Repetitious Fulfillment

If you analyze life, you’ll be struck by the mundane repetition involved.

“So I just do the same thing, over and over and over again?”
“Yes, that’s right. But don’t worry, an inherent forgetfulness will make things seem fresher than they are.”

Take cooking for instance. Chop. Chop again. Chop some more. Chop, chop, chop!! Just constant chopping day after day and that’s only ONE repetitive aspect of cooking — there are many. As you analyze anything, repetition appears everywhere.

That’s life. You shouldn’t attempt to run from it, or shortcut it — but embrace it. As an aficionado of efficiency, all that repetition feels wrong to me. Yet in my own life, I’m seeing that I’ve been repetitively writing about enlightenment for seven years here.

The SAME stuff over and over too. How very inefficient. I even chastise myself for it: “Write it ONCE!!” But why? Why not write it a thousand times — some times in a subtly altered way, other times in a drastically different way. But essentially the same.

I’ve already written about repetition too!! I know I have. I just can’t remember the details. And so it goes, I’ll write a “fresh” entry in regards to repetition today. So the question becomes: do I ever get any closer to a goal?

Maybe not. Does a cook ever create a meal to end all meals? No. Despite the herculean effort involved, the cook gets right back to work the next day in order to satisfy an insatiable appetite for more food.

So by walking the path to enlightenment, do I ever get even one step closer? Maybe not. Perhaps I’ll remain perpetually dissatisfied, forever heading toward the distant light. But what’s so wrong with that?

An empty stomach is so satisfying to fill, isn’t it? Yet it’s only temporary and begins again the very next day. In a similar way, an unenlightened mind is satisfying to illuminate, isn’t it? Yet it’s only temporary and begins again the very next day.

By the power of repetition and forgetfulness, you’re provided the opportunity to relive the greatest aspects of life on a regular basis! And you actually scorn this predicament!? A foolish perspective indeed.

Don’t forget that the most efficient way to live life is to go straight to death. And a permanently satisfied stomach would be a curse, not a blessing. So don’t seek to live efficiently, but seek to savor the repetition, soaking in the same delights again and again.

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Intermittent Insight

If I look back at the posts in this blog, I can easily see that I repeat the same ideas over and over and over again. That’s a testament to the fact that we’re not able to retain the things we learn. Any realizations are quickly overwritten by incoming thoughts. I come to the same conclusions every few weeks it seems, and it feels like a new revelation each time. Oftentimes I’ll read past-entries in this blog and think: “Wow! How enlightening! I get it now!”

I’ve yet to find an effective way of maintaining these ideas in the forefront of my thoughts. For example, if you keep seeing the same thing again and again, eventually it becomes part of the scenery — lost to the background. Although nowadays, it probably takes me less time and effort to arrive at the same conclusions — so at least some progress seems to be happening. But progress to where? The realization that life is a friendly place, and that my unfocused thoughts are the cause of my dissatisfaction?

That seems like an odd destination, yet it’s one I’ve been traveling to for half a lifetime. As an illustration, it’s like I’ve been thrown into a dark and creepy room filled with psychotic people grabbing at me while I’m blinded by flashing lights and overwhelmed by strange sounds — but it turns out, I’m simply at a dance-party in which everyone is kindly trying to include me in their fun. From that perspective, I can grasp that my misunderstanding and my bad attitude are the underlying cause of my discomfort.

But as pessimistic thoughts pour in, I can’t simply retain the realization that life is a party. The intensity of existence is just too high and I frequently fall back into a state of dissatisfaction. And at least for my abilities, the difficulty level seems a bit too high. The endeavors I attempt all seem to go nowhere despite the time and effort I invest. In other words, everyday is day one. Like in the movie Groundhog Day, I seem destined to relive the exact same problems over and over and over again.

Speaking of that movie, this is an excerpt from my analysis of it:

When Phil clung to the legacy of his past, he tried to use people for short-term gain — ultimately leading to boredom when there was nothing left to attain. And when he was feeling trapped by a futureless path, Phil couldn’t enjoy the physical world anymore and eventually sunk into suicidal despair.

But by shedding the past and future, focusing only on the instant he was experiencing, Phil was able to find the fun. Despite constant repetition and guaranteed predictability, Phil extracted enjoyment from wherever he could. Within infinity, I don’t believe constant improvement is the point — the point was to develop a means to enjoy the moment.

And once he was able to appreciate the present, there was nothing holding back happiness. Even if he had sat in a park feeding pigeons, I think his loop would’ve ended — it was more about the mindset rather than good-deeds. Because again, within eternity, self-improvement and knocking-off the rough-edges can only go-on for so long until you become a polished sphere.

End of excerpt.

