Telling Tales

Can you tell yourself a story that’ll make you upset? For instance: “I just heard a noise and I’m pretty sure it’s zombies that came to destroy me.” If you can do that, does that mean you can also tell yourself a story that’ll make you feel good? For example: “I just heard a noise and I’m pretty sure it’s Santa Claus that came to deliver an early Christmas present — I can’t wait to open it!!!”

And what if you keep telling yourself pleasant stories from now on? THAT is how you have a great life. Perpetually telling yourself stories that make you feel good, while refraining from telling yourself stories that make you feel bad, is mental discipline. Neither story is necessarily true, they’re merely inspired by true events.

You have a choice in every situation: tell yourself a dour tale or a delightful one. And because YOU get to make that choice, it means YOU decide whether you have a great life or a nasty one. It’s that simple: if you’re going to keep telling stories to yourself, you might as well make them as pleasant as possible.

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As a Man Thinketh – notes

My notes/summary/interpretation of the book As a Man Thinketh (1903) by James Allen.

A poem by James Allen:

Mind is the Master power that moulds and makes,
And Man is Mind, and evermore he takes
The tool of Thought, and, shaping what he wills,
Brings forth a thousand joys, a thousand ills:–
He thinks in secret, and it comes to pass:
Environment is but his looking-glass.

Thoughts are the incantation by which we conjure our character and circumstances. It’s as simple as this: good things come of good thoughts — bad things come of bad thoughts.

Through our thoughts we create the world we experience. Through patience, practice, and persistence our thoughts can be molded to bring forth the best of life.

Like a garden, the mind is forever producing whether we tend to it or not. Without effort, the mind becomes overrun with weeds — whereas with some attention, a pleasant crop can be planted.

Chance is not a thing — we find ourselves exactly where we think we should be. If we believe in frustrating circumstances, our experiences will reflect this belief. But as control over thought increases, circumstances likewise come under control.

We gravitate towards whatever excites, whether it be from love or from fear. Our experiences are grown from our thoughts — we reap what we sow. External circumstances do not make us who we are — they merely reveal our underlying pattern of thought.

We don’t receive our various wishes and wants, but the sum of what we think. Thoughts have the power to imprison or delight — we experience whichever situation we earn through the cultivation of thought.

If we find ourself in miserable conditions, we can know our mind is rife with miserable thoughts. Thoughts are the cause and circumstance the effect. External improvement begins and ends within.

We often frustrate ourself with conflicting thoughts — wanting with one thought while thwarting with another. While it’s obvious that only oak trees come from acorns, the same is true with thoughts: good thoughts produce good things — bad thoughts produce bad things.

Improvement starts when criticizing and complaining end, when blaming others stops, when unpleasant conditions are used as the reflection of inner conditions, and when constructive and worthwhile thoughts become the new foundation of mind.

As the inside changes, the outside follows along. What looked confusing, unfair, and corrupt becomes well-ordered, fair, and honest.

Of course hateful and fearful thoughts lead to negative outcomes, whereas loving and gentle thoughts lead to positive outcomes. As we relax, life gets easier. When we stop our thoughts from thrashing about, the waves of the world are no longer stirred.

The body becomes what the mind believes. Sickness and well-being manifest based on habit of thought. Anxious and fearful thoughts welcome disease into the body whereas thoughts of joy and vitality strengthen the body.

It is not the diet that needs changing, but the corrupted thoughts that necessitated it. The finest thoughts naturally bring about a healthful diet. To defend the body, discipline the mind.

Thoughts of spite, jealousy, disappointment, and hopelessness act as poison on the body. The expression and agedness of the face readily reveal the thoughts we believed to be hidden within. Even death comes as peacefully as we believe it to come.

Cheerful thoughts can cure whereas pessimism can kill. Through our thoughts we confine ourself to a self-made prison or we enter through the doorway of heaven on earth.

By focusing on a purpose, the mind is made easier to control. By following our nature, devoting ourself to our duty, thoughts are concentrated. Upon this path, fear and doubt are our greatest enemies and must be slain without hesitation.

Whatever we accomplish or fail to accomplish, our own thoughts make it so. This is the very definition of individual responsibility. On one hand, we only have power over our own thoughts — but on the other hand, this provides us with an ability to alter the world we experience.

