I have been around since 1952. At my secondary school, at the end of the sixties, in a clear moment I came to the determination: Life is a jungle. But let me try to learn two things here at school: writing and speaking. In learning to write I succeeded satisfactorily enough, but speaking actually I did not learn at all. During the next years study (language) and work seldom got the best out of me and the wish to learn to speak shifted to the background. (Besides: About what would I like to speak? Where? With whom? To whom? In what context?) There should be more. Increasingly it became clear that there was an ‘inside’ where I might look better to. But what was looking?
In 1980 I came to know the Buddhist way of looking (Vipassana meditation). What the Buddha taught, to my surprise, proved to be a very practical psychology, which seemed to have the potential to answer all my questions. A new surge of study and education (among others Neuro Linguistic Programming - NLP – with Anné Linden) work and friendship (including the Dutch teacher Dhammawiranatha) – these were the happiest years of my life. By the end of the eighties it had become clear to me that the wish to speak referred to the Buddha’s teaching, and my teacher stimulated me to make a start with some teaching. This in its turn provoked a sincere wish to necessitate further deepening.
Seen in retrospect in 1990 I made the biggest mistake of my life by not going to Burma for some period to practice, but by letting myself be convinced to develop myself in my own country in our own centre, under the guidance of the Dutch teacher. I even became a monk, which I had never aspired to and which also afterwards I never felt was quite appropriate for me. Full time life in Buddhayana, a community of monks, nuns and lay people, which had seemed promising from outward, proved to be a prison or even a hell. And I didn’t understand why, and was of the opinion that the cause could only be in myself. These were the unhappiest years of my life – not constantly of course, there were some fruitful periods.
Eventually in 2001 I felt able enough to quit. Then, in a very short period of time, came to light what had been under the surface for many many years. The only thing the teacher could do was to let himself be sent away by his students.
From 2007 onwards I was able to uplift my life with Buddha-Dhamma again. The English monk Bhante Bodhidhamma put me on the track of the German U Vivekananda. Subsequently of my own accord from Winter 2012-13 on I went every year for 60 days to the Burmese teacher Sayadaw U Pandita (1921 – 2016). His expertise I considered as unsurpassed. The one who thinks 60 days to Burma is too much, can be served more than once a year in Belgium with teachers who studied and practiced under his guidance, or in Manchester, UK.
In practicing and spreading mindfulness and related faculties – notably (intuitive) wisdom and compassion – now I finally feel a happy part of a larger whole. With that I refer also to Jon Kabat-Zinn and others, who developed the 8-week mindfulness training, and thereby made this ancient – and to me already so long familiar – range of ideas more accessible to many.
Warmth and enthusiasm are qualities of mine, aloofness is one too. (To me this beautiful English word has more to do with ‘coolness’ than with distance.) Just this combination I think is part of my authenticity, of what I can experience both privately and in work. Yoga and jogging (since two years Chi Running) have their own place in my daily life.
Since 2011 I conducted 5-days Vipassana meditation retreats, with beginners (‘You know more than you think!’). From 2015 also, yearly in the UK, in Bhante Bodhidhamma’s centre. As from April 2016 Sayadaw U Pandita is no longer there, I feel a greater responsibility to acquire his unsurpassed knowledge and to share this with others.
Concerning learning to speak: after my first retreat in Wales/England in 2015, a young participant remarked: ‘Your English is so accurate, it is even better than my English.’ I had to smile a little bit and answered that it was the accuracy of the Dhamma. But in myself I saw confirmed that I had made progress with the ambition of my early days – thanks to the Dhamma indeed.