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4 1/2 years in

Looking report, 4 1/2 years post-looking:

Basically all negative emotional patterns are gone. The anxiety and depression syndromes that infiltrated my whole life are gone. I still get anxious and depressed, to be sure, but these instances don't last long. My preoccupation with salvation, enlightenment, and spiritual perfection is mostly gone. I am still somewhat a bystander to this process, peeking in the windows of spiritual forums to see what others are doing, but less and less inclined to engage myself in these discussions, even to try to explain the effects and simplicity of the looking (fear seems a powerful force in keeping us away from the thing which would mean it's end. At all costs!). The endless spiritual fantasies about liberation and oneness are simply no longer necessary or even desirable. I find myself bemused that I was ever so deeply caught up in these endless discussions about spiritual liberation, salvation, non-duality, ego, reincarnation, consciousness, etc.

Guilt and shame, which drove many of my actions and feelings all my life is greatly diminished and almost gone. I have had to learn and rely on other motivational forces: creativity, truth, quality, meaning, etc. Many of the perseverative, idiosyncratic habits and thought patterns which were fueled by guilt and shame simply dropped away. The avoidance of and attempts to ameliorate guilt and shame are no longer necessary. Beer gets undrunken in the fridge, junk food sits, neglected, in the cupboards.

Tasks, work, problem solving have all become easier, more efficient and enjoyable. I simply go to work and do what needs to be done without much fuss and much less procrastination. I have struggled with ADHD and executive functioning difficulties most of my life, made worse by anxiety; focus, working memory, memory, and planning. These issues have been greatly reduced and ameliorated. I can sit down to a task and get lost in it without becoming distracted. These instances of 'flow' have increased enormously. In the past, immersion in a task or process to the point of 'timelessness' only happened when it was something I enjoyed: building with my hands, movies, etc. Now I get caught in flow while driving, doing chores, at work, and other routine things. The internal complaining and desire to be elsewhere during times of boredom or even painful experiences is greatly reduced. I can dial into the present moment with precision and artful direction of attention.

My body was another lifelong obsession. I am no longer obsessed with my looks, my health, or my ailments. I have found it satisfying to take care of my body and health rather than be obsessed with perfect health and fears of illness. I find pleasure in exercise, qigong, cooking and eating (and growing) whole foods. Rather than thinking of these things as salvation, they are simply fulfilling activities in and of themselves which promote positive energy and enjoyment. I can now eat 'bad' food occasionally without fear and guilt and not binge on them as before. My energy levels and stamina for life are higher than ever.

I am not perfect by any stretch. It's been interesting to be honest with myself and allow the truth of my faults and imperfections to come through, something I once avoided at all costs. I always considered myself a 'nice guy'. In fact, this persona was critical to the idealized self I had created. I had to have people like me and went to great lengths to obtain the approval of others. I tend to be socially introverted with a great love for people. It always bothered me that I wasn't more extroverted and socially available as I was often stricken with social anxiety. I found, once the social anxiety went away, that I can tolerate a room full of strangers, but it's simply not my preference. I'm learning to parse my social energies without beating myself up about not being social enough. I still occasionally awake to nightmares, as my dreams seem to be a channel of the fear I'm not experiencing while awake.

I never believed I would experience life in this way, or even imagined life could be experienced in this way. My recovery was rather wretched and afterward there was an emptiness, a vacuum, left by the absence of fear. I had relied on fear all my life; an awful baseline from which to measure every paltry nuance and twitch. Without it, there wasn't much meaning. The psychologist, Martin Seligman, stated that he noticed that when his patients recovered from depression and anxiety they weren't necessarily happy; the absence of pain wasn't fulfillment and happiness. This too was my rather numb experience for a year or so after the recovery. With the aftermath of the looking, I found that meaning, aka life, filled the void eventually and reliably. It took awhile to get here and I look forward to an ever evolving relationship with this human life as it expands outward. If I can get here with all my doubts, fits and starts, and exquisite neurosis, so can humanity.

Dear Jackx,

Thank you very much for this clear, sane, lucid report.

Thanks, Carla. It's appreciated. I have been having a difficult time talking about the looking with friends and significant others lately. If been getting a lot of push back, saying they don't see changes in me, that I can't attribute changes to the looking and just general disbelief. It's kind of discouraging, given that I experience life in a very different way than I did 5 years ago. I wish I could communicate things better. It seems that those close to me don't want to or cant see the changes. I have even felt the rising of emotion, mostly anger, about this that I haven't experienced in awhile.

Does anyone else struggle with this?

