True Zen

Two Bhudhas

It is an interesting trend: Buddha statues are replacing Jesus. The question is of course whether it will improve the way we experience live. In essence they both preach the same: “Live life consciously” I had to think of a true Zen story that took place two hundred years ago in Japan.

Two Zen masters decided to have a debate on their different styles of teaching. On the day of the debate it was raining. One Zen master was sitting in the floor drinking tea when the other entered the room and sat opposite him. The tea-drinking Zen master said, “On which sided of your shoes did you put your umbrella?” The other Zen master sat still for a while and realized he didn’t know. He immediately gave up being a master and became a pupil of the first Zen master.

By not knowing something as simple as that, he realized he had been thinking about the debate instead of actually being alive. The thing is that the only time you can actually be alive is now. Not in the future, not in the past, but right now. Every time that tiny moment.

Now..

Now..

It is gone in a blink of the eye.

We worry too much about the future, that we forget about the now. We’re stuck in the past, reliving things that have gone bad, and are to busy to enjoy the.

Future and the past of course, don’t actually exist. They’re concepts in our mind. We don’t live our lives in the world, we live it in our minds and that was what the Zen master realized he was doing. Thinking about something else and while doing that, he wasn’t really alive. Not living in the now and that’s why he decided to become a pupil again to learn to be actually alive all over.

So Buddha or Jesus, the truth of the matter is, it doesn’t really matter. It is about what you do with it. Remind yourself with Jesus or Buddha, a sign on your hand or every smile of a child to be that pupil. Be the observer of your own thoughts (and laugh about hem now and then) and live in the now.

In remembrance of David Bowie, who died at he peak of his being.

The blue blue parrot

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Once upon a time there lived a parrot somewhere in Africa. It was a blue parrot what made him pretty rare as such. Not only did he have a rare colour, he also was a parrot that was always cold.

Although the sun was shining ferociously, the blue parrot shivered from beak to tail and constantly complained to his friends about the fact that he felt so cold. In particular his girl friend, a gorgeous red’n’yellow parrot. “South” he always said, “south. I heard that birds from the north fly south to avoid the cold winter.”

One day his girl friend was so fed up with the complaining and told him to go south! And so the blue parrot did. He packed a few things and took off. “South” he said, “it is there I will find warmth.”

So the parrot flew and flew. Through storms and rain, but persistent to find warmth, until one day he was to tired to fly and landed. As soon as he touched the ground, he realized it wasn’t something he had felt before. Hard, white and cold! Very cold. He looked around and saw a strange looking, big black bird.

“Hello” the Emperor Penguin said, “could you spare a minute watching my egg? I have to go for a little pee, you see?” “Of course” said the blue parrot and set on the egg, while he watched the penguin wiggle away.

When the penguin came back, the parrot asked, “Why aren’t you flying?”
“Well” the penguin said, “I can’t. Although I am technically a bird, I don’t have wings to fly, that’s why I walk.”
“Oh” the blue parrot said, “but when you can’t fly, why are you black as coal, with a white belly and a golden scarf? A predator can see you from miles away!”
“Interesting observation”, the penguin replied, “but you see, we’re with thousands and we want to be seen as one black mass, so a predator is scared and hasn’t got nerve to attack.”

After the blue parrot the penguin shared some stories and food, the parrot found out he was on Antarctica. He stayed a while and became good friends with the Emperor Penguin, but at one point he decided to move on, further south, to find warmth, at least that was what he thought.

His next encounter, after a long flight, was an even stranger one; a huge black and white bear that called himself Panda. After observing the panda for a day, he asked “Why are sitting all day, just eating?”
“Well”, the panda said, my diet consists almost entirely of leaves, stems and shoots of various bamboo species. And I need around 25 kilos of the stuff a day. There’s hardly any nutrition in there, so not much else to do then eat. I know, it’s a bad habit.”

After the blue parrot the panda shared some stories and food, the parrot found out he was in China. He stayed a while and became good friends, but at one point decided to move on, further south, to find warmth, at least that was what he thought.

