Cultivating Calm

Chaotic forces swirl and I sail atop else I get swept up in their turbulence.

Why does such chaos exist? It is the source of creation, the pool of imagination – from it, pours the world. Out comes the many scenes and seeming randomness of experience. Be without a rudder, a set direction, and a thrilling adventure whisks you up, down, and all around. But set your focus firm and you’ll tend to head in a specific direction.

A novel intensity that keeps boredom at bay or a sure thing in which appreciation must be continuously cultivated. Choose one.

Being unable to appreciate anything, I picked the first option. But the intensity was too much – now I want the second option. Yet, focus and enjoyment of what’s in hand are difficult things for me to master. I can see there’s a certain charm to the calm – but allowing my mind to wander into the fray is so easy.

Every day, every hour, every minute, I must become aware of what I’m focusing on, examining my thoughts and how I’m feeling.

The external world I experience conforms to my focus. A bad time reflects a bad attitude. I no longer strain to jump actual hurdles, but train my mind to remove focus from the concept of obstruction. As a result, concrete problems dissolve back into the swirling chaos.

Whenever I experience unpleasantness, I am to blame. Disagreeable circumstances are a consequence of haphazard consciousness, a lack of mental-discipline. Leaving my mind unattended leads to an ever-spreading blaze. But if I simply attend to the flame, keeping it within a designated area, I receive warmth and illumination.

Introductory Statement

An excerpt from the fictional tales of An Alien on Earth:

People of Earth, my planet has for a long time watched your continued development. Please do not interpret this clandestine monitoring as nefarious, but merely as intense curiosity. As you might watch a bird in its natural habitat, we watched without want of disturbing your ways. By our communication, we realize your attention will turn to us.

Why now do we break our silence and seek your attention? Why does anyone travel to exotic locales and interact with the locals? It is simply an interesting facet of existence. And as there is no perfect time for one people to introduce themselves to another, this time seems as good as any. Those of our planet value an ever broadening path into the wider universe.

Obviously in terms of interplanetary travel, our technology is more advanced than your own. But as a people, I think you will find us relatable. I also believe that many among you would be interested in learning about our world. Of course we’ve studied your world from afar but we would like to engage in a more interactive approach.

We recognize the risks involved with such proximity and we accept them. Again, as we are sufficiently advanced and far reaching, we expect nothing of you – simply the wonders of interaction with an alien species. We are not a warlike people – we do not crave domination, but exploration. Nor do we seek to influence your world – uniqueness is what makes traveling to different lands so fascinating.

People of Earth, we come in peace – in the spirit of friendship and goodwill. Let us therefore celebrate together as inhabitants of a shared universe. Let us rejoice in an exchange of culture and begin a dialogue that will expand our perspectives, feed our fascination, and increase our joy. We welcome you to travel upon our ships and to experience our world as well. With great admiration and affection we offer you fellowship and we look forward to our new interactive discourse.

Training Days

Many years ago I trained with weight-lifting equipment and followed a strict diet. You could say bodybuilding was a hobby of mine. I started out very skinny and proceeded to bulk-up. People noticed. But after a few years, the gains stopped. I looked like I lifted, yet I was no longer getting bigger or stronger. Training seemed kinda pointless at that point. It’s been about two decades since then.

Ever the self-improvement and training type, I moved on to mental stuff. I’ve been training my mind for many years now. I definitely see a change and I think it shows. But like before, I kinda feel like I’ve reached a sticking-point or plateau in which the gains have stalled. I get it, I can see straight through the veil of reality and grasp the fundamental illusion of existence. But so what?

I’m no longer seeing enough change to inspire further training. Like my weightlifting days, I’m a bit disillusioned and wondering whether it’s a pointless endeavor. I even wonder if I’m retrogressing. I feel as though I could finally appreciate living a good life yet the doors still seem closed. “Uh, hello!? I’m ready now!!” Granted, many things are good, but there’s some major changes I’d like to see. I dunno, maybe I’m just impatient….

