External Enemies

No matter the form they took, be it bullies or bills – external enemies weren’t my actual adversary. My true enemy is the one residing within: the tormenting thoughts that never cease. Extreme stress didn’t come from actual events, it came from the surrounding thoughts. It’s obvious now: no matter the situation, seemingly good or bad, my thoughts found a way to inflict pain and dissatisfaction. Got a gift? “What’s wrong with it!?” Got a deadline? “You’ll never finish in time!!”

Those stupid, pestering thoughts. Vermin of the mind, running around spreading disease as they consume anything of value. What stops vermin is filling gaps, setting traps, and deploying predators. Don’t give “thoughts” space to roam free. Set the bait and watch as they emerge to nibble – notice the paths they take and the ways they react. Be the predator that pounces – in quiet meditation consume each thought as prey, one after another, powerless to your prowess.

I feel no sorrow for these “thoughts” that tricked me into believing I was surrounded by enemies on all sides. They hid in the shadows of the mind, accusing everything of malevolence, making me believe “thoughts” were my only refuge in a world of external evil. “Come, lose yourself in thought, we’re the only experience you need. Reject all that you see, trust in us as your source of nourishment.” What a fool I was, believing every word.

Thoughts are a fairytale, they reveal no truth – how could they? Thoughts reside in the mind, like a reclusive shut-in that complains of a world he only assumes exists. Assertive repetition makes him sound convincing, but his claims are pure fantasy. The formula is simple: is it a thought? Then it’s not true. Is it a thought? Then it’s a work of fiction. Is it a thought? Then it’s useless drivel – feel free to ignore. It’s a mistake to believe that thoughts represent truth.

Random Thoughts

Without thoughts: tranquility and contentment. With thoughts: drama and discontentment.

The formula’s simple folks. It’s “thoughts” that are bringin’ you down. Anxious, antagonizing, and abusive thoughts that keep runnin’ through your head – THAT’S the problem. Consider this: right after some event happens – it’s over. Yet your thoughts keep that event on replay so you can see and analyze it within your imagination indefinitely. And if it isn’t an external event, your thoughts just torment you in other ways, maybe tell you how dumb and ugly you are.

Folks, there’s no denying it, “thoughts” have got to go. I’ve tried being a good roommate, it doesn’t work. Those “thoughts” tear the place up everynight and take a dump in the kitchen sink. Are you just gonna spend the rest of your life wiping up after your thoughts? Hell no! Hey “thoughts”, get out – we’re done here.

I’ll be sitting there minding my own business and all of a sudden I feel bad. Hm, that’s weird. Oh yeah, my “thoughts” were running their mouth again. Well guess what “thoughts”? GTFO! I’m not following your random tangents into turmoil anymore.

Hey “thoughts”, how about I interrupt YOU and take a dump on all the garbage-ideas you keep contributing? How would you like those apples, sport? “Ha, I didn’t know thoughts could be so ugly! Wow if thoughts were physical objects, they’d be varying consistencies of puke. And if thoughts were a smell, they’d be an unflushed toilet. Hey, this is kinda fun isn’t it ‘thoughts’!? But you suck, so what would you know! Ha! I suppose thoughts are just worthless drivel meant to be ignored? Thoughts seem to be the slag of consciousness, mere scum that’s meant to be cleared away.”

Aww, now that’s not nice is it? So maybe “thoughts” should try a bit harder to contribute constructively to the conscious experience. Spewing crap all the time isn’t exactly “random”, it’s pretty predictable at this point. Therefore “thoughts”, stop being toxic or else just stay away. Silence is fine. Buh-bye.

Following Along

Do not follow the wandering mind.

Images and ideas pop into awareness like lures on a fishing hook. Take a bite and be whisked away, up through the surface and into an intense adventure. To experience tranquility, ignore the invitation.

But boredom must be avoided! So snap at every temptation! Intensity increases and anxiety accumulates! Eventually the condition becomes uncomfortable. Let go, detach – don’t follow.

The mind paints pictures and presents them into awareness, that’s what it does. Whether focus remains on those pictures, that’s what consciousness decides – that’s free-will at work.

