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Looking within - anxiety/depression

Hello all,

I use the act of looking within quite often and it helps me to stay independent and disassociated with otherwise 'mind destructive influences' continuously present in the world. I find it tremendously empowering to have such a tool and it does bring me a sense of oneness and significantly improved clarity. I can certainly see from experience how the act of looking within could make the world a better place and share John and Carla's enthusiasm for doing so.

I do from time to time become subject to bouts of anxiety and depression and I have for much of my life experienced this. As I become anxious and/or depressed my mind increasingly begins to notice bodily sensations and a feeling within me of despair, "oh no, here it comes again!". It begins to consume my consciousness and even though I am mindfully aware of what is going on (the old memory systems and habitual pathways being reactivated from conscious and/or subconscious stimuli consequently influencing my minds behaviour) I find it difficult to dispel. I do indeed make the conscious effort of re-directing the focus away from the well trodden pathway of self destruction, but the inner force is so compelling it is not easy to dismiss and stay focused on the present state of 'me-ness'. I do try, sometimes it passes, other times not so easy.

My questions are this. Firstly am I talking rubbish? Assuming I am not, can anybody identify with me? And lastly if somebody can identify me and they believe I am not talking rubbish do they have similar experiences and am I to continue to put my faith and freewill into this very simple act in these times of suffering? Will the storms eventually settle, is this how it works in experience?

Thanks people


Hi Matt. It appears to me that you experience the initial relief the looking brings, at least brought to me. However, the enthusiastic embracement of the liberation, the sweet promises of freedom can be yet another variation of old habits, caused by the fear. The effects of the looking go deeper in the long run. In my experience, hope for salvation is not required. There is no need whatsoever to be saved because all is well already. Besides that, the looking helps me too, whenever I am lost in the maze of my fearful mind: it can immediately reset my mind and remind me of me. Bruno

Thanks Bruno, I am a tad confused though....

"the looking goes deeper in the long run"? do you mean my anxiety and depressive states of mind will gradually subside the more I acquaint myself with the real me?

I suppose what I am really asking is will this act of 'looking at me' (if done correctly) eventually rid me of anxiety and depression states of mind?



Hi Matt, my anxiety and depression have diminished and continue to do so. Interestingly, these states become less frequent without any special announcement, silently. As with anything I did, I had a lot of hopes and expectations with the looking, to finally find relief, to finally find truth etc. However, these thoughts do not speed up the process. I had and still have them though, and also the opposite: doubts, anger that the promises of the looking are wrong, foolish etc. However, the looking seems to work mechanically, independent and deeper than thoughts.

I am not sure what you mean by "acquaint yourself with the real me". I understand there is just me (or you), there is no wrong or false me, just me.

I can relate to what you say that it is sometimes hard to direct attention away from destructive thoughts, as they seem so familiar, true and noble. Here, practise helps in my opinion.

I apologise for the confusion caused, I hope I did not increase it further. Bruno

Hi Matt,

In answer to your questions. No. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes and Yes. I feel and understand the movement of old hamster-wheel, habitual pathways that produce anxiety and depression. No one can stand exactly in another's mind/body but I can certainly identify with you. So many of my patterns have beat the dust that I feel confident to respond to you. I first started listening to John in 2007 so you can see it hasn't been fast and easy for me, but I am now definitely more intimate with life. I still have thought-emotion patterns appearing but most have a short life, like snowflakes falling on a warmer earth. Recently, one of the old thinking-feeling patterns came up in a dream. On awakening, I didn't feel anything needed to be done about the pattern in the dream as it is hardly noticed in my daily life. However, my mind attached to the fact that it was still in my dreamworld at all. I went, "Oh. No. It's still here after all this time. Will this never end?" I was disappointed and/or depressed for a good hour or so as in, "Just when I think it is all gone, it comes back again." This disappointment seemed so familiar, so me, that it took me an hour or more to realize this disappointment was just another pattern. You see, I could remove my attention from the particular pattern in the dream, know it as not me; but disappointment (perhaps closer to the root) was still being believed as just the way life is, still being accepted at face value as something I needed to do something about or just throw in the towel over. When I realized, with a smile, that the disappointment, in and of itself, was just another of those old belief/feeling/behavior patterns, it was gone. Being close to the root (if it is), I know disappointment will pop up again but I am not as likely to believe it next time. And so it goes.

