Everyday Buffet

Imagine you have a plate in front of you. Upon that plate you spoon on servings of frustration, worry, disappointment, and hopelessness. It’s a small plate so you can’t fit anything else. You’ll notice that there’s no room for delight, contentment, appreciation, or enjoyment. And everyday, you head to the buffet and pile on more of what you’re used to, more of the same disgusting dishes that fill you with dissatisfaction. To you, the world becomes a nasty one-star dump with multiple health-code violations on the verge of closing down.

But it turns out that better selections exist. You don’t have to repeatedly scoop the same slop day after day. You can choose something different, something delicious in fact! Of course you won’t naturally do this – you’ll logically assume that every entree is as bad as the ones you’re already consuming. Although sometimes, you’ll get so sick from eating the gross glop that you’ll have no choice but to try something else. Yet, if you do happen to find something better, oftentimes you drift back to the old stuff over time as habits are hard to break.

WAKE UP!!! That’s the only sure-fire way of fixing this situation. You must become aware and REMAIN aware of what you’re scooping onto your plate. The way to win at a buffet is to take many small samples so as not to overwhelm yourself, then go back and get larger portions of the stuff you liked. And whenever you return to the buffet, only grab the SAME items you liked during the sampling phase. IGNORE the items that brought about feelings of revulsion, just focus on the good stuff.

Again, mindlessness and habit will steer you back to what you knew. This WILL happen. It is therefore imperative to utilize discipline in order to maintain focus on the good stuff. You must constantly steer your attention, keeping it on the correct course. You should either be sampling new items in small portions OR taking hearty scoops of stuff already proven to be good through sampling. Do this continuously and the world becomes a five-star masterpiece of unyielding delight.

Faltering Fanatic

If you’re constantly reconciling with life, it means you’re taking things too seriously. In other words, if you’re just trying to get a grip each day, your perspective is WAY off. For example, I focus on my nightly lack of sleep and insufficient energy, my sub-optimal bowel-movements, any aches or pains, how I’ll obtain money and where I’ll live, whether I’ll get along with those around me, how I’ll alleviate boredom and where I’ll find meaning and purpose. That’s my days in a nutshell, and it’s a stupid way to persist.

I’m clearly lost in thought and NOT focused on right now. I’m ignoring whatever’s around me and giving my attention to thoughts I don’t even enjoy — that’s dumb. It certainly demonstrates a lack of mental discipline. Engaging with those thoughts isn’t helping anything, it’s just me concentrating on stuff I don’t like. Yet the magnetic attraction to the things I don’t prefer is SO strong. “Give me more fodder to feed my criticism-creature, the beast that bad-mouths everything!”

My task is to slay this dragon through the repeated application of mental discipline — something I’m obviously not very good at. To look at my life from the outside is to see a still-image, barely a perceptible change from frame to frame. Yet, the turbulence within my mind whips the waves with wind and sends me lurching this way and that. “Batten down the hatches me hearties! There be rough waters ahead!” I’m securing the mizzenmast while scurrying around the deck doing what I can to stay afloat amidst the raging storm.

But there is no storm, it’s merely a fantasy concocted by swirling thoughts that I entertain within the parlor of my mind. “Out, damned thought! Out, I say!” And so begins my day of waiting and watching to catch these tricksters as they trample my mental garden. Yet at times I feel overwhelmed by the regularity of the sprouting weeds. One day’s weeding simply seems to make room for more weeds! But as they persist, so do I: a knight of the Lighthearted upon my quest to Enlightenment.

Practicing Practice

The tenets of a happy life have been shoved into my face for many years now. Whether it’s books or videos or conversations or inspirational thoughts from my own mind, I’ve been seeing them again and again. This 8-year-old blog is a testament to that, as it contains the same ideas said in different words over and over. But, it turns out that you actually need to put those principles into practice for them to work. Who knew!? I was under the assumption that you simply realized them, then went back to whatever you were doing. NOPE! That’s like realizing something’s poisonous and eating it anyway. You actually need to stop consuming the poisonous item!

So in that sense, I’ve proven that freewill IS an actual thing. It IS within my power to derail my experience here on Earth — and I’ve certainly done so by not applying mental discipline. By allowing my mind to run rampant, I’ve found myself constantly tossed by the turbulence such a condition creates. Obviously I’m bored and lazy and a bit of a masochist or else I wouldn’t allow such a condition to take place, right? But I’m finally so sick of the mess, that I’m willing to do the work it’ll take to keep things tidy.

A turbulent mind creates a turbulent world whereas a peaceful world begins with a peaceful mind. Mental discipline is the practice of maintaining awareness. That awareness allows you to monitor your thoughts and feelings and respond appropriately by adjusting your focus. And essentially, you want to focus on whatever evokes delight and encourages the enjoyment of life. Mental discipline also includes routines that help in the process of maintaining awareness as well as practices that encourage appreciation.

