A Shift in Awareness
I would like to share my experience with you. I've had pretty severe social anxiety since the age of about 10. Around 14 or 15 I started to get severely depressed and suicidal, and started abusing substances. I dropped out of high school and began working nights. But around the age of 19, things really started to fall apart. From age 20 to 23 I lived in group homes, and continue to use drugs, and had multiple suicide attempts and hospitalizations, and felt about as lost as a person can be. At age 23 I had the classic moment of clarity, and got sober for the first time. Shortly after that I got interested in meditation via Zen, But about 6 months later I was initiated into Transcendental Meditation. This was a hopeful period for me, and after I finished an associates degree at a local community college, I transferred to the TM school MUM in Fairfield, Iowa. This turned out to be a very painful experience, because though I had finally found a direction, I was still crippled by social anxiety. And after two months I began drinking and using substances again, and that experience was ended with another suicide attempt.
I returned home and ended up getting clean, and shortly after that I want to live at the ashram in Yogaville, Virginia, spending two months there. This became another disappointing experience, as my social anxiety made it extremely difficult. When I returned home I found out there was a local Kriya Yoga community, and I met the spiritual director there and ended up being initiated to Kriya Yoga. After a few years of practice, I stumbled onto the teachings of Nisargadatta Maharaj and Ramana Maharshi, and came to realize that this was my path. I have been practicing self-inquiry for about 6 years.
About 5 years ago I discovered John and [Carla's] work, and had an affinity and interest in it, and tried the looking as you described. But I forgot about it pretty quick, and continue focusing on Ramana and Nisargadatta. I have had a number of temporary mystical experiences in the past 5 years, but nothing that took away my baseline anxiety and depression. I've had many periods in the past 5 years of contemplating suicide again, and feeling absolutely hopeless. About a year ago, I was convinced to get on some antidepressant medication, and it seemed to help me initially, but the effects wore off. But in spite of that there's been a growing sense of ease over the past year.
But about 2 weeks ago, I stumbled back onto your website, and on the forums there was a report of a gentleman who was having a similar experience to mine. Another gentleman kindly gave his advice and support, and directed him to the number 9 video of John's on YouTube. Watching that video made a very deep impression on me, and when John stressed the fact that self-directed attention is so essential to the recovery process, for some reason that statement seemed to cause a shift in my awareness. I suddenly had very clear insight to the fact that my thoughts and feelings have nothing to do with my peace and happiness, and that all one has to do is ignore them to enjoy the peace and happiness which is my nature.
Ever since then there's been a growing sense of peace happiness, and freedom, and I'm seeing all the problems I used to face in a totally different light. I seem to be able to see to the core of everything, without much interference from my own desires and fears. I am still socially awkward, but the experiences that used to shatter me before, feelings of not being accepted by others, come and go fairly quickly, without leaving much residue. I realize that when people seem rude or not accepting of me, it's really about them, and such a thing is not an attack on who I am. I realize now that life is extremely simple, and all the problems that I have endured for all my life could be resolved quickly and with little effort, if I only relate to them without fear.
I realize this is still a process, and that self-directed attention is something that I have to keep rolling. I expect things to continue to smooth out in my life, but there's also a sense that it doesn't matter. I am 35 now, and looking back on my life I'm kind of awestruck. I was so lost for so long, and for the first time I have a sense of love and compassion for myself, wondering how I got through all that. I was so disconnected from my feelings, and had so much confusion and contempt for myself.
I want to thank you for your and John's work, and I hope that my experience may be of use to someone else.
December 19, 2020