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?
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.
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:
In this episode, John Sherman explains the origins of The Just One Look Method and how it brings you the practical essence of the Self-Inquiry of Ramana Maharshi, clear of all spiritual references and ideas.
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.
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.
In this episode, John Sherman is interviewed by Regina Dawn Akers for Awakening Together Radio. In this conversation, John speaks about his work and his life. This interview was broadcast live on March 17, 2016.
If you really understand that what you are trying to do is to get a taste of what it feels like to be you, whether you have a conscious experience of having touched yourself with your attention or not, you cannot fail. It’s the conscious movement of attention toward the feeling of ‘me’ that counts.
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With very few exceptions, pretty much everybody on earth—butcher, baker, candlestick maker, rich, poor, beggar, and thief—each and every human being on the planet is at least as confused, fearful, miserable and afflicted as you are now or have been at some point.
Everybody on earth is at least as blameless as you are and as justified in their actions and beliefs as you are. Nobody on earth is in complete control of what they think, and want, and resist. Not even you.
One morning last August I was reading an article in an old Harper’s magazine about the origins of the First World War. The article explained what was happening in the world at the time, and it described the feeling of being alive then as an all-pervasive state of hopelessness, denial, despair, boredom, and malaise; a lack of interest in life. There was a sense that there wasn’t anything anyone could do to change things.
But with the assassination of the Archduke of Austria war broke loose, and triggered an explosion of excitement in the world. War seemed to offer the possibility of moving out of the swamp of generalized misery and hopelessness into a fresh and wondrous adventure, something which might just restore a feeling of the excitement in being alive. “The war to end all war,” they called it.
All of this was, of course, merely an opportunity to move the blame for the misery that had been festering internally to the enemy outside. And also, of course, that excitement could not, and did not, last very long. Soon all of Europe was smothered in corpses and drenched in blood, and the horror and stench of war covered the earth.
The root cause of most human psychological misery is the fear of life. This fear of life is a psychological autoimmune disease that arises in reaction to fearful experience very early in life, long before we learn that we have a mind–long before we are even conscious of ourselves as individual persons. The fear of life is an unseen assumption that life is inherently dangerous and profoundly untrustworthy. And it is upon this invisible foundation of fear and distrust that our minds develop over time.
Coming clean: “To admit something to someone.” McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions
The root cause of all human psychological misery is the fear of life itself that strikes most of us at or near birth, and sets the context in which our psychology develops over time. It is useful to speak of the fear and its effects as a kind of psychological autoimmune disease that is subject to therapeutic intervention. There is no one to blame for our misery, least of all ourselves.
The simple act of looking at yourself with your mind’s eye will reliably destroy that context of fearfulness and its diseased psychological mechanisms. We have seen for ourselves that when that happens, the mind naturally begins to restore itself from a foundation of sanity and self-reliance.