He flew on and on until he saw White Shiny Mountains in the distance. When he landed, a completely white bear, which friendly asked what a bleu bird like himself was doing on the North Pole, accompanied him. “North Pole?” the bleu parrot said in a slight panic? But I have flown South all the time, how is this possible?” The Polar Bear didn’t know either.

“So, why are you so white?” the parrot asked, “nobody will see you, isn’t that dangerous?” “On the contrary” the white bear said, “it helps me to move closer to something I can eat, without being noticed. But don’t worry, I won’t eat you. You don’t look appetizing in blue and besides, I’m about to go into hibernation.”

“Hibernation? What’s that?” The bird replied. “Oh, it is e deep sleep for a few months.”, the bear said.
“A few months of sleeping? How boring is that!”, the bleu parrot reacted shocked, “No hanging out, no fooling around, just sleep for a couple of months! I couldn’t survive that”

The bear smiled and said “It actually is the way to survive. The coming months will be very cold and not a lot to eat, so the best way to survive is a good deep nap. A nap where the best dreams accompany me. It isn’t a bad way to pass time, let me assure you.” But the bird already had taken of the second he heard the words ‘very cold’. South. Once again! Looking for warmth.

After another long flight, the parrot touched ground to have something to eat. Suddenly the parrot saw a blurry grey spot moving his way. “Hello old chap” a small beak in the grey/white fur said, “what brings you to London?”
“London?” the bird said, “and what might you be?”
“I am an Old English Sheep dog, although not that old. Must say, very odd to see a bleu bird like you in the park walking around. Normally I see them birdy’s in a cage.”
“In a cage?” the bird replied, “that’s be awful! Nowhere to go, no way to fly, that’s not a life for a bird, that is inhuman!” The dog agreed, or at least the fury cloud with 2 eyes went up ad down.

After the blue parrot and the Old English Sheep dog shared some stories and food, the parrot a good friends with the dog, but at one point decided to move on, further south, to find warmth.

Again he took off, taking the sky, and this time, after a few weeks, the bleu parrot sensed the air was getting warmer. Also, the odour of the air changed. It evoked old memories. Memories of his girlfriend, the gorgeous red’n’yellow parrot.

Suddenly the blue parrot was caught in mid-air. Literally, as in all his musings, he flew into a tree. With much drama the blue parrot fell down and when he opened his eyes, he saw only colours.
“Have you found warmth?” a familiar voice said and when his eyes focused he recognized his red’n’yellow girlfriend!

“Funny you ask”, he said. “I met a lot of interesting creatures, heard a lot of intriguing stories and been to a lot of interesting places while going South. Strangely I am her now, right where I started and to answer your question: I never thought about feeling cold, so finding warmth somehow is not on my mind anymore. To be honest, I am glad to see you again.”

The red’n’yellow parrot looked at the bleu parrot and put her wings around him and said: “Perhaps you should focus on being warm instead of feeling cold.”

Then she smiled and said: “Oh, by the way, I have a little surprise for you”
“Daddy!” four multicolored parrots said.

The blue blue parrot is part of the World of Beast

Possessed

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My original idea was that this story was about stuff.
Whether you possess your stuff or your stuff possesses you. And that the latter is true in many cases and that stuff seems to be determining who we want to be, why we loose track of being ourselves.

The image in the end I had, was this little over weight guy on the beach, trying to compensate his lack of stuff with a hipster Speedo that’s too tight or an over sized swim short and an over-sized watch.

But something changed my mind and made me realize this story is not about stuff, but about time and thought.

Time
Do you possess time or does time possess you?
Are you feeling relaxed and in control or do you feel a lingering anxiety. Always the sense you don’t have enough time and at the end of the realize you haven’t actually done, the things you wanted to do?

Well, then it is time to create time. It sounds impossible, but in fact it is not. Saving time is about braking old routines and creating new ones.

