P N C O

Mostly photography, with the occasional philosophical contemplation


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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

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Stuck in meaning

Yesterday I was sitting in the train and I was observing 2 playing girls who were with their parents and grandparents. While the girls were standing in the path just fooling around, the adults were constantly on the look for any imminent thread. (Hold on! Don’t do that! You´re going to get hurt! etc..) It reminded me of myself and how I always try to control everything to keep the painful from hurting me. But that means leaving out the spontaneity as well; it’s actually keeping life out. The girls kind of neglected their parents’ warnings and continue to play. It was a good and fun lesson to watch.

And here I am, struggling with deciding who I want to be. There is a feeling of being stuck in the struggle for meaning. Why am I struggling so hard to try and understand why I struggle? Isn’t the struggle enough? Or is the question wrong? And yet, at the same time I know I am me. And this means that I am me 100%, so with all the struggle and feelings and thoughts. But somehow I refuse to let go. I refuse to let go of my limiting view of myself and open up to a more realistic approach of myself. It’s the struggle of trying to grasp the idea of individuality by looking at the whole. And this is a never ending struggle, for in my heart I know that it is a mission impossible.

The feeling of being stuck is no stranger to me. For many years I have known this feeling, but most of the time I just ignored it. Lately however the feeling has become so urgent and everpresent; I can no longer hide away from it. I have to deal with it. And I’ve found out I don’t actually know how to deal with it. I seem to have lost the spontaneity I had when I was younger, though I know it’s still here inside under all these created layers of doubt, pain and struggle.

I’m struggling with the question how to be? But the question in itself is a strange one. How to be? What do I mean by that? To me it means that I actually think I don’t know how to be. But that’s absolutely absurd. For how can I not be? I am me every moment of the day, even though I can question whether I am or not.  I’m striving so hard to reach some place of release, enlightenment, that I totally miss the point. I’m trying to repeat every quote or mantra I’ve picked up in the spiritual books I’ve read, but I miss out the one essential thing. It’s not about striving to be. It’s about being and allowing the striving to be at the same time!

I realize I’m still very much connected to the image of me as a separate special self who has to make it in this life. But because I’m struggling so hard, I actually don’t know anymore what to do to become someone successful. Life is helping me to stop and look around to see what’s no longer working for me. Clinging on to the idea of reaching a final goal is one of these things. It’s like a major investment in a business which you don’t want to stop, even though everybody around you is telling you the business is going to collapse. And so it appears that everything is collapsing and that I have nothing to hold on to. It might be so. In the midst of this chaos there is being, even though I hardly recognize it.

I was looking for being myself so bad; I forgot that I always am right now. I don’t yet exist in the future and the past only comes into existence in the present. So to me it means accepting that I am not satisfied with myself and the way I live my life right now. Major investment gone incredibly wrong. So what? It gives me the opportunity to change a few things, unscrew some bolts and replace them. But it never meant there was no being. I just have wrong ideas about being alive. And writing it of my chest actually creates insight.. what a wonderful wonder 😉


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Sensitive Thoughts

I just found out I am way more sensitive than I am willing to admit. But i realize that’s ok. I had this idea that i would figure it all out and then life would settle. Lately i’ve been giving the chance to see that this is not entirely true. Or should i say.. it couldnt be further away from the truth.

In my early twenties i found out about philosophy and started getting interested in religion and spirituality. What started off with reading something about buddhism, quickly turned into a rollercoaster ride. Zen, Shamanism, Gnosticism, Taoism, you name the ism and i’ve probably heard of it. With all this reading, I never really found what i truely searched for. In fact i might not know what i’m searching for in the first place. Its the all too familiar cycle. I’m trying to search for meaning in life by searching, instead of living.

I was living my life by giving in to all kinds of addictions and thought that i was doing fine. But when i quit smoking marihuana, i found out how little i knew of life. It turned out that i held a lot of disruptive emotions in my body and mind. And they were controlling me instead of me controlling them. It has been a painful journey so far, but as i look back i realize how much i have learned about myself in so little time. The last ten years i have been going on using automatic pilot, but because that doesn’t work anymore, i’m forced to really look at my life in a new way. It means i actually start feeling the pain i have, instead of pushing it away to the back of my mind either by overthinking or dosing myself to oblivion.