No matter what you’re provided, you need discipline to cultivate the appreciation necessary to enjoy it. Nothing will satisfy unless you have a well-developed sense of appreciation — and the only way to get it, is through mental discipline. Despite any misgivings you may have, you have to force yourself to trust in the benevolence of life. No matter how dank and dour you feel, you have to strive towards a lighthearted disposition. The only thing between you and the best life possible, is an appreciative attitude maintained by continual practice.

Practice makes improvement, as they say. Set hourly chimes, schedule meditation, and persistently strive to remove focus from thoughts throughout each moment of the day. Once you make mental discipline a full-time job, there’s no excuses to give, no letting the mind run wild — the buck stops here and it’s your responsibility to keep it in line. The realization of all this is only the first step — now you must actually DO it. So take the reins and ride that mind to victory! HEEYAA!

Foothold Found

Many years ago, when I first started playing Age of Empires II, I was defeated by the game’s AI every time. It was a slaughter, they even used my own troops against me, utilizing monks to convert them — it was demoralizing to say the least. Finally, I used a brute-force approach of building and rebuilding walls to keep the enemy at bay while inching forward little by little — in addition, I was placing archer-towers inside those walls beyond their reach. It was a tough slough that lasted forever until finally, victory was mine. Essentially, I gained a foothold and was able to keep advancing.

Of course in later games I learned the rock-paper-scissors nature of the units and was able to field a much more effective army that went on to dominate the battlefield. Spoiler Alert! Knights up front, longbowmen behind, and trebuchets in the rear. Monks soon became fodder for my arrows. But anyway, the point is this: I needed to find a foothold in order to win. Prior to that, I was simply scrambling up the side of a sheer rock wall, slipping down in despair, not knowing how to progress. I needed some bit of reliability to capitalize on.

For the decades I’ve been playing, I’ve had a similar problem with “the game of life”: defeat after defeat and no footholds to be found. I’ve had nothing reliable to capitalize on, small victories seem to be happenstance and not repeatable. Well, I think I finally found something. And if true, it’s only a matter of time until I achieve victory conditions. The potential foothold is as follows:

First, I must see life as a game in which victory is achieved through a life well-lived. The answer to the riddle is not found in a simple realization, but in the actual experience of a satisfying life. So to complete the quest, the pursuit of happiness must be sought daily (in every hour!).

Second, the primary goal of everyday is to form my thoughts into delightful arrangements that evoke joy.

Third, I must conceptualize reality as a malleable non-physical experience i.e. a self-directed simulation or a lucid dream. Because of this, ANYTHING is possible and all limitations are self-imposed. Control of the experience is achieved through the proper application of mental focus.

Fourth: if at any time I’m feeling bad, it means my focus is off. To reiterate, the ONLY reason I feel bad is due to a lack of mental discipline — I should therefore properly apply it and fix my focus.

Fifth, I must realize that memory is NOT a mechanism to be relied upon. It’s a faulty storyteller at best. Not the past, but right-now is the only time that matters.

Sixth: I must consistently come into awareness of right-now and relentlessly select something appropriate to focus on. Appropriate things to focus on are thoughts and experiences that evoke appreciation and delight, comfort and contentment, confidence and competence, lighthearted amusement and an overall enjoyment of life.

Seventh: My profession is mental discipline. Day in and day out, my job is hammering glowing hot thoughts into sharpened steel on the anvil of the mind. And it is through the sudden stillness of meditation that I quench my work — from frail frenzied thought to a hardened work of art.

Eighth: It is through the harnessing of raw and untamed thought that I find freedom from the fetters of fear and negativity. Through this practice I conquer my propensity for pessimism and realize a life well-lived — achieving the goal of enlightenment.

Year Eight

Life IS a quandary, and the answer to this puzzle isn’t mere realization, that’s too simple. The answer lies in a life well-lived. To complete any game, you have to actually overcome the obstacles it sets forth, not simply realize their existence.

Spoiler Alert! To live life well, one must cultivate and maintain the right attitude and perspective. It’s not what you physically do, it’s how you perceive what you do that counts. But make no mistake, finding and retaining the right outlook is a difficult task.

I’ve had revelation after revelation over the years. “WOW! That’s IT! I’ve got it now! I finally understand!!” But those moments quickly pass and life returns to what I’m used to. I haven’t had the tactics or discipline to maintain the momentum of my epiphanies.

This blog for example, is the primary method I’ve used to log my thoughts. Tomorrow will mark the 8-year anniversary since my first post. I have written-evidence of all those insights over the years. So in one sense, I get it. But in another sense, I’ve been unable to consistently apply those insights to my daily life.

