Anyone who sees me regularly today knows that I’m usually in a very good mood. Of course this isn’t always the case and I’m a master at hiding it, even from myself. I always have been and so for a very long time I didn’t admit that I wasn’t happy. Of course people saw me smile all the time, but on the inside I wasn’t truly happy, never actually satisfied. This depressing state of mind has stuck with me for almost a decade and it took me a long and exhausting fight to get rid of it.
One could argue that it was just teenage hormones acting up, but I wouldn’t agree. My age certainly was a big factor in my depression, but there was something much larger going on and that was, I didn’t want to live.
Now you might be wondering whether I was suicidal, but no I wasn’t. I did have plenty of suicidal thoughts, but I knew I would never do it. I could never do that to the people I loved. Also, there was always this little voice that whispered; “Better times are coming. Just hold on a little while longer.”. It stuck with me, even though living seemed absolutely pointless to me. Gladly I found a lot of fun things to do. I had plenty of great friends who helped me distract myself from the darkness. I had a wonderful, loving and supportive family and all the richness of growing up in a first world country, but yet nothing ever fulfilled me. In trying to fill this void I went on to smoking weed, which distracted me for another while. It helped to numb the pain of everyday existential boredom, but it was never enough.
Despite having an excellent memory and being a great learner I wasn’t ambitious at all. And why should I have been? To get a good job where I work my ass off 40 hours a week and get a nice house and kids? It all seemed very dull to me. Where’s the adventure in that? But more importantly, how could I make a decision on the future if I don’t know who I am? How does anyone go through life without being happy first? Why am I even here?
I seemed to ponder over these questions more than anything else. And after I tried our education system and found out that there was absolutely no way that it would make me happy, my real journey began.
“In order to know the light, we must first experience the darkness.”
Run Boy Run
At the age of 20 I was heavily addicted to weed, gaming, hanging out with friends and smoking. Basically anything which distracted me from the pain I felt inside. To those who knew me around that time it might not have been apparent at all, but that was only because I wasn’t aware of these things myself.
At some point I got so fed up with life that I knew something had to change. I was about to quit my second study and all I did was blame myself. Thoughts kept creeping in on how I was a disappointment to my family and society or on how all the time and energy I had spent on smoking weed I could’ve spent on becoming successful.
Yeah, this might have been true, but what I didn’t accept was that I wasn’t able to do so yet. Surely some people think that if I pulled myself together I would have made it, but frankly I’m glad I didn’t. Because if it wasn’t for the suffering, self-pity and over-indulgence of narcotic substances I wouldn’t have been where I am today. I wouldn’t have known who I am. I would have still been walking around with a mask on, trying to conform to a world which was never really mine.
I realised that the first thing I had to do to escape this self-destructive spiral was to leave the country. Two of my best friends, Ruud and Tom, had asked me to come work in Austria with them, but it wasn’t certain whether they had a room and work for me yet. Nevertheless my parents drove me there for a short holiday and luck was on my side. Ruuds colleague was forced to leave the country and I was able to move into his room the day my parents had to go back. Perfect timing.
“You cannot heal in the same environment where you got sick.”
A New Chapter
So, there I was in a foreign country with new people and at the start of a new chapter in life. I didn’t have easy access to weed anymore, but I certainly didn’t solve the problem by leaving. Like any real addict would do is simply replace one addiction for another and so I went on to drinking alcohol.
The work at the ski rental was physically exhausting and we only had one day a week off. Unfortunately for me and my friend it was never the same day. I didn’t like it at first. All I had achieved was to trade one boring everyday drag for another. Luckily I was in a beautiful environment with lots of snow and mountains and due to our work schedule I got to spend a lot of time alone.
On most of my days I would spent hours walking through the valleys, enjoying the warmth of the sun and the fascinating sweetness of my surroundings. It were those moments that brought me back to center and where I started to appreciate life for what it is. All of a sudden I felt grateful for where life had brought me and my addictive personality didn’t seem to bother me all that much anymore.
Meanwhile me and my friend had some of the greatest times working together. Some days were absolute hell for anyone who dislikes crowded places that smell like dead men’s feet. But in the midst of that awful tragedy there was my friend who had the ability to turn it into a hilarious comedy. Thank you, dear Ruud. You’ve been a lifesaver more times than I can remember.
After the work in Austria was over me and Ruud decided to take it one step further. Instead of working we should travel together. Gladly so, because I had just started my process of healing and this became clear when I came back to the Netherlands where I picked up on my old habits in no time.
For about half a year we worked to save money and along the way another great friend, Giovanni, decided to join us on our adventure. Our first stop, Nepal.
“Jobs fill your pockets. Adventures fill your soul.”
