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Looking when one is highly distressed

Hi Everyone,

I have been wanting to start this thread for awhile. I have shared my experiences with the looking at the forums, on and off, for the last few years. The looking and my life continue to be a journey with major ups and downs, however, within a context that is radically different. Much of what John says seems to be slowly unfolding.

I work in healthcare and would like to bring the looking into my work with people but I worry about the effects the recovery period could have on folks who are struggling with depression or high levels of anxiety. When I first started the looking, myself, I was experiencing periods of anxiety (mostly social anxiety and worry) but it was never disabling. Part of me feels passionate about somehow bringing this into a healthcare setting and another part of me is cautious. I wonder if any of you started the looking during periods when you were experiencing severe anxiety and/or depression and what that experience was like. Would you recommend it to others who are feeling depressed or anxious or suggest they wait? Did you find that you needed to modify it in anyway so as to make it more "doable". I feel like John and this community are really trailblazers. There is no data available on this work so I appeal to you and your human experience if you are willing to share it with me. If anyone wishes to email me, please go to my profile by clicking on my name, and click on the link: "@Send Email". I would be so appreciative.*

With deep gratitude


Looking when anxious or depressed

Hi Paul,

When I started the Looking I was on medication for depression and anxiety one of the major problems being insomnia.

Neither of these was an obstacle in any way since I found as long as the desire to Look was there I could do it since it only involved using something as simple as your attention. It was really the desire that was needed and nothing else.

And secondly it didn't require any modification at all although I first thought the act involved stopping thoughts or focusing on some physical sensation. Regardless of this the Looking it seems was still occurring. Attempts to modify this very simple act only made it seem more difficult than it is. In fact I believe there is no way to modify it period and it eventually seems to take on a life of its own, until, in my case at least, at times it seems I wasn't doing it at all anymore.

I hope this is helpful in some way,


Hi Paul,

I've wondered about similar ideas, based on my own experience. I think that if the intention is clear, then the end is certain, though there may be a rocky ride when we start to notice that the old safety nets aren't necessary. That being said, I've suggested this simple act to many people that I've known for many years who have many different diagnosis' in the debilitated-mental-health realm (I've had and believed many of these diagnosis' myself and followed many a treatment plan). What I've noticed is that none of my hard core recovery friends have warmed up to trying it with intention. They prattle on about how it sounds like this or that which they do already, and then proceed to question me in order to find out what they think I might I need to do to get better. From the perspective I have now, that kind of mentality seems crazy. I'm sure it is necessary and good to treat symptoms, but it would be insane for me to worship the bottle of aspirin I have in my medicine cabinet, at this point (I do admit to worshiping a light bulb some 25 years ago as a test to see if it would actually work. It didn't, but it was fun and a great distraction at the time). I tend to look for the most solid scientific evidence when looking into my own so called treatment. There is some that suggests that long periods of stress can have a downward spiraling chemical effect on the body which can cause and increase symptoms of depression. Dealing with this in a practical way, like I would if I had diabetes, makes sense, but my approach would be different because it is subject to the needs of the individual. Some individuals, like some of my recovery friends, it seems, have strong inclinations to defend their sense of identity, and whatever practice helps to make it feel safe. I know I would have scoffed at this simple suggestion back when I was heavily medicated and knew everything. But I think it would have stuck with me, especially if someone told me that it was "too simple to understand," until the time was right. I dunno, I often wonder if we do have to be at the end of our rope. I know I was. But I was a dedicated spiritual seeker, which seems to make for the most dramatic road to recovery.

Personally, I don't think that suggesting the looking can actually hurt anyone, though I could be wrong. My intention to do it was motivated by the realization that nothing I had ever done had worked to affect an actual cure for what ailed me. But at the time I knew that I didn't have to stop doing anything that brought me some temporary relief. So these days I just simply say to people that "everything your doing or not doing is fine. You don't have to change anything, or buy anything, or believe or not believe anything. just try to catch a glimpse of that which is never absent in you, which is the same now as it was when you were 7. It never leaves, it's always here and it's never harmed of helped by anything, and it needs no description other than YOU." Who knows when or how that suggestion might affect someone, but it really does seem to me that it can't hurt.

