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Recovery and Rehabilitation

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Re: Recovery

I've been in this work for 6 years now. The first 5 years seem like a cakewalk compared to the last year. My truck died, I lost both of my jobs, I went broke, I lost my physical possessions, I went homeless and I fell in love. Despite these perceived complications my day-to-day functioning level is very high. I've found long distance running and IPA's useful for alleviating the nearly constant barrage of uncomfortable emotional states I've been experiencing. My skill level with attention has reached an acute level, which has made the situation both better and worse. Better because I'm able to easily drop or look past useless thoughts, and worse because I now FEEL my feelings without any form of buffering. I often wish for some hiding place from this body: a distraction or identification but looking away is no longer available. Through this work, I've directly accessed a vastly increased level of capability in adapting to, and making use of, adverse conditions.

It's actually been a wonderful year.

Below is an excerpt from a letter I wrote to share with the people close to me that have looked.

I found that as my habitual reactions to emotional states disappeared I began to enter into a new, raw, and much more immediate emotional experience. In this place I am utterly naked; the thoughts that I previously engaged with as tools for navigating, understanding and labeling my emotions have either been rendered transparent or have departed entirely. What I'm left with is an ocean of raw, unmitigated emotional experience. This work has profoundly affected the sensitivity of my body; I often feel that it [the body] is processing an incredible strain; that it's the theater for an ordeal that could shatter it completely, yet I feel an unusual sense of love and joy permeating the discomfort.

- Richard

I appreciate what you are saying. I am new to looking but not new to seeking. I've noticed that the fear of life was also a fear of my own personality. (Talk about dysfunctional!) I have a growing feeling of open hearted-ness towards others and quite recently, myself. I might venture to say that the looking turns us to our Bodhisattva nature. Perhaps that is the nature of all things once the torturous fear dissolves.

Well, now I'm back to tell that I've been through 4 days of life situation pain. But this morning I had a realization that I have never abandoned myself and I never will. This was so beyond comforting. While this thought was my point of focus I was also having one of those experiences where 'I' was everywhere. Then I had the thought that I've never disappointed myself and never will.

I can feel what you are saying Richard. To really feel is a very powerful outcome of being free of the fear of life. Maybe the most powerful outcome of them all. It hurts, but it is true..

Thank you,


Feeling life can be brutal. I don't know what changes from this point - I've been moving my attention away from feelings - it doesn't seem like there's anything else to do but that. One interesting thing I've been considering is that life itself may simply BE constant tension and friction - It could be that I just never felt it fully before this past year. I cannot honestly say that the feeling states I'm experiencing have any relationship to my circumstances. Regardless, I feel that our ordeals and trials in life are extremely valuable as 'food' for this work. I've had long periods of ease and calm but I've grown to love this rawness in a way I can't describe, it's just so... gnarly

I appreciate your honesty and direct articulation of your experience, R32673. I'm four years into this and am beginning to suspect there is a rawness you describe underneath my current perceptions. I'm not at all experiencing what you describe, but it makes a certain intuitive sense to me.....and it's similar to what others have described.

It sounds a little unsettling to me and I'm glad you're clear that it's a positive experience. I wonder if everyone goes thru this and if it becomes more natural as time goes on; you seem to be saying that it does. I really admire that John doesn't go into detail about his experience with life after the looking, as I think he allows us to experience it for ourselves without bias, and perhaps we all experience it differently. I do wish I knew more about what was coming, tho.

Thanks again, I find your experience interested and feel free to share more.

Thank you for sharing your experience Richard. The fact that you can see the positive in what most would consider to be dire circumstances is a testament to the effectiveness of the looking and focused attention. I'm glad that this is the case for you.

I was staying at a friends house who has is a long time practitioner of Zen meditation. He had a handwritten slip of paper on his desk that said 'don't look away'. I thought to myself well I really can't anymore even if I wanted to and honestly I don't want to. I've come to enjoy the sharp edges of life even though it's uncomfortable. I use the focused attention exercises and other techniques I find helpful to redirect my attention from unhelpful thoughts and feelings. I sometimes just let it run but somehow don't feel as invested as I used to. I've been practicing redirecting my attention for some time now and I suspect that it's starting to happen more unconsciously now. Like I've laid down a new healthier pattern. I've noticed more and more that uncomfortable feelings are just uncomfortable feelings. They come and go and don't seem to stick too long until they shift to another sensation. And it can be intense. I've also noticed that some periods of my life involve more friction than others but those tense periods have really spurred some major positive changes and growth in my life.

I took up stand up paddleboarding and being out on the water is peaceful and calming. Actually anything that requires balance seems to automatically focus my attention and calm down my nervous system.

Thanks everyone for your posts. I really find them helpful and interesting.

I so appreciate everything that members post here. I've had a couple of really hard weeks including pain due to loss to someone very close to me (my dog). Something about losing the fear allows you to experience your pain in a way similar to applying coats of paint or some other process that has to be done without reservation. I don't fear feeling sad like I used to, as if it was an indicator of how close to the ledge I was. At the same time, the looking doesn't make you into a robot or anything. Far from it.

I'm reading "The Denial of Death" by Ernest Becker. Interesting read. Perhaps we fear life because it leads to death...

Has anyone read "The Denial of Death?

I don't know what's happening but I'm into my 5th month here and the bottom seems to be falling out. I'm sure it's part of the process but, wow. On the other hand, I have a confidence that I've never had. Confidence might be the wrong word. A willingness to stay in the situation and to stop trying to think my way out of it. At least some of the time. But my fear of change is still hard at work at times. Definitely some raw emotional content. In and out of sadness. The despair I've unconsciously employed various tricks to mask is free to torment me. And now the holidays are coming. Shit. This recovery is going to really show me who and what I am. How many people have had close relationships like marriages go bad during recovery?

That's about when things hit me hard. The difficulty in my relationship was not my wife, but came from me and my intense emotional state, in this case, anger and anxiety. I was intensely angry and seemed to be releasing years worth of anger I hadn't felt, I guess. This put a strain on things, to say the least. That and my insomnia, anxiety, and crying.

My relationship survived and now we are closer than ever. My wife also did the looking several years after me and I see changes in her that she is reluctant to acknowledge. She sees the act as somewhat trivial, but she was not in as bad shape as I was. I anticipate a growing relationship, but who knows? I am certainly a different person and much less distracted by my inner demons. Interestingly, my wife still sees me as I was in the past, especially when we have an argument, which is rare these days. She will accuse me of being inward, self absorbed, and withdrawn. I calmly remind her that this is certainly the way I used to be, and may have old habits hanging on a bit, but that my life has radically changed.

Fear will try to convince you that disaster is around the corner, but redirect your attention from this. Hang in there and enjoy the ride as much as possible. The growing clarity is worth the grief of recovery.

Thank you, Jack. Your words are comforting. Interesting about your wife. I may never share the looking with mine. I'll have to be profoundly different in her eyes and even then, she'll probably need to initiate. We'll see. When people live in a world comprised of thoughts piecing everything together and they don't question the box they're in, well, I don't expect to see them on here, if you know what I mean.

Bradley you asked about close relationships and looking. I was dumped a few months after I shared the looking with my partner. That it was a decision made from self-reliance, unfortunately did not make it hurt any less for me. But to look at yourself is every human's birthright and transcends whatever the personal circumstances of a relationship might be. I'm very happy to know of one more person in the world on their way to sanity.

Remember, they don't need to be as self-reflecting as you are. Just one look is all it takes.

Hey Bradley, just reading old posts and saw this.

Yes, I have read it and I'm gonna read it again soon I think. It's a great book!!!


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