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Recovery and Rehabilitation

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Meditation retreat after looking

First of thank you John, you are a genius! I don't know exactly why or how but after listening to you my whole outlook on life has changed dramatically. I've been struggling to understand myself for a long time and it has been pretty exhausting, and completely crazy at times. Some days ago now "everything" just clicked for me. It dawned on me that I am myself like I've always been, like everybody's always been. I saw the "blank paper behind the print" and self confidence has been building ever since. I feel much more content with my path, with my relationships and my job than ever, and when I look to the future I see opportunity and promise. I've just had a GREAT week, and here's to hoping much of it is here to stay and that the looking and your (John's) explanations is what finally "pushed me over the cliff". It's so funny how my life has actually been right in front of my eyes all along and somehow I missed it! Unbelievable really.

Okay so that's all good, but the way I see it I'm actually just at the beginning and I want to learn more and become better at seeing reality for what it is. So i want to ask what a good way to practice is? I look daily and try my hardest to abide with the feeling of me for as long periods of time as possible. I feels good and helps me let go of tensions. Do you think this is a good practice to understand the nature of reality?

Furthermore, I have a planned Vipassana 10-day silent retreat coming up. But in the last few days I'm experiencing doubt in those spiritual practices, I feel a little disillusioned. But I still want to go and meditate and I think meditation practice is worth while (just like anything is ;) ). So my question here is whether you have any advice on how to approach this retreat with my new outlook. I feel resistant to do the practices they will teach and rather just want to sit and be silent and look at myself. But this feels untrue too. I don't know, just a little confused at the moment.

Thank you again, powerful stuff you teach man.

It's good to hear from you Roed, you are on the right track now.

There are two things you need to keep in mind. First is that the looking and its power to transform the experience of life is more like medicine than anything else. The medicine that is brought with the act of looking cures the underlying disease that causes us to fear life itself. The other is that the initial period of peace and freedom and clarity often falls apart and leaves us feeling even crazier that we were before the looking. This has been the case for many, including Carla and me, but not for all. We call this the period of recovery, and you can find reports about it in the testimonials and a number of postings in the forums. Exploring the forums is the best way to get a sense of what to expect, and using the experience of those who are active in the forums is of great help.

The good news is that even if this happens to you, and even if you do nothing but fall into neurotic suffering, it will pass, and when it's gone the relationship you have with your life will be satisfying in ways that you would never expect. You will go sane.

The best treatment we have found is the exercise we call the practice of focused attention, which is a mindfulness practice, shorn of all the spiritual and religious framework that comes with most such practices. The practice of focused attention is an exercise that will strengthen and clarify your control and authority over what your attention attends to. I would advise you to read the chapter about Self-Directed Attention in The Just One Look Method. Also, browse the forums for discussions of this practice and its effectiveness.

I have some personal experience with Vipassana, and I do not think it would be useful to join in a Vipassana retreat at this time. Vipassana is an extremely strenuous form of mindfulness meditation that would most likely prolong the recovery period for you.

Please feel free to respond to this here in the forums so that all can benefit from our conversation.

John

John,

Thanks so much for this wonderful message. Even though I have read your description of focused attention before (several times in fact!), I went ahead and clicked through the link and read it again and I'm very glad I did. I hadn't before understood your instruction that we are to single-mindedly focus on the breath to the exclusion of all else. My meditation background is more in open awareness training, and so when I've done the focused attention practice in the past, I guess I've defaulted to that.

I will start training my mind THIS way, but I did have a question for you. In the article, you say that the development of open awareness can be profoundly useful. In your view, what is it useful for? And would you recommend that we also do exercises to cultivate this skill as well?

Thank you as always for all that you and Carla do. I hope 2015 is a wonderful one for you both, and for the Just One Look Foundation.

Warm regards,

Ansley

Thanks John, I appreciate it truly. Since my first post I have watched many hours of your videos and read a bunch on the forums which have all been very useful to me. Your response in this thread also resonates very well with what I've learned so far from these activities. Your rigor and consistency in keeping everything simple, to the point and using a language anyone with basic English skills and no previous experience with "spiritual lingo" can understand is remarkable in my opinion, so good job on that!

