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Starving a thought vs ignoring a present pattern?

The more involved I get with John's work and his message, the more these weird questions crop up.

While I feel pretty much anchored in the feeling of "me" I can still see/feel old patterns running. The biggest one being of self worth. I've come a very long way from how loud that voice was in days gone by and my confidence continues to grow as well as my courage to face the fear and do it anyways! So I feel good about my progress! Very Good!!

However, in speaking to a life coach friend of mine today, it was brought to my attention how strongly that "I'm not good enough" voice still operates! Only now it's sneakier and more subtle. But still self sabotaging!

So my question is... If I just ignore that voice or thought and move my attention elsewhere, as often suggested here, am I ignoring a problem I SHOULD be vigilant for!? I've been taught by example that ignoring a "problem" doesn't make it go away! And have also seen how unrecognized patterns in people (myself included) are doomed to be repeated!

So I'm confused now about this because it sounds to me an awful lot like "don't think about it and it'll just go away!" Which is BS! I've seen my parents use this "method" of ignoring a problem as a means of hiding from their repeated problematic patterns that still continue to this day! (Well, my Dad took his to his grave this past December, but that's beside the point.) and I love them more than I can say!

So could someone please clarify the difference between what I'm talking about above vs what you talk about by moving your attention away from a thought to starve it to death?

It seems to me that the main difference is the intent!

Right now I'm noticing a struggle and some "split energy" as I attempt to come to some resolution about this. If I understand the method correctly then I should simply ask the question if it is worthy of my attention and the feelings of confusion that come with it. And while my mind wants an answer, I WANT PEACE! and I know that the "Me" is never invested in outcomes one way or another. But boy oh boy my mind IS!

So I'm kind of laughing at myself because I get the joke! I'm even enjoying the tension of watching my mind try to go in two directions! Skittering between 2 thought systems trying to decide a path! Its kinda funny! But I'm tired of the game too!


Rick W

If I just ignore that voice or thought and move my attention elsewhere, as often suggested here, am I ignoring a problem I SHOULD be vigilant for!?

So could someone please clarify the difference between what I'm talking about above vs what you talk about by moving your attention away from a thought to starve it to death?

It seems to me that the main difference is the intent!

and I know that the "Me" is never invested in outcomes one way or another. But boy oh boy my mind IS!

Let's do something together. lets first acknowledge that whatever you know, you know through your mind. it is the only instrument you know of.

So in your mind, there are two thoughts: one that says that you should move your attention elsewhere. And one that says you should not because you should be vigilant and watch the current feeling.

Here's the thing. Neither of these thoughts matter in this arena. They are in the end the same, and if you believe them or not, it only reinforces your relationship with that specific thought. what matters is to move your attention no matter what you tell yourself the reason is. You can think anything you want. But the movement of attention is felt by you as a real and tangible thing as opposed to the accompanying thoughts that usually feel 'flaky'. So the tangible physical organic sensation of movement of attention is what you are after. It matters not which thought wins the debate inside you.

So let's pause and you can try to move your attention and see if the act does not feel different to the act of choosing between thoughts. That should settle the main question. Of course, sometimes, some thoughts help the movement of attention and some don't, but this is mostly because of self-reinforced habit.

Your mind might tell you that the outcome is the starvation of the thought to death. But who knows what the starvation of a thought to death really is? So such speculation need not interfere with the attempt to move attention.

Minor argument: when you say the 'me' is not invested in outcomes, but the mind IS... What tells you that? Its only the mind that has reported to you a supposed 'me' that is not invested in outcomes. I point this out not to say that the 'me' does not exist, but only to point out that it is the mind that is telling you that. So naturally, you should ask what outcome is the mind interested in by reporting a 'me' that supposedly not interested in outcomes. you see? It may be merely a thought playing with itself. And that's okay. What you are interested is not in the resolution of such intellectual distinctions, but in the movement of attention. I think maybe we have given enough attention to the other things and its not so helpful. I suggest reading John's blog post on the mind, and you will see the value of this instrument - the only one there is!

I have looked for a while now, and its all coming together in a great way. I'm fairly confident what i tell you makes sense to me directly, but others can clarify if i am not accurate.

Really good question. This one burned inside me for a long time, but I was never able to verbalize it.


Re: Starving a thought vs ignoring a present pattern?


