Spiritual Sensei

Without control of your thoughts, you’re lost. Your turbulent mind is going to take you on a wild ride that you won’t soon forget. If you can’t shut your thoughts down or can’t differentiate between worthwhile ones and worthless ones, you’re going to have a hard time. If you think you can handle that level of difficulty, which maybe you can, have fun. But for those of you having an unpleasant time with existence, there’s a less intense route through this funhouse.

It’s called spirituality. The purpose of spirituality is to ease your journey through life — that’s it. Spirituality is a way of looking at the world that allows you to comfortably navigate through it. You CAN look at life as a struggle, and it’ll be every bit as hard as you imagine. But you CAN look at life as an enjoyable adventure, and it will be.

“But Sensei Rich, reality is what it is, life is cruel and hard, I’ve seen it!”

Then why are some people having a great time? Reality is relative or else everyone would be having a tough time. Everyone has obstacles, yes, but the difference is that they enjoy the experience. They see the game-like nature of life and have fun while completing the provided challenges. But it’s even better than that, once you get in the right frame of mind, you get to pick the problems you want to solve.

And this ability to appreciate life begins with spirituality. Step one, is to get your thoughts under control. Step two, is to redefine reality into something you can handle. Step three, is to enjoy. Not so bad right? Then what are you waiting for? Your options are these: keep doing what you’re doing and continue having a rough time OR pursue spirituality and start having a great time. Seems like an easy choice, yes?

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Reseting Perspective

The street is dimly lit, you see a small dark dog in the distance. A car zooms by, running something over. You audibly gasp and stare ahead at a dead dog with entrails everywhere. You’re shocked and unsure of what to do. Your heart pounds away. Suddenly a dog barks and you look up. Huh? You look over at the lump in the street and it turns out to be a battered box with some red and black rags hanging out. The tension fades, you feel relief, you laugh a little. The car ran over a box, not a dog, how silly.

You went from experiencing a traumatic incident to feeling a bit ridiculous because of your reaction to something that occurred within your imagination due to a faulty perception. This is what enlightenment does, it resets the perspective of everything that came before. Was my life a hellhole filled with relentless misery? Nah, just a simple story filled with captivating twists and turns like any good drama. From that point on, everything that ever happened was in good fun, a joke to be taken lightheartedly.

For in the span of infinite existence what can anything matter? From the viewpoint of an audience member observing the ongoings of a little creature made of meat, such delightfully wicked circumstances entertain us to the core. Roller coasters exist even in our immediate surroundings, thrilling riders with the intensity of fear. Each life we live is a roller coaster, filled with slow climbs of growing anticipation followed by sudden and steep declines of heart-pounding excitement.

But we can become so scared of the ride before us that we shrink away, wishing never to participate. This is the purpose of enlightenment, providing relief to the distraught, providing a path to satisfaction, a means to enjoy this flashing spectacle of light and sound. And so I invite you, the slightly confused, to walk this path of enlightenment and end your misunderstanding. Place one foot in front of the other, moving away from the muddled darkness and into the clarity of light.

Magical Thinking

Dear Rich, it seems like you moved past a state of distress, how do you keep from sinking back?

Well dear reader, I utilize a set of tools. My current toolset consists of the following beliefs. These are mental constructs that aren’t necessarily true, but they help me to imagine life in a palatable way. I should mention that my background is as a miserable pessimist that grew up surrounded by family afflicted with anxiety and/or anger.

My primary belief: life is 100% manufactured, like a computer simulation. I was never into religion or spirituality, so the computer simulation concept resonated with me the easiest. But from there, I was able to grasp the spirituality perspective, so now even the god-stuff makes sense. The fictional-world concept is useful because it means life is guiding me as if I’m in a car on a track in an amusement park — existence is a guided tour. Things can be frightening, but not ultimately nefarious, it’s for entertainment only. And there is no absolute end, we just get on another ride and go around again.

Relatedly, I believe in willful death. We decide when we’re ready to step off the ride. Again, this isn’t necessarily true, but it’s helpful in removing death-related anxiety. For instance, we sometimes hear stories of miraculous incidents where people survive even when they shouldn’t — in my belief, they simply chose not to leave, they weren’t ready to go. But eventually everyone gets tired of their particular story and decides to engage in another, so they willfully leave.

Illness is as imagined as anything else. I no longer focus on aches or pains, my body is not a mysterious bundle of symptoms that must be deciphered lest I die without proper treatment. My story will end when I will it. I also use my anxious tendency to help achieve this belief: I dare not focus on sickness or it’ll actually manifest. So whenever the idea of illness enters my thoughts I ignore it — a positive attitude about well-being has worked well for me.

I believe that hopefulness is a pleasant feeling that should be encouraged, so I actively engage in delightful daydreaming. I refuse to engage with negative thoughts and shut them down whenever they enter my mind — I had a lifetime’s worth of that crap and I’m done with it — it’s just noise that I don’t need. I believe meditation is a practice that helps me observe the stream of thoughts passing through and subsequently allows me to silence them.

