The name's Ben, currently back living in Bogor, Indonesia. I also run a, photoblog and that's all you need to know.

Anonymous asked: Hello Ben. It is very interesting to follow your blog and rara's blog. I won't ask about religion or something related to. I wanna ask about failure. Have you ever failed? How do you tackle failure? Because I see you have a wonderful life. And also how do you make the universe support you? Is it part of your meditation? I hope I could get the answer. Sincerely, Intan

I do have a wonderful life but not because I haven’t experienced all the heart-stabbing negativity that life has to offer but it is because I have chosen, painstakingly chosen, to accept negativity as a part of life and also to see negativity from a positive light as moment to learn and better myself. My life has been riddled with failures, grief, sadness, heartbreaks, regrets, angers, suffering, in essence my life is no different from anyone else. Who am I to be different? I’m just another ordinary human being that likes to eat bananas (which if you are by any chance a vegetarian like me, you should eat more bananas because it’s incredibly high in potassium and people usually get their daily intake of potassium from meat or salmon).

Meditation on the other hand is not about asking to something or someone to support you, if that is the case then it is no different from praying to god or whatever you believe in. Meditation is about detachment and looking for support is clearly not detachment. Meditation is about embracing and being solitary. 

Meditation is about looking into yourself and understanding how you relate to all these negativities that you’ve been hammered by. You can never fully control the world around you. However civil you try to live life something negative will always agitate you. The one thing you can control is how you respond to these negativities. You can either be taken over by anger, be drowned in sadness, and be baffled by grief or you can try to understand these emotions and slowly let it go. I’m not saying it is easy, but it is a worthwhile endeavour in order to live a more joyful life. That I think (correct me if I’m wrong) is one of the many purposes of meditation. It is to look deep into yourself.

Here’s a thought-provoking quote from the Buddha,

"No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path."

The very meaninglessness of life forces man to create his own meaning. Children, of course, begin life with an untarnished sense of wonder, a capacity to experience total joy at something as simple as the greenness of a leaf; but as they grow older, the awareness of death and decay begins to impinge on their consciousness and subtly erode their joie de vivre, their idealism — and their assumption of immortality. As a child matures, he sees death and pain everywhere about him, and begins to lose faith in the ultimate goodness of man. But, if he’s reasonably strong — and lucky — he can emerge from this twilight of the soul into a rebirth of life’s elan. Both because of and in spite of his awareness of the meaninglessness of life, he can forge a fresh sense of purpose and affirmation. He may not recapture the same pure sense of wonder he was born with, but he can shape something far more enduring and sustaining. The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent; but if we can come to terms with this indifference and accept the challenges of life within the boundaries of death — however mutable man may be able to make them — our existence as a species can have genuine meaning and fulfillment. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.

Stanley Kubrick

One of my all-time favourite movie directors.

reorientation of the absurd

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I had my appendix removed about a month ago. Initially it was thought to be a simple appendicitis yet since my appendix turns out had already burst, spilling a plethora of toxic pus into my rather sensitive abdominal cavities, I spent a few extra days in the hospital.

Having submitted my final thesis just a few days prior to my hospital excursion and having almost zero obligations what-so-ever (or perhaps it was just me giving a middle-finger to everything and everyone having completed my thesis), while waiting for my body to heal up a bit I did what I do best and that of course is to think on a few things. 

I started by thinking on how much I disliked hospitals. My initial thought was rather pensive, I played around with the idea that my dislike was due to my realization of the inescapable cycle of life - birth, sickness, ageing, death, all that Buddhist stuff and my inability to cope with the reality of this assured tragedy.

However, after a few days being in the hospital I realized that it was more due to the antibiotics that was given to me which caused excessive amounts of diarrhea, constant nausea and late night vomits. Also here’s one thing I learned by experience, you can actually tear the outer ring of your butthole by having copious amounts of explosive diarrhea. I can assure you pain is inevitable.

The birth and dying part was just me trying to go all spiritual having nothing else to do other than vacantly gaze the celling and contemplate on life..or maybe that was due to the morphine the nurses gave me. Speaking of which, that’s one drug I really like.

Hey, all in the name of health they say.

Putting all this loathing for antibiotics aside, come to think of it I actually enjoyed my short stay at the hospital. I couldn’t really stand up and move around much because you know..I had an operation, although the nurses encouraged me to do exactly just that. So I spent most of the time lying on my bed befriending and talking to the vanilla ceiling. 

Which in fact is just me talking to myself. Meditation was also on my to-do list and that helped ease the pain.

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I was undeniably riddled with anxiety and fear at that time (not that it has fully gone away now), not because of my unexpected ruptured appendix but because I understood that my job in Wellington, New Zealand - land of the long white clouds - is done. I’ve completed my thesis and as my scholarship dictates, once i’m done with the hustle and bustle of my academic life I must return to Indonesia, supposedly to a place I call home.

