P N C O

Mostly photography, with the occasional philosophical contemplation

10: Nature’s Gift

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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.

 

 

7: Vulnerable

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With eyes wide open looking into the world
I can feel depths i have never felt before
Emotional states of being come and go
The variety of feelings seems never ending

Pain, joy, sadness and laughter
All blended together in the stomach
The head is full of profound thoughts
While it tries to think no thoughts at all

How can i bare all of life’s bombarding
The senses in continuous overdrive
To keep up with this exhausting rhythm
Though i never felt his much aliveness

As the cocoon slowly breaks and opens up
Life touches and tickles in many ways
This new found sensitivity is very special
It just requires time to learn how to play

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”

4: Vulnerable

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Vulnerable

To allow myself to open up
To finally show what is hidden
To express what really moves me
How come it is so scary?

Yet the prospect of having to live
With all the pain locked inside
Emotional blockades ruining me
Can only lead to depression

So the urgency is very clear
I have to allow myself to open up
Fear of rejection and failure
Will surely be my guide for some time

Yet many have walked this path before
Teaching that in being vulnerable
Seeing the others are no other than we
We can share our most precious gifts

From this moment onwards
I let the free heart speak
With its shaky unstable voice
Stepping into an unknown world

Cause the world needs me to be
Vulnerable opening all senses
To the suffering and pain
Of the world in which we live

Instead of looking away again
I feel that this time i can stay
Let life run through my veins
As the heart cries out its song of hurt

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?

1: You – an ode to Nature

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Touched by the immensity of you. Even though i can hear the traffic in the distance, in here there is only you.
You whisper so softly in my ears. Your sweet melodies are composed of the finest tunes.
Blackbirds chatter as a Robin sets the stage for an impressive solo. The symphony is intriguing.
You just leave me speechless time after time. Just being here with you is enough.
In here everything can be. Everything i wanted to say has lost its importance.
Insects dance in the late sunlight, while the water calmly follows the stream.
In your green arms i can finally rest. Ever so gently, the night settles in.

 

New Project

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hello ladies and gentlemen,

it’s quite incredible to see so many people coming to this blog again and again.  Could not have imagined that 4 years ago when i started blogging 🙂
But i also remember that there is this other hobby of mine, which i have not given too much attention lately: writing

As somebody said me a few days ago: just start with it, otherwise it won’t happen. And i know he’s right. So i like to give a bit of an outline of this new project for you guys but also for myself.

Long have i felt that words and images go perfectly together. Whether it’s a poem or a few lines of text, it really can create a connection with what meets the eye. So i want to engage in exactly this. It will be challenging for me, cause i know that i only write when i am truly inspired. But I’m sure that once i’ve started, everything will work out just fine.

I haven’t decided yet whether it will be a weekly or a daily thing, but i’m just going to start anyway 🙂

Please feel free to leave any comment, thoughts, critics, feedback. And please enjoy 🙂

Warm regards,
Pieter

ps. Day 1 is coming up!


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Job Interview (II)

As i promised to some of you, i would come back to the job interview i had last week. I knew yesterday that i would receive the answer yes or no today, so i mentally prepared myself for both answers. I mentally rehearsed both conversations and monitored how it felt in the body. When i was sufficiently sure that i wouldn’t be too upset, i knew that i was well prepared for today.

Pretty early in the morning i received the phone call i was expecting. It was not my job to be. The other candidate had more juridical experience and they choose him/her. So as i heard the manager say that i didn’t get the job, i realized that the practice of the day before did its magic. I was calm and was even able to ask a few questions on why they didn’t choose me. No stress, no disappointment, just an immediate sense of acceptance and of letting go.

So altogether it was quite an interesting ride. If i had gotten the job, it would have been very good as i would have had to learn many new skills and also do challenging things like speaking in front of (large) groups. I knew that there was a lot in it for me to learn. I also knew that i could not tell whether i was really suited for the job, as it was so different from what i do now. But now that i don’t got the job, its time to refocus to the work i’m doing and continue that and see what else is in store for me.

Focusing on equanimity has been the true lesson here.. no matter what the outcome, don’t focus on hope or fear but just remain aware and mindful of what is happening. Saves me a lot of stress and wishful thinking 🙂


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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..


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Thank you, Mark Cavendish

Thank you, Mark Cavendish

Yesterday just before going to bed i read an article about a crash which had just happened during the Olympic omnium (a discipline within track cycling) involving multiple Tour-de-France stages winner Mark Cavendish. After reading some comments on Twitter i found a video of the said crash and i was surprised there were no consequences connected to this crash.

