There are aliens among us
You may not recognize them
But they know who you are
They dwell in our dreams
And roam the streets at night
There are aliens among us
Are they peaceful
Or are they a threat?
Who can tell what they’re up to
If we don’t know who they are?
Perhaps I dream too much
Let my fantasies run wild
But I’m sure there are aliens
Cause i surely saw them
While i was lying in my bed
When I come to think about it
The aliens looked so familiar
Almost like a human being
They even have the same eyes
And spoke in plain English
These aliens among us
Creatures of doom and delight
Only seem to visit me at night
I’m now beginning to question
Was I really in our world?
Leaves on the ground hardly any sound
The wind is soft and sway
What is still here will soon fade away
The mystical atmosphere of the forest
Trigger dreamlike images fantasy of the mind
The magic lake mirror merges the sky and earth
As i drift away swimming in a sea of thoughts
The depth of being unfathomable
Traveling between waking and sleeping
Life unfolds itself like an infinite dream
Where beings of the old play ancient games
Their dance of illusion distorts reality
Slowly awakening from the catnap
I realize i dozed away again
I can’t help but wonder how i didn’t see
That the whole time sleeping
The world was upside down
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.
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!
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
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
Slow down now. Take it easy. Take a deep breath
Sometimes i really need to remind myself of this. Slowing down comes natural for snails. Home is wherever they are.
I think we humans can learn a lot from snails. For me snails represent beautiful metaphors and a powerful reminder that it’s ok to take things a little more easy.
Why worry and hurry if you can achieve the same thing while being relaxed? Focusing is much more easy when we’re relaxed.
And we’ll get there in the end, just like the snails do. Just glide towards where you want to be and you’ll arrive there one day.
Speaking about the heart, why not see our heart as our true home? Everything else can be taken from us, but as long as we are alive our heart is with us. And if we take up compassion as our armor, we even have our own little shell protecting us just like the snails have…
Last weekend i did a course called Deep Ecology which is inspired by the work of Joanna Macy and Arne Naess. The following poem is all about my experiences of last weekend
Being one with nature
We come together
To share our concerns
Overwhelmed by our common fear
At first it is painful to admit
Will there be a future?
Speaking out our truth and worries is liberating
I am concerned about what we do to our planet
Why do we chose to remain ignorant
When profit comes before people and planet?
It is difficult to listen to what everybody has got to say
Despair, courageous words, anger and deafening silence
We ask for guidance and wisdom – what is happening right now
Is impossible to ignore at the same time too big to comprehend
Allowing all of this to be with us in the present
Opening to the totality of experience is a gift in disguise
Through pain and suffering comes space for joy and peace
I feel a strong connection with nature and the planet
Spending time contemplating in solitude
Realizing there is no true separation
Letting the heart of nature speak
I feel grateful to just be here
Being one with nature
A few months ago i came across a documentary about the work of Joanna Macy. She’s an environmentalist with a Buddhist background, who has done a lot of work to help people cope with the problems the earth is now facing. And which we are facing. Her work is called ‘the work that reconnects’ and this summarizes it perfectly. For myself it has been a process of years in which i’ve learned step by step to start to reconnect with myself again. Due to circumstances i became lost in a world of mind which was disconnected from the larger whole which was always there, but i couldn’t see back then. Through my own pain came the recognition of something larger.
With a personal crisis i really was forced to look deeper into my inner life and had to face my inner demons. The gifts i’ve received from going through this growth process are immense. Cause they’ve all learned me that it’s important to strive to become a better person. Not to be seen as a better person, or to gain recognition. Instead, it’s out of an intrinsic value that i recognize within myself and within others. I owe it to myself, my parents, brother, friends and family and i owe it to total strangers. The process was hard and difficult as it always is, just like in stories. And sometimes it still is tough. But luckily i’ve learned ways to deal with difficult emotions and situations. Buddhism has brought me a way to work on inner and outer peace. I’ve learned that i’m not the stories my mind tells me. So much of what i remembered from childhood now makes sense. Experiences which didn’t make sense at that time, make perfect sense now. There is more balance in my life.
