A few weeks ago, I was honored to host a call with Jolanda van den Berg. Jolanda had a traumatic event 5 years ago that catalyzed a complete awakening from the form into the formless–she saw how her identity was an illusion:
“So what I saw 5 years ago, that the Jolanda character was really never there. That is the illusion of existence, you could say. It defines you, so you can never define the other way around. It is too complicated. It is not only too complicated, it is impossible. Why I didn’t speak for 5 years because it is a story in a story. So if people think that it happened to me, that is not true. Because what you see is that there was never a person experiencing anything. So the words that come out of me are just coming out without me doing anything. But as a person we believe that we are talking, but there is just talking, to say it like that. Whatever that is, is it.”
Being in the presence (over Zoom) with Jolanda was indescribable. I couldn’t really grasp intellectually what she experienced, but at the end of the call, I felt a lightness of being and a joy beyond words. So many things Jolanda shared with us that day stayed with me:
- For me love means everything that seems to appear. That means love for me. So the one you are with in this moment, the seemingly one you are with, is your biggest lover. That can be a cake, that can be your wife, that can be the sun. That is what love is for me. Or that can be a thought or the sadness of someone you lost that you are still identified with. There is only love for me.
- From a personal perspective it feels like you have to reach something or you have to change something or you have to be someone or whatever. In my perspective, everything that seems to come in the picture is what I am, you could say. And without that I wouldn’t even exist or even imagine that I exist. It is fascinating. You become the fascination itself.
- Beauty for me is the same like a feeling. For me there is nothing more beautiful when someone is falling through her/himself. There is the identification as a person and then when someone fall out of identification, then you see the beauty. And that is the same beauty as the light in the trees at 5:30 in the afternoon. And that is the same beauty of seeing someone in love with whatever there is. It is all the same beauty for me. For me it was always nice bringing people together and just being there. No one has to be special or not special, everything is just what it is. And that is beauty for me.
- Enjoy life. That is the most beautiful thing we can be for each other. Just be open and loving. That is the most beautiful thing you can do. I think everything is perfect exactly the way it is, so I don’t have wishes in that sense.
After the official interview ended, Jolanda stayed on the line with a few of us. I asked her about pain, since I just had a rough night with neuropathy pain. Here is what she said:
Then I would say, your name is pain. How life presents itself in that moment is by pain. And somehow if you see it like that, then you can even be happy– because without that pain you wouldn’t even exist.
It’s completely opposite of the personal identification. If you can wake up in that pain and see the love in even the pain then nothing in life can pull you from the lightness.
Who is this woman? I felt deep wisdom in this approach to pain. Pain as life’s presence in the moment, so that we might even see the love in the pain. I can’t really understand this statement, but I can feel it. Now when I have pain, I try to remind myself that this is my aliveness for the moment.
Later, another volunteer told Jolanda about my diagnosis. Jolanda sent an email and invited me and another cancer patient to sit in dialogue with her (which we scheduled for July 17th, so stay tuned.) In her email, Jolanda shifted my perspective again:
…I noticed that especially with people who are identified with life and death themes, to call it like that, can use some neutral energy, someone who doesn’t see them as “that person with cancer” but just a person as a story, like we all are. I think there is so much projection on seemingly sickness, pain and death, especially from the people who are not sick. The only thing I know is that I build a whole fantasy world out of fear, without knowing, and that night when it all fell away, you could call it dying, after the first part, hours of extreme pain of a mix of physical and emotional, and then, that last incredible feeling of being taken over like a free fall was the most wonderful feeling I ever experiences ever and worth all the pain, like after giving birth to your child. That was for me like an extra present and therefore its impossible not to feel that, also, when I hear stories about dying, because it feels like they are the chosen ones for me. Like I know the birthday present that is waiting for them because in that very moment of the free fall all comes together where we never really were. And of course I can see also from a personal perspective that pain and dying is quite the opposite. Soooo, Im very honored to meet the chosen ones, which we all are of course in my world of no beginnings nor ends.
So grateful for this guidance and love that has entered my life through the back door. Just another gift that cancer has dropped on my doorstep.