You said, "but the inner force is so compelling it is not easy to dismiss and stay focused on the present state of 'me-ness'." That was the case for me in the example above--for an hour. That is the big point. It's about seeing a pattern for what it is. With practice in moving attention, separating thought-feeling patterns from attention becomes much easier and faster each time.

I offer John's suggestion to practice training your attention on a regular basis. Start with the commitment to practice just 10 minutes a day and add a few minutes when you feel able to. After a few weeks or months of regular practice you will notice a difference. You may find that you will think to do it several times a time after you start practicing. This practice was so effective for me that I recommend it for everyone daily not just when something is up. It speeds up the process dramatically.


Thanks for the helpful info Bruno. When you say 'practise helps' do you mean practise looking at yourself ?

Instead of attending to disturbing thoughts that arise, it helps to focus on something neutral like breathing. This is hard in the beginning (because familiar thoughts are so desperate for attention), but get's easier with practise. (See also Lera's answer.) Take care, Bruno

Thank you Lera, you have given me a good understanding. I have been a mindful person for around 3 years now since I did a therapy called 'detached mndfulnes'. It took me around 2 of those years to realise just how negative and irrational my thoughts were and to catch them early in development. When I eventually learnt how to catch my destructive thoughts as they developed I applied acceptance based on understanding (most of my understanding was in neurology and how memory systems work and so on) I found this worked and consequently enjoyed a year of peace. Basically when I felt the inner force propelling my attention to impending doom feelings I would visualise old neural pathways and memory systems being re-activated in my brain and this empowered me because I felt I knew what tricks were being played on me. Recently Ive had a lot of stress and this has insidously plagued my mind with old bad thinking habits and thus caused anxiety to resurface. I must of dropped my guard. I hoping to adopt johns method in my life as it sounds to me like the answer I'm looking for. Not just helping me suffer less but also with my outlook on life. I have always been 'wonderer', you know...what's the purpose of life? And all that. I really feel what John discovered is unique and worthwhile and I can totally grasp his 'fear of life' theory. I just hope I can discover how to apply it as I'm really struggling to grasp exactly what I'm supposed to be 'looking at'. I've read much of his stuff and I'm still yet to be certain if I'm doing it correctly. Time will tell.

I'm happy to share these comments and experiences. I'm an 82-year-old guy living in Denver with a wonderful wife, and I find that three years or so after beginning the looking calm is definitely increasing and happiness is increasing also. Mind you troubles and adversities haven't gone away, quite the reverse in some ways. Who would expect to be diagnosed with colon cancer at 82? But when I come home from the coffee shop in the afternoon and my wife calls out, "Who's there?," as is her habit, I call out without any hesitation, "New person." For me, this is the gift of the "looking." For truly, even as life continues to do what it wants to do, like the Colorado weather, I do feel like a new person. My love to you all.

Many thanks for sharing that Christopher

Hi Matt,

In response to your post: "Recently I've had a lot of stress and this has insidiously plagued my mind with old bad thinking habits and thus caused anxiety to resurface. I must of dropped my guard."

You may be aware that your guard referred to here is just another version of a response to the fear of life: "I must watch my thoughts and apply the right fix or something bad will happen." I did that for many many years until finally I just decided my thoughts are not me and most of the time I simply don't take them personally or seriously. (My inner guidance once put it this simply: Don't believe any thoughts. Not even this one!) Kind of like if I am listening to a radio station that has an agenda to stimulate fear, I don't make a judgment in the sense that I think they are wrong and shouldn't be on the air. (That brings me back into fear of life.) I just don't stay and listen, I change the station. I change the station to noticing, experiencing.

Noticing moment to moment experience does not require thought. But it does require attention and STAYING with life in the raw, so to speak, rather than jumping away from it with some distraction or mental story line. For example, I noticed that I have an old, emotionally charged story line of abandonment, of love that didn't stay. Recently, with more practice in attention and experience with staying, I became aware that I abandoned my natural self and conveniently projected this abandonment onto others, becoming distrustful. THEY didn't stay. A big change occurred when I realized that actually I am the one that jumps away--from myself and others--because of my great fear of life. I am the one whose love, my love, doesn't stay. I don't trust MYSELF to stay. Even now when I notice I am uncomfortable with something in my life, anything from fear, anger, hurt or physical pain, my first impulse is to get away from it. Since my choice is to stay with life rather than jumping away to thoughts, I will ask myself, "Can I be with this?" Often the answer is, Yes, and I stay until the energy changes. Sometimes the answer is, "No," and I let that be ok for this time.

