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?

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Seeking Conflict

The world is FULL of potential combatants. There’s conflict to be had everywhere. But should you seek it? Conflict, like fear, is a low-quality, low-effort source of amusement. Conflict is certainly a common source of excitement, but it’s not necessary for a good time. There’s companionship, laughter, delicious foods, artistic pursuits — and of course there’s even symbolic-conflict in the form of games, and fictionalized-conflict in stories.

If you’re not pursuing some other avenue of entertainment, conflict becomes an easy option to alleviate your existential boredom. But the going wisdom is: don’t do it. Conflict and fear are easy paths to pursue whereas higher-quality paths require effort on your part. It’s easy to generate excitement when you imagine EVERYTHING is out to get you. Step one: stop being so lazy. Conflict and fear are cheap thrills, you can do better.

The highest spiritual pursuit is to end fear and conflict, to see the world as the wholesome place that it is. The world is not devising ways to destroy you — you’re not that good, you couldn’t avoid it if the world really wanted you dead. So stop it already, you’re embarrassing yourself. You’re an invited guest imagining that the host keeps slipping poison into the food, but through your skill and cunning you’ve successfully managed to navigate through the minefield of danger. That’s dumb.

Have some respect for yourself, as well as the host. Accept this invitation into existence graciously and gratefully. “Wow, thank you! This is a really nice place!”, “Oh, for me? Wow! Thanks for this delicious meal!”, “Hey, some companions too! Wow, the giving doesn’t stop around here!”, “Hey let me show you how much I appreciate the time I have here! Check this out!”, “What a great day that was! I can’t wait for another! This place is awesome, thank you so much!”

Life in the Slow Lane

When in love, nothing changes except for the perception that she loves you too — and from there, the entire world alters before your eyes.

And just imagine if the signal you received was only a mistake, a misinterpretation on your part, suddenly the world darkens once again.

Interesting no? That an entire world brightens or darkens on such a simple thing. That’s all the proof you need: what you’re perceiving “out there” is nothing more than a fanciful fiction manipulated by your mood.

YOU create the world you inhabit, of this there can be no doubt. So induce a positive interpretation. Encourage feelings of love and satisfaction and triumph — and whatever else you enjoy.

You can always feel loved by a benevolent power that creates this world for your amusement. And in every face you see, you can interpret love. In every hint of warmth, you can feel a hug, love’s tender embrace.

This isn’t hard. On one hand you can allow your ceaseless thoughts to take you on a rudderless journey through an intensely turbulent world, while on the other hand you can purposefully direct your interpretations to perceive nothing but resplendent glory.

The entirety of freewill boils down to this decision: engage in the practice of discipline and direct your mind to see the glorious garden before you — or simply concede control to an erratic mind that takes you on a wild ride.

If you can handle it, go right ahead and feel the thrill of such an unpredictable experience. But for those that prefer quiet-pools and kiddie-rides, there’s an option for you too. You haven’t been left out in the cold. Seek it, and hot-cocoa by the fireside awaits.

Say your Prayers

I just read the Bhagavad Gita again, which in essence, is a distraught man’s conversation with God. It’s about a guy having a tough time with life, and so God-incarnate talks him through it. “Hey bro, life’s not as miserable as you’re making it seem — I mean yeah, it can look a little gruesome, but so what. A cake is an unappetizing mess until it’s cooked too — but the process is still worth it. So ya know what? Have some fun, get rowdy, and break some shit brah!” In the end, the archer gets it and does what he needs to do — which in this case, is to fight in a bloody feud against members of his beloved family.

And it got me thinking about what I’ve been writing in this blog for the last six and a half years. What IS this? I suppose you could say it’s a distraught man’s conversation with God. I seem to be the primary audience here, I read and re-read posts all the time — I find them super insightful. I’m the one always asking questions and receiving helpful answers — I don’t know where those answers come from, they’re certainly not from my everyday-self or I wouldn’t ask the questions in the first place. And anyone that wanders upon this blog is simply witnessing the conversation taking place.

Perhaps this is a form of prayer, a dialog with God in the form of a diary. Prayer is often portrayed as one-sided, but I’ve certainly heard of two-sided prayer in which God responds in one way or another. And apparently, the easiest way to interface with me, is through succinctly written entries. For the most part, this is where I come to get in touch with my “higher self”, the part of me that’s beyond the scared little creature I often revert to. This is where I come to make sense of the world going on around me. Are You There God? It’s Me, Richard.

As far as I’m aware, I never had a personal relationship with God. I didn’t go for that nonsense, it didn’t resonate with me. “Um hey big-guy, so I know you’re busy maintaining the universe and all — but if ya could, my team really needs a win this Saturday. Whaddya say?” Well that’s how a relationship with God was portrayed in pop-culture anyway. But considering it now, it seems that I’ve established a relationship with God through this blog. Just a decade earlier I was writing atheistic, I’m-too-smart-for-this-world type posts in my previous blog — I guess I’ve gone 180 degrees in some ways.

