Inside or outside

Yesterday I decided to have a day without checking my email, Instagram or anything else on the internet. I did that regularly when I was still living in the Netherlands and I felt it was good to do it again.

This morning I went to the guided morning meditation here in Dzogchen Beara. Later I had my first internet-time this day: I had a look at Instagram. I saw pictures of my friends and other people I follow. And this time I was very aware of how much it affected me. An hour before, when in was meditating, I was connected with myself, my inside. Now, by seeing all these pictures, my awareness went outside of me. 

Within a few minutes my attention went from people in the snow to concerts to travelling. And my mind had a lot of thoughts, associations and reactions. It wasn’t a nice feeling. It felt so restless all of a sudden.

It was quite fascinating though, to be so aware of these changes in myself.

It also became clear for me, once again, that although I do like to be in touch with other people, and the things internet has to offer, I have to find a way not to be carried away totally with it all. To find a way to stay in connection with myself, my inside, as much as possible.

My first experience of mindfulness after my throat tonsils were removed

My thoughts just went back to a time, more then 20 years ago, when I experienced for the first time how it felt when there was a gap between my thoughts and saying something out loud.

I was 18 years old and my throat tonsils had to be removed. It was my first (and only) time being in a hospital to stay for a few days. I wasn’t really in agony, so I actually quite enjoyed myself there. It was important that I drank a lot to keep my throat moist, so I was allowed to get lemon lemonade as much as I wanted. My parents and some family visited me sometime and that was nice, although they had to do most of the talking, talking was quite painful. For the rest I was reading, sleeping and watching tv.

Eating was a bit painful because I could only chew and swallow very slowly and mindfully (although I don’t think I knew the word ‘mindfully’ back then already) even though my food was chopped into very little pieces to help me. After 4 nights I was released back home again. I did live in a student house at that time, but still was at my parents place often. Just like then. It was the week before Christmas and my sister was at home too. And I remember family visiting now and then.

What I mostly remember though, was that I wasn’t able to join the conversations.

Talking was painful (and I probably was advised to keep it to a minimum), so I didn’t do it much. I did have pen and paper with me, to I could write things down.

But I noticed that most things that I wanted to say, didn’t seem so important anymore after a few minutes. The momentum of them passed. So I listened more. I read a lot. I was in the room with people, but I really wasn’t contributing as much as I used to.

And I found it fascinating. Sometimes annoying, sometimes pleasant.

Looking back, I think this was my first experience of mindfulness.

Imagine them to be family

I arrived as a volunteer in Dzogchen Beara last year august and my first period here I stayed for 5 ½ months. In that period I worked with a few volunteers and staffmembers. Living and working in the hostel (having a bed in the female dorm), I also met loads of other people every day. 

Not everyone was to my liking: some were to noisy with bags in the bedroom, or they cleaned different than I did, they didn’t care enough for the cats here, they asked me questions at the wrong moments. It took me some time, practice, conversations and contemplation to realize that that were all thoughts in my mind.

All of my thoughts and what I might see as ‘facts’ is actually saying something about myself, not about the other.

With some help I came te realise that all the people around me were here to give me a possibility to learn something. I like this quote about that:

“Imagine that everyone is enlightened except you. The people you meet are all here to teach you something.”

Richard Carlson-  (Book: Don’t sweat the small stuff.)

The longer I worked here, the better I understood that when a new volunteer came I automatically thought: “No matter what my first impressions are, we are here together. We are part of a team. We work together. We live together. We are family.”

Some volunteers felt like people I really connected with, others were like an annoying little brother and another one was more like the irritating aunt I would avoid at family gatherings. Still: I tried to accept them all, because that’s what you do in a team, a family.

And you know what: ideally you could do that with every person in the world, we are all connected anyway. But let’s start small, with the people around you. And work with that.

Work with your own habits, your reactions, your assumptions, your prejudices, your preferences, your view.

And spread more love, acceptance and Loving Kindness. Also to yourself. Because yes: some people of them will trigger you. That’s how you practice.