I hope this was helpful. Lera


Hi Matt,

THEY didn't stay. A big change occurred when I realized that actually I am the one that jumps away--from myself and others--because of my great fear of life. I am the one whose love, my love, doesn't stay. I don't trust MYSELF to stay.

Hi Lera, this is very true: I mean the bad things others keep doing to us are imagined. In reality, it is what we do to others (and ourselves). My theme was rejection, I kept getting rejected, but in reality, I kept rejecting. As you say, it was a big step to realise the delusion (actually before the looking, with therapy). Bruno

Hi Lera and thank you very much for your helpful comments. I absolutely love this forum and its content, its so nice to be amongst like-minded people.

Can you be a little clearer about what you mean when you say 'this brings me back to the fear of life'? When you say 'if I am listening to a radio station that has an agenda to stimulate fear, I don't make a judgment in the sense that I think they are wrong and shouldn't be on the air. (That brings me back into fear of life.) How does the minds judgemental script stem from the fear of life?

Thanks again


Hi Matt,

I was out of town when you asked the following question:

How does the mind's judgmental script stem from the fear of life,

so I answered you on my smart phone (not my comfort zone) and sent it off. Somehow it didn't get to John to post. Now that I am back at my computer, I'll try again to respond to your question.

One of the ways the mind separates us from life is by forming judgments. If life is believed to be dangerous (fear of life) then the mind must judge everything it encounters to feel safer. It must make subtle discriminations to determine if something is helpful, harmful or indifferent and then act accordingly. No matter which way the mind decides, it has managed to separate us from life with its judging process because it has captured and enslaved our attention in the process. Life changes but we are stuck in the mud of our judgment, trying to prove it right and not wrong.

Naturally, opinions and preferences happen to us humans. Personally, I can choose vanilla over chocolate without much of an attention drain. I can even vote for a preferred candidate without much of an attention drain. But whenever I find myself spending a great deal of time following something in the media, or saying to myself that something should or should not be, and especially if I am getting emotional about it, I know I am tapping into a fear-based pattern"”and one that probably has nothing to do with the stimulus at hand. Perhaps forgiveness works by releasing our fixation on judgments made, thus releasing and freeing our attention back on life itself.


Hi Matt,

I stumbled onto John on the internet about 6 years ago. Since then I have had experiences like the ones you mention. At first I was exuberant. I latched onto the idea that "nothing works" to remove the quiet desperation (fear of life). That became my mantra: "Screw everything. Nothing works. It's all a waste of time." I was happy to believe in the ultimate non-belief. My new philosophy carried me for a time, as did the unique conversations with John and others who had tried this. I was hopeful and tried as best I could to look inward and carry on, in spite of the feelings of anxiety and depression that would come up. I also had moments of absolute blissful feelings, thinking that this was what it was going to be like all the time, once everything turned out well in the end, as I was told it would. It was about three year ago that I got a first glimpse of the underlying feel (it's not really a feeling) of safety, that permeates everything in my experience. I was looking up at the stars after an astronomy class one night, and a new experience blinked in, subtle and faint, like the North Star. All I can say is that it was the truest, non-event of my life to that point. Anxiety, depression, chronic self-deprecation continued. But there was a new idea now too. I have watched many new ideas come about since then. One of which is that some things actually do work now, and that a lot of the stuff I did years ago can be helpful: like the mindfulness training I did 20 years ago. I notice that it is easy for me to move my attention, and that there is much relief to be had in doing it. John told me a few months back that things "might get worse." I was a little miffed to hear that from him, after 6 years. But I'm glad he said it, because I decided to step up on the mindfulness practice and keep in touch with these forums. So yeah I can identify for sure. I still get depressed and have anxiety. But sometimes a new idea pops up in the midst of it that says: "so what." I think its good to be on the lookout for those subtle new ideas that come in after a while.



I truly hope it was not me that told you to expect bliss in the end, Mike.


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