How many times do you check your phone, emails, facebook, Twitter or Pinterest. How many times are you distracted from the task at hands? How many times your thoughts are wondering of? It is all resulting in a very inefficient use of time, so let’s fix that first.

How? Become more conscious of what you do and how you do it. Just control the impulse of distraction every two times out of 3 and you will see you save time. Get up one hour earlier and consciously plan what you want to do with this extra time (make it useful). Stop procrastinating and grab the bull by the horns by doing things immediately. Create a structure in how to approach ‘things’. You will see. You’ll be creating time, you didn’t know you had.

Thought
Do you possess your thoughts or are your thoughts possessing you?
Can you worry about something in an instance? Al the things that need to be done? Is it hard to forget a quarrel or disagreement? Are you feeling insecure or are your thoughts creating barriers, immobilizing you?

Well, now you’ve freed some time, it is interesting to spend time on your thoughts and think about the thoughts you have. Get a hold of what your mind is telling you and figure out how you react to it.

Why are you upset? Think about it in depth. Why are you angry? Think about it in depth. Why are you happy? Think about it in depth. It can be small things. By active listening and thinking about it, you make a start to make a change. And remember, after you thought about it in depth, let it go.
There’s a lot to be learned.

Become a master of your thoughts and you start to become a master of life.

Dance!

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Without bad, there’s no good.
Without black, there’s no white.
Without hate, there’s no love
Without Ying, there’s no Yang,
in fact everything needs an opposite to exist. Without opposites, there’s no perspective and things fall into nothingness.

But the interesting thing is that it is not about balance. It is about restoring balance. In a positive way.

There’s an article I read a while ago about running. The ‘normal’ way to run is to push with one foot and then push with the other and so on. The harder you push and higher the frequency, the faster you run. But there’s another way to run as well.

This way of running starts with falling forward and to make sure you don’t fall on your face, you need to restore balance by moving your feet (try it). This way of running is based on preventing to fall. It is a different technique, different muscles are used, but it is less straining for your back and bones. Besides it is fast. Faster then you can imagine.

Anyway, back to restoring balance.

Live, or reality, is no more then a projection of our imagination. If we don’t know it, we can’t imagine it. And if we cannot imagine it, it cannot become reality because we don’t have the images to see it.

It doesn’t mean we’re stuck. On the contrary, the only thing we need to do is increase our power to imagine, but too many people limit their imagination and therefore are not able to change their reality.

So when Picasso said “Anything you can imagine is real” he was also talking about the limitations of imagination. I think he gave at least 2 messages:

  1. When you look at my () paintings and accept them, you’re able to enlarge the way you can perceive reality.
  2. In live, increase the fuel of your imagination by experiencing more and you’re able to increase your reality.

I see it like this:
Imagination is inward and about being, like thinking, meditating, your inner-voice. Experiencing on the other hand is outward and about doing, see how your increased imagination, creates a new reality and experience that. Being aware of it. This new perceived reality is again fuel for being and thinking, which fuels in it’s turn imagination…

It is like a dance, changing between doing and being and sounds like:

“Do-Be-Do-Be-Do-…”

Enjoy your dance and increase reality.

Stepping out…….in

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Sometime it feels people are stuck in the frame of a picture and that isn’t strange. We’re very good in creating a tunnel vision.

We have the tendency to recycle 98% of the knowledge we have on a continuous basis. Main reason is that we’re too pre-occupied with what we know or just scared to step outside our frame of habits.

The result is that most of the things we see or believe stay the same. That is ok if you don’t want to be happier.

The downside of creating this tunnel vision is that it will clog your spiritual aorta.

That’s why we sometimes need to step out of our frame to clean up the clog and actually it isn’t all that difficult.

It starts by doing something irrational.
Indeed, doing something non-rational and therefore closer to emotion. So instead of controlling insecurities, it is about focusing on that first step. Steppin out of that ‘comfort-zone’ into the space where something new happens.

And you don’t have to be afraid because you can always step back into your frame. Or even hold it when stepping out to feel secure about the irrational thing you’re about to do. But always do it consciously.