Wow-- this is an excellent question and one that has plagued me a bit too. My fixation has been "don't I need to think about the thought to figure out what to do about it?" and a fear that if I'm just moving attention away from the thought, I won't be learning what I need to, and I won't be able to protect myself in the future. I know this is a result of the fear of life and over time, I've realized that most of the thoughts I've been so concerned about moving away from are just neurotic, but still, the question is a fair one.

I'd really like to hear what John or anyone else has to say about this--



Re: Starving a thought vs ignoring a present pattern?

When the thought comes you can just see whether you can actually do something about it or not. Or if it's just something without a basis (like the question of self worth). And if it's something you can actually do something about (like washing the dishes), you can take action. But if you can't do anything about it there's no point in focusing on it, and you can see that it's just a thought and decide to focus on something else. So the point isn't about ignoring the thought. It's rather seeing what it's worth and then deciding to either take action or just let it go and changing your focus.

So what's the problem you should be vigilant for? In my perspective you can be good or bad in things, but it doesn't determine your self worth. And the only reason the thoughts about your self worth affect you is because you buy into them and give them your focus. But if you just see them for what they are (thoughts without a basis which only hurt you if you give them focus) you can decide to focus elsewhere and see how they gradually come less and less frequently. And even if you somehow weren't worthy, what's the point of ruminating over it? Would you choose to be not worthy but happy, or maybe getting some "worth" while being miserable?

For me just blindly trying to ignore thoughts never worked. What worked is understanding that they are just thoughts and I can either focus on them or not, and seeing what comes out of focusing on them or not focusing on them. It doesn't seem to be blindly following some instructions but rather a learning process.

The important thing is seeing that you have a choice to focus on thoughts or not. And then you just try it out and see what works for you.

Re: Starving a thought vs ignoring a present pattern?

hey all,

i would like to be more clear on what I think is the case.

i think it is very easy to get lost in the world of discussing what to do with thoughts, either ending existing ones or creating new ones. or acting or not acting on existing ones. that is what most other practices do.

this act is clearly not going to help you choose the right thought over the wrong ones, if that is what you are after. if this is really important, there are quite a few practices out there to sharpen the mind and help it function better. in the case of the looking this is simply not relevant. not right or wrong. just not relevant.

the only thing that matters in the looking is the movement of attention done consciously towards yourself. in my opinion, thats all there is to it to this radically simple practice. and therein lies the difficulty of communicating it I think.

all these discussions about thoughts are a maze, an infinite loop.

Re: Starving a thought vs ignoring a present pattern?

Hi all,

I wanted to chime in for some points that caught my attention in this thread.

As far as I understand, turning attention away from certain thoughts or emotions is not ignoring the problem, if you have done the looking. The looking did away with the problem, the only problem that there really was. And now you are just dealing with the aftermath. Now those thoughts are out of place. You don't need them. (You never actually needed them, because the context that gave birth to them in the first place was false.) So, I would say that thoughts about self worth can quite safely be declared part of the old insanity. And believe me, I've spent most of my life preoccupied with those very thoughts and feelings that come from them.

I'm quite sure self worth will cease to be interesting at some point, but I still get those feelings sometimes. But they are just one part of the insanity. If I started analyzing and making effort to put all of the algorithms of fear based mind to right, I'd spend the rest of my life at it, and still not get very far. I believe John says that they will starve whether you give them attention or not, but they will just go away sooner if you cease to consider them as worth attending to. The fact always was, and still is after the looking, that mind keeps presenting us with plethora of different thoughts and "phenomenal arisings" as John puts it, and we don't have much say in it. They are mechanical. The mind is mechanical. It's outside of you. It's like climate. But you can choose whether you concentrate your attention on dark clouds and thunder and rain, or not. Sometimes, at least. And don't bother yourself when you can't. But when you notice that you can move your attention away from something, you can. The fact is also that you're always attending to something. All of your life you are attending to something. There's not much else to life but movement of attention. There's two parts to life: attention and its content or object. They define what each particular life contains. Feelings, motivations and actions follow from where our attention is quite mechanically. So, it seems to make sense to familiarize yourself with the movement of attention, and train yourself at it. But I guess it's one of those things that are useful to learn in life, like many others, but not worth making too big an issue out of.

At first when John suggested this mindfulness training I was against it in my mind. I felt I didn't need another arduous practice. It's still an effort. But I try to practice it almost every day. Especially when negative or clearly useless thoughts arise. And it seems to make a little bit of difference. I didn't notice before that there was attention involved in everything that happened or occurred. And I wonder where this investigations of attention leads. It's unknown territory to me.