It is my experience that trying to tell someone who has known me for a long time, including my family, is very very hard. Telling a stranger is much easier. I went to Brasil in 2014, after an absence of 15 years. I got to see a few of my old friends. They would ask me what I'm doing and, instead of trying to describe it, I would say: It's hard to explain, but I can show you. And then I would go through the instructions for looking at yourself with them. As far as I know, they looked. How could they not? I have learned not to ask for their impression, because they most likely will not recognize it. Then I would tell them, if things start getting weird, get in touch with me or go to our website. I don't think people can see how different I am from the person they used to know. After all, the bulk of the changes is all in my own mind. They may even feel it, but they would not recognize it consciously. One thing I think is important is to never try to tell someone unless they ask. And not to expect anything in return. Just warn them that things may get hard for a while and leave them be. There is no way they can understand what you are trying to communicate before they do the looking. All that matters is to try to get them to look - if they ask for it.

Thanks Carla. That's very helpful.

It's interesting to think; those people you try and mention the looking to may not have noticed when you were miserable and burdened with 'the fear of life' either. We all experience our own reality tunnel and I assume it is only our misery and conditioned fear that we focus mostly on when we are caught in 'the fear'.

Dunno if that makes sense. I think I can relate though. Sometimes I feel I am really at ease and wonder if others notice it as well as me. But why should they care? And do they really care? Maybe that's why you felt anger; cos you wanted them to notice and it didn't show up. I understand that, as I catch myself doing the same thing.

Not sure if what I'm saying makes much sense as I am a little stoned as I write this.

ps. I'm sure people very close to you noticed when you were really really miserable. I was referring to that low level misery that seems to persist in all of us, to different degrees.

Jim

Actually I don't think those close to me knew how miserable I was, nd I think you're right, we are all caught up in our own misery and don't notice others. I think the anger is mixed with frustration as I'm not feeling anger now. It's a mix of need for validation and just wanting those you love to experience what you are experiencing. All those with whom I had recent conversations with have done the looking and they all deny experiencing the effects and question my experience, even though I see signs in them of changes. I guess it doesn't even matter if they acknowledge the looking as causality, I know they will change in time. I was just surprised at the level of emotion this elicited.....both in them and me. Defensiveness and attack on both sides. More levels to uncover, more pockets of fear to unravel. It's all blown over now. Kids are much easier to talk to about the looking.

Really beautiful report Jack, it is so exciting this is possible with just one look, very much my own experience, too. I agree Jim with what you say everyone caught in the fear of life pretty much focused on their own situation. I see a difference in my own response to the dramas unfolding around me. I have a definite calming effect and many people mention this. I think it's natural to expect a lot of resistance from others. I too struggled with so many deep seated fears during the recovery. I stay alert to any moment I can inject the simplicity of the looking into a conversation if the context feels right.

Jackx, your report is immensely encouraging. In the same span of time I can't say I've got that far. My junk food doesn't sit neglected, unfortunately. I'm currently repeating my experiment of last year to abstain from sweet junk food, going on 4 days now, and I feel miserable. I feel empty and anxious, don't know that to do now I'm not as spaced out with stimulants. I feel resistance and lethargy to take on doing stuff I used to like and think important. I just waste my time away doing nothing. I still have horribly depressive thoughts and in the absence of them I feel I'm in that limbo we've discussed here before. And at 45 I feel my life is over anyway and I better get used to it. But there are good things happening, too. I see more clearly how all my thinking is confused, contradictory and/or destructive, which makes it easier to move attention away from it, to see that it's all patterns and algorithms without any significance.

I've been thinking about the changes not being noticed and I think that absence of something is not often noticed. It might get noticed if your motive to do something goes absent which makes you lose interest in that something, but all those internal changes that don't manifest in any straightforward way remain inside you. It's the absence that's really revolutionary in our minds.

I find that my intelligence/attention leads me towards a solution to most problems or at least acceptance. I'm learning to trust my instincts more and where my attention and curiosity leads me.

Jackx, I've read your account several times over and find it both inspiring and genuine. I was wondering if you ever practice/d the self-directed attention that John recommends? Did that kind of exercise have any role in your "recovery" or did things just play out over 4 1/2 years?

Kinda both. Things definitely played out because a lot of this happened before John and Carla formulated their ideas about directed attention. However, I was experienced in many kinds of meditation over the years and never found it difficult to direct my attention, that is, it was easier with a background in meditation and the base of fear gone from my mind. This is very much unfolding. Since writing this I have had some emotional rollers coming through and stressful life circumstances. But this is the way of life and it's not devastating as it once was. I do Qi Gong every, or most mornings, and I use this as my directed attention exercise. I bring my attention to my breath and the movements. I use Qi Gong for healing and to maintain health as well as working with attention. I also use the directed attention exercise, however, I typically don't wallow in negative thoughts, as I once did and my mind seems to reboot on its own. That's not to say I don't experience negative thinking and emotional states. I Do. I use healthy eating, exercise, an Qi Gong as a way to add quality to my life, rather than a desperate attempt to save my life as it once was.