Step by step you will notice new things appearing in your frame you never seen before and by time, you’ll see your frame is getting larger as well and you yourself are growing happier and happier.

Stepping out is stepping in.
Into a new world.

 

 

 

 

River Delta – Many ways

It is interesting to think of how people get to where they are, because one thing is sure: “We’re all born as babies and we all have been a child”. It is a funny game to look at people and imagine how they were as a baby or a child.

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Most of the times the contrast couldn’t be bigger, with who they are now. All the innocence, all the wondering is gone and replaced with ignorance and worries. Only sometimes the baby face is shimmering through.

Still, at any point in life, there is a way to be reborn. In fact, there are many ways and the choice is yours.

Some will see that as an opportunity and some will see it as a threat, while actually there’s no difference. The difference is in perception and in the way you choose to experience it. With joy and pleasure or anxiety and fear. In the end we all end up in the same space, just with or without the experience for a next life.

The way I see it is like a River Delta.

One stream branches into another stream, which is actually the representation of possibilities and opportunities you have in life. But, there’s a choice: Either you go upstream, ending up in the main river, or you go downstream ending up in the ocean.

Going upstream is going against gravity and forcing a way up, ultimately ending up somewhere at the spring of the river, on top of a mountain, feeling exhausted and realizing there’s actually no way but down.

Going downstream ending up in the ocean, and eventually vaporize, become a raindrop and float in the sky in a cloud and come down as refreshing rain on the top of a mountain at the spring of the river. Ready for a new journey.

Both are part of the same ecosystem.
Both in the end, end up in the ocean.
Which way do you choose?

River Delta Life is part of the World OF WEAST collection

The 3 storytellers

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I recently read that storytelling is going to be the marketing trend in 2015 and that is funny, because storytelling is as old as the first humanoids learning how to express feelings (actually it started with drawing on the walls of caves). It’s our brain that since then has been so over-developed with the neo-cortex, that we forgot most of that and are focusing to much on words and bullet points as the way to get a message across.

The neo-cortex, pfff that’s a game changer! We learned to think rational instead of using our instincts and gut feeling. It reminded me of my son of three. He wanted to walk on a wooden beam but kept falling off. When I told him to look at the end of the beam and just walk over there, he forgot to look at his feet, didn’t think and didn’t fall off. Instinct won it from ratio.

Back to the storytelling.

The reason we like story telling is pretty simple, it is because, when we were children, lots of stories have been told to us. And boy did we like to listen to them! And as it is part of our childhood, it is also programmed deeply in our brain and we probably get an instant good feeling when we hear somebody tell a story.

Storytelling is very graphical and that sticks; good storytelling creates images in our minds when we listen to them. That way you don’t have to process the words, you just look at the images as the story continues. That’s the power of paintings as well, they tell a story without words, so we can absorb it, without thinking.

Actually, doing the reverse, is telling a story. Think of an image or scene and describe what you see. That’s a good way to tell stories, and it is amazing how the show in your brain works: If someone tells us about how delicious certain foods were and our sensory cortex lights up. If it’s about motion, our motor cortex gets active. Scientists found that the brain sees no difference between thinking about it or actually experiencing it. The same parts of the brain light up! Just imagine what a story can do.

Telling stories also means putting effort into it as a proof you want to make the other understand (it’s investing in the listener). That is the most pure form of engagement. The true meaning of engagement is occupy, attract, or involve (someone’s interest or attention) or engage someone in (cause someone to become involved in a conversation or discussion). But there’s more, whenever we hear a story, we look for relations to one of our existing experiences. That way we can much quicker understand a story. At the same time the brain of the teller and the listener synchronize, becoming a bit as one…

That’s why metaphors work so well with us. While we are busy searching for a similar experience in our brains, we activate a part called insula, which helps us relate to that same experience of pain, joy, disgust or else. Besides, it makes it easier to understand, no effort’s necessary, no decoding.

