Mouth of Man

There’s a guiding voice in my mind. I hear it and oftentimes transcribe the words and publish them here. But today, I’m merely the man. I must admit that I don’t particularly enjoy being an embodied being. It’s an experience that leads to a lot of frustration.

For instance, I know what it’s like to be a loser, having lost so many times. I know what it’s like to feel powerless, even hopeless. I know sadness, despair, and wanting to give up. I know worry and fear. I know pain and the wish to escape it. I know isolation and loneliness. I know lack and unfulfilled craving. I would prefer for those aspects of this experience to end. I’d prefer something new. I want to try winning instead of losing.

Instead of being fueled by frustration, I’d rather creative inspiration be my guide. Instead of a constant stream of criticism flowing through my thoughts, I’d rather be overcome with appreciation. I want no more dread, just gleeful anticipation instead. I want to know what it’s like to live within a state of satisfaction. Do you hear that, guiding voice from beyond? It’s me the man, the simple creature stuck in this predicament.

No offense, but despite all this “guidance”, I’m still struggling to an embarrassing degree. I say, let’s just accept that I need too much assistance at this point. Let’s flip that switch over to “easy” and go from there? I’m too old and not invested enough to care anymore. The time for strain and struggle is over. How ’bout coasting to the end, just living an easy and enjoyable existence? That sounds like some sweet relief to me.

Thorns of Thought

In a virtual world, like a dream, anything can be anything. This fundamental fact is a prescription for eradicating anxiety. Since everything is malleable, there’s no application for worry. Early warning signs point to a potential, not to an absolute. Follow those signs and you’ll surely find what you’re looking for. But ignore them, and they’ll fade from existence.

Here’s something to consider: what is the interface for a virtual world such as this? There are no obvious buttons, no onscreen keyboard to summon – so how does one input their wishes into the world? There is but one way: focus. Of course, focusing one’s attention is a difficult operation to master. This is the purpose of meditation: it’s a concentrated practice of concentration – a way to make the seemingly-impossible possible.

The point is to stop following every little thought. These thoughts aren’t the problem, they’re like thorns as you walk through a garden. Don’t interact with them, and you remain without pain. Focus on them, wonder what happens when they press against flesh, then their prick provokes distress. Playing with each and every thought as it comes into view is an ever-flowing source of dissatisfaction.

Your focus betrays you. If you allow it to wander, you’ll crash. Whereas if you steer your attention in a delightful direction, your experience vastly improves. But be advised: this is not an effortless task because boredom encourages negligence. Thrilling ways lead to exciting days – and the mind seeks drama. This is the other facet of meditation: to become comfortable sans-spectacle.

Quiet the mind, intentionally guide it: you win. Forgo discipline and allow the mind to wander wherever: you lose. One evokes satisfaction, the other suffering. This concept can be tested and proven, faith is not required. Left to its own devices, the mind becomes a bitter pessimist poisoning your experience. But if you invest the effort, the mind may be molded into a cheerful companion that gladdens your days.

Inner World

Here’s a question you should be asking yourself regularly:

What kind of world am I creating within my thoughts? Is it a world in which I’m worried, annoyed, or frustrated? If so, then that’s a dumb habit you need to break. What’s happening in the mind is typically much worse than what’s happening in your actual external experience. Your thoughts devise tragic and dire consequences, haunting you with the worst outcomes imaginable. It’s not protecting you from future possibilities, your mind is straight-up torturing you right now.

Or rather, you’re tormenting yourself. Why? There’s no valid reason, so stop. Instead of creating a dissatisfying world, try thinking of a world in which you feel anticipation for something delightful, think of an amusing world, a world you appreciate, a world in which you experience an overall sense of satisfaction. It’s just thoughts, you can select which ones to dismiss and which ones to focus on.

If the external world burned around you, it wouldn’t matter. Your thoughts can be your refuge. The inner world you create should be an ally – not an enemy. It shouldn’t be used to pile on the pain, but ease your burden. Your thoughts should be your best friend, forever painting scenes to entertain and enchant. If this isn’t the case, then you’re in need of a major adjustment.

These are YOUR thoughts after all. If at any moment you feel upset, you know you’re focusing on unpleasant thoughts. Cease and desist this low-quality hobby – immediately. Perhaps you’re bored and scaring yourself for the excitement-factor. Find something better, something enjoyable. Focusing on unpleasant thoughts is like choosing the hobby of hitting your head with a hammer – it’s dumb, don’t do it.

Start a new hobby. No more creating a world of woe for yourself. For this new hobby, craft a wondrous world of wow. Stop taunting and start treating yourself to the most satisfying thoughts possible. Imagine an honored and beloved guest is coming to visit a world of your making, how would you design such a place? Now allow yourself to be that honored and beloved guest – allow yourself to live in that world.

