Guardian of Tranquility

I am a Guardian of Tranquility. I guard my awareness from a wandering mind. External circumstances don’t matter, it could be raining fire, but at all times I’m protecting the conscious mind from an onslaught of thought. With rampant thoughts, my mind is overcome by drama and dissatisfaction. Without rampant thoughts, my mind experiences tranquility and contentment.

There’s no place to hide. Because the mind is always present, I’m already found. Thoughts will continue to lure and tempt no matter my position, I can’t run. Even if I locked myself in a closet, my attention-seeking mind would fabricate some sort of boogeyman. My only option is standing guard against chaotic thoughts that seek to invade and obtain my awareness.

I don’t try to alter my external surroundings to facilitate calm. It can’t be done. An unfettered mind will twist ANY situation into a turbulent storm of down-pouring unpleasantness. The only refuge is an inner-state of cultivated serenity. Such a condition requires dedicated practice and unwavering vigilance. Through regular meditation, I monitor my mind and steer a steady course.

In other words, I’m not attempting to subdue the world, the goal is to subdue my mind and soften my reactions. I’m not shutting out the world, I’m shutting out my thoughts – keeping my consciousness clear of poisonous pondering – guarding against thoughts that tarnish whatever they touch. And the reason I commit to this endeavor, is to improve my experience of existence.

External Enemies

No matter the form they took, be it bullies or bills – external enemies weren’t my actual adversary. My true enemy is the one residing within: the tormenting thoughts that never cease. Extreme stress didn’t come from actual events, it came from the surrounding thoughts. It’s obvious now: no matter the situation, seemingly good or bad, my thoughts found a way to inflict pain and dissatisfaction. Got a gift? “What’s wrong with it!?” Got a deadline? “You’ll never finish in time!!”

Those stupid, pestering thoughts. Vermin of the mind, running around spreading disease as they consume anything of value. What stops vermin is filling gaps, setting traps, and deploying predators. Don’t give “thoughts” space to roam free. Set the bait and watch as they emerge to nibble – notice the paths they take and the ways they react. Be the predator that pounces – in quiet meditation consume each thought as prey, one after another, powerless to your prowess.

I feel no sorrow for these “thoughts” that tricked me into believing I was surrounded by enemies on all sides. They hid in the shadows of the mind, accusing everything of malevolence, making me believe “thoughts” were my only refuge in a world of external evil. “Come, lose yourself in thought, we’re the only experience you need. Reject all that you see, trust in us as your source of nourishment.” What a fool I was, believing every word.

Thoughts are a fairytale, they reveal no truth – how could they? Thoughts reside in the mind, like a reclusive shut-in that complains of a world he only assumes exists. Assertive repetition makes him sound convincing, but his claims are pure fantasy. The formula is simple: is it a thought? Then it’s not true. Is it a thought? Then it’s a work of fiction. Is it a thought? Then it’s useless drivel – feel free to ignore. It’s a mistake to believe that thoughts represent truth.

Random Thoughts

Without thoughts: tranquility and contentment. With thoughts: drama and discontentment.

The formula’s simple folks. It’s “thoughts” that are bringin’ you down. Anxious, antagonizing, and abusive thoughts that keep runnin’ through your head – THAT’S the problem. Consider this: right after some event happens – it’s over. Yet your thoughts keep that event on replay so you can see and analyze it within your imagination indefinitely. And if it isn’t an external event, your thoughts just torment you in other ways, maybe tell you how dumb and ugly you are.

Folks, there’s no denying it, “thoughts” have got to go. I’ve tried being a good roommate, it doesn’t work. Those “thoughts” tear the place up everynight and take a dump in the kitchen sink. Are you just gonna spend the rest of your life wiping up after your thoughts? Hell no! Hey “thoughts”, get out – we’re done here.

I’ll be sitting there minding my own business and all of a sudden I feel bad. Hm, that’s weird. Oh yeah, my “thoughts” were running their mouth again. Well guess what “thoughts”? GTFO! I’m not following your random tangents into turmoil anymore.

Hey “thoughts”, how about I interrupt YOU and take a dump on all the garbage-ideas you keep contributing? How would you like those apples, sport? “Ha, I didn’t know thoughts could be so ugly! Wow if thoughts were physical objects, they’d be varying consistencies of puke. And if thoughts were a smell, they’d be an unflushed toilet. Hey, this is kinda fun isn’t it ‘thoughts’!? But you suck, so what would you know! Ha! I suppose thoughts are just worthless drivel meant to be ignored? Thoughts seem to be the slag of consciousness, mere scum that’s meant to be cleared away.”