I guess the bottom line is that I trust my mind to nudge me in a good direction, now that isn't toxic with fear. This trust builds ever so gradually and incrementally over time and directed attention, by whatever means works, is a good way to further that process.

I too, find this posting very encouraging Jack. My mind has not lost the symptoms of the fear as much as your mind seems to have. I recognize all of the changes you are reporting, from my own recovery, but often the old psychology seems to be the most dominant in my day to day experience. For years I have been convinced that I have done, by looking at myself, what's needed to be done. And I have found a rest in that insight, knowing that I don't have to do anything. So I have been waiting the recovery out, and still waits in a way, for my mind to reach the level of sane reactions as you mention. And I find your report to be a good pointer to what is to be expected, sooner or later. And I guess that a regular use of the practice of self directed attention had made, the effects you mention, to appear rather sooner than later. That is certainly true in my case anyway. And to be honest I am getting a little tired of waiting. Therefore I have decided to begin with the self directed attention practice, starting today. Better late than never!

"‹Thanks for sharing...

Thanks, Niklas.

This is great news, Niklas. The sooner you start a daily practice of self-directed attention the better. When John and I went through recovery, we did not know about the amazing effect of this practice, so we kind of waited the recovery out, although all along we were working to understand the process so we could be helpful to people. And, until we figured out the role of attention in this process, that's what we told people to expect: you look at yourself, and things will be all right in the end. It is really true that it all gets clear over time, but without our active participation in the process, we miss a great opportunity to have a say in the shape our mind takes as it regenerates.

Since we started urging people to take on this practice, we have seen amazing results. I myself started practicing self-directed attention regularly only last year, even though I am sure that the worst of the recovery was over for me a few years ago. I practice it all the time now, and it is really amazing how easy and automatic it becomes. Any time I notice a thought that is slightly neurotic and does not have any practical application in the moment, I move my attention to the sensation of the breath in my nostrils and start counting. The counting really helps me focus.

The thoughts I refer to are mostly worrisome thoughts about our constant lack of money, in our life and in our work. This is a very old tendency that has been reappearing every now and then lately, triggered by my current hormonal imbalance due to premenopause. Now that I am getting much better at determining for myself what I pay attention to, I can notice a lot sooner when a harmful or simply unnecessary thought attracts my attention. The practical thoughts that may lead me to an idea for how to get the money we need to pay the rent, for instance, are welcome. Anything else that feeds the worry and is not practical I recognize more quickly and simply decline to give it my attention. And sometimes I have to do this over and over, as the worrisome thoughts keep coming back in a loop.

This is true, radical self-reliance and it is available to everyone.

I have also found out that this applies to physical experiences too. Not surprising, since they too only occur in the mind. As I mentioned, I have been going through premenopause for the last six years, and it has been a bumpy ride. Every now and then, because of hormone fluctuations, I experience temporary depressive states of mind that are accompanied by very uncomfortable and sometimes very painful physical symptoms, mostly disturbances of my digestive system. I do what I can to deal with the symptoms, and I practice self-directed attention. I decline to attend to the crazy ideas that pop up about what's happening to me, and Oh, my god, when is this going to end? Maybe there is something really wrong with me", etc. These seem to be really ancient patterns of reaction that reappear when my body-mind system is unbalanced. I am also doing this with any painful sensation that appears. Not giving attention to the physical sensations does not make them go away, but it does help to clarify my relationship with them. I am becoming more stable and self-reliant in dealing with these physical problems.

Anyway, I am very happy to hear that you have decided to get serious about the practice of self-directed attention and I am certain that you will get very good at it soon. I promise you, you will not regret it.

I urge every person reading this to do the same. If you do not, you will be all right eventually, but you will be missing out on a great opportunity to participate actively in the shaping of your mind. And the period of recovery will take much longer to finish.

No one needs to passively wait for it all to be over. The practice of self-directed attention gives you control over your attention and in doing so, gives you the tool that allows you to have a say in the shape your mind takes over time by attending to the psychological mechanisms that are sane and useful to you, and declining to give your attention to those that are sick and harmful to you.

Thanks for the interesting report Carla. Yesterday, after having made the post above, I realized that I actually have been doing some self-directed attention practice. Not a structured or a serious practice, but more like noticing in the moment when my thoughts looped and were best to be discarded. I have become more aware of my attention and it is probably something that, as you say, comes of its own if we just wait long enough. But a more serious practice has certainly made my recovery more interesting and effective. And to see the seriousness of the practice now feels very right from where I am now in my recovery. It seems like the self-directed attention practice is at the center of the recovery process. More so than the looking actually. Everything starts with the looking and then getting to know and take control of one's own attention, is the real work and practice.

Thanks for your support.

 

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