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.

Bad Days

I’m pretty sure “bad days” are a real phenomenon. There have been days in which I feel good, like I’ve got things figured out, like everything’s going to be better than okay – like I’m a winner. Then all of a sudden, I’m sucker-punched in the gut, doubled-over and questioning my entire existence and hating everything this wretched-world has to offer.

Then things kinda go back to normal and I follow my usual daily routine. I’m not sure if those bad days typically follow the days in which I feel like a winner – or are they just randomly interspersed. Is it a normalization process in which my ultra-positive attitude is brought back down? Or simply some bit of chaos mixed into an otherwise boring routine?

It’s like having a nightmare. Hm, well if life is a dream, then having some nightmarish days makes sense I suppose. Although I wonder if I encourage them, or do they appear randomly. It’s really easy to get lost in the narrative of a bad day too. I suppose I should try to recognize those days as soon as possible and do something about it. Hm, but what – especially when my energy feels so drained.

Maybe bad days aren’t so bad? Maybe they’re just days filled with potentiality – swirling with chaotic creativity, providing a chance to switch things up, an opportunity to step off of a dull habit-formed path. Hm, maybe. Well, on a bad day I suppose I shouldn’t attempt to follow my typical daily routine – maybe that’s why I lack the energy to do so.

Since everything is harder, it only leads to frustration, so maybe I should try something new? Instead of: “Oh boy, it’s going to be a real struggle to get through today. Nothing I usually do is working, it’s like failure around every corner.” It becomes: “Oh wow, it’s a day of chaotic creativity! I shouldn’t expect my usual approach to work today. Therefore, I should refrain from my typical routine and try something different!”

Floundering Finish

Think of it this way: life isn’t supposed to be a straight line. The screw-ups are part of the path. If you’ve ever sat on the bowl with the sun beaming in, a brownie slithering out while you catch a whiff and retch from the stench – you know life isn’t a serious place. It’s a joke and your mortal frame is the punchline. Making it from point A to B isn’t the point – point B doesn’t matter, it’s simply an excuse for the slapstick in-between.

Think of what Captain Picard said to Data: “It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness. That is life.” In other words, failure is part of the deal. Why? If you’ve ever seen any movie or TV show, you’d see flawed characters stumbling through life, fools attempting tasks beyond their reach. Yet from time to time these goofballs actually achieve something – an absurdity that proves humorous. Off-kilter narratives are the threads with which existence is woven together.

Like those characters on screen, your life is a not-so-serious narrative in which a dummy wanders amongst other dummies, all attempting absurd activities in which nothing of note is accomplished. It’s a joke: laugh. To witness life pass by and never smile is a heinous act. It’d be a setup that goes unappreciated. Silence lingering long after the punchline is delivered, just waiting for your laugh – but you sit stone-faced, unmoved by the attempt.

But that’s not how it should be, you should be grinning and giggling the entire time, ready to roll on the floor in complete appreciation of the ongoing hilarity. Remember: getting from one point to another doesn’t matter – it’s the laughter along the way that counts. Who cares how the movie ends, when it’s over it’s over – you should be focusing on the gags in the current scene, those are the parts that incite delight. In other words: keep your attention on the flick in front of you, stop wandering around the lobby, cease thinking about other things. And keep this in mind: the most entertaining adventures are those in which the protagonist flounders to the finish.

Cake Life

If you add nasty ingredients, you’re going to make a nasty cake – right? Frustration, bitterness, suspicion, disgust, jealousy, fear, rage, pessimism – these types of ingredients would make for a nasty life. A great life requires great ingredients. When mixing up a cake, you don’t throw whatever’s in the pantry into the cake – right? Some oregano, strawberry jelly, and a can of beans? No, you only include the required ingredients for deliciousness, such as flour and sugar.

Ingredients to life are added through focus. For example, if I arrive at a surprise party, I can focus on the fact that my family tricked me and betrayed my trust as they jumped out of the darkness to scare me. How dare they! Or, I can focus on the effort and thoughtfulness that must’ve went into planning the party and maintaining the element of surprise. Wow, what a great family!

Life’s ingredients are added every moment of the day. A pleasant experience is created when we focus on aspects of life that amuse and delight. Whereas a thrilling high-intensity experience is crafted by focusing on aspects that evoke fright. The recipes are pretty simple: for something sweet, find the fun – for something bitter, focus on the most unpleasant facets you can find.

Life is whatever you focus on. Focus on struggle and strain and all the failures you’ve had? Life is hard and you’re a loser! Focus on the great things you’ve done and all you’ll eventually accomplish? The world is full of opportunities and you’re its champion! Your focus determines the world you experience. Focus on filth, then everything’ll be dirty. Focus on ducks, you’re going to see a lot of ducks. So why not focus on the things you enjoy most. (One caveat: don’t focus on the LACK of things you want. Proper focus should always evoke pleasant feelings.)

Add the Opposite

Adding a negative number to a negative number makes it even more negative. Whereas adding a positive number to a negative number makes it less negative (or positive if big enough). Likewise, adding positivity to your situation incrementally improves it. But if you’ve stockpiled a lot of negativity over the years, you’ll have a lot to make up for. You’ll have to add in a lot of positivity to get on the positive side of life.

Can’t you just discard the stockpiled negativity? Maybe. A lot of it’s stored in memories. To dump memories, simply ignore them when they surface and stop actively recalling them. Memories are reinforced through repeated recall – stop recalling them, and they fade.