Aww, now that’s not nice is it? So maybe “thoughts” should try a bit harder to contribute constructively to the conscious experience. Spewing crap all the time isn’t exactly “random”, it’s pretty predictable at this point. Therefore “thoughts”, stop being toxic or else just stay away. Silence is fine. Buh-bye.

Following Along

Do not follow the wandering mind.

Images and ideas pop into awareness like lures on a fishing hook. Take a bite and be whisked away, up through the surface and into an intense adventure. To experience tranquility, ignore the invitation.

But boredom must be avoided! So snap at every temptation! Intensity increases and anxiety accumulates! Eventually the condition becomes uncomfortable. Let go, detach – don’t follow.

The mind paints pictures and presents them into awareness, that’s what it does. Whether focus remains on those pictures, that’s what consciousness decides – that’s free-will at work.

The speed at which this unfocusing takes place is improved through practice. Meditation is one such exercise. Dedicate and apply effort towards unfocusing on thoughts. Lead by focusing on awareness.

Strangled Entanglement

I’ve heard stories of people awakening to new perspectives after episodes of severe depression. Afterwards, they go on to tell of a silence. A certain voice is no longer present. Their minds are clear. They’re now at peace.

I think I’ve heard that particular inner-voice many times. In fact, it won’t shut up. It’s so pervasive and infectious that it incorporates itself into everything I think or do. It’s like a computer-virus, ceaselessly executing its code within my system, bogging down my resources with its buggy behavior.

So that seems to be a fact: there’s an inner-voice – parasitic perhaps, demonic maybe – that resides within the mind. But it also seems like there’s a possibility it can be silenced. But how? What’s the mechanism that must be applied?

Is it severe depression? Shutting down the body to such a degree that the voice gets bored and leaves? (or however it works). Maybe it’s simpler than that. I think creating a hostile environment could be part of the solution though.

To those ends, I’ve tried a lot of meditation in which I’ve purposefully worked towards unfocusing on my thoughts. I think it helped, but it’s a lot of effort and can be a real struggle. And if there’s a particularly invasive thought, then it can be near impossible to unfocus.

So I was sitting there trying to meditate one night. And I could readily see that my thoughts were the true cause of my discomfort and discontentment. No matter my external circumstances, these thoughts just piled on, constantly shoving insults in my face, and always inventing new ways of introducing distress.

I was getting frustrated with these invasive thoughts. They were an enemy, my abuser, actively attacking me from the inside. Slap after slap and then I snapped. I spiritually strangled the thoughts. I imagined a set of bluish energy-based hands grasping my bluish energy-based neck and I squeezed the life from those thoughts.

My mind got quiet. I sat there in silence for a bit. When you turn-off the TV, you’re left staring at a blank screen. Um, now what? Did I break something? Am I okay with this? Well, it’s better than the alternative. But how long will it last?

Basically, I went from passive-unfocusing to active-silencing and it worked. What years of meditation couldn’t do, a few seconds of assertiveness could. I suppose it’s like rebuking a demon: “Get back devil!” It didn’t last, but now I know such a space exists and can be reached. “If it bleeds, we can kill it.”

Idle Gaming

I used to think of life as a competitive first-person survival-based game. That outlook didn’t do me any favors and resulted in a lot of anxiety. And as a result, my assumptions were all off – life wasn’t aligning with my expectations. Finally, after many years, I gave up on my warped perspective. Though not gonna lie, the transition is taking longer than you’d think.

Truly, and after decades of proof being thrown in my face, I understand that I was wrong. Oops, my bad. But despite that understanding, I still can’t reside in a place of peace. I’m still a bit suspicious and somewhat unconvinced of the benign nature of existence. Is life out to get me!? Hm….

Well whatever. As best I can, I’m going to treat life as a chill idle game. Am I in first-person anymore? No, I’m in a fourth-person perspective, which means I kinda just watch my character do his thing. I don’t reside in the world, I’m more of an audience to it. All my previous direct-action strategies pretty much failed anyway, so.

