A Tough Few Days. Part I: A Failure of Focus

The View From Outside My Mind

The View From Outside My Mind



April 14, 2016 10:07 AM

It’s been a difficult few days: I stopped eating for three days to test a theory I had (which failed), and just this morning, questioned whether this whole spiritual thing was all in my head.

I’ll break these events into two posts.

The theory I was working on was that if we just shift our focus (what you focus on you become) to the Sea of Love and Light, we can get over practically any form of negative thinking.

I could very well have posted to this blog something like, “Shift your attention to the Sea of Love and Light and you’ll feel better,” but I’m a rational Mystic and it really bugs me when I hear spiritual teachers teaching “truths” just because they heard some thought in their head—teaching a thought as a truth without relating their experiences with these “truths” (the smart have their theories, the wise have their scars).

So I decided I needed to throw myself into a deeply depressive state and see if I could find my way out of it via focusing on the Sea of Love and Light (the felt experience of Her as the source of everything). I needed to dive into the Darkness to see if I could find the Light underneath it all.

From past experience, the only way I know of reliably driving myself into a deep and serious funk is to fast—to not eat any solid food. When fasting, you are so hungry during the first three days that it is practically impossible to think of anything but food (after the third day, the stomach kind of gives up on the idea of eating and the fast gets much easier).

So that’s what I did. And all I could think of was food and how hungry I was and how stupid an idea this was. Which, ironically, meant my plan was right on track. I was miserable and angry at myself and feeling stupid and unsure.

Perfect! My plan was working out wonderfully.

So, miserable and hungry, I put my attention on the feeling below the hunger and quickly found the Sea of Love and Light (capital-L Love manifesting as the body which loves the flavor of food and loves eating it). Excellent! More good news! My theory was working exactly as my thoughts said it would: Focus on the Sea of Love and Light, and you’ll feel better.

Until it wasn’t. Until the mind decided to focus on the Loud—the I’m so damn hungry and this is a stupid thing to do physical experience—and then I was the I’m so hungry thing (what you focus on, you become). Back and forth this went: Sea of Love, overwhelming Hunger, Sea of Love, Hunger, Love, Hunger, Hunger, Hunger, damn it!

Feeling like a failure and miserable but still not ready to give up, I started playing a computer game to distract myself. Suddenly I was the game (Eschalon, a role-playing game) and the hunger was gone as I fought spiders and bandits and rats and goblins. (Go ahead, pop Halo or some other combat game into your Xbox and see if you can stay spiritual and blissful and at one with the all. That’s a wonderful experiment in itself.)

Of course, when I quit the game, the hunger was back and I became the hunger.

So here is what I learned from this miserable experiment:

  • The smart have their theories, the wise have their scars. So true. So very true.
  • What you focus on, you become. Again, so very true. Amazing how powerful this is.
  • While shifting your focus to something more pleasurable is effective, it is only temporary. It is just a respite from the pain—a time out, not a solution.
  • “You” are what is doing the shifting. You can’t see this “You” though, so whatever you focus on, sort of “becomes” you.
  • Both the pleasure (the Light, the game) and the pain (the Hunger), were temporary. Neither was a permanent experience, it was just easier to focus on the Hunger because it was so much louder than the Source of Everything (the Sea of Love and Light). This is not to say that She/the Sea is not permanent, it is just the experience of Her cannot be focused on continuously.

I have mixed feelings about these results. Reading over them, they seem obvious, but I’m still digesting them. There’s more here but I’m kind of distracted by Part II of this morning (Spiritual Doubts).

Anyway, while thoughts repeated as truths (“Live in the Now and you’ll feel better!”) are often excellent advice (the smart have their theories), they’re usually only half the story (the wise have their scars).

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12 thoughts on “A Tough Few Days. Part I: A Failure of Focus

  1. Wayne,
    I do hope that you are not allowing certain other people influence your thinking by causing you to doubt. You are an inspiration to many of us and we do not think it is all in your head.

  2. Digesting the results hehe!

    When fasting, your body shifts from digesting to cleansing. Your whole system will shift to releasing the toxins, both physically and mentally. The fasting basically facilitates this process. Not paying attention to the psychological cleansing, turning away from it, seems to me a bit like a missed opportunity.
    Almost like driving the toxins back into the body, which we probably would find silly. Yet shifting focus from the mental crap ‘sweating into our conscious life’ seems ok. spiritual bypassing or spiritual practice under stress? Curious about your thoughts about this…

    • Not sure fasting helps with the “psychological cleansing.” My experience, after the first three days of hell, are that a calm sets in psychologically, but also a mental lethargy (hard to stay focused on a subject). But no shadow material (cleansing) has ever come up in my experience.

