Telling Tales

Can you tell yourself a story that’ll make you upset? For instance: “I just heard a noise and I’m pretty sure it’s zombies that came to destroy me.” If you can do that, does that mean you can also tell yourself a story that’ll make you feel good? For example: “I just heard a noise and I’m pretty sure it’s Santa Claus that came to deliver an early Christmas present — I can’t wait to open it!!!”

And what if you keep telling yourself pleasant stories from now on? THAT is how you have a great life. Perpetually telling yourself stories that make you feel good, while refraining from telling yourself stories that make you feel bad, is mental discipline. Neither story is necessarily true, they’re merely inspired by true events.

You have a choice in every situation: tell yourself a dour tale or a delightful one. And because YOU get to make that choice, it means YOU decide whether you have a great life or a nasty one. It’s that simple: if you’re going to keep telling stories to yourself, you might as well make them as pleasant as possible.

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Myth of Productivity

My work of late has consisted of trying to develop a better attitude. And one thing holding me back is valuing the concept of grueling-work. “Why do that the easy way, when there’s a much harder way to do it!!!” See? That’s stupid. Yet that’s what my attitude boils down to: “Work harder, not smarter! And how dare you enjoy yourself!!!” That’s masochism, plain and simple.

I believed that frivolous activity was worth less than “productive” activity. Yet, I’ve noticed that the less “productive” I am, the easier life gets. It turns out that life is NOT a struggle unless YOU struggle against it. Productivity is a myth because you can’t actually produce anything of value. In other words, if everything’s pixels, ALL activity is frivolous.

In addition: either life gives it to you, or you don’t get it. Effort doesn’t guarantee outcomes i.e. planting seeds won’t always result in bountiful harvests. There’s a certain combination of conditions that must be met or else your fields won’t yield. You could work sun-up to sun-down and still get nothing. In order to receive what life provides, you have to play the game correctly.

In fact, “working hard” displays a fundamental misunderstanding of life. You’re assuming your tiny efforts amount to something significant. Yet you’re completely missing the point of how much life is doing for you while deluding yourself into believing YOU did it. But the most you can do is appreciatively accept what’s already provided.

Imagine you’re at a party. You walk over to the buffet-table and pile tons of food onto your plate. It gets so heavy that you’re starting to break a sweat. You struggle to maintain your balance as you find a seat — plus it’s a bit crowded so it takes a couple minutes. You sit down to eat and proceed to stuff yourself. Then you sit there gloating and boasting about how much effort and work you put-in to obtain and consume all that food. THAT is what patting yourself on the back for “all your hard work” is like. You simply partook of what was already there!! You did NOTHING.

So the better attitude is this: Thank you life for this amazing party. Wow, it really has everything I could want. There’s people to interact with, food to eat, chocolate cake especially, heck there’s even a pool to swim in! There’s tons of activities to keep me busy. I’m actually overwhelmed by the many choices. But don’t worry, I’ll try my hardest to have fun! I understand that my duty as a guest is to enjoy my time here. I also understand that I should focus on the activities I derive the most delight from. Thanks again!

Seven Years

Oh. Ha. Okay I think I get it. Today is the 7-year anniversary of the very first post on this blog. SEVEN YEARS!!! I’m not excited, I’m amazed at my ineptitude.

Instead of actually disciplining my mind, I’ve been writing about disciplining my mind. I mean yes, I’ve improved, but more by osmosis rather than direct effort — that seems terribly inefficient. Had I directly applied myself to the task of mental discipline, I probably would’ve had better results.

My friend was just saying to me: I’m procrastinating instead of doing the work I need to do. And then it hit me: I’M procrastinating instead of doing the work I need to do!! For SEVEN YEARS no less!!! I should really stop procrastinating and DO the work.

Like the Dhammapada says:

As a fletcher makes straight his arrow, a wise man makes straight his trembling and unsteady thought. It is good to tame the mind, which is difficult to hold-in and flighty, rushing wherever it listeth; a tamed mind brings happiness. Whatever an enemy may do to an enemy, a wrongly-directed mind will do us greater mischief. Not a mother, not a father will do so much; a well-directed mind will do us greater service.

And so THAT’S what I should be doing with my time and effort: disciplining my mind. Therefore, I hereby declare by the powers vested in me by the state of consciousness, that I do solemnly swear to perform such tasks and fulfill said duties that directly lead to a disciplined mind. I shall henceforth engage in adequate activities that indubitably achieve the desired result of calm and steady thought. Furthermore, this pursuit will most assuredly provide receipts for ensured compliance.
— Faithfully and most ernestly yours, Rich.

As a Man Thinketh – notes

My notes/summary/interpretation of the book As a Man Thinketh (1903) by James Allen.

A poem by James Allen:

Mind is the Master power that moulds and makes,
And Man is Mind, and evermore he takes
The tool of Thought, and, shaping what he wills,
Brings forth a thousand joys, a thousand ills:–
He thinks in secret, and it comes to pass:
Environment is but his looking-glass.

