested. I’ve once heard that nothing can stand scrutinizing observing. Perhaps that did the trick for me. Cause i tried to force myself out of using alcohol, but the same force came back to me with a big smile (and an even bigger hangover of course 😉 ).

So now that i understand my inner workings better, i can see that i’ve made quite a few improvements in my life the last few years. In a way i’ve found more balance. But the mind is still resisting the new lifestyle which includes yoga and meditation. It’s not yet comfortable with being silently present all the time. The chatter still springs up from time to time. My guess is that it has to do with deeper layers of inner work which needs to be done. There are quite some themes which deserve attention. To name a few: working with fear, insecurity, uncertainty. Buddhist practice has helped me to see beyond all these layers, it’s now up to me to clean everything which blocks me from seeing unobstructed. The true nature of the mind is clear, the thoughts and habits are like the clouds blocking the sun. And so looking back to the last few weeks, i can see that i’ve removed a few blockages, then stood on a box before falling down again and stumbling over the debree.

The good thing is that there is no need to improve anything. Again, just resting the mind is enough. It can be achieved by resting the body. I just know that my mind can’t understand that there is nothing to improve, that everything is perfect. All its life it was taught that to be someone, it had to work hard, strive to be someone, to become the best it needed to improve all day every day. And now there is this teacher in my life who paints a different picture. A clear picture, one in which everything is perfect just as it is. I really need to learn to balance between the old and the new. Cause being switched from one to the other is yet more suffering. So it’s great to see that there is so much to learn still. With trust in my teacher, i know that i’ll overcome all obstacles, one by one. Even if it takes a lifetime. Cause with his example and the support of the teachings and the students, the sky is no longer the limit. For the clear sky is already here, shining from within.

Deep in yourself, deep within all the turmoil of daily life, way below the waves of aggression, jealousy, desire, hope, fear and doubt, there is a calm ocean. Abide in there and you will calm down too.
* quote inspired by my yoga teacher