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Welcome to Jeroensjourney 2!
Dear reader, Beste lezer,
 
Welcome to the weblog that follows on jeroensjourney.punt.nl. Here I will update you on my experiences in Thailand and India, and my personal inner or spiritual journey. After my healing journey described on jeroensjourney.punt.nl (with also information about Buddhism, meditation, Taoism and other healing practices), this weblog, from early 2007, relates about further healing and spiritual growth for an increasingly happy and true life.
 
With love from Asia,
 
Jeroen Deva Geetesh (jeroensjourney@gmail.com)
(I check this e-mail not very often, so let me know, on my blog, that you sent me an e-mail)
 
P.S.:
Je reactie is van harte welkom!     
Reactions are very welcome!
Meditation and awakening
 
Dear reader,  
 
Reading Jed McKenna giving out on spiritual bullshit and love and happiness fairytales, I started wondering myself. Did I somewhere get caught in the web of Maya, in the sweet slumber of the spiritual supermarket rather than being on a true path of growth and awakening? Almost all of what McKenna writes makes total sense to me. But then he talks in one sentence about incense, mantras and meditation as part of that New Age illusionary world of love and compassion. But actually, I do get what he means. Yes, mantras are just there to bring you in a trance, not to get any closer to awakening. Incense is just nice decoration and, indeed, meditation can be an escape from reality rather than diving into it. But at the same time meditation can be a tool to train observing, a tool which is very useful when you are observing the tricks of the ego.
 
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Where: Koh PahNgan, Thailand
When: March 2009
 
Leading Meditations – The joy of facilitating healing
 
Dear reader,
 
In the previous weeks, for the first time in my life, I have been leading meditations. Here on a beautiful tropical island in Thailand, separated from the nearest town by a boat trip, they provide a daily space for free meditations. Me and my girlfriend have taken advantage of that possibility to lead meditations. Now that I am officially a Universal Healing Tao Instructor (and experienced in many other meditation techniques as well), it is nice to get a taste for teaching or leading groups in the healing arts. 
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Where:  Wat Sri Suphan, Chiang Mai, Thailand
When:    20 - 22 February 2008 
 
A private mini meditation retreat in Chiang Mai
 
Dear reader,
 
Because I extended my Taoist darkroom meditation retreat with one week I had very little time left for my Buddhist vipassana meditation retreat. Still I was very eager to do this as it always leaves me with the best possible state of mind feeling centered, happy or downright blissfull.
So I called the temples around Chiang Mai that I know host people to do longer or shorter retreats but they were either full, not available at any time or they simply did not pick up the phone. But I found a solution.
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Where: Tao Garden, Thailand
When:   3 - 15 February 2008
 
Darkness retreat:
My experience of 12 days in complete darkness
 
Dear reader,
 
As promised I will write about my experiences staying 12 days in total darkness doing two weeks of Taoist meditation retreats called 'Lesser Kan and Li enlightenment' and 'Greater Kan and Li enlightenment'.
These are some of the higher Taoist practices but to be honest, the main thing is not so much the meditations, although they really help for your healing and spiritual  growth of course, but the main thing is just the experience of not being exposed to any light at all for many days and nights in a row.
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Where: Wat Chiang Man, Chiang Mai, Thailand
When: 19 January 2007
 
A difficult meditation in Chiang Mai
 
Dear reader,
 
This is the humour of the universe: Yesterday I had a great meditation, as I wrote in my previous blog, and this morning I had a terrible one. Thoughts and worries kept going through my head. The issue disturbing my peace of mind was my next work project in Brazil, which I will most likely do with a consultant with which I worked before and which whom I don't like to work. Our cooperation has always been difficult so the idea that I will have to work with him again was not exactly making me happy. There were also thought about having to leave Thailand earlier than I had previously planned and hoped because of that project.
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Back in Thailand: Relax and just be!
 
Dear reader,
 
After just over 10 months I am back in Thailand. For the third winter in a row I am spending a part of it in Thailand. After 4 and a half months in 2006, 11 weeks in 2007, I am now going to spend 5 weeks in Thailand again. Much too short of course, but work is calling for me to go back to Brazil in March.
Yesterday I arrived in Chiang Mai and tomorrow I will move on to Tao Garden, where I will do three weeks of the winter retreat.
 