And be honest…. You might as well be someone else’s annoying sister or irritating uncle… Wouldn’t you like them to give you a change, to see you from a more loving perspective?

Related posts:
To live in a hostel dorm for 5 1/2 months
Loads of people

We humans are in this together

Everyone you meet has their own battles, joys, doubts, pleasures, worries, questions, insecurities and achievements.

No one on earth is here to do you wrong.

You are the one that can think so.

What do other people trigger in you, ‘good’ or ‘bad’?

What lesson may their being, their presence, their long or very short stay in your life tea8ch you, if you allow it?

If you think you have all the answers, you are not open to learn more.

Other people and situations are like mirrors: they are as they are. You are the one that gives it meaning, a background, a story.

Stay open to learn, appreciate everyone you meet.

Because you never know who or what will give you a valuable lesson or insight to keep growing as a human.

“Imagine that everyone is enlightened except you. The people you meet are all here to teach you something.”
Richard Carlson-  Don’t sweat the small stuff.

The boy alone and my thoughts

The more I meditate, the more I am aware of my thoughts. I find it very interesting to notice them, they come so quickly.

For instance: one day I saw lots of schoolchildren walking around in the streets (in Ireland you can recognise them easily because of the school uniforms they are wearing). Groups of two, of three, of four, of more. And then I saw one boy walking on his own.

My thoughts were: “That’s so sad, all by himself. Is he ok? Does he have friends? How is he feeling about being alone?”

Then I noticed these thoughts. And realised that I was projecting something on this situation, like we humans easily do, most of the time even without noticing it.

Maybe the boy was fine alone. Maybe he had a big group of friends waiting back at school. Maybe he was bullied. Maybe he was a bully. Maybe he preferred to be on his own. Who knows. It could be any of these thoughts, or none.

What I think I know for sure is that I saw a human being walking on the pavement. The rest were merely thoughts, projections and ideas.

And I find it fascinating to be aware of the fact that most of my world is actually just my thoughts, projections and concepts.

That’s one of the reasons that I like to mediate, to help myself to be more aware of them.

Where does a thought go when you stop thinking about it?

Isn’t that a most interesting thought?

The idea that we are not our thoughts, but instead we have them is not new to me.

I think the first time that I became slightly aware of that was when I read the book ‘ You can heal your life’ from Louise Hay, about 8 years ago now. My mind was always busy and the idea that I could choose my own thought was revolutionary to me! It openen up a whole new way of thinking, of living. I had some ‘control’, something to say about where I would go with my mind.

Since that time I read a lot of books, watched a lot of teachings and video’s, participated i n courses and meditated and contemplated about it.

The mysterious life of thinking and thoughts still fascinates me.

Sometime in the last months, during one of the retreats with a Tibetan Buddhist teachers (*) here at Dzogchen Beara this sentence came up:

“Where does a thought go when you stop thinking about it?”

A sentence, a thought that comes back to me sometimes. Because after all this years, this image suddenly made it so clear for me: a thought is just a shapeless ‘thing’. And as long as we give it attention, energy, it stays around. The minute, even the second, we stop thinking the thought: it is gone.

So we are in control about which thoughts we keep around. And which ones we let go.

Of course, that is easier said than done. Like other human beings I can stick to a thought, a happy one, a sad one, it doesn’t matter. I choose (most of the time subconsciously) to keep the thought around. Repeat it in my head. Sometimes exactly the same. More often in various words and shapes.

But if I let the thought go…. it is really gone. It disappeared. It is no longer there. Like it was never there in the first place.

Isn’t that the most fascinating thought?

(*)
(I can’t remember which teacher by the way… I think it might be Jetsun Khandro Rinpoche).

A year ago I made the decision to let go

Last year on this day I made the decision to pursue a longing that was with me for years already.

Although I didn’t really knew what shape or form it would be, the decision was made.