In the question of determining whether a particular thought is one of those old remnants that are not worth attending to or not, I've followed John's pointer that those thoughts make you feel bad. Or something like that. I trust that if it's something worthwhile I'll sense it somehow. And then there's lots of thoughts that are plain harmless and entertaining and playful and it's ok to get lost in them sometimes. They can lead to creative ideas.

On the whole, these days, I think life and mind kind of take care of themselves.


Wow! What a difference 2yrs has made!

After reading this thread I can see that I was and to a large degree still am all wrapped up in THOUGHT.

BUT....From continued support, study of A COURSE IN MIRACLES and other related topics that point to what most call "Enlightenment", I'm beginning to understand that thoughts are OBJECTS.

And while I keep hearing from those enlightened people that the thinking mind has nothing to do with WHO YOU ARE (Stated in various ways) and that our attachment to thoughts are the cause of suffering etc etc. And how the "I thought" is a misidentification.

None of that is really helpful for those still seeking ( like me ). Because unless you experience life without the "I thought" the best one can do is imagine how that would be. And perhaps convince yourself falsely that you are having that experience. (been there done that lol)

I've studied HARD (My opinion which is just THAT LOL) many different teachers, teachings, books and videos on how to realize "THE TRUE SELF" and none of them have been helpful or instructive enough to make any significant changes.

To be honest, all that did really was frustrate and confuse me. Although I had some short lived good feelings. Nothing really seemed to be changing.

Now comes John's simple teaching of directed self attention and looking at yourself. And after 2 weeks of the practice (2years after the look) all those teachings are SLOWLY making sense in a new way.

Let me see if I can accurately explain my new understanding. Bear with me.

I can now see that where attention comes from can't be found. It's impossible to look at what's looking!

It CAN HOWEVER, be sensed!!

I don't know how but it just seems to be the case and obvious that you & i exist! From there everything goes out. (called Attention )

I want to say thoughts come from there too but that feels "off" so not sure where or how thought occurs and really it doesn't matter. (even though I want it matter a whole lot! Ha ha)

So through my understanding of all the teachings I've encountered, INCLUDING JOHN'S I can feel safe in saying that....

From "Stillness" Love flows.(Attention is attending to something and attending to something is an act of love) And we have to unlearn attending to false ideas.

What's a false Idea? Stay tuned because I honestly haven't gotten that far yet LOL. But it must have something to do with being Separate and afraid.

John has helped me FINALLY understand what A COURSE IN MIRACLES is talking about in a very complicated (again my opinion) yet beautiful way. We have a CHOICE in what we attend to and mist thoughts are NOT WORTH IT. What's VALUABLE is where the attention comes FROM.

And by practicing what we attend TO.....Where attention comes FROM is "ME". And in time.... accepted!

( I believe Religion calls this ATONEMENT )

Am I understanding this correctly?

Have just read your initial 2014 comment, Rick W; I likely read it back then, but it has a different meaning to me now, several years in. For me, it is just not that important, and I know it used to be important to me. So, generally, if I see my "self-esteem" thread come up, I notice it, don't try to suppress it, but because of all the times I've now seen it come up, I know it isn't meaningful, and I certainly don't give it any extra attention than I need to (preferably a second or less smily ). This is not the same at all as sweeping it under the carpet. But this has all come about from years of learning and letting go following Looking at Myself.

Bravo, Seppo, what a brilliant response!

Have now caught up on your most recent posting, Rick W, I studied ACIM intensely for a while, as well as other spiritual paths; I was at a dead end when I encountered John and his teachings; it has not been an easy ride for me! (I'm 71), however, after years, yes, I am living a different life or I am different or something is different smily incrementally, and I wouldn't have it any other way. As in what I said above, there are things that have taken quite a few years to unfold in me, so I have had to be extremely (for a Gemini) patient, but what else was I doing, anyhow? So this self esteem stuff, I've had the deepest insights into the wound of the feeling of rejection I experienced when coming here, and have recognized, deeply, so many times, and after I encountered John's instruction when I had no defense against the feeling and was devastated! So many devastations! smily And, here I am. And when the pattern comes up, I recognize it and usually instantly flip my attention elsewhere, yeah, my self-esteem stuff, okay, where was i? Hope that was helpful.

The only thing I'd say in response to your question re understanding is that it feels like you are still tackling it through your intellect and reason smily imho, you can really let that go, or consider the possibility. blessings to you on the path, marlowe


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