It started with a crisis. A big one.
This is the start of my very, very long story about my awakening experiences. The reason why I share this with you is to hopefully demystify the idealized image many of us have of awakening. Many people believe it is the solution to all of their problems and that awakening leads to a permanent state of intense happiness. Well, let me tell you advance: This isn’t true. Does that mean you should not put all the effort in attaining that which cannot be attained? Most definitely not, as awakening truly makes life better in lots of different ways.
Let me be clear that this is my personal experience. I can and will only speak from my personal experience as the siddhi of mind-reading has not yet been attained. Ironically, there is no such thing as personal awakening as it is truly waking up from the illusion of being a seperate person. And yet, it still is my individual perspective on reality. Whether you believe my story is up to you. As the Buddha said, do not ever mistake anybody's words for the truth. It is your own present-moment experience that counts.
Before I get into the effects awakening had on my life, let me first share some personal details about my life before stream-entry happened as this had an important role in the unfolding of the process.
It was on the 30th of May that I went to a Dutch festival and my brain cracked under the pressure over overachieving. What followed was a long period of struggling with Burn-Out for more than 4 years. I’ve always been the overachieving type and always have been very sensitive to other people’s opinions. So I worked hard trying to create this perfect image of myself by spending many hours in the gym, working long days and of course buying classy materials to feel better about myself. I took over my dad’s construction company during the big crisis because I during that period believed that being “boss” and earning big amounts of money would lead to happiness. My mind was conditioned that way and I had no space whatsoever between the thoughts the conditioned mind projected into consciousness and myself. I worked my ass off and that luckily had some good results because the company stabilized and grew. However, that moment on the 30th of May was the moment I lost myself in the process and was completely burned out. Suffering was immense, my brain had always been my strongest weapon. No matter how much my body resisted, I could always push myself through. Emotions? They were probably there, but I’m not sure if I ever felt them or allowed them to be felt. Why feel them if you can suppress them? Well, turns out you can only suppress them for so long…
When my health seemed to improve I immediately got back to business, but this time with a big plan! It didn't feel right to lead the company in the directive way that my dad had done and I thought the reason I burned out was because my environment was just not suited to me as a person. So, I began to change the entire company: From a hierarchical organisation structure in which I was the major authority to a flower model in which every leaf was a self-organizing team and the centre team was supporting their progress. Although there was resistance at first, people started to get intrigued by the freedom and responsibility which were obviously quite new for them. Business was booming and the company even won a prize for most socially innovative construction related company in the Netherlands.
I had it all: Big house, success, more than enough money, nice car, pretty girlfriend. And I just got sicker and sicker again. How could this be? I changed my entire environment to suit my needs and built a socially connected and modern environment while still I seemed to suffer just as much as ever. This, I think, gave me great insight into the nature of suffering. I was meditating daily for a year at that point and it just got to me that true happiness does not come from external sources. Did I believe in awakening then? Most definitely not! I would laugh at anybody making such a wild and scientifically unproven claim. I decided to sell the company, broke up with my girlfriend, sold my car and that is when insights began to arise.
My sits began to really flourish. I’ve had these mind-blowing experiences of intimate oneness which led to me sitting in nature for hours. And then, reality started to dissolve. I woke up in the middle in the night one day with great existential fear and just knew that this was related to the spiritual path. After a week or so, waves of equanimity started to show. And god, were they a pleasant relief! Cold showers felt like warm showers, pain felt like tickling and while the content of my mind was still a total shitstream, it didn’t really matter that much. This also didn’t take long, because a few days later, during my evening sit, Stream-Entry happened. I started to sweat, my heart began to race, the muscles around my shoulders and neck contracted and reality totally disappeared.