I love to think and talk about longings. Especially big ones that maybe never will happen. They make clear what someone really wants. One of the things I did as a freelancer before I went on my letting-go-adventure was guiding people with their next step in life. I coached, gave workshops and made online courses to help people with (re)discovering and acting on their talents, dreams and longings. For years I asked people questions about what they really wanted if time and money was not an issue. And in the meantime one of my own longings was formed: to go away from the things I was used to and be offline for a month.

Not the most impossible longing, but I always found excuses that seemed very real to me: lack of money, I need to be available as a freelancer, maybe after the next project that I am doing. So I kept thinking and saying it without really taking it serious.

Until that day a year ago.

A lot of things happened in the 2 years before that. Lots of ‘small’ things. Books that I read. Conversations that I had. Insights that came to me. And a few so called big things.

My father got very sick and died after an intense, heartwarming, joyous, sad, loving and mindful periode of 8 months. My closest aunt got sick in the same period and died a year later. Their warm and open approach to it all, and the heartwarming reactions from family and friends teached me many new life lessons. It made me very clear -once again- that life is really about trying to be a nice person. It’s not about the clothes you wear, how much money you make, what kind of job you have, how big your house is, the pictures you share on social media. How you are as a person, that is how people remember you.

So that all made me rethink and refeel a lot of things.

Like my working life. For years I enjoyed being a freelancer. But being honest to myself I had to admit that I didn’t anymore. I got stuck in trying to earn money and how to get new clients and projects all the time. Lots of thinking, less feeling. I noticed that I was in my head a lot. And while my attention was there, I didn’t feel like smiling to strangers. I was less present as a human being and that was not the kind of person I wanted to be.

So things shifted.

In the months before May last year I made the decision to quit as a freelancer. I went looking for a paycheck job. That didn’t go well. I wrote many application letters and only got rejections. Some of the jobs recieved more than 200 applications! And I didn’t seem to fit in their wishes.

I always believe that if something doesn’t happen, it is for a reason. That there must be something better waiting to happen. So I tried to keep that in mind, while wondering what to do with my life. It felt off and I didn’t know which way to go.

Until exactly a year ago.

I went for a drink fo catch up with someone I worked with during my freelance years. I was talking about everything that didn’t work out at the moment and he asked me what I wanted. I heard myself say: “I just really want to go away for a while and be offline”. But this time it was different. It felt different. Something shifted. “Oh oh”, I said to him, “I think I actually mean it this time”. For the rest of the day I was  confused. Could I really do this? It felt so scary and in the same time so appealing.

At the end of the day it already was some sort of a plan instead of just a longing.

I could do this.  Just go. Really go. Quit my rent. Get rid of lots of things. To let go and see what happens. To be somewhere else. Just me and a few of my things. Instead of scared I felt relieved. In the next days I spoke with a few friends. Made some calculations. And a few days later I made the decision with my head as well.

But the 12th of May is the date that I really listened to my heart and decided to follow it.

So my longings became this plan: to go to Ireland to do voluntary work for at least a few months. In August I went. Read this blog if you’re new to me/my story/this site.

Collecting words and quotes

For more than 2 decades now I am collecting sentences and quotes. In this time I filled lots of journals with thoughts, observations and sentences that I heard or read somewhere. I didn’t have a special purpose or meaning for it. I just had to keep them somewhere. Later in my life -about 13 years ago- I started my first own blog. That was great! Now I could actually share some of the thoughts and sentences that I came across.

A few years ago I also started to gather sentences and quotes in an online document. Handy, this way I could find them easier when I was looking for inspiration for myself or for the workshops, talks and online courses that I gave for a few years.

Yesterday I pasted all those notes in a word document and I saw that it was 60 pages. Wow, 60 pages of words that I found worthwhile to keep them with me for a little while longer. I love to browse through them from time to time.

They remind me of who I am, what I find important in live and the things I need to be reminded off from time to time. They keep me grounded, happy, alert and aware.

