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checking in

Slightly over a month ago, I passed the three-year anniversary of joining the forums. After what seemed like a clear insight, I, like many others, went through a period of what is called "recovery." I felt frustrated, and, having begun this journey when in pain, what felt like significant pain, it was hard to have patience when I heard that all will be well, eventually. Of course, I believed that I would be the one who failed at this, plus, having been through the spiritual treadmill, where nothing else had resulted in the "enlightenment" I'd sought, I felt cynical and wondered if I was once more wasting my time.

When I came upon the looking, I'd already just about given up on any spiritual practices and/or paths, but, as with other things in my life, presumed the fault lay within me. I was too flawed, not committed enough, deserving enough, to have been handed the keys to the queendom. And, buried within this was a mostly subconscious wish that somehow, in some way, I would negotiate all the promises made in Advaita and all the other spiritual paths I'd pursued and wind up in bliss, if only I managed to hang in there a bit longer. That I hadn't was my fault and a source of sorrow and shame.

Even until most recently, I've had periods where I felt on track with this process of looking, only to plunge into confusion again, and, I can say it is only in the last day or so that I've come into an understanding that had not arrived until now.

Some thoughts that came to me this evening that defined the looking from any previous pursuits, included: Since beginning the looking, I haven't really looked at anything else to resolve or ameliorate my condition. That is not true of myself in the past, when I would find a "new" possible spiritual approach, do it for a while, then start "seeking" once more. If nothing else, John made clear to me that there was no purpose to look further to "cure" my disease, and that not the bliss states, nor any other transcendent state, would be the answer to what I thought was a problem. There was no point in looking (well, at any place other than me).

And I could see how the spiritual exercises, the directions, were an attempt to fix something"”that wasn't broken. Each of them had an implicit message that something had to be done, that this thing would fix my problem, and that the result would be a new and improved me. I had stopped looking for this fix and had stopped believing in it, and the good news was that the inferiority complex I had from my lack of success, spiritually and otherwise (because, surely everyone else was succeeding), had gone. It was such a saving of time, no longer having to devote myself to practices, juggling of belief systems and trying to figure out which one would lead me best to nirvana, buying into cultures of guru worship in all their various forms, and not having to feel a failure for having failed at achieving what I thought they would give me.

The most recent development has happened during a time when I am traveling, and I feel that I want to test it out when I return home to see if it remains, but what it feels like is this: I had been, when I was able, following John's instruction of shifting attention away from what I would call neurotic and usually painful thoughts. I'd been doing it for a while, and, as I guess I got the knack, I nearly didn't need to examine the thought itself, it was the energy and the emotional pain, actually felt as physical pain, that told me when I was sliding into another one of these what were obviously rather useless thought patterns, and sometimes when I noticed this elide into refocusing onto my breath or into "here," I'd check it out, and, for sure, it would be a thought I had no need to entertain, and thus, rather than as a discipline, it has begun to happen as a natural occurrence, I could say.

The other thing I could say about noticing this is that this movement tends to bring me quickly into the present, and I am realizing that this is a natural place to live, except for excursions into the past or future that are helpful and not neurosis based. And then I realized that, of course, that would be a natural development in a life that wasn't living from a context of fear, it would, for the most part, float at ease in the present moment.

This is beginning to give me what I think John is talking about when he says there is a reason for the success of the looking and that each of us will eventually see what it is. (Please amend if I'm not quoting you correctly, John.)

It is such an energy saver to not have to carry a whole structure of "beliefs" in one's head, to not have to engage in endless practices that will result in a better, improved, me, that ultimately falls away under duress. During my recent travels I've experienced aggravation, less than pristine emotional responses to being around other people (relatives, for example), physical extremes from lugging around luggage, but there was a core me that knew none of this affected or really had me at stake.

Waiting for "enlightenment" to clean up the mess of my life for me is now like waiting for Godot. My life, here and now, is what I have wanted. Not only is my life not "perfect," I no longer have "perfect" as a criterion for my life being what it needs to be; it is sufficient to know that I am not at stake here, nor am I to blame. Life keeps showing up, and, in the moment, I meet it with as much grace, aptitude, as I have, in this moment, and see a way for it to go forward, as best I can. This gives my life what I feel is an increasing intelligence, or rather, it gives me an increasing intelligence to navigate my life.

I will be returning home Thursday, and I'm somewhat eager to see what that will bring. There were moments, at the beginning of this month-long excursion when I sincerely questioned why on earth I had done this (it had been four years since I'd seen relatives), and even now, toward the end I questioned my sanity in doing it for this long a time. However, it has definitely given me the opportunity to practice this endeavor under what I'd consider adverse circumstances and to see that not one of them caused me to be at stake.

I am writing this because this feels like the first moment, after more than three years, that I feel I have more than a toehold on what the looking promises to bring; I don't think I'm done, and yet have a sense of a more intelligent interaction with my life circumstances, even if through more experience of the "not at stake" aspect of life and through practicing moving my attention from what does not serve me. It is a moment of more certainty over the direction of this endeavor, and I hesitantly, yet happily, note it as possibly my tipping point.

