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After 'The Flat Effect'

Hi John,

I'm writing to report something interesting that happened recently in my life. About five weeks ago I was reading the 'enlightenment' story of a kind-of Guru guy. It was the usual story of waves of bliss and euphoria lasting for hours and settling into deep contentment etc.

I don't mean to sound cynical, I'm sure this is an accurate account of what actually happened, I don't doubt his sincerity in the least. He doesn't claim to be enlightened, I'm using words loosely here.

As I finished reading it a couple of thoughts crossed my mind: 'nothing like that is ever going to happen to me, I'm always going to have my ordinary life and I'm never going to get there'. This wasn't negative, it was just what appeared to be a fact and it was followed by this thought, 'There are worst things you can live with than an ordinary human life'. As this second thought occurred it was accompanied by a sensation of stopping or quitting and relief. I can't put it any better than that, it wasn't something I did, it just happened. This was not in the least bit spectacular, it was more like your example of the background noise from some machine you were barely aware of suddenly ending and you notice it.

The thing that ended was a the persistent sense of need, that 'yearning sensation' that you talk about in you podcasts.

Mostly since then my life has continued in the same way as it always did, plenty of stress and concern, lots of ups and downs etc. I guess the biggest difference is that there is little or no felt 'need' for my life to be any different. I wouldn't say it's exactly what I always wanted but there is no 'need' for it to be any different if the felt sensation of 'need' doesn't arise.

The life itself is starting to look a bit different too; I went through a long period of comfortable numbness which I called 'The Flat Effect' in my last email to you and that seems to have slowly lifted and a lot more energy is now available to me throughout the day.

I also notice that the feeling of being at stake in the life hasn't gone away completely but I'm far less aware of it than before. None of the things that I previously wanted to get rid of, like worry, anger, awkwardness, etc. seem to bother me anymore, they are still there kind-of, some of the time, but they no longer seem to be an issue. Guilt, previously a big feature in my life, seems to be gone completely.

Likewise, I've had lots of good feelings of confidence, joy, love and happiness which are very pleasant and welcome but which I didn't look for or feel any need to hang on to.

I feel less and less bothered about what people think of me; not in a hard indifferent sort of way, it just doesn't occur to me to be concerned about that.

This is unusual because in many relationships in my life I was definitely the approval seeker and now most of that behavior and those relationships have just gone. It puzzles me as to why I was like that but I guess an addiction had formed and I wasn't aware of it.

Weirdly, these seem like pretty big changes but it doesn't feel that way; I don't feel huge excitement or anticipation, I don't feel changed because I don't feel touched by this; it all seems perfectly ordinary even if I know it isn't.

I laugh a lot these days, the default feeling or state in the life is now happiness or contentment instead of flatness, indifference or mild fearfulness which it was before.

Now things need to happen for me to become unhappy where as before things needed to happen to make me happy. Even when I'm unhappy, angry, fearful there is always this background sense of being untouched by any of this. And that's the main thing and happiness is a byproduct from that. I don't even need to be happy; the other emotional states, even the negative ones, also offer much to be enjoyed.

I've had a lot of what I call 'false dawns' since I took up the vichara about three years ago. I've had periods of blissful happiness where everything was going just great and I was filled with joy and love and peace and I was completely convinced that the vichara was working and I would never be unhappy again, etc. Then these periods were followed by longer ones of dejection and depression and a feeling that the vichara was probably fine, but would never work for me.

This recent experience is of a different order; it's a lot quieter and more rational and from the outside I probably seem to be exactly the same person I always was because I actually still am. There is certainly no enlightenment or wisdom here, I'm much the same as before, a bit smarter in some areas but that's about it. I've gone from wanting to be an enlightened Guru guy to someone who just can't understand why anyone would want that. I feel happy, less attached or whatever but I'd feel stupid trying to answer anyone's questions because I don't know anything. I don't even have a good defined idea of what I am. 'I'm here', I know that, and that's good enough.

Anyway, that's the update.

My thanks and love to you and Carla for your splendid work, you have helped me turn my life around.

Thank you for writing this.

Dear After,

I would love to know more about how you used the looking inward method, well I guess you journey to your present moment. The Flat Effect you speak of sounds a lot like what I am going through. Would you please tell me (us) more? about your journey?

Thanks for your consideration,



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