It seems also that my motives for suggesting this to people are changing. It used to be that I had to suggest all kinds of ideas and practices, in an evangelical kind of way, in order to sure up the ever allusive feeling of safety. Now that I am more and more starting to feel safe, naturally, from the inside out, I can finally understand the cocky sentiment of one of my personal champions of self-reliance: "If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life." As the process of recovery continues, I'm starting to see that life will speak for itself, and that I can now use my capacity for critical discernment to try to speak to that cause in ways I could have never had time to even think about, when I was possessed by the fear of life. But like anything else, it takes practice.

So after writing all this I'm getting the sense that looking at our actual nature is the most powerful cure available to any of us. The unimprovable love that I'm slowly coming to see as me, and you, can only help us. It lives me without any effort. I can't say it any better than the sages that I have worshiped in the past, but I can see how short their words fell in comparison to the reality of how life unfolds in front of me. I never thought I would feel so absolutely grateful, without trying, just to wake up every morning.

Always in Love


Hi Mike

(please excuse the asterisks if they show in the text, my word processing program is acting up)

Who was the person you were quoting? ("If I knew for certain.").

I also think trying to treat symptoms is a good idea but sometimes it seems like the whole enterprise of therapy is like this magic trick I used to play as a kid where I had 3 overturned cups and a ball under one of them. You slide them around quickly and the observer has to guess which cup the ball is under. It seems like so much of therapy involves trying to manipulate thoughts and feelings but you never get to the reason as to why it all (the whole parade of phenomena, as John puts it) seems so damn scary and threatening. I think the looking addresses that piece.

It is helpful to hear you and Antony say that suggesting the looking probably would not hurt anyone. The more I think about, I agree. When I think of the kinds of invasive treatments that have been brought into healthcare, this seems innocuous by comparison. Part of it, I think, involves providing a rationale for the looking that will motivate people to try it. When you said, "nothing I had ever done had worked", it really resonated for me. I think part of getting people to try this is to help them see exactly that. In fact there is a type of therapy called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy that uses a process called "creative hopelessness" that helps people arrived at the exact same conclusion (i.e. All of the attempts to manage unwanted experiences only dig us in deeper).

Since engaging the looking I too feel grateful to be alive. It sometimes feel overwhelming.

Thank you for the email Mark. It gives me lots to think about.

Keep well.


Looking and Anxiety

Hi Antony

I tried to respond before but I don't see my post here so maybe I did something wrong. I am not the greatest with computers. Thanks for your response. I think your point is so important about how modifying the act only ends up making it more complicated than it need be.

In my experience, when I do the looking at times when I am feeling anxious there is often relief ( I know the looking is not necessarily intended to do this). I wonder if the relief is somehow a result of becoming aware of that which has no qualities and is still (i.e. me) after having been preoccupied by all of the unpleasant stuff that is not still (anxious sensations, unhelpful future projections etc). It seems like having a millisecond glimpse of me could bring relief after having been looking at all of that other unhelpful crap.

Just a thought.

Thanks again for your response.


Looking for relief

Hi Paul,

There have been many times when I have done the looking as a way of alleviating anxiety or depression and since as John points out it can't harm you there's no reason not to do it at those times. I think you're right in the sense that since the "you" you are looking at, not only has no qualities but has never been harmed in any way, getting a glimpse of that could provide some relief or at least take our attention off the running commentary on life that seems to be going on most of the time, at least for me. So in that way it's a "break from the action" as it were.

My sense is that this desire to get rid of negative states is a leftover from the old conditioning although it's certainly quite natural to want that. It's why we turn to drugs or alcohol or anti-depressants and myriad other distractions.

It's part of the protective mechanism in place that arose from the sense that we are somehow at risk here. (I'm paraphrasing John a bit here since I'm not all that eloquent on this subject) but I feel that those concerns about how you feel, positively or negatively, and how those states impact your life seems to diminish dramatically. I currently have plenty to be highly concerned about but when feelings of panic arise, they don't seem to dominate and distract me as much as they did. This I know is one of the effects of the looking which occurs over time.

Hoping some of this makes sense,



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