Yeah, I'm fairly convinced that I should cancel my Vipassana course. I can't say that I understand exactly how it can prolong the recovery, all I know it sort of feels intrusive to where I'm currently headed. Focused attention training should really be enough. This week has not been as brilliantly lit as last week. It's been good and I see changes in my personality and how I relate to people, both friends and strangers. My patience and interest in them is just much higher and I feel that my interactions are somehow more significant.. rather strange but pleasant. I've been feeling a little wobbly the last few days, but I don't know how much I can blame other circumstances, it being this special time of the year and all. The future is not as shiny and undeniably awesome like it felt last week, so I try not to think too much about it. So yeah, a little bit shaky but still feeling OK. I loved what you said in one talk about finding pockets of ignorance. The last two weeks have been nothing but finding pockets of ignorance. Fun but also a little tiring. Things are happening really fast and I'm doing my best to keep up by slowing down, it feels like a natural approach for me.

It's my intention to use this thread as a blog over what I'm experiencing over my course of recovery. I want to contribute to the body of knowledge around this whole thing with all I got. If this fear of life is real and if the looking is the cure, it would be such a shame if it somehow were forgotten or lost!

So! Because I will post updates on my experience from here and forward for all of you, I thought it would be a good idea to share my path up until finding the looking. Yeah, take it for what it is; it's just a story and I'm writing it mostly for myself as an account of my own history of though. But I personally like to hear other people's stories, so if you're anything like me feel free to read mine and let me know how it's similar or differs from your story!


I am a 27 year old from Scandinavia who has been quite invested in finding some underlying... something... about life for the last three-four years. I've always been an eager traveler, almost neurotic for adventure and new experiences - a craving which has dominated much of my life since my teens. Work, travel, work, travel year around. Although I now reflect on this as a "search" for something meaningful in life, I can't say it had much depth to it until I had a special experience with psychedelic mushrooms. During that trip I could see clearly that all my preferences and goals in life weren't so important (at least not to the extent I thought at the time). If I preferred Marlboro's before Camel's it was just because of some made up story, or if I liked one type of music more than another it wasn't because of the music but because of me, or if I liked a person more than some other (including myself) it was only because I had thunk it so. I could see my persona for what it was and for the first time in my life I just knew that there was more to me than my adventures or specific tastes in music, relationships and cigarettes. Yes I'm underrating my then-self quite a bit now, I've been pretty open, I'm just trying to convey that this experience felt very significant and it was my first mystical encounter. It led me to look at life beyond the material level.

The following year or so I experimented more with psychoactive drugs, I learned a ton about physics, discussed philosophy at length whenever I could. Trying to get closer to and understand that underlying... something... which I had discovered inside me. I was seeing how I (and everyone essentially) wasn't living up to my full potential and now my opinions and values were developing quickly. I was surprised about this situation although it probably is totally normal for 25-year-olds to go through this.. Only that I had already gone through some major changes in my early twenties so kind of I thought I was done cooking. But nope.. and this time around it all took a completely different turn. My development the previous three-four years had been around things like politics and ethics. Now I saw myself starting to question life itself. During this time I was confiding in the sciences to answer my questions. Tons of highly intelligent people must have thought about this long and hard before me, surely they must have some answers! I followed this trail as far as it went, but after some time a pattern emerged; more stories, fantastical theories and literally piles of facts and numbers, none which answered anything my heart was pondering. Philosophy led me to the Greeks, Descartes and ultimately nihilism where the exact same pattern emerged.

Then Buddhism. Very convincing at first glance but it was a little too spectacular for me to fully buy into it. I had about a year of dabbing on the surface of it until I got down to actually reading about the truths, the path and the practices. This much coincided with a tragic and traumatic event in which my best friend at the time took his own life. Over the last few years we had spent so many nights gobbling wine and debating philosophy and now suddenly I was left alone with huge sorrow and a million questions. When the trauma of it all had settled a bit I started seeing that I was indeed suffering so I started looking for a way out. Having Buddhism right there in front of me, which I really thought held a lot of promise was convenient enough for me to just dive in, now I was ready. I spend a long long time reading about the different traditions and their practices, their promises and teachings. I was heart brokenly hesitant to take on one particular path and follow it rigorously because I found within me an underlying mistrust to all the traditions, I'm not sure why, something just didn't feel exactly right and this annoyed me. However there were of course a few things they all had in common, like meditation which I gladly took on, which happened to be quite fruitful actually. Meditation certainly made me a better version of myself and helped me understand, at least to a higher degree than before, some of the reasons I was suffering. Eventually everything strictly Buddhist led me on to the same annoying pattern as I had seen in the sciences and philosophies. So many words and constructs but no real way of seeing what it is.

