Say your Prayers

I just read the Bhagavad Gita again, which in essence, is a distraught man’s conversation with God. It’s about a guy having a tough time with life, and so God-incarnate talks him through it. “Hey bro, life’s not as miserable as you’re making it seem — I mean yeah, it can look a little gruesome, but so what. A cake is an unappetizing mess until it’s cooked too — but the process is still worth it. So ya know what? Have some fun, get rowdy, and break some shit brah!” In the end, the archer gets it and does what he needs to do — which in this case, is to fight in a bloody feud against members of his beloved family.

And it got me thinking about what I’ve been writing in this blog for the last six and a half years. What IS this? I suppose you could say it’s a distraught man’s conversation with God. I seem to be the primary audience here, I read and re-read posts all the time — I find them super insightful. I’m the one always asking questions and receiving helpful answers — I don’t know where those answers come from, they’re certainly not from my everyday-self or I wouldn’t ask the questions in the first place. And anyone that wanders upon this blog is simply witnessing the conversation taking place.

Perhaps this is a form of prayer, a dialog with God in the form of a diary. Prayer is often portrayed as one-sided, but I’ve certainly heard of two-sided prayer in which God responds in one way or another. And apparently, the easiest way to interface with me, is through succinctly written entries. For the most part, this is where I come to get in touch with my “higher self”, the part of me that’s beyond the scared little creature I often revert to. This is where I come to make sense of the world going on around me. Are You There God? It’s Me, Richard.

As far as I’m aware, I never had a personal relationship with God. I didn’t go for that nonsense, it didn’t resonate with me. “Um hey big-guy, so I know you’re busy maintaining the universe and all — but if ya could, my team really needs a win this Saturday. Whaddya say?” Well that’s how a relationship with God was portrayed in pop-culture anyway. But considering it now, it seems that I’ve established a relationship with God through this blog. Just a decade earlier I was writing atheistic, I’m-too-smart-for-this-world type posts in my previous blog — I guess I’ve gone 180 degrees in some ways.

I dunno man, I suppose we’re all trying to figure things out. Even with God by our side, this stuff is tough. No offense, but a game requiring this much hand-holding might be a tad too complicated. Or maybe those of us that need extended-help just suck at this game — I can see that. From an external perspective, it looks like I’m not even trying. But I interpret everything so intensely, that I barely have to do anything and I feel overwhelmed for the day. I recognize that I’m overreacting to the world’s stimuli, but it just happens to be my default. “AH! What was that! Oh, it was nothing. AH! I’m being attacked!! Oh, oops, no it’s fine.”

If a cosmic bystander simply observed my reactions to the world, he would assume Earth was a prison-planet in which inhabitants were regularly tortured for the sadistic pleasure of a malevolent creator. Whereas if the same cosmic bystander observed what I actually did all day, he’d wonder why I sat still for so long, and he’d wonder why I randomly freaked out for no apparent reason. Objectively, the physical portion of my life has never been difficult — but the mental aspect has been off the charts. And the only reason the mental part is so hard, is because of my tendency to overreact. If I’d simply stop imagining the worst, things would be easy.

And that’s where spirituality and this blog come into play. These entries are helping me to understand that life is not out to get me. For six and a half years I’ve been trying to rewire my defaults. I think I’m getting better — really. Yes, I oftentimes react as if I’m afraid, but underneath I don’t feel anxious, I quickly dismiss my scaredy-cat responses. Yes, I’m still presented with classic pessimistic reactions to many things that come my way, but I usually laugh at the silliness of such a perspective. And if someone attempts to sell me a pessimistic idea, my mind readily counters it with positivity.

So that’s the message I received this time around while re-reading the Bhagavad Gita.

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Success and Happiness

What I’m currently observing amongst successful people, is that success i.e. the achievement of a large life goal, doesn’t bring happiness along with it. Success simply checks a to-do item off your list. Whereas the only way to achieve happiness, is through a positive attitude and an appreciation of life — that’s it, there’s no other means to get there.

