Influencer Dolph van Stapele

Interview December 2020

Could you share with us some information of your family life
I was born in Amsterdam and came to Curaçao 25 years ago when I was in the Marine Corps in 1996. I come from a big family. My parents had two children, one brother and myself. My parents divorced and my father got remarried, and from his side I have three other brothers and one sister. From my mother’s side I also have another brother. We all get along very well. My mother came to live in Curaçao one year after I came to Curaçao and she still lives here. The rest of the family lives in Amsterdam and its surroundings.

How important were you parents for you in who you have become now?
My parents are very nice people. I am fortunate to have had the freedom to do what I wanted to do under their parental guidance.

Could you share something of your eductional background and your experiences?
We lived in the Middle East, in Bahrein from the age of two until I was six. There I only spoke English. Back in Holland I quickly had to learn to speak proper Dutch. Once I was in high school, I had to work hard, the good grades didn’t come easy. When I was in my last year I quit school to enlist and I became a marine. I stayed in the Marine Corps for 1,5 to 2 years. I had a good time and wanted to stay longer, because to me, it was the best thing to do and be, but I didn’t fit very well in the army culture. So when I quit the marine I approached a camera man who was working for TV-11 to teach me his profession in 3 days, and it was during these 3 days I really discovered my passion. So, it is in Curaçao that I learned this profession when I was 21 years old. Most people know me from this area of my expertise.

Where does your interest come from to be an entrepreneur and to invest in a spiritual center, can you tell us more about this?
From a young age, I was interested in the deeper questions of life. I had questions about the essence of life, I asked myself what the truth was, and about the purpose of life. I was disappointed in adulthood, because I was led to believe that growing older equaled being wiser. But it became clear to me that this not the case. I witnessed a lot of suffering around me on an individual level, but also on a societal level and even on a global scale.

This triggered me to dig deeper and study these philosophical matters and questions like ‘what are the choices that we as humans have?’. This wasn’t easy by the way, but eventually I found the Indian Buddhist traditions with their gurus and wise men. There I found answers that made sense to me. So, I found a teacher in Holland and got involved in this mighty process of existential questions and answers that I had been looking for. This personal spiritual quest started in the beginning of the year 2000 and mind you, I was working in the film industry, which in itself is not an industry that is based on spirituality in any form. So I kept this practice to myself. The corona crisis accelerated certain choices. The consciousness of people has changed.

Do you believe that corona came into the world to elevate the consciousness in the world?
No, I don’t think so. I think it has generated an increased consciousness as an outcome and effect, but it was not the reason. I believe reasons are created by people. This is exactly the beauty of these philosophical questions and answers. Everything we think of, at some point originated from a human perspective. The cosmos itself is also a human construct, just like every reason we can think of.

The lockdown, social distancing and everything around corona did help me to evolve and put my spiritual awareness more on the forefront of my life. We as human beings have become too dependent on external things. This means that every setback or dip we go through is hard. We have become so dependent on the system we live in, that we are unable to do the most simple of things. The corona crisis can actually make us stronger. We can free ourselves from the limiting perceptions we believed to be true up till now. We can learn to make our own food, we can learn to survive when push comes to shove and to live our life independent of the illusion of certainties that we as a society have created for ourselves.

We have known you to organize Satsangs on a regular basis and we understand you have started a spiritual center. Can you expand a little bit on this?
Yes, my girlfriend and I started an ashram recently. Ashrams originated in India. An ashram is a cultural historic place where one can receive the wisdom of the teacher and deepen spirituality and awareness. It is a place where one can practice Buddhism. People who are interested in enlightenment can visit and deepen their spiritual journey. I am a practitioner of the Advaita Vendanta tradition that is fundamentally based on the non-duality principle. Why not start an ashram here in Curaçao? Twenty years ago there was no where I could go. So, we felt that this was the time to offer those on their path to spiritual enlightenment, a place where they can go and be.
Visit and have a look around.

I have been on my spiritual journey since the year 2010. After all these years I realized that I didn’t have any questions left in my spiritual journey, and it took quite some time before I started to share my knowledge of Zen and Advaita Vedanta and I started organizing Satsangs which literally means “to be close to the truth”, and is a reflection on our true nature.

