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”

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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..

 

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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Having an urge

I have urge to speak

To convince and to discuss

Though it is futile

The ground of being

Has never left me at all

No need for searching

Allowing this state

Being in the moment now

Letting it all go

 

I’d love to tell you all i think what is true, but i realize that its of no use. Every one of us is unique and has his/her own unique set of thoughts, ideas and qualities which you share with the world. Its so amazing to feel the interconnectedness, to see that everything fits together. That we sometimes don’t understand.. its ok. Why should we understand? What’s understanding something anyway? Isnt it relating to something?

I realize that the trick is to play the role the way it is meant to be played. To truely live your Shakespearean role and life the Divine Comedy. With all its stress, pain, suffering, life has still magical gifts for us. Its up to us to see them.

It can be hard.. very hard and difficult.

 

For we blind ourselves.

 

And yet, even the act of blinding is illuminating

 

 


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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