Another Entry

Well dear diary, here we are again. Let’s review and get you up to speed. Basically I was born, I was confused, I found being a human-being to be a strange and disagreeable experience. Because of that, I’ve been forever trying to fix this predicament. For decades I’ve strained to discern the solution to my problem. But, because I’m a relentless problem-solver that’s energized by defeat, I’ve readily maintained this pursuit.

If I had to guess, there’s likely no solution to be found. It’s more about the pageantry of hide-and-seek rather than actual achievement of a goal. There are times when I recognize this futility and stop looking. I figure I can coast-by in mild-discomfort. But then something really uncomfortable happens and I start searching again. I’m currently in search-mode if you couldn’t tell.

I guess you could say “the search for a solution to the inherent dissatisfaction of existence” has been my profession for all these years. That sounds a lot like the Buddha’s line-of-work. Obviously he’s been a role-model of mine since long ago. It’s said that he found a solution. And from what I can discern, his answer boils down to “mental discipline”. But that’s basically the video-gamer’s taunt of “Get good, noob!”.

I’ve spent at least a couple decades trying to get good at mental discipline. From meditation to reading various texts in the philosophical, scientific, religious, and spiritual realms – as well as completely altering my worldview. But even after all that, the path has no perceivable end. I’m not complaining per se, I mean at this point what else would I do?

I always figured I’d find the fix, implement it, and then live out the rest of my days in retirement, living the easy life. Enlightenment achieved, check. But I guess I’ll just keep tending my flock of thoughts, rambunctious though they are. Hm, maybe I shouldn’t be so resentful of their unruly nature. I mean, what’s a game without obstacles, right?

Steering the Cart

I’m concurrently reading my goto books: “The Bhagavad Gita” and “The Dhammapada”. They quite clearly point-out my problem: I’m lacking mental discipline – I’m letting my mind wander wherever it wants – and THAT is the direct source of my dissatisfaction.

Here’s the thing, I KNOW this. I’ve read these books already, many times, using several different translations each. Yet here I am, doing EXACTLY what I shouldn’t be doing. To be fair, the books readily admit that taming the unruly mind IS a difficult task.

I believe I went wrong by assuming I was “done”. I cleaned out my mental attic and felt I could sit back and relax. I could not. As Barty Crouch Junior always said: “Constant vigilance!” Whenever I let my guard down, my tempestuous mind has always shown its readiness to pounce.

So back on the wagon I go. Meditating twice daily. Reading spiritual truths. Turning my mind towards the infinite all-pervading source of all. Moderation in diet and activity. It’s not something you graduate from, it’s a way of life. Yet it’s so easy to forget and get lost into an illusion.

The Enemy

The enemy is an unruly mind that seeks excitement at any cost. Basically, a bored child that doesn’t care who gets hurt – even itself.

I’ve witnessed my mood sink upon the consideration of an unpleasant thought. Whereas I’ve watched my mood lighten while focusing on an enjoyable topic. It’s plain to see: focus influences mood. Therefore, keep focus turned toward the delightful.

If the unruly mind is willing to abruptly grab the wheel and derail your journey, then you must put all your effort into keeping the wheel aligned and pointed in the right direction.

The right direction:
Love: I appreciate and adore many things in this world. I feel loved and supported by this world.
Lightheartedness: I laugh and have fun, delighting in my experiences.
Creativity: I create things that bring joy to myself and others.
Triumph: I am confident and competent, I’ve already won and need nothing to feel complete.

The enemy is relentless. Unchecked, you WILL lose. You will feel unloved, you will feel dour and pessimistic, you will feel discouraged and powerless, you will feel like a hopeless loser. This is the promise of an undisciplined mind.

This enemy is your constant companion. This enemy does not rest. This enemy springs into action during the best of times, during the worst of times, during the most ordinary of times – it’s always there to take you down into a hellish pit of despair.

With such an overwhelming opponent, how can you resist? By being just as fervent in your effort to overcome – you must apply tenacious dedication to lifting yourself up beyond this turbulent influence.

Be aware that this enemy is literally willing to choke you to death for its own amusement. BUT, don’t perceive this as malicious – it’s more like owning a chainsaw. It’s a powerful tool that’s able to tear through limbs both wood and flesh. You must therefore be an attentive operator that respects the power you wield, applying it responsibly in the direction you want to affect.

Like a chainsaw, this tool allows you to alter your surroundings. But as the operator of this tool, YOU are your own worst enemy. As horror-movies state: “the call is coming from inside the house!” – but YOU are the one making the call and YOU are the one receiving it. If you’re an irresponsible tool owner, you’ll feel pain. As I always say in the workshop: any tool used improperly becomes a weapon.

In summation: the mind and its constantly whirring thoughts are a chainsaw. They WILL literally rip you apart if you don’t pay attention and properly direct them.

Cycling Through

After many years of intense effort and determination, I reduced or eliminated the external factors I believed to be the sources of my problems. But after all that, there still remained an underlying discontentment. With a lack of scapegoats, I noticed something obvious. My thoughts were deluging my attention with very unpleasant scenes and ideas. Basically, “the call is coming from INSIDE the house!!”

