Al's Awakening Story
In order for me to explain how I came to use the Two-Part Formula (2pf) I need to explain a little of my journey with Buddhism and practice first. In 2012, aged 23 turning 24, I found myself feeling increasingly affected by anxiety and low moods. In a constant striving for something better and rarely being able to experience or live in the moment, I had quickly climbed to a management position at work (working in complex needs supported housing). I was still unsatisfied, I was stressed and life seemed to be gleaming little of the rewards and fulfilment that I had thought it should. I had been married for a year and my wife were planning for the future, and I was happy. Or at least I had all the pieces in place that I thought should have made me happy, but I still did not feel fulfilled. I felt like I was always chasing something that eluded me.
I had heard about Buddhism and had been mildly intrigued by it having had a political interest in Tibet and the Chinese occupation for some years since my teens. I started thinking more about what I knew about meditation and Buddhism and, despite being a rather staunch Atheist, wondered if this religion/philosophy might hold some answers for why I felt the way I did. I moved to Stroud, Gloucestershire in 2012 and started looking for Buddhist groups to see what it was all about. I didn’t like the look of some groups that I had heard about, this all seemed too religious for me. Eventually I came across a group called DharmaMind which had a weekly meeting in Nailsworth.
I sat with this group weekly for the best part of around 18 months thereafter. I introduced my best friend to the group and attended a few of the monthly retreats that the group held in Birmingham. I also went for longer silent retreats at the Theravadan monastery, Amaravati. I became familiar with the teachings of Aloka David Smith and committed as fully as I could with the practice. I felt deep and significant changes in my life, learning from Aloka’s teachings and coming in to touch with my own Buddha Nature. Buddha Nature or awareness has always made sense to me, I liken it to those glimpses of peace and ease that I have felt when on walks in the woods; feeling in touch with other things and comfortable with myself. I have always thought that this could probably be explained scientifically, like through the body’s natural release of endorphins or similar. Or you could explain it more spiritually. I have come to think that it probably doesn’t matter, but that we can all relate to that feeling, regardless of the language we use. Buddhism, I feel, gives some really useful language and tools to understand these things. Meditation being one of those useful tools.
In June 2014 I became a father after 2 ½ years of trying to conceive and had been through some really difficult times. I tried to keep the practice going but my commitment took a knock with the speed and trials of family life. But also I think I was more contented with life and didn’t “need” my practice as much (unwisely this was probably just as it bearing fruits for me!). Inevitably my practice took a knock though and I had only a little contact with the DharmaMind group until Aloka died in July 2015. I sat on and off after this and found it even harder to find space and time after the birth of my daughter in November 2016.
Come to November 2017 and my wife and I had decided to completely up our lives, give up our jobs and move from Gloucestershire to Devon with the kids, to be closer to family. This brought many of its own challenges, as can be expected, and once again I found my own wellbeing taking a knock. I felt many of the old patterns of behaviour and reactions returning like I felt back in 2012. This time though I had a bits and pieces of a practice established and a knowledge of good teachings thanks to Aloka.
It just so happened that in January 2018 I saw a post on facebook announcing that the DharmaMind sangha would be merging with Open Heart and taking on Kim Katami as a teacher. As I looked at Open Heart teachings I began to feel very insecure and angry; it felt so different to what Aloka taught. I also had a feeling of being let down; I needed DharmaMind again and took it for granted that it would be there still exactly as I left it.
However, something about the ideas I read stuck. The main thing that really stood out was this insistence from DhamaMind Sangha members that they had had awakening experiences by following the 2pf as set out by Kim Katami. I couldn’t believe that it could be as simple as it seemed to be explained, but I also couldn’t not try it out for myself. Awakening I thought was something that could only be attained by someone like Aloka. So I started giving this 2pf a go.
Essentially, after trying 2pf for a few days and feeling quite profoundly different, I had to contact Kim and ask to know more about his teachings and 2pf as a practice towards awakening – and I had to apologise for some defensive language I had use responding to DharmaMind-Open Heart merger announcement! Humble pie was swallowed as I explained to Kim that basically “damn, I think you might be on to something here!”
Kim began guiding me through using the 2pf via email contact; his messages and instructions seeming to know exactly where to nudge, where to call out nonsense and when to motivate. Initially I began to notice slight differences in my day to day experience after using 2pf, a slight lightness to my interactions and one morning in particular the strong urge to want to laugh at just about everything I came in to contact with. Physically, I felt a very interesting sensation building with pressure between the eyes. This grew with intensity I felt profoundly the difference between the first mode – sitting in open awareness – to the second mode – of reinforcing the self. In the second mode the pressure between my eyes grew and grew and other physical sensations; heat beating fast, tingling energy running from the middle of the body up to the head. I had never felt anything like this before in meditation. In the last year or so in fact my meditation before this time had become so stagnant, and I was so tired from life with the kids, that more often than not I simply fell asleep during meditation.
After just under 3 weeks of using 2pf and after around 5 days of having contact with Kim directly for instruction I felt a real shift. My sitting meditation started to become very peaceful and light - albeit with this pressure between the eyes - and during my day, at work and at home, I felt more at ease, calmer. Then sitting one Saturday evening using 2pf it changed; the pressure between my eyes expanded to the most intense that it had felt and I felt what I can only describe as a “rushing” sensation in my whole mind and body; like I was squeezing through a tunnel into the present moment. And then I felt blissful. And then I felt very fearful . I knew something had happened, something had changed, but after reading other people’s accounts which seemed only to describe bliss and peace, the fear was quite unsettling.
I contacted Kim even as the fearful feeling ebbed away in the hour after. The fearful feeling lingered in the background the next morning as well. Although in addition to that, I felt a great calm also. Kim explained that he thought awakening had happened for me, but that in addition, I had also “struck a vein of fear”. Kim explained that this was not strange and simply was moving through “subject self” that the 2pf looks at and gone into “object self” . Connecting with this fearful emotion strongly was not new to me, but I had simply not expected it at that time.
As the next day wore on the fear subsided entirely, and what grew then and over the next few days to follow was a peace and calm and clarity that was both wonderful to behold, but also was really fairly mundane! It felt like an old friend that was back. Life was not different and my day to day was not different, but yet at the same time there was a base level to how the world looked and how I felt that was very different. This initial phase felt almost like I was carrying a little light around.
As the weeks have moved on this has definitely changed, and this “honeymoon phase” has definitely subsided. My life has also hit some turbulent times and has been very difficult, financially, emotionally, and with relationships, because of the changes to our lives that my wife and I have made moving our family. However, there is a stark difference to how these difficult times have played out for me. I have not felt swept up as I would have in the past, I have not felt that the negative experiences (which have been real and out of my control) have been so globalising. I feel that this new way of being – which is also not new! – has enabled me to remain grounded. I have also noticed the ability to look at other people far more kindly, even when they have been difficult. I have felt I have more readily been able to thank them for their lessons. I have also felt more open to and aware of my own habits and reactions and better able to “see” them, even if I’m not always able to stop them. I feel more confident than I ever have in my life and more at ease and in touch with myself than I have ever been.
The Two-Part Formula: http://www.en.openheart.fi/113
Awake! -ebook, free: http://www.en.openheart.fi/114