It is great to be back in Thailand. There is something amazing about this country. I have written a lot about it in previous blogs (see jeroensjourney.punt.nl and in the beginning of the weblog you are visiting now), but I'll just explain my experiences of today to give you an idea of what I mean.
 
 
Relax and just be!
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Slowing down is the secret!
 
 
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Where:   Wat Chom Thong, Thailand
When:    February 2007
 
Stillness in Meditation: What happens when I am really still
 
Dear readers, beste lezers,
 
Again a blog about my experiences in my meditation retreat in Thailand. Don't I have anything else to write about? Of course I do, but as the most significant experiences of my journey in Thailand took place during my Vipassana Meditation retreat in northern Thailand, I'll just take some time to write yet another blog about my experiences there.
 
In the last couple of days of the (only) 8 days that I stayed in the Buddhist meditation centre, I had some pretty amazing experiences. In the sitting meditation there is a phase where all you do is sit and feel your body. You say in your mind 'sitting, sitting, sitting' and sit still. What happened in my case was that after sitting completely still for a few seconds was that I started shaking. I had had the shaking experience in my meditation retreat a year ago as well (click here), but now it was different. Just to experiment I tried to sit completely still for a longer period of time just saying 'sitting, sitting, sitting' and I noticed that there was something inside of me building up. I had to move! Being completely immovable became unbearable in a way but also, so it felt, brought me in contact with something very significant. A feeling that here was the door to great healing. But also a feeling that this moment of complete stillness was, how to say this in words, 'a moment of contact with God?'. Sometimes Christian terms help to describe something even for someone who does not believe in God in the way many Christians do. Experiencing Tao or knowing Dhamma, would be the Taoist and Buddhist equivalents I guess.
 
I the above doesn't make a lot of sense for most people who read this. After I wrote this down I went back to experience the feeling to see if I can find words to describe it. And I think I did. This moment of complete physical stillness is also a moment that the mind is completely still. There are now thoughts. And although it is only a very short moment and I am somehow not able to bear it as it always ends in shaking. It feels pretty amazing. Osho said something like: "When the mind gets still, knowledge stops and knowing appears." For me the feeling makes me realise that I have never really been still. Neither physically, nor mentally. Always was there some kind of unrest, some kind of movement, some kind of activity. When all this ceases to exist all that is left is a feeling of being completely at rest, completely in peace. There is no movement and no desire to go anywhere. It is just being. A feeling of wholeness and perfection. The shaking then, even though it ends this state of stillness is a natural release. Some kind of tension that is released and this feels good. I am kind of surprised that after more than a year of shaking I still have this kind of releases, but if there is still stuff that needs to heal. So be it. Loosening up is always nice.
 
Anyway, thinking about it later, I realised that I had had this feeling before during different kinds of healing practices. For instance in rebirthing sessions that ended in kicking. It still is like that: Whenever I really sit or lie still, even when not meditating, I shake after I feel some pressure building up.
 
When I have more time for myself, now I am working too much, I will definitely spend a lot of time experimenting with this as I feel this can bring me a lot. Again I am amazed how meditation brings you in deep contact with things and can help with healing. Bless those (Buddhists monks and nuns and my Mexican lay teacher in this case) who provided me the opportunity to practice for next to nothing and experience this.
 
All the best to you,
 
Jeroen
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Where:  What Chom Thong, Thailand
When:  25 February 2007
 
Meditation: Dublin revisited
 
Dear readers,
 
I know I jump from one thing to another, but I just like to go back 5 weeks to some of my experiences in my meditation retreat in Thailand. Of all I have done in the last three and a half months in Asia, these 8 days have been the most special and, for my inner journey, most significant.
So I’ll just write a few blogs, with use of my diary and memory of my experiences in Wat Chom Thong. Also for myself not to forget the amazing experiences there.
 
During a meditation retreat there are always many things happening. I keep being amazed - this was my third retreat - what comes up. On the forth day of my meditation retreat I saw pictures of places in Dublin (in Ireland) where I lived until September. In a range of different meditation session I “visited” Stephen’s Green where my office was, Henry Street where I shopped in the weekend, Harcourt Street, Smithfield where I lived, O’Connell Street the main shopping street of town, the Wicklow Mountains where I walked in the weekends and the Temple bar main street where I walked though to work and sometimes went for a beer to a pub. And then stranger, less appealing places popped up in front of my eyes: The back entrance of Jervis Street shopping centre where I parked my bike against a light pole. And many many other places. Most of them like the abovementioned, places I have been dozen’s of times.
And I kept doing my practice: “seeing, seeing, seeing”, “remembering, remembering, remembering”.
 
