Buffet Worksheet

If life’s a buffet that offers all things for all people, then it’s best if I keep track of the things I like and the things I don’t like so I know what to get more of as I fill up my plate.

Things I don’t prefer at the buffet:
Cheesecake.
Catastrophes.
Scary stuff.
Drama of these types: medical, legal, political, family, relationship.

Things I like at the buffet of life:
Fun adventures.
Lighthearted family bonding time.
Great food.
Technology / gadgets.
Staring at the visually stimulating.
Wrestling with complicated concepts.
When cool mysteries/surprises are revealed.
Interesting stories (shows/books/movies/etc).
Genres of these types: comedy, romance-comedy,
science-fiction, military drama (historic/fiction-based).

Therefore, if I find myself complaining or in a bad mood, it means I’ve lost focus and must readjust immediately. In other words, if I find myself delving into a topic I don’t prefer, I must stop and go down a preferred path instead.

Additionally, I know I’ve had these exact same thoughts before, perhaps even compiling a similar list. It’s likely that this world purposefully confounds its inhabitants, making old things new again. How easy would life be if we could keep the lessons we’ve learnt in the forefront of our thoughts? Too easy apparently — so we forget, again and again.

But that’s a buffet for ya! You eat, digest, and poop it all out — only to start again the very next visit. So I suppose all these thoughts and situations are like food for the mind in a sense. Some are nutritious while others distasteful and still others are downright poisonous. It would do us good to note the nutritious and stick to those.

But you’re tempted aren’t you?! Oh boy, that dark decadent one covered in an even darker more decadent sauce looks good! Mmm, well maybe just a bite won’t hurt! But a bite wasn’t enough, you finished it completely… and there you are, sitting, clenching your gut over the toilet once again!

But the point is this, that we show up to life’s buffet over and over, a seemingly fresh start every time. So let me ask you this, which items are you going to choose today?

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A Life

For the A-students and/or the competitive-minded folks that want to be the best at life, how do you go about doing so?

Being the best at this game means maintaining focus on the stuff you prefer while dismissing the stuff you don’t prefer. In other words, if you walk into a buffet and grab whatever’s convenient, filling your plate as fast as you can — you’re probably going to have a mediocre time at best. Whereas if you ignore the stuff you don’t prefer and instead pick the most pleasing items, the ones that suit your preferences — you’ll likely have a much better time.

The trick of course, is figuring out what your preferences are. If you’re brand-new to the buffet, how will you know what you’ll like until you try it? You can’t know! That’s why a varied feast is laid out before you, and that’s why you’re presented with things that you might find unappealing. Now if you’re playing the game poorly, you’re going to get caught-up on this gross stuff and assume the entire buffet is crap and not worth your time.

Whereas the best players are going to simply note what they don’t like and keep trying other things until they find whatever suits their palate. The worst players are such because they’re easily offended when presented with something they don’t like and forever-after maintain a pessimistic attitude. The best players simply assume that life is fundamentally fun and full of items for everyone — and if they come across a disgusting item, they let it go and move on — NEXT!

Like any game, you do want obstacles and challenges, that’s what makes things so interesting. But the best life is one in which obstacles are formed from the things you want to overcome, not peripheral stuff you don’t care about. If you’re a poor player, constantly focused on what doesn’t interest you, you’re going to be up against the worst stuff you can imagine. Whereas the best players, having focused only on what interests them, are presented with appropriate tasks and objectives.

But keep in mind that winning at life has nothing to do with actually completing a bunch of goals — the goals are meaningless in a sense — they even vary from person to person. The goals simply give you something to do. Therefore, the way in which you display a mastery of life, is by the sharpness of your focus. The best players aren’t distracted by all the stuff they don’t like, they’re busy concentrating only on what they prefer — living the life that aligns with their nature.

Quest Love

Many of us are so pessimistic that we don’t bother pursuing anything — why waste our time? It won’t work out. What optimistic belief systems provide, is the permission to actively want things. You mean if I simply wish for something, there’s a glimmer of hope I might somehow attain it? Hm, perhaps life isn’t so futile after all….

