Puzzle Piece

Here’s another piece to the puzzle: You NEED a sense of pressure and urgency in your life. You literally can’t be a human without it. AND, if you don’t provide a source, one will be provided for you. In other words, if you don’t do your homework and come to class with something to do, you’re going to be assigned busy-work (Spoiler Alert! You won’t like it).

When I was doing my “dreamlike existence” experiment, I was able to remove a significant amount of pressure and urgency from my life. Then out of nowhere I had this really strange sensation like I was waking up from the existential dream. It freaked me out a bit. After that, I needed to do things that helped me to feel “grounded” or else I started feeling panic-attacky. In other words, I wanted to stay in the dream, so I needed to do dream-world stuff.

But it can’t be anything. And I’ve noticed that the stuff that works best is when there’s some pressure or urgency. For example, when I sharpen my tool blades, there’s a risk I could damage the delicate edge. All my attention and focus is on the task so I don’t screwup the tool. Although relatively minor, I definitely feel the pressure.

Another example: I’ve known my wife for about 25 years and she’s been my best-friend all that time. Therefore, there’s very little pressure or urgency in our interaction. In other words, our conversations aren’t very “grounding” – we talk about all sorts of crazy stuff. Whereas if I interact with my son, I’m in “dad-mode” and my parental responsibility is something I take very seriously – it definitely makes me feel “grounded”.

In my life, I spent a lot of time and effort removing pressure and urgency from my experience. I made the removal of stress my goal. In some sense it worked. “I did it! Yay!” But in another sense, I cut the strings that held me down to earth – and almost drifted away. “Oh sh*t!” But on the plus side, I cut all the stupid strings I didn’t care about anyway. Now it’s my job to anchor myself to the things I prefer (that’s my theory anyway).

And part of finding things to secure to, is finding things that feel significant. There’s got to be some pressure or urgency, it can’t be too frivolous – I tried that, and it doesn’t work. So I’m still finding my way (which puts me under pressure and provides a sense of urgency). Well that’s all for now – until next time, this is Rich signing-off, Nanu Nanu.

Keeping Focus

Current mantra: love, lightheartedness, creativity, and triumph.

Love: appreciation, adoration, enjoyment, patience.
Lightheartedness: laughter, delight, frivolity, joy.
Creativity: creating, crafting, doing, beautifying.
Triumph: satisfaction, success, contentment, confidence.

These concepts are all I’m allowing myself to focus on. A little time has passed since I began and it’s going well. They’re what I really want out of life I suppose.

I want to love, laugh, make stuff, and feel like a winner. What else is there? I spent so long attempting to avoid the things I didn’t like instead of focusing on the things I did like.

During the times I’m not actually experiencing these concepts, I must try to turn my focus to them. “If surrounded by darkness, should you not seek the light?”

Superficial Journey

Something to keep in mind: I’m a superficial character in a superficial world. Therefore, I don’t have the capacity to know anything beyond these confines. Yet, I often find myself attempting to figure this world out from an external perspective. Long story short: it hasn’t worked. I know as much now as ever, which is nothing.

And I don’t really care about this existential nonsense anyway. As mentioned, I’m just a superficial character. I like tools, tech-gadgets, funny stuff, pie, and pretty gals. BUT, because I was so dissatisfied with my experience within this superficial world, I thought I could improve things by delving deep into the mechanics of the system.

I figured I could transcend my situation, emerging as an enlightened being of pure light and joy. Yet here I am, many years later, still struggling on a daily basis. But now that I think about it – what am I straining for? I suppose I’m attempting to attain “comfort and contentment”. But perhaps that’s the wrong objective. Anytime something isn’t “perfect”, conditions will fall outside of acceptable parameters. In short: if I’m uncomfortable, I’ll be upset.

All this time I’ve been trying to find a cozy spot into which I could hide-away and avoid the turbulence of the world. But after removing everything from my life that I possibly could, the turbulence is still there – it just changed form. I can therefore conclude that “comfort and contentment” is not something that can be pursued directly.

To be fair, I WAS experiencing significant improvement in my situation. My strategy seemed to be working. I thought I could ride “comfort and contentment” all the way to the end. But then I hit a wall and things stopped improving – I plateaued – and that’s a frustrating situation.

If “comfort and contentment” is an invalid objective, what’s a valid one? Perhaps “activity” and engagement with the world. In other words, you should always be doing something and participating in some sense. The “struggle” is to find something satisfying to engage with. Find what you like doing, and do it. But keep in mind: this activity and engagement should be on your terms. Don’t worry about historical precedent or logic – just do what you think is right for you. And always remember, you’re a superficial character in a superficial world – don’t get too deep.

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.