I know I’ve come to that conclusion before. But imagine remembering the combination to a lock – you remember the numbers but not how to apply them, or you don’t remember where the lock is, or you can’t recall why you even want the lock open in the first place. There’s an inherent forgetfulness built-in and any revelation I discern doesn’t last.

But there IS an inner enemy. I’ll be sitting peacefully and appreciatively and BAM, some disturbing thought floats into my awareness. “WTF! That’s horrible! And there’s no hope!? Only pain and despair!? All is lost! Only suffering remains!” And then I eventually notice what’s going on and shut it down. “Stop bullying my consciousness you rotten miscreant! Scat! Get outta here!”

And I play this dumb whack-a-mole game again and again. I try to remain aware and on-guard as much as I can. Anytime my mind wanders it finds itself covered in muck and I’m stuck trying to calm it down and clean it up. If I had my druthers, I’d just live out the rest of my experience as a master-craftsman expressing his skill and creativity while creating admirable works of art. Well, we’ll see if I break free from this cycle.

Wandering Want

A wandering mind leads to dissatisfaction. This unpleasant state can be overcome by applying a disciplined approach to every experience. DO NOT LET THE MIND WANDER! It will crash and produce pain.

You don’t have the luxury of letting your guard down. You must take the wheel and steer the ENTIRE time. Eating, thinking, working, talking, reading, watching – ALL things must be done in a state of awareness.

Focus defines existence. A wandering mind focuses on whatever – eventually arriving at something unpleasant. Through discipline, the mind should be directed to a decent destination.

As the Buddha said:
Suffering exists. It is the result of wanting. Suffering ends when wanting ends. End wanting by remaining aware and properly focused.

Request Denied

I had a mildly unpleasant dream last night. But that’s not the worst part. Right before that, I said to myself “Let’s go to sleep and have a delightful dream tonight!” So then I woke-up and thought “What the heck! I thought we were cool bro! I usually don’t have any memorable dreams, yet you’re gonna blatantly defy my request and use it as an opportunity to harass me?!” I feel singled-out, victimized, annoyed, frustrated – just not happy with how I’m repeatedly treated.

I’m considering my options. What’s the optimal way to respond? If I was watching a similar scenario from the outside, what kind of response would I admire? For example, I don’t admire my current response, I just sound like a whiny dork. And it’s not like you can fight back in a meaningful way against life. I suppose the only admirable response is to get zen. Peaceful and calm, just detach and flow. But I don’t get why life can be cool sometimes then all of a sudden becomes a total jerk.

So instead of everyone having a great time, life just goofs on whoever the latest victim happens to be. And I’ve had fun, I’ve appreciated, I’ve experienced good things – but why so many flies in the ointment? Just be cool bro. It’s like Lucy setting up the football for Charlie Brown only to take it away at the last minute, causing his downfall and humiliation. Life is ever tempting with intriguing objects and experiences – then the rug comes out from under. Can’t enjoyment be given freely?

So what’re ya gonna do. Stop taking the bait? Avoid participation? Well you gotta sleep don’t you?? You can’t hide. Well, I suppose those Zen guys were right. Detach, don’t yearn for the traps lined with delectable treats. And if you do step in something? Eh, whatever, cool-beans bro. Hey, go ahead and abuse this character all you want, that’s on you – I’m chill.

Round 2

Life is suffering, so the Buddha said. From a physical perspective, I can’t deny that claim. Yet, suffering is an undesirable condition. Finding oneself in an undesirable condition is a situation in need of a solution. Therefore, one must find a way out of this predicament.

One option is to destroy the very notion of a physical world. For example, if a video-game character dies over and over, who cares – it’s virtual. Or if something upsetting happens in a dream, so what – it was just a dream. Therefore, by perceiving life as a video-game or dream, the intensity can be lessened through the adoption of a whimsical perspective.

I can say with some confidence that such an approach works. There’s no doubt that the life I experience nowadays is more whimsical than ever. The anxiety isn’t there, the intensity is low. Unfortunately though, my expectations were too high and I assumed the virtuality approach would fix everything – it didn’t. There persists an underlying dissatisfaction – which was always there, it just wasn’t as noticeable amidst the fear and anger of before.

Well, now I can see it. Imagine my disappointment when I defeated fear and anger only to find out that the boss has another health-bar. “Round 2! Fight!” Oh brother, no thanks. You just wanna give up at that point. But what are you gonna do? There’s no viable “Quit” that I can see. So you sit there sulking, contemplating all the effort you put into Round 1, feeling like you don’t have the energy for another battle.

But there’s just no other option. So the blade gets sharpened and sheathed, boots laced and knotted, mags loaded, bandana tied, war-paint streaks applied. “I’m coming you son-of-a-bitch. If I feel pain, maybe you do to.” And here we go again. But this time, I am without fear. And my anger, is solely for comedic-effect. I’ve beaten you once, when I was weaker. Now, we do this on my terms.