I can’t help but feel as though I should be experiencing the best of what life has to offer. I didn’t previously believe it was possible. I’ve changed and experienced many resulting differences – yet there’s so much more I imagine. I know this world is a fictional construct, merely a dreamlike concoction of swirling stories, and I know anything can come to fruition – pixels are pixels after-all.

What’s this world to me? A dream. But if it’s any ol’ dream why have it?Just wake-up and go again. Yet I’m a horrible dreamer. For the first half, I believed myself trapped in a hellish nightmare surrounded by pain and danger. In the second half I realized I’m dreaming but live the most mundane experience possible. I don’t want intensity, I had that, I want grandness, magnificence, a sumptuous banquet. For what use is a body but as transportation to travel this realm in splendor and delight.

Likable Things

What are some things to like about life?

Items that delight the senses e.g. baked goods for smelling, savory foods for tasting, music for listening, beauty for gazing, warmth for feeling.

Conversing with close friends e.g. reminiscing about shared experiences, inside jokes, evaluating and debating, giggling about nonsense.

Creating or building e.g. essays, craft projects, works of wood, kits and cakes.

Discovery and finding novelty e.g. new creators, new movies, new tools, new places, new recipes.

Falling in love e.g. with people, places, and things. A new artist, a new town or restaurant, a new tool.

Solving riddles e.g. seeing a solution to a previously unanswerable question.

Collecting and using tools e.g. woodworking equipment, computers, text-editors, pencils, pots & pans.

Immersion in stories e.g. merry romps and tales of intrigue – laughter and amusement in comedy and drama.

Playing games e.g. participation in frivolous activity, camaraderie through competition and teamwork, feeling like a winner.

Growth and adventure and the sensation of time-pressure e.g. going from novice to skillful from start to finish – with the motivation of time-pressure encouraging you to go, go, go.

Therefore, with all these things to enjoy, if you’re not focused on aspects you like about life, you’re doing it wrong.

Puzzle Pieces

Imagine you receive a jigsaw puzzle. You admire the picture on the box, open it, and dump the pieces out of the bag. You’re excited! A reasonably sized puzzle of a pleasant picture. Aha, you found some pieces that go together! The game is afoot! Oh, but now it’s time for bed, darn it – well there’s always tomorrow….

You think about that puzzle and the fun you’ll have putting it together. Finally the next day comes and there’s time to work on your puzzle. Wait, what’s this!? The puzzle is complete?? Fully assembled it sits on your table, not a thing left to do – it’s done. Well you’re happy right? Glad that all the work is done? Phew it’s over! Thank goodness! Right?

No, you’re disappointed obviously. YOU wanted to complete the puzzle. All that potential action and intrigue turned into a lifeless static image. THIS is why we live in an imperfect world. Imperfection provides room for improvement – it allows for accomplishment. Instead of a completed world with nothing left to do, we’re presented with a buffet of potential achievement.

From a certain perspective, the world seems like a mess in which everything is a work-in-progress. It’s junk, it’s broke, nothing behaves as it should. Why can’t everything be perfect!? Because there’d literally be nothing to do!! Every puzzle would be complete. The so-called flaws of life are the loose pieces we get to assemble – without which we’d be staring at a lifeless static image.

Therefore, appreciate the pieces and be grateful that no matter how hard you try, the puzzle will always be a work in progress. This perpetual puzzle is not a curse but a gift. Get to work and try fitting some pieces together. You’ll surely assemble some parts while others remain jumbled in piles. Pick the parts that look most interesting. Day in and day out, look forward to this puzzle that’s always waiting for you.

Filling Voids

We all have something missing in our lives – and once we find it, we’ll finally feel fulfilled. Sweet relief! OR, once we find it, we’ll simply chase the next craving that comes up. Spoiler Alert! There’s ALWAYS something else we feel we need. No matter what we attain in this world, no matter the achievement, the sensation of lack and a need to fill it follows us around wherever we go.