I go forward in curiosity, and gratitude for my deepening understanding (I think) of what John and Carla are attempting to communicate to what felt like a very obtuse version of myself. Thank you, John and Carla.

As a footnote, if there are any people following Just One Look who live in the SF-Bay Area, who would like to connect with me, please send me a message. It would be a pleasure.

Postscript: I've now been back home four days. I had a deep emotional tumble on my second day home that really scared me and made me think, perhaps, it had all been a dream (of progress, if you will). In the past, under such circumstances, I've "reached out" to someone or other for emotional support. This time, with the thought of "radical self reliance" in mind, I did not. I stayed with myself, riding through all that was arising, with no thought of "improving" or otherwise getting rescued. I tried focusing on breath, but that didn't work too well. I gave myself permission to do nothing, even though that didn't feel very comfortable, because I could think of nothing to do. This lasted till the next day, and my fear, as always in circumstances such as these, was that I'd landed in an endless hole that I would not come out of. The next day, I continued "doing nothing," until a moment when I thought of going for a walk, and took a shower preceding this. It was beautiful outside, and I immediately let go of my miasma and was in present moment once more.

The thing I had not done, as I would have done before, was to analyze my thoughts and feelings and formulate conclusions. Even when I couldn't return to my breath and felt really bad, I did not try to solve it through thinking"”I felt it would be going down a tunnel that really didn't need exploring and that there was no solution to be derived through such an exercise. I think because I didn't try to come to a logical reason for why I felt as I did, I was able to let go sooner. I also feel that the radical self-reliance I practiced was a step forward, as someone mentioned in a post here recently, from going to someone else for bolstering up or a solution. The issue that had provoked my immediate emotional downfall was related to feeling estranged and alone in the world, and, strangely, after not looking to a solution from someone else, I now feel more connected to others. This is a rather lengthy check in, and John, if you feel it would be better to cut it off at the pass (perhaps before this postscript), please feel free to do so.

I don't understand exactly how/why this process worked, but today, I think I'm feeling as clear if not clearer than I ever have in the past or for a very long time. This is really new for me who has fought alienation, loneliness and depression most of my life. I think, especially for older people, who, consciously or not, see little of their life remaining, the idea of not knowing how long this process will take is a little daunting. For myself, I will say, these past three years, when I knew there was something to what John was communicating, but not when I'd see a result, this has been more than worth it. In deep gratitude to John and Carla, and with love, Marlowe

I read this twice, and I'm sure will read it again. Thank you. I found your honesty and optimism so helpful. It more to less follows my experience. The gradual shift to positivity and optimism with the predictable pendulum swing into negativity. But each swing improves things, clarity, and memory is fairer and less negatively selective. Thanks again. A pleasure to read and reread.

Thank you, Jackx, for your kind words. I am glad that you found what I wrote helpful. Best wishes, Marlowe

Thank you Marlowe. I could have written this myself , my experience is so similar . All the subtle changes you experience and especially all the energy saved from looking for solutions. I have a friend here in Montreal and we see each other regularly and share a lot about our experiences since beginning the looking. It is really wonderful to have that face to face connection and the honest conversations are so refreshing. I wish you lived closer but again your report is so appreciated.

Maureen

Ah, Maureen, I wish I'd known--that's where I just came back from! smily The ironies of life. I appreciate the confirmations. Yes, a face-to-face connection would be lovely, especially as I haven't been very successful at "converting" anyone. Anyone in the San Francisco/Bay Area? Here's to more sharing in this space, Love, Marlowe

Thank you for sharing that Marlowe! Really good to hear that you are getting these results. And it really seems like that your results come as result of your practice with focusing your attention. I have such a strong feeling that I would benefit a lot from working more with my attention. I have a tendency to wait, but I must say that I am starting to get a bit tired of just waiting. So thank you for the inspiration...

Hi Niklas, Thank you for your response. I think, either way, there are many "bumps" on the road--I was even nervous writing my check-in, tempting the fates and all that. And, of course, I am still in the midst of many sea changes, and sometimes what works one day doesn't on another. But, it is good to support each other in the midst of all this. Wishing you well, Marlowe

Thank you for such beautiful sharing. I have a similar experience with the looking and its been three years for me too.

I found in this year, that it has been easier to rely on myself. Also that every feeling coming up has been allowed to come up. No matter how 'negative' or how 'bad'. It has been given space and a sane response also comes up toward it. This process happens automatically and I can only marvel at its efficiency. It appears that the mind knows how to do this, finally. How to live this life. It has discernment, intelligence and humour. I have been such a neurotic character for a long time, and this is a way of being that I never thought I could experience. Its not always easy to live with what is happening, but it is sane.

Many many thanks to John and Carla, and this community.

Hi Aabha, Yes, what you describe feels exactly like what is going on for me. I think it is a miracle--I was definitely a hard case to crack, and I wasn't going to say it was better until certain feelings changed in my life, the dread, the anxiety, the panic I experienced. And these things have changed. I am very grateful for what John and Carla have brought to us, it is still a wonder to me. So wonderful to hear your report, blessings, Marlowe

 

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