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Is the Looking Spiritual?


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Lately, as interest in this work grows, we have seen an upsurge in confusion about the relationship between what we are doing here and the ancient wisdom teachings.

Some seem to think that the looking is a version of the Upanishadic teachings from India, perhaps a form of self-inquiry.

Some see it as a watered-down version of other more developed and substantial practices; too simple to be of any use to serious seekers after truth.

Many see it as being just like somebody or other in the current crop of active or recently dead modern spiritual teachers.

Quite likely, some even see it as a con game, but that would be a hard case to make in the face of the fact that we charge nothing and require nothing for access to everything we know about the looking at all times.

In any event, it is past time to try and settle this matter once and for all. We have much to do and little free time to spend on issues like this, which have nothing to do with our work.

Please believe that this is not an attempt to repudiate any spiritual practice. I seek only to put an end to the idea that the looking is one.

Truth is that if the looking is a spiritual teaching, it is a teaching the like of which I have never seen before.

It promises no liberation from the wild storm of life, no safe-haven of emptiness and bliss. It has nothing to say about true self or false self or about any self at all. It has no anointed teachers; it has no doctrine, and in my own experience, it has done nothing for me at all other than to disintegrate the false distrust of my own life, and bring me safely home to that life at last.

And if it does almost nothing directly, it requires even less.

It requires no new understanding of, or belief in, anything, including belief in the act itself. Nor does it require the abandonment of any understanding or belief.

It requires no payment of money, and no allegiance to any person or institution.

It requires nothing at all other than one simple movement of conscious attention trying to get one simple taste of the pure sensation known to you as 'me' — the taste of pure person at the heart of the mind.

It requires nothing of you but to do it once. It encourages self-reliance. It contends against nothing, it blames no one, it judges nothing, and it proposes neither the abolishment nor the creation and support of any particular organized human activity.

The way in which the outcome of the looking plays out is entirely idiosyncratic, although it almost always includes some confusion as the results of the looking begin to play out in the mind.

We came to the act of looking from the insight that all of our own self-hatred and hatred of others; all of our own self-defeating and aggressive habits of behavior and relationship; and all of our own misery and disappointment in ourselves and in our lives had one simple root cause, which is the fear of life itself.

We have come to see that this fear of life comes upon almost all of us at birth, through no one's fault, when the shock and violence of our arrival sets the context and contaminates the soil in which our entire psychology — all of our understandings, our bedrock assumptions, our likes and dislikes — will take shape.

We see the fear of life as a kind of psychological autoimmune disease. It seeks to protect us from the danger of being alive by holding life at arms' length lest we fall in and perish. It warps the lenses of personal psychology through which we perceive the meaning, validity, and likely effect of everything that happens to us, with us, within us, and around us. It creates and maintains the delusion that life is not trustworthy; that life is not safe.

When I first decided to write about this question of whether the looking is spiritual, I thought that I would call attention to the ways in which the old teachings have fallen into false ideas predicated on the assumption of a preferable spiritual mode of life that was hidden from us by our ignorant attachment to worldly matters.

I thought that I might try to show how the teachings themselves were little more than arguments in favor of running from the fear into womb-like states of total dissociation from life. And thought I would use that to point to the most fundamental difference between the looking and the teachings which is that the looking brings us into complete immersion with the same life that the teachings despise.

But then I remembered how the appearance of those ancient attempts to understand and solve the deep puzzle of human misery broke my own entrancement with hopelessness and cynicism and set me on the path that led me here to be with you, and decided not to bother.

The spiritual teachings are not the problem; the injustice of the economic system is not the problem; the war drums beginning now to crescendo again are not the problem. Fear is the problem which spawns all the rest, and when the fear goes all that is false and self-destructive in us goes with it.

No one who is naturally and fearlessly engaged in the richness of their own lives will ever knowingly cause harm to anyone else.

Imagine a world free of neurotic fearfulness and anxiety. This is what we believe the looking can bring about.

The purpose of our work then, is nothing more than to bring to humanity the idea that our misery is not of our doing, and might easily be cured with one simple, harmless act of inward looking with the mind's eye.

A simple act of inward looking that could change everything.

So, instead of railing against our past false starts and ancient misunderstandings, I think it would be best just to do that simple act together now.

To begin with, sit quietly for just a moment or two, just long enough to settle your mind and allow the energy of what you have just read to fade a little. You are not trying to prove or disprove anything here; you are merely trying to get a direct taste of the faint feel of you here.

Most people find it easier to do it with eyes closed. 

• First, notice the symphony of sensations and perceptions about sensations rising and falling – notice the calling and releasing of attention by sensation and thought about sensation. There is nothing whatsoever you need to do about any of it, just familiarize yourself with the feel of being alive for a moment or two.

• Now, notice that once you form the intent to do so you can move your attention to one or another sensation or perception pretty much at will.

• Now, move that beam of attention around in your mind and body looking for the feel of what you would call 'me'. You will find it to be a very faint, calm, clear, and light sensation, barely noticeable in the background of all other sensations and thoughts.


This simple sensation is hidden from most of us for most of our lives by the noise and stench of the fear. If you see it, you will recognize it to be just what you feel like to yourself and nothing more or less.

And, as strange as it might seem, it does not matter whether you actually felt or recognized that simple taste of you. If you followed the instructions, it is as close to certain as can be that you have succeeded and that you will soon notice some of the effects of what you have done begin to appear.

Pay attention to your life, it is the source of all satisfaction, and there is nothing spiritual or unspiritual about it.

You will find good help in our discussion forums.