It turned out that i was holding myself back from seeing things which had happened in the past. And with the marihuana gone, all barriers were gone. So finally, all the oppressed thoughts and feelings came to the surface, totally surprising and overwhelming me. Luckely after a few weeks i also started to see progress. Friends told me i was being more social than before and i started looking better as well. Even though i couldnt really belief it at that time, i do think that they provide me with a valuable mirror. And now as the months pass, i still have bad days. But the one thing i have learned from all this, is that its ok to have these bad days. I got caught up in the imaginative thought cycle that my life could only be happy and nothing was allowed to intervene with that. But what i actually did, was that i closed myself off from the rest of the world creating my own little safe haven. Which wasnt safe after all, cause soon the cracks arrived on the scene.

The thing which troubles me at times is that i seem to mix up my personal thoughts and feelings with thoughts on life, the universe and everything. I dont leave much room for growth, for exploration or simple fun. Its like i have to determine what life is, in order to feel safe with it. But what all the reading has taught me, is that there is no such safety in life. Life is all about flow, everything moves constantly. Only change remains the same. So i still dont quite understand why i have this urge to understand life, for its always searching for some kind of finality. I’ve been writing about Oneness a lot in the past and i have the intuitive feeling that its here, but i still cant grasp my mind around it. Because its in the experience, that i’m searching for the experience. I’m always missing the point.

I truely love people like Alan Watts, Anthony de Mello, Rupert Spira and especially Ramana Maharshi. But the Non-duality also troubles me. It troubles me because i cant grasp it with my mind. They tell me to leave the thoughts. Go find the I Am in you. Ramana Maharshi said the only real question one should ask themself is “Who am I”. Who is the I in our thinking and in our awareness? Cause we all feel this I presence. But we tend to see this I as our body and thoughts. And i realize that i have been living like this for all my life. So with all the old pains coming to the surface this new notion of Self as presented by non-dual thinkers is alien to me. Yet i feel there is a tremendous truth in the teaching of Non-Duality.

I still have to figure out what its got to do with me and my life. For i get confused in trying to understand the role the pain has, while at the same time trying to distance myself from the pain. And thats where the sensitivity comes into play. I become so sensitive of my own thoughts and confusion, i block myself from just living and breathing in the now. Instead i go on pondering what i shouldve done in the past or should do in the future. Just to get away from my inner confusion, hereby adding to the confusion.

I try too much, i strive too much and i know it.. i am what i am and yet here i am searching for myself. Thats the great paradox of my life and secretly i think some part of me likes this.
So instead of trying, i’m willing to change the old ways for the better. Returning to a more realistic and positive outlook on life, i am once again where i started this journey. Life is still unknown, but more and more im relaxing into the thought that this might actually be the key to life. To help me live life instead of thinking it all out. To paraphrase a quote from my favorite movie Waking Life “Life lived is life understood”


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Judging

Judging

I sometimes judge myself even when I look at my cat. I then think about what he thinks is not good about me. Ain’t that something? A being which is by its nature Zen. And I think it’s judging me 🙂

It seems to me that most of us are afraid of other people judging us. And what do we do? We don’t give other people the chance to judge us, because we choose to judge ourselves before they even spend one second thinking of us. I have been so obsessed with other people’s opinions even though I thought I wasn’t. Lately I’m starting to realize I’ve held on to some very limiting ideas about how the world and people work. Judging is one of them. You might recognize it.

If you really think other people are judging you, have you ever considered that all the others are thinking just like you? Which is to say; they all think they’re being judged. In this way we keep this judging cycle in its place, without questioning it. We go along with gossiping and discussing other people’s lives, rather than looking at our own life. We seem to have forgotten that we are in control of ourselves.

It takes some courage to step out of this negative judging cycle and to see what it really is. To me judging is part of being a victim, whether you’re conscious of it or not. Most of our lives we have been taught that we need to follow certain guidelines; we need to respect authority and listen to our parents and teachers. And there is nothing wrong with that, in our early years we need help to assist us on our way. But if you are taught you need to become more successful than your parents, because you have the opportunity to go to university and they didn’t, you’re being taught the wrong way. Parents should never project their own failed dreams on their children. Children should be guided to fully express themselves without being judged. And what to think of teachers telling you you’ll never make it in life? Continue reading