John and Carla Sherman
The simple act of inward looking that we offer can bring about the reconciliation of each individual human mind with natural life, and it has the potential to bring about the reconciliation of the entire human species with itself.
The fear of life is the sole cause of all human hatred, greed, aggression, and all the rest of the neurotic stupidity that falls from our fearful alienation from our own lives. The fear of life appears at or near birth for most of us, and infects the human mind with chronic fearfulness and anxiety, and a generalized alienation from and distrust of life itself. It causes the newborn mind to shrink away from life into a relationship with all experience that is rooted in suspicion, distrust and fear.
This underlying context of fearfulness is not the experience of fear with which we are all familiar. It is below the level of conscious awareness, and it is mostly inaccessible to us, except through its symptoms. The fear of life is more like an autoimmune disease. It spoils life for us by corrupting every component of the developing structure of personality through which we have the experience of life.
Someone I spoke with the other day expressed surprise at the fact that I do not blame society, education, government, or greedy corporations for the misery of human life. When I look at the sorry state of society, the despicable state of organized education, the inability of governments to serve their people at the most basic level by providing access to nourishing food, clean water, health care, and safety from both governmental and non-governmental bloodshed, I see only the misery of the individual human mind writ colossal.
It's plain to us that most of us suffer from a chronic state of anxiety and distrust of life. Just look around. Look at the drugs advertised on TV. Look at how we worship fear, how we are fearful even to speak of it lest we allow others to see that we are afraid. Look at your own mind and see how often it turns to denial, resistance, or aggression when things go bad.
There is no one to blame for our inability to understand ourselves, much less understand others. There is no one to blame for the profound impoverishment that greed inflicts on the entire human community, or for the hatred and cowardice that poisons the relations between nations now teetering on the brink of an insane orgy of murder and destruction over oil and religion.
Every human being on the planet is at least as scared as you are. Humanity truly is one creature, and the self-destructive madness that seems about to engulf us again in our time is nothing but the combined symptoms of the fear of life in billions individual human. We are in this together, and we will sink or swim together.
The fear of life and its effects are entirely to blame for the sorry state of human affairs we find ourselves in now. There is no one to blame for our crippled and contracted relationship with life. No one is to blame for our silent sorrow, not even ourselves.
We have control over nothing in life but the focus and direction of our attention, and even that, only intermittently. After all, our experience of every present moment is already here before we notice it, and therefore we cannot change it. Every moment in experience is on the surface of a vast ocean of cause and effect reaching back in time to the big bang and outward in space to the end of the universe.
The present moment is also within that ocean. What I do in the present moment shapes the next moment and affects the future unfolding of my life. This is where attention lives, attending to some matters and not attending to others in the fluidly present moment. Energizing what it touches and allowing the rest to fade and sink back into the ocean of cause and effect and its random shaping of events.
The control of our attention, our ability to choose, however sporadically, where it should go is exactly what you use to try to look at yourself in the first place. The fear of life dissolves when touched by the willfully directed attention in the mind. Without the power to direct the focus of attention, however clumsily, we cannot even understand the suggestion to look at ourselves, much less accomplish it.
Accomplishing this act of focusing attention on what it feels like to be "me" is what I call looking at yourself, and it requires nothing more than to make one whole-hearted effort to experience the feel of you.
What I call "the feel of you" is that simple feeling of your presence here that you call "me." Just that, nothing more, what it feels like to be me. Strangely enough, you might find this act very difficult to do, and the feeling of me to be frustratingly elusive. You may even find it difficult to know whether you have succeeded in this simple act at all. Take heart, and try for patience. I promise you that if you try, you will succeed, no matter what you think about it.