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4th Shift:
Becoming Nobody

The end of my world

I wrote this text 6 months after the Big Bang. While the process was intense, it also got better month by month. Voidness slowly making way to completely being at ease in this present moment. Never looking back at the period in which Pim still appeared to be real. And that is tremendously liberating.

 

And then, after the darkest night, something happened. During dinner on the retreat, I felt like sitting. So I did. And something clicked again. Totally unexpected, but that was the moment the entire concept of Pim was seen through. And because there didn’t appear to be anything left I could call a self, I became the object perceived through the senses. No merging between me and the person sitting in front of me, only the person. No “I am the music”, just the music. Finally I realized what is meant with non-duality. No me, therefore no you. I’m nobody, and therefore I’m everybody.

Looking back it is quite obvious that my personal will, or motivation, has been drying up for quite a while. And it had to dry up completely. The realization had to hit that as long that there is a subtle identification with a self, there is a personal will that wants and reacts and desires for its own winnings. I’m writing this 6 months after the shift happened and honestly still am completely disoriented, although able to function in an increasingly effective way. Without personal motivation mind you. Doing arises out of being, spontaneously, when reality asks me to do something. And apparently these experiences need to be wrote down, also influenced by my wonderful guide through this period Suvaco, for who I am grateful beyond words. So, what I’m going to do is to try and describe the process after the shift in detail as this process seems to be almost not talked about in the spiritual scene. Why? I think because its first of all unimaginable, as the self cannot look beyond the self, and secondly because it is almost too gritty to even want it. Paradoxically, you cannot ever want this as it is only the you that wants. After this shift, there is just experience flowing from moment to moment of which awareness is aware. And all of it is completely and utterly void. It feels a bit like being a spectator in a big cosmic play while the person you thought you were has the main role. It is the most beatiful and the most terrible experience , and yet.. The potential is there. Little moments of perfection, little moments of absolute peace. But all is gone in a split-second, and what is always left is the great Voidness of existence. Fortunately, there are some people who wrote about this transition period. Eckhart Tolle talks about the “No-Mans Land”, Shinzen Young calls it “The Pit of the Void”, Bernadette Roberts “The great Passageway”, Adyashanti “The Limbo Zone”. All different words for this period of being forsaken by the source, without any ground to stand on, for it to finally make way to something currently unimaginable for me right now: Fulness. I guess one first has to realize emptiness to the bone until the coin finally turns. For now, it’s just surviving the days. Accepting this madness that presumably everyone in the spiritual world is looking for while having a deep trust in the Source of everything. Yes, you’ve just read it. I have enormous faith in the Source, the Universe, God, Divine Grace now because that is the only thing that remained when I lost my self.

 

While I have trouble writing this all down because my own words still don’t make sense, I believe it is highly valuable to specifically speak about this period. Because many teachers speak of this period while in fullness. And as you probably and hopefully know: It’s impossible to imagine how something feels when that feeling isn’t present in this very moment. I’m going to split the description of this period up in many areas, as this shift seems to have affected every cell of this being. Let’s start with perhaps the most important one: The body.

Physical
Ok, this is the part people just don’t expect. There is this expectation that awakening is a mind game, and a mind game only. What does the body has to do with realizing that there is no self (or realizing true self)? Well, as it turns out, more than one could ever imagine.
Since Pim became a story, I have had immense involuntary bodily movements, sometimes on the brink of debilitating. My body felt and still sometimes feels like an engine constantly running on 7000 RPM. Waves of energy are flowing through the system, seemingly clearing every little blockage which especially in the first months resulted in pain attacks that I have never felt before. Weirdly enough, because awareness is this immense space containing everything and the body is therefore only a little drop in the field of vast spaciousness the pain attacks were always manageable by just lying down and completely surrendering to impermanence. The pain is always there, but certainly influenced by the different stages of insight. As a general rule, the kriyas are most intense in Three Characteristics and A&P, whereas the pain is most intense in the after-cycle review period and 3C.

Before this shift, I liked going to intensive Hot Vinyasa Yoga classes for 3 times a week, but my body does not like that intensity of practice anymore. It is simply too much. Every time my body is overtrained it gets punished immediately by physical blockages or injuries, simply demanding me to take it easy and just go for simple walks.