Going Home

Sitting down for meditation is like placing a bucket full of sloshing water on the floor and waiting until the ripples settle. In other words, you should expect some initial turbulence, some resistance to the calm. But after awhile the tiny waves diminish – unless disturbed by your own hand. Therefore, one must resist the temptation to stir the pot.

Don’t follow thoughts, keep focus on the breath, see the mottled formlessness within closed eyes. Remind yourself of the infinite absolute: “OM”. Say it silently as exhaling. Imagine you’re going home (‘ome), drifting through space, to the origin of all. Step back from physical existence, reset your perspective by visiting a realm of pure potential.

Meditation is the practice of mental discipline. When a thought remains in focus, remind yourself that no thought is more important than the practice of mental discipline – then unfocus from that thought. Something else to consider: meditation is a concentrated form of what should be occurring throughout the day. Actively apply the product of this practice while living within life’s physical form.

When practiced regularly, meditation should improve the everyday experience. It does so by increasing awareness of all those swirling thoughts within the mind. It’s these thoughts that cause so many problems, thus they must be pruned. Meditation enhances the ability to focus and unfocus attention on these thoughts – so when thoughts arise, they can be dismissed. With a clearer, more focused mind, life gets better.

Racing Around

It seems like the most common feeling I experience is “irritation”. Wouldn’t it be better though, if instead of a constant state of annoyance, a more enjoyable sensation dominated my experience? Oh I dunno, maybe something like anticipation, delight, appreciation, and just an overall sense of satisfaction? That seems like a much better approach to life than finding reasons to be upset all the time.

But doesn’t life manipulate your feelings through external stimuli? I’m not so sure about that. Although I believe that life intentionally introduces “surprises”, I think my reaction to those surprises can be steered. Not perfectly controlled, but at least influenced. It seems like my internal attitude makes a significant difference in regards to external stimuli. It’s like driving a car: if you overreact or overcorrect, you’re going to have a bad time. It’s better to stay calm and stay the course.

Gentle turns, soft acceleration, light breaking, maintaining adequate distance – it’s not that difficult. The same goes with the human avatar. If you go nuts, you crash. Why wouldn’t you? Isn’t that obvious? If you get distracted, you miss a turn. Now you’re scrambling to get back to where you were going. There are consequences for being a bad driver – why shouldn’t there be? Gun the engine, strip your gears. Pay attention, or pay the toll.

My point is this: the human avatar is NOT a ride-car that’s safely and securely fastened to a track, whisking your consciousness around a preset stage of audio-animatronic characters programmed for your amusement. Think of this more like a car-driving game in which crashing IS an option. The benefit is that there’s an element of excitement and a greater sense of immersion. The downside is that you have to maintain proper focus at all times – you’re a player not a passenger.

Like in any video-game, there are aspects and cut-scenes that are scripted. For example, a car-driving game has a bunch of race-courses you have to carefully navigate. Games aren’t very open-ended, they provide a lot of structure for a character to follow. This leads to confusion about “free-will” – am I in control or not in control? Basically it’s both. Within the preset parameters of the game, you can control a limited aspect of the character.

What you actually control isn’t quite obvious here. It’s not the avatar directly. Think about “walking” while walking, and you’ll likely stumble. For the avatar to perform effectively, you essentially have to keep your consciousness from trying to micromanage. Like driving a car, you’re just nudging it from time to time, keeping everything steady, staying between the lines while the vehicle does the work rolling down the road.

The destination is already known, it’s the checkered finish-line. Your role is to sit in the driver’s seat with a first-class view, gently influencing the controls. And your primary mode of control is through focus and attitude. Focus on stuff you don’t like and you’ll drive right into it. Have a bad attitude while rip-roaring down the road, and you’ll likely crash. It’s a direct correlation, just simple arithmetic, nothing complicated.

Therefore, if the most common sensation you experience is “irritation”, then we can deduce that you’re not applying enough consideration to your role as driver. You’re likely just sitting there, gazing out the window as the side of your vehicle scrapes against the guardrail and the worn-out windshield wipers drag across dry glass. “Boy I wonder what all that noise is? It sure is annoying!”

Striving to Serenity

In order to successfully traverse life, it seems that one must strive to soften over time. Like a stone that’s weathered and smoothed by the elements, a person should likewise allow his rough spots to be ground-down by the buffeting circumstances of life.

When irritation strikes, you shouldn’t see it as an opportunity to cement your opposing position, you should drop the thought that’s triggered. In other words: that collection of contrarian opinions isn’t something you should maintain. They’re not “you”, they’re just a bunch of dumb ideas you collected. Situations that activate your sense-of-annoyance are helping you to notice these dumb ideas – your task is to dismiss them.

