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The mind

Hi, I wrote down some comments and thoughts that arose in me after hearing the webinar about the mind from May 23. This was to gain clarity about my own position, but I would welcome if you would join.

Our experiences of life depend on the functioning of the mind. A human is considered dead when the brain stops functioning. Thus, the mind is a necessary and central part of our existence. Considering this, how could the mind be a problem, or even an enemy? However, while the mind is the space where our personal life manifests, it is not our life. There is something else that resides deeper in us than the mind. You can experience it when you overrule your mind by taking gut decisions, or decide how much value you give to individual thoughts. What operates in these cases could be what John calls me. This me cannot be grasped by the mind, and therefore with language.

Regarding how sensation is processed, the role of the brain, and intelligence: consider a plant. A plant has no nerve cells, thus no brain. However, it processes sensations and shows complex behaviour. This shows that intelligence (defined as complex processing of information, and adaptive behavior) does not depend on a brain. And maybe there is even some sort of a plant mind, so mind can exist without a brain? But in the end, musings over the mind will not bring as closer to life, and it remains a mystery.

Hi Cytex,

There is a long history of thought in both East and West called Panpsychism, which holds that mind, or soul, is all pervading. Apparently, there is a new school of thought in our days building on it in trying to explain the so called hard problem of mind-matter duality. I've read some texts of late physicist David Bohm, who speculated similarly based on observations in particle physics. To him, even sub-atomic particles had a kind of mind, though infinitely simpler than humans. He wanted to connect physical world with goes on in our minds. He thought that the fundamental constituents of the Universe are matter, energy and meaning. The latter is the weak point in our materialist explanations of Universe, especially human mind and behavior. Science is quite unable to explain why is there such thing as meaning, and give it a place in the explanation of our world. Meaning is, of course, related to intelligence. I'm not sure where "me" is in all this, but it seems to be an entity of an entirely different order of certainty than the rest, as John said somewhere else.

This is philosophy and speculations, and maybe a bit of science, too, but what John says about me being apart from everything else (mind, matter, body, brain) implies that we are indeed safe from the World, apart, yet participating. How concrete does this become in our experience after recovery? Or, how detached from our bodies and minds do we become, if at all, to not be existentially terrified of this World?

It is a fact that the physical world can maim, paralyze and will ultimately kill our bodies, reduce our minds non-functional, and perhaps even more importantly, of those we love, but to what extent shall we be our bodies in our experience? It is unlikely that we'll see our minds and bodies as distant as the weather outdoors, but some kind of distance seems to be essential to alleviate the terror and fear. This has been bothering me lately.

Thank you for your sensible comments.


Or, how detached from our bodies and minds do we become, if at all, to not be existentially terrified of this World? (...) but some kind of distance seems to be essential to alleviate the terror and fear.

For me it seems the other way round? Distant, detached, dissociated is more terrifying, in the sense of: locked out from myself, condemned to watch from a distance, recognising the futility and ridiculousness. When I am fully immersed, I just do what is necessary and judge less.

This is a quote from Tyson in the testimonials section.

"So what happened to me? The separation between myself and my body went away. I am more alive than ever! Sometimes i just watch myself and am amazed!"

Thank you for commenting, Cytex and Jackx.

I realized after hitting 'post' that I should have been more careful in defining what I mean by detachment from mind and body, and the World. There appears to be a paradox here in equally valid and true statements of "the separation between myself and my body went away" and "you are not your body or mind", or "nothing can touch, harm or enhance me". While I cannot say I experience the first one as a solid truth yet, or the second one, for that matter, it seems to be what John says, too.

The proposition of me as something that cannot be harmed or touched by anything that happens, is in my understanding, the sole reason for the redemptive power of looking at oneself, as it frees one from the erroneous context of anxiety over how one fares in this chaotic seeming Universe. This is the proposed fact that we can check for ourselves for it's veracity by recalling our past and present 'me' in our minds, conforming that indeed nothing that hurt, pleased actually touched it. This can of course be questioned by saying that one merely projects one's present me into the past one, but there's a feeling that that's not the case. That there's a kind feeling of certainty in this. At least, this is how I experience it. This is the simple observation I called "distance between me and my mind" or "detachment". I'm asking if this observation solidifies into an experienced factual state of mind as the recovery advances? I can well believe in it or theorize over it but if it is not a fact for me, I'm under an existential threat. This was my argument, anyway.