Telling stories, instead of giving solutions, works so well because of this. The relating to stories and the synchronization of brains, makes that telling the context of an idea as a story makes that the listener is creating the idea himself as part of her of his own experience (leave your ego at home and don’t try to claim the idea).

Words without a story makes are our brain becomes very busy trying to decode decoding words into meaning. And because of it after that it stops; nothing really happens after that. It’s like the bullet points in a PowerPoint. In the end the only thing you remember is the bullets… (besides it’s a mnemonic for lazy storytellers).

Long time a go, around 850 BC an Arab goatheader named Kaldi noticed how his goats acted strangely. When he looked what caused it, he saw they were eating certain berries. Intrigued by it, he tried them himself and was excited by the effect it had on him. It didn’t take the Arabs long to figure out how to dry and boil the berries in what they called “qaghwa a shortening of qahhwat al-bun ‘wine of the bean’.”

After that the Turkish used this brew as well and with them it travelled to the French who give the brew the name “cafe” and from there it was picked up by the Dutch who named it koffie and were responsible for making it enter the English language as “coffee”.

From now on chances are, you’ll remember this story when you drink coffee and probably tell it is well. This would not be the case when I had presented it in bullet points in a power-point-presentation, that’s for sure.

Now I hear some people say: “I am not good at it, I cannot tell stories” but then I say “You can”.

Try to imagine the idea, the point, the scene, the thing you want to make as a destination. Go back to where you are/stand and tell the story as the road to that destination. OK, 3 bullet points, but told as a story. A good way to become a storyteller is by:

  1. Experience stories, listen to them, be open for new ones and ask questions and
  2. Imagine the story. Think in images, not words but most of all
  3. Learn to tell, by doing and observing the listener.

 

And remember:
“Don’t be the traveler but focus on your listener being a passenger”.

Pelican can?

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It was a crowded pool.

It was so crowded, the movement of the birds almost looked like a newly invented elegant dance called the PeliCanCan! Almost elegant, because pelicans aren’t the best dancers in the world, especially not when they are hungry. This particular group of pelicans was hungry.
Very hungry.

As with any group of pelicans (or other kind of hungry flock) there’s always one who’s more hungry, behaving more foolish and more idiotic.

Normal pelicans scoop the water, catching a lot of water and occasionally a fish or 2 (or anything amphibian that unfortunately was swimming in the vicinity of the pelican) caught by expanding their throat pouch. After that they go back to the land and enjoy their meal. The hungry pelican, however, kept scooping. His beak was already stretched with fish. Other pelicans advised him to return and enjoy, but the hungry pelican murmured as good and bad as it goes with a mouthful: “No! Leave me, I can handle it. No problem here, I can manage, I just want to have enough fish, just in case.”

The hungry pelican kept scooping fish and water, ignoring his pelilfriends. His throat pouch was already stretched to the max, but still he wanted to catch one more fish. And then, the pouch broke!

All the fish in the beak, which had already said their prayers and reconciled with the fact that their glorious lives would end as mere fish stick snacks on the menu of a pelican, were free and also free to reconsider the rest of their fishy lives.

The pelican on the other hand, had a serious problem. His pouch looked like a ragged shopping bag and wasn’t able to catch another fish, let alone eat it and that caused a serious problem. No fish, no food, no food, a certain death….

Fortunately there was a pelican who could mend broken pouches, so after some serious stitching, revalidation a lot of liquid food, the formerly hungry pelican survived. He could collect food in his pouch again, but didn’t dare scooping the water, nor eating fish. He ate grass instead. The hungry pelican seriously considered to become the first vegetarian pelican ever, but after a while though, he realized fish was better than grass. Besides grass gave him the gas, so he turned herbivore again, but never ever stocked more fish than his pouch could handle…

 

The moral of this story can be a bit surprising, but is about the fact that it is better to let go of any issues and talk about it then to keep them inside. It might seem more comfortable, but the essence is: “It is not”.

