Now that you are here, sit back and relax for a moment.
Close your eyes and just watch your breath for a little while. Nothing special about it, just rest your attention on the feel of your breath as it comes into and goes out of your body. Close your eyes. Breathe in ... breathe out ... and focus your attention on the sensation of the air coming in and out of your nose. Do this for about one minute.
Now try to bring to mind a memory of an event from your childhood. It doesn't need to be anything special. For me, it was the memory of coming out of an afternoon matinee on a hot summer day in New Jersey, when I was eight years old.
Just relax, and wait for a memory to appear.
When a vivid memory appears, see whether you are remembering it as if you were watching a movie, watching yourself as a character in the movie, as the memory unfolds in your mind. If you are, try now to go inside the scene, within the memory itself, to get the subjective feel of it.
Now see if you can get the subjective feel of your experience at the time, as the memory unfolds. Sink into it. For instance, try to feel the air temperature on your skin: does it feel hot or cold? What is the light like? Is it dark or is there plenty of light? Can you smell a particular scent? Can you feel the texture of an object when you touch it? Do you hear any sounds? Try to have the feel of that experience as you did then. And don't worry if can't seem to feel the memory like this. Maybe you can try a different memory...
As soon as you get that subjective memory in mind and sink into the feel of it, try to see what it felt like to be you then, in the background, experiencing it all.
And now, move your attention one more time—this time to what it feels like to be you now.
That's all there is to what we call looking at yourself. And you only have to try it once.
We believe that the root cause of all psychological misery and all resistance to life is the fearful and suspicious environment in which the mind and its psychology take shape, which produces a fundamental alienation from the experience of life itself. This is what we refer to as the fear of life, which is a sort of autoimmune disease that we believe strikes almost all of us in the traumatic experience of birth.
This exercise has proven to be very effective as a method of accomplishing the act that we call looking at yourself and it actually disintegrates almost instantaneously that diseased environment of suspicion and alienation and makes way for the arising of a fresh regeneration of the mind and its structures.
We believe that this happens because that first conscious taste of our actual nature—what it feels like to be you (what you would call 'me')—silently and completely invalidates the founding premise of the fearful environment and causes it to instantly vanish.
When that happens, the diseased psychology begins to fall away, as new, fresh ways of experiencing life fully and engaging with it intelligently begin to take shape.
If you have difficulties evoking a childhood memory, click here for a different method.
This is the purpose of all of our work. To bring this simple action and its consequences to everybody who is tired of feeling that their life isn't worth living, tired of feeling that they are trapped in a world that they don't understand and can't deal with, tired of feeling that there is something missing, tired of feeling that the way to be effective in life is to be found among the many failures we have come upon in all the years that we have been suffering from this disease of fearfulness, alienation, and anxiety.
There is much more to be said about the way in which the regeneration of the mind takes place over time. The old psychological structures do not leave willingly. There is much more to be said about the way in which your skillfulness in using the power of attention can make that period not a phase that must be endured as you wait for it to depart, but a time when you can begin to learn and develop a skill that will serve you for the rest of your life in relating to and engaging with your life intelligently.
There is much more on our site. Feel free to look around. But if you only do this, that is enough.
John and Carla ShermanWhat Is Looking at Yourself?