This means we’re in a constant state of dissatisfaction with the world. Yuck. Nothing’s good enough. Nothing scratches the itch. We always want something else. The only cure for such a predicament, is mental discipline. This is the practice of deliberately focusing our attention. In all aspects of our lives we should maintain proper focus – and by doing this, we can improve our condition.

Essentially, we must train ourselves not to obsess over the treadmill of desire. We should take it less seriously and watch it lightheartedly. “I want something? Eh, okay I’ll chase it for awhile. Ha, this could be fun! Who cares if I catch it!” We should be focusing on appreciation instead of lack – focusing on the enjoyment of pursuit rather than the fact that we don’t have what we want.

After-all, as soon as we get what we want, we no longer want it – and soon enough something else takes its place. “But I REALLY want something!!” Well, obtaining it won’t cure the underlying feeling of craving: the sensation remains as the object of desire switches to something new. The only way to get rid of that feeling is through mental discipline i.e. focusing on what’s positive instead of what’s negative.

Satisfaction is an internal state achieved through internal means. It’s a perspective. Picture your life full of lack, you’ll feel dissatisfied. Picture your life full of abundance, you’ll feel satisfied. If you’re unsatisfied, it means your thoughts are arranged in a discordant way. What you need to attain is an answer to this riddle: how can I rearrange my thoughts so they evoke feelings of delight. Focus on THAT instead of external attainment and you’ll find an end to suffering.

Passing Scenery

There’s always something to be unsatisfied about – so a quest to fulfill emptiness through external means never ends.

Therefore, seek to be satisfied in every moment through mental discipline (the practice of focusing the mind). Practice until thoughts flow in and out like scenery in the distance. Hold no thoughts in focus. This is one of the hardest games to play, have patience and persist. Ignore thoughts that race-in to fill voids. Boredom is a sign it’s working whereas anxiousness and drama are signs of misplaced focus. Now with a blank canvas, paint with delightful hues that invoke satisfaction.

Focus is the fundamental force of the universe. With focus, you control your experience of existence. “Out of all the thoughts I could be having, is this one worthy of my focus?” Ask yourself this for each and every thought that gets your attention. Pondering positive possibilities is acceptable for example. And if you can’t think of anything nice, don’t think of anything at all. Notice a thought and gently transition to no-thought.

Sometimes you’ll sense mischief, deal with it through lightheartedness. You’re only susceptible to monkey-business when you’re serious. A monkey pokes and prods searching for a tender spot, wince or whine and he’ll know he’s found his treasure. “Ha, what a silly little game” should be your only reply to shenanigans. And consider this: you might be the monkey teasing yourself – but either way, don’t be the patsy losing yourself to frustration.

No thought is more valuable than the practice of mental discipline. Default to unfocusing on thoughts, refocusing only when a thought proves itself good. Evaluate the feelings it evokes. Weed this mental garden, leaving only the resplendent and nourishing to bloom and grow. The path has always been there, it simply seemed too tedious. Why bother with thoughts when a whole world awaits? But those thoughts are the very foundation of the world you experience. Bad thoughts, bad experience – good thoughts, good experience.

And remember, external objectives are never the point, they’re simply finish-lines placed for the fun of it. The purpose of participating in games is to extract enjoyment through the pursuit of frivolous goals.

Tough Life

Is life so hard that even God lost? Think about that. God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son. Yet God’s own son had a rather tragic experience on Earth. If even he had a hard time, how’s there any chance for the rest of us? Or was Jesus, through his tragic experience, actually revealing the path to victory?

What Jesus taught was simple: seek and ye shall find. Seek sickness, and you shall have it. Whereas those seeking to be healed, were made well. Basically, a bad attitude begets a miserable experience. Jesus also spoke of the unsavory religious leaders of his day – and guess what he found? Death by way of their vile machinations. Fight against anything in this world, and it’ll kill you: live by the sword, die by the sword. This is true even if you’re the son of God.

