Cultivating Calm

Chaotic forces swirl and I sail atop else I get swept up in their turbulence.

Why does such chaos exist? It is the source of creation, the pool of imagination – from it, pours the world. Out comes the many scenes and seeming randomness of experience. Be without a rudder, a set direction, and a thrilling adventure whisks you up, down, and all around. But set your focus firm and you’ll tend to head in a specific direction.

A novel intensity that keeps boredom at bay or a sure thing in which appreciation must be continuously cultivated. Choose one.

Being unable to appreciate anything, I picked the first option. But the intensity was too much – now I want the second option. Yet, focus and enjoyment of what’s in hand are difficult things for me to master. I can see there’s a certain charm to the calm – but allowing my mind to wander into the fray is so easy.

Every day, every hour, every minute, I must become aware of what I’m focusing on, examining my thoughts and how I’m feeling.

The external world I experience conforms to my focus. A bad time reflects a bad attitude. I no longer strain to jump actual hurdles, but train my mind to remove focus from the concept of obstruction. As a result, concrete problems dissolve back into the swirling chaos.

Whenever I experience unpleasantness, I am to blame. Disagreeable circumstances are a consequence of haphazard consciousness, a lack of mental-discipline. Leaving my mind unattended leads to an ever-spreading blaze. But if I simply attend to the flame, keeping it within a designated area, I receive warmth and illumination.

Passing Scenery

There’s always something to be unsatisfied about – so a quest to fulfill emptiness through external means never ends.

Therefore, seek to be satisfied in every moment through mental discipline (the practice of focusing the mind). Practice until thoughts flow in and out like scenery in the distance. Hold no thoughts in focus. This is one of the hardest games to play, have patience and persist. Ignore thoughts that race-in to fill voids. Boredom is a sign it’s working whereas anxiousness and drama are signs of misplaced focus. Now with a blank canvas, paint with delightful hues that invoke satisfaction.

Focus is the fundamental force of the universe. With focus, you control your experience of existence. “Out of all the thoughts I could be having, is this one worthy of my focus?” Ask yourself this for each and every thought that gets your attention. Pondering positive possibilities is acceptable for example. And if you can’t think of anything nice, don’t think of anything at all. Notice a thought and gently transition to no-thought.

Sometimes you’ll sense mischief, deal with it through lightheartedness. You’re only susceptible to monkey-business when you’re serious. A monkey pokes and prods searching for a tender spot, wince or whine and he’ll know he’s found his treasure. “Ha, what a silly little game” should be your only reply to shenanigans. And consider this: you might be the monkey teasing yourself – but either way, don’t be the patsy losing yourself to frustration.

No thought is more valuable than the practice of mental discipline. Default to unfocusing on thoughts, refocusing only when a thought proves itself good. Evaluate the feelings it evokes. Weed this mental garden, leaving only the resplendent and nourishing to bloom and grow. The path has always been there, it simply seemed too tedious. Why bother with thoughts when a whole world awaits? But those thoughts are the very foundation of the world you experience. Bad thoughts, bad experience – good thoughts, good experience.

And remember, external objectives are never the point, they’re simply finish-lines placed for the fun of it. The purpose of participating in games is to extract enjoyment through the pursuit of frivolous goals.

Thought Rides

A thought is like a ride at an amusement park. You strap yourself in and cede control over to the thought and you’re whisked away. A thought can be all-consuming and take you on quite a journey: up, down, and all around. If you don’t enjoy thrills, some of these thoughts can be downright disturbing. So instead of jumping on every thought you see, a more enjoyable approach is to pick the ones suited to your tastes, those that evoke the most enjoyment. If you don’t prefer a particular thought, don’t ride it – pass it by and move on to the next one.

Initially it’ll be boring since you have to pass on so many thoughts. But with your focus away from thrills, you’ll start to notice there were other slower-paced thoughts the whole time. You had ignored them, probably labeling them as lame and boring. Also, you’re not missing out by skipping the thrills – you don’t have to do everything. You don’t order EVERY item on a menu, you pick and choose what you want. Let the thrills go, don’t concern yourself with them, leave them alone and focus on delightful stuff.

At amusement parks, thrill-rides don’t jump the tracks and come looking for you. You must seek them out and step into the ride-car. For example, if you busy yourself on the lazy-river, that’s all you’ll ever experience. But if you carelessly wander the park, you might accidentally wind up on a ride that’s too intense. And to a chaotic mind, everything seems chaotic. An anxious mind will imagine itself drowning in the lazy-river for example. So the key to all of this is mental discipline.

Mental discipline is the practice of intentionally directing focus, it’s a combination of ignoring some thoughts while paying close attention to others. It’s like going to an amusement park with a map and some prior research. For instance, you can watch a thought from the outskirts and notice your reaction, then dump out if it seems like it’s producing an unpleasant feeling. Don’t like something? Don’t think about it! Is that challenging? KINDA! On one hand, it requires a lot of self-awareness but on the other hand, it’s better than remaining in misery.