Thoughts are the incantation by which we conjure our character and circumstances. It’s as simple as this: good things come of good thoughts — bad things come of bad thoughts.

Through our thoughts we create the world we experience. Through patience, practice, and persistence our thoughts can be molded to bring forth the best of life.

Like a garden, the mind is forever producing whether we tend to it or not. Without effort, the mind becomes overrun with weeds — whereas with some attention, a pleasant crop can be planted.

Chance is not a thing — we find ourselves exactly where we think we should be. If we believe in frustrating circumstances, our experiences will reflect this belief. But as control over thought increases, circumstances likewise come under control.

We gravitate towards whatever excites, whether it be from love or from fear. Our experiences are grown from our thoughts — we reap what we sow. External circumstances do not make us who we are — they merely reveal our underlying pattern of thought.

We don’t receive our various wishes and wants, but the sum of what we think. Thoughts have the power to imprison or delight — we experience whichever situation we earn through the cultivation of thought.

If we find ourself in miserable conditions, we can know our mind is rife with miserable thoughts. Thoughts are the cause and circumstance the effect. External improvement begins and ends within.

We often frustrate ourself with conflicting thoughts — wanting with one thought while thwarting with another. While it’s obvious that only oak trees come from acorns, the same is true with thoughts: good thoughts produce good things — bad thoughts produce bad things.

Improvement starts when criticizing and complaining end, when blaming others stops, when unpleasant conditions are used as the reflection of inner conditions, and when constructive and worthwhile thoughts become the new foundation of mind.

As the inside changes, the outside follows along. What looked confusing, unfair, and corrupt becomes well-ordered, fair, and honest.

Of course hateful and fearful thoughts lead to negative outcomes, whereas loving and gentle thoughts lead to positive outcomes. As we relax, life gets easier. When we stop our thoughts from thrashing about, the waves of the world are no longer stirred.

The body becomes what the mind believes. Sickness and well-being manifest based on habit of thought. Anxious and fearful thoughts welcome disease into the body whereas thoughts of joy and vitality strengthen the body.

It is not the diet that needs changing, but the corrupted thoughts that necessitated it. The finest thoughts naturally bring about a healthful diet. To defend the body, discipline the mind.

Thoughts of spite, jealousy, disappointment, and hopelessness act as poison on the body. The expression and agedness of the face readily reveal the thoughts we believed to be hidden within. Even death comes as peacefully as we believe it to come.

Cheerful thoughts can cure whereas pessimism can kill. Through our thoughts we confine ourself to a self-made prison or we enter through the doorway of heaven on earth.

By focusing on a purpose, the mind is made easier to control. By following our nature, devoting ourself to our duty, thoughts are concentrated. Upon this path, fear and doubt are our greatest enemies and must be slain without hesitation.

Whatever we accomplish or fail to accomplish, our own thoughts make it so. This is the very definition of individual responsibility. On one hand, we only have power over our own thoughts — but on the other hand, this provides us with an ability to alter the world we experience.

In this sense, the oppressor and the oppressed are cooperating in the creation of suffering. Both are afflicted with low-quality thoughts by ignorance. Both require improvement in thinking.

Through uplifting thoughts, we rise in the world. Through pessimistic thoughts, we sink in the world. For accomplishment and lasting success, effort must be applied to disciplining the mind.

The dreams we nurture will one day manifest. If we fantasize the worst, then we’ll achieve it. Whereas when we lovingly tend to the best of what we envision, we’ll achieve that. There is no good or bad luck, simply good or bad thoughts. Those we maintain, remain.

Strive to stay in a serene state. Practice remaining calm.

“The sunny shore of your ideal awaits your coming. Keep your hand firmly upon the helm of thought. In the bark* of your soul reclines the commanding Master; He does but sleep: wake Him. Self-control is strength; Right Thought is mastery; Calmness is power.”

* “bark” in this context likely means “ship” as in a “sailing ship”.

Standing Guard

Do you agree that thoughts form the foundation of the life you experience?

Yes! Most assuredly!

And in order to have the best life possible, you must tend to your mental garden? Negative thoughts must be plucked like weeds and positive thoughts must be planted like seeds?

Of course! How else can the mind grow into a delightful space!?

So let me ask you this, how much time during the day do you spend at this task?

Uh, say wha now? Oh, um, a few minutes per day perhaps.

Ah, well with that, I believe we found the underlying reason as to why you can’t sleep at night. Because you already sleep all day! You’re constantly running on autopilot, shirking your gardening duties and letting everything in your mind run amok! There’s weeds everywhere!

Listen: to be “awakened” literally means to be awake and aware of what’s happening throughout the day. You can’t let yourself fall into autopilot all day long. You actually need to do some work to achieve a well-groomed mind. And that work is this: don’t allow negative thoughts to take root, pull them whenever you find them. You’ll have to regularly scan through your mental-garden to know they’re there.

I know it seems like a burden for you to put effort into something, but that’s the trade-off. You get a beautiful joy-filled garden if you cultivate and maintain it, whereas you get an overgrown litter-box if you allow it to go wild. You must remain present throughout the day and be aware of what’s going on in your mind. You can’t just “checkout” and let “whatever” happen.