We started in August with our retreats, offering introduction retreats to Zen Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta. The program includes meditation, shared meals, alone time and of course the main ingredient the Satsangs. Besides the retreats, we are open to those invested in their spiritual path. Ashram Curaçao is located on the premises of Dinah Veeris’s Herb Garden. We were looking for a place in the area of Fuik, so we went to see Dinah. After presenting our idea with her, she offered us to start the ashram there and it is indeed an excellent place for the ashram. There are apartments available and by teaming up we are making full use of the potential of this venue. We recently planted a mini-food forest where we grow herbs, vegetables and fruit.

You are also involved in filming, as it is also your passion. Could you expand a little bit on this part of your life?
The filming has been something totally separate from the spiritual side of me. I have kept them separately on purpose. the film industry is all about outward appearances. While self-reflection and spiritual exploration is an inside job. For many people, this is hard to grasp. I was doing the Satsangs on the side.

In the beginning, we had 5 to 10 people attending our Satsangs in Advaita Vendata. I was offering this to people who were looking for answers. The past years I came more in the open with the Satsangs. I also started coaching people. I have noticed a growth in consciousness. People are trying to find and discover themselves, as they feel alienated from a society that is so focused on external things in live. So this was the moment to start with the Ashram. Covid -19 has made people aware of restlessness that was already there. A lot of people have mental issues and they are looking for mental stability and more inner peace. The demand for this is growing and the taboo on this subject matter is being broken as we speak. 20 years ago you were hesitant to share that you were meditating and/or doing yoga. Nowadays, companies offer this to their employees and everybody is doing it in the morning.

Spiritual awareness is growing because there is a bigger need for it. This we notice at the Ashram also, as there is a lot of interest for it. Not necessary for the philosophical side of it but just the place where they can go for their inner peace.

The flipside of the corona crisis is that the artistic world in the world has collapsed. My income out of filming has lowered to around 10 to 20% of what I was earning before the corona crisis.

I have noticed that when things are moving forward and there is prosperity on the outside everything seems to work and if there is a crisis everything collapses. We have experienced such a prosperous era in the past 100 years and now we have to be aware that the coming 100 years, there will be more crises like the corona crisis and that we will have to deal with one way or the other.

For myself before the corona crisis I had a lifestyle, where I had enough to pay my bills, my refrigerator was full and I had my Harley Davidson. As a filmer and entrepreneur in Curaçao for the past 20 years, the future was unpredictable. It was tough at times and my income was irregular. This required excellent skills to communicate with the Bank over my mortgage payments and with Aqualectra over the monthly bills. This wasn’t easy.

Then came corona, and this nudged me to reconsider my way of life. I didn’t want to stop filming as this is my passion and it is in my genes, so I decided to put the Ashram on the forefront of my activities.

What is your BIG WHY or driving motivation to be who you are right now?
Everything happens the way it happens. We as human beings think we need some kind of tool or something to be able to understand. Even as a child I never had any goals. I never planned anything. Everything just happened. I don’t have a WHY. Usually a WHY is triggered because of a discomfort or because we want to improve something. Life itself to me is the motivation and not what I think about what it should be. I don’t think about it. I have no need to make things better. We are raised to think that everything should go well. I believe that if things go well or not so well, it is an experience. If things go well for you that is your personal experience. And everything goes as it goes. The more expectations we have the more we set ourselves up for disappointment. 

When do you consider that you have been successful in your personal and business/professional life, let us say 5 years from now?
I have no idea. I never look at tomorrow. It doesn’t matter to me. I am satisfied with what is and in 5 years from now it will be the same.

What are the challenges that you are dealing with? And how are you dealing with these different challenges?
The corona crisis is a big challenge, as humanity is forced to adapt. Shifting my focus away from filmmaking and moving in the direction of the ashram is exciting and comforting. I am looking forward to further consolidating the ashram. Earning money in the film industry puts a lot of pressure on you as it is expected that you earn enough money to make a living. For 20 years I raced around the world to participate in beautiful projects. I was running around the world to meet the expectations that we grow up with within the Western world. I truly enjoyed it, but I have entered a different phase now. I can meditate in the ashram, organize Satsangs answering the bigger questions that people have on life itself and work on creating a self-sustainable agriculture. Stepping out of the rat race, creates so much inner peace.