But home for me is an elusive concept; I’ve been moving around so much throughout my life that this place I call home is just a temporary position to assuage that feeling of insecurity that I get every time I start something new. 

And after living in Wellington for two years, coming back to Indonesia is something entirely new for me. See there’s one thing that people who have been living abroad for some time seldom talk of and that is reintegrating their selves back into a society that is entirely different. The values, the environment, the norms, the food, the people, the everything. 

Now here I am back in Indonesia, trying to slowly have my daily affairs sorted. Setting up a new bank account, applying for my tax number (having my ass hauled to an Indonesian prison for tax evasion is a big no, no), adjusting my self to the chaos of perpetual road rage that one has to endure when driving or taking the public transportation in Indonesia, helping my family on critical matters and of course readjusting myself back to a society that to be honest is at times incredibly exhausting to deal with.

But despite all this, I realize that this is the reality that I have to deal with for now and I see this as nothing more than an opportunity for the betterment of the self, as the self needs constant improvement. What better way than to live in chaos and see how one handles the situation at hand.

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I was walking across the pedestrian bridge the other day doing my usual walks around the city while taking photos and stopped in the middle to view the city below me. If you take time and have yourself just stop and look for a moment, there is a certain madness, an assured absurdity, illogical in many ways, frustration is rife, anger is easily provoked but underneath all that there is so much fragility, insecurity and fear. And if  you look into the eyes of others, you’ll see that everyone is afraid of now, of tomorrow, of life as much as you are. We all have a shared fear for the unknown and that is what makes us all so incredibly fragile and beautiful at the same time.

Time to put all those theories on life, desire and suffering to the test. A much needed dose of contemplative practice and a hint of skepticism should help me ease my confusions.

The synergy between the theories of life, be it spiritual or philosophical or psychological with the practice of living life produces the deconstructing action of experiential wisdom. This I argue is essential in living one’s life. Knowledge that is experienced and that is lived becomes a personal guideline on how to live one’s life, often demolishing our former understandings or convictions of life. A deconstruction followed by a reconstruction of the self.

That is why the theories of life are just as important as the acting of life. If your theories are filled with conformity, irrationality, thoughtlessness, hatred, anger, self-righteousness, self-entitlement, mindless consumption etc, etc then the life that one will carry out will be based on this.

This is why critical literacy is important. It helps us stop for a moment and ask about how life should be carried out or how your life has been carried out all this time. We need to stop and contemplate and ask the necessary questions not about life in general but about our lives. Us, me, the ever elusive, often intangible ‘I’.

But here’s the catch, one can also be too deep in intellectual knowledge that one forgets to actually live life, preventing us to obtain this much-needed, self-acquired wisdom. As John Milton puts it, “deep versed in books and shallow in himself.”

So I guess for me the next logical step is to ask the simple yet daunting question of ‘what is next?’ The question, I assume, is harmless, but the answer and the need of an actualization of the answer is probably the reason why it is so daunting to begin with.

Because of this, the question is usually accompanied by a hint of existential crisis, fear, anxiety and probably a barrage of other destructive emotions that eclipses the ability to view the probability of something positive that might come out of being brave in acting on what I want in life.

To answer ‘what is next?’ is to sorely contemplate on what I want or what I need in life now. My two years in Wellington became more of a spiritual journey rather than a mere academic one. Receiving a master’s degree is incredibly minor and insignificant when compared to the knowledge that I have gained about myself throughout my stay there. Paraphrasing my lovely brother, there is no correlation between the title and the human being. What I have ultimately learned and gained is the intricate and self-obtained knowledge of the self.

With this, I know what I need and want in life now. There is a self-assured certainty that I have a never felt before. The only issue that I see capable of stopping me in doing what I must do is fear. As I know that this path that I will and must take is a personal and lonely one. And loneliness is a fertile field to grow fear and self-doubt.

It’s funny how once one keeps on relentlessly searching for this elusive, intangible thing called happiness, what one finds is even more sadness. I now realize that both are inseparable, like conjoined twins with one beating heart. To embrace one is to embrace both and to neglect one is to neglect both. I wish to look into to this. To seriously, personally and wholeheartedly look at both the ecstasy and tragedy that life brings forth and how I relate to all this.

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But why such an absurd wish, Ben? 

While I was writing this, Rara called me and frantically informed me that her grandmother just passed away.  To hear someone’s lost is to not only immediately and automatically reflect on my own personal exposure to loss and grief but also have a shared understanding on the suffering she has to undergo as grief takes hold of her. There is nothing I can do but give her comfort and warmth through my presence and my words but I do so with the understanding that both my presence and my words can only go so far. As it is her that can only give full comfort and warmth to herself.

