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Recovery and Rehabilitation

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Why self-directed attention practice is vital

Carla Sherman, in a nod to GOT, aka "The Carla in the North," kindly suggested I start another Forum thread about my JOL/SDA experience to date; after struggling to tell the absolute truth about it, I finished one, but left it to gel before posting. Meanwhile, I changed my mind, and here's why and the results:

I started SDA at the end of June. I do at least two sessions a day, morning and evening, with the odd little bit if something bothers me day or night. Though it's unquestionably early days in my recovery, I've had such an improvement in my life that it would take pages to catalog it, so it's irrelevant here. I also hesitated because a) I'm still such a beginner that it seemed pretentious to offer anyone advice, and b) what I want to say on any given day depends on whether it's a day of positive results or one of difficulty.

On the whole, I'm doing great, coming from a place where, for my whole 70 years on the planet, there've been few days where I haven't struggled with fear, anxiety and depression, unable to face not just life's bigger challenges, but the small slights and annoyances few people can avoid, to a place where life's more positive and peaceful than I ever believed was possible, and I'm stronger and more resilient than I've ever dreamed of.

Case in point is the world's events. I'm not blind to what's going on, but until JOL/SDA I'd been in a state of constant terror about the inevitability of some global disaster since I was about eight, in 1955. However, since doing the first look and starting SDA, my resilience has increased, as has my ability to live in the present, to enjoy the life I have and not miss out on the decades of joy I did by spending most of my waking hours "futurizing," "catastrophizing," and "black & white thinking."

And it's all down to JOL/SDA.

So, I was satisfied being on the recovery roller coaster until yesterday, when a casual chat surprised me because the other person always seemed a pragmatic person who doesn't worry about things she can't control. Except it turns out she does, and I got slugged with the fact that while people may not mention it, most anyone who hears news reports is worried about the North Korea business.

And for the first time since I started JOL/SDA, I got swamped with stomach-dropping, sweat-inducing fear and despair. I mean, I, me, Carladownunder, could actually die. Never mind the possible end of all life on Earth, I and my beloved husband could die.

It wasn't constant , but it would hit me in waves. I managed to get through the evening, did my nighttime SDA and felt better from realizing it was the "same ol' same ol'" trick of the mind: war had not been declared, a nuclear blast hadn't yet rained death on me and mine, and I'd got sucked in again.

This morning, I did my SDA again and flashed on the truth I saw in that first look: I'm not the Carladownunder who is for absolutely certain going to die, whether from nuclear holocaust, old age (not that far away nowadays), illness or accident. But I'm lucky: whether or not the world does go completely to hell in a handcart, I still have time to put my attention where I want to to practice SDA, to breathe, to fix and eat our breakfast, for my husband and I to get tizzed up to FaceTime his sister and me to meet with a friend to work on an illustration project. To remember who I am. Instead of my mind yanking my chain.

What I don't have time for is to waste any more precious days being devastated by my mind taking me on yet one more "hiding to nowhere," as the Aussies say, only to have yet another day wasted.

So, my advice is to do The Looking if you haven't. When you have, do SDA in the straightforward, no-frills way John and Carla say to do it. Use whatever else about it floats your boat: podcasts, their writings, forums and/or online meetings if you can't attend meetings in person, because they're all priceless tools we're incredibly lucky to have. Just don't rely on them alone, or anything else external to yourself, instead of doing your own daily SDA until you can completely control where you place your attention.

What makes the difference is doing SDA, not reading or hearing about it. I'm sure not consistently out of the woods yet, but I'm pleased that for once in over six decades I only spent an hour or so in meltdown, instead of hours that became days, years, decades and a whole life wasted...

Thanks for sharing that Carla. It's certainly inspiring to me and glad to know the percentage of your suffering has dropped way down. Wishing you all the very best, Lex

Thanks very much, Lex. I appreciate you saying so and wish you the same. Carla


What makes the difference is doing SDA, not reading or hearing about it. I'm sure not consistently out of the woods yet, but I'm pleased that for once in over six decades I only spent an hour or so in meltdown, instead of hours that became days, years, decades and a whole life wasted.

This is such a good point, and less obvious than one would think. I have fallen in the trap many times of thinking about it rather than doing it, which is a total waste of time. It's like the remnant fear doesn't want me to do it, trying to trick me in ways, so I need to apply a certain measure of force I have learned. Once I do that the difference between thinking I'm doing it, and actually doing it is like night and day.

Yeah, Roed. You definitely know what I'm talking about. And the tricks used by the mind are pretty low-down. In my SDA this morning, though I didn't get sucked into dwelling on it until after the practice was over, I later asked myself why it was important to chase stray thoughts and wrestle them to the ground? Answer: it isn't! It's the mind that makes me think that the subject of the stray thought is important. A hard lesson to take on board and act on, but one I intend to keep on top of by doing the SDA. Thanks for commenting, Carla.

Something else occurred to me after writing this: distractions, for me, are still annoyingly frequent in SDA, especially being new to the practice because my ability to control my attention is improving but not yet under my full control; I do believe that will come in time but for the moment it's been frustrating. One helpful thing occurred to me after a practice session was suddenly asking myself why these distracting thoughts were so important, what was so great about them that I had to jump when they said jump. The answer's almost laughably easy: I think they're important because my mind tells me (and sometimes yells at me!) that they are! That doesn't mean I've instantly become great at SDA, and breeze to ten unimpeded anymore, but it's helped me better distinguish those things that, as John put it, that really require my immediate attention and those that don't. And thanks to you all who've liked my posts. Still not sure if I'm supposed to acknowledge them individually or just quietly be grateful to each and every one of you, as I am. Love to you all, Carladownunder


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