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It's been 3 years of looking, and at least 1 month of focused attention exercises every day (well, 5 days a week). I finally got fed up with the focused attention exercise.
Things aren't changing. I still hate my life. I still feel fear from the moment I wake up to the moment I fall asleep at night. Not to mention while I'm dreaming. So, basically, there is fear 24/7. In years past, I used to get a reprieve. Maybe 5 minutes once a month where I didn't feel afraid. But it's been a LONG time since that has happened.
I'm still avoiding people, avoiding being social (maybe even more so), and my entire life still revolves around trying to eradicate the fear. I keep thinking I'm on the edge of my breakthrough, maybe millimeters away from freedom, but that freedom never comes, and before I know it, ANOTHER year has passed, and I'm still just as fearful and withdrawn from life as ever. I am depressed watching myself grow old all alone, having tried everything under the sun to get rid of this fear.
I don't even know why I'm bothering to post this. Nothing works. It is a common fantasy for me to blow my brains out. But that is always followed by, "No, I don't really want to do that."
Why is it so difficult to escape this fear? Why is the process so lengthy? No one has ever explained to me WHY it's important to strengthen your ability to focus your attention. Aside from the idea that it's the "only thing we really have control over" (that's not an explanation to me, it's just a related observation). I'm just burnt out on watching my breath, especially because the sensations are so subtle, there's not much to notice about it anyway.
I know too from my own experience the fear can seem overwhelming.Thank you for having the courage to express to the community your feelings. I feel there is tremendous value for me in learning to focus my attention. For example I felt very anxious quite often around 5 pm so when I feel that sensation coming on, I move my attention to the breath, then the sense of me. It seems drawing attention away from the anxiety sensation dissolves it, for that moment anyway I'm not giving energy to it. The sensation comes back for awhile but each time I gain confidence that I can move my attention. Lately I've noticed that this sensation is not often there anymore. I know for me it has taken time too and I'm not sure why that is but I feel the looking gives me a strong foundation which I didn't have before Please keep sharing. We are all in this together.
I don't have any words of wisdom, other than I've been there myself and it's extremely painful. The only other thing I can say is the looking has worked for me and I was a basket case of fear. Looking back, I'm not sure how I functioned most of my life. I hope you have moments of clarity soon.....actually what I notice more is moments of immersion. Where I don't think about myself and my problems, I'm just immersed in what I'm doing. Hopefully you will have more of these soon, where you forget about the fear all together.
Best wishes, and we are in this together.
I'm another one that avoids being social and feel very lonely at times and powerless to do anything about it. Most of my life I've felt like that. And it used to make me feel very depressed and to think about death, just like you do.
As it happens, I'm also 3 years into looking and try to practice focusing my attention. I'm not as depressed anymore, but I still avoid social contact. Sometimes when I don't and all goes well I'm very happy to meet someone when I feel connection. But mostly I don't. I don't know why I avoid people. Maybe I'm disappointed at them? Often I feel I don't have much in common with them. I don't feel connected. I'd like to have an relationship but that doesn't seem to happen. I also feel frightened, sometimes, to be alone for the rest of my life. But it's not as strong anymore as it used to be. It might turn out to be what's best, not sharing your life with anybody, being able to focus only on what you're interested. I don't really know.
I've practiced attention focusing for the last few months, but I can't tell if it has had any direct, concrete effect on my life yet. I was reluctant to take on it and saw it as another burden. It feels pointless a lot of the time, but as someone posted in another thread just las week, a lot of new and therapeutic, important things feel like that in the beginning. It takes your mind off your present thoughts and feelings, though. Even one breath does that. That's why you need to strengthen it. So that you don't fall into the pit of your thoughts. The process takes different length of time for each person, but I've seen change happening in myself. I find that quite amazing. It wasn't so long ago that I felt hopeless. Bear with the work.
Hi Franco, It's been six years for me. Sorry about you feeling so lousy. I can relate. I think that the outcome of this work, for me, has been the anti-thesis of every proposed form of relief I tried for decades. Some of those practices still have merit when seeking temporary relief and I will use what I need to if things get really bad. I think too that the kind of relief I've found, well, it really is like nothing I could have imagined. About three years in I started to notice little things; I had very subtle and fleeting feelings like I had never had before. I started to have regular experiences with feeling safe. There was no great inspirational moment or stunning insight, like I had been conditioned to desire. Just a glimpse of something permanent. My relationship with this subtle feel for life is taking root, ever so slowly. Circumstances still suck sometimes. And my body chemistry gets out of whack still (I have, quite naturally, found ways to deal with it though, that are also working ever so slowly). Hang in there man! I don't know what else to say except perhaps to try to be on the lookout for the seeds of new ideas, which I believe will sprout up in anyone who tries this in earnest.
