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.

Primary Focus

If “focus” is the ultimate influencer of experience, then what am I allowed to focus on (while ignoring everything else)?

For you Rich, you may focus on the following (but only in fun and never frustration):

(in no particular order)
Tools, woodworking, technology, engineering, computer programming, and math.
Good relations with companions.
Funny aspects of things.
Triumphant stories and comical depictions.
Lightheartedness and the sensation of joy.
(joy: warmth, weightlessness, oneness – everything is as it should be, perfect, complete.)

Watch your thoughts – if something comes into focus that isn’t on the approved list, switch it off and select something from the list. If you’re experiencing a situation that is difficult to disconnect from, attempt to focus beyond it. Ride it through calmly and quietly while trying to focus on something outside of it.

New Principle

I’ve always considered myself engineering-minded. And with that, came a desire for efficiency. Therefore, I attempted to streamline a lot of processes I performed in everyday life. I pursued efficiency in all matters. But now I realize the folly in that pursuit. It’s dumb. Efficiency itself isn’t dumb per se, but applying it to everyday tasks IS.

Essentially, it results in “hurry-up and wait”. If you’re super-efficient in everything you do, you often end-up with nothing to do. If I can prepare and consume a meal in under 10-minutes, now what? Compare that to someone that selects a recipe, shops for specific ingredients, preps everything, cooks it, eats it with a companion, cleans-up afterward – the entire meal process takes time and could fill a significant portion of the day.

What did efficiency ever get me? More time to do what, exactly? More time to apply efficiency I suppose. Cutting out as much fluff as possible and moving on to the next thing obviously hampers the ability to appreciate anything and minimizes application of an esthetic element. Keep it simple and prioritize function over form. It’s not a better way to live, it’s just a recipe for boredom and austerity.

Therefore, my new primary engineering principle to pursue is “precision”. No longer am I shaving off steps, boiling-down tasks to their barest essentials, I am now inclined to delve deeper into individual operations and pursue them with greater care and appreciation. In short: the ends will not justify the means – it’s the means that will matter most. It’s not about “perfectionism” though, it’s simply an admiration of accuracy and taking the time to do something well.

Mind Pet

Think of it like this: the mind is a pet. But not an easy one, he’s more like the worst behaving pet ever. If you leave him unattended, he’ll destroy the house and eat his own feces. BUT, instead of being cute and cuddly, there’s another reason to keep him: he’s similar to a lick-able toad. He takes you, the consciousness, on exciting journeys within wondrous narratives packed with twisting plots and crazy characters. You’re kinda addicted to it.

Being that the mind is the only way to access these stories, you deal with it. It’s a major pain in the butt though – and you’re often at odds, yelling at the mind for his complete disregard for keeping things tidy and feces-free. “Stupid mind, I told you not to do that!!” But the mind keeps on doin what minds do: crafting excitement and excrement. Obviously, yelling at the mind never works.

But like those tales of incompatible roommates, sometimes a happy-medium can be achieved. First, the mind can NOT be left unattended and allowed to entertain himself. Yeah, sometimes the mess won’t be so bad and you’ll assume the mind’s finally calmed down and behaves appropriately when left alone. But soon enough, BAM!… feces everywhere. You can’t trust it, ever.

Of course that puts a burden on you, the consciousness. There’s just no vacation, no rest for the weary. But consider this: you might be able to set the mind on a specific course and coerce him into an acceptable narrative in which you (the consciousness) sit back and relax. It’s like putting him on a leash or in a fenced area.

For example: sit him in-front of a movie he likes, make a playlist of videos he’ll enjoy watching, get him into a suitable hobby, assign him a project he’s interested in, do some exercise he enjoys – essentially, find something he performs without complaint. Otherwise, the second you stop supervising, he’ll smear poop everywhere. You’re his cruise-director, do your duty and make sure he’s got entertaining stuff to do or he’ll trash your ship.

Stop Snowballing

Noticing a thought. Considering that thought. Extrapolating from the thought. Adding to the thought. Rolling the thought around with all its extrapolations and additions until you’re covered in an anxious mess that you can’t escape from.

I’m literally anxious from just thinking about the process. A minute ago I was fine – but snowballing is such a wicked form of self-torment.

Notice a thought. Shut it down. Notice the thought again. Shut it down, again. Notice a thought. Shut – it – down. If you don’t roll it around, it can’t collect more snow. Keep it small and manageable. Once it gets larger, it can’t easily be undone.

Stand up and do something physical, something distracting, do something differently than usual, find a show or video to watch, have a project ready to jump into, say hello to someone, tidy something, find a fun activity. Stop the snowball from forming.

I suppose you have to become your own cruise-director. Don’t leave your daily activities and entertainment up to “whatever”. If you don’t design something interesting for you to do, you’ll just end up scaring yourself with dumb thoughts all the time. A bored mind will relieve itself one way or another – it’s better to provide it with pleasant options.

Tranquility and Joy

I adopted a dreamlike perspective in order to zoom-out a bit. I didn’t want that perspective per se, I was using it as a means to an end. I theorized that a zoomed-out perspective would lower the overall intensity of my experience. I stuck to it for about a month and noticed that the perspective was relatively easy to achieve – but I’m not sure the result aligns with my ultimate goal. What I really want is tranquility and joy. So perhaps I should dedicate a month to pushing THAT as a perspective.

