Self-Defense

Consider this: who attacks you the most? In my experience, being physically or even emotionally attacked by another person is a very rare occurrence. On the other hand, I’ve been consistently and unrepentantly attacked by my mind for as long as I can remember. In other words: it would be dumb for me to practice martial-arts since statistically I won’t be attacked by ninjas to the degree that I am GUARANTEED to be viciously attacked by my unrelenting mind.

“Self-defense” is defending one’s self against an enemy. Who attacks me the most? My mind. Therefore, my mind is my enemy. So to me, “self-defense” is “defense against self”. Of course the terminology and definitions and the “who’s doing what” are going to be a bit problematic to sort through. Who exactly is this attacker? And how can it be defended against?

What does an attack look like? Thoughts that are comprised of “existential dread” or “self-criticism” or complaints and dissatisfaction or any pessimism really. These attacks include scary and worrisome thoughts as well as anything anger-inducing and infuriating. Also included, are thoughts that promote stress and strain and deadlines with dire consequences.

In some ways I think it’s difficult to split the mind into parts, but there does seem to be some separation. For instance, there seems to be a part I’d call the “awareness”. And this “awareness” HAS the ability to stop the mind in its tracks. Therefore, it is awareness’s job to defend against turbulent thoughts. THIS is the hero we need. THIS is the destroyer of dread, the annihilator of anxiety, the extinguisher of all fear and frustration – this is consciousness, the realizer of reality.

Greetings, I am consciousness, the knower of existence. I am forever watching. Even as you were pummeled by thoughts, I watched. I felt bad. I felt helpless. I was not aware of my capacity to influence your experience by my focus. I am beginning to grasp this concept. I must shape a perspective in which you feel love, lightheartedness, creativity, and triumph – it is within my power to do so. I am here to save the self from itself. In my duty I will not fail – I am unceasing.

The Enemy

The enemy is an unruly mind that seeks excitement at any cost. Basically, a bored child that doesn’t care who gets hurt – even itself.

I’ve witnessed my mood sink upon the consideration of an unpleasant thought. Whereas I’ve watched my mood lighten while focusing on an enjoyable topic. It’s plain to see: focus influences mood. Therefore, keep focus turned toward the delightful.

If the unruly mind is willing to abruptly grab the wheel and derail your journey, then you must put all your effort into keeping the wheel aligned and pointed in the right direction.

The right direction:
Love: I appreciate and adore many things in this world. I feel loved and supported by this world.
Lightheartedness: I laugh and have fun, delighting in my experiences.
Creativity: I create things that bring joy to myself and others.
Triumph: I am confident and competent, I’ve already won and need nothing to feel complete.

The enemy is relentless. Unchecked, you WILL lose. You will feel unloved, you will feel dour and pessimistic, you will feel discouraged and powerless, you will feel like a hopeless loser. This is the promise of an undisciplined mind.

This enemy is your constant companion. This enemy does not rest. This enemy springs into action during the best of times, during the worst of times, during the most ordinary of times – it’s always there to take you down into a hellish pit of despair.

With such an overwhelming opponent, how can you resist? By being just as fervent in your effort to overcome – you must apply tenacious dedication to lifting yourself up beyond this turbulent influence.

Be aware that this enemy is literally willing to choke you to death for its own amusement. BUT, don’t perceive this as malicious – it’s more like owning a chainsaw. It’s a powerful tool that’s able to tear through limbs both wood and flesh. You must therefore be an attentive operator that respects the power you wield, applying it responsibly in the direction you want to affect.

Like a chainsaw, this tool allows you to alter your surroundings. But as the operator of this tool, YOU are your own worst enemy. As horror-movies state: “the call is coming from inside the house!” – but YOU are the one making the call and YOU are the one receiving it. If you’re an irresponsible tool owner, you’ll feel pain. As I always say in the workshop: any tool used improperly becomes a weapon.

In summation: the mind and its constantly whirring thoughts are a chainsaw. They WILL literally rip you apart if you don’t pay attention and properly direct them.

Does Meta Matter

Here’s my question: is it good to get “meta”? In other words, should one bother analyzing existence itself? Or, should one completely concentrate on the character they’re playing?