Just wanted to echo what everyone else here has said... I don't know why this process takes a long time, but it just seems to. When I think that I spent the first 35 years of my life terrified, it makes sense that it takes years for the fear of life and its effects to unwind.
There is light coming through though -- I'm about four and a half years in and I've been honestly AMAZED at the changes that have taken place inside my head over the last six months. A year ago, I could have written your post almost word for word-- in fact, I'm pretty sure I did! I promise it will get better. I've done the focused attention practice for the past couple of years because John recommends it and I find it very helpful now, but I don't think I would have said that it helped during the worst part of the recovery-- so you're not alone to feel that it's not "working" right now. It will though... best of luck and hang in there.
Hope this is helpful.
Wow, thank you everyone for your replies. I don't have it in me to respond to each one individually, but let me throw out a big blanket "thank you" for the support. Just one specific reply, and then a question for everyone.
I started to have regular experiences with feeling safe. There was no great inspirational moment or stunning insight, like I had been conditioned to desire. Just a glimpse of something permanent.
This is very encouraging to read, and also quite the opposite of what I've been seeking. Sometimes I think what prolongs my experience of suffering is the determination to have that one big, final insight. Ironically, I already feel like I've had countless--and I mean COUNTLESS--moments where I said "Aha!", and I could have sworn I had finally figured out my problem, only to be swallowed again by anxiety. If only I could really "get" that there is no big "Aha!" to be found.
Anyway, my question still lingers, and is open to everyone... WHY is it important to practice the focus of our attention? Other than the fact that it is one of few things we (apparently) have direct control over?
hi franco, i empathize with everything you have expressed. i have been trying and trying to write about what is so for me right now, unsuccessfully. at times, i've nearly given up, but there is a reality to what john has shown us that i have recognized to my own satisfaction. my life is very hard, but it is hard in a way that birth is hard, the life and death of life. just when i'm ready to toss in the towel, another insight comes through. i'm not certain where i stand, but i confess that john's truth has stood the test of time for me. last may, i thought i had made the breakthrough that would tide me forward at an easier tilt, but then recent economic experiences have pushed me into my deep fear waters again. i've learned to work with the breath like my life depended on it, as sometimes it has felt it has, the image in the back of my mind of living under a bridge in india (i'm an extremist). my work, most recently has been on pushing through the darkness/the fear through pushing it to the side and focusing on the light of where i wish to head. this works right now, but there is some trend to not buy into these fears even when they seem 'real.' don't know if this helps or not, but i encourage all of us to be brave.
For a long time, I was not aware of my constant fear, as I did not know the feeling without fear. In the moments (especially the first time I did it) I do the looking I realise that I cannot be harmed or saved. So, escaping the fear is pointless. In my experience, much fear also belongs to life - it does no harm, really. It has accumulated from all the issues I avoided and ignored. When this fear shows up, focused attention helps: it allows me to proceed with what seems right despite the fear. Before, it would burn me inside out, or cause me to dissociate.
But it is frequently hard, and there is a strong pull back into my private world of projected happiness, imagination, fears etc. But, this world has been revealed to be "a false trail" (as John may put it) by the looking, and has thus lost its appeal for good. So, I feel a bit homeless in this situation - between the old fading world and the new that only sporadically shows. As mentioned, focused attention help to loosen the grip of old neurosis.
Anyway, my question still lingers, and is open to everyone... WHY is it important to practice the focus of our attention? Other than the fact that it is one of few things we (apparently) have direct control over?
Not sure how to answer this, to be honest. I feel the movement toward the positive, away from the negative has sort of happened on its own (and I used to be about the most negative and cynical person I knew). I certainly have conditioned, negative thinking, but I just don't acknowledge or stay with these thoughts as much as I used to. They once burned a loop into my brain. I would perseverate on my health, my future, my shortcomings, etc.....all worst case scenario. I honestly haven't tried to stop it and I dont really practice the focused attention (I do Qo Gong everyday which is moving Mindfullness, so I guess that counts).
It's as if the negative thoughts, negative constructs really, as they are a complex, multi layered system, lack the juice they once had to knock me down.....or if I do get knocked down, and I do, I just get back up and keep going.
