In Lightness Grow

“No! Rich!? It can’t be!!!” Well I’m afraid it is…. For too long have I suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Far too long has this world had its way with my mortal coil, casting it this way and that. A rudderless ship adrift amongst endless waves? Nay! For I shall use the guiding light that leads to safe-harbor. And I shall set an anchor of stone against ye, ne’er to stray again.

For in truth, there is a light that guides those set astray. In thy darkest hour it shines as a beacon to summon men home. From times of old it has resided within the beating heart and rhythmic breath, ever-present signals of a solid connection to the source. Simply close thy eyes and think of nothing, and in that void comes the ancient voice. Anytime it’s wished, empty the mind to let it fill with celestial calm.

And so it is upon this day, that I do declare my dedication to this just cause. Such terrestrial pedantry shall not mar me. Nay, for I shall rise to the heights of heavenly bodies soaring well above the fray, reflecting the brightness of the light that maintains their course. It is in hours such as these, that men’s wills are tried. Does one simply turn to dust under pressure?

Or does one become as a non-Newtonian fluid, strengthening under increasing strain — yet softening when the push is no longer present? The game played here is a simple one: maintain tranquility amidst a turbulent sea. The penalties and rewards are immediate. The sensation of drowning versus the perception of contentment. What begets which is obvious to those amply illuminated — so seek the light.

Middle Path of Pixels

In terms of a video-game analogy, you do want to be here on Earth playing this game as a specific character. You’re not attempting to get beyond your character. “Enlightenment” is not transcending your character in order to solely identify as the player. That’s dumb — the player came to play, and to do that, he must become a character.

But as a player, you don’t want to over-identify as your character, it’s too stressful. Yet this is what happens: the player gets so lost in the game that he forgets he exists, he believes he’s actually the character. So what enlightenment is, is when the player finally realizes that underneath it all, he’s actually a player — but it doesn’t end there.

Once the player realizes he’s a player AND a character, he must balance those two perspectives into an enjoyable ratio. Too much character is too intense — and too much player lacks a feeling of immersion. All this Earth-stuff is here for a reason, you most certainly want to interact with it, but you need to do so with a lighthearted attitude, not taking things too seriously.

Imagine if you associated too closely with the character of Pac-Man for instance. You’d attempt to hide from the ghosts, you’d be petrified of being eaten, every step you took would be a step closer to your doom. You’d hover over by the power-pellets, your only source of safety in a world designed to destroy you.

Now imagine if you associated too closely with the player of Pac-Man, never immersing yourself in the game. “Who cares about gobbling those meaningless pellets?” — “So what if a ghost gets me, it doesn’t matter anyway.” — “Oh well, died again, and again, and again.” — “Meh, game over, so what.” — “That was quick. Now I’m bored and have nothing to do.”

Whereas if you strike the right balance between character and player: “Ooh! That was a close one! Ha almost got me ghost, but not today!” — “Oh, oops, well I guess his friend got me. But now it’s my turn to get you!! It’s Power Pellet Time!!” — “I can’t believe I cleared the board! Victory is mine!!” — “Second stage! Let’s do this!”

Practicing Presence Update

So it’s been about a month since I’ve been focusing on presence — how’s it going? First off, I have noticed some benefits, so I’ll be continuing the practice. But after 30 days I’m still not encased in a golden glow of pure bliss — kinda disappointed about that. But I think my mood is lighter and my reactions are more mild — so that’s good.

And I’m not living a tough life right-now by the way. In fact, it’s idyllic in many ways. But can you enjoy paradise if you have a bad attitude? The answer is: NO, you cannot. So I’m currently trying my hardest to enjoy the delightfulness I’m surrounded by. Isn’t that a ridiculous situation to find yourself in? Life: “Here! Enjoy!” Me: “Um, Uh, well I guess….”

The video-game I’m finding myself within is sending me obstacles in the form of dissatisfaction. And my role is to overcome that negative inclination and develop an appreciation for all the treats in my path. It’s a strange premise. Experience situations that should entertain you, yet feel anxiety and revulsion instead.

The source of that sourness is my over-thinking mind, so it is my duty to shut it down. That’s what the practice of presence is all about: stopping the incessant thoughts from polluting the experience of existence. And boy, I’ve been noticing the toxic-waste my thoughts have been excreting lately — nasty stuff. I lose nothing by shutting them down. But man are they persistent!