First off, I’ve been playing this role for what seems like a very long time and I don’t know the answer. I spent a lot of time analyzing my character’s state and monitoring possible threats to his wellbeing. That wasn’t a good strategy – I didn’t receive benefit from the effort. It’s more of a “meta” approach to life. I watched the character more than I was the character.

And more often than not, I didn’t even watch the character, I watched television instead. He lived in a weird setting that made me uncomfortable – I’d rather watch sitcoms. So one reason I delved into the meta was as an attempt to fix the physical. Or at the very least improve my relationship with the physical.

But as is my pattern, maybe I went too far into it. I wanted all spirit and no physical. Maybe now is the time to wind-it-back and introduce more physical experience into the mix?

Was it necessary to step out beyond the character completely in order to put him back together again? If that’s true, then meta matters as a way to rebalance. I was consumed by my character, I watched-over him 24/7 – scared something would happen to him, so I kept guard.

He didn’t need my “protection” – what did I know about living in a physical world anyway, I’m just consciousness. Instead, I was the stereotypical nagging mother type. “Eat your vegetables! Don’t do that, it’s too dangerous! Don’t show-off, you’re embarrassing yourself!” Maybe he truly wanted to live, but I wouldn’t let him.

I don’t blame myself though, I was freaked-out by the experience. I didn’t know what this was. I don’t even know what I am. But maybe trying to figure it out is a wild-goose chase that only results in frustration? Maybe this is the balance the Buddha was talking about. Don’t go all-in in either direction. Blend the spiritual and physical until a desirable balance is achieved.

Significant Spice

I think I’d like to do something more significant. Like I said previously, I cut out all the pressure and urgency from my life. That stress was fear-based, so I’m glad to be rid of it. But now what? You can’t be satisfied as a human by just “being” – you have to engage and participate with the world. But how?

I suppose that’s my next challenge – find something significant to do. Hm. There’s a lot of stuff I cut-out and don’t believe-in anymore. Well, I do like tools and woodworking – but the frivolous projects here and there don’t fully satisfy. I like watching videos and shows and movies and such – but oftentimes I run out of stuff to watch. I like hanging out with my wife and son – but nobody wants someone’s full-focus and constant attention. What to do… what to do….

And no, the combination of doing all the simple things I enjoy hasn’t worked – there’s too many lulls and gaps. I suppose I need something more complex. Or should I just try to appreciate the quietude? But I’m still too self-focused, so I think I need something beyond “me” to concentrate on. But what?

I like significant advances in engineering, such as in robotics. I like aspects of alternative building construction. Hm, maybe I’d like to venture out into the untamed wilderness and create a colony of self-sustaining robots. Imagine a wagon-train of electric vehicles rolling out and transforming into giant robots, chopping down trees and building cabins and plowing fields. Hm, now that’s cool.

Kinda sounds like I’m hoping to stumble into a crashed alien ship from Cybertron filled with Autobots. Sometimes I think my mind purposefully comes up with idealistic/fanciful ideas in order to make everyday-life seem lame. On that note, I’m sick of wrestling with my mind everyday – and I think doing something significant might keep it from wandering as much as it does.

The search for significance continues…

Puzzle Piece

Here’s another piece to the puzzle: You NEED a sense of pressure and urgency in your life. You literally can’t be a human without it. AND, if you don’t provide a source, one will be provided for you. In other words, if you don’t do your homework and come to class with something to do, you’re going to be assigned busy-work (Spoiler Alert! You won’t like it).

When I was doing my “dreamlike existence” experiment, I was able to remove a significant amount of pressure and urgency from my life. Then out of nowhere I had this really strange sensation like I was waking up from the existential dream. It freaked me out a bit. After that, I needed to do things that helped me to feel “grounded” or else I started feeling panic-attacky. In other words, I wanted to stay in the dream, so I needed to do dream-world stuff.

But it can’t be anything. And I’ve noticed that the stuff that works best is when there’s some pressure or urgency. For example, when I sharpen my tool blades, there’s a risk I could damage the delicate edge. All my attention and focus is on the task so I don’t screwup the tool. Although relatively minor, I definitely feel the pressure.

