Have you ever noticed that whatever you think might give you peace and satisfaction fails to do so when you get it?
Why is it that even when we achieve all the goals we set out for ourselves in our lives—the perfect partner, a beautiful family, lots of money, a good job, etc. —none of that eliminates the sense that there is still something lacking?
Gaining control over your attention may seem to be the hardest thing you have ever tried to do in your life. After all, you are turning it forcefully in the opposite direction it is accustomed to going.
During the recovery period, certain situations may trigger the appearance of fear-generated thoughts in the mind. Old patterns of reaction to circumstance may reappear and catch you by surprise. You need not be discouraged. These are merely old soldiers of fear trying desperately to keep their grip on your mind. They are just trying to protect you based on the false idea that you need protection from life itself.
The practice of Self-Directed Attention allows you to develop deep control of your attention and enables you to choose for yourself what is worth paying attention to and what is not. Over time, you increase your ability to decline to attend to thought forms that are harmful or simply irrelevant in the moment.
When you look at yourself directly with the firm intention of getting a taste (a feel, a whiff) of what it feels like to be you, the unconscious ground of fear upon which your mind developed over your lifetime dissipates. Just one look with your inner eye at the raw sense of me before any names, definitions, understandings, and emotional states eliminates that underlying context of fearfulness.
The idea of enlightenment as a magical event that makes everything perfect is a fairy tale, a misunderstanding of what it really means to be free.
If you have been on a spiritual path for any length of time, this may be a hard pill to swallow. We know. We walked a spiritual path for many years ourselves once, and taught it to many others believing that our deep understanding of spirituality had brought us home.
We live in dire times. Children are being gunned down in their own classrooms and countries with thermonuclear weaponry are threatening to use them for fear that others might use them first.
It is true that many non-profit organizations are making admirable efforts to solve localized problems around the world but they stop short. Their efforts are commendable but they do not address the root cause of all our problems: the fear of life.
A few weeks ago we went to see an acupuncturist in a Los Angeles neighborhood that was completely unfamiliar to us. John dropped me off at the office and went to park the van.
When we left the office, he could not remember where he had parked the van. He had been in such a hurry to get back to the office that he had not thought of taking note of the location. We walked for hours looking for the van, to no avail. We had to rent a car in Glendale to drive home.
The baby, too, just like a sailor tossed By cruel waves, lies naked on the ground, Poor child, bereft of every means of life, As soon as it has left its mother’s womb In throes of birth, and fills the room with squalls, As is but meet for one who has to pass Such ills in life. Lucretius, De Rerum Natura (54 B.C.)
If you have followed our work for even a short time, you must know by now that, in our view, it is the fear of life itself that ruins life for almost all of us human beings.
Someone recently sent us an email with a question that we found very useful.
First of all, I would like to say “Thank you” with great sincerity and deep gratitude. I enjoy listening to your talks due to your sincerity, honesty and, above all, your simplicity. I would like to ask you one question and I hope you can find the time to answer. It would be much appreciated.
Many years ago, I came across Nisargadatta Maharaj’s book I Am That and although I couldn’t understand most of it, certain parts spoke to me. If you will bear with me, I would like to give two quotes that really struck home:
The Just One Look Method is an extremely simple approach to mental misery unlike anything you have ever tried. It will rid you of the root cause of your dissatisfaction with life and the painful yearning for peace and fulfillment that seems never to be fully satisfied.
The Just One Look Method is the result of nineteen years of experience working with people all over the world who have seen their relationship with their own lives change dramatically for the better.
We do not give you descriptions of a life free of fear. We do not tell you what to think about yourself and others. We do not tell you how to live your life, how to behave, what to believe in, etc.
Everybody is driven by the same underlying fear of life that caused you so much difficulty in your own life prior to looking at yourself. Your response to it was most likely different from that of the villains of history, but it was also shaped by the idiosyncratic way in which your particular psychology developed and found some homeostasis. So if you have been a good person, it was because the circumstances of your life have caused your response to the fear to take the form of good personhood; of being a good guy rather than a bad guy. It’s that simple.
Expectations come in at least two flavors. The first flavor is a reasonable expectation as to what might happen in the course of our day-to-day life. For example, if I plant a garden, I will have the reasonable expectation that, barring bad weather or unforeseen damage by pests, in due time I will have the fruits of my labor in the form of fresh fruits and vegetables. If I place an order for something at Amazon, I will have the reasonable expectation that, in due time, a package will arrive at my door. If I work for wages, I will have the reasonable expectation that on payday I will have money.
Before looking at myself, I would have had no idea how to answer such a question. Maybe money and power, so I could do what I really wanted to do? But what then? And what exactly was it that I would really want to do? And what would I get from doing it?
Enlightenment maybe, or knowledge, but what would I expect to get from them? What exactly would they bring to me?
True love? True friendship? A sense of accomplishment? Happiness? But how would I recognize true love, or friendship, or accomplishment, or happiness if I got them?
The fear of life is the first cause of all our psychological troubles.
The fear of life is a silent and false assumption that life is untrustworthy and dangerous that runs in the background of all experience.
Now, strictly speaking, there is no requirement that you understand the cause of your mental misery before you can be rid of it and, conversely, mere understanding of the cause will not free you of it. But a clear understanding of the actual cause of our mental misery, although not required, vastly simplifies and mitigates the tumultuous experience of regeneration that often follows that first look.
Identity: (1) The character or personality of an individual: unity and continuity of personality; (2) one’s perception of the sameness and persistence of one’s own individual personality: sense of self. (Merriam-Webster)
Before you begin reading this post, please Google the phrase “the search for identity”. You will be shown links to almost 43 million pages that approach the issue.
It would seem that identity, and the search for it, is the heart and soul of being human. If that’s the case, how can it be that such a critical component of being human is considered to be such a mystery by so many? What is identity, after all? Where is it to be found?
If you have done the Looking, mastered Self-Directed Attention, and have begun to see the value of Just One Look in your own life, there is often a natural impulse to describe to your friends what you have found. If that’s the case with you, STOP!
I beg you to stop because, unless you fully comprehend the true nature of what has happened in your own mind, you will almost always sow confusion and helplessness where you wanted to plant understanding and self-reliance.