New Year New Me

I’ve noticed that there’s always a predicament I’m in. Whether it’s a personal wellness matter, a lack of things I want, relationship issues, a looming global catastrophe, or even just existential angst – there’s ALWAYS something. Solving the current issue doesn’t fix things since another problem is waiting around the corner.

In video-games, you typically want an endless supply of obstacles to provide challenge and interest. But what if those obstacles are just too tough or not the type you’re interested in? Well that’s my problem with my problems: I want a new set of problems. Otherwise, I’m going full Buddha-mode and ignoring the very concept of problems.

For most of life my problems have been: social awkwardness, aches & pains, digestion issues, inability to sleep and tiredness, financial lack, anxiety, and pessimism. I’m done with that stuff. It’s the junk-food of life, just quick non-nutritive snacks to stave off boredom. Now I want the good stuff.

For example, how about tool collecting, workshop setup and optimization, finding just the right home, sleeping and eating well, perceiving the goodness of life and feeling appreciative. This last year has been about my negativity-free diet. How about I up the ante and adopt a Delightful Diet for 2021. Yeah, let’s do that.

Inside the House

I’m several decades old already and I can say without a doubt that the worst experiences I’ve had thus far, have been the times I’ve spent focused on dour pessimistic thoughts. Yes that’s right: bleak, hostile, sad, and worrisome thoughts have served to torture me for many years. I can therefore confidently declare that they are my enemy. They’re intoxicating and unrelenting and they’ve tried to destroy me on many occasions.

In my naivete I thought they were my ally, protecting me from a dangerous world. They were not. I thought they told the truth, warning me of risks all around. They did not. I thought they were simply a part of who I was, just everyday thoughts. They are not. No, these negative thoughts are more like a demonic influence sowing seeds of discontent within every experience. And I succumbed. I failed the test of temptation and accepted every somber suggestion provided.

To be sure, it was a tragic mistake that led to much misery. Yet there was one flaw in the devil’s plan. Turn up the heat little by little and the victim never realizes he’s in hell. Turn up the heat too much at once? The predicament becomes more obvious. “Wait a second, why’s it so hot in here!?” But the illusion is so complete that it’s difficult to discern – despite an awareness of foul-play. Something is wrong, but what, and from where?

Well, it’s those thoughts. Although it seemed external, the enemy was within. “The calls are coming from INSIDE the house!!” And this prankster won’t stop – so I’ll let it ring. Decades have proven to me the harmlessness of these thoughts. It’s okay to ignore them. This devil has no authority, no means to make bad things happen, just tricks to make the good seem bad. The way out of this hell is to maintain focus, ever looking to the light.

Hope and Joy

My Christmas message this year is about hope. Hope is simply faith in our imagination. Hope typically implies a pleasant image of what’s to come. Why waste energy hoping for something distasteful? So the ideal approach, is to hope for what seems most delightful. In other words, hope is about spending time inside an enjoyable daydream and accepting its premise as plausible.

In our minds, we could certainly spend our time conjuring-up dour predictions of the future. Or, we could eschew such dismal hobbies and partake in satisfying ones instead. THIS is the gift we could give ourself. The gift of joy through hope – but, are we willing to receive it? A gift so grand requires an appropriate vessel to contain it – the only way to hold it, is through mental discipline (the practice of maintaining focus).

To extract joy from hope we must remain focused on that satisfying thought. Of course we could criticize it, pointing out a hundred different ways it’s wrong, or generate a thousand dour scenarios to drown it out – but we won’t. Through our dedication to giving and receiving this gift, we won’t. The joy resides inside, unlocked by our commitment to this cheerful cause.

So it is upon this Christmas Eve that I recommend this gift that’s been waiting within for you to unwrap. Read the tag “To you, From you”, rip off the ribbon, tear through the paper – focus on gratitude for a gift given in the spirit of festive merriment. Maintain that focus! Steady! Think of nothing else! Bathe in appreciation and the warmth of joy, feel the sensation of tingling as calmness flows and a smile forms. In your imagination everything is as it should be, perfect, complete.

Learning to Dance

Life is a celebration of frivolity and inefficiency. The objective is to reach the end as slowly as possible while enjoying the trip. In other words: find something fun to do for a few decades and you win. But as someone that thinks in terms of seriousness and efficiency, this process seems absurdly difficult. I feel like I showed up at a dance wondering why everyone is flinging their appendages around when they should be diligently planning and preparing and gathering resources.

Therefore, much of my time and effort is telling myself to ignore the inclination to squirrel away nuts for the winter. So how can I ever get in the mood for dancing when I’m constantly suppressing the urge to worry? I’m forever on the lookout for optimization and efficiency in a world in which such endeavors are futile. I know my tendencies are wrong because I receive no benefit from them, just anxiety. I have drive without a destination.

I have plenty of energy for worry. But since I don’t allow myself to worry, I mostly sit around ignoring my worrisome thoughts. When I used to entertain those thoughts, I was terribly upset all the time. I traded worry for boredom – intensity for low-energy. So now what!? Well overall I think my experience has improved. My guess is that I’ll have to learn how to dance, in the figurative sense i.e. engage in a frivolous and inefficient activity that I find enjoyable.