And then there is the fatigue. I have been suffering from severe fatigue since the shift. There is always some degree of tiredness surrounded by whatever I’m doing, and still, it does not seem to be a very big problem. It’s just that its always there. It feels very physical, like some weight is pulling me down, and often I just feel like sitting or lying down for long periods of time. But hey, my body is working so hard to integrate so the only thing I can do is get out of the way of the process. Like the physical pain, the levels of fatigue are also highly related to the insight stages. What not? And especially crowded areas and places with lots of sensory stimuli seem to be exhaustion-inducing. The mere being with another person could be highly draining for me in the first months, as my mind was constantly drawn to the birds and the sky outside and couldn’t focus on the blabla stories of the illusory person next to me. I hope my girlfriend doesn’t read this.

 

Functioning in daily life
The process sure seems to be intelligent (or I was just lucky), in the sense that the shift exactly happened when I was in between jobs. A couple of months after I sold my company and a couple of months after I stopped painting and wanted to start a little guided meditation studio at home the shift happened. And it incapacitated me completely for 3 to 4 months. I woke up, walked to my sofa and sat there, spending my time reading all kinds of books to make sense of this madness that happened to me. Because I have a history in struggling with Burn-Out, there was a part of me that was afraid that I was burned out all over again. And yet, my experience was so different. I often sat in peace for hours, just looking at the birds, dropping all thoughts and all inclinations to do something because they had no ground whatsoever. I couldn’t decide anything for myself, but fortunately enough I conditioned myself to walk twice during the day. So I kept doing that, in the beginning with great struggle, but after some weeks with a bit more ease. Talking was hard, chatting was hard, life didn’t make sense. But every time I looked my girlfriend in the eyes, I know this was something else as there was a radiance in her eyes that made this madness worth surviving. Not that I could do anything to not survive. Sometimes thoughts occurred saying: “Perhaps its better to die”, but they would be immediately followed up by the literal thought “What is dead cannot die”. How ironic. And yet helpful, because the survival instinct seems to be so deeply build in that I just kept walking, kept eating, kept living. After a couple of months Mashel began to pull me to see her family and that went surprisingly well from their perspective. From mine it was strange to be aware of Pim doing what he had always done while at the same time I couldn’t even focus on what someone said. But that gradually went better. And what became very obvious is that energy would arise, as long as it was not aimed at me. So if my girlfriend would ask me to get some tea, doing would arise. So interesting and yet so logical in a way, because when the self is seen to be illusory while at the same time interconnectedness is apparent, being of service for others is what is left. Out of nowhere, people started to reach out to me again whether I was willing to guide them. I just said yes and surprisingly enough, that did go by itself. Flow, no sense of me doing anything. Just the other and the warm feeling of connection that arose from being with them (virtually).

Focus or attention seems to have merged with this vast 360 degree infinity centerless view, activities like driving a car and doing groceries are not much liked by the mind. Sensory stimuli in general are better to be avoided as much as I can because it often is a bit much for the system to cope with. Yet activities like reading and working on a computer are enjoyable. As long as the mind is kept busy, it has no time to dwell on this groundless ground which is to be called reality nowadays. Slowly, gradually, month by month, the mind is becoming more at ease with this new perspective.

After 5 months or so, I started writing blogs and paradoxical Social Media posts about all kinds of topics. Such creativity, appearing out of nowhere. Such flow in writing like I never experienced before. Words flowed through me and still often flow through me without any uncertainty what anybody will think of what I write down. Guess that’s the upside of not believing in yourself anymore. I also started working on my website for my studio and opened it in July, while also slowly reconnecting with friends. Personal will making way for universal will, I have no other way to put it. It’s still happening, and functioning is still nowhere what it used to be. Whereas before I would actively plan my days, now it’s like I’m being led. Its reactive, not proactive. When someone reaches out for help, I react. And sometimes there are days of doing absolutely nothing other than being (and often crying and releasing).