In this sense, the oppressor and the oppressed are cooperating in the creation of suffering. Both are afflicted with low-quality thoughts by ignorance. Both require improvement in thinking.

Through uplifting thoughts, we rise in the world. Through pessimistic thoughts, we sink in the world. For accomplishment and lasting success, effort must be applied to disciplining the mind.

The dreams we nurture will one day manifest. If we fantasize the worst, then we’ll achieve it. Whereas when we lovingly tend to the best of what we envision, we’ll achieve that. There is no good or bad luck, simply good or bad thoughts. Those we maintain, remain.

Strive to stay in a serene state. Practice remaining calm.

“The sunny shore of your ideal awaits your coming. Keep your hand firmly upon the helm of thought. In the bark* of your soul reclines the commanding Master; He does but sleep: wake Him. Self-control is strength; Right Thought is mastery; Calmness is power.”

* “bark” in this context likely means “ship” as in a “sailing ship”.

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!

Loving What Is – Summary

This is my summary/interpretation of the book Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life by Byron Katie.

Four Questions:
1. Is it true?
2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
3. How do you react when you believe that thought?
4. Who would you be without the thought?

Thoughts are forever flowing through our head. For the most part, thoughts themselves aren’t even true, they’re just a haphazard selection of ideas flying by our attention. Some of these thoughts cause us to feel bad — and we need to understand that there’s a cause-and-effect going on: negative thoughts cause us to feel bad. It’s not the external circumstance that causes the problem, it’s the negative thought about that circumstance that causes the problem — that’s it. When we imagine ourself in the same situation but without the thought, the situation always seems better.

In addition: it turns out that we are to blame for all our problems. Everything we think others should do, WE should do instead.

Whenever we believe that thoughts represent truth, we’ll suffer with stress. Like breathing, thinking happens automatically — and like the air we breathe, thoughts flow in and out. There’s no problems until we attempt to hold one in or keep one out — just let the thoughts flow unimpeded.

Everything that happens SHOULD happen. Don’t attempt to argue against something that already happened — it’s a recipe for pain.

We must mind our own business and stay out of everyone else’s business (including reality’s business). Attempting to control the world and everyone in it is a recipe for stress.

Unpleasant feelings are an indication that we are believing a negative thought. When we use unpleasantness as a means to find these thoughts, we can perceive their falseness and their ability to cause pain.

All the answers we need are within us. Essentially, when left alone, life takes care of itself. Any problems we experience are due to a belief in false thoughts. Stop believing in these pain-producing thoughts and life readily works itself out.

The external world we experience is a direct reflection of our thinking. We project our thoughts and stories onto the screen in front of us. It’s a bad idea to run over to the screen to try and change what’s on it. The better approach is to change what’s being projected in the first place. In other words, if there’s dirt on the lens, clean the dirt off the lens, not from the screen it’s projected on. Likewise, our problems originate inside, in our thoughts — not on the outside.

It turns out that every external problem we think we’re having, serves as a map to the actual problem in our thoughts. In this way, we can eradicate the source of every perceived problem we have.

Step one: if we’re feeling stress, trace it to the offending thought and write that thought down (this freezes the thought and allows it to be examined). Every stressful thought basically boils down to: “this shouldn’t be happening”.

For the first two questions, the answers should be “yes” or “no” — that’s it.

Example thought: My mom doesn’t understand me.

Is it true? Yes. Oftentimes her responses indicate a lack of understanding.
Can you absolutely know that it’s true? Hmm, I suppose I don’t know what’s actually going on in her head. No.
How do you react when you believe that thought? I feel misunderstood and separate. I then proceed to treat her like she’s a dummy. Overall it makes me feel bad.
Who would you be without the thought? I’d be more content in general and I’d be more satisfied with my interactions with her.

Turn the thought around:
Turnaround to self: I don’t understand myself.
Example: Sometimes I don’t even know what I’m trying to say. Why should I expect her to understand everything I’m saying?
Turnaround to other: I don’t understand her.
Example: It’s true, I’m not always sure what point she’s trying to make. And maybe she did understand me, but I couldn’t understand how her response was appropriate.
Turnaround to the opposite: My mom does understand me.
Example: Overall we do seem to communicate effectively, maybe I’m just nitpicking the little things.