Do you use your inner voice to evaluate when dilemma’s show up? How does that work for you?
The “Inner Voice” is more of an egoic state, that constantly tells you what to do. But their is no “Inner Voice” that is separate from you. Being human is an experience of consciousness and is the voice itself. The voice is another human construct. If you leave that out, then you will experience your true self. Pure consciousness doesn’t need the noise of thinking or an inner-voice to be whole. In a dualistic world view an illusionary disconnection has been created where we see people as separate beings. We are consciousness, we are awareness that sees itself. So there is no reason to work on being connected, as we have never been disconnected.

How are you trying to keep up with your personal knowledge and skill levels?
In spirituality there is no keeping up to do. When I was seeking answers and growth, I had my teacher. If you ask me the same question regarding filmmaking, then the answer is different. I’m always interested in new developments, new technology and so on. Knowing who you are in Zen is different from what we would consider knowledge in the western traditional sense. Knowing from a spiritual perspective is non-intellectual, it is intrinsic knowing. Knowing, not knowledge. Once recognized, there is no keeping up to do. It’s like riding a bike, once learned you cannot unlearn it.

What are your strengths and how would you describe Dolph in one sentence?
Entrepreneurial, positive, fun-loving, solution oriented, living life lightly, always in for jokes and sharing that with other people to help uplift others. Every person I make laugh is a win to me, as I help them to be happier and more positive. This makes me happy. Laughing is lighter energy than when a person is heavy with negative energy.

Do you have hobbies or interests that you are also passionate about?
My newest hobby is farming. The community of those involved in farming has grown a lot in Curaçao, syntropic farming and permaculture. I feel so happy when we work on a piece of land and transform 100 meter of land into a fertile land slot with herbs, vegetables and fruits, when you grow this with a lot of love and care within 6 weeks ago that we started with it.

If you as Dolph would meet a stranger in the bus (let say in Mexico or the US) and they would ask you to introduce yourself what would you answer?
I enjoy life, I love life.

Who are the persons that have inspired you the most in your life?
In every area of my life I have had masters and teachers. In all the areas of my life that I have been passionate about I have had my masters. My parents yes, I would like to mention them. In my camera work for example I once called someone in Hollywood to commend him of his work in a movie. He invited me to come to Hillywood and have a look at how he was doing his work. I have always been very thankful to these masters for they have taught and shared with me.

What is a trait that is still work in progress?
What was a defining moment in your life?

Life itself.

Where do you want to be 15 to 20 years from now with your career?
I follow the path that most of us don’t travel. Depending from your cultural location this approach can give you so much inner peace. If you have grown up in duality you can’t see any else from that perspective. You have grown seeing the world as you were taught to. At times people ask me if the world is in balance and if there will be world peace. To me everything is in balance, always. For those taught to see the world in duality this is very hard to understand. It limits the understanding of wholeness that everything is connected to each other. There is neither good nor bad in a non-dual world.

What would you want your Loved Ones, family, friends and others to say about you let’s say 20 years from now?
That they think I was and still am fun and that they liked me.

What makes you stay optimistic about the future of the islands, Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao as we are in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, recession and in the middle of growing environmental challenges because of the global warming consequences?
Knowing that everything is ok, that it’s all part of the experience, also the bad moments.

More Information
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One of the 250 Influencers of Curaçao
Dolphe van Stapele is a creative, spiritual, fun loving entrepreneur that recently started a wellness center – Ashram – in Curaçao at Fuik at the venue of Dinah Veeris. At a very young age Dolph was interested in the deeper existential questions of life and this personal spiritual quest made him focus on the inside of who he is. Finding one his other passions, that is camera work after leaving the Marines, he learned the camera work in Curaçao. While Dolph decided to stay and live in Curaçao, he kept the spiritual side of his life to the background for years as most people know him from his filmwork. For Dolphe, the Corona crisis made him changed and made him become more focused on the spiritual side of himself. The transition from mainly being actively involved in the Filming Industry is exciting for over 20 years, which btw he is not leaving for 100 %, but at the other hand his focus now on the Ashram is “mega” comforting as it offers him the mental and the physical peace, that he was longing for away from the rat race of the film industry. Able to know who he really is, with the Ashram he can now also offer Satsangs to people that attend the Ashram and by doing that he is helping others. Creating inner peace not only for himself, but also for those visiting the Ashram. For all these reason’s we dearly love and deeply respect Dolph and we consider him part of the 250 Influencers of the island representing the Spiritual and the Creative sector.

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