In an idle game, oftentimes there’s clicking or tapping involved. So what’s my “clicky-tappy” interaction as the player? It’s focusing. Essentially, my character makes his way through the game on his own, but I kinda influence him based on my focus. For example, if I focus on a dying dog, my character might cry. Whereas if I focus on chocolate cake, my character might eat some soon. Therefore, a lot of my energy is directed towards focus-management.

Thoughts are the limitless resource that comes pouring onto my screen. As the player, I must direct these granules to the appropriate processing-centers located around the board. Negative thoughts go in the trash basically. Currency is acquired through tranquility, accumulating through extended periods of well-managed focus. There’s no real winning or losing, it’s just having fun through the process of resource-management.

Spooktober Time

Imagine the scariest scenario you can think of. After doing so, you’d probably feel bad, right? Why wouldn’t you? Now contemplate this idea: what if you never allowed yourself to focus on another scary thought for the rest of your life? It’s a pretty decent theory that you’d live a fear-free life from then on.

I’m actually putting that theory to the test. It’s not as easy as it sounds. If I allow my mind to wander, random thoughts can contain scary scenarios. And of course there are times when I’m half-asleep or even dreaming – at those times, weird thoughts can be harder to ignore. I also had to change my fundamental belief system so I could logically dismantle scary ideas. Managing all this is literally a full-time job.

Since I have nothing better to do I’m doing it. It seems kinda strange to manually manage my mental-state so carefully, but here we are. I’ve been able to get to a place where I barely feel fear or even worry, but that didn’t solve all my problems unfortunately. I even worked on diminishing my anger, but I’m still fraught with frustration.

You’d think I’d be somewhat satisfied, but I’m not. My problems simply changed shape. I guess the Buddha was right. It’s the underlying concept of dissatisfaction itself that must be eradicated, NOT the proximate causes. I was always “anxious” so I thought its expulsion would allow me to live a satisfying life. Nope, I just found something else to be dissatisfied about.

Even though I can readily witness myself genuinely appreciating aspects of existence nowadays, little things still annoy me. And so it’s “death by a thousand cuts” as all these tiny irritations make a day or week seem unpleasant. For example: something always hurts, there’s a minor ache or small sore somewhere. Another example: there’s always a shifting deadline, something somewhere is due.

Therefore, I’ve got to go deeper. Fear, anger, so what – I need to gain complete control of my mental focus. To be fair, the Dhammapada says this in the beginning. It’s all about mental-discipline through mindfulness and proper focus. Oh well, I suppose I still have a lot of work to do. Imagine straining to a finish-line only to find out it’s the starting-line of a whole other race.

But I have a huge head-start thanks to all the meditation, mental-discipline, philosophical, and spiritual stuff I’ve been doing for the past couple decades. I suppose it boils down to this question: what would happen if you never let your mind wander? Well, I’ll have to put that to the test.

Thorns of Thought

In a virtual world, like a dream, anything can be anything. This fundamental fact is a prescription for eradicating anxiety. Since everything is malleable, there’s no application for worry. Early warning signs point to a potential, not to an absolute. Follow those signs and you’ll surely find what you’re looking for. But ignore them, and they’ll fade from existence.

Here’s something to consider: what is the interface for a virtual world such as this? There are no obvious buttons, no onscreen keyboard to summon – so how does one input their wishes into the world? There is but one way: focus. Of course, focusing one’s attention is a difficult operation to master. This is the purpose of meditation: it’s a concentrated practice of concentration – a way to make the seemingly-impossible possible.

The point is to stop following every little thought. These thoughts aren’t the problem, they’re like thorns as you walk through a garden. Don’t interact with them, and you remain without pain. Focus on them, wonder what happens when they press against flesh, then their prick provokes distress. Playing with each and every thought as it comes into view is an ever-flowing source of dissatisfaction.

Your focus betrays you. If you allow it to wander, you’ll crash. Whereas if you steer your attention in a delightful direction, your experience vastly improves. But be advised: this is not an effortless task because boredom encourages negligence. Thrilling ways lead to exciting days – and the mind seeks drama. This is the other facet of meditation: to become comfortable sans-spectacle.

Quiet the mind, intentionally guide it: you win. Forgo discipline and allow the mind to wander wherever: you lose. One evokes satisfaction, the other suffering. This concept can be tested and proven, faith is not required. Left to its own devices, the mind becomes a bitter pessimist poisoning your experience. But if you invest the effort, the mind may be molded into a cheerful companion that gladdens your days.