When I look back at my life and try to find and pinpoint what my suffering was all about, it is clear to me that it is was that I had a weak attention. I didn't had any control over my attention what so ever. My attention had its own life and I was totally under its control. And now, if I try to find why I don't suffer as much as before, I find that it is because of that I have a stronger attention. I don't feel that I have to hope for a good day. I decide what I will attend to during a day. So to why one should practice focus attention I would say that it is to get to know and strengthen ones attention. For me this took many years to discover. And I have never practice focused attention myself. I mean in a regular practice. This possibility has become clear to me during my recovery. So my practice is more something that I do always and in my daily life. Just recently I have been very familiar with the dialog in my mind that often tells me how terrible everything is and that everything should be different than it is. That dialog is not true! So refusing to go in to that never-ending useless dialog, is my latest day to day practice. I try to focus on what I am doing instead of everything else that not requires my attention. But I also think that if one is new to the work it would be a good idea to make the focus attention exercise as a regular practice. I wish I had done that.
So I see my attention as the key to my recovery.
Thanks for sharing..
with the looking comes the realisation that I am not at stake in this life. Focused attention helps me to no longer feed the old demons till they will be gone for good. Only occasionally do I get a taste of what will emerge instead. Sometimes I miss the drama and excitement of my past life, even if it was insane. I feel between the worlds. But the new practise starts to show results: I am more efficient, agile and free.
I identify with your situation, though it's only been about 6 months of me trying my best to do the Looking.
And just this past week, i dunno if its the thrashing and freeze life gives me or the effect the Looking is having on me (if there is any), but I kind of lost hope in The Looking, and my impetus and will to do the Looking ran very shallow. Though things are a bit better this week for me, and realizing that the Looking is still here , after all. I don't know if it's just a blind biological habit by now, and dunno if it's doing me any good (I suspect it is, on some small level, just my intuition talking here), but I feel better. And I'm no saint, when things get bad, internally, I do use the old standard, beer and weed, to help me fall back and regroup. It works for me, at this point in time. But I think the Looking may be doing it's work too, on a subtle level. (I'll take any placebo effect too, if that's all it is, which I'll hold judgement on, until probably a couple years into this Looking (as a serious practice, or as serious as I'm able to take it, and I think I've done a good job on it.)
Anyway, as to your situation. I'm no expert, but when you do the Looking, there should be curiosity behind it.
Curiosity = discovery = change (eventually). That's the way I see it. If you do the (or if I do ) the looking only out of fear or desperation (which is fine too I guess), I think it's not as "powerful" or maybe will not lead to discovery of this thing , that is yourself. If what I'm saying is an obstacle to you , then ignore it.
The Mind is a tricky apparatus, most people have no clue what they're in for. Gurus say Mind is The Ultimate Trap. It is. But it's also the ultimate Tool, and honestly, the only tool you have (besides attention and your own awareness) to use to free yourself, (or find you, same thing). Don't let these metaphores get you confused. I've noticed a tendency for my Mind and Body to in a way block my looking, or make me think , convince me that I'm stupid and there's nothing really there to look at. Sometimes I feel like this. But eventually (through some luck and perseverence, and keeping things SIMPLE, the ultimate enemy of the mind, simplicity) I find that simple feel of me. I still don't understand it. I don't know what it is. Or even if placing my attention on ME will give me the kind of results that seems to have occurred to John Sherman. Which, I'm not ashamed to say, is the point and goal of all this. (Yes I did watch the video on "You will never be Finished").
Franco14, have you never or ever in the last 3 years gotten any sense or basic simple feel of You ?
I've been doing this 6 months and I do sense or detect something there.
Sorry don't know if this is helping you.
Life situations (I haz them too) are a you-know-what and a half, and much of my (and people's) psychology and how you feel about life and yourself is predicated on how your life situation is, how you perceive it, and what your judgement of it is, and ultimately, passing judgement on yourself.
John's made it clear , The Looking won't immunize us against strife and Life situations. Perhaps the fruit of the Looking will come in the form of Freedom and Control of Your Attention. As impossible and magical as that does seem. As most people believe their attention (especially when it comes to negative personal or life-threatening things) is not controllable to that degree, or rather , can be FREED from the nightmarish imagery that is the movie of our Life, that is playing and replaying constantly by our Mind.
Maybe just keep it simple ?
And try to bring in curiosity to your Looking.