In the spring this year when I was working abroad for a month. With plenty of free time in my hotel I was just randomly youtubing and googling different Buddhist themes. I came across a forum thread in which one poster claimed to be enlightened. He wasn't saying it that directly but I could read through the lines and I became totally convinced that this person was realized, whatever it meant. I got slightly obsessed by it and asked him a plethora of questions about different teachers and traditions (which actually was the topic of the thread in the first place). He said Dzogchen to be "the most direct path", but that was actually irrelevant. I had become a believer in enlightenment. That's when I started listening to hours and hours of talks by people like Adyashanti, Eckhart Tolle, different "non-dual" groups and meetings. It was so refreshing to hear about this concept outside of strict Buddhism and especially since many of them said that attainment is easy, not hard. Finally I managed to condense their babbling to one core thing: Awareness is aware of itself, and that within this truth lies some form of liberation. This filled my head for a few months and I noticed that every time I would try to think it really hard, my body would relax and I would feel good. For the first time since I took those mushrooms thought I was on to something. This was a breakthrough because this approach didn't end up in the same bin as the other approaches.

A month ago now my girlfriend and I sat up late and had couple of beers. We started fighting over nothing, but stopped abruptly. I saw something happening in her that night made me extremely envious: It was obvious to me that she was experiencing Kenshó, even if she would kill me if I dared label it like that. She isn't a practitioner of any path or anything like that, but she just came at me with these profound insights about emptiness and awareness. Something that "just happens" to her sometimes with alcohol she says. Calls herself Jim Morrison she says. I always thought of her as very wise for her age, but this shocked me. She was telling me how I needn't worry about anything, how the world is all perfect and everything that happens happens with perfect timing according to everything else. It's hard for me to describe as I can't really do it any sort of justice. We had a really fun night with lots of jokes and word games, but I couldn't help burning up inside with envy of her ability to see so clearly what I had been searching for so long, which of course made me disappointed with myself; that I couldn't let it go and just be happy with who I am. This was sort of a high-point and a low-point at the same time, but now I was more determined than ever to go all the way, no matter what it takes. I made a drawing on my hand so that whenever I saw it I would try to "see my own awareness" as often and for as long as possible.

Lookin' good son! A mere week after our night and my sincerest wish for an ultimate truth had penetrated every waking hour I was youtubing on my phone, which I rarely do. The interface on the phone is different and I think i get different recommendations. Somehow a video with John Sherman came on. Didn't think much of it at first, well I though "oh well just another Adyashanti or something". Left it on, went for a bath and found myself quite interested after the first fifteen minutes. It sounded old, but in a way no one else had said it. I finished the video, the next day I watched another one and in this one I noticed the regular referencing to "the looking", whatever that was. I finished that too, then searched for some actual instruction. I found the fifteen minute clip, went through with it, I did the looking. Didn't feel very special at the time but the next day I couldn't stop doing it, and it felt good! Fast forward a few days of looking and I'm home alone watching John's interview with Rick in "Buddha at the gas pump", and right in the middle of it, something just happened. I experientially understood, just simply understood, that I had been here all along and that I had been chasing a dream almost. My experience of life is perfect the way it is, just like it's always been. This was the "awareness" I had tried to focus on, but hadn't managed to because I had just come at it at the wrong angle. I don't need any enlightenment! What is that anyway? I don't need to understand everything about life and death or reality or my place in the world or anything like that. I've got me! And me is all I've got and all I want. It's all here! Life's here!

Thanks for reading!

Roed

Thanks for the back story, Roed. I think it's a really good idea to use this forum is a blog and to keep track of your changes. I look forward to future contributions.

About a month has passed and just as previously pointed out; things are getting p crazy. I'm having a hard time putting together a coherent picture of what's been going on and don't really know what to say here. Creativity is also running a little dry and has been for a while.

It's like I'm torn between two versions of myself and I sort of jump between them in a very unpredictable manner. I can have the worst day ever but still feel totally content and at ease, but other days will run really smooth but yet anxiety will arise and I feel completely deflated and bored with life.

I follow the advice to focus attention on something neutral like breath when my minds wanders or when I feel dissatisfied or anxious. It sometimes work and sometimes not. The more I do it in a day, the greater the chance of success. Success in this case refers to me being able to swing back to a state of openness and acceptance rather than the uncomfortable "get me me out of here" or "oh god why does this happen to me" or just the simple yet not so nice "I don't want to do this".

My tendency to say yes to things rather than no is on a steady increase which is really enjoyable. I end up in situations where I hadn't otherwise. I'd like to share two examples from the past month. They may sound harmful or dangerous but in fact I just see them as great learning opportunities and I wouldn't do anything differently even if I got the chance.

