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Questions about JOL on behalf of my friend and myself.

Recently, a friend of mine has had some rough experiences in his life and is trying to alleviate the suffering he is going through. We have been discussing JOL and he has had more motivation to practice the SDA exercise. We both have been trying to figure out a few things in regards to JOL. One thing we are both unclear on is how you can not practice the SDA exercise with the intention of feeling better?

This is what we've come up with so far: All human beings want to avoid suffering and go about all sorts of ways to try to alleviate that suffering, usually unsuccessfully and, many times, causing even more suffering. So, if one develops their focused attention through practicing the SDA exercise, it is only natural that our automatic attempts to avoid the suffering, when it arises in the mind, throughout daily life will become more effective. This has also become my experience in more and more instances. It is not consistent yet, but I can't deny the times this has happened with me. So we are trying to understand what John is talking about in regards to not using the SDA exercise to feel better. It actually seems like an impossibility to me. It is going to happen no matter what because our attention will be able to, more and more, not focus on things that arise that usually cause us to suffer. Also, isn't the ultimate freedom the ability to not suffer no matter what happens?

Another question in regards to the looking itself. John is saying that no matter what happens after you do the looking you will be ok. Is he implying that this will protect a person from death? I can't imagine John is making that claim from what I know of him having listened to him quite a lot in the past year. If I do the looking today and, then, tomorrow I am crossing the street and get hit by a bus and die I will still be ok? I have had many mystical experiences in my life, including near-death type experiences and the like.. I have been on the 'other side' or, at least, I am certainly convinced I was. But, yet, I still really don't know what's going to happen to me when I die. The one person who's claims I believe about what happens (because of his success in healing thousands of people of medically incurable conditions) when we die does support what John is saying. He has said that we make the fastest progress here on the earth plane and that, when we cross over, if we haven't reached a high-level of consciousness, we really want to come back to keep going and progressing. This also verifies the experiences I've had with the near-death type experiences.

So, then, it does stand to reason that if a person does the looking today and dies tomorrow, they will still be ok. They will be in a more advantageous position having done the looking. So I am more inclined to now believe what John is saying is true. That, no matter what happens, after we do the looking we will be ok. But John, to my knowledge, has never explained how he personally came to understand this. I would be very curious to know how he came to know this and if it is a universal experience with everyone who loses the fear of life.

So far the closest I have gotten, experientially, to this understanding are the times that I was referring to previously about having instances of much less discursive thought happening during my daily life. Like I said, this is not yet consistent for me but, when it happens it is truly extraordinary for me. It really feels like I am a different person and I feel so much better! And also what has happened to me is that the sense of the difference between life and death becomes very little. The idea of time seems to be much more of an artificial construction. It greatly reduces any suffering I have from missing loved ones who have died..because the idea I had of a big barrier between life and death falls very much away.

The feeling that I have to wait until the end of my life to reconnect with those who have died is somehow greatly sublimated. This, in turn, causes me to want to engage in healthier lifestyle practices/habits. I feel that it just makes me feel 'psychologically healther' overall. I hadn't mentioned any of this before since it is a more recent experience and I thought it might be just something personal to me. But my friend brought what John was saying about everything being ok after the looking to my attention again so, now, I realized John may be saying this is a universal experience for everyone who loses the fear of life.

Recently, a friend of mine has had some rough experiences in his life and is trying to alleviate the suffering he is going through. We have been discussing JOL and he has had more motivation to practice the SDA exercise. We both have been trying to figure out a few things in regards to JOL. One thing we are both unclear on is how you can not practice the SDA exercise with the intention of feeling better?

So we are trying to understand what John is talking about in regards to not using the SDA exercise to feel better. It actually seems like an impossibility to me.

My take on this is that the SDA is neither about trying to feel good or trying to avoid suffering. It's about learning how to focus our attention. It seems to me that continually focusing on how to feel good or how to avoid suffering is kind of self-defeating. After the looking, the process of destroying the soldiers of fear is set in motion. We can help ourselves through the process by practicing SDA, but I don't believe it will alleviate suffering. The suffering we go through during recovery is the result of the soldiers of fear resisting their demise. To me, our interference in this process by trying to make ourselves feel better simply doesn't work, at least for me (speaking from experience.) Like it or not, we simply have to "suck it up" and wait it out (also speaking from experience!), while we try to help things along by doing SDA, which aids us in turning away from disturbing thoughts/emotions.

