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The looking is not a spiritual teaching

Hello everybody, this is John.

I'm posting the content of an email I received through the Community Contact form that seems to me to provide an opportunity to begin to speak about the relationship between the looking and the search for spiritual enlightenment or awakening.

This idea that the looking is a form of spiritual aspiration and practice is seductive but completely false, and I think it might be useful to begin to understand and differentiate the two in a way that is respectful but shows the fundamental difference between them with enough clarity to leave the idea behind once and for all. This will help us all communicate the simplicity of what can be done to bring an end to the context of fear that has tormented us forever.

My impression of "the looking at you" from many youtubes of John's retreats.

I'm not sure what I think. I do sense he has personally waded through and considered a range of fashions for people to suffer less. While some light promos for his basic notion, retreats, etc. have a bit of the fake feel some of those do, listening to several of his retreat youtubes, I felt a solid base of sincerity.

That most of us enter the world traumatized by a "fear of life" which neuroticizes so much of our engagement with the world is an interesting take. Is it triggered by the "dramatic" entering of spirit into human form? Is it related to the varyingly disturbing psycho-physiological features of the birth process itself (Grof would concur)?

It's possible he points to an inner space which though fleeting, is nonetheless more accessible for people, less prone to explaining, understanding, etc. than Being, The I Am, God and the like. This space appears to be well short of the depth of Pure Consciousness. However, as with everything - it's a subset. Many aspects of evolution seem to suggest that steps can rarely be skipped. We make a bit of progress, even a breakthrough of sorts, then refine, clarify, become acquainted with the feeling of... I wonder if his suggestion has merit in the way of being the next, most democratic step in our consciousness evolution for now. Those whose spiritual line of development is further along from the arc of prior incarnations, etc. could proceed deeper, of course. (This is not to say his approach is optimal for its targeting, can't be tweaked in description, tactics and so on.)

The elusive combinations of readiness, a baseline awareness, willingness to practice in some fashion, patience, etc. are still in relatively short supply, even with good evidence of momentum. A simple connecting with and trust in one's own central sense of a deathless, uncorrupted "me" if that leads through belief or reality of its potential to dissolve much of our attachment/aversion adversarial relationship to life may be as much as most can work with for now, and yet a bridge toward deeper realization down the road.

Many have spoken of preparing, purifying the self prior to Awakening, not simply relying on Awakening to somehow burn off all habituated egoic mind tendencies by itself, etc. IF most of us are being held hostage by a trauma-induced program or dis-ease of sorts, wouldn't addressing that be a wise aspect of preparation?

I like the Rumi quote: "You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop." John's approach entails focusing on the drop in its unencumbered simplicity, without stories, narcissism or solipsism that I can detect. He doesn't speak of this often, but he does suggest that once you have become "sane," you recognize others as yourself. Whether he works to brush aside spirituality or not (mainly because it is too abstract for most people and therefore stymies any shift, in his estimation), it sounds as if he is saying one tends eventually toward Unity Consciousness, "ocean" centeredness or something of the sort.

I see these questions as far more than about John, his central premise and "The Act."

I am grateful in advance for any time John finds to respond.

P.S. I have done the looking over the couple of days of watching John's retreat clips. I have felt myself to be largely at ease and sane in relating to life for at least several years now. If there are vestiges of misplaced fear in my life, I can see the possibility of this looking being the cure for those.

I'm posting my response as the first reply to this.

It is good to hear from you.

I can understand your confusion about the relationship between what we are doing and the ancient wisdom teachings which seem to pertain to the same problems, and even seem to offer similar solutions to those problems, but I assure you that there is very little connection of our work to those teachings.

Truth is that the ancient teachings, beautiful as they are, have actually had very little effect on the mass of human suffering over the five thousand years or more that we have been in love with them. They are beautiful, profoundly affecting, and capable of producing spectacular states in those willing to pursue them with the one-pointed commitment they require. But for the untold billions of us who have been born to suffer and die in fear, these beautiful insights and accomplishments, are nothing more than fuel for the fire of the yearning which is itself caused only by the fear. Which is why, for me, they seem to be nothing more than one more wrong road taken in the search for satisfaction in life.

