Age of the Introvert

I’m an extreme introvert and a former long-time germaphobe. Suddenly, the world seems to be conforming to my expectations. If I’m not by myself or with my tiny 3-person family, I prefer small concentrations of people. I prefer doing anything and everything online as opposed to in-person. I prefer keeping my hands to myself as opposed to physically greeting others or handling shared objects. I prefer relatively quiet streets and being at home. I prefer kids having free-time and spending more time with their parents.

From my perspective, the world seems normal now. It’s suddenly cool to be like me. But funny enough, I stopped being a germaphobe a few years ago, so now I’m the reckless one! And I only use a small amount of toilet paper since I prefer a more bidet-like experience. But of course, fashions come and go and I might become “anti-social” once again. But for now I’ll relish the fact that I’m basically a “hero” doing my part in the effort against our current enemy.

Though I must say, I wouldn’t mind seeing the streaming traffic and the large warehouses of people it fills become a relic of the past — an end to the rat-race and an easing on the environment. Perhaps it will become an age in which artists and writers flourish — a renaissance no less. And in these more technological times, maybe we’ll enter an age of engineering excellence, with flying cars or new settlements in remote areas — and yes, even space-travel.

Nay friends, I live not in troubling times, but at a point of progression in which old ways are gone for good. How long have we lamented the backward nature of society? So I say relish this opportunity for change and use it to advance ever-forward once again. It is through unexpected upheaval that we enter new epochs of unimagined innovation and prosperity. Not fear, but appreciation should fill our hearts each day. So dear friends, onward and upward!

Dog Training

When training a dog for example, you’re essentially improving your dog’s experience as well as your own. You want a well-behaved dog that meets your expectations i.e. poops in designated areas, plays with acceptable toys, and doesn’t jump all over people. Through discipline, you’re creating a pleasant relationship that benefits both. And so the same is true of training the mind: you’re disciplining your mind to improve your experience of existence.

Due to a lack of discipline, my mind currently wanders anywhere and everywhere. It gets filthy, often gets sprayed by skunks, gets covered in mud that tracks everywhere, chews on what it shouldn’t, jumps on people, and craps on the floor. So instead of dealing with the constant mess, my goal is to have a delightful day every day. To achieve this goal, I will train my mind so that it becomes well-behaved.

How does one do that exactly? Well that’s the million-dollar question isn’t it!? But now that it’s my priority to find and implement a long-term solution, I’ll attempt to answer it over the course of however long it takes. Maybe a couple days? Or perhaps a lifetime? But honestly, with all the work I’ve already put in over the years, I’m hoping to be on the fast-track (“Twenty years later…”). You don’t train your dog forever though, you just gotta get it on a disciplined path.

Essentially, I need to increase conscious awareness of my thoughts and feelings — then immediately discipline the mind when it misbehaves. And proactively, I have to feed it the best stuff I can, take it on pleasant walks, provide it with acceptable play-things, and stop treating it like a pain-in-the-butt and more like a respected member of the family. Obviously I’ve been a lazy owner that hasn’t put the time-in and I’m hoping to correct that mistake now.

Mind Trainer

I suppose the primary activity I need to perform here on Earth is training my mind. It’s basically obedience-training for rampant and unruly thoughts. After many years, I’ve proven that I can’t do anything worthwhile without that basic foundation in place. I tried letting my mind wander this way and that, doing as it pleases, but it’s just crapping all over the floor — the stench is finally getting to me. Enough is enough.

Obviously I’ve tried to discipline my mind over the years, but those measures were just quick-fixes to clean up the crap when it piled-up too high. After I tidied, I’d relax and let my mind do whatever it wanted again. Therefore, I need a thorough, all-encompassing approach that puts mental discipline at the forefront of my life. So THAT is my new profession: trainer of the mind. When I wake up every morning, mental discipline is what needs to be on the agenda.

Think of it like waking-up and training the body for athletic performance: going for a run, lifting some weights, eating nutritious foods. This is that, but for the mind. I’m a personal trainer for my mind — simple as that. Less simple though, is trying to develop and implement a training regimen. But at least it should be fun trying to figure something out. As this is now my priority, I’ll be able to see this work from a better perspective.

Like the body, the mind can also get out-of-shape. My mind eats whatever junk-thoughts float by, gobbling them up until it gets a tummy-ache. It’s bloated with bad-thoughts which encourages more bad-thoughts which spirals into a bad-thought binge. And to no surprise, it tends to react negatively to whatever situation it comes across. This isn’t acceptable anymore. So by training my mind, I intend to create a delightful day EVERY day.

Under the Tree

I must say, there’s an inordinate amount of monkey-business going on lately. Or is there? If I subtract all my negative-thoughts from the equation, things have pretty much proceeded normally. If I simply stay focused on my own day-to-day activities, nothing’s really different. It seems like a lot of people are experiencing change, but why should I focus on things outside my sphere of influence? “If surrounded by darkness, should we not seek the light?”

When I think of American history for example, I tend to think of bad stuff. But if I think of a runner in a race who hurt his foot, I don’t focus on his sores and tell him he should quit, I focus on his drive and determination to persist despite his injuries. “Look at him go!!” In the same way, despite its sores and flaws, America persists in its grand experiment. Should I not cheer as it goes ever toward the goal of securing the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all? Do I “boo” when it stumbles — or should I shout words of encouragement?