The key to all of this, as I see it, is TRUSTING the process that the looking has initiated. So how do we do this? Well, it took me quite a long time. I was filled with doubts and therefore more inclined to try to find some way to make myself feel better. But that has passed now. I think what helped me most to get to the point of trusting the process was a combination of things: lots of listening to John talk, talking with him at the online meetings, reading the books, and especially reading and re-reading personal testimonies by other lookers. The closer I stick to these things, the more trust I gain. Nothing else has worked for me. It seems we can't figure things out by ourselves, and no amount of SDA practice will cause us to trust, although it obviously has its benefits. SDA is something we do with our own personal effort, whereas the looking has amazingly kick-started a process that goes on with or without any effort on our part.

If I feel good doing SDA, I see it as a side effect, and not the purpose of the exercise.

Hey jr, thanks for the reply. In discussing this with my friend (and actually was just discussing JOL with a couple of more friends just this afternoon that I introduced to it) what we came up with was that it seems impossible to develop our focused attention and not feel better. This is because it is human nature to avoid suffering. I think, when suffering arises in the mind, we all try to shift our thoughts away from what is causing us to suffer. But, if our attention is not strong enough, it can be very difficult to do this. As our attention gets stronger, it is easier to shift our attention from what is causing us suffering and, therefore, we naturally feel better. So, yes, the SDA is about learning to focus our attention --- but learning to focus our attention causes us to feel better! Because we naturally gravitate away from suffering. And we don't have to consciously focus on feeling good, or how to avoid suffering, because it naturally happens as a result of strengthened attention. Even you said in your post that the SDA exercise aids us in turning away from disturbing thoughts and emotions - so how can that not make us feel better? I mean, am I missing something here? It just seems to be simple logic that strengthening our focused attention will make us feel better.

My own experience is that having strengthened my attention through the practice of the SDA exercise, and turning to my breath when any disturbing thought arises, absolutely makes me feel better. The more I can pay attention to the breath when disturbing thoughts arise, the better I feel. My motivation in doing the SDA exercise, and turning to the breath when disturbing thoughts arise, is to feel better. That's truly all I care about - well, and, sharing my experience with others so they can receive the same benefit. But I don't see how that motivation causes interference, because when I am practicing the SDA exercise, I am returning to the breath whenever any thought arises. I'm not thinking of feeling better while doing the exercise because that would be a thought! If that, or any other thought, even starts to come up, I'm immediately back at the count of 1. Therefore, it could be said that any thought that arises causes interference, but that's the whole idea of going back to the breath when a thought arises. To strengthen our attention so there is less and less discursive thought. So, while I may have the intention to feel better by practicing the SDA exercise, and turning to the breath in daily life, when I am actually doing it, I am not thinking, or attempting to, not think of anything but going back to the breath when any type of thought arises.

As far as trusting that the looking has initiated a process of losing the fear of life, I really like what John said to a lady in one of the podcasts/webinars. Basically she asked about if the looking really does do anything. He advised her just to trust him that it did something, that it can't hurt her to trust him! This makes sense to me. In talking about JOL to some other people, this question has come up about the looking, and I basically say the same thing. To just trust that it did something. As John is saying, once you do the looking, nothing can 'undo' it, and the process happens no matter what - whether you trust it or not. If receiving the effect of the looking was based on trust, wouldn't it just be a placebo effect? But why not trust it? To me it seems that it would make the process perhaps smoother and maybe move more quickly.

Well, I'm certainly not saying that by developing focused attention we won't feel better. I'm just saying there's no need for that to be our main concern. Also, as we practice SDA, we will still have times of suffering...I think this is unavoidable. It just takes time, that's all. And what matters is our motive.

As for believing what John said about the looking, he actually does explain why it works. I just watched a video the other day where he makes it clear as crystal. Basically the gist of it is that the "me" is unaffected by any of the things going on around us, so once we get the sense of "me," there's no longer any need for protection from life.

jazzrascal

Well, I'm certainly not saying that by developing focused attention we won't feel better. I'm just saying there's no need for that to be our main concern. Also, as we practice SDA, we will still have times of suffering...I think this is unavoidable. It just takes time, that's all. And what matters is our motive.