While 'me' lives trough the mind and experiences the body and the world, and feels no separation between the two, and yet still is untouched by it all, what then is going on here?

There was a separation that comes out of fear and one that comes from the fact that there's nothing to fear, except for the body and perhaps the mind, too, but in essence, one is not under threat as one is neither. The latter 'separation' one feels as closing the distance of fear based living between one and life, as there is nothing to fear and it's safe to engage in life, as one is 'separate' from it and it happens outside oneself.

I'm yet to experience this closing of the distance. I still experience life as something terrifying, at least at times. The confusion might come from the habit of thought to delve on all kinds of catastrophes, but it's a fear based habit on it's way out? There seldom seems to be any existential terror in actual threats we face. They seem to be merely occasions calling for a specific kind of response that uses alarm to mobilize our intelligence. Or at least that's what my intelligence tells me now.

Seppo, if I try to reformulate your thoughts using my words: After the looking you no longer identify with your mind. This gives a sane distance to stuff that happens in the mind. On the other hand, you no longer need to retract from what happens in the mind, because it cannot harm you. In this sense there is less distance. Would you agree with this way of putting it?

Cytex, I would.

I hesitated to use the word 'identify' as it's often used in spiritual circles, but it is a common term for what's going on. Sanity in this distance comes from lack of fear. The essence in all this seems to be a kind of playfulness; when there's nothing to fear, except in the sense of protecting your body and personality, things are light, or lighter, at least. In my mind, this is quite fundamental in all existence: There's no apparent reason why something/anything exists. Or it cannot be captured in utilitarian terms. This, in my imagination, gives you the satisfaction in life. When things don't threaten you, it frees your intellect, creativity and playfulness, but it's not of the irresponsible kind of distancing which comes from the burden weighing so heavily on you that you reject it.

It's still a bit confusing to tell the sane fear, or care for the body, apart from neurotic fear-habit. There's some thought needed in planning one's life so that the body is as safe as is reasonable, but there's also the habit of summoning horror scenarios in the name of protection. Hopefully that fades away, speeded up with the help of attention directing practice.


It's still a bit confusing to tell the sane fear, or care for the body, apart from neurotic fear-habit. There's some thought needed in planning one's life so that the body is as safe as is reasonable, but there's also the habit of summoning horror scenarios in the name of protection. Hopefully that fades away, speeded up with the help of attention directing practice.

I struggle with this as well. I realize fear often served as a motivator.....to lose weight, eat healthfully, and take care of myself in general. Now that it's gone, I just don't care as much about how I look or feel. I'm sorta waiting for a natural intuition about this stuff to kick in, but it hasn't. I'm a little, or a lot, unmoored, as my previous motivators and structure is greatly reduced. There is also a sadness here now that the fear must have been covering up. I don't think it's depression, per se, as I am functional and relatively satisfied with life. It feels like a borderland or in between state. Somewhat transitional, but awkward as well.

Anyone else feel this way.

Sure, Jackx, I have it. I do not like it. There is family, there are bills.

Me, too, Jackx. Sounds familiar. Transitional, yes. There might be something quite new brewing inside the unmoored state.

My depression has diminished and a sense of it having gone for good has emerged. I feel disoriented, but there are many things that have become more interesting even though they seem to be somewhat disconnected still. I think that to reach a vision of what is my 'vocation' or 'purpose', those would have to come together somehow to build up motivation and energy for me to start acting and practicing them. But then again, this might not happen, and it would probably be quite alright, but not ideal. Unless I gain a contentment and satisfaction in just existing.

I seem to have kept my interest in health issues and habits, but the neurotic aspect bordering on orthorexia has been eased somewhat. On top of worrying about health there was a kind of addiction to unhealthy foods. There was a centrifugal force that threw things to their extremes, in both good and bad, at least regarding eating. That's not gone yet, but maybe diminished some, too. I'm thinking that if those neurotic tendencies vanish, what is left is the natural instinct and appetite working in balance.