Intro to Buddhism

There’s an underlying dissatisfaction that we experience in life. Typically, we blame this dissatisfaction on a particular circumstance that we believe is fixable sometime in the future.

For example: “I’m currently unsatisfied with life because I’m ten-pounds overweight.” In this scenario, everything that goes wrong can be blamed on being ten-pounds overweight. This small problem serves as a scapegoat for the underlying dissatisfaction with life: “Oh boy, when I eventually lose the weight, EVERYTHING is going to be awesome!”

But what happens when the ten-pounds IS lost? Uh-oh, the dissatisfaction doesn’t disappear. Now a new scapegoat must be found. And it’s best to find a problem that’s fixable in the future (but not too soon!). If the problem doesn’t have an obvious solution, then frustration will set in. And if you can’t find a small problem, you’ll likely accept a larger more daunting one.

OR, you can stop using scapegoats altogether, and tackle the broader dissatisfaction that’s been underlying life this whole time. It’s doable, but not by attaining something on the outside. It’s brought about by cultivating an inner satisfaction, a sense of satiety no matter what you’re served. And that journey begins and ends now, literally.

Long-story-short: Through mindfulness, quiet all intrusive thoughts and develop a perspective that allows you to trust and appreciate life.

Bike Accessories

This is a story about bike accessories, well not really, but kinda. I’ve been riding my bike around town for a while now. Usually on the weekends in the early morning right after sunrise. By this point, I’ve kinda gone everywhere you can go.

During my initial rides, the seat got a little uncomfortable, so I wanted to get a padded-cover for it. I also wanted some handlebar-mounted side-mirrors so I could see any cars coming up behind me. I wanted a phone-holder so I could check the map without having to reach for my phone all the time. And I wanted a bell, just in-case I had to warn pedestrians of my approach.

For the most part I enjoyed biking around — and any feelings of dissatisfaction I felt, I attributed to my lack of accessories. Ouch, my bottom hurts from sitting on a hard seat. Ugh, I have to keep looking back for cars, what a pain. Oh man, I have to keep whipping-out my phone to check the map.

Eventually I ordered the accessories I wanted. I installed them and went for a ride. I appreciated having them (well not the bell, it was a bit loud and I try to stay clear of pedestrians anyway). Yet, even with all those accessories installed, I still noticed an underlying dissatisfaction. But this time, I couldn’t blame it on my lack of gear.

Did this mean dissatisfaction was inherent to the activity itself? Or did it mean that dissatisfaction is inherent to ME? Uh-oh! Instead of removing every last bit of dissatisfaction, filling the accessories-hole actually paved the way to a deeper dissatisfaction, one with no obvious fix. Yikes!

Then today, I was lamenting that I lacked spending-money for some other things I wanted. But it’d be a solid assumption that more money wouldn’t result in more satisfaction. A source of dissatisfaction would simply pop-up somewhere else. Imagine if I attained everything I wanted, I’d have no scapegoats left, I’d probably be left with existential-angst as my source of dissatisfaction.

This is the problem many successful folks have to face when all their earthly dreams come true, yet they’re still feeling unfilled (with no obvious way to fill the hole). The moral of the story seems to be this: make sure you have a scapegoat to blame for your dissatisfaction. I’m kidding of course (although it seems to work in the short-term).

Yet that’s the way it goes, right? I’m unhappy because I lack money. I’m unhappy because “other people” are ruining everything. I’m unhappy because my life isn’t perfect. But I’ll guarantee you this: if the so-called source of your dissatisfaction gets fixed tomorrow, your dissatisfaction WILL remain.

You can’t fix an internal problem by external means. Long-story-short, satisfaction must come from within or it doesn’t come at all. And because it’s within you, this is a personal journey — it’s all yours and you already have everything you need. All you have to do is decide to walk it (sorry no bikes allowed).

Belief Trust Action

Let’s say you invite me out for a meal one day, let’s make it around 2pm for lunch at Chefs de France next Sunday. Now, I believe we just made plans. In fact I trust in those plans so much that I’m arranging my schedule around that date and time — I’m even feeling the delight of anticipation as I imagine the upcoming day. And on the day-of, I show up, you show up, and we have a fine time dining. Great.