1) I went with this random sketchy drug dealer who invited me to his hotel room where about a dozen other dealers turned out to be residing. They were very suspicious of me (only white guy, obviously not one of them). Normally I would have stayed controlled on the outside but completely panicked on the inside, not being able to go with it just wanting to get out of there. Actually, normally I would never had followed him anywhere (or even spoken to him in the first place!). But I stayed calm and focused the entire time and ended up having a great time, even making friends in this for me normally really threatening situation.

2) I have been thinking about homeless people for a while and came to the conclusion that every homeless person is such a tragedy and failure for all of us. How come we don't stop and ask "what the hell is going on here" as soon as we see someone in the street? They can't be just lying there! Honestly.. What the fuck? So with that going around in my head for a few days, I finally invited a homeless person to my home to sleep in a comfy bed. We had a great night chatting, he got to use some facebook and relax. He said many times how grateful he was and I could see it in his eye. The next morning he ended up snatching a laptop, a camera and a jacket before leaving which was such a bummer. I was very disappointed at first; my roomies were furious. But since that first day I have only felt compassion towards him. The poor guy was obviously just a druggie who did anything for a fix and I know it wasn't personal. I was even glad when I noticed he also took the jacket because I haven't used it for years and I swear it's waaay warmer than the one he had before. Better off on him than in my closet.

Not the only crazy things that's been going on.. I could tell you about last weekend in Istanbul and my risk-taking behavior there but I'll save it for another time.

I know to just hang in there. I'm trying to enjoy this ride as much as possible by laughing at it all. It is quite silly sometimes. I just hope I don't get hurt. I don't think I can. Which is a crazy thing to say. Gosh, I dunno. I'm a little upside down right now.

EDIT: I just read my previous post and saw this "Things are happening really fast and I'm doing my best to keep up by slowing down, it feels like a natural approach for me." Not so much anymore. I can't hold it back at all, nor do I want to. I am still accelerating.

Roed, I dont you mean to give advice, but it sounds like you are in a transition period and somewhat vulnerable. Even though it seems you realize that your essential nature cannot be harmed, and your fear is greatly diminished, harm can come to your body and there can be long lasting consequences to your risk taking.

This period is probably temporary for you, and it might be a time to lie low and adjust to new perceptions. I have had times of impulsivity and strange inclinations to do things I don't normally do since the looking, but this has passed and a more reflective sense now surrounds these impulses. Just my thoughts and I hope you stay well.

Thanks for your kind words Jackx. Soon after my last posting things started to cool down and I hit my baseline again.

Last year around this time I was in knee deep with depression slowly eating me up. I'm feeling much of that crawling it's way back into my life. The difference is that now I am not afraid of it and I somehow don't worry too much about it (and it went away before, so it probably will again sooner or later). When someone asks me how I'm doing many times I'll just tell them straight up that it's rather shitty at the moment and that I'm having angst and just want to go hide under a rock somewhere. The stress of putting on my good face is not totally gone but greatly diminished which is a great relief. It's a strange feeling; at one and the same time be so miserable that I don't even want to get out of bed, and to still think that this feeling is completely okay and that it doesn't really matter. I pay attention to the physical symptoms (cortisol rushes, shiverings, belly aches etc) and they are far less intense now than they were a year ago although the stress and anxiety feel pretty much the same psychologically.

Motivation is my biggest concern right now Finding motivation for anything is just impossible. I think many things I have accomplished in the past have been motivated by fear. Now I don't see a point to anything really. I feel like everything is and will be okay no matter what happens so why bother doing anything? I want life to deal me out a couple of rounds, I'll happily just pay the blinds for now. This is giving be problems at work; my work demands of me to be very proactive and involved. I now wish I had a simple job like my friend who is a delivery. He drives 500 km every day, elbow out the window and radio playing. Hopefully I will be accepted to a university this fall, in which case I could really use some drive. Maybe it will come if I find class enjoyable.

Life is rolling by steadily but I just don't care much about it. I can force my involvement which makes it better but I can only do it for some time before I lose the energy and interest to do so.

Every once in a while I get wound up in theories about why I am this way, why that person is that way and other skeptical approaches to the going ons around me. When I catch this I just take a look and relax, giggle softly for myself and then put all that aside. I think this ability as my new super power. However it does not make me work any faster or accomplish more complex tasks or anything like that, it is just sweet.

 

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