Looking at all this, I might seem to have a rather ludicrous wish but after encountering loss, fear, anxiety, extreme self-doubt, grief, sadness and suffering not only from my own experience but also seeing the experiences of others life is indeed not only blindingly harsh but also undeniably absurd.

With this understanding, the reason I want to now seriously look into life is because I see no other way to make sense of the absurdity of life. 

Life is indeed absurd, that I’m afraid is an undeniable and irrefutable fact.

The Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation

(via purplebuddhaproject)

You can’t find intimacy—you can’t find home—when you’re always hiding behind masks. Intimacy requires a certain level of vulnerability. It requires a certain level of you exposing your fragmented, contradictory self to someone else. You’re running the risk of having your core self rejected and hurt and misunderstood.
Junot Diaz (via creatingaquietmind)

(via teachingliteracy)

Anonymous asked: Based upon your answer before, I agreed that the marriage of religion and ego becomes nothing more than a catalyst for self-destruction. But Ben, what will you do when you feel really pressured and exhausted cause of your problem or something? Oh, by the way my name is Wina. And you have really great blog, Ben.

When does a problem become a problem? When we silently reject it and say “I want happiness not problems!”But if you’re able to see and understand that life is nothing but a series of positivities and negativities,  ups and downs, then problems are nothing but a part of your normal daily life. Then you can find solutions without the constant dependence on religion.

Psychologically speaking, religion is indeed soothing and helps you calm yourself down in order to help you better solve the problem, but it doesn’t really solve the problem does it?

ratihandayani asked: Halo Ben, aku baca posting kamu soal everything in between. Kalokamu berpikir akan kematin terus-menerus, apakah mempengaruhi living your life kamu to the fullest? Misalnya, jadi gak mencintai sesuatu karena takut pada akhirnya nanti akan berakhir (dengan kematian). Menurutku, kehidupan itu sendiri adalah titipan, yang bisa setiap saat diambil oleh pemiliknya :) semoga kamu bisa share sesuatu, Ben. Trims.

Halo Ratih,

Mungkin tidak sebaliknya, kita semakin ‘live to the fullest’ dengan menerima kematian?

Dengan memikirkan kematian dan menerima bahwa kematian itu sebuah hal yang nyata bukan sekedar pemahaman intelektual semata, mungkinkah kita dapat menyadari fananya dan semunya hidup ini? Bahwa hidup yang kita jalani sekarang, dengan segala kesedihan, amarah, sakit hati, ketakutan, musibah yang kita alami, kebahagiaan, cinta dan segala sesuatu yang indah bukan hanya sekedar fana namun juga semu? Bahwa dengan kematian segala sesuatu yang kita inginkan dan rasakan sesungguhnya tak ada artinya? Rasa kesedihan yang kamu rasakan ketika diputusin pacar, atau amarah yang kamu rasakan ketika dibohongin teman, rasa takut ketika menuntut hak kita atau kebahagiaan yang kita nikmati ketika lulus kuliah, semua perasaan adalah fana.

Dengan menyadari bahwa diri kita akan mati dan bahwa hidup adalah suatu yang sangat rapuh dan singkat, kita akan dengan mudah melalui segala sesuatu yang kita rasakan.  Menyadari bahwa hidup terlalu singkat untuk kita pasrah dalam kesedihan, terbayang-bayang oleh ketakutan, atau menggenggam erat sebuah amarah dan dendam atau bahkan terlarut dan terbutakan dalam kebahagiaan. 

Selama ini kita terlalu banyak hidup dalam sebuah perasaan dan terlarut dalam perasaan-perasaan tersebut dan mengakibatkan diri kita untuk lupa akan hidup. Bahwa kebahagiaan yang kita rasakan adalah sementara dan semu, bahwa amarah yang kita genggam tak ada artinya, bahwa tangisan dan kesedihan yang kita rasakan menghambat kita untuk melangkah maju.

Menyadari bahwa diri kita akan mati adalah sebuah berkah karena dengan kesadaran tersebut kita juga akan menyadari bahwa segala sesuatu sekeliling kita juga akan mati dan musnah. Orang tua kita, teman-teman kita, hewan peliharaan kita, bunga yang telah tanam di kebun, gunung yang kita pernah daki, rumah yang pernah kita tinggali. Tidak ada yang abadi di dunia ini. Dengan menyadari bahwa segala sesuatu yang kita cintai akan mati atau musnah, kita pada akhirnya menyadari akan apa yang penting dan apa yang tidak penting. Dan tentunya menggenggam amarah ke orang tua atau teman menjadi sangat tidak penting.

