Starting Point

What’s your starting point for the day? Do you begin by scanning your body for aches and pains? Do you try and recall yesterday’s details? Or do you analyze a mental calendar, wondering which deadlines are finally due? Maybe you think about potentially unpleasant circumstances that await? In other words, are you simply a mechanical body rooted in a material world, subject to the whims and ways of random chance? If that is your starting point, good luck with that! It’s a sure-fire recipe for a miserable experience.

A better starting point for the day is this: I haven’t woken up from a dream, I’ve ENTERED a dream. This world IS the dream. And the theme of this dream depends wholly on my focus and attitude. Therefore, I am filled with faith in a delightful day that will unfold before me. I am ready to experience the best of what life has to offer. I will walk through this realm lightheartedly, ever-merry because I only focus on what I love. All my efforts will go towards appreciating this wondrous dreamworld.

Try THAT as a starting point and see if your life doesn’t drastically improve. Spoiler Alert! It will. Think about it this way… If I bathe myself in thoughts of suspicion and betrayal, and someone comes up to me and says: “Hey Rich, here’s some coffee”, I’m bound to think they’re up to something and I’ll respond: “WHAT!? No, it’s probably poisoned!”. Whereas if I bathe myself in thoughts of love, I’d likely respond with: “Oh! Thanks so much! Wow, what a treat!”

The way in which you achieve “the good life” is through the practice of keeping your mind focused on good stuff. And relatedly, don’t sabotage yourself by taking detours into the land-of-negativity. It’s not complicated stuff, the formula is simple: inviting only the best thoughts into your mind will result in the best life possible — whereas allowing the worst thoughts to remain in your mind will result in a miserable life. That’s IT.

English Class

It was the early 90s and Mr. Haviland seemed straight out of a different era. While many of us wore baseball caps with t-shirts and jeans, this guy had an actual suit on — with posture and diction to match. He’d often refer to us as Mister or Miss so-and-so — always proper and always polite. Although he wasn’t physically intimidating, his demeanor demanded respect.

A teacher from a bygone age acting his part. We students acted our part too, a listless bunch that didn’t care. We weren’t unique in our disposition of course, we simply expressed it in a manner appropriate to the times we were in. Skateboards, metal-bands, and ridiculing “try-hards” (people that actually cared and tried to do well). Think Beavis and Butt-Head.

While Mr. Haviland proceeded on his anachronistic course, we proceeded on ours — a civil exchange nonetheless. At this point, you’re probably waiting to hear a poignant anecdote. Unfortunately, I don’t have one. I’m not a storyteller. I mention all this simply to remember an interesting character I once knew. I’ve always been in awe at how well he performed his role.

He seemed to enjoy who he was and never varied, a polished professional. I was a freshman when he was my teacher but our paths last crossed in study-hall when he was the teacher-in-charge — taking attendance and doing whatever teachers did (grading papers I’d assume). I never saw him after that. I heard he retired not too many years later, having worked there for a few decades.

In life, there are those that relish their well-defined roles and there are those that avoid being pinned-down by labels. But are those living as nonconformists simply acting out the role of “contrarian” in their wholesale rejection of the status quo? Instead of some “square” that sold his soul to the system, perhaps Mr. Haviland was the most Zen-like of us all.

Positive Context

What’s happening depends on the context it’s placed within. Always and without exception, context matters. Part of my negativity-free diet, is placing EVERYTHING within a positive context. Did something bad just happen? The answer is always: NO. Something GOOD just happened, and here’s why….

Hey Rich, the money in your savings account is getting substantially smaller, that’s bad right? NO! It’s GOOD because it means something literally life-changing is about to happen!! How amazing is that gonna be!? I’m not sure what form the change will take, but a new adventure is coming my way! Cool!

Hey Rich, a headache is certainly bad, right? NO! It’s GOOD because it lets me know that I must’ve let my thoughts drift into negativity. The pain serves as an early-warning indicator telling me to improve my mental focus. The “pain” also provides an opportunity to re-contextualize the sensation into a mild pressure that no longer captivates my attention.

Hey Rich, a hard-to-reach lightbulb just burnt-out, that’s annoying right? NO! It’s GOOD because I have an opportunity to use my ladder and feel like a real handyman. “Everyone, please remain calm. Your lighting will be restored momentarily.” Okay, how about when your mini-helicopter broke, that’s gotta be bad? NO! It’s GOOD because I get to fly my drone more.

Bad things aren’t bad, they’re just different. And different isn’t bad, it’s just my character experiencing a new scene. Life is a movie made for my amusement. One scene follows the next and I appreciate the ever-changing narrative that keeps me enthralled. Plus, my focus shapes the story-arc: if I focus on dark stuff, dreariness increases — whereas if I focus on lighthearted stuff, delight increases.

Negative Influence

I’m currently on a negativity-free diet, and as such, I’m doing all I can to eliminate negativity as a lifestyle. I no longer want to engage in pessimism, dissatisfaction, lack & limitation, fear, and frustration as a way of life. To that end, I’ve adopted a strict viewpoint about “why bad things happen”:

ALL unpleasantness I experience is a DIRECT result of my own tendency to drift into negativity. If there’s pain in my body, my negativity caused it. If anyone tells me some bad news, my negativity created the circumstance. If something of value breaks, my negativity manifested it. Even if I see one stranger speaking harshly to another stranger, MY negativity is causing that scene to occur. In other words, my attitude is influencing the world I’m experiencing.