You’re always like “blah blah, I don’t have any goals or purpose, blah”. THIS is your purpose!!! Garden! Actually DO IT! The message has been repeated before your very eyes ONE-THOUSAND TIMES over the course of your life. Now DO IT! There is no drawback to this. Yes it seems like “a lotta hassle” but the payoff is a thousand times better than not doing it. Just stay awake and aware throughout the day, that’s it!

Seeking Appreciation

I’ve heard it said that “God loves you”. But what does that mean? It seems a bit abstract. Am I supposed to love this being back? How do I love an abstract entity? I can’t hug God or do any favors for him, right? And what if I find this world unpleasant, how do I love a creator of such miserable conditions? Why should I love something that’s only provided me with a piss-poor time?

Okay, some decent questions. Now let me ask you this: is there ANYTHING that you enjoy here on Earth?

Hm, well there are a lot of shows I’ve watched over the years that I’ve really enjoyed. I don’t particularly enjoy living life, but I do like watching it.

Okay, so you’re saying that your status as an embodied-being has at least provided you with an ability to appreciate shows about being human. Otherwise, if you were merely a conscious-cloud-of-gas, you probably couldn’t relate to human comedies or dramas, right? It’d be like watching a fish tank for example, it’d get real-old real-fast — whereas you can watch TV for hours everyday, year after year.

So if some entity created this world just to provide you with a means to enjoy shows about humans, that’s a pretty good gift, right? Maybe some aspects of the world were rushed and are not-so-perfect, but the storytelling-aspect is top-notch. So based on your enjoyment of shows/videos/movies/etc, you’d probably say it’s an impressive gift, correct?

I suppose if you put it that way, with all the shows and movies and stories I’ve enjoyed over the years, this world has been worth the price of admission. It’s like having a life-time pass to a cineplex or Netflix or something. I have to put up with a bunch of inconveniences, but the overall storytelling aspect is pretty great.

So with that in mind, imagine that God is the buddy that put all this together for you. It’s like he built the theater, the movie-projector, put in the seats, stocked the refreshments, wrote all the movies, had the actors do their stuff, and put in the special effects — in other words, he created a planet and everything on it just so you could enjoy an endless supply of entertainment. And all you ever have to do is sit there and enjoy it.

Are you telling me that you can’t find any love in your heart for a buddy like that? Again, maybe the seats are a little uncomfortable, maybe some people talk during the show, and maybe the popcorn could be warmer, but overall this is an impressive setup don’t you think? And correct me if I’m wrong, but you’ve done nothing to deserve this gift, it’s simply been given to you.

I mean yeah, I suppose I didn’t do anything to deserve it. But it’s certainly not perfect.

Well if someone gave you a sweater as a gift, would you wear it in the summer? Probably not — but if you did, you’d get too hot and probably hate the sweater after a few hours. So in other words, if you’re not enjoying a gift, it might be because you’re not using it correctly. Is it possible that the world is better than you think, and you’re just using it incorrectly?

Hm, I suppose that could be true because I find the whole thing kinda confusing. I honestly don’t know what I’m doing, so it’s very possible that I could be doing something wrong.

So let’s get back to your original questions. In terms of God loving you: all this was created for your enjoyment — why else is there a world filled with so much orchestrated drama just sitting in the middle of nowhere? God isn’t abstract if you think of him as the buddy that designed and manufactured all this. And in that sense, everything you interact with is just a piece of God — so yeah you hug God whenever you hug anything within this world. And if you find this place unpleasant, it’s likely that you’re doing something wrong, like wearing a sweater in the summer. At the very least, and as the most simplest set of instructions: just focus on the stuff you do like and your experience on Earth will vastly improve.

Flowing Flowers

The most important thing you can do to enhance your experience of existence is this: mental hygiene. In other words, if you’re having an unpleasant time, then you have a dirty mind. Every day, every hour, every minute, you have to tidy up as thoughts ceaselessly blow in through the window of consciousness.

The thoughts themselves aren’t necessarily “dirty”, it’s your own tendency to collect them and clutter up your mind that’s the problem. On their own, thoughts blow in, thoughts blow out — no big deal. But when you hold on to them, storing them away on a shelf for easy access, regularly marveling at them to the exclusion of new thoughts — you’ve got a problem.

Be careful of collected thoughts. Once you take a thought, it’s like plucking a flower off a bush. It’s cool to have it in your house for awhile, but it will wither and wilt soon enough, becoming a decayed version of its former self. And that’s fine, who doesn’t like some fresh-cut flowers around? But, you must maintain the vases and throw-out the flowers when they start to droop.

Who wants ugly or stinky flowers in their home? If a thought is unpleasant, don’t maintain it in your mind. Let it go, move on to the next one — there’s always a new one waiting to come in. Try not grabbing any, just soak in the sights as you browse the thought aisle. Scan past the ones you don’t prefer and focus on the ones you do.