Life compass
In the beginning there was no compass, no ground, no orientation. Reality apparently has no compass like our thinking minds do. But as said before, slowly reactivity began to arise. Reactivity in the form of a deep intuition that this is what needs doing right now. Not thinking about it, just doing. Always out of selflessness, because doing out of self has no ground. Which doesn’t mean I can’t take care for myself anymore, although I do have to say that lost all of my interest. Funny fact is that there is no display of Pim in my mind’s eye anymore, so sometimes I accidently cross a mirror and notice that I forgot to style my hair. Perhaps that will return, no idea. There is no personal will, no motivation to do anything. Life seems to lead the doing instead of the me that thought it was in charge for this shift. And apparently, life doesn’t like to plan ahead. It does slowly get more obvious what I need to do with my life as some activities fill my being with energy and some activities drain this being to its socks. So I trust the process and let it steer me in the direction that just feels right.

Concepts
Many teachers use terms like “the great unknown” or “the groundless ground” and I always thought: Yeaahh fancy words, but where is the substance? Well, there isn’t any substance. That’s the whole point. Since my shift, I have been utterly and completely unable to believe in any concept whatsoever. Language is an absolute joke, just a bunch of words invented by obviously very wise people to make ourselves understandable. Problem is that it seems like we started to believe the words instead of the true message behind the words. Once you see it, you see it everywhere. All big religions formed around books written thousands of years ago, and while reading it, it is so abundantly clear that all words were just metaphors and pointers to something beyond words. But that’s impossible to grasp while not in the cloud of unknowing, so I can’t blame anybody. Who I do blame is this little Pim, who sometimes thinks he has something to say while all that he is saying is complete nonsense. Haha seriously! I have to declare that before this shift, I sometimes liked to listen to myself and I would be like: “Wow, such wisdom, such clarity, where does that come from?” Well, it turns out that it’s not coming from that guy. I don’t specifically like to listen to myself now as all words are completely empty and only pointers to what I truly mean, which is unknown. And yet, people seem to like hearing me speak of paradoxical stuff beyond comprehension. Perhaps it speaks to their unknowing minds?

Speaking of paradox, that has become my favourite word according to my girlfriend. Once you can’t believe in yourself anymore the duality is finally lifted. But with that comes also the realization that apparent contradictions like good and bad, black and white, self and other, are all only real from a dual perspective. They are just concepts created by dual minds, nothing more than that. And with that comes the realization that so much violence, so much suffering, is directly because of this tendency for people to belief in one of the two which are actually one and form a complete identity around that particular concept. “I am white, so people who are not white are different”. And yet again, I can’t possibly blame them but instead feel bad for all of mankind for being put in this cage of dual separation.

Time
Another term I just couldn’t comprehend: “The eternal now”. Until this moment becomes eternal. It’s almost impossible to describe, but I have to try anyway. Time became distorted. Sometimes hours pass as if they are minutes, ironically depending on how I feel. When I feel down, time seems to slow down, when I feel ok (I don’t dare say high because I have no idea how that feels) time seems to speed up. Especially in deep conversations where I literally loose myself in the other, the concept of time disappears. There is only and always this very present moment. Sometimes a thought about the future, but the future cannot possibly be anything else than a projection of something what could be in this very moment.

As it turns out, that realization has tremendous effects on the memory functions of the brain. Since the shift, I have real trouble remembering anything that is not right in front of me. When I go for a walk in the morning, I have great trouble remembering that particular event some hours later. It feels like it is erased from experience, as there is only experience in this very moment. Which seems very connected to another phenomena that became quite clear during this period: The inability to miss anything that is not right here right now. What is not in consciousness cannot be missed? Anyway, that’s for a later topic. Back to the memory loss. It’s not that I suffer from it, it’s just not very convenient in a world in which planning and organizing are a huge part of our daily lives. So I learn to live with it, to set reminders in my calendar (Thank god for technology) while at the same time accepting fully that it is what it is. Unless I don’t, then it’s shit. The bright side of all this is that I finally understand what is meant by “Beginner’s mind”. Seeing the same thing every day while perceiving it as something new every day is wondrous and fills me with gratitude in the moments it is most needed.