My View Right Now
I always seemed to think that I hated life, didn’t want to live, hated the world we lived in and hated the fact that people were loveless and uncompassionate, but to my surprise I found it was the other way around.
I loved life, probably a little too much, but the love was only partial. I only loved the parts of it that were compelling to me. I loved smoking weed. I loved being numbed down. Why? Not because I didn’t want to live. No, because I didn’t want to die. I didn’t want to change. I didn’t want those parts of ‘me’ to die, because that way I wouldn’t have to take responsibility for all the things that I didn’t like and for the kind of people that I didn’t like.
So it was me that was loveless and uncompassionate. Not for everyone, but for myself and for those that didn’t fit in my ‘loveable people’ category. And even some of the people that I did like had become alienated from me, because I was too busy digging this whole depressing story for myself. And you know what? None of it was true.
The story I had made in my head on how I was just a failure and depressed person was total horseshit. And even though I didn’t feel happy and I felt depressed, that still doesn’t make it true. It was all just a story, a figment of imagination. I created it because I didn’t allow to see myself for who I was. All I was doing was comparing myself to the person that I thought I had to become, but didn’t love myself for the person I was at that time.
I thought I was broken, but the Truth was, I was confused and uninspired. Did I have myself to blame for it? Yes partly, but most of it was just because of a lack of essential information that I needed to know in order to be happy. And honestly, society didn’t really offer me that information or the kind of persons that really inspired me yet.
The necessary information about life I only acquired when I went travelling and had the time and space to discover who I was. I was finally ready to ask the questions that had haunted me for years.
Who am I?
What is Reality?
What will make me happy?
Why am I here?
To my surprise I found that all these questions had the same answer.
“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”
A Magical Guide
I was raised an agnostic atheist and our education system further embodied that paradigm within me, so you can imagine it wasn’t an easy or straightforward conclusion for me to find God. It happened in steps, which started as a very rational and empirical search for answers.
When I first started travelling I began to wonder, how come that so often when I think about something the next moment it happens? For example, I would think about a particular kind of person and at that exact moment he or she gives me a call. Of course I thought it all was coincidence at first, but after about a 100 times I started to wonder whether coincidence actually exists.
I went on to ask the question; “Do my thoughts have influence on the outside world?”. And to my surprise magical ‘coincidences’ started to happen. The book someone just told me about I found at a random sandwich shop. We wanted to work on a farm and the owner of our hotel suggested it to us without us asking. We wanted to go to a festival and on the very same day we met a group of travellers with a DJ that were about to go to a PsyTrance festival.
Of course it sounds like it’s all just a matter of chance. It surely is, but after a while I scrapped the word ‘Coincidence’ from my dictionary and replaced it with the word ‘Synchronicity’. Perhaps it would be better to call it ‘Determinism’, but that’s a whole other topic to write about.
As my travels went on I went deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole of who and what we are. I experimented with daily meditation sessions and had some extraordinary results. On some days I would send out a request to meet a specific kind of person like a teacher or a particular kind of friend. And undoubtedly it would happen.
After a while all my previously held beliefs about the world were shattered. I finally admitted to myself that I knew nothing, which ironically enough is the best fundament for someone to build on. It opened up the doorway to infinite possibilities. No longer the world was black and white. Distinctions between the inside and the outside world started to disappear. I found myself guided by a magical force who helped me to be at the perfect spot at the perfect time, every time.
“When it is all finished, you will discover that it was never random.”
On one specific afternoon in Bangkok, days before I went on to travel alone and do a Vipassana silent meditation retreat, something happened that to this day I have trouble talking about. Not because I don’t want to or because I know it’s hard to believe me, but simply because what happened to me is almost impossible to put into words.
I was meditating and listening to one of Bentinho Massaro’s guided meditations. At one moment I was sitting on my bed and the next I was nowhere at all. I didn’t feel my body anymore. At this point a million things happened. I began to experience infinitely many lives at once. This didn’t feel like imagination. It felt like memory, universal memory. I actually felt like being all these lives at the same time. I felt all of the suffering, death and pain. Millions of people and beings died by the hand of ‘another’, which turned out to be Me. It was Me. I was the root cause for all of the suffering in the world. I killed, raped and tortured those people. I nailed Jesus to the cross.
I cried for hours and I couldn’t stop crying until I had had a very long phone call with my mom. I should say, I was entirely sober when this happened. One might say I imagined it, but I know that isn’t the case. You know God when you see Him, even though I didn’t give Him that name at the time. Right now, I know that these experiences are called mystical experiences and they happen to everyone who is ready to receive it. But back then, I had no clue what happened to me.