No one is exempt from the principle that like attracts like. An acorn grows an oak tree and pessimism grows dissatisfaction. Look for the worst in life, you’ll find it. Imagine yourself in a constant battle against the world and you’ll stuggle until the day you die. Whereas the meek shall inherit the earth because they’re not at war with the world. If like attracts like, this is also true: love the world and you’ll know love. Be gentle, and your experience will be gentle too.

So why did Jesus reveal a victorious path in such a negative way? Why not show a sweet and loving demonstration instead? Well he tried that – no one listened. You can see over time how he became more belligerent. Which would a faithless generation better respond to? “Son of God says love is the answer!” Or “Not even the son of God is safe in these turbulent times! Stay tuned for the excruciating execution by crucifixion!”

Jesus stated what was true and when it fell on deaf ears he demonstrated it through significant action. At first you’d be confused at the transpiring events and upon closer inspection you’d be even more perplexed – BUT, after some time and much contemplation you’d start to see the underlying meaning of it all. God didn’t lose, and life isn’t tough – people just need to calm down, lighten up, and focus on what’s good in this world.

Thought Rides

A thought is like a ride at an amusement park. You strap yourself in and cede control over to the thought and you’re whisked away. A thought can be all-consuming and take you on quite a journey: up, down, and all around. If you don’t enjoy thrills, some of these thoughts can be downright disturbing. So instead of jumping on every thought you see, a more enjoyable approach is to pick the ones suited to your tastes, those that evoke the most enjoyment. If you don’t prefer a particular thought, don’t ride it – pass it by and move on to the next one.

Initially it’ll be boring since you have to pass on so many thoughts. But with your focus away from thrills, you’ll start to notice there were other slower-paced thoughts the whole time. You had ignored them, probably labeling them as lame and boring. Also, you’re not missing out by skipping the thrills – you don’t have to do everything. You don’t order EVERY item on a menu, you pick and choose what you want. Let the thrills go, don’t concern yourself with them, leave them alone and focus on delightful stuff.

At amusement parks, thrill-rides don’t jump the tracks and come looking for you. You must seek them out and step into the ride-car. For example, if you busy yourself on the lazy-river, that’s all you’ll ever experience. But if you carelessly wander the park, you might accidentally wind up on a ride that’s too intense. And to a chaotic mind, everything seems chaotic. An anxious mind will imagine itself drowning in the lazy-river for example. So the key to all of this is mental discipline.

Mental discipline is the practice of intentionally directing focus, it’s a combination of ignoring some thoughts while paying close attention to others. It’s like going to an amusement park with a map and some prior research. For instance, you can watch a thought from the outskirts and notice your reaction, then dump out if it seems like it’s producing an unpleasant feeling. Don’t like something? Don’t think about it! Is that challenging? KINDA! On one hand, it requires a lot of self-awareness but on the other hand, it’s better than remaining in misery.

New Year New Me

I’ve noticed that there’s always a predicament I’m in. Whether it’s a personal wellness matter, a lack of things I want, relationship issues, a looming global catastrophe, or even just existential angst – there’s ALWAYS something. Solving the current issue doesn’t fix things since another problem is waiting around the corner.

In video-games, you typically want an endless supply of obstacles to provide challenge and interest. But what if those obstacles are just too tough or not the type you’re interested in? Well that’s my problem with my problems: I want a new set of problems. Otherwise, I’m going full Buddha-mode and ignoring the very concept of problems.

For most of life my problems have been: social awkwardness, aches & pains, digestion issues, inability to sleep and tiredness, financial lack, anxiety, and pessimism. I’m done with that stuff. It’s the junk-food of life, just quick non-nutritive snacks to stave off boredom. Now I want the good stuff.

For example, how about tool collecting, workshop setup and optimization, finding just the right home, sleeping and eating well, perceiving the goodness of life and feeling appreciative. This last year has been about my negativity-free diet. How about I up the ante and adopt a Delightful Diet for 2021. Yeah, let’s do that.