I believe life has no other purpose than to serve as entertainment for the watcher within us all, and therefore I have zero performance pressure. There’s nothing I need to accomplish, no one I need to impress. I can attempt to accumulate meaningless in-game points if I want to, or not, it doesn’t matter. But I do try to mind my manners and treat everyone with decency and respect, and wish a good time for all.

As far as getting what I want from life, I believe life purposefully holds some things back in order to build anticipation and create dramatic storylines. Even though in the short-term I find it a little frustrating, I’d agree that it makes for a more interesting adventure overall. I also believe that life purposefully adds limitations in my abilities to keep me from blowing through life too easily. And I appreciate this because that’s just the nature of game-play.

Before I adopted these beliefs, I was wracked with anxiety, lightening could literally strike at any moment — the world was a wild landscape in which I had no control, whisked wherever by its whim. I had constant worry about the future, about death — I have none of that now. The ideas cross my mind once in awhile but I easily dismiss them as not fitting into my belief system. Those frightful ideas were also mere beliefs, I’ve simply swapped one set for another — and that has made all the difference.

Ups and Downs

In the post-analysis of times in which I was at my lowest, my attitude appeared to abruptly alter on its own. There was no choice I made, my perspective went from “I can’t take this anymore” to “it’s not so bad”. Not much changed externally, I was still living the same basic life, I didn’t move anywhere or pursue a different path, I just started accepting the life I already had.

Why was life suddenly acceptable? I was disappointed at the way life was proceeding, so displeased in fact, that I wanted to give up. But within that instance of despair, I lost my will to leave. And yet I did give up, I surrendered to life. I had stubbornly wanted life to go a certain way, and now I stopped fighting it, I let go and trusted life — and like that, a weight lifted, my frustration left.

And wouldn’t you know it, the things I had been wanting and wishing for came to fruition. I knew I wanted these things, I could feel that they needed to be in my life, but impatience brought so much grief. After I came to terms with life, after I stopped complaining, after I stopped trying to force things, life provided me with what I had been so anxiously seeking.

The lesson therefore, is have patience with life. Let the story unfold at its own pace. That which fulfills will come. Until then, revel in the anticipation, take pleasure in the journey, enjoy right now. We cannot dictate who or what enters into our life, to believe we can is to invite misery upon us. We are at the mercy of life, the storyteller, so be polite and observe appreciatively.

Walking the Path

A few years ago, I sat frustrated, contemplating my demise, done with my feelings of frustration. But as can happen in such moments of despair, life reset my dissatisfaction, things seemed okay, living was doable again. But the incident left such a distaste, that I became determined not to relive it.

Many years earlier, I had gone through a similar incident, after which I sought out answers and found the existence of a path to forever end my suffering, a path to enlightenment. I started on this path, but abandoned it once life got good enough. But after the second incident, I wasn’t going to stop until I reached the end.

So for the last couple of years, I sat and contemplated life. The thoughts I had, I wrote here. My thoughts, these writings, these were my teachings — not something I was trying to teach others, but literally my teachings, they transmitted to me what I needed to know.

It seems odd, but what I wrote, I didn’t know beforehand. I still reread many of the writings in awe, thankful for the insight they provide me. And so here I am today, present and aware, my perspective altered as new light dawns. I’ve woken up.

Digestive Angst

Are you kidding me? No one gets to do what they want. We’re food tubes with legs walking around on a rock — is that what you want, to engage in little dramas while stuffing a tube every few hours? — it’s an absurd situation. The best you can do is make peace with it and accept your role.

Either way, external pressures combined with internal urges will force you to act — it’ll be easier if you just go along with it. Frustration and sadness are not your role, they’re just symptoms of your nonacceptance.

Worry, fear, irritation — about what? Things residing within your imagination? Step back a bit and witness the ridiculous nature of this world. How can such silliness have significance? It’s an amusing situation, have fun with it.

You’re a weird little creature constantly craving ways to entertain itself — well, be entertained. Observe yourself, examine your reactions, find the little things that elicit feelings of delight. Become a receptive audience to the drama unfolding before you.

Before and After

I used to think about things that scared me, things that could go wrong, how people might hurt me, my uselessness, how short a life I’d live, how unhappy I was, how lonely, how anxious I was about deadlines, how germs were everywhere, how I was surrounded by sickness. These thoughts just came, and I thought them.

Now I think of happiness, of satisfaction with life, of smiles on the faces I know, of ways to help others, of unity, of tranquility, of perfection, of pleasant places to live, of pleasant things to eat, of my amusement with life. These thoughts just come, and I think them.

Why the change? Perhaps fate, perhaps chance, perhaps reading a bit of ancient wisdom, perhaps the practice of meditation, perhaps a particular diet, perhaps mental discipline, perhaps love, perhaps exhaustion, perhaps all of the above, perhaps none of the above.

I don’t know why life moves in the way it does. But I am compelled to say this — close your mind to what is bad, open it to what is good — figure out the difference. It seems to be a process, this change, it doesn’t occur overnight. And it’s daunting at first, but satisfying.