Emotions
This is a very controversial and tough one. There still was a part of me that believed awakening was about feeling good all the time. What I couldn’t comprehend and still sometimes cannot, is that it cannot be the one without the other. How could feeling bad fall away, while feeling good remains? When I woke up from the dream of separate Pim, all emotions became unpersonal and faded to the point of almost non-existence. Why would a dead man feel emotions? I did die to my previous reality after all.. And yet, I have been crying every day since the shift. So much unprocessed material arising, such great grief for losing who I thought I was. Such sadness for mankind and all of its suffering. But to say these emotions are personal? I can’t. I often smile and am aware that I smile without feeling any happiness behind the smiling. I often cry and am aware that I cry without feeling any sadness behind the crying. It’s weird. And a bit void. I often feel down, while part of me is completely at peace and I often feel ok, while part of me is completely at peace. I never feel high though, it’s like that particular emotion is erased from experience. According to other people, I’m really calm. According to me, I wouldn’t know. Before this shift I was highly aware of “my equanimity”, but now, having lost the boundaries of my self and being part of the ocean, there cannot be awareness of characteristics that do not belong to me as a separate wave of the ocean. For example, I can’t feel love anymore. I have a wonderful and intimate relationship with my girlfriend, but when she asks whether I love her and my answer is yes it feels untrue to my being. And yet, when I look into her eyes there is this strong knowing that there is something there. It’s not a feeling, it’s a deep knowing. Knowing that she is me, consciousness recognizing itself, is enough to unconditionally accept and embrace her as she is. But calling it love is a bit problematic for me, as it is so vastly different from the feeling we describe as love.

I still get triggered though! Deep conditioning is still intact and when a deep belief gets touched by external events I’m aware of the body tensing up and my mind contracting around the object that hurt me, thereby creating a dual split. It’s still not always fun to fully be with this present moment experience, it can be so painful sometimes. The pattern to avoid the suffering in this present moment at all costs is so deeply ingrained in human beings that it would be optimistic to think that immediately, if not ever, drops away. When the split is made and a separate Pim is formed who is angry or hurt because he or she said this or that, the recognition of awareness is enough to immediately drop the split. Not the physical tension though, I’m a fan of aiming attention on the particular parts in the body where the sensations are felt and to let my body do whatever it wants to release any form of tension. What I do notice is that often very soon after a dual split is made, recognition kicks in and I just start to laugh about my own supposed suffering. It’s like big Pim who is aware of small Pim is laughing because small Pim is hurt. I would never say this is the end of the line regarding emotions though. Who knows what’s next to come?

Purifications
While external events don’t seem to have much effect on the way I feel, internal flushes of emotions do. All deeply conditioned patterns and emotions have to be purified in the light of awareness. And they come out of nowhere. Hate, grief, terror, uncertainty mixed with all sorts of memories all come and go in this realm of infinity where they have no subject to identify with. But even while they cannot hold, the intensity of these purifications can sometimes be enormous. They are uncontrollable and yet seem to specifically arise when I am alone. Like the process is intelligent enough to know when it needs to work through this conscious being. I cry every day for short moments as a form of release. It often automatically occurs when I’m going to the toilet while having dinner with family or when I sit down and stare outside. Crying is rather pleasant now, it has a strange beauty to it as it is never my grief. It is just a wave flowing through infinity.

Compassion
What has become apparent is that doing something for myself or in my own interest has become really hard. It’s not that I can’t grab a shower or buy something for myself (which is an interesting topic on itself), it just isn’t what I live for anymore. That story is gone and all actions that are fuelled on that particular story only lead to disorientation and suffering. What is left beyond the dream of self is a knowing that you are the other, as separateness was a mere illusion. Irrevocably, this leads to deep compassion. And with compassion I don’t particularly mean a superhuman kindness, but the ability to fully be with people without ever trying to fix their problems in any way. And apparently, that is the only thing that people truly desire: Allowance to be themselves completely and fully, without any desire to be any other way. It’s not a thing you do, it’s just a thing that is. The moment there is identification with the compassion as being a trait I have, is the moment problems will undoubtedly arise. Letting go in presence is all that is needed.
Before all this I couldn’t stand hearing about other person’s struggles and specifically sickness. Now, I don’t flinch, while it can be tremendously touching at the same time. Perhaps because there is this deep knowing that all of it is an illusion, but that would only be speculation. My mother is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and she sometimes has these wildly intense emotional breakdowns in which she exclaims that she doesn’t belong anymore and that her life is pointless. Although it touches part of me deeply, part of me is at complete peace, regardless of the intensity of the situation. I just hold her, let it come, let it be and let it go. After such events, I often feel a bit of contraction in my body somewhere, focus attention on it and crying naturally follows. Weirdly enough, after the release it just seem to be erased from memory. Like it never happened. Not even thoughts about it, just this moment again.