Although it can be a serious threshold to talk about ‘issues’, in the end, letting them out and talk about it, will release you from a burden that will prohibit you otherwise. Talking about it will make you more light-hearted and will create a lot of new insights as well. Not only that ‘letting issues out in the open’ is better then keeping them inside, it also provides you new knowledge to avoid, recognize and handle new kind of issues as they cross your path. And believe me, they will cross your path, but from now on, they are like pins when climbing a mountain. Each pin will get you higher.

Pelican can? is part of the World of Beast

The Squirrel and the Parrot

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Once upon a time, high up in a tree, a flaming red parrot was sitting on a branch. He was shivering and crying.

Along came a squirrel, which was actually not planning to stop, because he was on his way to the biggest acorn and nut feast one can ever imagine, which makes it for a small squirrel close to unimaginable to stop, but he stopped. He was touched by the extensive grieve of the parrot, that he sat down next to him on the branch; his tiny head slightly bend to the left, looking at the red parrot.

The parrot didn’t stop crying though, nor shivering, it even got worse. After a while, the squirrel asked: Well, what’s going on that is making you so sad?

I am completely lost, answered the parrot, and have no idea how to get home! I’ve been looking in all directions, but the only thing I see is trees. I’m completely desperate and have no clue to what to do next. The squirrel looked at the parrot compassionately. Why don’t you fly above the trees? He asked the parrot. The parrot looked at him with terror! Above the trees, he said, are you mad? Just the thought of it gives me a weak stomach.

Amazing! said the squirrel, but how did you get here? Did you climb your way up? No, no, said the parrot, I flew of course. I am not a good climber, besides, that would take forever!
So you flew? asked the squirrel, but what’s the problem then? The parrot turned even redder then he already was and said in an agitated way: The problem? The problem? The problem, dear friend, is that higher then the trees is as scary as the front end of a boa constrictor. And that’s why I am stuck here!

But you flew up to the top of this tree already, said the squirrel, there’s no difference between flying to the branch your sitting now or the sky above the tree. The only difference for that matter, is that by flying above the trees, you’re able to see the forest. And when you can see the forest, you’re able to see more then just trees and find a way back home.

The parrot was silent for a while. And silent parrots as such, are a rarity in this world. Normally they can’t stop jabbering about this and that and so on, so the squirrel hit a spot. The silence went on.

It’s interesting the dilemma you’re in, said the squirrel, and it’s up to you what you want to do about it. Actually it’s pretty simple, he continued, either you stay put on the branch and stay lost or you have to overcome your fears, fly up in the sky and find your way home.

But what if I fall down? said the parrot. You won’t, said the squirrel, you’re a bird, you were meant to fly, it’s what you’re designed for, unlike me. The parrot hesitated for a moment, but soon realized the squirrel might be right and said: OK, maybe I have to take my chances; sitting here on this branch won’t do forever either, will it? No, replied the squirrel, besides it will get very dark soon as well. The eyes of the parrot almost became bigger then its head and almost without a thought, spread his wings and then….

Took off. Just like that, up in the sky.

I can see the tops of the trees, it shouted to the squirrel, and I am not falling! A moment later it shouted: I can see the forrest! And the river! It’s beautiful up here! And hey! I see my home, now I know my way back! Thanks you for pushing me!

You’re welcome, said the squirrel and he went off to the magnificent acorn and nut feast.

 

The morale of this story is that in order to see the forest, you have to climb a mountain. Or in this case: Don’t be afraid to fly. When you don’t take the ‘risk’, the only thing you see is trees. Climbing a mountain creates the right perspectives and turns trees into a forest.

And there’s no need to be afraid. Everybody’s born with creativity and you will find solutions. The most important thing, is to make the effort to see things in a new perspective. Climbing that mountain may seem straining and tiring, but once you’re on the top, you instantly forget about the tiredness and get tons of energy from the fact that you made the achievement, but mostly from your new point of view.

Happy climbing.

The squirrel and the parrot is part of the World of Beast.