The way it is happening for me is that two years ago I had the recognition on a morning walk that the only problem there is, is fear. With that recognition, much (not all) of the seeking energy dissipitated–I was no longer interested in finding the next secret to awakening. I understood the problem and I had confirmation about it from Jed Mckenna, Eckhart Tolle, Buddha, Anthony de Mello and others. I had a really, good year and I was beginning to re-engage in life after many years of escaping in spiritual compulsion.
But I had only recognized the problem; not solved it. A few months later I stumbled upon John Sherman’s site. I resonated with what he said about fear. So he had some credibility with me, and what he said about the looking is the same thing Nisargadatta and Ramana say, except I think John Sherman is simpler and clearer.
I did the looking. I wondered, as I think many people do, if I was doing it right. But I can assure that if you are doing this looking you are doing it right. It is self-correcting. About three months later, the urge to look went away. And the recovery began.
The recovery was difficult at first. I was coming into a difficult period after a really good year, so it was very disappointing. I felt as if I was falling back into some of my older issues of anxiety, depression, insomnia, weight fluctuations, apathy, confusion, isolation, self-recrimination, over-anlayzing–all of these worried me that I was slipping, not moving forward. For a while, I had the idea in my head that someday I will be “done.” Then I realized it was this very expectation that was causing mental conflict, and I tried to drop any expectation I might have had about what should happen. I went through periods of doubt. I considered exploring other paths–maybe getting into Advaita.
And strangely, a feeling of shame came up. It’s hard to describe–it’s a context that I have done something wrong, I don’t belong here, I feel like a stranger. My theory is that this feeling comes about from the feeling of separation caused by the fear of life. Separated, I felt like I’ll be found out that I am not who I am. My guess is this feeling must be very common–most of us suppress it or learn to live with it.
But recently, something has shifted. I feel more settled. More at home. I am more satisfied with life, less resistant, and I have the understanding that this has nothing to do with the content of life or mental states. Happiness and unhappiness come and go, according to what happens in life and according to our particular mental states. These come and go, and have no effect on being alive, just being–satisfied, human.
So now I recommend to people to understand that the basic problem is the fear of life. The solution is the do the looking, as John Sherman suggests.
And during the recovery, use whatever tools you want to handle it. I like the release technique I talk about here, so that’s what I recommend. It has been very useful to me. But whatever it is that you prefer is good. Meditation, yoga are good. Observing thoughts is good. Allowing, letting it be, letting it go, acceptance–all good.
And so, after six years of seeking, I’ve circled back to see that it was always about just being a natural human being.
If you’re interested in this, here are the simple instructions on how to look from John Sherman’s site:
Now move the focus of your attention inward to what it feels like to be you.
What you are looking for is the feel of what you would call me. You are looking for exactly what you refer to when you say the word ‘me.’ You are looking for the me-ness of you.
Here’s a way to see what I am speaking about. Many people have found this helpful. Try to evoke a moment in your childhood. It can be anything, really. See if you can remember what it felt like to be you then.
That’s exactly what it feels like to be you right now, isn’t it? Look and see. It’s the same sense of me. Exactly the same me-ness.
Try to put your attention on that subtle feeling of me for just a tenth of a second.
It may be helpful to know that as you do the looking you might recognize that you have looked before. The feel of you is the same now as it was five minutes ago, five years ago, or when you are a small child. You might be able evoke a memory of when you had looked at you.
It may be helpful to know that doubts will come up. You might wonder if you’re doing it right or if it’s really working. Don’t worry, the technique is self-correcting. And confirmation of it seems to come in retrospect; you might not recognize for a while that the effects of the fear are falling away.