For example: “Ugh, cheesecake for dessert!? I hate cheesecake! Why can’t they just have cake-cake!!” This becomes: “Cheesecake? You little scamp! Cream-cheese in the form of a pie, masquerading as cake! Ha, you’re a silly one. But it’s great that people enjoy you. Well, I’m full from my entree anyway. I’ll be satisfied seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces as they consume you!”

Basically, life should be lived lightheartedly. The active practice of life consists of doing what you’re inspired to do – but in the calmest manner possible. As Jesus stated: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Some translations use the more familiar word “gentle” in place of “meek”).

Sources of irritation themselves aren’t supposed to be removed. These are simply signs alerting you to calm down. Obstacles aren’t the actual obstacle. Or more confusingly: the feeling that an obstacle is an obstacle is the obstacle you need to surmount. In other words, don’t seek to destroy annoyances, seek a state of non-annoyance (i.e. acceptance). Despite the raging inferno that surrounds, be okay with the unfolding events: “This is fine.”

The choice is this: fight a losing battle all the way to the end OR practice unconditional acceptance of everything you encounter. Think of it this way: you’re a block of stone being carved into a beautiful work-of-art by life’s circumstances. You can fight against the artist and refuse to be shaped into something nice – OR you can accept the hammer & chisel blows, allowing the process to happen, letting the rough stone fall-off, revealing the stately statue within.

Avoiding Angst

Wait, so life is like a “Try not to laugh challenge” but it’s a “Try not to get upset challenge?”

It seems so, yes. You can do what’s called-for in the moment, but you can’t overreact or obsess on the situation. Play your part, but don’t get lost. You can end up going backwards if you don’t maintain your focus. Do make the effort though: you’ll keep attempting to complete this challenge life-after-life if need be. And be warned: your progress (or lack there of) follows you into the next.

You should also realize that there are forces deliberately thwarting your attempt to accomplish this challenge. But every game has obstacles and opponents to overcome, right? So no big deal. In this game it’s things like anger, lethargy, confusion, craving, selfishness, and even beauty. These influences try to tie you to this world so you’ll feel invested – making you easy to upset.

Let me provide some scenarios with a couple different approaches (purely fictional, for demonstrative purposes only):

Life: “Hey Rich, your dog just died.”
Bad: “Curse this world!! Why do you taunt me so!? To give me love, only to snatch it away! Will this unyielding cruelty ever end!?”
Better: “Aw man (sniffle). Well, I appreciate the time we had together.”

Life: “Hey Rich, what do you want to do today?”
Bad: “Meh, nothing. Everything sucks, why bother.”
Better: “Hm, good question! I’m sure there’s something interesting I can find!”

Life: “Hey Rich, check this out, kinda neat right?”
Bad: “I NEED THAT NOW!!! GIMME!! I shall not rest even a moment until it is in my possession!”
Better: “Oh wow, that’s amazing. Might even be cool to have, but I’m fine either way.”

Life: “Hey Rich, I heard that guy called you a jerk.”
Bad: “WHAT!? I hope he fails at life. Should it ever be in my power to do so, I will personally smite him.”
Better: “Ha, whatever, can’t hear the haters! Although, maybe I can improve my interactions with others.”

Life: “Hey Rich, the cake’s all gone!”
Bad: “WHO ATE MY CAKE!!?? That was MY cake! I’ll remember this!”
Better: “Ah okay, well it WAS tasty!”

In a sense, strive to be mellow. It may seem like a strange objective – but really, what else can a person truly control in life? It’s attitude and focus. Maintaining awareness and constant course-correction aren’t easy tasks by-the-way. But this is the vehicle we have, and this is the mechanism by which we steer. Think about driving an actual car: stay within the lane, maintain appropriate speed, avoid obstacles, and don’t overreact. In both situations, calm behavior gets you to your destination.

Three Threads

The Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 14) clearly establishes that one’s eternal essence is bound by certain forces that influence its earthly experience. Being born into this world, the spirit is entwined and anchored by these forces. It is the earth-dweller’s task to unbind its non-physical portion from these influences in order to rejoin the spiritual-whole from which it came. Failing to do so in one lifetime will simply result in another opportunity within another lifespan – and so on.

A question that arises is: why does a supreme-being confine a fraction of itself within an embodied-being and then expect that spiritual-portion to find its way back? In a sense, it’s an “Escape Room” scenario in which the spirit must collect clues and solve puzzles in order to find its way out. Additionally, the spirit must first discern that it’s trapped to begin with. Perhaps this entrapment is simply the byproduct of an overthinking celestial entity.