Exercise has stuck with me too in the last few years, even though I never was very interested in sports or other kind of physical activity in general since teens. It's like brushing you teeth; it's not fun but it has to be done. The satisfaction might come after exercise and having accomplished what needs to be done. And from seeing how your body reshapes itself. Curiously, though, I'm less concerned about my (nonexistent) looks, but give more thought and care to them, kind of like we discussed above considering the 'distance'. When they don't matter so much, you can take care of them in a more disinterested way which seems to bring it's own satisfaction. Maybe optimal attitude to health comes out of losing both obsession with it and the attraction to indulge and escape though eating, and rising of general curiosity about things, such as what's been found out in research?

What I'd like to be less, is lazy. I'd like to work more on things I'm (or think I am) interested in. But I have my job for paying bills and it takes it's toll. Again, there is a sort of confidence in that things will sort themselves out. Meanwhile, I'm not exactly enjoying the ride but not wanting to jump of it as much, either.

Thanks Seppo. This so well articulates what I'm going through that it seems we are living parallel experiences. It helps me understand my experience. At this point I have very little doubt that things will resolve themselves quite nicely. I just don't know how that will look or feel. I'm laughing at 'orthorexic'. I never heard the term, but that's me, or was me. Right now I'm finding alcohol to be a problem. I don't drink much, but drink several times a week with friends and I seem more sensitive to it than ever before. Or maybe it's that I'm more sensitive to the effects; like I notice things more acutely now, as opposed to my more numbed previous state.

Whatever happens it will be interesting. I find that life is just slightly more interesting and engaging. That I usually really don't have complaints other than this echo of a ghost sound track that has run most of my life, but seems to be winding down. Complaints are pro forma. It's a funny place to be. I just can't get some negative momentum going.....nor positive.

I can completely relate with the feeling of being unmoored. Lately I've been feeling like I'm walking around in a big question mark and it's not comfortable. I also feel that things will sort themselves out but at the same time I need to pay my rent and bills so there is also a sense of urgency around finding work. I've lately been running into a feeling of meaninglessness... It's not good or bad but kind of a strange space to be in. I'm going to take a few days to head out to the woods and camp by myself. If I'm going to feel uncertain and uncomfortable I might as well do it next to a river with the sounds of birds.

On the other hand, I went to a graduation party for the son of friends yesterday. I didn't know many people and this is exactly the kind of situation which would have put me over the edge with social anxiety. I would have felt terribly anxious and miserable, avoided talking to anyone, drank too much, and camped out in a corner. I did none of this and walked away from the party feeling like I connected with some people and with zero anxiety and residual judgements about myself and those at the party.

Jackx, yes, I noticed how our experiences on this are very similar, even down to when it all started.

Orthorexia is a new prospective disorder, but it smacks of medicalization to my ear. I admit that it can resemble eating disorder and can get out of hand and seriously impair your life, though.

It's a strange beast, this disorientation. I can't recall if I ever experienced this kind of limbo before looking. It's like being stuck in fog where you can't see beyond your next step. There's nothing really wrong with you but you wish you could see where to go so that you could gain a picture where you are and find a destination. But somehow it seems to testify to the effectiveness of looking.

ngregers, I share your feeling of meaninglessness. I don't know how this plays out for each of us, but I get glimpses of possibilities, little pieces of the puzzle still disconnected, but they hint at a possibility of a direction.

Camping in the great outdoors sounds good. It's been confirmed by research that walking in the woods enhances your creativity in getting new ideas and reduces stress. My little profile picture on the left is a landscape painting of mine I did several years ago which I take on hindsight to illustrate the unknown and what withdraws from us, but what you can somehow sense at times in nature, and in life in general. Natural forces beyond those we know of. Things blurry and unfocused, flux and the unfinished nature of everything which bothers and annoys, but where you can find a sense of order and beauty, too.

Anyway, I wish you good time camping and insights into where to next.

Thanks Seppo. It's difficult to clearly see your painting but it looks like some pretty amazing work. Similar to what I take pictures of. I live in Oregon and love photographing the rainy misty mountains and waterfalls and I've noticed I'm also able to find the beauty in the simple and mundane. The way light hits leaves on a tree is magical these days.