Inner World

Here’s a question you should be asking yourself regularly:

What kind of world am I creating within my thoughts? Is it a world in which I’m worried, annoyed, or frustrated? If so, then that’s a dumb habit you need to break. What’s happening in the mind is typically much worse than what’s happening in your actual external experience. Your thoughts devise tragic and dire consequences, haunting you with the worst outcomes imaginable. It’s not protecting you from future possibilities, your mind is straight-up torturing you right now.

Or rather, you’re tormenting yourself. Why? There’s no valid reason, so stop. Instead of creating a dissatisfying world, try thinking of a world in which you feel anticipation for something delightful, think of an amusing world, a world you appreciate, a world in which you experience an overall sense of satisfaction. It’s just thoughts, you can select which ones to dismiss and which ones to focus on.

If the external world burned around you, it wouldn’t matter. Your thoughts can be your refuge. The inner world you create should be an ally – not an enemy. It shouldn’t be used to pile on the pain, but ease your burden. Your thoughts should be your best friend, forever painting scenes to entertain and enchant. If this isn’t the case, then you’re in need of a major adjustment.

These are YOUR thoughts after all. If at any moment you feel upset, you know you’re focusing on unpleasant thoughts. Cease and desist this low-quality hobby – immediately. Perhaps you’re bored and scaring yourself for the excitement-factor. Find something better, something enjoyable. Focusing on unpleasant thoughts is like choosing the hobby of hitting your head with a hammer – it’s dumb, don’t do it.

Start a new hobby. No more creating a world of woe for yourself. For this new hobby, craft a wondrous world of wow. Stop taunting and start treating yourself to the most satisfying thoughts possible. Imagine an honored and beloved guest is coming to visit a world of your making, how would you design such a place? Now allow yourself to be that honored and beloved guest – allow yourself to live in that world.

Problematic Solutions

Fixing one problem can reveal or exacerbate another problem. I think that’s what’s happening here. Early on, my primary focus was fear and hostility. I was an anxiety-ridden mess, always worried about something and suspicious of everything. I fixed that problem through a major alteration of perspective. In short, I dumped my belief in a physical-reality ruled by random-chance. I replaced it with a belief in a simulated (or dreamlike) reality in which random-chance doesn’t exist.

It took a few years of dedication, but eventually the new perspective took hold. I truly believe that I exist within a simulation/dream. Because of that, my anxiety and hostility are gone, there’s literally nothing to fear and nothing to fight – it’s all flickering pixels. But now that fear and hostility are gone, so is my primary hobby: worrying and arguing.

With time on my hands, I started focusing on the good-things in life – I finally have the capacity for appreciation. But here’s the problem: if life is a dream, why can’t I have everything I want? Previously, I figured chance wasn’t in my favor, I was lucky to have what little I had. I was fine hiding away from the world, remaining unnoticed. But if this is a simulation, and random-chance doesn’t exist, what’s keeping my wishes from coming true?

Therefore, I’m getting a bit frustrated. Fixing one bug caused another: frustration has become my new hobby. Apparently, I have a tendency to pick dumb ways to occupy my time. So now what? Obviously I have to fix this problem while maintaining the previous fix – I need a comprehensive solution that doesn’t introduce more issues.

One option is to completely renounce the physical world, seeing attainment as an exercise in futility. But this seems wrong. Why exist within a world that offers so much stuff? Purely as an exercise in denial and self-restraint? That seems rude. Hey, here’s this vast and wondrous world to engage with! “Um, no thanks, I’m good – I’ll just sit here facing the corner.”

Another option might be believing in benevolent constraints. Essentially, rules for your own good. “You’ll spoil your supper if you eat dessert first!” Or maybe to keep the narrative more engaging: there’s no story to tell if you already have everything. Or maybe it’s like a Christmas Wishlist: Santa might bring something you asked for, or he might not – be grateful either way.

Although I’ve looked, I’ve yet to find an effective algorithm for attainment. In my experience, success seems haphazard. But in my belief-system, it can’t be chance-based – there has to be some underlying principle. I don’t have to discover the true fundamental nature of reality, I just need a convincing non-contradictory explanation that I can believe in. An adequate answer to the question: how do I get what I want, and why don’t I always get what I want?