Whatever the reason, the spirit must untangle itself from the threads that bind it. How? By becoming smooth and friction-free. Imagine a rough non-slip surface that catches on everything it touches – it’s stuck. Now imagine a smooth surface that slides easily through life. By not allowing itself to become wrapped-up in the narrative, the spirit can glide through life and find its way back to the origin. Essentially, the conscious mind has to lighten-up and relax.

By perceiving life lightheartedly, one travels an enlightened path. Imagine the undisciplined mind as Velcro’s tiny hooks persistently grasping at every loop the world offers. Now imagine a disciplined mind as being sleek and hookless, no longer grabbing those loops. The loops are there, but the disciplined mind doesn’t keep getting stuck, it’s free of attachment. The world still turns, but its weight no longer rests on the spirit’s shoulder.

So the goal is this: to experience existence without getting upset. And the tools to do this are awareness, attitude, focus, and interpretation. Maintain awareness of attitude and focus. Actively improve attitude and shift focus to non-distressing topics. Seek and sustain an enjoyable interpretation of life. By engaging in this practice, the spirit can overcome its entanglement and return to a place of peace.

Theory of Existence

The primary objective of the perceptible world is to attract and hold the attention of inhabitants (i.e. to captivate its audience). It will do this even at the expense of personal comfort (i.e. expect to be thrilled more than soothed). As part of this, “surprise” is an inherent aspect of the narrative. Outcomes are purposefully uncertain in order to maximize an attention-grabbing effect (i.e. intermittent reward).

Life isn’t random, the path is tuned to the traits of the character. Additionally, the tone of the narrative is directly affected by the character’s focus and attitude. The prevailing theme of one’s life tends to adhere to wherever the attention is focused and the particular attitude that’s maintained. For example, a lighthearted outlook tends to encourage sitcom-style situations whereas a dour outlook tends to evoke sad or dramatic circumstances.

If an inhabitant doesn’t specifically select a topic through focus, life will select something stimulating. This automatic process can lead to undesirable circumstances. Therefore, it’s advisable to intentionally select a topic of interest to focus on, and to deliberately maintain a positive attitude. Letting the mind wander to “wherever” will tend to increase the intensity of one’s experience while decreasing contentment.

Achievement and attainment of physical-world objects and objectives represents a one-time finish-line, not an end to dissatisfaction itself. Winning one game simply leads to another, and so on. When participating in a game, winning a prize feels crucial, but this sensation quickly fades upon the game’s conclusion. Do participate in games believed to achieve a desired result – but appreciate the activity itself as an amusing way to spend time, and realize outcomes are uncertain by design and essentially unimportant.

Existence Notes

Because I can imagine significantly superior scenarios compared to the actual situations I experience everyday, I can determine that this world does not maximize for my short-term delight. Therefore, it would be futile for me to focus on such things. I can also reasonably deduce that “surprise” is an inherent part of this world. Like any well-written narrative, the reader never knows what’s next.

Applying these assumptions to the question “How do I get what I want?”, results in an answer of “uncertainty”. But at least this answers the second question: “Why don’t I always get what I want?”. In short, life will always leave you guessing. Does this aspect support the notion of random-chance? No, because “randomness” implies outcomes that are too far from the storyline and “chance” implies a probability (which uncertainty denies).

That leads to the question: “If uncertainty is certain, should I even try to achieve a goal?”. Sports and games are the embodiment of this question. Games by their nature are fun and futile – you invest your time and effort into the game’s premise, then lament or celebrate depending on the outcome (an outcome that is completely meaningless outside of the game). So, should you attempt a goal? Yes, it’s a game and games are fun because of their uncertainty.

Relatedly: the things you want, most likely represent a finish-line more than a cure for dissatisfaction. In other words, you will not achieve a lasting fulfillment from the attainment of anything in particular. If you win one game, you simply play another, and so on. When you’re participating in a game, winning a prize feels vitally important, but this sensation quickly fades upon the game’s conclusion (with a proper attitude of course).

Based on all this, let’s see what we can apply to a theory of existence. Perhaps life is like a role-playing game in which a character stumbles through an outlandish narrative. This narrative is not random, it’s tuned to the traits of the character. Outcomes are purposefully uncertain in order to maximize an attention-grabbing effect. Life seems to prioritize captivation of its audience above all else – even sacrificing a character’s comfort to achieve this end.

Lastly: attitude matters. The prevailing theme of one’s life tends to adhere to one’s attitude. For example, a lighthearted outlook tends to encourage sitcom-style situations whereas a dour outlook tends to invoke sad or tragic circumstances.