For example: this year I’ve been engaging in some small-scale hand-tool woodworking. It’s incredibly frivolous and inefficient. Imagine milling tiny planks of wood from a larger block and assembling those into a minuscule bench too small for sitting or into a two-inch tall raised-panel door to nowhere. Yet, I’ve been thoroughly entertained thus far. Only recently has the close of this year started to take its toll. But of course, I don’t allow myself to worry about it – thus all my energy is currently directed towards disregarding my situation. “This is fine” as the meme says.

Diet Evaluation

At the beginning of this year, I made a resolution in accordance with the New Year’s Day tradition. On January 1st I began a negativity-free diet. This diet was so-named because I was attempting to lessen my focus on negativity. In other words, I was too anxious and pessimistic and wanted a change – I wanted a better experience of existence. So, I tended my mental garden and tried to pick out all the weeds. I also cut out a bunch of external forms of entertainment that contributed to a negative outlook.

Well?? Did it work!? With weightloss, you can just jump on a scale or measure body-fat percentage or analyze how your clothes fit. With negativity, I think the measurement is a little tougher to analyze. And if the process is gradual, it makes differences difficult to notice. I asked a couple people I know and they said I seemed less negative – I “laugh more freely” for example. Funny enough, a longstanding digestive issue seems to have finally cleared up. And I naturally fall asleep at a reasonable time every night nowadays (I still wake-up all throughout the night though).

But do I feel better? Again, it’s been an entire year so I’m not sure how much I’ve changed. I’m not so overflowing with improvement that I’m proselytizing my diet as the best thing ever. In terms of negativity, I started out as “morbidly obese”, so perhaps a single year isn’t quite enough to balance everything out. I obviously made some progress but I need more time and practice. I still have “bad days” – but relative to my previous bad days, they’re probably much better.

Oh and another potential benefit, I’ve been engaging in a new hobby for most of this year: small-scale, hand-tool woodworking. Perhaps clearing out a bunch of negativity made room for something fun. I’d done woodworking in the past, but it was mostly frustrating – this time around it was much more satisfying. Well anyway, I’ll be continuing the diet into the new year.

Hope and a Smile

I think quality-of-life can drastically change based on my focus and perspective. Therefore, by adjusting and shaping my thoughts, I can improve my experience of existence. And the crux of this, is mental discipline: the practice of deliberately monitoring and adjusting my thoughts, feelings, and reactions. It doesn’t matter how seemingly upsetting or how logically dire a situation is – with properly applied mental discipline, my state of mind can be improved.

I could attempt to alter my surroundings and the world through physical means – or, I could simply see everything as perfectly fine. Yes, this is EXACTLY like the cartoon-dog sitting in a burning-house meme when he says: “This is fine”. But, he died with hope and a smile. Would it have been better to die in a state of panic and despair? From what I’ve seen, positive attitudes lead to more enjoyable experiences and better outcomes.

As is said: if surrounded by darkness, should you not seek the light? And if that light-source happens to be a raging fire, well that’s fine too. As the poster reminds: Keep calm and carry on. It’s not a defeatist attitude, it’s just pivoting. When you can’t jump high enough to get over the hurdle, you could simply sit and enjoy the day regardless. If you can’t think of something nice to say, you can say nothing at all.

Mental discipline is still a form of striving by the way. But instead of struggling against physical obstacles, it’s striving to shape my perspective into something positive – no matter what. It’s like those people that train themselves to sit in icy water despite the seemingly uncomfortable and improbable nature of the task. I tend to see situations as unpleasant or impossible, and I must overcome that tendency through the practice of mental discipline. I must have hope and smile.

Ignore It

If I ignore something, does it go away or get worse? Answer: it goes away. That sounds like the wrong approach, that such a strategy would only lead to a festering mess in the end. Yet, over the course of many years, I’ve found that it’s the exact tactic that works. Whether it’s an internal ache or something external, ignoring it has typically made it disappear whereas focusing on it only increased the intensity.

From thoughts, to pains, to people, to situations – whenever I stop maintaining them within my mind, they simply fade away. It’s not always easy to forget something, which is why things don’t blip out instantaneously. I typically have to repeatedly ignore the image while trying to focus on something else. But if I keep at it, it goes away.

Yes, this phenomenon demonstrates that the world is not a concrete physical reality in which I’m a mere spectator to life’s objective events. My thoughts and feelings are readily influencing the reality I’m experiencing, there’s no doubt about it. But if that’s true, why am I not having the best time ever? Why do I find myself experiencing unpleasantness again and again?

My guess would be: the lack of application of mental discipline. In other words, I don’t ignore enough. I don’t selectively identify and ignore that which produces discomfort. If I’m not feeling great in every moment, that means there’s something I’m not ignoring. Could it be that simple!? Does ignorance truly result in bliss!? I’m going to dedicate myself to this experiment and find out!