A few months ago, after living in our house for seven years, my friend told me that she wanted to move. I said, “okay”. And unlike my typical pattern of fear, uncertainty, and doubt — I believed, trusted, and acted as if I was certain it would happen. It did happen, and I’m currently over a thousand miles away from where I was (physically AND mentally).

If you’ve been paying attention to life, you’d have notice that it’s a magical fairytale-land where dreams come true. But the problem is: ALL your dreams come true — positive AND negative. If you have a piss-poor attitude, you WILL see that negativity manifesting before your eyes. You program this dreamworld through your intentions — whatever you intend to happen, will. The path might be a bit sloppy, but you’ll get there (don’t blame life, your intentions aren’t exactly crystal clear).

So if you’re having a bad time with life, who’s to blame? Ding, ding, ding! That’s right, it’s you! The teachings of Krishna, Buddha, and Jesus all boil down to this: you can improve your experience of existence by training your mind to see the world with a better perspective. In other words, if life looks like sh*t, it’s because you have sh*t tinted glasses on. Take those glasses off and replace them with a more pleasing tint, then all of a sudden life looks great.

Jesus said: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”. In other words: paradise is within your grasp if you stop denying it. The good life is HERE right NOW if only you accept it (spoiler alert: people didn’t accept it). And YOU don’t accept it either, do you. You’re too busy being scared, sad, and angry — but why?

Well that’s what the Buddha wanted you to ask yourself — in big bold letters the Buddha was trying to get your attention by proclaming that life is suffering — he wanted to make you aware of the unnecessary strain you were self-inflicting. In other words: “Hey dummy, stop hitting yourself!” And by no longer hitting yourself, your life improves.

And then Krishna came in and was like: “Bro, why are taking this dreamworld so seriously? It’s just a prank! LOL! Chillax and take it easy. Nothing major is goin’ down, it’s a story, a fantasy, just have fun and enjoy the ride. Sheesh”. Have you ever witnessed someone taking a game too seriously? They’re not enjoying themselves and the consequences are dire — if they’d only take a step back and see the game for what it was: an opportunity to have a bit of fun.

So what did we learn here today? We learned that life sucks when we take it too seriously. And unfortunately, we’re stuck in that negative state UNTIL we receive a wake-up call. Once aware, we eventually understand that life is pretty-neat and so we start playing our part in the grand narrative we find ourselves within. And in order to successfully fulfill our role, we have to follow the script as laid out by our intuition. We have to believe, trust, and act as if everything will work out according to our intention.

Rich, is all this crazy-talk even true? Yes, but even if it wasn’t it’s still a successful strategy for enjoying life. Those who believe it are much more satisfied with life than those that believe in a harsh random physical reality.

Goin OM

Buddy: Hey bro wanna hang out?
You: Sure, but first I have to meditate.
Buddy: Huh!? Haha! Do you float off the floor too!
You: Nah, I just sit there and breathe.
Buddy: Lol! I didn’t know you were a guru now!
You: Nope, just a meditator.
Buddy: Ha, okay, you do you! Catch ya later!
You: Well, we can chill after I’m done.
Buddy: I’m headin out, see YA!

How many times has this happened to you? You mention to your pals that you meditate, and they just don’t get it? Well now there’s a new phrase to keep you in the cool, it’s called: Goin OM! (just say “home”, but without the “h”).

When you tell your friends that you’re “Goin OM”, they’ll know you’re ridin the next trending tidal wave. Heck, they’re gonna wanna Go-Om too! By steering away from elitist-sounding spiritual jargon, you can use a hip new way of sayin something people have been doin for centuries, if not millennia (that’s a really long time!).

What exactly IS “Goin OM”? Why it’s just a slick way of sayin you’re takin a small bit of time to still the mind — just sittin silently for twenty minutes taming your thoughts all while repeating the sacred sound of the universe: OM.

So the next time you have to tell a buddy that it’s time to meditate, just say: I’ll see ya in a few, but first I’m goin OM!

You can even hashtag it!! — #GoOm #goinOM

Trail Guide

Dear Rich, even though you’ve barely mentioned it, I’m sick and tired of hearing about how awesome and magical your life is! Just stop it already and have a miserable time like the rest of us!