It's my main concern. and quite a few others I have talked to about it. So sorry I couldn't get to access my mic on the webinar! Really wanted to clarify some more things about sharing JOL with people. But I just posted some of my questions on a new thread just now. I think the idea that when we practice SDA and apply it in our daily lives, we will lose all suffering eventually. At this point, I assume the need to even do the formal practices will just fall away, as it will be our natural state.

jazzrascal

As for believing what John said about the looking, he actually does explain why it works. I just watched a video the other day where he makes it clear as crystal. Basically the gist of it is that the "me" is unaffected by any of the things going on around us, so once we get the sense of "me," there's no longer any need for protection from life.

Righto, jr.. I do agree..and have heard this before when studying Buddhism and Advaita/nonduality. But just getting the sense of me doesn't do it for me. I don't feel any need, even before the looking, of any protection from life in the sense of dying. But I still do feel the need of protection from experiencing emotional suffering and physical pain. Perhaps, when the 'soliders of fear' are gone, I still will do my best to avoid physical pain, but I don't think I'll have the need to feel 'protection' from it.

Ljazztrm

I think the idea that when we practice SDA and apply it in our daily lives, we will lose all suffering eventually. At this point, I assume the need to even do the formal practices will just fall away, as it will be our natural state.

Yes! & yes! I'm not exactly sure what you mean by suffering, but by comparison to my day to day, moment to moment existence six years ago versus now, I essentially don't suffer. The biggies; guilt, shame, self recrimination, anxiety, depression, constant negative thinking, etc. are gone. I still get sad, angry, scared, and stressed, but these feelings are in response to real events and motivate me to act or simply accept what is happening if there is nothing I can do. They don't cause suffering in the sense of setting off chains and cycles of negative thinking that have no basis in reality. I must say that this does occasionally happen, but I see it for what it is at some point and get distracted by something else.

I don't practice SDA. My mind seems to move to the next thing automatically without me thinking about it too much. Sometimes it feels like I am becoming forgetful as I just can't hang on to things like I used to. I don't have that laser like focus fueled by anxiety that gnaws on a worry like a dog it's bone.....which I think is ironic because in some ways the anxious mind is extremely focused, focused on everything negative.

I dont know if this this is the natural state, but it feels natural. Simply responding to life, feeling it and acting on it as best you can without a lot of internal drama. It continues to get better, that's the weird part. I hope that everyone reaches this place and, actually, I'm sure that they will. The transformative power of this act is amazing and continues to amaze.

Thanks Jackx! The idea I have of suffering comes from others I have studied in the past and, most recently, John and Carla. To me, suffering is caused by any thought that wants something to be different than it is. A non-acceptance. A great example of this is John's food poisoning story. As I understand it, obviously John didn't want to have that pain continue, but there was no emotional suffering attached to it. Meaning, there was no judgement of the pain as being 'good' or 'bad'. That it 'shouldn't' be there. I think of those I've studied in the past, and one I have spoken to about it, who go through very physically painful experiences or deaths that are singing and laughing the whole time.. Or of buddhist monks who self-immolate while sitting perfectly still and aren't writhing around in agony. I think this is because the pain is completely accepted. It isn't judged as something that shouldn't be there.. That this 'shouldn't be happening to me'.

From what I can ascertain from what you have been writing is that you are in the process of having all suffering fall away for you too. Perhaps we all will always certainly get sad, like if we lose a loved one or some similar thing. And anger probably will still arise in the moment..but my understanding is that we don't judge the sadness or anger as something that shouldn't be there...There is an acceptance of it, so it causes no suffering. Like you are saying, it continues to get better and better. You're further along in the recovery so it sounds like you don't need to do conscious practices anymore like self-directed attention or returning to your breath when disturbing thoughts arise. Right now, I find these extremely necessary for me, but I'm sure, depending on my physical lifespan (or, maybe, that doesn't even matter depending on what happens when we cross over) that the need for these conscious practices will fall away. All the best, Lex

Sometimes disturbing thoughts are disturbing because they need to be looked into and resolved. This practice for me, puts these things in their proper context and helps sort these things out.

Hey mischa, yes I think looking into disturbing thoughts to resolve them can be helpful in certain instances. But I think there are some disturbing thoughts that can't be resolved completely in this way. I think of people I know who have been in psychotherapy for years. I'm sure they are benefitting, as they keep going, but they still are on strong meds and the like. I am in the middle of this whole JOL process right now of practicing self-directed attention and going to the breath in daily life. So I will be able to prove to myself directly if not giving disturbing thoughts any attention will cause them to 'wither away and die' as John says. I think it has already started to happen to a certain degree with more 'mild' disturbing thoughts.