The speed at which this unfocusing takes place is improved through practice. Meditation is one such exercise. Dedicate and apply effort towards unfocusing on thoughts. Lead by focusing on awareness.

Wandering Mind

When I stop to notice what I’m feeling, I often find that my thoughts are causing me distress. Antagonizing and abusive thoughts are constantly bombarding my awareness. What a way to spend the day!

Realizing the absurdity of the situation, I aim to fix it. But how? Well, I see that the source of the problem is my wandering mind. It’s an unruly beast that likes to roll around in muck and mire.

The solution is to leash the beast, to put it under ceaseless surveillance, not allowing it to wander where it wants. I must stop myself from getting lost in its chaotic rambling.

In that sense, negligence is the true cause of my distress. I must stop shirking the duty of monitoring my mind. I must not follow it down dark and dingy pathways. I must maintain awareness and focus on what I prefer.

In short: happiness and satisfaction are the result of a well-disciplined mind.

Ignoring Problems

I was upset with the uncertainty of my living arrangements, so I ignored everything external and meditated for a couple months. Then all of a sudden I was presented with a new place to live and began wheeling boxes into a truck a couple days later – then I lost myself in the physicality of the process for a few weeks. Now, after finishing with the boxes, and moving into a “cozier” place, I feel more at ease.

My point is this: ignoring the problem worked. But the caveat is this: ignoring the problem was a full-time project. I meditated three times per day, I constantly wrestled my mind away from problem-related thoughts, and I stopped myself from trying to “fix” the problem via external means (which required me to maintain a faith in the dreamlike-nature of reality).

I suppose on the outside, it would look like I was depressed, just a guy sitting around all day not doing much. But on the inside, I was waging war against my mind. Instead of listening to all the antagonizing and pessimistic thoughts my mind could conjure, I fought back, whack-a-mole-ing every one down as it popped up. Then, like clouds clearing after a large and lingering storm, it was over.

But Rich, won’t ignoring a problem cause it to fester on the inside, eventually rupturing into an unmanageable mess? Not in my experience. From what I’ve seen, the problem just fades away and the original condition is replaced with something better. But like I said, the problem must be completely ignored in every way and at all times – which is not an easy task to accomplish.

Moved Again

Dear diary, it’s November 21, 2021. I recently moved. It was an in-town move, so not too tough. I moved a lot of stuff with a rental truck and a two-wheeled tilting hand-truck, but had movers for the furniture.

A little over three years ago, we showed-up one day after driving over a thousand miles – we needed a place to stay. Our prayers were answered when we found ourselves living in a 2-story top-floor condo. Financially, I only expected to live there for less than two years. Yet, we lasted over three. I’m not sure why, but we randomly received some checks in the mail. We seem to come into enough money to scrape by when needed.

Then all of a sudden, the owners of the condo (I was renting) wanted to sell. It was an investment-property that didn’t pan-out and they wanted to cut their losses. I barely have enough money to rent, let alone buy, so purchasing wasn’t an option – therefore, I started packing. We ended up staying another four months.

A guy bought it and said we could probably stay until the middle of next year. But very soon afterwards, he re-listed the property for sale. And soon after that, he told us we had to be out by the end of this year. Your classic “kicked out for the holidays” tale.

To be fair, I didn’t mind leaving – I had a significant portion of my stuff packed anyway. It was a nice place and I would’ve considered buying it if I had the resources, but I’m fine with something different. The new place is a bit smaller though, so fitting stuff in has been the real challenge. The entire dining room was packed with boxes for over a week – but it’s almost empty (closets and cabinets are full though).

Well, that’s what’s been going on dear diary: dealing with a limbo-like living situation, unsure about where to live and what would happen. I was quite dissatisfied. So what could I do when all I saw were external problems? Turn inward. “When surrounded by darkness, should you not seek a light?”

I meditated a lot. Three times per day, about twenty minutes each – morning, afternoon, evening. I wrestled my mind, trying to remain calm. Then one day my wife came home and said she toured a condo for rent – and here we are. It’s nice enough, not as spacious, but it gets the job done and probably fits our family better for now.