Oh dear reader, how I’ve felt those exact same sentiments in the past. It’s true, I didn’t get it when people claimed to be enjoying life. I figured them for liars or just too stupid to understand the complexities of the geopolitical system that they were being oppressed by. But it was my problem, I couldn’t understand the concept of enjoying life. I’d think, “Life is a miserable affair you moron, what’s there to be happy about!?”

Lucky for you dear reader, that you’ve stumbled upon someone just like you. A “realist” know-it-all that’s hell bent on convincing everyone else that they’re as miserable as you are. Except nowadays I’m a reformed pessimist — why you might even call me an optimist. If you try to feed me some of that gloom-and-doom bullsh*t, I’ll turn that turd into a polished gem just right for framin’.

Now, let’s get down to business. Here’s what we’re dealing with: your life sucks and you know it. I’ve been in your position and I turned my life around. You don’t want to wait a minute longer for your life to stop sucking therefore you’re willing to allow my many years of experience to guide you into a better place. That’s all we’re talking about here: by your acceptance of my assistance, a mere guide on the path of life, you’ll get to your destination a bit quicker and easier than going the long way.

It’s like any teacher. I mean sure you could figure out geometry from scratch, but why bother when there are people perfectly willing and able to take your hand and guide you along. So what’ll it be?

Superficial Existence

Dear Rich, you sometimes talk about silly superficial stuff — aren’t you more of a deep-thoughts spiritual-path guy?

Well dear reader, we’re in a superficial world comprised of superficial stuff. Look at what you’re wearing for instance, it’s a costume of some sort — you’re fulfilling your part in a play — we all are. If you disregard the superficial stuff, there won’t be much left. Just think about all the “important” stuff you discuss with friends. “He said he liked her! OMG!! And did you see what Judy was wearing?! UGH! So gross! And what about John!? What a CREEP! Hey did you finish watching that new series on Netflix yet!!?”

I’ve personally witnessed a significant portion of my mom’s life for example, she loves puffin’ on cigarettes, applying make-up in the mornings, watchin’ soap-operas, and worrying about trivial stuff in-between. In all her seventy-plus years there was no search for greater meaning. I’ve also seen/heard many interviews with people far along the spiritual path, and it’s the same thing over and over — before enlightenment: chop-wood, carry-water — after enlightenment: chop-wood, carry-water. All spirituality seems to afford them is a better appreciation of the life they already live. In that sense, my mom never needed to resort to spirituality in order to cope with life — she’s doing just fine.

I honestly don’t think there’s anything we’re striving for beyond the appreciation and enjoyment of an embodied existence. I suck at appreciating things and at enjoying the gifts I’m given thus I require a trip on the spirituality-train to set my course straight. I’m in remedial-life right now, trying to do what some people (like my mom) do naturally. My end goal isn’t to obtain a state of pure detachment, rather it’s to attach to life correctly, in a way that generates even more engagement and enjoyment.

At the end of my journey, you won’t be seeing me in robes living in the forest — no, you’ll see me deeply involved with superficial daily activities, playing out my part in the greater narrative. At most you’ll perceive the knowing look in my eye that reveals my experience on the spiritual path — a path I walked just because I struggled at playing this simple game.

Path to Nowhere

I was recently listening to some high-level spiritual folks. A common theme I noticed was their non-mastery. Every one of them was still trying, still working at it, never quite there — better than before, but practicing everyday. Kinda like a spirituality treadmill I suppose. And it’s kinda like eating — you get hungry everyday and eat a new meal everyday, oftentimes several meals per day.

Are you trying to get somewhere by eating everyday? No, you’re just on a food treadmill, consuming but going no place in particular. Similarly, when pursuing spirituality, there’s no perfected state we’re trying to reach, we’re simply engaging in it for daily sustenance and enjoyment. If all these high-level spiritual folks haven’t gotten there, then there’s no there to get to.

Is it good for us, does it make us feel strong, allowing us to proceed through the world without undue hinderance? Then that’s the spirituality we should be consuming as part of a complete breakfast. It’s not a doorway into pure bliss. Do you feel better when you “eat right”? Yes, and you’ll feel better when you incorporate spirituality into your daily life.

Will life pretty much proceed as it always has? Yep, but there will be more pep in your step. Those high-level spiritual folks still lead everyday lives. The difference is in their outlook. They lack a fear of life, trusting it instead — consequently they engage with the world wholeheartedly, attempting to love everything around them.