And the emotions? Generally neutral. Sometimes positive, sometimes triggering thoughts about the nice time I had in general during my time in Dublin.
Why is this significant? Because after leaving Dublin, the last place I lived and worked and had what most people will call a “normal” life, I hardly ever looked back. My leaving was triggered by the end of my relationship (as those who followed me on jeroensjourney.punt.nl will know) and I was in a pretty miserable emotional state. So probably, unconsciously, Dublin became a synonym for those last unhappy events and months I experienced there. So I guess I repressed with that many of the other memories about the city and my time living there.
 
Now during the meditation, more and more also nice memories came back that made me realise again what a good time I generally had in the more than three years I lived in Ireland. So that is good to acknowledge. It felt in a way like regaining an important part of my past. The first time living abroad, the first time really in love, the first time co-habiting with a partner. Apart from my relationship experiences, living in Ireland changed me in that I did not identify so strongly anymore with Holland. It broadened my scope and view of life, which I think is good. After Ireland I felt less Dutch and more European. And now, after Thailand, Japan, India and many times Brazil? I think I feel more a world citizen. I am formed by all of these countries and feel connected to the inhabitants of these countries. But at the same time all the likes and dislikes, all the judgments about different places have become less strong. Less absolute. I feel, also by meeting so many nice people from so many different countries, connected with more and more people from more and more countries. The cheerful and warm Brazilians, the smiling and balanced Thai, the friendly and fascinating Japanese, the warm and friendly Indians and then the many nice people I met from England, Australia, Germany, Norway, the United States, Switzerland, France, etc., etc.
 
I don’t know how to describe it really. It is both detachment and a more universal feeling of love and appreciation for all the amazing people all over the world. That is a nice feeling and one of the great thing of travelling and working in different coutnries. It might make it harder to find a place that is your only home as it maybe will always be too small in a way. But after Holland, Ireland, Thailand, I am happy enough that India is my home right now.
 
Love to you wherever you are,
 
Jeroen 
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Where:  Wat Chom Thong Meditation Centre, near Chiang Mai, Thailand
When:    February 21st - March 2nd, 2007 
 
Meditation: Anger, insight, let go
 
Dear reader,
 
As I wrote in my previous blog, it is easy to write many many blogs on my retreat. So much always happens. So I make a start in this blog with a general overview. In case you have any specific questions or things you'd like to know more about. Please ask so I can focus what I write on what you'd like to read about.
I continue to be amazed to see what an intense and amazing experience a meditation retreat can be. It was the previous two times and it was an amazing experience again.
 
 
Experienced: so now it is going to be easy?
 
I went into my retreat relatively open-minded and with few expectations, but I did have some (more or less conscious) expectations, nevertheless. One was that it was predominantly going to be a nice experience. As in my second retreat the sitting was getting easier (after more practice) and after practicing (that is: meditating) most days since my last retreat in April 2006, I expected less pain while sitting.
Also I had been longing for a good time-out for my mind almost since I arrived in Thailand in December 2006, that I kind of expected to just enjoy.
 
 
Meeting myself full-on
 
It wasn't going to be like that! Not just easy. No, meditation is the most intense and confronting encounter with yourself, your thoughts, your emotions, your preconceptions, whatever there is.  
So definitely, mostly later in the retreat, I again experienced these blissful moments of no-mind kick, but not after going through a lot of shit again.
 
Meditation is the best psychotherapy there is. There is no hiding. No psychotherapist to fool, no ego to protect. When you really meditate you are your own healer and therapist and you watch everything that arises.
 
