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Using the Just One Look Method
This is an email I sent to John a couple weeks ago; I was asked to post it here, and am happy to do so with the hope that someone finds it helpful, rambling and long-winded as it is!
I enjoyed the online meeting earlier today. I've been listening to your podcasts a lot but it was nice to be at the meeting. I actually did have something I wanted to say, but didn't end up asking to talk for a couple reasons, partly because what I have to say is embarrassingly dumb, and partly because I was finding it really hard to put this into words. But I'd like to try now in writing.
My experience with the looking has felt very, very close to what you describe in your talks. Like a lot of other people (and I think you mentioned this today actually), I too have found it very clear and very helpful to look at that which has not changed since I was a child. The first time you said that, I immediately knew what you were talking about. You have also said (if I understood right) that when we first start trying to look at our true nature, we might feel that it's something separate from us because we are so used to looking at and paying attention to all these events and sensations that come up in life and thinking of that as "me," that when we look at what is actually our true nature it might seem like something alien. I have had that experience too, and the only way I could think of to describe it with words was "it's just THERE." Recently it occurred to me that if "it" is me, then "THERE" is "HERE," and finally the "you are here" that you've been talking about all these years (which honestly had me pretty puzzled for a long time) finally made sense. By the way your comment in one of your talks that "you are here--not here in this room, but here" also gave me an aha moment; seems really obvious now but before I heard you say that I was honestly thinking you meant "here" as a physical location (I know, sounds pretty dumb now) and just really didn't get it.
I am looking, and I am very much doing this as a deliberate, effortful activity because I want to be done with being so miserable all the time. Even when I'm doing things that are supposedly fun or relaxing, I am miserable because I dread the end of the fun/relaxation and the return to the other things I have to deal with that make me miserable because they are the opposite of fun or relaxing. The way you speak of this as symptoms of the "fear of life" makes so much sense to me, and everything you say about these neurotic miserable feelings and thoughts simply being effects of the fear of life also make so much sense to me as to be self-evident. So here is the REALLY dumb and embarrassing part. Even though I'm looking, even though everything you say seems so clear and true in the sense that it's just the case that that's how things are, in spite of all that I often feel totally overwhelmed by the feeling that I am at stake and that I have to figure out how to arrange all the "stuff" that composes my life, and the sense that if I fail at that, everything is going to be even more horrible than it is now. You often talk about how all the practices and undertakings that have come about in an attempt to fix the misery of life through a spiritual solution are "beside the point," that they can't hurt or help us. I appreciate and understand very well what you mean; in fact, coming across your videos very early on when I first got interested in looking for a "spiritual solution" spared me a trip down that rabbit hole (and thanks for that, by the way). But, I am still very, very much attached to the *material* solution that "regular people" occupy themselves with (I include myself in that group)--the conventional wisdom that in order to make your life (and therefore yourself) worth anything, you have to get the right job, develop your career in the right way, manage your money right, find the right spouse, raise your children right, etc., and if you fail at this, you are worthless and your life was a waste of time. I don't care about enlightenment, I don't worry about being unattached or empty or having no thoughts or the right thoughts, those things cause me no anxiety...but the prospect of not getting my career and relationships and such right, that prospect fills me with so much dread it's sometimes paralyzing. Even as I'm writing this, I understand with my head that trying to make myself "right" through career and relationships and such is just as much beside the point as trying to make myself "right" through the spiritual endeavors you talk about (as in totally unable to in any way affect ME), but you do talk about the fixation with the spiritual arena to be a "hindrance" in the sense of being a distraction from the thing that really works, and I feel that my fixation with the material arena is also that kind of hindrance, and one that causes me huge anxiety and misery at that. I know you do frequently address this feeling of being at stake in the material arena all the time, that in fact that's sort of the very premise of everything you talk about, so I don't really know what I'm doing by writing this other than just expressing that this misery is indeed intensely miserable. In fact, while I was writing this I was also intermittently reading the transcription of your worldwide meeting from Nov. 1, 2008 (where you very clearly address a lot of what I wrote about), and I think that transcription really tells me what I need to hear for now...but I still wanted to share this with you, for whatever it's worth.
In the meantime, I will keep looking at myself, and turning to you for words of encouragement and clarity. If you are able to respond to this email I'll be thrilled; if not I understand, and will just keep at it.
Thank you so much again for everything. Lots of love to you and Carla,
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