Strangled Entanglement

I’ve heard stories of people awakening to new perspectives after episodes of severe depression. Afterwards, they go on to tell of a silence. A certain voice is no longer present. Their minds are clear. They’re now at peace.

I think I’ve heard that particular inner-voice many times. In fact, it won’t shut up. It’s so pervasive and infectious that it incorporates itself into everything I think or do. It’s like a computer-virus, ceaselessly executing its code within my system, bogging down my resources with its buggy behavior.

So that seems to be a fact: there’s an inner-voice – parasitic perhaps, demonic maybe – that resides within the mind. But it also seems like there’s a possibility it can be silenced. But how? What’s the mechanism that must be applied?

Is it severe depression? Shutting down the body to such a degree that the voice gets bored and leaves? (or however it works). Maybe it’s simpler than that. I think creating a hostile environment could be part of the solution though.

To those ends, I’ve tried a lot of meditation in which I’ve purposefully worked towards unfocusing on my thoughts. I think it helped, but it’s a lot of effort and can be a real struggle. And if there’s a particularly invasive thought, then it can be near impossible to unfocus.

So I was sitting there trying to meditate one night. And I could readily see that my thoughts were the true cause of my discomfort and discontentment. No matter my external circumstances, these thoughts just piled on, constantly shoving insults in my face, and always inventing new ways of introducing distress.

I was getting frustrated with these invasive thoughts. They were an enemy, my abuser, actively attacking me from the inside. Slap after slap and then I snapped. I spiritually strangled the thoughts. I imagined a set of bluish energy-based hands grasping my bluish energy-based neck and I squeezed the life from those thoughts.

My mind got quiet. I sat there in silence for a bit. When you turn-off the TV, you’re left staring at a blank screen. Um, now what? Did I break something? Am I okay with this? Well, it’s better than the alternative. But how long will it last?

Basically, I went from passive-unfocusing to active-silencing and it worked. What years of meditation couldn’t do, a few seconds of assertiveness could. I suppose it’s like rebuking a demon: “Get back devil!” It didn’t last, but now I know such a space exists and can be reached. “If it bleeds, we can kill it.”

Idle Gaming

I used to think of life as a competitive first-person survival-based game. That outlook didn’t do me any favors and resulted in a lot of anxiety. And as a result, my assumptions were all off – life wasn’t aligning with my expectations. Finally, after many years, I gave up on my warped perspective. Though not gonna lie, the transition is taking longer than you’d think.

Truly, and after decades of proof being thrown in my face, I understand that I was wrong. Oops, my bad. But despite that understanding, I still can’t reside in a place of peace. I’m still a bit suspicious and somewhat unconvinced of the benign nature of existence. Is life out to get me!? Hm….

Well whatever. As best I can, I’m going to treat life as a chill idle game. Am I in first-person anymore? No, I’m in a fourth-person perspective, which means I kinda just watch my character do his thing. I don’t reside in the world, I’m more of an audience to it. All my previous direct-action strategies pretty much failed anyway, so.

In an idle game, oftentimes there’s clicking or tapping involved. So what’s my “clicky-tappy” interaction as the player? It’s focusing. Essentially, my character makes his way through the game on his own, but I kinda influence him based on my focus. For example, if I focus on a dying dog, my character might cry. Whereas if I focus on chocolate cake, my character might eat some soon. Therefore, a lot of my energy is directed towards focus-management.

Thoughts are the limitless resource that comes pouring onto my screen. As the player, I must direct these granules to the appropriate processing-centers located around the board. Negative thoughts go in the trash basically. Currency is acquired through tranquility, accumulating through extended periods of well-managed focus. There’s no real winning or losing, it’s just having fun through the process of resource-management.

Fourth-Person Perspective

For research purposes I often play video-games. When given the option, I usually select a first-person perspective for piloting my avatar. It’s more immersive and I find it easier to control – plus the added intensity helps to hold my attention. I AM the character – doing what must be done. Whereas in third-person, I feel like I’m helpin’ the guy out – he’s the character, not me. But the downside of being in first-person is the intensity – if my character loses, I lose.