The turnarounds are the medicine we seek. By pointing the outwardly-projecting thought back at ourself, we realize the true source of the problem. And when we know the source, we experience relief.

Whoever’s around us will expose our weaknesses, and in that way we’re taught to improve. And every “he/she/they should”, is really “I should”. We will blame others for our suffering and paint them as scapegoats — but the true source is always the confusion found in believing our own thoughts. Everything others say we are, we are — never defend, just see the truth in what they say. Whenever we feel defensive, we know we’re hearing the truth.

We are sad because we tell ourself sad stories. When we change the story we tell, we change our experience of existence. And there’s never anything to forgive, simply because we cause our own problems. Never wait for a particular condition to be true in order to be happy, “skip the middleman and be happy now.” Despite any tumult that surrounds, remain calm and unconfused, then we become an example for our surroundings to follow. “With the thought, there’s stress, and without the thought, there’s peace.”

The experience of existence is as gentle and pleasant as the stories we tell about it. If we don’t want stress, don’t argue with what’s happening. In this moment, everything is as it should be. Nothing needs to change, it’s not our business anyway.

Stressful feelings and suffering are the result of believing that a thought represents reality. Whereas if we don’t believe thoughts, the effect is a peaceful life. Life is paradise when we no longer default to trusting thoughts.

Whenever we feel wronged or insulted, how many times do we replay the scene in our heads? WE are the abuser that torments ourself with repeated showings of the incident. We are more unkind to ourself than anyone has ever been.

“I am willing to…” turnaround: I am willing to have my mom not understand me.
“I look forward to…” turnaround: I look forward to my mom not understanding me.

With these types of turnarounds, we embrace what-is. We no longer have to deny certain circumstances or assign them the label of “things to avoid”. We can be fine with whatever happens. Inner-peace is attainable right now.

What is within our power to change? Our thinking. So that is what we should change. If we want to clean up the world, we must start with our thoughts. We have everything we need right now. We have the right amount of money and financial security for the moment we’re in.

When we realize a problem is our own darn fault, we laugh — suddenly we’re no longer a victim and we have the power to fix things. We go from loser to winner. Whereas when we blame others, and think our suffering is their fault, we’re forever a victim and constantly stressed-out. We often abuse ourself through others.

Try this instead:
Step 1: Notice an unpleasant feeling.
Step 2: Write down the associated thought.
Step 3: Ask the four questions.
Step 4: Turn the thought around.
Step 5: Feel much better.

Love is the only motivation we need — not anger or fear or frustration or guilt.

Self-judgement example thought: “I’m a failure.”
Is it true? Yes.
Can you absolutely know that it’s true? Hmm, maybe I’m doing exactly what I should be doing. So, no.
How do you react when you believe that thought? I feel like a loser. I feel bad.
Who would you be without the thought? I’d be more confident and I’d feel better.

Turn the thought around:
Turnaround to the opposite: I’m not a failure. I’m a success.
Example: I do what I do — I’m successful at being me.

Using “My thinking” instead of “I”:
The statement becomes: My thinking is a failure.
And it’s true, my thinking makes me feel bad.

Decisions are already made. When the thought to do something appears, do it. That part of our story begins with the thought, and ends when the activity is completed. In this way the story of our life unfolds before us. The internal debate about doing something is the problem. Instead of doing, we worry. Don’t worry, just do.

For the best circumstances, the mind must be clear. If the mind is turbulent, the world will appear so too. It’s useless to work on the image that’s projected, we need to work on the projector itself. And when the mind is clear, our impulses will show us where to go and what to do — that’s a happy life. Whereas if the thoughts are stressful, then it’s time to ask the questions and turn the thoughts around.

Unpleasant feelings are simply an indication that we’re confused. Ask the questions and turn the thoughts around to become unconfused. The world should be a source of joy and comfort — until it is, keep asking and turning.

Substitute “my thinking” for the perceived problem:
Example thought: “I don’t like violence because it makes me feel bad.”
In the turnarounds this becomes: “I don’t like my thinking because it makes me feel bad.”
or: “I don’t like my thinking about violence because it makes me feel bad.”