Instead of “you’re not a human, you’re a whimsical dream”, it becomes “you’re not suffering or dissatisfied, you’re tranquil and full of joy”. I don’t know if that will be as easy to adopt, but might as well try. To be tranquil is to experience calm, gentleness, peace, serenity. To be joyful is to experience happiness, cheerfulness, delight, satisfaction. Ultimately, that’s what I’d like to experience.

Imagine you were to create tranquility and joy – what would that look like? First, you need the opposite for contrast. For example, what’s bright if everything is already at maximum brightness? Yet within the darkness, “brightness” can exist. So for tranquility and joy to exist, disorder and distress must exist. Do I know anxiousness and discomfort? I know them very well. Therefore, the stage has been set.

What am I? Perhaps I am the very embodiment of tranquility and joy. Maybe I am the cosmic reference that’s checked when consciousness considers those concepts. Tranquility and joy aren’t static, their definitions require demonstration. Perhaps my task is to display the totality of the concept. Well, now that the foundation’s been laid, let the tranquility and joy begin!

Dreamers Delight

How to exist within a dream:

Ignore everything you don’t prefer. It isn’t real, it’s just your wandering awareness seeking something stimulating to focus on. Be firm and say “no!”, then take your awareness and focus it on something you do prefer.

You’re just a dream, lighten up. There’s no such thing as pride or embarrassment or accomplishment. There’s no responsibility or deadlines or things-that-must-be-done. These are little tricks awareness plays to heighten the drama.

People are characters in a drama or comedy – your choice. It’s just you talking to yourself, don’t worry about it. “Things” are just props and “places” are just sets. Don’t fixate on fleeting scenes.

“Existential emptiness” is a feeling, ignore it like anything else you don’t prefer. Or use it as a means to remove yourself from a scene. Focus on it and your perspective broadens beyond physical existence. It’s more friend than foe.

You’re not alive, you’re not organic, you’re not a product of chemical reactions or physical forces – nothing is. Things can be whatever the dreamer dreams them to be.

The more you focus on the dreamlike nature of reality, the more perceptible it becomes. Soon enough you’ll laugh at the fact you saw yourself as a tiny creature crawling around a gigantic rock circling an even larger fireball.

Which seems more true: that millions of years of evolution resulted in “TikTok challenges” – or TikTok began within a whimsical dream? The prominence of such significant absurdity reveals the dream. Existence isn’t survival, it’s silliness.

Find something fun to do. Boredom will be “cured” one way or another. Your job is to come up with interesting projects for yourself. If you don’t, you’ll just end up tormenting yourself to alleviate the boredom.

There are times you’ll feel bad and you won’t be able to escape it. It’s kinda like falling into a hole. Step one: don’t dig a deeper hole. Calm down and maintain as much awareness as you can muster. Don’t seek comfort, you won’t find it – concentrate on getting your focus out of the hole. With focus on the outside, you’ll eventually find yourself fully outside – practice patience.

The level of coordination within the world, the interconnectedness, the global trends all demonstrate a common core – the dreamer. Things don’t work out because of coincidence – it’s a story being told. You’re as much the dreamer as anything else. Clean-up your focus, be gentle, appreciate tranquility, seek fun – when you calm down, the dream calms down too.

Dream vs Simulation

I was deep in the simulation camp but ultimately found too many holes. That’s why I’ve switched to a dreamlike explanation of existence. For example, who built the simulation and why? I don’t think there was ever a physical world known as Earth inhabited by ape-like “intelligent” organic creatures. Therefore, the premise of a “simulation” serving as a virtual representation of a physical reality doesn’t work. Is it a pure fantasy game? Well, then what’s the objective? Or is it an open-world do-whatever-you-want type of experience? Well, I can think of a list of things I’d rather be doing, but I’m not. How do I get it to work? I don’t understand the controls – if there are any.

In a simulation, the onus and responsibility is on me the player to figure things out and achieve an objective. That’s a lot of work and can make me feel like a loser if things aren’t going well. Whereas in a dream – hey I just appeared within a vignette depicting a fictional physical experience. I’m a conjured character meandering through streams of dreams – part dreamer, part dreamt. Every conversation is just me talking to myself. The bar is low. And funny enough, the “physical reality” that I experience doesn’t contradict this dreamlike perspective. If anything, it supports it.

But whenever I tried to discern an algorithm for achieving something in the simulation, objectives became elusive and pathways unpredictable. In other words, my physical experience didn’t support my perspective. With a dreamlike perspective, I no longer have to figure-out the world – it’s just a nonsensical dream, of course it’s filled with absurdities. But now I have to reconcile “existential emptiness”. Although in some ways, that’s an upgrade.

For example, if I’ve only ever been a dream – why should my realization of it change anything? Who cares about matter and physical forces – it’s the narratives that provide the substance of existence. “Life” has only ever been about story-telling. The idea of an inhabited Earth serves as stage for an endless array of comedic acts and dramatic performances. The only problem I have arises from an obsession with being my character: I think myself a human. But of course I’m not, I’m just a whimsical dream.