Awakening: Looking at yourself

On the topic of awakening and enlightenment, I felt it may be useful to share something very simple…..Myself and others who use this blog are familiar with this and similar practices.

I was ‘awakened’ by a simple meditation in a room with a person who took me through an inward focus exercise. This simple practice was based on the work of an American, John Sherman, an ex-convict and reformed spiritual seeker. The act of ‘looking at yourself’ is linked above. Unlike John Sherman, no spiritual teachings as such had ever been on my radar, although I was interested, having free styled Shamanistic practices in my teens, and dabbled in divination…I had read a couple of books about 25 years ago, but awakening or enlightenment was not something I had ever thought about, this was for Buddha or someone…. In childhood I had spiritual experiences, but I never sought them, they just happened.

The simple meditation was done spontaneously. I was not asked if I wanted to do it, and I therefore had no expectation of it. The practitioner was simply helping me manage a stressful period of my life and this was just another exercise- or so I thought.

In this single moment I saw my forgotten (real) self very clearly. The only thing I wanted to do was to see this ‘real’ self again- I was overwhelmed with joy and grief to have glanced at ‘myself’ and grieved that I had somehow ‘forgotten’ it. I also saw the falsity of Fiona transposed, which I found very unsettling.

That weekend I located the You-Tube video above, as recommended to me, and did this exercise over and over, and not always successfully. The ‘feeling’ of that ‘real self’ was unmistakable. I joined a discussion forum, downloaded podcasts and did everything I could to touch that ‘feeling’ again and again.

I believe that most people have touched the their real self, especially if they look back at childhood. This is an account of my early experiences of ‘looking’ which I shared on the John Sherman website discussion forum (May 2012), extracts of this first 2 weeks are below:

“I find ‘looking’ very easy to do. At first I needed to watch Johns video to ‘get in’…..As I look I have the sensation of folding the outside of myself to the inside, a kind of turning myself inside out experience. The sensation is unmistakable; it is how I felt as a young child much of the time…. The looking has been a very bi-polar experience for me….I feel I have been transported back to my childhood world and natural state on one hand, but re-exposed to emotional trauma on the other….”

This extract written by me shows the childhood sensations of joy that the looking can be compared to (May 2012)

On childhood memories, also on the forum. “The simplest things are the most evocative. The triangle of light created on the wall by the curtains in the morning, the smell of coal in my Grandmother’s house, the orange glow created by a street light shining through raindrops, the star burst effect created by squinting at the lights on the Christmas tree. The grey pebbles on the beach that turn to purple on a cloudy day, the green that jumps out at you from the hillside in the morning sunshine…All manner of simple but beautiful experiences which have never actually gone away, I am finding myself regaining an increased visual awareness of colour and light which I am enjoying”.

A week following all this I read the Psychology of Transformation by Hubert Benoit, with no previous understanding on Zen at all. I understood the Zen teachings absolutely fundamentally, not out of any superior intellect, but because I had seen my ‘real self’. After all Zen is just about ‘seeing your own nature’ with a bit of ‘the way’ and ‘existing in an endless moment’ thrown in for good measure. Not that there is ‘a way’, it is compete freestyle and I love exploring ways of seeing that join it all together. I don’t think about it at all, I just do what comes to mind as I go along in life.  ‘Seeing myself’ within a leaf while walking, loading up 3 different You-Tube binaural videos and meditating to all three at the same time while focusing inward. The ‘feeling’ that arises is always the same, although it can intensify and produce spiritual experiences. What this does do is make the practice elastic so it joins up and slots into as many places in real life as possible. What I am frustrated about is my inability to articulate ‘the feeling’. I am still unable to find adequate words for myself without rambling as people reading this blog may have noticed… Once you have ‘seen’ yourself you do not read spiritual books as a seeker (if indeed you are interested at all). Personally I find profundity in their words, I love reading how others try and describe ‘the feeling’. I also enjoy them intellectually, just as one might enjoy reading about Darwin’s theory of Evolution, or Einstein’s theory of Relativity, no more necessary to the fundementals of understanding our material existance, than the reading of spiritual books is necessary to understanding the mystical.