So if happiness is my goal (which it is), I must pour my time and energy into the development of a positive attitude and the cultivation of an appreciation for life. I must become a happiness farmer, planting the positive while weeding out the negative.

And I can sense this is correct because I’ve found myself in semi-successful positions in the past where I simply couldn’t enjoy the situation. And even now that I live in a nice place and have a nice family, I tend to see what’s wrong instead of what’s right. I see what’s missing instead of what’s here.

And this is easy to conceptualize too: does the mere winning of a game equate to happiness? If that were the case, we could cheat our way to victory and be forever happy. But that’s not the case. The people that get the most out of games have a great attitude and take pleasure in the process of playing. The “ends” are pointless, it’s all about the “means”.

But Rich, haven’t you come to this conclusion at least one-hundred times in the past? Um. Yeah. But I believe life handicaps us Harrison Bergeron style. In other words, I’ll forget this concept again and again. But the good news is that I’ll also “discover” it again and again. Does any accumulation ever take place? I honestly don’t know — I can’t remember.

To summarize: success is meaningless unless you have a positive attitude to appreciate it. And if you don’t have the attitude, then work on developing it or you’ll be sorely disappointed when success arrives — it’ll be a hollow victory. True success therefore, is the attainment of an appreciation for life (some would call this Enlightenment).

In the Moment

What’s wrong right now? What’s the matter in this moment, in this very second? If you’re actually on fire, great! That immediate danger will bring you right into the present — you won’t be capable of being anywhere else. But if you’re not on fire, then it’s likely that nothing is actually wrong right-now.

And if nothing is wrong, you should be feeling great. If you’re not feeling great, then you’re not present — your thinking-mind is taking you on a turbulent ride that you’re not enjoying. You’ve been transported to sometime in the past where you’re ruminating about unpleasant memories OR you’ve been taken into the future where you’re prophesying a doom-filled fate.

You better pump those brakes and get back into right-NOW. Start by breathing: in… out… in… out…. Focus on the breath in order to take focus off your thoughts. Now do a systems-check, starting at the top and working your way down: relax every part of your body — when you feel tension, release it. In that process of relaxing, you should feel some sensation at each spot.

For example, you should feel something as your thighs relax. Keep focus on those sensations as they happen. When all done, feel the sensation as a total-body experience, as an inner-energy pervading through your entire body — like you’re radiating light and joy. Focus on that feeling and know what it’s like to be in the moment — perfectly present.

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!

Thought Tolerance

Dear Rich, should I actively suppress my thoughts? That seems kinda harsh, shouldn’t I be more tolerant towards them — a bit more peace, love, and harmony? Maybe just observe them non-judgmentally?

Dear reader, have you not been listening to your thoughts? They’re straight-up evil. You can’t reason with them. They fling sh*t just to watch it stick. Being tolerant of intolerance leads to a cesspool that nobody wants to swim in. It doesn’t work, and years of Internet-based-forums has proven this point. With anything high-traffic, you absolutely NEED strong moderation.

Imagine a public restroom, now imagine some guy pinching a loaf right into the sink. Freedom of expression right? Why not? You just gotta be more tolerant bro. Or is it wrong to poop in the sink? And if that’s wrong, and a certain level of decorum must be maintained, then you shouldn’t allow your thoughts to sh*t on EVERYTHING within this world.

Your thoughts are NOT the end-product, they’re simply the byproduct of a creative mind. In other words, they’re the waste that must be disposed of properly lest that sludge pollute the environment. Don’t believe me? Just take a bit of time to watch those thoughts oozing by — notice how you feel — take ’em all in too, every last piece of pessimistic excrement.