So like Phil, it seems like I’m also required to go through incremental improvement at an uncomfortably slow pace. When I was younger and heard about the concept of enlightenment, I always envisioned an instantaneous flash of infinite insight. But perhaps it’s more of a gradual polishing. Day after day, we rub a bit of the roughness away, eventually producing a shinier surface from which light can reflect. Why so slow? Why not — where else do you have to be?

Seven Years

Oh. Ha. Okay I think I get it. Today is the 7-year anniversary of the very first post on this blog. SEVEN YEARS!!! I’m not excited, I’m amazed at my ineptitude.

Instead of actually disciplining my mind, I’ve been writing about disciplining my mind. I mean yes, I’ve improved, but more by osmosis rather than direct effort — that seems terribly inefficient. Had I directly applied myself to the task of mental discipline, I probably would’ve had better results.

My friend was just saying to me: I’m procrastinating instead of doing the work I need to do. And then it hit me: I’M procrastinating instead of doing the work I need to do!! For SEVEN YEARS no less!!! I should really stop procrastinating and DO the work.

Like the Dhammapada says:

As a fletcher makes straight his arrow, a wise man makes straight his trembling and unsteady thought. It is good to tame the mind, which is difficult to hold-in and flighty, rushing wherever it listeth; a tamed mind brings happiness. Whatever an enemy may do to an enemy, a wrongly-directed mind will do us greater mischief. Not a mother, not a father will do so much; a well-directed mind will do us greater service.

And so THAT’S what I should be doing with my time and effort: disciplining my mind. Therefore, I hereby declare by the powers vested in me by the state of consciousness, that I do solemnly swear to perform such tasks and fulfill said duties that directly lead to a disciplined mind. I shall henceforth engage in adequate activities that indubitably achieve the desired result of calm and steady thought. Furthermore, this pursuit will most assuredly provide receipts for ensured compliance.
— Faithfully and most ernestly yours, Rich.

Standing Guard

Do you agree that thoughts form the foundation of the life you experience?

Yes! Most assuredly!

And in order to have the best life possible, you must tend to your mental garden? Negative thoughts must be plucked like weeds and positive thoughts must be planted like seeds?

Of course! How else can the mind grow into a delightful space!?

So let me ask you this, how much time during the day do you spend at this task?

Uh, say wha now? Oh, um, a few minutes per day perhaps.

Ah, well with that, I believe we found the underlying reason as to why you can’t sleep at night. Because you already sleep all day! You’re constantly running on autopilot, shirking your gardening duties and letting everything in your mind run amok! There’s weeds everywhere!

Listen: to be “awakened” literally means to be awake and aware of what’s happening throughout the day. You can’t let yourself fall into autopilot all day long. You actually need to do some work to achieve a well-groomed mind. And that work is this: don’t allow negative thoughts to take root, pull them whenever you find them. You’ll have to regularly scan through your mental-garden to know they’re there.

I know it seems like a burden for you to put effort into something, but that’s the trade-off. You get a beautiful joy-filled garden if you cultivate and maintain it, whereas you get an overgrown litter-box if you allow it to go wild. You must remain present throughout the day and be aware of what’s going on in your mind. You can’t just “checkout” and let “whatever” happen.

You’re always like “blah blah, I don’t have any goals or purpose, blah”. THIS is your purpose!!! Garden! Actually DO IT! The message has been repeated before your very eyes ONE-THOUSAND TIMES over the course of your life. Now DO IT! There is no drawback to this. Yes it seems like “a lotta hassle” but the payoff is a thousand times better than not doing it. Just stay awake and aware throughout the day, that’s it!

Spiritual Sensei

Without control of your thoughts, you’re lost. Your turbulent mind is going to take you on a wild ride that you won’t soon forget. If you can’t shut your thoughts down or can’t differentiate between worthwhile ones and worthless ones, you’re going to have a hard time. If you think you can handle that level of difficulty, which maybe you can, have fun. But for those of you having an unpleasant time with existence, there’s a less intense route through this funhouse.

It’s called spirituality. The purpose of spirituality is to ease your journey through life — that’s it. Spirituality is a way of looking at the world that allows you to comfortably navigate through it. You CAN look at life as a struggle, and it’ll be every bit as hard as you imagine. But you CAN look at life as an enjoyable adventure, and it will be.

“But Sensei Rich, reality is what it is, life is cruel and hard, I’ve seen it!”

Then why are some people having a great time? Reality is relative or else everyone would be having a tough time. Everyone has obstacles, yes, but the difference is that they enjoy the experience. They see the game-like nature of life and have fun while completing the provided challenges. But it’s even better than that, once you get in the right frame of mind, you get to pick the problems you want to solve.

And this ability to appreciate life begins with spirituality. Step one, is to get your thoughts under control. Step two, is to redefine reality into something you can handle. Step three, is to enjoy. Not so bad right? Then what are you waiting for? Your options are these: keep doing what you’re doing and continue having a rough time OR pursue spirituality and start having a great time. Seems like an easy choice, yes?