I do feel that state of limbo and I'm struggling with not know what the next step is. An image comes to mind of those adventure movies where the bridge across the chasm is invisible. You know it's there but it's super scary to take a step out into nothing. Just one foot in front of the other and it'll come together because it always does.

Sounds like "limbo" might be a common stage in the recovery. 2-4 years in, after the really painful stuff passes? It feels like there is some deep reorganization going on in the body and the mind and a distance from life has to be maintained while this is going on. For me there are physical changes.....a greater sensitivity to alcohol, caffeine and unhealthy foods. Changes in energy levels, mood and emotion, and of course, motivation. There is, perhaps, a greater capacity for attention and focus. The heavily negative emotions have mainly disappeared; anxiety and depression. There is lingering sadness and a sense of ennui. Overall, a much better place than where I've been all my life and a definite sense that things will change.

It seems to me that our society honours the zeal, the drive and the power that is fueled by the fear of life. I do not see where to fit in given this "limbo" state we discussed. I cannot fight the way I used to, there seems no point anymore. Has anyone found a new home, a new passion?

I did actually. I came to the conclusion that I'm stagnating and so is my career in a city that is getting increasingly more busy by the day. With the looking comes increased sensitivity and I don't want to numb out like I used to so the city and traffic is becoming tiresome and overwhelming. I assessed my situation from a practical point of view and decided to accept a new job in a small town on the Oregon Coast. I'm actually excited about it and I like what I do for a living so it feels good and the limbo state is dissipating for now. I didn't push for this to happen I just found something that was the right fit and it worked out. But yeah I get the not wanting to fight anymore which is why I'm leaving the city and the rat race behind.

That sounds good.

Yes, good to hear! Nothing much has changed in my life, yet everything has changed.....

Hi! I am new to this, just started "looking" a few weeks ago. I am feeling extreme anxiety at times during the day that leave me feeling very weepy and then moments of peace. It is quite disconcerting and I am wondering if this is part of recovery. Any tips for getting through this, how long does this go on if indeed it is recovery. I feel this method is very genuine. I would appreciate any feedback. Everyone here seems so real!

Welcome to the forum, Donnamarie. The experiences I had during the recovery period are what convinced me that the looking was for real, and it is, both the turmoil of the recovery and subsequent loss of fear. I can only speak to my experience. I did the act of looking and thought it was inconsequential and completely forgot about it until six months later when I was hit with extremely strong emotions: fear, anxiety, anger, crying, insomnia, the whole lovely ball of sensations you are going through. I had no idea what was going on and thought I was losing my mind until I retraced my steps to this website and the act of looking.

What helped me was John's work and this forum. I read everything and was able to piece together what was going on with me. I tried to exercise, eat as healthfully as possible and kept up my Qi Ging practice which was my vehicle for practicing focused attention. The recovery period does pass, the worst of it for me was 2 or 3 months. Then there is a long, slow falling away of behaviors, habits, emotions, etc that were part of the fear based world and are no longer necessary. I have found it disorienting, but gratifying as these things fall away. It is definitely worth going through the recovery to experience a life free of neurosis and that keeps getting better and better. Hang in there and remember that this is temporary and that you can't be harmed or helped by any of it.


Hi! I am new to this, just started "looking" a few weeks ago. I am feeling extreme anxiety at times during the day that leave me feeling very weepy and then moments of peace. It is quite disconcerting and I am wondering if this is part of recovery. Any tips for getting through this, how long does this go on if indeed it is recovery. I feel this method is very genuine. I would appreciate any feedback. Everyone here seems so real!

I too was thrown back and forth, this seems common and nothing to worry about.

The tip is this: it is up to you what will grow and what will fade. When you are feeling bad, look at what is making you feel bad, if it's a thought, or whatever it is, see it, and then firmly place your attention on something other than that. Do this with determination as often as you can, over and over. As you get better at it your old habit of seeing pain will diminish faster.

It does not cease to jazz me up whenever I see someone who just did the looking. I think I speak for all of us when I say I am geniunely glad to have you on board! Good luck on your recovery and welcome to the forums!