A pessimistic attitude will literally keep us from wanting anything of significance due to a fear of disappointment — why fill myself up with false-hope for something I’ll never receive. Under the guise of protecting ourself, we deny ourself the best of what life has to offer — it’s a tragic way to live. Whereas an optimistic attitude allows us to step on the path and begin a quest.

When you start playing a game for instance, you’ve attained nothing so far, yet there’s a chance you’ll attain your in-game goals — you’re hopeful. It’s this glimmer of hope and the act of getting there, that you find so enjoyable. Actual attainment isn’t providing the enjoyment, it’s the quest prior to attainment that’s entertaining you.

This is why the end of games can be somewhat sad in the sense that it’s all over — you’ve attained the prize but now what? In actuality it never mattered whether you obtained the thing you wanted. What you were delighting in, was the anticipation, not the attainment.

So who cares if optimism-inducing belief systems actually get you the stuff you want, what they really provide is the philosophical framework that allows you to pursue a quest. It smashes the inertia of pessimism that would otherwise have you doing nothing at all, constantly drowning in futility.

Fringe Benefits

What are some benefits of living in a simulation? Sickness, accidents, catastrophes — these things aren’t real, they’re simply scenarios we elect to engage in. But it’s not necessarily a conscious decision, more of a belief and mindset we foster. If we don’t want particular scenarios in our lives, we shouldn’t fantasize about them in our thoughts. For example, worry may very well manifest the exact situation we’re worrying about.

In a simulation, chance doesn’t exist, we summon things into our lives by our focus. For instance, if we focus on a particular goal, that’s the one we accomplish, not some random result. In other words, if I train to win a 400 meter race, I won’t accidentally win a weight-lifting competition. If I focus on developing a long-term relationship with a significant-other, I’m not going to one day randomly abandon him/her.

In a simulation, we need only follow the paths we prefer. This is why meditation is such an important tool to utilize, as it’s the practice of maintaining focus. The simulation is considerate enough to keep offering suggestions in order to keep us constantly engaged, avoiding boredom. With meditation, we can shut out the suggested paths we don’t prefer and focus on the ones that delight — otherwise we’ll tend to focus on whatever the next suggestion is, no matter its effects (positive or negative).

For example, if I constantly scan my body for pain, I’ll find what I’m looking for. I’ll then begin wondering what malady I’m suffering from — for months I’ll imagine the worst and likely find that too. The simulation is very accommodating and will fulfill whatever we focus on. But if I dislike medical dramas and want no part in those scenarios, then I shouldn’t apply my focus to such things. We do ourselves a disservice obviously, if we keep our thoughts filled with things we don’t prefer.

It’s our job as participants to seek out the scenarios we find fulfilling and focus on them. In order to make the most immersive experience possible, the simulation requires our active participation. We are most certainly free to choose the worst options, and in our confusion we just might do so. This place is intense, and we can get so overwhelmed and frightened that we focus on pessimistic outcomes that lead us to believe the world is a horrible place full of pain and suffering.

But it most assuredly is not. It’s a fulfillment generator, a realm in which dreams do come true. But it’s up to us to determine the nature and quality of our dream. And we do that by honing our focus, adjusting our attitude, and maintaining our appreciation. We must seek out what we like, sincerely immerse ourself in the process and find the fun, and be thankful for this grand experience. It’s like any daunting activity, oftentimes we have to push past the initial hard part to get to the good stuff.

If we maintain a good attitude and stick with it, things work out in the end — that’s how it goes in the simulation. And because it’s a virtual experience, satisfaction is guaranteed*.

*Good luck gettin’ your money back! :-)

Simulated Start

It was about a decade ago, shortly after my father died. I was reading a cartoonist’s blog that I happened to stumble upon — in a post he mentioned the world being a simulation. Of course I had seen The Matrix a decade earlier, and so did he — but what struck me this time, was the idea that probability-wise, it just had to be true. If it’s ever going to happen, it already did. In other words, if humanity will ever reach the point of living simulated lives, then they’re already doing it, perhaps for millions of years already.