The experience raised all kinds of questions and made me curious. This led me to do a silent meditation retreat for 12 days. I hated it at first. I wasn’t allowed to eat after 11 in the morning. Not allowed to talk, write, read, smoke, use my phone or draw. All I wanted to do was leave, but I promised myself I would finish. I wanted to know who I was.
It was hell. My mind wouldn’t shut up; “Can’t we just leave already? I really really need food. I need to smoke. I need to talk to someone.”. After 3 full days of fighting myself I couldn’t take it anymore. I promised myself to do one final sit for 35 minutes without moving an inch and perhaps I would leave the next day. I pulled through, went to bed and woke up terribly sick. I was throwing up and was feverish, but it was a blessing. Because for the first time since I had arrived I was too tired to fight myself. The next day I woke up I was entirely fit and another miracle followed. As I was sitting peacefully and mindfully, I slowly felt something lifting me. It was like a huge hand of light lifted me up. I had my eyes closed, but the light I was seeing was so bright it was unbearable. I lost sense of my body again and I felt a sense of joy, happiness and love unlike anything I felt before. Coming back down, I found myself crying again, but this time it wasn’t because of all the suffering I created in the world. It was because I finally found the happiness I was looking for and the answer to all of my problems. There never was a problem. There was never a me to even have a problem. There was only God and there always has been.
The next days followed with hundreds of memories and insights. Memories that I had forgotten about. Insights that I never wanted to admit. The whole world had turned upside down, or better said inside out. All of the people and experiences I blamed for who I was shifted into a feeling of responsibility to heal these parts of myself. During these days I’ve had countless of dreams of alternative realities wherein for example my mother died of cancer. From the diagnosis to the funeral I lived the entire way through it, only to find myself waking up in a bed covered in tears.
When I finally left the monastery after 12 days I had experienced such a huge variety of feelings and insights that I couldn’t take it anymore. I picked up smoking the very same day and continued living as I normally would have, but there was one major difference and that was that I was no longer a stranger and afraid in a world I never made. I knew that under the surface, I created all of it, the entire world, Universe, its misery and its joy. Not person me, but the other side of the coin, God. And I learned that everything happens exactly the way it’s supposed to.
“I searched for God
And found only myself.
I searched for myself
And found only God.”
The Beginning Of The End
You might think this was the end of the story, but it was only the beginning. In the months that passed I had countless miracles happen to me. Some of which I can hardly remember. Gladly memory was not the point. The point was to embody these realisations in my life. To actually feel this infinite sense of love all the time and have it perpetuate in everything I do is a whole other ballgame and this is something I try to work on every single day.
I’ve spent the past two years deepening my connection to God. And weirdly enough I never even called Him that. I called Him the Universe or the Source. The trouble I was facing is that in our culture God has been imaged as a man who controls everything, the omnipotent man in the sky. And so I rejected the word God. Because what I found is so infinite that descriptions become obsolete. What I found is imageless, formless, breathtakingly beautiful and absolutely beyond words. It took me a while to figure out that this is what people really referred to when using His name. Of course we have to use images to talk about what He is like, but like the idea of a table is not the table, the idea of God is not Him.
How can I say what can never possibly be said? How can I describe the absence of all distinctions? How can I tell you who He is when I can only tell you what He is not? The moment I use words to describe Him I divide. I create a duality, and He is the absence of duality. He is One and in this way no images or words will ever suffice.
Luckily I don’t need to describe Him. You are experiencing Him right now, do you see? Perhaps if you do, at some point you will find your skin is not the boundary of you. The body is only a vehicle for you to experience your own creation. This is also why you might not agree with me, because if you were to realise that you are God that might ruin the game you’re playing, of being this particular person. Although if you were to trust me and trust your inner guide, your life will become more miraculous than you could’ve ever imagined.
I’ve spent years looking for happiness, but the moment I quit looking I found it. It was always here and it never left me. Happiness is a very misleading idea, because real happiness doesn’t mean being happy all the time. It means living fully. It means allowing every emotion and everything to run through you. It means to be accepting of all that there is. And then you find that happiness is nothing more than an illusion and the thing you were looking for was Peace. If you aren’t happy right now, it’s because you want don’t want to be. Why? Maybe because the bitterness you face now makes the next part all the sweeter.
Through all of this I realised that happiness is not something you find. It is something you create. And so, my quest for happiness ended where it began. It never existed. It was nothing but a story and I imagined all of it. It might seem like the journey was for nothing, but of course it wasn’t, because the journey was the goal.
And now, I would love to imagine another story. A story wherein I might inspire some people to realise who they are. A story in which more people realise that we are all one and the same, that every single thing in existence is part of our own body. And in this way we can start to love everyone as ourselves.
Are you with me?
“I don’t rise from the ashes, I make them. I’m the whole fucking fire.”
~Erin Van Vuren