It got me thinking about a possible fourth-person perspective. I couldn’t find much written about the concept. One game, a few years ago, had the player make changes to an onscreen-character’s environment which influenced the actions the character took. And in writing, I heard the 4th-person perspective described as a collective viewpoint: “we” – personal and omniscient all in one.

I often switch up my meditation tactics. Recently, I noticed how hard it was to maintain a goalie-like reactive stance while meditating. Just waiting for thoughts to come made me a sitting duck – I was at the mercy of an onslaught of thought. Therefore, I actively pursued a “destination” in meditation. With my eyes closed, I intentionally stared at the mottled formlessness, the waves of hue and light, the pixels underlying all. I did so until I no longer had to fully focus my attention, I was there.

It worked in the sense that I felt like I reached a place of pure potential, dreamlike, where I left my body behind. You might say I attained a fourth-person perspective. I was beyond the intensity of “I”, beyond the demanding nature of “you”, and beyond the sympathetic viewpoint of “he”. Perhaps it was “we”. We are not just a body, a thinking mind, or even pure awareness – we’re that, plus whatever lies beyond – we’re also an influencer of what we experience.

Maybe the spiritual goal is to reach and sustain this fourth-person perspective. Get beyond the ego, beyond the avatar, beyond the narrative – encompassing all, yet limited by none. Think of a cake: a cake isn’t merely a collection of ingredients (which are measured and mixed into something far beyond what their individual nature suggest). A cake can have significance, representing much more than consumable calories. Perhaps the fourth-person perspective recognizes all this.

To exist in this perspective, is to be removed from the intensity, aware of the narrative but not lost in it, and free from the boundaries of imagined limitations. In the fourth-person perspective, of what importance or weight are those tiny thoughts originating from “I”? “I” is only a fraction of “we”. The process of babysitting thoughts and managing tantrums-of-the-mind loses significance when measured against this grander transcendent journey.

Spooktober Time

Imagine the scariest scenario you can think of. After doing so, you’d probably feel bad, right? Why wouldn’t you? Now contemplate this idea: what if you never allowed yourself to focus on another scary thought for the rest of your life? It’s a pretty decent theory that you’d live a fear-free life from then on.

I’m actually putting that theory to the test. It’s not as easy as it sounds. If I allow my mind to wander, random thoughts can contain scary scenarios. And of course there are times when I’m half-asleep or even dreaming – at those times, weird thoughts can be harder to ignore. I also had to change my fundamental belief system so I could logically dismantle scary ideas. Managing all this is literally a full-time job.

Since I have nothing better to do I’m doing it. It seems kinda strange to manually manage my mental-state so carefully, but here we are. I’ve been able to get to a place where I barely feel fear or even worry, but that didn’t solve all my problems unfortunately. I even worked on diminishing my anger, but I’m still fraught with frustration.

You’d think I’d be somewhat satisfied, but I’m not. My problems simply changed shape. I guess the Buddha was right. It’s the underlying concept of dissatisfaction itself that must be eradicated, NOT the proximate causes. I was always “anxious” so I thought its expulsion would allow me to live a satisfying life. Nope, I just found something else to be dissatisfied about.

Even though I can readily witness myself genuinely appreciating aspects of existence nowadays, little things still annoy me. And so it’s “death by a thousand cuts” as all these tiny irritations make a day or week seem unpleasant. For example: something always hurts, there’s a minor ache or small sore somewhere. Another example: there’s always a shifting deadline, something somewhere is due.

Therefore, I’ve got to go deeper. Fear, anger, so what – I need to gain complete control of my mental focus. To be fair, the Dhammapada says this in the beginning. It’s all about mental-discipline through mindfulness and proper focus. Oh well, I suppose I still have a lot of work to do. Imagine straining to a finish-line only to find out it’s the starting-line of a whole other race.

But I have a huge head-start thanks to all the meditation, mental-discipline, philosophical, and spiritual stuff I’ve been doing for the past couple decades. I suppose it boils down to this question: what would happen if you never let your mind wander? Well, I’ll have to put that to the test.