Body Awareness
What body awareness? All former shifts led to an increased awareness of bodily sensations and I kind of expected that pattern would stay the same in potential further shifts. Well, that turned out a little differently. In hindsight, it is actually obvious that there could never be an awakening from myself when there would still be a body that could be called mine. The last vestiges of self truly seem to hide out in the body, specifically in the gut area, and when that got released awareness of my body simply stopped. It’s not that there are no sensations in the body, it’s just that there is no identification with it as being you. Which seemingly leads to a whole other degree of experiencing one’s body. Now I understand the stories of Ramana Maharshi who seemed to not give a damn while he was bitten by a poisonous snake. I guess I would still cry in agony, the big difference being that it is now “there is pain” instead of “I’m in pain”.

The hardest part about the immediate disappearance of body awareness is that the body became uncontrollable a couple of days after the shift. I literally had to learn how to walk again as the connection between a controller of my body and the actual body movement seemed to be cut through in one blow. I’m still finding my ways in the body’s language and am still amazed by the intelligence it clearly has without me doing anything to change it in any way.

Relations
Connection with people is natural, but weirdly enough only when they are in consciousness. I love to be with my girlfriend, but I can’t miss her when she’s not here right now. That took a while to get used to for both me and her as she would ask me whether I had missed her and I would say: “To be honest, not really”.

Other than that the desire to hang out with friends to spend time diminished greatly. I still like it, but there doesn’t seem to be a tendency to plan anything myself. Besides that, I’m having trouble talking about normal stuff as it all seems rather pointless. I’m there and I listen, but I’d rather cut the crap and talk openly about what is really going on in the person in front of me. Especially in the first months, my mind was disgusted by ego talk. Why would anybody talk for hours about something that appears to be an illusion? I couldn’t get it and it hurt. Nowadays, I start to slowly appreciate the stories, realizing that the person in front of me couldn’t be any different than who they are. Especially seeker groups formed around finding this realization, that there never was a seeker, seem to be really weird for me during this period. It gets better, but in the beginning I just wanted to shout: “You have no idea what you’re getting yourselves into. You don’t want this, it’s the damn annihilation of the you that wants it”. But hey, can’t blame them. I don’t even believe it’s in their control, the source led me to this point and the source will lead them to wherever they’re meant to be. It became really hard to speak up about my experiences though, who would believe me? Everyone silently still has this expectation that awakening is the best that can happen to them. What they don’t realize is that it doesn’t happen to them. Giving advice on this or that practice also became a bit unnatural as the tendency to fix people is diminished and at the same time I realized that all different practices and religions lead to this point in some way. Deep inside people know what they need to do, it’s their ego which is constantly resisting their intuition. So my guidance started to become about letting people trust their own inner guide and comforting them, instead of precisely saying what they should do. 

People seem to spontaneously open up when I connect with them. I’ve had many occasions in which people started telling about their deep suffering related to illnesses or life issues out of the blue. As if they feel that I will listen attentively. Or perhaps that is the sole reason why they open up. It is a bit of a danger to identify with that particular characteristic because it is clearly not mine. This openness and presence arises from the source and not from my personal identity, and that actually feels good that it is selfless in a way. Sometimes this presence annoys people, they become fidgety and restless. It perhaps mirrors their own lack of calm. But other people bathe in it, become almost addicted to it. Especially seekers who have had some spiritual experiences and want to relive those moments of flow and openness. As long as the ego doesn’t create a new identity around that, it’s a way to truly be of service to other being who experience deep suffering. But I do see the pitfall here.