Our bodies maintain balance and are self-healing, they’re more than capable of running themselves. What gets in the way is our stories about our body. “My body is sick! My body is in pain!” Confused thoughts are the problem, never the body itself. Let the body take care of itself, we’re not capable of controlling the circumstances surrounding its smooth operation. The only thing we can contribute to a healthy body is our healthy thinking — focus on that. The body is a reflection of the mind: a sick mind leads to a sick body — heal the mind, heal the body.

Ultimately we can’t know anything. Therefore, the best course of action is to accept life exactly as it is in every moment. Develop a positive perspective and proceed from there based on the inspiration we’re provided. And the way in which we develop a positive perspective, is to blame our problems on our confused thinking — NEVER blame the world or life itself or our body or our choices or other people — our problems begin and end with our confused thoughts. Fix the confusion, and the problems disappear. In other words, stop trying to wipe the screen at the other end of the room, clean the lens of the projector instead.

The world is attempting to help us perceive our confused thinking. Nothing out-there is ever as bad as the internal hell we create with our incessant maschochistic thoughts. We imagine the worst and repeatedly live those thoughts everyday. We craft a horror-story and fantasize that we’re in it with no way out. We perceive injury and insult and replay it within our minds over and over again for years. We assign roles to people, making them the villains of our life. Yet WE are the villain tormenting ourself in a prison of our own design. We are the villain tormenting others, treating them as if THEY’RE the bad guys.

Without the horror-story, life becomes a joy to experience. Investigate the horror-story by using the four-questions and the turnarounds in order to discover its untruth. The pain we experience right now is self-inflected — it’s based on a story we tell ourself. We must stop being so unkind to ourself. Explore the depths of these horror-stories and let the light in. Start with whatever is causing stress right now.

Thoughts just appear. Pain comes from blindly believing them. Undo this attachment to the untrue thoughts, then feel relief. The path to a peaceful life begins and ends within — no other input or participation of others is necessary. The world we experience WILL reflect our own internal mental state — a joy-filled mind leads to joyful circumstances. When we finally understand that this is a benevolent world, our questioning will be over.

Remember: our judgements about others become a prescription for ourself. Any advice we give out, is actually for ourself. We are our own student.

Non-physical Improvement

In a non-physical world, the way to improve your life is through the practice of mental discipline. Given the situation you find yourself in, you need to find the fun and extract whatever enjoyment you can from it. Acceptance of what-is plays a big part in this. But the best part, is that your situation will vastly improve once you accept your current state. When you prove that you can handle a little, you’ll receive a lot more. Whereas if you refuse to play along and reject what-is, you’ll receive even less (having shown yourself incapable of handling things).

Mental discipline is mostly about practice. It’s maintaining an awareness of your thoughts and responding appropriately. Negative thoughts must be dealt with and defused. Negative thoughts are identified by the way you react to them. If you feel bad or behave poorly, then you can bet such negativity was preceded by a negative thought. You must identify and undermine that thought — find a way to make it false. You’ll need a new way of looking at the world in order to do this effectively. If you already had an effective perspective, you wouldn’t be having an issue dealing with negativity in the first place.

The most efficient perspective for this purpose is achieved by dropping any semblance of an absolute physical reality. In other words, you should develop a perspective that explains the world in a dreamlike way. From that standpoint, the world becomes infinitely alterable as well as a direct reflection of your thoughts. Whatever is happening within your mind, becomes the world you experience. If you have a turbulent mind, then you’ll live in a turbulent world. In the same way, a peaceful world begins with a peaceful mind.

Additionally, this dreamlike perspective makes everything your fault (you’re the dreamer after-all). This is good because you can no longer be a victim. Forgiveness becomes unnecessary because your lack-of-discipline is the only thing to blame. The world never attacks you, you attack you. And you will attack yourself — you’re a bit of a masochist. The only thing between you and the best life possible, is your attitude and the acceptance of life as it happens. Despite anything you think you’re experiencing, trust in the world’s benevolence and maintain an appreciative attitude — do this by utilizing discipline. In this way, you travel the path to a better life.

Natural Earther

I was a Natural Earther for the first two decades of existence. Then I saw The Matrix when it was originally released and started to question things. Ten years past while I slowly began to accept the notion of a simulated world. Ten more years past since I accepted virtuality and became a Simulationist. For those not doing the math, that’s a total of forty years.