Dissatisfying Source

Something I’ve noticed in myself and others, is a tendency to blame a particular condition or circumstance as the source of dissatisfaction. Logically then, one would assume that fixing the condition or circumstance would result in a state of satisfaction – but I’ve noticed that it does not. The attainment of a desired outcome doesn’t produce contentment. In fact, it often elicits a worse feeling. With nothing to blame for ongoing feelings of dissatisfaction, a distressing dilemma can arise.

“What is causing this unrelenting unhappiness!? Nothing seems to satisfy! Won’t I ever feel contentment!?” It appears to me that the root cause of dissatisfaction lies outside the bounds of the fulfillment of one’s desires. In other words, if you attempt to cure discontentment by acquiring something you want, you will fail by your achievement. Another way to put it: by winning, you’ll lose.

I don’t think chasing goals is inherently bad, it’s a game like any other. But believing that attainment will bring a sense of satisfaction is totally and completely wrong. That’s not where you’ll find it. You’re not unhappy because of a condition or circumstance or because you lack something you want. You’re unhappy because you’re perplexed. You don’t know what’s happening here, yet you’re sure that something’s wrong with your situation (which is illogical and demonstrates your confusion).

How could your situation be “bad” if you lack a definitive metric to measure by? Maybe it’s good? How would you know? Yet, you can prove beyond any shadow of a doubt that fulfilling your wants will leave you even more dissatisfied. Try it, you’ll see. You’ll be no less empty – you’ll remain full of discontentment.

Human Taming

In a bunch of older movies, I remember seeing the concept of “breaking” a horse. A horse is cornered or just penned-in, but if the cowpoke attempts to get on, the colt or stallion bucks and throws him off. But if he keeps gettin’ on, holdin’ tight, maintainin’ his balance – the horse eventually relents and accepts the rider. In other words, the fire’s out and it becomes tame.

Of course there’s other methods in other movies too. Like feeding the horse a carrot, speaking to it gently, giving it a soft pat while slowly sliding onto its back. By one way or another, a horse has its perspective changed. “Rider bad” becomes “rider good”. And oftentimes, the cowpoke takes the taming of a particular horse as a personal challenge and dedicates himself to the endeavor.

My point is this: what if my consciousness took on the challenge of taming a wild and unruly human? Consciousness jumps on, the human bucks and resists, always trying to throw consciousness off – yet if consciousness keeps at it, perhaps the human relents and accepts the rider. Maybe the fire goes out and it becomes tame.

This doesn’t feel far from my experience, frankly. Me, the consciousness, is out for a pleasant ride through life. But unfortunately I’m on a bucking bronco that doesn’t accept my commands and repeatedly throws me into a pile of unpleasantness. I’d much rather be riding a tamed beast. So I wonder, what method of human-taming is most effective?

Beat it into submission through harsh ascetic practices — keeping it away from delightful indulgences and everything it desires, subduing it with an iron fist? From what I heard, the Buddha tried this method and rejected it. He recommended a middle path – but how does one find that balance? Should I allow this human to eat treats while slyly persuading it to behave in the way I prefer?

As the cowpoke that took on this taming as a personal challenge, I suppose I just have to experiment until I find what works. I can say this though: the calmer/gentler approach seems to work best thus far. But I don’t think complete indulgence works, as it tends to spoil, providing all the reward without requiring cooperation. And lastly, I believe the human must be steered into a creative endeavor – he’s gotta make something that he’s semi-satisfied with.

Whoa Woe

If you blame your woe on something, and that “something” goes away, you’ll be left with woe and nothing to blame it on. In some sense, it’s a worse predicament to be in. So, you’ll find a new source of sorrow. But what if all potential sources of strain dry-up and you’re stuck with only woe?

You’ll have a dilemma: what’s the root-cause of my dissatisfaction? All external scapegoats have failed. As happens in the thrillers: “The call is coming from INSIDE the house!!” Everything on the outside has proven itself incapable of serving as a source of dissatisfaction or satisfaction. Now what!?

Obviously, mental-discipline is the answer – it’s literally the only option. But how does one effectively apply mental discipline? That’s the problem. Awareness, consciousness, presence, nowness – whatever you call it, it’s a necessary component. If your mind is wandering, getting lost in life, you can’t apply mental discipline.

Awareness can be used to monitor and steer “focus”. Focus on unpleasant topics, you’ll feel bad. Focus on pleasant topics, you’ll feel better. Be advised though: finding and devising pleasant topics takes effort – but it must be done. Accepting defaults hasn’t worked, you need to seek and experiment until delightful topics are found.

In a good way, you’ve found the source of dissatisfaction. You’re dissatisfied because you’ve failed to apply mental-discipline. You haven’t invested the effort in remaining awake and aware – and as a result, you’ve lacked proper focus. Without intentional focus, you’ve experienced a mishmash of mayhem.

The world you experience is derived from your focus. If you focus on negativity, you consume negativity. Whereas if you eat cake, you experience cake. From the menu of life, you must seek and select what’s preferable, delightful even. By your careful cultivation, you create a world in which you want to live.