Although I had been intrigued by The Matrix when I first saw it, it painted a pretty dark picture and seemed only kind of plausible — so I only casually entertained the idea of living in a simulation. Then after I started thinking about the inevitability of living in a simulation, I accepted the idea even more. It probably helped that I was a computer programmer at the time. Then in the last few years, I pretty much adopted the concept of simulation theory completely.

I suppose we all need a belief system. More traditional religious belief systems just didn’t make sense to me. So for all the decades before this, I believed myself to be a fragile creature struggling for survival within a chance-based physical reality. Long-story short: life sucked, it was scary as heck and I tried to hide from everything — I was racked with anxiety, obviously. But I couldn’t just become a Buddhist or whatever, I needed something I could easily grasp.

Technology, gadgets, TV, movies, computers, video-games, and now the Internet — I love that stuff. So why wouldn’t my foundational beliefs be tailored to what I can relate to? I don’t really care about astronomy, biology, or chemistry — you can take your big-bangs, your evolution, and your primordial stew and shove it! Those theories had their chance, now it’s technology’s turn!! (to be read in the voice of Dr. Zoidberg from Futurama)

No, but seriously, everyone is welcome to the belief-system that suits them best. Personally, I think simulation theory should be popularized and spread and accepted as a valid belief system among the many others. What’s strange to me though, is the way simulation theory has allowed me to grasp the God/spirituality stuff. For most of my life I thought all religions and their related beliefs were kinda dumb, honestly. But when I began looking at life in a non-physical way, the God/spirituality stuff started making sense.

Simulation theory opened up a whole different way of looking at life — I could see a layer I simply couldn’t perceive before. And frankly, it took away my worry, curing my anxiety. Now I see life as an experience designed for my amusement. I finally feel safe and cared for. It’s a funhouse after-all! Of course it’s possible that this world isn’t virtual, but in a sense, that doesn’t matter — it’s my faith in the belief that provides me with comfort and the power to act.

I really do believe it’s true though, that this life is a virtual experience of some sort. Whether it’s an actual computer or whether it’s merely a dream — who knows. As with any belief system, the more I look through its lens, the more I see evidence in support of it. I realize too, that I’m often in a minority position when it comes to philosophical positions and tend to be a natural contrarian, I also realize that I quite easily fit into mockable categories of thought.

I have no point here but to summarize and cement for myself the belief system in which I’m currently invested. Because of the confounding nature of this world, we have to regularly remind ourselves of the things we want to believe in. And I want to maintain the belief in virtuality because of the good it’s done me. It’s too easy to fall back into my old pessimistic patterns of thought, so the more I convince myself of life’s virtual nature, the more cheerful and appreciative I become.

If anyone else is wanting for a new lease on life, I highly recommend giving a new belief system a try. It doesn’t have to be simulation theory, just something that paints life in a pleasing way, one that’s suited to your particular preferences. It’s a fool’s errand to believe we can ever discern an ultimate reality — I tried and failed. It’s beliefs all the way down — so you might as well pick a pleasant one that turns life into a picnic. It took me decades to realize this, but luckily in my world, time is malleable — it’s never too late.

Easy Street

To me, anxiety is a symptom of a scary set of beliefs. If different people react differently to the same stimulus, it means the stimulus isn’t the problem, the perspective is. In other words, the ongoings-of-life are not the problem, our individual interpretation and subsequent reaction is the problem.

After holding these particular beliefs for several decades, I would say without a doubt that the concepts of atheism, evolution, survival-of-the-fittest, humans-are-simply-animals, germ-theory, imminent global-catastrophe, big-bang and chance-based existence — are all too scary for me to believe in. I admit it, I’m a wimp.