Also, about the 24/7 fear situation you're in. There is a relatively easy , however temporary solution to the constant fear.
And it'll give you the needed respite required for you to calm down and actually look at you, the feeling of you, only. You here, now.
And that is this: Put your sense of attention, on where your Fear is. That is, where it is in , or around your body. The ME may not have any definite geometry, but Fear and Anxiety definitely has geometry here, in the physical world. Touch it and explore it with your attention. Be there with it, Look at it. And be curious about the Fear , Look at it , just drop everything and Look at the Fear, and it may take a minute or 20 minutes of honest, bare-bones Looking , and your Fear will disappear.
Try this. I discovered this several years ago, and it's a good temporary solution. Practice this and you will be able to achieve portions of the day when you have no fear, and you can use those times, if you want, to have a Look at You. I hope you find this ability, it's an ability we all have (yet most are not aware). And Looking at the Fear is a Tool, not the "solution", fear will come back intermittantly. But you will have relief and don't fear that you will fall back into fear. Rest in the knowledge, once you attain it, that you can vanquish fear , or side-step fear anytime you like.
This technique also works with recurring body-pain, btw.
I've found Mantra Meditation to be of great help too. (Where you repeat a meaningless but interesting sound in your mind until the Mind's chatter vanishes , and hence the fear the mind's chatter causes). I had a TM guru teach me this, though she made me sign a kind of cultish gag-order type contract/agreement (didn't realize what it was till later) and that's when I canceled the check for $500 they were asking for at the time. That's the popular TM movement from India that is sweeping the ranks today of many rich communities, Hollywood, and others. I couldn't afford it at the time (years ago) and I was desperate for a solution to my constant suffering, and I was constantly suffering. Nornally they make people pay $1500 and I intended to pay her the $500 (on a "scholarship, lol) originally, but after she surprised me with the gag-order agreement (that I cannot teach TM, or tell anything the 'secret' words used in TM, etc. lest I be sued into further poverty) I went home and cancelled the check. And good thing too, I would have probably committed suicide if I couldn't pay my rent, during that episode in my life.
Sorry for the digression.
Mantra Meditation does work (same as TM meditation), my point is , nobody should have to pay hundreds of dollars on the barrel for an easy and effective meditation, like Mantra meditation.
Seems the Indian Gurus expect to get rich or die trying when they come to America, the land that used to be the Land of Milk and Honey. I understand everybody "has to make money" but its deeply disgusting when a person makes big money off of people who are poor AND suffering , with no relief or hope in sight. I'm talking about these very obviously flowered up spiritual gurus from India, and nowadays, gurus are cropping up in many other countries.
Try this and let me know, if you don't mind.
sometimes this forum seems like some kind of waiting room. we do this looking exercise and then wait in expectation for the devilish fear to melt away and leave a nice clean slate for us all to start living peacefully from. i would consider myself at times completely paralysed by social contact and can identify with the avoidance and feelings of chronic isolation etc etc. and i've been at the looking for just over two years. haven't bothered with focusing attention. haven't bothered with anything else. spoke with a friend the other day who has also been at the looking. a little longer than me (doing really well) and I said I felt frustrated that no results have come yet (none that are obvious). he said 'what if this isn't the path for you'. this made me feel like shit at first, for the reason that I have put my heart and soul into the looking and the looking only to find freedom from suffering but in actual fact, there are other ways/things we can do to get some joy out of this strange wicked dream :P surely. i have looked and therefore I have succeeded according to john and many others. in fact i have looked every single day since the first. so, now I can either carry on isolating myself in misery and in my comfort zone and wait for a miracle...or I can start facing the fear. feeling it. laughing at it. at myself. start living as best i can while the recovery takes place. maybe that's would be more fun for me and for you franco? cos otherwise we might just sit and wait and eventually regret it even when we do finally feel at ease (hopeful phrase). anyway. my mind seems quieter than before. self consciousness seems 100X more intense than before. i really don't know if the looking has sparked these things or what but I have decided recently to try and be happy and positive and get as much joy out of life as possible because we only live once :D george does anyway
I think you hit the nail on the head, George, when you said that you can start facing the fear and feeling it rather than being in your comfort zone and isolating. The fact that you've said that seems to me that the looking has worked for you.
