When approaching curves I always look down and not so much through the curve. I learned to ride by myself and mostly ride by myself. So I taught myself wrong in the start and it is hard for me not to look at the ground in the curves. What if there is some gravel in the turn or a couple of small rocks, that's what I always think. I been doing this wrong for so long I don't think I can change! Now I just slow down for lack of ability. In a group ride I am normally at the back of the group or I ride by myself. At 62, I don't think I will ever change!
My friend, you have made it to this point in one piece (that counts as a victory) and we are all hopefully improving our skills every day that we ride. I have a couple of ideas you might try, to help to learn to look through the turns towards the exit as you ride. Give them a try, if they appeal to you and they make sense, but please do not attempt them if they make you uncomfortable. When we ride in a manner that feels unsafe, we stiffen up and that does very bad things to our ability to control the bike.
By the way, I made a turn at low speed while accelerating from a stop at a light in traffic and hit a patch of sand and gravel the other evening. It is an unnerving sensation when the back end kicks out on you in a lean, but the rules are simple: remain loose, don't hit the brakes or chop the throttle, ease off the throttle if you are accelerating, let the bike respond (as it will if you let it) -correctly, and ride it through. -Always looking where you want to go and 'down' is NOT where you want to go.
Think of it this way: You have already hit the slippery stuff, mate, now it is time to ride it through!
At high speed at deep lean angles the rules are the same but the stakes are higher, things happen faster, and it is possible that you won't be able to make the catch. Heck, even the pro racers drop their bikes sometimes. That is why we all wear our gear, right?
Now, I am not a great rider, so I am sure someone will have maybe better advice than I, but I have a couple of things to suggest to help your cornering and to increase your confidence. First, design and ride a circuit in good lighting consisting of several good but not too challenging curves that returns you to your starting point in less than 3 to 5 minutes and that has no stops in the route, if possible, or only at the start/finish line. -Riding around a block will do, if there is no stops.
While you are riding, take it easy. Examine the road, and imagine what a good safe line would look like through each of the curves. Make sure you examine the road surface and know that it is good. You should not get too into the mechanics of it, just do what you normally do and be safe in traffic if there is any.
Ride it again, feeling how the bike handles the turns and working to make your riding smooth and changing nothing in your technique. Do the same thing again. -One more time; ride it until you become almost bored with it. You should start to develop a rythmic, almost dancing sense to the ride.
Once you have that feeling, you will find yourself riding with more confidence and probably faster than you should. Watch your speed and don't get too fast. Pick the curve that you are most comfortable with and then try to look up just enough to find and drive through your turn in points and following that line you have in mind. If you become uncomfortable, change your focus to a more comfortable direction, but don't give up. There is always the next time through.
Once you are able to drive through your turning points in that turn, do the same on the next, until you feel comfortable doing this through the course. Chances are you are going to get tired pretty quickly because learning is hard work. Once you can do this with confidence, you will see the turns in a new way.
Now, you are going to try, in the easiest turn, to not ride simply through the turning points, but from point to point. Always smoothly shifting focus to the next point in transition before or right as you reach the current point. This will feel odd, and you may be a bit jerky at first. Do not be worried, frustrated, or take any chances. This should be done at relatively low speed and not in traffic in case you run wide.
You can do this in an empty parking lot that is big enough to allow you to get up to a speed sufficient for you to begin to counter steer, if you have any difficulty and feel that is best. It can be a big oval, and you can ride it in one direction only during the session, and changing to the other direction another time. Having a set course is the key, and becoming conscious of the rythm of the ride. This is the crucial element in establishing the confidence to be able to look deeper into the corners than you did previously. Just don't let yourself speed up too much or ride until you are too fatigued. If you do, all the work will become invalidated because you will start to make mistakes or enter a corner too fast and undo the good work. You can do big figure eights instead of an oval after you have mastered the technique, as this will really increase your training level and imprint the lesson.
An empty parking lot may be best, with graduation to the street only when you feel more confident. After you have practiced a while, though, you will begin to feel the fluid nature of the turns as you become more comfortable with looking for the exit. Your feel for the bike will improve, your enjoyment will increase, and so will your safety because you will be able to see all the possible hazards around you, not just those on the pavement.
Remember, too, where the eyes go, the bike goes. Looking at a gravel patch actually increases the likelihood of hitting it and you should really be looking for the route around it if there is one. This applies to almost any danger on the road.
I hope that some of that is helpful, and that you ride safely and well.