Sick of the stink yet? Are you ready for some law and order? Then shut that sh*t down! Your goal is pure unadulterated consciousness — experiencing, without thought. Eating an apple? Then just eat an apple. “Hm, it’s an okay apple but I’m wondering…” NOPE. Shut it down — just savor the flavor. Walking down the street? Then just walk down the street. “Huh, I hope that…” NOPE. Walk — no internal talk.

And lastly dear reader, if you don’t actively control the toxicity emanating from your mind, you’re passing the burden onto everyone else. You’re like the guy randomly sh*itting in the sink expecting everyone else to just “deal with it”. If change starts within, your thoughts are ground-zero. So yes, you need to suppress that sh*t.

A Conscious You

Dear Rich, what would a more conscious me look like?

Why dear reader, that’s a very good question indeed. Why bother trying to attain a state of constant presence if there isn’t any benefit? Well in fact, there IS a plus side to being-in-the-now.

For starters, do you know all that negative rumination that tends to ruin your day? Gone. You’ll have a clear head and a clean conscience. Instead of arguing with yourself and everyone else, instead of feeling guilty and shameful, instead of forecasting the most dire consequences possible — you’ll be free. You’ll no longer be a prisoner within your own mind.

Do you know all those worries you have? Gone. What’s going to happen in the future? Who cares — not you, that’s who! You’ll be too busy engaging in the present to give any energy to false prophesies. What’ll happen five years from now? One year from now? Even five MINUTES from now? WHO CARES!

Oh boy, and did I mention the pure bliss?! Why, when you’re livin’ in the right-now you’ll be feelin’ the full joy of this moment every second of the day! It’ll be euphoric even! Just picture it, there you are, fully engaged in the activities comprising existence, and your consciousness is experiencing everything with full focused attention!

Makes ya wonder why you’re not doing it already. Well sir, no time like the present — ha! And lucky for you, the-now is literally happening right-now. Simply shut that thinking-stuff down and begin. If you believe it’s gonna take some time to put that baby to bed, you best start the work immediately — because the sooner you begin a thought-free life, the happier you’ll be.

And I hear ya, you’re thinkin: “Rich, that sure sounds good an’ all, but I’m havin a hard time swallowin what you’re sellin”. Well friend, all that skepticism is just your thoughts talkin — the precise part we’re tryin to get rid of! ‘Course it’s gonna fight back! But that’s no pal of yours, heck, your thoughts have been outright torturing you your entire life! Makin up all that scary stuff that never happened, humiliating you, frustrating you — doin whatever it could for no reason in particular.

But now it’s time for your consciousness to get its due — a thought-free turn at life. An uninterrupted experience, living without the constant commentary. Why it’ll be the life you always knew you should be livin ‘cept there was somethin holdin you back. And you’ve finally found the culprit! Those dirty good for nothin thoughts. Well say goodbye baby, ’cause you’re consciousness-realized now!

Extracting the Marrow

I was re-watching the movie Groundhog Day (1993), and since my current interest deals with living-in-the-now, I noticed that particular theme in the movie. Despite the day constantly repeating, Phil was eventually able to enjoy everyday by living in the present. When the past and future no longer mattered, sucking the marrow out of right-now became the only option.

When he clung to the legacy of his past, Phil tried to use people for short-term gain — ultimately leading to boredom when there was nothing left to attain. And when he was feeling trapped by a futureless path, Phil couldn’t enjoy the physical world anymore and eventually sunk into suicidal despair.

But by shedding the past and future, focusing only on the instant he was experiencing, Phil was able to find the fun. Despite constant repetition and guaranteed predictability, Phil extracted enjoyment from wherever he could. Within infinity, I don’t believe constant improvement is the point — the point was to develop a means to enjoy the moment.

And once he was able to appreciate the present, there was nothing holding back happiness. Even if he had sat in a park feeding pigeons, I think his loop would’ve ended — it was more about the mindset rather than good-deeds. Because again, within eternity, self-improvement and knocking-off the rough-edges can only go-on for so long until you become a polished sphere.