I was a zealot when it came to being a Natural Earther. Science, evolution, survival-of-the-fittest, germ-theory, genetics, politics, economics, psychology, history, randomness — these concepts perfectly explained how the world worked, and that was it. God, religion, spirituality, magic, destiny — those were dumb concepts adopted by shallow-thinkers i.e. dummies.

It does seem stupid on my part to fully commit to a set of concepts, only to reject them later on. But to be fair, I was a Natural Earther because I was following the trend. “Smart people” believed in a natural earth whereas “dumb people” believed in a mystical realm — at least where I grew up.

But if you’ve been paying attention, the trend shifted already. You’ll hear “smart people” tending towards Simulation Theory nowadays. So I seem to be “on trend” again. The funny part is, that Simulation Theory overlaps very-well with “spirituality”. It’s basically two ways to describe the same thing. So the “smart perspective” is actually a spiritual one.

That means the new “dumb people” will be the ones believing in a natural earth. This is the Natural Earther perspective: sick and diseased bodies stuck roaming around a dying earth struggling for survival amidst a harsh and brutal landscape. Sounds fun doesn’t it? No, it’s a gross misinterpretation of existence.

Whereas a simulated world is more dreamlike: the world we experience is shaped by our thoughts and expectations — the external is a manifestation of the internal. It’s not an absolute reality, it’s an environment that’s transformable. With a negative attitude, it can seem like a punishing hell-scape — but with a positive attitude, it can form into a heavenly place filled with joy.

Work for a spiritual person entails honing the mind to manifest the best world you can muster. Whereas work for a Natural Earther deals with trying to thrive despite all odds against it. The world will accommodate you if you’re a Natural Earther, but the question becomes: why would you make things so hard on yourself. From my experience as a Natural Earther, it wasn’t worth it.

I can say without doubt that I’ve been much happier as a Simulationist. I was an anxious wreck as a Natural Earther — how can you not be? It’s basically a high-intensity belief system. Perhaps that’s why it was developed, for those daring thrill-seekers among us. Maybe I thought I could handle it — I couldn’t. So from here on out you can catch me drifting down the lazy-river.

Realist Fantasy

So you want to live in the “real” world huh? Okay, let’s take a quick look at the “real” world then. In the real-world, you could die at any minute of the day due to accident, natural disaster, disease, organ failure, homicide, etc. But thanks to your knowledge and cunning, you’ve managed to survive on a daily basis despite the many dangers that surround. Congratulations, you are amazingly adept at survival. Unfortunately, the moment you let your guard down, you’re dead — and because of random-chance, there’s actually no way to protect against most of the situations that’ll kill you. Hopefully you’re feeling lucky.

That world is a recipe for anxiety. I know because I tried living in it for a few decades. It sucked. I was obviously living a lie too. The world is not a big-scary place in which you must fend for yourself or-else. In terms of life-skills, I’m ignorant as well as incompetent. I couldn’t fight my way out of a wet paper bag. I don’t have any survival skills — if pushed, I crumple. Yet here I am. Everything I believed about the “real” world is completely wrong. Not a little wrong, COMPLETELY wrong. It’s clear that I’ve been carried through life all this time — because if it were up to my own ability, I’d be long gone by now.

My advice to you is this: give up those dumb ideas about the “real” world. Save yourself the trouble of having to deal with anxiety for decades until you finally figure it out. This thing you’re experiencing is not an absolute reality, it’s more like a dream. You’ll be okay. And you know you’ll be okay because you’re here, despite your inability. A natural world demands the fittest specimens, quick reflexes, split-second death-defying decision-making, and constant vigilance — whereas this world… not so much. We’re all inexperienced novices to some extent.

Yes, it’s exciting to think you have to “struggle” and “survive” to make it through this world. But there are so many counter-examples to prove this isn’t true — it’s a silly thought. Think of life like a lazy-river in which you’re gently floating downstream. If you simply allow life to maintain your buoyancy, and you remain calm without struggling, you’ll easily drift with the current. Whereas if you fight the flow and thrash around like a madman, then yes, it will seem like you’re drowning. That’s not life’s doing, that’s your doing. If you refrain from freaking out, then things will go a lot smoother. From there, you can finally perceive actual reality and enjoy the ride.