I felt it was injustice and went to bed. But then i started reflecting on what was happening inside. I realized that i was judging a situation on which i had absolutely no influence. And in my mind i was already condemning Cavendish. By contemplating on this feeling, it made me realize that no matter what the reason for his move were, it wasn’t up to me to judge.

So instead, i started shifting towards feeling compassion for Mark Cavendish instead. Whatever caused him to make his move, he wants to be happy just as i want to. Perhaps he thought he could win gold through this unorthodox move? As i concentrated on letting go of all this second-guessing, i realized that i just didn’t like the move. I thought the move was irresponsible, dangerous. But this move doesn’t make him a bad person. It began to feel more and more as an act out of ignorance. And i realized that i’ve made quite a few of those moves in the past myself. I was able to separate the act from the one who committed the act and realize that there is a difference between the two.

In the heat of the moment we’ve all made mistakes. Would i want to be condemned for mistakes i’ve made in the past? Or would i rather be forgiven and shown compassion and understanding, so that i can learn from my mistakes?

So in retrospect i realize that i have to thank Mark Cavendish for this opportunity to accept what i dislike and actually have compassion for just that.


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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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Out of the closet

Today I found out what an interesting thing the mind is. And for your information, this blog won’t be about my sexual preference 😉
As I was sitting in the train I wanted to do a bit of mantra recitation using a rosary. I did it the last few days, though I always tried to keep the rosary out of sight. Today while traveling it was way more crowded and so it felt inconvenient to do the mantras.
When I made my transfer it was more quiet and the next station was forty minutes travel, so I started there.

While doing the practice I noticed an ever increasing feeling of uneasiness and tightening in my stomach area. Even while I write this hours later, I can still feel the knot. This brings me back to the mind. I know that this has to do with I, the word and the thoughts, ideas and feelings which make up this concept. As a student of Buddhism I’ve been introduced to the idea that there is no separate entity called Pieter which lives independently from the world in which I live.
This idea really helps me to understand what is going on under the surface. Somehow I fear that people might see me doing practice. I meditated once at a pretty open and busy spot in the woods and while I sat there someone passed me and looked at me for quite some time. At that time there was also the tight knot in my stomach. Somehow I feel exposed.

This brings me to the title of this blog. It’s almost like I have the idea that I need to separate between my normal self and my spiritual self. Like there’s any difference.. the mind wants to control how I appear to the outside, so anything threatening this control will result in a response from both body and mind.
Today I was very keen on not being seen while reciting mantras. This eagerness to secrecy created the tension. As I noticed the rising of this sensation in the days before this, I know that the difference lies in my response to the sensations. Today I gave in to the fear of being seen as weird etc. And because of that I started experience more fear as a result.

This whole process is so interesting to watch unfolding as it is happening. Yes, there is discomfort. But I don’t have to fight it. The real nasty feeling is all due to the labeling of the mind. The knot in itself is neither good nor bad. My resistance to it is what keeps it in place.

So I’ve come to the conclusion yet again that much if not everything I hold for my ‘I’ is actually made up out of resistance (to what was and to what is). The past can only live on in the present, so a lot of what has happened in the past survives because of my resistance to it – whether on a conscious or sub/unconscious level.

As I remember hearing Adyashanti say, there will be resistance in the progress. But don’t resist the resistance.

So I let go of my efforts to ease the discomfort and instead shed a bit of light in the darkness. I have to come out of hiding.
Yes, I am a person engaged in spirituality.
Yes, I practice Buddhism.
And as a note to myself: and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that!

Ghost

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Ghosts klein

Wandering in the forest I meet the ghost
He captures my imagination as he swirls around me
Filling my body with feelings of excitement
As it creates its magic out of thin air

Impressed by the appearances I forget where I am
And soon I find myself lost in the forest with nowhere to go
Yet the ghost keeps on animating me with its stories
Soothing and comforting words and images appear

As I start to worry the ghost suddenly screams out loud
WE’RE LOST AND THERE IS NO WAY OUT OF HERE!”
All I can think about right now is
I want to get out of here and just disappear

The ghost starts to become unbearable to be with
It wont shut up and is totally out of control
No matter how hard I try to escape it
It finds me quicker than I can find my own shadow

So now stuck in this dark forest of illusion
Looking for a way out even though I’m afraid
Lying on the ground I begin to lose hope
While the ghost seems to be laughing at me

Full of desperation I wonder to myself
Why did I ever started this endeavor?
To travel alone into the dark woods
Trying to find the source of life

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