I have tried four times to write this. I really, really appreciate this feedback. This seems so frightening at times because something is shifting and I have always been the "rock". But I do notice that certain habits have come into question and yes, looking at my thoughts seems to defuse them. The need to always "appear perfect" is in me, the need to please screams out at me. It is hard to hold up the whole world for goodness sake! When I stumbled upon John I thought, finally. There you are. And I knew I was looking at me. Today was cautiously OK. Tomorrow may be hard. But I will hang on! Thank you, all you lovely people!

In my experience, looking at my thoughts is not helpful, I meant only to notice what is going on. Actively turning my attention away from them, onto something neutral, like the breath for example on the other hand is helpful and strengthens my self-reliance. I could have been more clear on that! Hope you are feeling fine today.

It's like we've been looking the wrong way through the peephole all our lives. Peace beyond understanding.

Yes Roed, looking at my thoughts is NOT helpful! But I have been practicing focused attention and it does seem to lower the anxiety. The anxiety has nothing to cling to. When thoughts arise it's like they are the glue for fear if I involve myself in them! Getting better and better at it. It's encouraging when you find that it brings peace. This has been a real shake up for me but reading the testimonials has helped.

Thanks everyone for the very insightful thoughts. I'm new to the forum, but I practiced the act of looking for the first time on May 11th, 2013 which, coincidentally, happens to also be my birthday, and, as described by some, did not experience any tangible consequences in the subsequent months. I periodically retried the act, always leaving with the feeling I did not get it right. On January 6th 2015 (coincidentally, the "Epiphany"?), I was on a plane back to SF, where I currently live, and was assailed by the first of a long series of dissociative episodes, which I had previously experienced only twice (the first when I was 19, and drug induced), the second in 2012, after an intense panic attack which led me to ER, absolutely convinced I was dying. I convinced myself I had become psychotic and started seeing a therapist, with little to no avail. My apeirophobia (probably the most extreme manifestation of the fear of life), which I'd somehow managed since I was 6, came back in full force and completely took over my life. On March 2015, I finally took a 3-month absence leave from work, and flew back to Italy, where I'm originally from, to spend time with my family. I experienced about 3 more months of acute depression, phobias, anxiety, neurosis, apathy, crying, insomnia. The anti-depressants (which I'm still on), together with the support of family and friends, helped me gradually get back on my feet, and now I'm back in SF. It's premature to draw any conclusions at this stage, but seeing all the similar struggles you guys have been through, gives me some strength, and signals me that I may be on the right path.

The state I am in right now is mainly of confusion and alienation, experienced particularly when I wake up in the morning and perceive the puzzling, and almost beautiful absurdity of life, which still feels foreign to me. I practice focused attention regularly, and also perform the act of looking now and then (I am still tempted by the idea I can do it better). My apeirophobia and general depression creeps back up at recurring intervals, but they are not as overwhelming as they used to be. Without knowing about the theory behind it, I intuitively started practicing self-reliance more and more frequently, treating my symptoms as some sort of fever which needs to be naturally sweated out (often in bed, on weekends). I've finally battled body image issues for about all my life, and recently experienced a strong desire to let it all go. I even stopped my hair loss treatment, which has been mildly successful about 10 years, but very stressful, and started to be kind of intrigued by the idea of embracing hair loss, even though I still have mixed feelings on this. As for my general fear of death, impermanence, and the unknown, it is still there, threatening the rare moments of calmness and stillness I experience, but in a less menacing way. Anyway, that's it from me for now, but I'll post more updates with any progress. Thanks again for sharing and keep it up.

Recovery is pulling the rug out from many of my usual motivations, my various addictions to approval, my near constant attempts to stave off despair. This comes with some pain and grief but there's a great sense that the struggle is losing traction. I tried to suggest The Inquiry to a friend and he instantly tried to find commonalities with other teachings which concerned me as that is just more mind stuff and not looking. I think, like John has said, you need to be desperate and willing to try this simple act. The subconcious can trick you into thinking your misery is ok but you need to be sick and tired of it.

Thanks Bradley. I've been desperate enough for a while! I actually didn't need any convincing to try the act. The idea of a lingering fear of life dawned upon me by itself, one night. I immediately googled it and John and Carla's website was among the top entries.


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