Roed made a good point in another post about how disturbing thoughts might still arise for him, but it doesn't matter to him. They no longer trigger him. John was saying that it is like 'disturbing thoughts that are not disturbing'! ;-)

Yeah, but it's kinda simpler than all that. Things get simple and distilled down to what is actually happening. If I had to sum it up today I would say, a bunch of stuff happens simultaneously and I'm okay with most of it, even the bad stuff.

Avoiding suffering probably causes more suffering. I like the word acceptance that you used. BTW would love to hear that open house . Is there a link to it?

Jackx

Yeah, but it's kinda simpler than all that. Things get simple and distilled down to what is actually happening. If I had to sum it up today I would say, a bunch of stuff happens simultaneously and I'm okay with most of it, even the bad stuff.

Interesting, roed recently made another post essentially pointing out the same thing. I definitely see how this can happen.

I can certainly see how I can get to the point where it is simpler. Right now, I am very conscious of going to the breath when disturbing thoughts arise, so, currently, it's like a practice to me. But the remembrance to go to the breath is kind of 'automatic'. And that automatic remembering comes up more and more every day. I feel that's what's really 'saving' me.

I was talking about this on the open house yesterday. The toughest part for me, right now, is handling the times when the disturbing thoughts overtake me, because, now, I know what it's like when I can go the the breath and sublimate the disturbing thoughts. It's so much better!! Another interesting thing that kind of proves to me that this is a subconscious thing is that I've now had a couple of dreams where I am dreaming about being in a situation that's disturbing me, and I go to the breath!

Cool dream! John also talks about how much simpler things get post recovery. I think that's the best way to describe it. That and attention undistorted by fear allows a richness of experience that I've never had before.

Yeah mischa, I've found that there is no way to try to avoid suffering that isn't temporary and, then, if you're unlucky enough to live long enough after having taken those steps to temporarily avoid the suffering, it comes back worse. I also understand the viewpoint that many people have who are really suffering who believe that their consciousness will either cease to exist when they die, or they will go to some type of "heaven", where they don't suffer. It's certainly perfectly understandable to me that anyone who is experiencing intense suffering in their lives would want to believe something like this. Even with all the mystical experiences I've had throughout my life, I can't say 100% sure what will happen after my physical bodies dies. There is only other 1 person I trust besides my own experiences in this matter but, still, there is no way I can be 100% sure. So, my point is, thinking you can just keep on temporarily avoiding suffering until you die, usually from those very attempts to avoid the suffering, there's no guarantee that you will cease to suffer upon death.

So that's why I want to see if I can develop my focused attention to be strong enough so that, when any suffering thought arises it will wither away and die, because I will have the strength of attention not to pay it any mind. From past experience, I have seen that this way of avoiding suffering is something that is permanent and, actually, builds into more and more positive outlooks and wisdom. I believe this is because it is just not about avoiding suffering, but sublimating it with something better. I knew about this power of focused attention before I was introduced to JOL, but I never found an effective way to build this attention until finding JOL. And I've been studying healing, seeking, meditation, etc. since a little kid!

Haven't seen that Open House up yet... Hope they put it up! Best, Lex

"Therefore, it could be said that any thought that arises causes interference, but that's the whole idea of going back to the breath when a thought arises. To So, while I may have the intention to feel better by practicing the SDA exercise, and turning to the breath in daily life, when I am actually doing it, I am not thinking, or attempting to, not think of anything but going back to the breath when any type of thought arises. "

Hi Ljazz, I see here, in what you're saying about going to the breath when a thought arises, is a misunderstanding of how to do SDA. The instructions are to count your in breaths from 1 to 10 and return to counting whenever you are distracted by a thought. So there is an important point here. Your concern should be with the counting NOT thoughts that come and go. With SDA, you're not paying attention to thoughts but ONLY to the counting of your inbreaths. This is important because John has explained why SDA is different from certain Mindfulness meditations where you are noticing the content of your mind. I have done Mindfulness meditations and they are done much the way you describe. You return to your breath when thoughts arise. This is NOT however what SDA is about. Doing SDA you pay no attention to thoughts, whether they are good or bad, positive or negative etc. Consequently, over time, the concern about avoiding suffering diminishes and ultimately disappears entirely. That's what John means (I think) by not doing SDA to feel better. Feeling better may be an offshoot effect but isn't your main concern. Frankly, I suggest you re-read the instructions for SDA and do it exactly as prescribed. You'll see that gradually your interest in what thoughts represent will diminish considerably.

I hope this is of some assistance. Let me know.

 

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