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I just wanted to say...

Dear John,

I just wanted to say,

that I've experienced a mini-version of your story,

I am the "Determination, mindfulness, effort, discipline" guy,

And I also came to a point, where I turned around and said, "What happened?"

And found myself at square one,

But that is not so bad a place,

When trying to do what John says,

in every moment one tries to look,

you're kind of "Back at square one,"

or at least that's how I feel...

And I suspect that, maybe,

over time you find that every moment of your life is square one

(where things can be seen open-eyed, simply and on their own terms),

although for me, this is really just understanding,

and not my current conscious experience...

The "four pillars" as you called them,

are kind of ridiculous,

in a sense,

but they are sensible,

in another sense.

Determination was a little bit intimidating,

but I realized that it is just another word for intention,

and I can certainly have the intention to look at myself,

and I think, also, the intention "To carry this through to the end,"

as John told me last week (I've been around this for some time).

This is what John says was the critical element for him.

Mindfulness, I realized some time ago, seems absolutely critical as well.

How can you look intentionally at anything, if you don't really know what it means to look?

If you are just floating, adrift in "the wild river," and aren't very familiar with this capacity?

So it seems important to familiarize oneself with one's own attention,

To a get a feel for what it is, to start to catch it and see its jumpiness, in real time,

to practice directing it.

I've been feeling as adrift as ever in these past few months,

So, I can try the things that help me be more mindful,

that train attention and inform and enrich my relationship with it,

which ultimately serves this looking.

All this takes effort -

working with attention takes some effort,

being mindful takes some effort,

trying to look and looking takes effort

(it seems, at least sometimes, for some, for me),

even keeping an intention seems to require effort...

John has said that sometimes this can be the biggest effort of your life,

that it can feel like you have to wrench your attention

away from all the other things

to look at you...

He does not want to give us something new to be miserable about,

but he does say, that this is different for people,

and that it can be easy (he says it is easy),

but it can seem hard,

and if it seems hard, then to try as hard as you can.

Whatever it calls for, that's what you have to face up to, says John.

And sometimes it seems to call for discipline...

Mindfulness itself is a kind of discipline...

For me, remembering to look and looking seems to benefit from discipline...

John said, "You don't have to become a practitioner of this,"

but you can, and I think sometimes it's helpful...

It was helpful for me at one point, so I will try that again,

and it's been helpful to at least a few others.

I can set aside time (maybe just 3 minutes, like P. from New Jersey),

and dedicate that time to look

(not to maintain anything, but to come back to,

repeatedly, concertedly).

I am sending this also

to the conversations group,

which is just one face,

and just one place

for this fascinating conversation.

Which brings me to an addendum to this silly "motto,"

that never made it on the air,

that John and Carla have come to appreciate only over time,

that I have resisted taking part in:


"You are more alone in this than you can even imagine. This looking at yourself is the most solitary thing you have ever had to do in your life. But we are all in this together. And we cannot afford to let anybody sink; we cannot throw anybody off the sled to the wolves... Above all else, the development of community in this work is absolutely necessary." - John Sherman



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