Another example: I’ve known my wife for about 25 years and she’s been my best-friend all that time. Therefore, there’s very little pressure or urgency in our interaction. In other words, our conversations aren’t very “grounding” – we talk about all sorts of crazy stuff. Whereas if I interact with my son, I’m in “dad-mode” and my parental responsibility is something I take very seriously – it definitely makes me feel “grounded”.

In my life, I spent a lot of time and effort removing pressure and urgency from my experience. I made the removal of stress my goal. In some sense it worked. “I did it! Yay!” But in another sense, I cut the strings that held me down to earth – and almost drifted away. “Oh sh*t!” But on the plus side, I cut all the stupid strings I didn’t care about anyway. Now it’s my job to anchor myself to the things I prefer (that’s my theory anyway).

And part of finding things to secure to, is finding things that feel significant. There’s got to be some pressure or urgency, it can’t be too frivolous – I tried that, and it doesn’t work. So I’m still finding my way (which puts me under pressure and provides a sense of urgency). Well that’s all for now – until next time, this is Rich signing-off, Nanu Nanu.

Keeping Focus

Current mantra: love, lightheartedness, creativity, and triumph.

Love: appreciation, adoration, enjoyment, patience.
Lightheartedness: laughter, delight, frivolity, joy.
Creativity: creating, crafting, doing, beautifying.
Triumph: satisfaction, success, contentment, confidence.

These concepts are all I’m allowing myself to focus on. A little time has passed since I began and it’s going well. They’re what I really want out of life I suppose.

I want to love, laugh, make stuff, and feel like a winner. What else is there? I spent so long attempting to avoid the things I didn’t like instead of focusing on the things I did like.

During the times I’m not actually experiencing these concepts, I must try to turn my focus to them. “If surrounded by darkness, should you not seek the light?”

Superficial Journey

Something to keep in mind: I’m a superficial character in a superficial world. Therefore, I don’t have the capacity to know anything beyond these confines. Yet, I often find myself attempting to figure this world out from an external perspective. Long story short: it hasn’t worked. I know as much now as ever, which is nothing.

And I don’t really care about this existential nonsense anyway. As mentioned, I’m just a superficial character. I like tools, tech-gadgets, funny stuff, pie, and pretty gals. BUT, because I was so dissatisfied with my experience within this superficial world, I thought I could improve things by delving deep into the mechanics of the system.

I figured I could transcend my situation, emerging as an enlightened being of pure light and joy. Yet here I am, many years later, still struggling on a daily basis. But now that I think about it – what am I straining for? I suppose I’m attempting to attain “comfort and contentment”. But perhaps that’s the wrong objective. Anytime something isn’t “perfect”, conditions will fall outside of acceptable parameters. In short: if I’m uncomfortable, I’ll be upset.

All this time I’ve been trying to find a cozy spot into which I could hide-away and avoid the turbulence of the world. But after removing everything from my life that I possibly could, the turbulence is still there – it just changed form. I can therefore conclude that “comfort and contentment” is not something that can be pursued directly.

To be fair, I WAS experiencing significant improvement in my situation. My strategy seemed to be working. I thought I could ride “comfort and contentment” all the way to the end. But then I hit a wall and things stopped improving – I plateaued – and that’s a frustrating situation.

If “comfort and contentment” is an invalid objective, what’s a valid one? Perhaps “activity” and engagement with the world. In other words, you should always be doing something and participating in some sense. The “struggle” is to find something satisfying to engage with. Find what you like doing, and do it. But keep in mind: this activity and engagement should be on your terms. Don’t worry about historical precedent or logic – just do what you think is right for you. And always remember, you’re a superficial character in a superficial world – don’t get too deep.

Cycling Through

After many years of intense effort and determination, I reduced or eliminated the external factors I believed to be the sources of my problems. But after all that, there still remained an underlying discontentment. With a lack of scapegoats, I noticed something obvious. My thoughts were deluging my attention with very unpleasant scenes and ideas. Basically, “the call is coming from INSIDE the house!!”

I know I’ve come to that conclusion before. But imagine remembering the combination to a lock – you remember the numbers but not how to apply them, or you don’t remember where the lock is, or you can’t recall why you even want the lock open in the first place. There’s an inherent forgetfulness built-in and any revelation I discern doesn’t last.