Dark times are but shadows residing in the mind. There’s always a better thought to think. To exterminate negative rumination as it infests the mind is the noblest act we can perform. Here be dragons, dark beasts that terrorize the quiet country-side of men’s minds, vermin to be slain by brave knights who dare tread past fiery onslaught. Claws do tear and fires burn, but we the Lighthearted Knights take up arms to conquer our own negativity — for pessimism is the only enemy we ever face.

It’s Buddhism 101, you see. In the end, the Buddha conquered his own propensity for pessimism and thus achieved enlightenment, freedom from the fetters of fear and negativity. And that’s IT. For those on this path, there is no other way. It is through the harnessing of raw and untamed thought that we find peace. Day in and day out, THAT is our profession, the practice we must perform. The anvil upon which we strike is the mind, hammering glowing hot thoughts into sharpened steel. It is through sudden stillness that we quench our work, from a flurry of thought to none at all.

And so I sit in the shade of the tree, whittling away rough edges, shaping and smoothing, forming thoughts into delightful arrangements that evoke joy.

Ennui On We

It’s my belief that greatest threat to humanity is ennui. In other words, existential boredom. In an attempt to alleviate this boredom, mankind invents all sorts of problems to contend with. In my life for instance, I’ve been trying to balance intensity and stillness. There’s either too much or too little — things are too serious or too frivolous. Like Goldilocks, I’m ever searching for “just right”. For most of life I’m either scared or bored.

Even after a few decades, I’m STILL trying to get it right. I’m trying to find low-intensity forms of entertainment, things that don’t rely on fear, frustration, anger, sadness, etc. to stimulate and hold my attention. I tried computer programming for example, but found it much too frustrating. I’m also trying to quit the classic game of “worrying about money” — I really think I’m getting close on that one. On the other end, I’m trying to get into woodworking as a hobby, but it takes effort to keep from getting bored. I tried playing a musical instrument for instance, but there just wasn’t enough excitement to sustain it.

Whereas I’ll light up like a Christmas tree when I hear some monkey-business going on. I’m trying to quit that though. Like junk-food, it leaves me with too much of a tummy-ache nowadays and I want no part of it. Maybe my tastes are maturing… or perhaps I’ve been beaten into submission, not sure. I was so good at pessimism and criticism, and they kept me endlessly entertained. Now optimism and appreciation are the arts I’m trying to master — I feel like such an amateur though. It’s so easy to tear something apart and so foreign to build it up.

Well dear diary, that’s where I’m at right now: mid-life and finally trying to put an end to my immature approach to existence. I’m attempting to go from scared and bored to appreciative and enthusiastically engrossed. The greatest hardship I’ve ever faced is reconciling with life, just trying to get a grasp on what’s going on here — and on top of that, finding the right balance of engagement. Some day soon I hope to taste that perfectly warmed porridge and sleep in that comfortable bed.

Mischievous Monkey

Does mischievousness exist? And if so, how do I deal with it?

I believe without a doubt that mischievousness exists. In other words, there’s an underlying monkey-business that pervades the world — a teasing, a poking, a prodding just for the fun of it. But I don’t think it’s cruelty-based, I think it’s caused by existential boredom. And since we’re in a simulated-reality or dream, there really aren’t any consequences to this teasing — it’s just a prank bro.

I think the only remedy is to label it as monkey-business and move on. In other words, identify it as mischief meant to provoke a reaction, then stop participating in it and switch to something you consider more satisfying. Perhaps playing along with some lighthearted histrionics might help too, letting everyone know that you’re on to their monkey-business. “Oh no!? Really!? Oh gosh! That’s so horrible!!” Then drop it and do something else.

My guess is that when the monkey sees you’re not a fun target that’s easily provoked, you’ll see less of his flinging feces. But consider this: the monkey that’s constantly harassing you might be you. I’ve certainly played enough video-games in which I’ve “tested” my character’s limits just for fun. YOU might be the one who’s bored and dreaming up shenanigans in order to add excitement into a boring life. Therefore, make sure you’re always engaged in some sort of satisfying pursuit.

Captain on the Bridge

I’ve always had the feeling that circumstances are beyond my control. It makes me uncomfortable because I don’t know how anything will turn out. And if I don’t know whether something will work, why bother investing myself in it? So not only have I been frozen by the fear of uncertainty, I’m also stalled by the idea that the unpredictability-of-outcomes makes all effort futile. Sounds like a recipe for a whole lotta sitting still and watching the world go by (Spoiler Alert! It is).

Because I’m on a Negativity-Free Diet, I need to get rid of that feeling of being a victim, forever at the mercy of a cruel world. I lack any sense of confidence and surety that I can accomplish most tasks. My preceding thought is typically: “Ehh, hopefully it’ll work out…?” And based on the Law of Attraction, I therefore attract a seemingly haphazard outcome. If you recall, I recently adopted the tenets of LOA as a tool to curb my negativity.

I need to instill in myself the feeling of being-in-control and the idea that there’s a certainty-of-outcome to whatever endeavor I perform. Just thinking about it now, the world obviously works with way more certainty than I typically assume — I’ve obviously been irrationally distrustful. So for the time being, I’ll keep the irrationality, but switch over to an irrational trust-of-life and an extreme confidence in my abilities.

In practical terms, this means I need to think thoughts that inspire feelings of proficiency, seeing myself competently accomplishing tasks from beginning to end, imagining scenes that instill a sense of mastery, of being in control. I need to sense a surety of outcome, maintaining a faith in my skills to sculpt life into a satisfying work-of-art. Whenever I sense hesitation and doubt, I need to re-imagine the scene as one in which I am in complete command.