And with this new found balance there is room for new things to arise. When i first heard the message Joanna Macy was speaking of, i felt a longing to experience this myself. Although i’ve studied about nature, i never felt the connection which i knew from when i was younger. The exhilaration, joy and pleasure just to be in nature was replaced with a more rational way of looking at nature and its various uses. At the end of the study, i became aware of this discrepancy. I knew that it was not for me to find work in this field. I did felt the connection, but on a different level. When i heard someone saying that he knew a women who had studied nature conservation only to find out that she was actually looking for her own relationship to nature, i understood. This was also the case for me. I´ve always felt a curiosity to understand nature, cause i wanted to understand myself. So when i studied nature without seeing the relationship between nature and myself, i got lost in the woods. Joanna Macy gave me a few bread crumbs which brought me back on the path.
More recently i was looking for a workshop to learn more about the work that reconnects. After some failed attempts to find a workshop, i was lucky enough to find one right in my own hometown even though these teachings are not yet well known in the Netherlands. So i signed myself in to the workshop about deep ecology which was held this weekend. At a beautiful farm in the rural part of the municipality we came together with 9. Under the guidance of two wonderful persons, we were invited to start to uncover our concerns, fears and worries about what is happening on the planet right now. Some were angry, some were very sad. For myself, it was a search.. a search for the words, a search for what i really feel about the current situation. And so i spend the weekend, opening myself up to what lives inside of me. I could sense a longing for connection, a longing for being. An authentic wish to once again take my part in the whole and leave all my protective shields behind.
By working with and in the group, sometimes in pairs, sometimes alone, sometimes together, we created a space in which everyone could be and could share their concerns for the planet. We talked about animals and plants and how they suffer by the hands of human actions. A deep sense of belonging, of wanting to explore our pain and struggle with the current situation was present throughout the weekend. Each made their own discoveries, small and little. As a group we could see that it was not about what ´they´ do. It´s about what we do and what i do. Only i can make the change and connect with nature again. And that´s what i´ve felt throughout the weekend. The connection is always there, but it takes responsibility to be able to be aware of it. If i´m only focusing on what i want and what i need, i´ll close myself off and lose the connection. But if i am able to look beyond my own needs and see all the needs of all those around me, it´s easy to see we´re all together in this. There is one beautiful planet and we´re all on it. Yes, we are struggling. We might need to change drastically. But it´s our personal freedom to choose how to change. Or not to change.
To become aware of this responsibility is on the one hand a heavy weight. But on the other hand i see it as a precious gift, a wonderful opportunity to learn to cooperate. First of all to cooperate with myself and not to fight myself. If i can befriend myself and appreciate who i am, i can be of so much more value than when i´m lost in inner turmoil. Learning about deep ecology and the work that reconnects has given me a platform with which i can investigate this further and to explore where my strength and weakness lies. Cause i feel that this was just the start. It felt like a younger part of me was there all the time, who was waiting for this to happen. I could sense his joy and his pain. And i could also sense the wisdom which lies within. Knowing there´s no true separation. It makes me feel whole and in contact with my true nature, which is not limited to this body.
The bigger challenge which lies ahead is to learn to use this information and experience to share this with others. This writing is an early attempt. As it all feels so fresh, i´ve chosen the image of young wet grass. I felt it was right for me to share a bit of the experience. As so much happens on an internal level, it is difficult to really describe what i´ve learned from the weekend. But if there is one thing, it has to be gratitude. And the interesting thing is that it´s not just gratitude for nature, life, all beings and the people i was with. I was taught that i can be grateful for the person i have become. It really feels humbling to hear that and it helps me to share more of my authentic self instead of adapting to others. And that is also more valuable. Cause i´ve always felt intense joy when i could help others or see others excel. When someone is truly sharing his or her inner drive and passion, it is so inspiring. It made me realize that i can be of much more help if i am grateful of myself. Not out of arrogance, but out of recognition of my place in the whole. So i´m looking forward to explore the work some more and find out what it all means what i´ve learned this weekend.