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?

Lighthearted Path

Being a modern monk. Essentially, you’re traversing a path to the Almighty Creator. Why? The consequences of not doing so are unbearable. In other words, you’re kinda pushed onto the path and kept there by thorns on either side. But whatever, you’re on the path and the only viable option is to remain centered and keep moving forward.

Upon this path, obstacles sit in your way. Things like anger, impatience, pessimism, hopelessness, grievance, self-consciousness – essentially a turbulent mind filled with negativity. Like in any video-game, these never-ending obstacles must be avoided or else your character takes damage. To reiterate: Do not engage with negativity – it’s subtractive, it’ll lessen you. Negativity will dim your light.

Because basically, your role is to shine your light into a dark world. As you walk the path, you glow. Your radiance illuminates the path. This allows others to see the path and they’re drawn to it. You’re a beacon signaling the existence of a pathway to the Almighty Creator.

But keep in mind: you’re not shining because something’s broken or lacking. You’re not fixing anything – you’re simply following in the tradition and pageantry of illumination. Some people are bakers and they provide bread – loaves don’t just appear in the pantry. In a similar way, you provide light, you’re a lamp – you simply light the way.

Abiding Awareness

Remain awake and aware. In other words, don’t lose yourself in the story — don’t become the character. That seems kinda lame, but the alternative is a concoction of intensity and dissatisfaction. For a better experience, stay present. And in that awareness, remind yourself: I exist beyond this fiction.

From that perspective, intentionally decide what to focus on. You’re not the character, you’re not really in his world and you’re not subject to the bounds of its logic. Therefore, nothing needs to be done. The restraints you focus on, are the ones that bind you. By not focusing on a restraint, you remain free of its hold.

So instead of survival, instead of lack and limitation, instead of caution – focus on avenues of amusement. Does that sound like simple hedonism? Well, you’re having a temporary sense-driven experience – what else would you do? If you attend a buffet, select foods you prefer – experiment of course, then get more of what you like.

You’ll keep trying to lose yourself in the story, lazily letting go of awareness. Resist this or the intensity and dissatisfaction rapidly return. Awareness works only while you’re aware – otherwise it’s like falling asleep at the wheel, you crash. To steer, you have to be present and deliberately direct your focus.

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.

Merry Go Round

I don’t think “learning” is a thing. Relatedly, I don’t think “change” happens. In other words, things pretty much stay the same. What looks like change, is simply the passing of seasons. People appear to be learning, or growing, or changing – but they come back around to who they always were. Me included.

Ever since childhood I’ve been into “self-improvement”. Whether it was learning stuff in order to increase my knowledge, practicing skills, improving my diet, exercising for strength and fitness, honing my mind to enhance mental discipline, or seeking spiritual enlightenment – I’ve always tried to change myself for the better.

But really, where has it gotten me? Yes, this seems like the part of the story where the character has a crisis of faith. A long-held belief in “self-improvement” is crashing down. What more can I do? There is no self-determination!! I am a leaf adrift on an ocean. “I” can do nothing. “I” am subject to whims that aren’t my own.

I’ve always felt like a do-it-yourself-er, and this lack of free-will deeply disturbs me. Apparently, I’m not free to do anything. My efforts will only ever be thwarted. I’ll only ever feel frustration. If I attempt to change something, nothing will happen. This file is read-only. So now what?

Maybe it’s time to pivot. For example: imagine you spend all your time over many years walking to a destination – but once you get there, your methods have to change i.e. you have to stop walking or you’ll simply pass it by. Now you have to do what whatever that destination calls for. If it’s a restaurant, you sit down and eat.

Maybe I’ve arrived? Maybe I shouldn’t be sitting in meditation three-times per day attempting to gain full-control over my thoughts? Maybe I shouldn’t completely dissociate from the world? Is my new goal to achieve complete appreciation for the world? Have I finally broken down my interpretation of existence – perhaps it’s time to build myself back up?

Spoiler Alert! I’m pretty sure I’ve been here before. It’s just the season changing, like always. Round and round I go, and where I stop, I already know.

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.”

Fourth-Person Perspective

For research purposes I often play video-games. When given the option, I usually select a first-person perspective for piloting my avatar. It’s more immersive and I find it easier to control – plus the added intensity helps to hold my attention. I AM the character – doing what must be done. Whereas in third-person, I feel like I’m helpin’ the guy out – he’s the character, not me. But the downside of being in first-person is the intensity – if my character loses, I lose.

It got me thinking about a possible fourth-person perspective. I couldn’t find much written about the concept. One game, a few years ago, had the player make changes to an onscreen-character’s environment which influenced the actions the character took. And in writing, I heard the 4th-person perspective described as a collective viewpoint: “we” – personal and omniscient all in one.