Resilience
Is a bit other-worldly. Nothing seems to truly matter in this period. Would a dead man bother about whether his car broke down or not? This may sound hard, but it really often feels like I’m not really alive, as there is no I to be alive found anywhere. And because of that, external events don’t bother me that much. It’s not that nothing matters though.. Living creatures matter a lot to me, just the sight of a bug walking on the table, or the moment when a butterfly lands on my hand. Those are golden and fill my being with some form of deep connection. But negative events that happen have already happened and in a non-dual perspective there cannot be resistance to what is, so it drops immediately. I still get triggered, but that which is everything cannot get triggered. So paradoxically enough, it’s a bit like part of me is triggered and part of me is at complete peace.

Happiness
I still laugh and act the way I used to, but there Is nobody feeling the happiness behind the laugh. This period is very, very dry. Don’t expect highs, they don’t exist in the void. I’m not happy, although I do experience peace sometimes. But the mind is not at ease with itself. Sometimes its completely silent, sometimes its busy like a bee, but there is never happiness like I experienced before this shift.

Craving
Aah good old craving, the deeply ingrained animal pattern that most yogi’s want to get rid of in order to finally experience true lasting peace. It’s funny when you realize that you can’t actually get rid of the pattern, but that the identification with the conditioned mind as being a you who resists that what is happening is actually the root cause of the “problem”. So I wouldn’t say that the conditioned pattern of craving is diminished, but that the relief of craving arises out of total disidentification with the pattern as happening to you. And that is strangely and utterly liberating. Imagine someone gives you a ball and says “This is you”, just before they kick the ball with brute force. Would you resist the event? Would you suffer from it? That ball is your mind, and the mind constructs the you.

Not to say that when someone kicks me, it doesn’t hurt. Just trying to show that the resistance to the pain comes from the belief in me being a person separate from my experience. So, is craving gone? No. Is it vastly and completely different and absolutely not a problem anymore: Yes.

Cycles
Aaah those moment of supreme silence. Those moments when the contraction period slowly lifts and makes way for that which is ineffable. I’ve started calling it the supreme silence, because there is nothing that can hold a candle to this specific experience. And no matter how intense the contraction phase, the supreme silence always returns.

The process does its work through waves of expansion and contraction. The progress of insight, as they are known in Pragmatic Dharma. I’m not going to write a detailed report on my experience with the POI during this period here, but perhaps will do so later. In summary, the expansion period starts with the Mind & Body nana and is characterized by the Supreme silence that follows suit. It is a period of great expansion, flow, absolute non-duality, creativity, productivity and general niceness. This period usually takes around a week, becomes a bit bumpy while the Dukkha Nanas appear, and is finished with the sweet OK-ness of Equanimity and a Fruition.

It is actually after this complete cycle that the contraction phase starts. Slowly, getting more and more contracted every day. Until it becomes severe. It feels like being pushed in a box in which I don’t fit by an unimaginably powerful force, which I like to call The Source. It is a period of purifications, physical intensity, exhaustion, uncertainty, and vulnerability. The fakeness of my identity becomes quite apparent during this period and everything Pim does is met with mental resistance, which ironically enough has no ground to find anywhere. So its doable. The contraction period often culminates in a couple of rough nights in which I often wake up feeling like I’m suffocated by The Source. Without any resistance haha.

I began to see the cycles as the Birth and the death of life. Every 2 weeks The Source annihilates this being, so it can be reborn in brightness. It is a natural ebb and flow of life. When it's flow, there is creativity, connection, openness, expansion. When it's ebb, there is uncertainty, disconnection, pain, contraction. But while the cycles naturally occur, the sea can still be polluted by external events. When pollution happens in ebb, it hurts far more than when pollution happens in flow. Same external event, hugely different outcome on your whole being. Funny experience I have is that when in ebb, ego wants me to believe it is this external event that makes me feel bad. In truth, I feel just as contracted in a prison cell than when lying on the beach, the external event just fuels what is already felt. In flow, it is life happening without a sense that I could do anything to change it, which is liberating. But neither ebb nor flow is the sea, the sea is that to which the natural cycles of life happen, it cannot identify with them. Our minds can, unfortunately enough. The moment the sea identifies with being ebb, and therefore starts resisting it, is the moment duality is formed and suffering significantly increases.

 

"I'm a seperate sea that is in control of what happens to me and I don't want this ebb to happen, so I blame the @#&#@ moon". Doesn't mean ebb is fun, it's just silly to resist what is.