So what came up? First and foremost my anger towards Christianity in particular and religious fundamentalism and dogmatism in general. That was no news,  as the issue had bothered me quite a bit over the last few months, but no there was no place to hide. What you do in the meditation, or what you should do, is when a thought comes up is saying (in your head) "thinking, thinking, thinking" and when it is not a very important or emotionally charged thought the thought will go. But when there is attachment to the thought, the idea that it is important to think this or that "I have great insights" or  just when you get caught in a train of thougts, it can be very hard to let go of the thought. Often enough you don't even notice that you are caught up in it when you are already thinking for a while. I have a tendency to get passionate (both in my anger and my enthusiasm) and then there is a lot of energy in the thought. Little detachment. So hard to let go of.
 
And how do these thoughts arise? Often out of nowhere. But often enough there is a trigger. One was the photo of a Buddhist monk greeting the pope just where I was doing my walking meditation (the rest of the room was full). That was a nice trick of the universe! There was a lesson of compassion and detachment I had to learn!
 
Another example how I ended up at the same theme. During lunch (no talking!) I see a cute, bowing, wai-ing (hands together) Thai girl (not a nun) trying to pass through a group of people.
A very nice and positive thing you might say. Yes, but as the Buddha taught, any attachment, also to nice things, leads to Dhukkha, to suffering (see four noble truths). And so it did. My thought-train went as follows:
"Wow, so nice, this young girl is so respectful."
--> Attachment and positive judgment of what I saw)
then: "I wish people were so respectful at home in Holland"
--> Now there is comparing, I am not alone observing and watching what happens, but my mind runs riot)
"If only Buddhism had travelled West as well as east from India, life would be so much nicer in Europe than it currently is"
--> Now there is simply judgement and a lot of assumptions.
(Of course the underlying assumption/preconception again was that Christianity and the church is to blame for so much that is wrong in the West and the world. And even though for some things that is definitely the case, for others it is not. And of course I did not enter into the good things that all religions, including Christianity, also have brought to mankind or into the fact that I have met many respectful Christians, be it not with the same humility I find so typically Buddhist. )
 
The main thing here is not to go into analysing the issue, but to realise (and I did: auwww!) that if you have a certain belief and conditioning, something that is not questioned anymore, you will always observe things that confirm your belief. You don't observe reality as it is, but you filter it through your believe-system and anything that does not fit with your believe-system will simply be ignored or distorted so that you can tell yourself that, yes again, you were right.
Also, these kinds of generalisations never hold ground when analysed with scrutiny, because they are nothing more than mental concepts that try to fit the world into easy good-bad,right-wrong boxes that do not much more than simplifying things for the sake of "having an opinion that is the truth".
If it is really bad, your mind (or ego), who wants to be right, will always lead you back to the same issue. I've had that problem over the last couple of months and it is very annoying.
Instead of insight, that is what Vipassana means, you end up with blind belief and little chance for wisdom to arise. But also: with a lot of suffering, since the world is not as you would like it to be. "Why can't everyone be Buddhist? or Christian? or whatever..........
 
So there I was, mercilessly confronted with my own beliefs and even though I was not exposed to Christianity in any way, I was stupid enough (Buddhism generally uses the word "ignorant") to let my mind go riot and spoil my good mood and pleasant observations.
 
So what then in short is the goal of the meditation? To be able to just observe that "very respectful girl", smile, stay in the here and now without attaching and and leave it at that.
 
 
Letting go
 
So did I manage to get rid of this "devil" (defilements such as anger and judgmental thinking are the demons in Buddhism) in my head? During the cause of the retreat I did. But not after a lot of, unneccessary, suffering. "Thinking, thinking, thinking. Knowing, knowing, knowing". As in "I know where this thought is leading me. No new insights are going to arise from this, just a repetition of incompassionate, judgmental thinking that will make me angry and miserable."
 
For my teachers tip to acknowledge "knowing", rather than just thinking, really helped as it made me see how stupid I was behaving and it enabled me to let go as nothing positive, good or wise was going to arise from following these thoughts.
And of course, during the retreat you simply get more mindful and the virtues (positive characteristics such as compassion and wisdom) grow while the defilements (greed, anger, hatred, ignorance, etc.) get less and less grip on you.
 
 
Good. I leave it at that for the moment. In two hours my plane leaves to India. A new country and a new religion (Hinduism) that I know very little about. I will have no problems meeting that with an open mind as I have no bad experiences nor many preconceptions about that religion. I am just really curious (and not just about that......).
 
Take care and metta (that is Buddhist language for loving-kindness and compassion) to you,
 
Jeroen
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