Rule number one of positivity: DON’T FIGHT AGAINST THE WORLD. Don’t battle, struggle, resist, argue… nothing. The world is literally THE WORLD, you won’t win. If the world wanted you dead, you’d be dead. In fact, the world guarantees you’ll die at some point, it’s a promise. So don’t attempt to defend yourself from the world, the world is what sustains you – it keeps you alive.

Therefore, your efforts should not be spent in defensive strategies, your energy should be directed towards the cultivation of calm. You must restrain any tendency for aggression, stop criticism, and arrest anxiety. In short, you should spend your time focusing on what’s good instead of what’s bad. This is no easy task by the way, it takes significant dedication and effort.

As is written: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” But the keys to the kingdom are not simply handed over. No my friend, there’s a quest of course! There are traps galore, all set with bait to lure you into negativity. Resist these invitations! Whenever controversy stirs you to anger, resist! Whenever fear takes you by the hand, resist! Whenever suspicion sticks you to woven webs of delusion, resist!

To obtain your kingdom, this is the algorithm you seek: become gentle in thought, word, and deed.

Laundry List

What do I want? Hmm, let’s see… I want a mind that’s witty, and appreciative, and one that amuses itself in the most wholesome of ways. I want a fit and sturdy body that effortlessly sails through its environment, providing nothing but joy. I want to spend the perfect amount of time with companions, the right amount to feel fulfilled in our relationships (my companions should otherwise be engaged in their own fulfilling endeavors). I want to pursue treasured pastimes in which I engage with particular facets of the world, developing mastery in my craft. I want to lose myself in lighthearted stories, entertainment that captivates and delights. I want a forever-home, one in which I feel at-ease, comforted, satisfied, a place that facilitates a good night’s rest. I want to buy, collect, and upgrade trinkets aplenty, filling my space with all sorts of gadgets, tools, toys, and other artifacts of this world.

I don’t think it’s too much to ask. I live in a simulated world after-all: coordinates update, pixels change color, and subroutines get rewritten.

If it’s just a simulation, why don’t I have these things already? Simply due to the lack of mental discipline! When I entered this realm, my mind thrashed about, suspicious and afraid, I focused on the worst things I could think of. But it’s my job to bring these turbulent thoughts under control, yet I was ignorant and/or negligent in doing so.

So here I am now, wishing for things in Wonderland – a silly thing to do of course. But that is precisely why it’s the only plausible course of action. The more frivolous, the better! When you try to be serious or logical in Wonderland, you guarantee yourself a very bad time indeed. And it just so happens to be MY unbirthday today too! How very wonderful!

Trees versus Thoughts

From one perspective, I’m simply sitting here gazing out the window at the tree-line in the distance, the rising sun’s rays adding gold to the green against the light-blue sky. But from another perspective, my mind rages as waves against a rocky coast, smashing thoughts into focus. And not high-quality thoughts filled with nourishment and delight, but dank and disagreeable ones unworthy of attention.

Why do toxic thoughts incessantly pollute my experience of existence? The only answer I’ve surmised is that it’s due to a lack of mental discipline. In other words, I allow it to happen like a negligent caretaker. My mind is a puppy needing to poop: without guidance, he poops where he pleases, leaving undesirable piles to step in. But with diligent observation and some encouragement, those poops can be properly directed.

Apparently though, I’m a VERY lazy caretaker. I’d rather trudge through the muck than spend any effort avoiding its accumulation. Or, perhaps mischievous forces are injecting obstacles onto my path. Either I’m to blame for my own misery, or I’m a hapless victim struggling against a wicked foe. Experience tells me that victimhood is a sorry state to cultivate, so that means I must settle for being indolent and irresponsible.

So here I am, perpetually pushing a rock uphill. But in my case, it’s the perpetual application of mental discipline. Simple realization has never been enough, I must actively adjust my focus away from the unsatisfying and toward the fulfilling. I must keep myself from constantly criticizing and steer towards appreciation. I so often let go of the wheel, allowing my mind to wander into the gritty gunk that leads to unpleasantness. Oh well, brush it off and go again.

Relative Discontent

I think one of the most difficult aspects of existence is the “sliding scale of dissatisfaction”. No matter how much life improves, there’s always a “worst”. Even if I eat like a king every night of the week, one of those days contains my least favorite meal. Even if I feel great most of the year, a day in which I have a headache feels like the worst day ever. This phenomenon demonstrates that external improvement can NOT lead to satisfaction.

It is ONLY by the cultivation and practice of “appreciation” that one can get anywhere near the realm of contentment. It’s an internal process utilizing mental discipline. It requires an awareness of focus and the application of effort to maintain focus on high-quality subject-matter. “This is the worst meal I had all week!” becomes “This is the seventh greatest meal I had all week! I’m so grateful to have a variety of foods to consume. Varying meals makes my experience better!”

Rating and comparing are dangerous activities rife with nastiness. When you play stupid games, you win stupid prizes – ultimately leading to dissatisfaction. Don’t like something? Don’t think about it. Like something? Appreciate it sans-comparison. Something is good for its inherent qualities, not because it’s better than something else. And again: if you can’t find an aspect you like, focus on something you DO like – even if it’s a fanciful fairytale in which everything goes your way.

Discontentment flourishes from comparison and criticism. “This is better than that! She’s better than me! This is the worst! I want the best! My expectations aren’t met!” Utilize mental discipline to cease comparison and criticism – stop encouraging such unpleasantness. Stop comparing to an idealized image. Encourage appreciation instead, place focus on what pleases and delights – things that invoke smiles and laughter, activities that inspire feelings of accomplishment.

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.