      Maybe your experiences are different?

  3. We tend to expect the wise and spirituel teachers to show us the way, but as you are getting there by autosuggestion? are we believing instead of knowing?
    I know the spirituel teachers say that psychoanalyse is the wrong way, but it does have the advantage in being the only way that you can access spirituel knowledge by one’s own fastidious work. I cannot pretend to be a fully awakened person but I have experienced these sudden, magical changes of consciousness and the remarkable thing is that there is no doubt and no return. Like others I do try to hang on to the spirituel teachers to help me understand but I end up asking myself if they are sincere. The quest for spirituality is a lonely road. The spirituel teachers even say “Don’t believe what I say”. “Find out for yourself!” and the strange thing is when you do at last find the answer it isn’t at all what you thought it would be. It is always a suprise sometimes quite a shock! Sometimes incomplete! You sort of understand but haven’t really got the whole understanding!

    • I agree and recommend psychology in helping find harmony with the Human Tier Aspects (Mortal, Ego, Shadow) and think many spiritual teachers shouldn’t try to offer advice on these (myself included) unless they are obvious issues the seekers isn’t seeing.

  4. I love the fact that you are willing to test your hypotheses before putting them out. As a professional scientist myself, I can assure you that no experiment is a failure unless you were so sloppy that you cannot interpret the results. The fact that the data collected do not support your hypothesis is not a failure, it is a valuable observation that will inform your next experiment. And of course, each experiment generally creates more questions than answers. That is the dirty little secret of science that the lay public does not recognize because reports about scientific discoveries always focus on the positive results, never the negative/inconclusive results. Negative results are rarely published in journals and usually are not even submitted for peer review.

    Now, as I scientist I can also say that often, when an experiment shows unexpected results, you did not frame the hypothesis correctly. Framing is usually a process of being clear on the definitions you use. I think that is what happened in your case. You said “The theory I was working on was that if we just shift our focus to the Sea of Love and Light, we can get over practically any form of negative thinking.” By “negative thinking” you were probably meaning to test the effect of the focus technique on depression, or “funk”.

    The framing problem came from not recognizing that depression (mental pain due to negative thinking) is different from physical pain (due to failure to satisfy a need). In other words, desires (based on thought) are different from needs (based on sensations). Needs are elements of a system that must be present for optimal operation of the system. Desires are not necessary for optimal operation of the system.

    How to tell the difference? Your experimental results show how: desires grow weaker when you stop thinking about them, but needs grow stronger. The desire for, say ice cream, would have faded with a shift of focus because you removed the thinking energy and thoughts are not essential for the optimal operation of your body. But the need for food (due to fasting) cannot go away because it is driven by the energy and intelligence of Life (Tao/God). You could not stop the thoughts about food because thinking is your only way to satisfy the need (eg, you could not just go out and graze on the grass like a thoughtless cow). An even quicker experiment to show the same thing would have been to try to stop breathing. In that light, you can see what went wrong.

    In conclusion, your experiment was performed on the wrong subject, ie, a need instead of a desire. If you want to test this new hypothesis, you will have to find some way to get yourself (or someone else) to sink into a state of discursive negative thinking (depression for example). I bet the results of that experiment would be dramatically different. Hope you do it and share your results.

    • Doh! You’re so right Robert, thank-you. I was confusing physical needs with mental desires. Even though I could distract myself from the physical inner bitching, as soon as I stopped the distraction, it came right back. Not so with mental desires (“Damn, I really want that piece of apple pie!”), the desire can be “forgotten” by re-focusing the mind on the greater (Sea of L/L or anything else practically) and won’t as readily come back unless reminded of it (seeing a photo of it on a menu, smell, …).

      Thanks again Robert.

  5. This has always been my biggest questioning spiritual discovery.
    What if depression is my present moment. Even my not focusing on it, it’s there. It’s very hard to feel or see the ocean of love that I know is there. So there is frustration layered on top.

    • If the depression overwhelms you (similar to the fasting overwhelmed me), then by all means seek professional help. Why? Because, just like the fast was so loud that I couldn’t focus on Truth, so to is most depression… so loud that you can’t focus on the positive.

      If you (or anyone reading this) are depressed, don’t try to take the “easy” way out and think that spiritual practices will help—depression is too loud. Get professional help to quiet it.

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