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2nd Shift

Still Pim, less suffering

I have written this text during the period the events in this text happened. Looking back on it now, I would certainly describe all that happened in a different, much less personal way. However, I think it is helpful to keep it like this as this was how I described it when that specific perspective was my reality.

 

My new reality was short-lived, because again perception of it changed quite a bit. This is the path where suffering significantly diminishes, for me at least. How? Let me clarify by using the same topics:

Emotions
Wow, so much difference. I still felt emotions, but the mental pain that would normally accompany them greatly reduced. Whereas in 1st path emotions could sometimes totally collapse the mind and would lead to total identification with “Pim” again, in 2nd path there always is this deep knowing that emotions are just bodily sensations that colour your glasses through which you perceive the world. So, no matter how strong negative emotions are, no matter how intensely negative the accompanying mental chattering, I just couldn’t take it all that serious anymore. This really is the moment where I, instead of suppressing emotions, allowed them to grow throughout my entire body. I had moments where I would sob during sits without feeling sad, while the motion of sadness was obviously there. Still, it’s not that emotions don’t show up. It’s just that they’ve lost a lot of their stinginess. I really perceived it as one of my teachers during that time once said: “80% of the mind is sad, and 20% of the mind is looking equanimous at it or even smiling at it. Besides, if I would focus on the bodily sensations that made up the emotions, which is kind of automatic in this phase, the pain is almost nothing compared to real hard pain from injuries etc.

Relationships
Actually quite the same as after the first shift, only intensified. So I’d say another increase in compassion and loving-kindness, but especially equanimity! I could be with people, hear their suffering, intensely feel for them, without drinking their poison. Incredible!

Happiness.
What I noticed at this stage of the path is that being with other people became a source of greater happiness. Even seeing or hearing people having fun in my surroundings would be enough to induce a deep satisfaction. On average, I would say this 2nd shift definitely increased my average level of happiness as suffering is just less. However! Bad days are still bad days. Still unpleasant, but because resistance to it is reduced, the intensity of unpleasantness seems to be of a whole other level.

Craving
This definitely is the aspect in which the most change occurred for me. Both desire and aversion towards either pleasurable or unpleasurable things or events greatly diminished. How does that feel? Well, let me give an example in the analogy of the 1st and 2nd arrow: Because I was still recovering from burn-out, I struggled with tiredness during daily life a lot. So did that change? Well, the tiredness not really (although it seems to be), but resistance to it is greatly less. It therefore feels like the tiredness is just way less. And this applies to, well, everything.

Resilience
Greatly increased! Because craving is less, resistance towards the present moment is less as well and this applies to every situation. For example, during this phase I was in total uncertainty whether I could stay in my house or not. Did it matter? Only a little bit, but nothing like before!

Sense of self/agency
Mmm, this is a hard one to answer. For me it felt most of the times that there still was a Pim in control of everything I did. But moments of emptiness (no-self) were so much easier to call up and seemed to be far more enjoyable. It’s kind of funny when you’re surrounded by people and you let the self dissolve into emptiness. Feels good in a weird way. Or I'm just weird. Whatever.

Sits
Concentration again increased significantly and this allowed me to enter and master the formless Jhanas on my first 10-day retreat (more on that later). But the sense of control over the mind seems to diminish a bit. Sometimes the mind wanted to be in a state of open awareness, sometimes it wanted to flow in the Jhanas. I just let it be.
Another very important change in 2th path for me was that meditation became kind of a natural state of being. Whether I was lying down, walking, sitting or even working, sati and samadhi were so strong that everything in awareness was automatically “known”.

The fetter model
The fetters that should be diminished (not totally uprooted) are:

  1. Sensual desire

  2. Aversion / ill-will

And this again seems to be true in my experience as well. Nothing more to add to that really.

So, what happened then?
The afterglow was totally manic. I felt sooooo special and wanted to tell everybody about my great awakening experiences, which I kind of did in the virtual yogi group I was part of. Luckily, I was wise enough to not throw it around via whatsapp in the group chats with my friends. And, as everything, the afterglow vanished, and made way for another period of high ups and low downs in which disgust seemed to be EVERYWHERE. Again, surrendering to it was the key and even before it had the chance to totally stabilize I took off for a 10-day Mahasi style retreat and there the rollercoaster ride started once again.. Most of you probably read my after retreat report, so I’ll keep it short, but what happened is that the mind found out about the formless Jhanas and these gave me entirely new and quite reality-shaking insights that kicked off a new cycle. Which finished on day 9 of the retreat with again a distinct cessation event.