Patterns of Thought

Manage your thoughts, blah, blah, blah…. Yet the REAL question is this: why have unpleasant thoughts to begin with? How quickly a mood can sour when a dour thought comes to mind. If those thoughts simply never came, there’d be no need to manage them. So what’s the source, what’s going on here?

My current guess is as follows. The thoughts traveling through our thought-stream are based on patterns-of-thought we maintain in the mind. In other words, if I watch a scary movie before bed, I’ll likely have a nightmare that night. For example, if I read a lot about computer programming, my incoming thoughts will likely be related to programming.

Concentrate on sad themes and you’ll have sad thoughts. Focus on frustration and you’ll have frustrating thoughts. Delve into drama and you’ll have dramatic thoughts. Worry about whatever, and you’ll have an endless supply of worrisome thoughts. Therefore, bathe your mind in material that promotes the life you want to live.

Establish a better pattern through discipline. Discipline is the process of purposefully focusing your thoughts on a preselected target. And the way in which you direct your attention is by telling yourself a convincing and motivating story. You need a narrative that’s believable and fills you with enough energy to maintain itself.

For example, scaring yourself through constant worry works wonders. I could tell myself there are deadly germs everywhere and I’d die if I failed to wash my hands. Boom! Now I’m motivated to wash my hands all day. But scaring yourself into action is a low-quality method of motivation:

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”

If you want high-quality thoughts coming in, you have to bathe yourself in high-quality material. If you want a delightful life, then the books you read, the movies you watch, the shows you stream, and even the thoughts you stop to ponder, all have to be in the form of something you find delightful. You can’t watch disturbing shows or contemplate dour ideas and expect your incoming thoughts to be pleasant.

You must create and maintain patterns that paint images of success and enjoyment. Your job is to craft a story that fills your thoughts with hopefulness and delight on a consistent basis. Your life will reflect the consistency of the pattern you establish: wandering thoughts create a meandering life that feels like a rollercoaster. Use discipline to set a steady course.

In Lightness Grow

“No! Rich!? It can’t be!!!” Well I’m afraid it is…. For too long have I suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Far too long has this world had its way with my mortal coil, casting it this way and that. A rudderless ship adrift amongst endless waves? Nay! For I shall use the guiding light that leads to safe-harbor. And I shall set an anchor of stone against ye, ne’er to stray again.

For in truth, there is a light that guides those set astray. In thy darkest hour it shines as a beacon to summon men home. From times of old it has resided within the beating heart and rhythmic breath, ever-present signals of a solid connection to the source. Simply close thy eyes and think of nothing, and in that void comes the ancient voice. Anytime it’s wished, empty the mind to let it fill with celestial calm.

And so it is upon this day, that I do declare my dedication to this just cause. Such terrestrial pedantry shall not mar me. Nay, for I shall rise to the heights of heavenly bodies soaring well above the fray, reflecting the brightness of the light that maintains their course. It is in hours such as these, that men’s wills are tried. Does one simply turn to dust under pressure?

Or does one become as a non-Newtonian fluid, strengthening under increasing strain — yet softening when the push is no longer present? The game played here is a simple one: maintain tranquility amidst a turbulent sea. The penalties and rewards are immediate. The sensation of drowning versus the perception of contentment. What begets which is obvious to those amply illuminated — so seek the light.

Compass of Consciousness

An observer sits within the avatar as an audience to what’s happening. One thing that this consciousness notices is the thought-stream, an incessant flow of ideas and opinions and internal-debates that cascade through the mind. Yet this stream is only a single aspect of existence — and if the observer stops and stares too long, he can become mesmerized by it — frozen in time, just looking at thoughts as if they are life itself.

If you truly examine the totality of life, you’ll notice there’s two distinct aspects of a person. The character he’s playing as and the audience-member within him. In other words: inside each persona, there resides an observer that’s simply watching it all.

But so what? Why care about our composition? Because, it helps in developing a broader perspective of existence. If you’re completely lost and having a bad time here on Earth, this type of perspective can become like a compass helping you ascertain a definitive direction.

So much goes wrong when you’re lost. When you can’t find your way, you tend towards negativity — focusing on what’s wrong then becomes a way of life. And once you become a pessimist, there’s no obvious way out — EVERYTHING looks wrong. Everything’s a trick or a trap meant to deceive or destroy you.

The only way out is to look within and see that things aren’t what they appear to be — things are what you project them to be. You begin to realize that your negativity was painting a dark hue upon the world. And by ceasing to spray your pessimistically-laced graffiti all over the place, the world brightens up. And by this enlightenment, you find your way home.

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.

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!