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Self-directed attention has been crucial for me.

Hi everyone!

I wrote a little about my background with the looking elsewhere, but to sum it up briefly, I first did the looking about 9 years ago, participated on and off in online meetings and forums and such, and probably did experience a bit of that initial "honeymoon period" of reduced unease that John talks about, but that was about it. After that, I didn't feel much difference at all between how I experienced life pre- and post-looking; the honeymoon period passed, some really difficult life circumstances came about, and I became about as crazy and miserable as I've ever been. My life circumstances are much, much better now, but I have remained extremely miserable/depressed/anxious, and in desperation looked to all sorts of avenues for relief, eventually finding myself back here.

What I found was a new emphasis on the self-directed attention exercise. When I was participating in the meetings and forums before, John had put on the website some instructions for practicing self-directed attention, but as he has said in recent podcasts it was presented more as an optional activity to help make the recovery a little easier. I don't remember much urgency to the suggestion that we practice it, and as such, I pretty much ignored it.

What John had to say in the recent podcasts about self-directed attention, as well as the reports from people in the forums, convinced me to give it a try. I felt a major difference almost immediately. I have been practicing the exercises every day for about a week and a half, and the constant fog of depression has dissolved in that time. I used to wake up every morning filled with dread towards the day and hatred towards myself, and had to drag myself out of bed at the last minute to avoid being late for work. Now, when I wake up, those feelings might be present, but in a much less intense way than before...and then, as John suggests, I decline to feed them with my attention, get out of bed, and start my day.

That said, I do feel a very strong sense that this is just the beginning of what could be a very challenging process. Over the past week and a half, it has occurred to me that I think this might be the first time in my life that I've ever really consciously been aware of my attention (except maybe when I was doing the looking, but at that time I wasn't so much focusing on my attention itself as on the feeling of being me). It blows my mind a little to realize that all my life, I don't think I've ever really consciously attended to anything, ever! There were times when I experienced what people called "flow" or "concentration" and such, but looking back I think it was just a coincidence that whatever I was doing was pleasurable/rewarding enough to call my attention fully to it (this mostly happened for me when I was playing an instrument). I don't think it ever happened as the result of a conscious decision on my part that I would attend only to what I was doing.

I am also a bit wary of celebrating the "end" of my misery and depression; after so many years of trying so many things to find relief, I feel a need to give this some time and test it out. That may be a neurotic impulse, but I think that's ok...if that feeling is a neurotic impulse, and this method works, then it will go away in time smily Since beginning this exercise, I have learned that almost ALL my thoughts are neurotic and unhelpful, but I feel much less at their mercy than I did before. It's really amazing--so many spiritual teachers, therapists, psychologists, etc. that I either talked to or whose books I read said things like "thoughts are just thoughts, they don't have any power over you," and I always agreed with that intellectually, but this is the first time I've actually experienced it in my bones and been able to do anything about it. Again, I do very strongly feel this is just the beginning, and I recognize that there will be some rough patches ahead, but what I have experienced so far has convinced me that this is a thoroughly worthwhile practice to commit myself to totally...perhaps, the ONLY practice that really matters.

Finally, I'd like to say Carla's comment about self-directed attention in response to Niklas in this thread was extremely helpful to me: https://www.justonelook.org/forum/recovery_6689.php

It gave me a great point of reference and what she talks about is almost exactly what I have been experiencing, so it gave me some confidence that I am on the right track. Huge, huge thanks to John, Carla, and everyone here sharing their experiences!


Youngmee, thank you! I recognize myself in so much of what you describe - and I'm very happy that you say:


what I have experienced so far has convinced me that this is a thoroughly worthwhile practice to commit myself to totally...perhaps, the ONLY practice that really matters.

It didn't take as long before I started exercising focused attention but that's just because the work here has emphasized its importance much more lately. I feel very grateful to have found this out because like you say - that it's the only practice that really matters - is what I see to be the case too.

John says that all will be fine in the end with or without this practice but that recovery presents such a good opportunity to learn how to shape one's life and that committing to the practice will hasten the process of becoming sane. I get this. But you say that nine years after first looking at yourself you have remained extremely miserable/depressed/anxious, and in desperation looked to all sorts of avenues for relief. Now you found attention, which I hope (as it seems) will help you as it helped me! And your post actually leads me to ask something I've been thinking about.

John and Carla, I'm curious how you finally got out and what that was like without the knowledge about attention we have now. I have friends and family going through recovery but in many cases they don't know what's going on or even that something is happening with them and it's hard to communicate about it directly. People are very sensitive. To me it certainly looks like they are recovering from the fear but often they don't recognize or accept this themselves. It's quick and easy to do the looking but to start training attention is difficult and requires sustained determination before the value of it becomes obvious. So I wonder what finally drove you sane. Is life just so in-your-face rich one day that you just can't help join the party, or was control over attention the key all along?


Forgive me for taking so long to answer this good question. I will try to speak about it in the Open House this Sunday July 31, 2016 - 2 PM PDT.

It would be good if you could be there.


I feel compelled to say that I agree with the statement of "what I have experienced so far has convinced me that this is a thoroughly worthwhile practice to commit myself to totally... perhaps, the ONLY practice that really matters."

I had a "Mystical experience" in July 2012. Since then I've been driving myself crazy trying to find a way back to that oneness.

Everything in my life has left me empty and unfulfilled. Seeking has been a way of life in one form or another. Money, Love, recognition or approval etc.

But after 2 weeks of directed self attention - focusing on the breath. I've seen the obvious!

I'm plumb crazy!! Afraid of everything! Committed to distraction to avoid...who KNOWS what. This practice gives me some insight to how my mind ACTUALLY works without studying some Manuel!

Or adding more ideas to contemplate endlessly in hopes of a cure.

By learning to focus my attention where I want it rather than where it's called. I feel it's a way to learn to love myself! A way to FINALLY quiet the self hating voice! And in the process stop the voice of hate for everything eventually.

I'm nowhere near that but I have a sense that I've never felt before that if I am diligent and dedicated to this practice, the result is guaranteed.

So much is observed as I do this it just blows my mind!

I'd LOVE to have a chance to just talk over coffee or something and share all my experience so far.

Clarity and confusion. The sense of an observer and a doer. The "doer" being crazy as hell and the observer just patiently waiting for the doer to starve itself.

It's WEIRD but I'm loving it! (Kinda lol)


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