And although it is true that narcissism and solipsism abound in the realm of spiritual aspiration, the most absurd inversion present there is the idea that 'awakening' consists in perfecting the state of "Pure Consciousness" and the like, in which the aspirant is taught to seek total withdrawal inward, away from life and the mind that exists only to serve the experience of that life. To my ear, that seems to be only the voice of the underlying fear of life urging a return to the slumber of the womb in the name of awakening.

But I also see that in the pursuit of so-called awakening there are some practices in the manner of self-inquiry that could cause attention accidentally to brush across the actual feeling of person, the simple feel of 'me' here. After all, trying to have the direct experience of that same simple feel of 'me' (not "Being", or the "I Am", or "God", and the like - just "me") is the sole objective of the act of looking that we offer, and it is clear from the experience of many now that nothing is required for success but that simple single contact.

So it's useful to see that our reason for insisting on that simple 'me' as the key is not because of any inability to understand and to know what it is to yearn for such metaphysical magic, but only because our long history as a species seeking satisfaction in life has proven that that quest leads nowhere but despair for most all of us.

And the difference that makes is gigantic because it makes true freedom and sanity and love of life available to all of us everywhere.

The Fear of Life

The first real breakthrough in our understanding of this came during the 2010 retreat after more than ten years of intense conversation with those who were willing, trying to find some way to circumvent the powerful influence of our own spiritual conditioning. At the end of the retreat, as we were packing the van and getting ready to leave, someone suggested to me that the fear of life, mentioned for the first time in that retreat, was reminiscent of the Buddha's second noble truth which pertains to the importance of understanding the cause of human suffering. (The four noble truths, as you probably know, are called noble because they are crucial to any effort to bring help to the afflicted. They are, in order of importance: 1. the fact of human misery; 2. the cause of human misery; 3. the fact that the misery can be done away with, and; 4. the means to end it.)

That suggestion instantly brought everything we had been doing into sharp focus, and not only served to reveal the importance of what we had come upon, but also to give us greater insight into an appreciation for the work of Siddhartha Gautama.

The clear recognition that the fear of life is the cause of all human psychological misery immediately brought to light the act of looking (which we had for some time been suggesting although with little clarity and focus) as that which had snuffed out the fear of life in ourselves, and as the means to snuff out the fear of life for anyone who would try it.

(Although I was not aware of this at the time, the insight that the fear of life is created for most of us in the ordeal of birth actually has considerable support in psychology. If you want to read more about this, download this paper that is now being submitted to several peer-reviewed journals: https://www.justonelook.org/articles.php

There is absolutely no preparation, purification, or any other ritualistic requirement to be able to free yourself from this curse. Only try to get the actual experience of the faint sense of you, the person you call 'me', that is here always.

There is no need to understand what you are, nor is there a need for any insight into the mysteries of existence. Just look, and in the end, you will find yourself at home in your own life, safe and sane. And as time passes free of the fear, and as the remnants of fear's army die off, you will find yourself growing in skilful engagement with the complex reality of being alive as a human being.

Your practical understanding of your life will thrive, and your ability to understand will expand continuously.

As for the business of recognizing others as yourself, it is just the case that all things are one thing, and that turns out actually to be a trivial insight since the understanding of that changes the experience of that not at all. The wonder is not that all is one, the wonder is that all seems to be many. And it is from that wonder that joy arises.

If you are speaking of my views on compassion, they have no scent of Unity Consciousness at all. For me, compassion is, as its Latin root indicates, to suffer with. Compassion is an unavoidable consequence of losing the fear of life and its power to create the delusion that we are unaffected by the misery of others. There certainly are boundaries that keep individual mind streams coherent, but those boundaries are extremely porous, and when the false sense of self-containment falls away because of the looking, the experience of the suffering of others rushes in. It is because of this that so many now and in the past who have lost the fear have tried to physically withdraw from human society, and it is because of this that those who don't run find themselves wanting nothing more than to bring this medicine to the world.

I hope this is helpful.

Love,

John

This is not spirituality

Look at yourself.

 

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