So when you ask what love is, you may be too frightened to see the answer. It may mean complete upheaval; it may break up the family; you may discover that you do not love your wife or husband or children - do you? - you may have to shatter the house you have built, you may never go back to the temple.

But if you still want to find out, you will see that fear is not love, dependence is not love, jealousy is not love, possessiveness and domination are not love, responsibility and duty are not love, self-pity is not love, the agony of not being loved is not love, love is not the opposite of hate any more than humility is the opposite of vanity.

So if you can eliminate all these, not by forcing them but by washing them away as the rain washes the dust of many days from a leaf, then perhaps you will come upon this strange flower which man always hungers after.

Jiddu Krishnamurti

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Luminate Festival 2013.

Seven days of camping filled with loving, beautiful people, workshops on meditation, yoga, tai chi, chakra healing, permaculture, organic gardening, and lots of other fabulous amazing things.

I’ll see you again in 2019.

zenpencils:

EDGAR MITCHELL - A global consciousness

Anonymous asked: Menurut saya sih Ben, kalau kamu paling tidak beragama kamu pasti akan terselesaikan masalah-masalah yang kamu alami. Lagipula menurut saya kamu adalah manusia yang sangat sombong dengan tidak keinginanmu untuk beragama. Inget hidup kamu setelah di bumi ini akan ada surga dan neraka.

Kalau kamu memang membutuhkan sebuah agama dan sebuah konsep ketuhanan dalam hidup kamu untuk menjalani hidup kamu secara menyeluruh ya silahkan. Itu menjadi hak kamu karena kamu memang membutuhkan hal itu.

Seharusnya bukan bagaimana seseorang menjalani sebuah hubungan vertikal (kita dan Tuhan) yang dipermasalahkan namun hubungan horizontal, antar manusia yang harus kita bicarakan. Menghargai dan mengerti sesama dan bukan sekedar hanya mentoleransi sesama. Apa gunanya toleransi jika kita melihat diri kita sebagai manusia yang lebih superior dari orang-orang yang berbeda dengan kita? Apa gunanya manusia yang beragama jika hanya digunakan untuk memberi makan ego kita masing-masing? 

Apakah kita dapat bergerak melampaui toleransi dan menerima bahwa kita pada dasarnya menyembah Tuhan yang sama? Atau apakah dengan agama kita semakin hidup dalam kotak ego kita masing-masing dan berpegang teguh bahwa saya berbeda dan saya “lebih” dari yang lain? Saya dan umat sayalah yang akan diselamatkan dan mereka tidak.

The problem of ego and its relationship with personal religious salvation is crucial in an individual’s personal religious discourse but is often so far and seldomly self thought of that it becomes an invisible cancer that rots you from within. The marriage of religion and ego becomes nothing more than a catalyst for self-destruction.

Progresivitas kita sebagai manusia bukan hanya berlandaskan agama namun kompetensi kita dalam memahami pentingnya hubungan antar manusia dengan cara yang beradab. Cara kita menggunakan agama dilandasi oleh hal ini.

Jika kita memiliki landsan menghormati sesama manusia termasuk yang berbeda maka interpretasi kita akan agama kita akan sejalan dengan hal ini. Juga sebaliknya, jika kita melihat manusia yang berbeda sebagai sebuah ancaman maka kita akan menggunakan agama untuk menjustifikasi hal itu. Moralitas dan keinginan kita untuk hidup damai bukan berasal dari agama tapi telah ada dalam diri kita masing-masing namun begitu juga dengan ego, amarah, kesedihan, dll. Disinilah peran agama sebagai pengingat bahwa kita membutuhkan kehidupan yang damai jika kita ingin kebahagiaan dan jika kita ingin memajukan manusia secara menyeluruh.

Mungkin pertanyaan terakhir dari saya buat kamu adalah dapatkah kita sebagai manusia menyadari dan melampaui ego kita masing-masing dengan agama? Karena menurut saya pribadi peran agama menjadi hampa jika kita dengan mudah mengutuk orang lain yang berbeda dengan kita dan jika tujuan kita beragama hanya mencari keselamatan kita masing-masing.

Lalu apa ya..tadi mau nulis tambahan lagi tapi lupa ey haha

The problem with our life does not lie in the individual circumstances or occurrences of our day-to-day existence. It’s not that they’re inherently meaningless and boring. The problem is that we make them meaningless and boring; because we are so invested in maintaining our own sense of self, we actually don’t relate to anything in a direct way. Unwilling to fully live the life that is arriving in our bodies moment by moment, we find ourselves left with no real life at all.
Reggie Ray

"A tribute to the art and her disarming beauty."

Directed by Rino Stefano Tagliafierro

Duration: 9’49”

Lithographs by Edvard Munch

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