Antagonistic Ambivalence

I suppose one drawback to a spiritually enlightened lifestyle is that there are no more villains. I can’t blame my parents. I can’t blame society. I can’t blame historic circumstances. I can’t blame the political structure. I can’t blame some bully from the past. I can’t blame life, the universe, or even a higher-power. The only source-of-woe I can ever blame is me.

That obviously kills all the fun/interesting narratives in which I must struggle against an oppressive power that’s trying to keep me down. From a spiritually enlightened perspective, the only thing putting limits on me, is me. BORING. But that doesn’t mean my foe is weak or takes it easy on me. Oh no, he’s a tough ol’ bastard that keeps the pressure on.

And being both giver and receiver leaves me with no room to rest — no chance to shift the blame to some bystander so I can take a breather. Did that person just insult me?! Oh, I suppose I manifested external turbulence due to my lack-of-presence — and perhaps I interpreted the scene aggressively because I was internally unbalanced. Oh well, I suppose I better try harder and work on my presence. BORING.

I mean eventually, after all this presence practice, what will I be left with? A calm demeanor and reasonable reactions?! BORING. I guess at that point I’ll have stopped resisting life and given in to enjoying life instead. Maybe that won’t be so boring. And I guess it is a bit silly to keep trying to manufacture enemies to fight against. Note to self: Not all stories require villains ya know! Sheesh!

Now – Condensed Summary

This is my summarized interpretation of the book The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle.

Enlightenment is: the enduring enjoyment of existence. The only obstacle to this serene state is the thinking-mechanism of the mind and its unremitting rumination. The thinking-mechanism just blathers on about life, shouting its constant commentary and criticisms while predicting dire doom. The thinking-mechanism is the terrorizer within, the source of all your problems.

You must strive to disassociate with this fiend. Those are no longer your thoughts, they’re just concoctions of conjecture floating by, worthless byproducts of the creative mind. As thoughts are no longer invited into your mental abode, a silence develops within that space. And the more often you shut the door on these unwelcome solicitations, the more this silence grows into serenity.

As the space between thoughts increases, your degree of consciousness increases. You’re currently driven by an unconscious addiction to the thinking-mechanism, a problem that won’t end without intervention. Thoughts are not who you are, they’re a diversion from who you are, resulting in an existential dissatisfaction.

Your true self exists in this moment only — that’s it. Your consciousness is simply trying to experience existence, but the thinking-mechanism is polluting the process and preventing this from happening. Your goal is to allow the consciousness to experience life without intrusive thoughts getting in the way (allowing you to enjoy existence).

Thoughts paint dour pictures of a woebegone past and a pessimistic future, slandering the actual experience of existence. Silencing these thoughts will drastically improve your experience.

Existence is happening right-now. Memories from the past or projections into the future aren’t actually happening when they’re envisioned in the mind — they’re concoctions of the thinking-mechanism. Staying in the present is the doorway to enlightenment — it’s the middle-way that must be maintained while abstaining from past and future musings that act as exits.

Just noticing that you’re not present, brings you into the present. Observe thoughts, feelings, and your reactions. Experience them, but don’t get lost to them. The primary object of attention should be right-now. Right-now is all there is, it’s the only reality you can actually engage with. By definition, the past no longer exists and the future hasn’t happened.

If you’re counting on circumstances in the future to make you happy, you’re doing it wrong. The condition of your consciousness right-now is what forges the future. So the way in which you improve your future is by improving your present, and the way to improve your present is to increase your awareness of it.

If you can’t enjoy right-now, you won’t be able to enjoy the future, no matter what the circumstances. The feeling of unfulfillment will follow you wherever you go. Waiting is a poor practice, avoid it — appreciate right-now instead. If you’re acknowledging the present, you won’t need to wait, you’ll have the greatness that’s in this moment.

Presence isn’t something you can think about, it’s the opposite of thinking, it’s the state of full-awareness of right-now. Be a predator whose prey is thoughts. When thoughts are allowed to flow freely, they’ll take you on a reckless ride downstream into unconsciousness. Keep your focus on right-now and you can’t get lost in thought.

How can you experience existence from an unconscious state? Obviously the ideal way to experience existence is from a conscious state while fully aware of what’s happening in front of you. If you’re too busy thinking about perceived problems, concocted pasts, and speculated futures, how can you appreciate actual life? Focus on experiencing; skip the commentary.

One method for increasing consciousness is by transfering focus away from the mind and into the body.

Here’s some practice: Focus on your fingers and notice the sensation, a slight pressure or tingling or just the feeling that they’re there. Then move up the arms and into the head then the chest and around the body all the way down to your feet. Feel the sensation individually and then as a whole, pervading the entire body — focus on this sensation.