Maybe other people can benefit from them too. That’s why I shared them through Pinterest and I keep updating my quotes page on this site. And today the idea was born to every now and then pick a quote and base a new blog article around it. You can subscribe to this site if you want to receive my updates.

And feel free to share – in the comments or by email- some of your favorite quotes!

In the middle of nowhere

For many years I was longing to be at a place in the middle of nowhere. In my head it was a calm place, with me in some sort of a wooden cabin, surrounded by nature, with not many distractions so that I could really feel and hear and sense myself. At peace with myself.

For a few weeks I actually was more in the middle of nowhere than I ever was.

At my last voluntary place. There were not many people and -without a car- there was not really somewhere to go. After a few days I realised that I actually didn’t like it as much as I imagined. I already read a few books in those days. Because of the rain and the winterdark evenings there I didn’t feel much like exploring in the evenings and my days off.

I actually didn’t feel as awake and alert as I imagined myself in a situation like this.

Life enrolled as it did, and after a month there, I came back to Dzogchen Beara. Compared to my former city life in The Netherlands it is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. With the Atlantic ocean on one side it feels like you are at the end of the world. Such a spacious feeling!  Buf there are also staffmembers, employers, volunteers, guests and bypassers around. And lifts and easy-to-hitchhike routes to things like a supermarket, cafés, a nearby beach and lovely teahouses. More my kind of middle of nowhere, I discovered.

And while I was reading the book ‘Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change’ from Pema Chödrön I read this sentence about meditating and (not) hanging on to your emotions:

The place of not rejecting or justifying is right in the middle of nowhere. It is here that you can finally embrace what you’re feeling.”

I felt touched by it.

Maybe the middle of nowhere that I was looking for all these years is not to be found in a specific place. Maybe it is to be found in myself. In the purest form of who I am. That’s where I can find more peace of mind.

And I do think that the place where I am now, with this view, the people, the meditations and the retreats will help me to find my more peaceful middle of nowhere.

 

To learn what you (don’t) want

So in the last weeks I learned so much at my voluntary place, Crann Og Eco Farm. I got to know myself better. I learned a few new skills. And to my surprise I discovered that I actually didn’t enjoy some things that I longed for since a long time. You know, those things that you think you like and you daydream about them. Sometimes you need to know what you don’t want in order to know what you do want.

Like peace and quiet. One of those things I always  wanted more off. And now I am here, at this place with just a few people, and I actually miss more people around me. Or at least the possibility of people to observe or talk to. Somehow it makes me more connected to myself.

Another thing is that I imagined myself in a little house in the woods, maybe even off-grid, back to nature. And at my current volunteer place I actually had the change to stay in a carabin (wooden house and caravan combined) in the big garden. And I passed. To actually make my own fire to be warm at night and to leave the building to go to the toilet, nope, that didn’t sound tempting at all. So I stayed in a bedroom in the main house.

One thing I never realized before I went here, is that I need the possibility to look in the distance. Like at the sea, cliffs or near a big river. My souls needs it. I need it. I like the forrest and the garden here, but I miss a bigger view.

Crann Og Eco Farm

All this, and a few other reasons, made it clear to me that I wanted to go to another voluntary place after a month here. So about two weeks ago I browsed through interesting projects at HelpX and Workaway. There are so many possibilities!

And with my new knowledge about myself, I knew better what to search for. I got in touch with few places. Most of them didn’t have a place in the timeframe I was looking for. Others didn’t really match I discovered after some mailing. In the meantine I was also in touch with my former manager at Dzogchen Beara, the place were I volunteered for almost half a year.

And end of this week I am going back there to volunteer! A few weeks working and living in the hostel again. And a few weeks assisting with accomodation manager tasks when someone is on holiday. I will also get a more private place to life then. I am really looking forward to that place that feels like home, the people, the meditating, the great lunches and the beautiful view. Time for new experiences on a familiar place. And I take all the new skills and nice memories I made at the places where I am now with me.

The cliffs at Dzogchen Beara

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