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“Life is Suffering.”

For some time now, a year or so, I’ve been diving into Buddhism quite some. And the word suffering is used often in those circles. Now, of course, this is a translation of a Sanskrit word, and I don’t speak Sanskrit, so it’s good to keep that in mind.

I always thought this was a bit out of character, because Buddhism, to me, is a very positive philosophy, whereas the word suffering in itself has a very negative feel to it. So what’s with this talk about suffering all the time?

The first thing that I learnt about suffering that resonated with me is one of the Four Vows:
“I intend to alleviate all sentient beings from suffering.”

Well, that’s not something you’d just put on your to do list, is it?

What resonated with me is that I realised I don’t have to do this in this lifespan. In Buddhism (and in lots of other philosophies), reincarnation is a real thing, so we have multiple lives to do this. To me, when I put these two together, it became something attainable, something worth striving for.

Indeed, if life is suffering, I would like to help get that out of our collective system.

Gil Fronsdal, in his podcast, talked about how we see this sentence and that there is a fundamental misconception about it: “Life is suffering.”
Mostly, we will think about it as: “Life = suffering”. (Or, for the nerds: Life == Suffering.) And this, he says, is not what the sentence says. Suffering in this sentence is not a noun. It is an adjective. Life is beautiful. Life is boring. Life is stressful.

Especially that last one, he says you can translate the Sanskrit word as stressful and it will be helpful in understanding it: “I intend to alleviate all sentient beings from stress.”, “Life is stressful.” It kind of works…

And then last Sunday, I was attending a Buddhist teaching. The Lama, Erik, said that “Life is Suffering.” is just not true at all. That’s not what it’s about. And later something clicked with me. For me, Life is Suffering means: All life. All living beings are, indeed, suffering! That’s part of the quality of living here on this earth, in this life, on this plane. All life is suffering, we all have our cross (of matter) to bare. And this is exactly what we should be doing in this life, so we can learn from that and develop our Souls further on our path.

So. Yeah. Life is suffering. Life does not equal suffering. But all living beings, in a way, are suffering because they are alive. And this in itself is not a bad thing at all. In my eyes it is a necessary thing, a quality of life. And getting to the core of this is what we’re all doing, in our own way. All life is suffering, and we’re all healing.

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You guys know I’m all about personal development. When I realized I hadn’t written about this before, this struck me as odd, because it’s one of the most profound experiences I’ve had.

I’m talking about taking time off… not breaking off your relationship, but just going somewhere on your own, without the partner you’ve had ‘forever’. After I did this for the first time, 8 years into my long-term relationship, I came back home and told my partner: “I’d like to do this every 5 years or so… because I think it’s beneficial for me and for our relationship. How do you feel about that?” My partner is amazingly awesome, because he said: “Sure. No problem at all.” 🙂

What I did? I took 6 weeks and ‘moved’ to the United States. I was in regular, if not daily, contact with my partner over skype. I had little to nothing to do (also important!). The physical distance is what did it for me. Yes, it was scary. Yes, I didn’t know what would happen. And yes, it was totally worth it because I learned a LOT about myself and my relationship.

This is what I experienced.

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You might not realize this, but some people just don’t feel like celebrating Christmas, and they have their own reasons for it. They know they’re supposed to think it’s fun an merry, but they just don’t feel it. And they can’t change the fact that they are not looking forward to Christmas any more than you could have green hair. Sure, you could die it green, but it would not BE green. Just like they can pretend they like Christmas, even though they don’t.

Lately, I’ve been noticing how big the difference sometimes is between what other people think you feel, and what you actually really feel. It has to do with expectations. Expectations of other people, and expectations of yourself.

As a kid, you grow up with expectations people have about you. People look at you funny when you say you don’t like chocolate; people don’t understand when you just want to read a book instead of play with your friends; people think it’s weird when you say you’re looking forward to going back to school after a long holiday. You are SUPPOSED to think free time is fun, you are SUPPOSED to conform to other people’s feelings about things. Maybe it’s a good thing that we grow up like that, because it’s part of life, but somehow it doesn’t feel right for me.

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Today I woke up wondering about the difference between finders and seekers.

Lately, I’ve been finding. I’ve been finding a lot of things, I’ve been at the right place at the right moment and I’ve been lucky enough to find myself in places that I’ve been imagining for a long time. I feel blessed to consider myself one of those people that seem to have found their place in the world. I know what you might be thinking, but you can’t create unless you find some fundament to build on.

Some of my close friends are seekers. They seem to be looking for something that is just beyond their reach and as a result, sometimes get frustrated with not finding what they’re looking for.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t think this is a personal trait. I have my times in which I’m searching, seeking and not finding what I need. I’m just really interested in what the difference is between the two situations.

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I have what I call a buy-fobia. Ok, this may be a wee bit exaggerated, but it is a fact that I get some bodily reaction that resembles fear when I have to make a (say, > 15 euro’s) purchase.

I think this goes back to the time when my dad (probably subconsciously?) taught me the value of things  and in the process, pointed out (also subconsciously) that desire for a product is fleeting: Whenever I would want something, he’d say no. It was a most definite no. The no that you don’t argue with. He would take me aside 3 weeks later, and tell me: “if you still really want it, I will buy it for you.” Of course, 99 our of 100 times, my desire had passed.
I think this worked really well. I’m even considering doing it with my own kids. But it may also have sparked the belief that objects have little to no value. (which isn’t true)

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TED talk

Some people may have heard that one of my dreams is to speak at a TED conference one day. When I found out that they were having auditions, I thought: It’s probably too early, but it can’t hurt to try. So with not enough time and very inconvenient circumstances, I cooked this up:

 http://vimeo.com/41283220

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Blind

Talking to a friend of mine I realized I already had a lot of answers in my situation.

And then it struck me. It’s like when you’re moving with a constant speed and you close your eyes, you can’t feel you’re moving forward.

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