I often switch up my meditation tactics. Recently, I noticed how hard it was to maintain a goalie-like reactive stance while meditating. Just waiting for thoughts to come made me a sitting duck – I was at the mercy of an onslaught of thought. Therefore, I actively pursued a “destination” in meditation. With my eyes closed, I intentionally stared at the mottled formlessness, the waves of hue and light, the pixels underlying all. I did so until I no longer had to fully focus my attention, I was there.

It worked in the sense that I felt like I reached a place of pure potential, dreamlike, where I left my body behind. You might say I attained a fourth-person perspective. I was beyond the intensity of “I”, beyond the demanding nature of “you”, and beyond the sympathetic viewpoint of “he”. Perhaps it was “we”. We are not just a body, a thinking mind, or even pure awareness – we’re that, plus whatever lies beyond – we’re also an influencer of what we experience.

Maybe the spiritual goal is to reach and sustain this fourth-person perspective. Get beyond the ego, beyond the avatar, beyond the narrative – encompassing all, yet limited by none. Think of a cake: a cake isn’t merely a collection of ingredients (which are measured and mixed into something far beyond what their individual nature suggest). A cake can have significance, representing much more than consumable calories. Perhaps the fourth-person perspective recognizes all this.

To exist in this perspective, is to be removed from the intensity, aware of the narrative but not lost in it, and free from the boundaries of imagined limitations. In the fourth-person perspective, of what importance or weight are those tiny thoughts originating from “I”? “I” is only a fraction of “we”. The process of babysitting thoughts and managing tantrums-of-the-mind loses significance when measured against this grander transcendent journey.

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.

Solving for X

I suppose you could say it’s my mission to solve the riddle of this world. I suspect though, that the world actively and deliberately thwarts any attempt to be figured-out. Therefore, this situation is a game by definition. Why must I decipher it? I don’t know, but there’s not much else I’m driven to do. My consciousness has been placed in this predicament and wants to find its way out – like a maze.

People have been trying to reach God since humanity began. I suppose my efforts are similar in this regard. So, how does one get to heaven? The pathway seems to be by way of mental discipline. Through proper focus, steered by discipline, one can arrive at the intended destination. But life will place many obstacles, in the form of distractions, along the route.

This is a very silly world, so engaging in earnest is a poor strategy. To take this world seriously, is to lose from the outset. Games are for fun after-all. Being a game, losing is an option. Due to many in-game hints, it seems that death is not an actual end, it’s just a respawn, the game continues until it’s ultimately won. Fundamentally, the game wants to be won, or it wouldn’t bother to provide a winning option.

Ultimately, I think the mind must be made to perceive existence as a lighthearted illusion – a dream basically. With that mindset, one’s experience within this dreamworld can be influenced by deliberate focus. By utilizing mental-discipline to maintain focus, one’s circumstance of existence is hammered and shaped into a key – a key that unlocks the maze. And with that, the goal is reached, the game won.

Striving to Serenity

In order to successfully traverse life, it seems that one must strive to soften over time. Like a stone that’s weathered and smoothed by the elements, a person should likewise allow his rough spots to be ground-down by the buffeting circumstances of life.

When irritation strikes, you shouldn’t see it as an opportunity to cement your opposing position, you should drop the thought that’s triggered. In other words: that collection of contrarian opinions isn’t something you should maintain. They’re not “you”, they’re just a bunch of dumb ideas you collected. Situations that activate your sense-of-annoyance are helping you to notice these dumb ideas – your task is to dismiss them.

For example: “Ugh, cheesecake for dessert!? I hate cheesecake! Why can’t they just have cake-cake!!” This becomes: “Cheesecake? You little scamp! Cream-cheese in the form of a pie, masquerading as cake! Ha, you’re a silly one. But it’s great that people enjoy you. Well, I’m full from my entree anyway. I’ll be satisfied seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces as they consume you!”

Basically, life should be lived lightheartedly. The active practice of life consists of doing what you’re inspired to do – but in the calmest manner possible. As Jesus stated: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Some translations use the more familiar word “gentle” in place of “meek”).

Sources of irritation themselves aren’t supposed to be removed. These are simply signs alerting you to calm down. Obstacles aren’t the actual obstacle. Or more confusingly: the feeling that an obstacle is an obstacle is the obstacle you need to surmount. In other words, don’t seek to destroy annoyances, seek a state of non-annoyance (i.e. acceptance). Despite the raging inferno that surrounds, be okay with the unfolding events: “This is fine.”

The choice is this: fight a losing battle all the way to the end OR practice unconditional acceptance of everything you encounter. Think of it this way: you’re a block of stone being carved into a beautiful work-of-art by life’s circumstances. You can fight against the artist and refuse to be shaped into something nice – OR you can accept the hammer & chisel blows, allowing the process to happen, letting the rough stone fall-off, revealing the stately statue within.