If you have the guts, sure go ahead an knock yourself out, live life on the edge — but I just sat there paranoid the entire time, waiting for “something” to get me. Nowadays I sit back and relax with my new easy-mode beliefs. Of course old habits die hard but I’m gettin’ there. The funny thing is, life keeps on chuggin’ along no matter which belief system you adopt — might as well select the one that leads to the most pleasant experience.

For me, the easy belief is “simulation theory” — that this is all a game I’m playing, so there’s nothing scary about it. What happens here is for my amusement, I’m taken care of as I proceed through the fabricated world, resources are virtual and therefore abundant, I have my own personal and protected path through this place, and I leave when I choose — there’s nothing to worry about.

And honestly, life seems to be working out much better since I adopted this point-of-view. It really does seem true that my thoughts are influencing the reality I experience. With a positive outlook, positive things happen. And even if it’s pure perception on my part, and the external world hasn’t changed a bit — so what? I’m having a better time and that’s what counts.

Jujitsu of the Mind

Jujitsu is a means of countering and controlling one’s opponent. The opponent in this case is the unruliness of the mind.

For instance, how can you counter and control a scary thought? The first step is distance management — try not to engage the thought, don’t grab, just ignore its presence. If it’s too persistent and closes the distance, use a counter belief. For these beliefs, go big or go home, make them powerful to dominate the opponent from the start.

Example of an unruly thought: I just heard a loud noise in the house, some intruder must be here to murder me.

Example counter thought: I believe in the benevolence of life, and the power that sustains my existence put me here to experience joy and fulfillment — I completely trust this power to continue carrying me for as long as I choose. Showing fear is an act of rudeness on my part, it’s a form of distrust — I apologize and admit my mistake. Dearest Host, thank you for this wonderful party, I’m happy for the invitation and the opportunity to experience this mortal form.

Fear comes from a pessimistic certainty. “The world is dangerous and I know it!” This is a toxic belief that allows an unruly mind to obtain and maintain a dominant position, administering choke holds galore. Admit this mistake every time you make it, then muster up some appreciation for the fact that life has thanklessly upheld its end of the bargain despite your baseless timidity and repeated disrespect. Life isn’t out to get you, if it was you’d be “d”, “e”, “a”, “d” right now and there’s not a damn thing you could do about it.

Example of an unruly thought: This person is annoying me, I’m getting very mad right now.

Example counter thought: I’m upset and projecting my agitation onto an innocent person. My bad attitude is manifesting and I must change it, it’s not fair to imagine the person in-front of me is the source when it’s really my own mood causing the problem. Besides, what am I saving my patience for, it gains no value when stored, it’s available only now, and only grows when given. Dearest person before me, forgive my immaturity, my anger is a direct reflection of my lack of practice in taming my mind — I’ll try harder.

Anger comes from a certainty that you’re in the right and the other person is an idiot hell-bent on ruining your life. If you have an angry attitude, everything you see will be distorted by that viewpoint. You have to strive to interpret life in a cheerful and friendly way. When you’re angry, it’s your fault — admit your mistake and move on.

In jujitsu of the mind, we regularly practice our craft through the art of meditation. In meditation, we sit quietly and observe the mind. When thoughts come in, instead of grabbing we let them pass unmolested. Through this repetition we get used to ignoring thoughts. When disruptive thoughts enter we can now practice distance management and refrain from entanglements. Meditation also develops a mindfulness that allows us to quickly identify these unruly thoughts.

Should a thought become too obtrusive, we readily recognize this condition and engage. During engagement we apply belief after belief until the unruly thought is subdued. Just as jujitsu has a catalog of moves and techniques, we must maintain a catalog of beliefs that provide a sense of comfort. In those times when our defenses fail and we’re overcome by unruly thoughts, it typically means our belief system is lacking, we need something stronger, a set of beliefs so positive and reassuring that we could face the devil himself and not flinch.

We find these powerful beliefs by looking around, researching, and testing what works for us. We don’t get better by doing nothing, obviously. We get better through exploration and practice. We have to constantly apply this jujitsu in our everyday life, a routine that gets easier and more automatic over time.