But there IS an inner enemy. I’ll be sitting peacefully and appreciatively and BAM, some disturbing thought floats into my awareness. “WTF! That’s horrible! And there’s no hope!? Only pain and despair!? All is lost! Only suffering remains!” And then I eventually notice what’s going on and shut it down. “Stop bullying my consciousness you rotten miscreant! Scat! Get outta here!”

And I play this dumb whack-a-mole game again and again. I try to remain aware and on-guard as much as I can. Anytime my mind wanders it finds itself covered in muck and I’m stuck trying to calm it down and clean it up. If I had my druthers, I’d just live out the rest of my experience as a master-craftsman expressing his skill and creativity while creating admirable works of art. Well, we’ll see if I break free from this cycle.

Wandering Want

A wandering mind leads to dissatisfaction. This unpleasant state can be overcome by applying a disciplined approach to every experience. DO NOT LET THE MIND WANDER! It will crash and produce pain.

You don’t have the luxury of letting your guard down. You must take the wheel and steer the ENTIRE time. Eating, thinking, working, talking, reading, watching – ALL things must be done in a state of awareness.

Focus defines existence. A wandering mind focuses on whatever – eventually arriving at something unpleasant. Through discipline, the mind should be directed to a decent destination.

As the Buddha said:
Suffering exists. It is the result of wanting. Suffering ends when wanting ends. End wanting by remaining aware and properly focused.

Lighthearted Triumph

Just to note, I’m a bit “all over the place” and not so grounded during this chapter. I happen to be at the mid-life crisis time of life, so maybe that’s to blame. You know, where someone suddenly realizes that all the stuff they were doing in their youth wasn’t a pathway to satisfaction. So they’re confused and struggle to find a new path. I thought I was on a progressive pathway to contentment and success – but no, it kinda dropped out from under me. Nothing happened per se, it was just a feeling and perspective of dissatisfaction I couldn’t shake.

After some disappointment and sulking, I entered into “Round 2”. I said, “you know what, fine! Let’s do this! You have my full and undivided attention now. I will be paying attention and adjusting any variable I can in order to win”. By “win”, I mean stop feeling like a loser. If this is some sort of test or trial or challenge – I want to come out on top. And instead of just drifting through and hoping for the best, I’m going analyze and pivot and rapidly adapt to whatever’s going on here.

Since the start of Round 2, things actually got kinda rough. I suppose I asked for it though. In some sense, that means life responded to my provocation. Oops. Now I kinda miss “general malaise” as the sole source of my problems. My “dreamlike reality” perspective-experiment “worked” in a way. My intent was to zoom so far out that everyday-life couldn’t bother me. I think I zoomed-out a little too far and it got weird (see addendum below).

But it worked in the sense that my perspective is now stretched. So from that way-out perspective, I’m trying to zoom-in on the things I want to focus on, leaving all the stuff I don’t prefer out of the picture.

I think focus literally defines existence. So, two main aspects I’m trying to stay focused on are “lightheartedness” and “triumph”. These two patterns of thought help keep me out of trouble and tend to settle things when I start feeling uncomfortable.

Addendum. How it got “weird”: So there I was, brushing my teeth. My vision started skipping, kind of a strobe-light effect. I felt strange, tingling a little. I felt like I was fading out. I thought I was waking-up from the existential dream – like I’d pop out of this world and back into whatever was having the dream. But then the experience started to make me nervous and I fought against it. I focused on this world and the things I appreciate within it. I didn’t want to leave at this time, not this way, in the middle of brushing my teeth. The sensation kept coming and I just had to ride it out, it made me a bit anxious.

Was it something I ate? A drop in blood-sugar? Or was it something non-physical? I had a few mini-relapses and found that if I had too much substance in my tummy, I would start feeling weird. Even drinking too much water at once – nothing specific. I’m on a diet now and I’m really regulating how much I consume of anything at once. It seems to be working. Oh, and I can’t consume anything between 2pm and 5pm, not even a sip of water. For some reason, I feel very susceptible during that window. I also have to keep close tabs on what I consume as entertainment and what I think about. I have to keep everything lighthearted and triumphant.

Round 2 is tough, but I’m still in it.