Basically, I think of life as a dream. If I’m negative, bad things will appear before me, conjured by my gloominess. Whereas if I maintain a positive attitude, pleasant narratives will come into being. Anything bad that happens simply serves as proof that I need to work harder at removing negativity from my thoughts. Life does NOT treat me poorly in ANY way, I’m simply inexperienced at reining-in my negativity.

I’ve used this way of thinking in the past, so I know it works. The only difference now, is that I’m going full-steam ahead with it — there will be no alternative I’ll entertain. Diets can be strict and often enforce unusual conditions, this is simply one of those constraints. I’m tired of being a sloppy mess, bloated by pessimism and fear. Be gone, dour days! Let only the good-life remain!

Cosmic Accident

Dear Rich, are humans a cosmic accident?

Well dear reader, if you want a thrill-filled and ultimately miserable experience, then yes. But if you want to enjoy your time here, then no. I’ve held both positions at different times in my life, and I can tell you that option-one produces a lot of angst whereas option-two produces a much higher degree of comfort and satisfaction overall.

Option-one, that humans ARE a cosmic accident, entails a belief in a perpetual struggle for survival. It means my ancestors fought and clawed their way into modernity and I am the result of that competitive exertion. And I too must continue this endeavor lest I fall prey to those forces that are stronger than I. And to that end, I am prone to worry so that I’m not caught with my guard down.

Option-two, that humans are NOT a cosmic accident, entails a belief in a world created to take-care of its inhabitants. A cozier idea don’t you think? It takes all the pressure off. I can feel myself relaxing as I contemplate the concept. And guess what? I’m still alive, even thriving, despite the fact that I’ve completely let my guard down. I don’t worry about anything anymore and life chugs-along just fine.

And believe me dear reader, I was a stalwart adherent of option-one. I was so committed in-fact, that I eventually broke under the strain. I became a believer in option-two not because it appealed to me, but because I was beaten into submission by my belief in a cold cruel world. I couldn’t handle it anymore and finally dumped the idea. What filled the void was option-two.

And once I adopted option-two, the obviousness of it was everywhere. I had only imagined the necessity of struggle, when in actuality, none was needed. Sure, I felt like a big dummy for scaring myself silly with a fearful fantasy throughout all those years, but I got over it. Life in general got a lot easier when I stopped imagining the worst. Nowadays, I simply trust that my existence isn’t an accident and it’s made all the difference.

Life is a LOT more enjoyable when you no longer believe in a harsh and uncaring world where vigilance is the only thing keeping you alive. Give up that idea dear reader, and you’ll see a vast improvement in your experience of existence.

Good Day

Not long ago, I noticed that I was having a great day. Things were going really well, I even found a few things I thought I lost. But do you know what people with horribly unappreciative and pessimistic attitudes do with such a feeling? “Uh-oh, I’m gonna have to pay for this great day with a horrible day, downs always follow ups, something bad is SURE to happen now!”

I had that thought during my day and I dismissed it whenever it appeared. The next day was a decent one, not great but overall it was okay. And the next-next day? It was a rough morning. I was dropping things, speaking harshly, and things weren’t going my way. It was obvious that my mind was in a frenetic state. It was jumpy, going from one topic to the next as fast as it could.

After breakfast, I sat at my desk and noticed how I kept jumping from one brief activity to the next. “Ah-ha! I see what you’re doing! You’re all over the place! Time to shut down….” And with that realization, I ceased all activity and stopped engaging with incoming thoughts. I simply sat in a meditative state until my mind reset. It finally calmed down after a few minutes and I proceeded from there.

The day went well after that. So the lesson here is this: When things sour, stop. Notice the calamity the mind is causing when allowed to run wild — reset yourself by taking the reins and quieting the mind. When my mind ran rampant, the external world I experienced was unpleasant — but it completely turned around once I became present and noticed what was going on.

Incremental Improvement

Dear Rich, why can’t I improve my life instantly? In other words, why can’t I have a single enlightening realization and be done with it? Instead, it’s year after year of trying to get better bit by bit. How about an aha-moment that sticks?

Well dear reader, as you know, life is improved through the cessation of negativity. But the problem is this: the consciousness that is focusing on negativity is the SAME mechanism that’s in charge of managing focus. For example: in a business, what if an embezzling manager is the same guy in charge of policing embezzlement at his company? Basically, you have the classic case of the fox guarding the hen-house.

On one hand, your consciousness is running rampant and grabbing every negative thing it can. But on the other hand, your consciousness DOES recognize that it’s having a bad time. The problem SHOULD fix itself once the consciousness realizes that its focus-on-negativity is the EXACT reason it’s having such an unpleasant experience. But unfortunately, your consciousness insists that external events are to blame.

On one level, your consciousness can’t fathom blaming itself, so you’re stuck in this ongoing cycle of trying to convince it otherwise. It’s a strange situation right? But if you’re caught in such a silly trap, what does that tell you about the nature of reality? Perhaps the ongoings of this world aren’t as serious as you imagined them to be?

This silly game continues year after year simply because you’re engaging in it. You’re so enthralled by the idea that you’re a physical being living a life on planet Earth. You COULD take a step back, but you don’t want to. YOU are the creator of the game AND the player. You’re pretending to trap yourself AND you’re pretending to be caught.

THAT is the ultimate answer to your question dear reader: you could end your frivolous game at any moment, but you don’t want to. You apparently enjoy stress-testing your character. But if you truly want an improved experience, simply cut-out ALL negativity. This is just a dreamworld after-all, it’s malleable, so shape it in the most enjoyable form you can imagine — play THAT game instead.