My later work with Douglas Harding’s Headless Way added another dimension again, as the focus is outward and inward, to keep this post simple I will not describe this further here, those interested can take a look at the link here: Douglas Harding and Douglas Harding Continued

I did run into problems, and these may arise again. There are no promises with this or any other practice for those who wish to be 100% anxiety free. At times I have felt very listless and disconnected, I also feel disappointment at my ego; this just arises because it has naturally come into view. It may also have been counter intuative reading Benoit so early on, as the subject of ego was covered from a psycolological point of view, and extremely intellectually. These are difficult aspects of myself that I have been slowly re-aligning. This is another extract from the discussion forum which exhibits one of my earlier problems and one which still persists from time to time.

(May 2012) “The main problem is concentration and distraction. I am normally able to concentrate for long periods without being distracted. The ‘looking’ has made me on edge, but at the same time is compelling. Another thing is the increase in visual data. Everything I look at or listen to jumps out at me more. I feel like a blunt pencil that has just been sharpened to the point that it splinters when it is put to paper. I am having to wear headphones with ambient music to help me concentrate as well as it screens out other sounds.”

Other problems I do have are an inclination towards ‘dissociation’ (not an OBE experience) where before I was far too ‘associated’ to stressful and anxiety inducing situations, having learned an amazing capacity for concentration, and staying power, I am now probably too dissociated from stress at times. It is important, as Zen puts it (Benoit) ‘to live in the real external present’– 4th manner of thinking, as opposed to ‘Waking with pure intellectual thought’ 5th manner of thinking or meditation. A space which I find myself in more often than is helpful.

More recently, I have been surprised that those who love me have accepted the real ‘me’ as an improvement on the ‘false self’. I have also seen a very dark period where the trauma of a near serious accident made the ‘false self’ overshadow the ‘real self’ to such a degree that I could no longer find ‘myself’ for a period. (or something like that). The dissociation trick failed me here as well, I was very associated to this incident for a short time.To overcome this I dropped all practices other than going back to the breath, mindful walking and the John Sherman video above. In other words I just went back to where I started, and in times of darkness, for whatever the reason, I would recommend anyone afflicted just drops everything and goes back to the very basics. This, I have begun to accept as something that simply arises within the on-going moment of life.

This way of ‘being’ does reduce stress and anxiety, but the ‘self’ still lives in the real world and continues to be affected by it. What I can say is that these issues are ‘viewed’ rather than experienced, and appear more objective. Paul Hedderman said something like ‘you can’t get out of it, when you’re not in it’. Paul only has about 3 things to say, the profundity of his nonsensical parables make sense once you have touched the ‘real’ self although they do have a ring of dissociation about them

For those inclined spiritual reading may be very useful once you are awakened, but not needed. For those that have done a lot of reading previously the words may find new meaning for you. Any mindful practice , walking, writing, painting, music, any form of self-expression is part of the expression of you-ness, after all what we are talking about here is actually ‘ourselves’ so as long as we answer our own call in full, then perhaps this is the way. No need for masters, although like mindedness wherever one finds it does help light the way.

Those who light the path for others, also light the path for themselves….(Anon)

Useful Resources:

John Sherman website

How to look at yourself


6 thoughts on “Awakening: Looking at yourself

    • Leon, out of body experiences are within my experience, not specifically part of this practice but they arise for me and have done since childhood. Let me know which part of the article you are refering to. I am very happy to expand on this and link you to other articles I have written that relate to OBEs, please do give me a bit more info on your interest here.

    • Great Joe, keep it going yourself….::) 🙂 🙂 main thing is how at ease with yourself you become over time. Reading Benoit at the same time may have not helped me, the Zen was easy. Unfortunately I was intellectually interested in the psychology which made me inclined to question my ego etc which brought me problems later when I tried to get too clever with it! Conversly, the benoit knowlege is V. useful now. Keep it as simple as possible… what you fancy with it. I still use the Sherman video from time to time to get back to basics and to relieve stress and anxiety as it arises- this works
      With my very best wishes- Fi 🙂

  1. hi! I loved reading this. I do the looking as well , or more accurately , the looking does me now. And feel the headless way experiments are also ways of looking at me. So the two go together beautifully.
    I find that even though i venture toward the spiritual ideas every time i have some interesting experience, i always always come back to the simple looking. it is really all that is needed, i suspect.

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