While going about your normal activities, maintain some awareness of the aliveness/energy feeling pervading the entire body. Focus on the task at hand but widen your scope to include the sensation within the body as well. And when not doing anything in particular, instead of getting lost in thought, focus on that aliveness/energy feeling within.

Whenever you start losing yourself to an alleged problem, go into the body. By focusing on an inner sensation, your focus leaves the thinking-mechanism of the mind. Focus on a single part of the body, feel it, notice the sensation, it’s there and you’re aware of it. Do this for every part of your body. Once you’ve gone through them one by one, start at the bottom and move up the body like a scanner, from toes to head and back down again. Then, concentrate on the sensation of the entire inner body at once — focus and feel it. If focusing within the body is tough, start with breathing. Observe the breath: in… out… in… out….

Remember that meditation is the practice of not-thinking. And this practice shouldn’t be limited to the duration of each session. While outside of meditation, continue guarding against the thinking-mechanism of the mind and continue feeling the inner sensation of the body.

You want to develop a connection to a deeper you. There are a few methods for maintaining this connection. One is through an awareness of the energetic-sensation within the body. Another method is by literally focusing on right-now — through the conscious experience of everyday activities. Another method is through the purposeful suppression of thought — maintaining gaps between mental commentary. And another method is by surrendering to life and whatever it is you’re resisting.

Then once this connection is well-established, it becomes a portal for love to flow through — this is the bliss and elation that comes with living in the now.

Satisfaction with life is a state that’s achievable right-now. Waiting for a particular circumstance or condition to occur only takes you further away from fulfillment. If you chase external modes of satisfaction, you’ll remain on a perpetual treadmill of dissatisfaction. Satisfaction is an internal state, a state without fear or lack, a state without worry or neediness, a state unencumbered by negative thought.

You’ll know you’re not enlightened if you’re not radiating love and joy — or if you quickly lose composure when tested by life’s obstacles. And the best use of these obstacles is as reminders and opportunities to enter right-now — as beacons to become aware and witness, to surrender to life unfolding.

From a broader perspective, situations and circumstances cannot be considered good or bad — they just are. And your goal, is to attain this perspective. To be at peace, you forgive and you accept every moment. You let the past dissipate to allow the present to flow in unhindered.

If you consciously accept everything as it is, the drama ends, there’s literally nothing to fight against. Drama is caused by resistance, and if you don’t resist, there’s no conflict. Let life happen, practice acceptance, watch without judgement or opposition as you go up and down and all around.

The thinking-mechanism of the mind believes that complaints can force the world into compliance. In other words, it can get what it wants through criticism — by pointing out everything wrong with the world, sharp and undesirable edges will be chipped away. But this is an incorrect assumption of the mind — a more effective path is to avoid negativity.

The only valid use for negativity is as a reminder to become present. Just like an alarm, irritation can serve to jar you awake. You cannot solve your dissatisfaction with life by pouting and complaining, by resisting it. You must allow situations and circumstances to pass right through you. With this power of transparency, you cannot be ensnared.

Should you approach the experience of existence distrustfully, constantly on-guard, waiting for the doom-hammer to fall, belligerently opposing everything that comes your way? Or, should you willingly allow the experience to unfold before you, surrendering yourself to existence?

Surrendering to the experience of existence is not the same thing as giving up. Surrendering in this context essentially means approaching life with a good attitude — with acceptance and appreciation. You can do what you want as long as it comes from a positive place whereas you’ll want to avoid acting out of fear or anger from a bad attitude.

Whenever you notice that you’re in an unpleasant situation, you can use the power of surrender to turn things around. Essentially, you’re saying, “I’m okay with this! Let’s do it!” And with that attitude adjustment, everything from that moment forward improves — you’ve positively altered your future.

Your choice is this: resist life with a bad attitude or surrender to it by maintaining a good attitude. When you interact with the world while maintaining a bad attitude, you’re going to have a bad time as you denigrate and disparage everything in your path, you’re going to attack and defend as you navigate an imagined minefield.

Of course the world looks horrible when you have a horrible outlook. But have an awesome outlook, and the world seems suddenly better. There is no problem “out there” — your lack of consciousness is the problem. The thinking-mechanism of the mind is taking you on a wild ride through the rapids — and consciousness allows you to rise above this self-induced turbulence.

The thinking-mechanism of the mind is the origin of your resistance and bad-attitude. Surrendering, i.e. adopting a positive attitude of absolute acceptance, removes the authority of the mind, stripping it of its self-appointed leadership position. You can continue suffering until you can’t stand it any longer, or you can consciously choose to remain present from here on out.

Executive Summary: To enjoy life, disregard your thoughts.