I dunno man, I suppose we’re all trying to figure things out. Even with God by our side, this stuff is tough. No offense, but a game requiring this much hand-holding might be a tad too complicated. Or maybe those of us that need extended-help just suck at this game — I can see that. From an external perspective, it looks like I’m not even trying. But I interpret everything so intensely, that I barely have to do anything and I feel overwhelmed for the day. I recognize that I’m overreacting to the world’s stimuli, but it just happens to be my default. “AH! What was that! Oh, it was nothing. AH! I’m being attacked!! Oh, oops, no it’s fine.”

If a cosmic bystander simply observed my reactions to the world, he would assume Earth was a prison-planet in which inhabitants were regularly tortured for the sadistic pleasure of a malevolent creator. Whereas if the same cosmic bystander observed what I actually did all day, he’d wonder why I sat still for so long, and he’d wonder why I randomly freaked out for no apparent reason. Objectively, the physical portion of my life has never been difficult — but the mental aspect has been off the charts. And the only reason the mental part is so hard, is because of my tendency to overreact. If I’d simply stop imagining the worst, things would be easy.

And that’s where spirituality and this blog come into play. These entries are helping me to understand that life is not out to get me. For six and a half years I’ve been trying to rewire my defaults. I think I’m getting better — really. Yes, I oftentimes react as if I’m afraid, but underneath I don’t feel anxious, I quickly dismiss my scaredy-cat responses. Yes, I’m still presented with classic pessimistic reactions to many things that come my way, but I usually laugh at the silliness of such a perspective. And if someone attempts to sell me a pessimistic idea, my mind readily counters it with positivity.

So that’s the message I received this time around while re-reading the Bhagavad Gita.

Over-examined Life

Dear Rich, if I’m so smart, why am I so miserable? Shouldn’t I be able to think my way out of this?

Why dear reader, the very source of your misery IS your thinking. It’s your over-analyzing that is robbing you of so much fun. Thinking and analyzing doesn’t make you smart — if anything, such dull diversion makes you dumb. How is it smart to preoccupy yourself with blathering nonsense while engaged in the great extravaganza of existence?

Happy people are such, because they don’t think — they experience. My apologies dear reader, in regards to your stupidity, but it’s the greatest folly to believe yourself smart when in actuality you couldn’t be any dumber. You need this blow to your ego for it has set you up for failure in the highest regard. Like a con-artist, your thoughts have fooled you into believing in their preeminence.

Yet nothing could be further from the truth. You’re an ignorant idiot. But luckily for you dear reader, you have just heard the truth. Now you can finally get to work on shutting down that mental chatter and start living the good life! Congratulations! Why to finally have that mental blockage out of the way — the good-times are surely coming your way.

Can you believe it? Those ever-present thoughts have been slowly poisoning your experience this entire time. But through the power of discipline, you will now shut them down, turning off the spout that’s been spreading toxicity. Now is the time to demonstrate your superior ability and outwit those mischievous musings — that is, if you’re up to the challenge.

Sink or Swim

Dear Rich, if life is so awesome why am I not having a great time?

Dear reader, plain and simple, it’s because you lack discipline. Imagine that you’re thrown into a pool of water at a young age and have no idea what’s going on, you thrash around believing you’re about to drown at any moment. Luckily, the water isn’t too deep so you’re able to manage, but once in a while you lose balance and take a mouthful — it’s not a pleasant experience at all.

Now imagine that you know how to swim. This is discipline. It’s remaining calm, it’s working WITH the water to remain buoyant — it’s moving your body in a controlled manner, in sync with the motion of the ocean. From this disciplined perspective, you’re able to maneuver wherever you want and have fun while doing so.

So dear reader, in order to enjoy yourself, you have to learn how to swim through life — and that’s achieved by mental discipline. Without it, your thoughts are flailing around completely uncontrolled — you’ll need to rein them it. You’ll need to calm yourself and get comfortable with remaining still — float. And from there, you can coordinate your movements to head in a desirable direction.

Trust in buoyancy, trust that you’re being kept afloat by life. You clearly don’t know how to swim through it, and you clearly haven’t been treading water this whole time. You float, end of story — believe it. You’ve actually been fighting against life and submerging yourself with your frantic efforts. Stop fighting, calm down, embrace the stillness, now gracefully glide. And off you go….

Miserable Mess

The bad news is: you are living in a miserable reality. But the good news is: you created this mess — and as its creator, you have the power to change it.

First: entering into existence is a tumultuous affair, no doubt — who could blame you for being a bit sensitive towards the spectacle of light and sound flashing before you. But that initial anxiousness made you imagine everything as potentially dangerous. You took life much too seriously and literally believed yourself to be a fragile creature struggling for survival. And since then, things have spiraled out of control to the point that you’re wracked with fear and you’re having an unpleasant time.

What you’ve got, is a negative attitude: no matter what life presents you, you twist it into something nefarious. This then frames you and life as opponents: life is trying to kill you, while you’re simply trying to survive. The way out of that hole is to surrender to life, to say:

Ya know what, Life? I understand that if you really wanted to kill me, you could’ve done it quite easily by now, but you haven’t. In fact, you’ve been sustaining me this entire time. I’m sorry for disparaging you every chance I could. I realize that the horrible things I’ve experienced were due to my confusion and pessimism. After considering things, I want to live happily, I want the best of what you have to offer, I don’t want to think of you as my enemy, but as my provider. Thank you Life for what I’ve been provided, and I will strive everyday to consume these gifts with appreciation.