I've been at this for 4 years and I really don't think things have gotten easier. What has changed is that I don't let my feelings hold me back. If I'm having a conflict with someone instead of hiding or being passive aggressive I confront them and try to work it out. I used to cut people out of my life. This can trigger a lot of anxiety but instead of running from it I can now sit with it and have a reasonable conversation. Sometimes going to a new social event can cause anxiety. I go anyway. The more I confront my fears and anxieties head on the more I realize how they are made of fluff and don't hold up to any real investigation (I know it doesn't feel like it at the time). Sometimes I isolate because I just need a break from the craziness and I enjoy my own company. Sometimes because I don't want to deal. I don't care much either way what the reason is anymore.
As for focused attention. I think it's key for myself. I do the breath work a few times a day and it helps pull me out of my thoughts just for a moment. Almost like hitting the reset button. Overtime it has become more automatic. I find taiji helpful as it's extremely physical and requires me to focus on very subtle movements and sensations. There's a skillfullness that is developing in all aspects of my life and I feel that I can cut off useless thoughts a lot quicker than in the past. It's a process and one that I suspect is lifelong.
I hope this post helps Franco. I remember the frustration and hellish parts well. Life can still be extremely difficult but always interesting and I can approach it with more humor now.
Hi Everyone, I have also been doing the looking for just about 2 years now. I also feel that the looking MUST have worked and now and then I still do the looking when I think of it, but I have been feeling quite despondent lately. This is because I do not really feel like anything has changed. Maybe now and then I would feel a little better, but it is however so subtle that I am not even sure if that is the case. Focusing my attention these days is not even an option for me. I am in so much pain and tired emotionally that I cannot even be bothered.
This sounds very depressing I know, but this is how I feel. I am really tempted to give up and return to my previous spiritual path, A Course in Miracles.
having said that, I feel a lot of resistance towards trying to be more positive a lot of the time like the negative ways or fear driven habits are holding me back. for instance, sometimes I try to be more chatty and involved in social situations (choosing to be/appear happy) like you hear in self help marketing and then at other times I know i could try harder but think to myself, why the hell should I, if I don't feel like it. A kind of inner rebellion. don't know if anyone could relate to that.... I can sense that this is the fear in voice. it really doesn't matter in the end. i am here
This simple suggestion to look at me is a teaching that begins in silence. How can you possibly look at what you are unless, in point of fact, unless what you are--me--is already present. So the simple suggestion to look at me when encountered is already present. This is from me to you. And yes, perhaps, all kinds of thoughts are stimulated by this looking at me. But rest assured "troublesome" thoughts are the blithering of released energy from that point of looking at me. While you may be a fool before looking at me afterwards you may allow all foolishness to come and go--OR NOT. The point is that what continues after looking at me is really your life.
Well, OP is back. Not sure what to say. I read some nice comments/suggestions in this thread, but the fact still remains: I just hate my life SO MUCH right now. It is filled with constant fear... and nothing WORKS. (I don't want something that HELPS, I want something that WORKS.) I don't see or feel AT ALL as if my first act of looking "destroyed" the context of fear in my life, much less any of the additional looking I've done since then. When I first looked inward a few years ago I *did* feel a brief sense of relief and freedom from the anxiety, but (aside from the fact that I had already accomplished that with other methods before), I don't see how it did anything that has had any lasting effect.
I'm so tired of being afraid all the time. I'm just so fucking tired of it. Awake or asleep, fear plagues me, and I can't stop obsessively trying to figure it out. I wake up afraid, I eat breakfast afraid, I go to work afraid, I eat lunch afraid, I work through the afternoon afraid, I ride the bus home afraid, I eat dinner afraid, I spend my evening afraid, I do my focused attention exercise afraid, I go to bed afraid, I lie awake for hours afraid, I fall asleep and have dreams afraid. Beneath it all is a constant struggle to figure out why this is so, and how to stop the madness, or how to stop obsessing over it and just let it be. But days, weeks, months pass, and then I realize YEARS are passing me by, and things are just the same. No break. No relief. No freedom. No peace.
I hate my life, I hate existence, and I hate trying to keep others happy.
I grow very worried that this won't be able to address the real issues and problems I have in my life that give rise to this fear. Certain experiences have conditioned me to feel fear under certain unrelenting circumstances. I don't see how this looking could possibly address those issues, and I don't see why this has done so little to bring me any real freedom that lasts longer than half a second at a time. John seems convinced that the looking works "without fail" but I feel like he's living in a fantasy land with that statement, simply because it worked for him and a few others.
I don't know what to say.
I want to say, "Goodbye, I quit," but it's not like I really have anywhere else to go or anything else to try. :( FML
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