Therefore, that’s what I’m working on nowadays: the consistent application of a greater perspective into my daily life. To do that, I’m attempting to maintain an awareness of “now”. Because in this moment, right now, I have the ability to select whatever it is I want to focus on. And what I want to focus on, are thoughts and experiences that evoke appreciation and delight, comfort and contentment, confidence and competence, lighthearted amusement and an overall enjoyment of life.

In so doing, I’ll achieve a life well-lived and therefore win this game.

Incremental Improvement

Dear Rich, why can’t I improve my life instantly? In other words, why can’t I have a single enlightening realization and be done with it? Instead, it’s year after year of trying to get better bit by bit. How about an aha-moment that sticks?

Well dear reader, as you know, life is improved through the cessation of negativity. But the problem is this: the consciousness that is focusing on negativity is the SAME mechanism that’s in charge of managing focus. For example: in a business, what if an embezzling manager is the same guy in charge of policing embezzlement at his company? Basically, you have the classic case of the fox guarding the hen-house.

On one hand, your consciousness is running rampant and grabbing every negative thing it can. But on the other hand, your consciousness DOES recognize that it’s having a bad time. The problem SHOULD fix itself once the consciousness realizes that its focus-on-negativity is the EXACT reason it’s having such an unpleasant experience. But unfortunately, your consciousness insists that external events are to blame.

On one level, your consciousness can’t fathom blaming itself, so you’re stuck in this ongoing cycle of trying to convince it otherwise. It’s a strange situation right? But if you’re caught in such a silly trap, what does that tell you about the nature of reality? Perhaps the ongoings of this world aren’t as serious as you imagined them to be?

This silly game continues year after year simply because you’re engaging in it. You’re so enthralled by the idea that you’re a physical being living a life on planet Earth. You COULD take a step back, but you don’t want to. YOU are the creator of the game AND the player. You’re pretending to trap yourself AND you’re pretending to be caught.

THAT is the ultimate answer to your question dear reader: you could end your frivolous game at any moment, but you don’t want to. You apparently enjoy stress-testing your character. But if you truly want an improved experience, simply cut-out ALL negativity. This is just a dreamworld after-all, it’s malleable, so shape it in the most enjoyable form you can imagine — play THAT game instead.

Final Frontier

I just finished re-watching all seven seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I saw the series when it originally aired and I would’ve watched some reruns along the way as well. It’s been awhile since then, but every episode had an air of familiarity to it. Plus it’s a different experience to consume an entire series in a few months rather than over the course of several years.

No, not every episode is great and season 7 is a bit weak, but overall I love it: 5 outta 5. Jean-Luc Picard and Data are a force to be reckoned with. In the beginning, I was struck by the sheer competency of the crew. If you like to see professionals at work, THIS is the series for you. The Enterprise is the flagship of the Federation and it shows.

Another striking theme is the preeminence of AI in the form of Lieutenant Commander Data. He’s a self-aware android that could take over the ship at-will. Because of his vast database of knowledge and computational power, he offers solutions that regularly fix complex problems — it’s kinda like a “Deus ex Machina” situation where an actual machine keeps coming to the rescue.

Funny enough though, the people of that time don’t trust autopilot all that much and prefer human intuition when it comes to navigating through difficult situations. And just to note, cyborgs are pretty much demonized in this future — humans should stay human and any systematic integration with computers is detrimental and robs humans of their humanity.

Yet another prominent theme is the nature of reality. Whereas Data demonstrates that organic humans have been superseded in the physical realm, the series essentially explains that humans should transcend the physical realm anyway, reaching different planes of existence (something Data likely cannot do). So the final frontier isn’t actually space, but existence itself.

Time and distance are mere constructs devised by limited thinking. Once this is understood, the door to greater possibilities opens up. The series ends on this note. Something else to consider, is how the series was bookended by Q, an omnipotent being that exists beyond physicality. Although others of his kind questioned the value of humanity, he was entertained by humans and ultimately cared for their continued existence and growth as a species.

And as I mentioned, that growth entails a transcendence beyond limited thinking. To progress, humanity must overcome the confines of tribalism and their propensity towards violence. And humanity won’t progress by means of technology, nor by the exploration of space, but by the exploration of their own consciousness and the expansion of understanding.

Captivated

If I had to use one word to describe existence, it would be this: captivated. Whether it’s through delight or despair, fun or fear, this world has captured your attention. You’re constantly focused on it. You’re surrounded by it, infused with it — it’s everything you know. It’s the ultimate immersive experience. Cool right?

Quite exhilarating in fact. Yet perhaps too thrilling at times? This world is SO good at what it does, that sometimes you’re scared shitless. You’re shaken to the core by the horror unfolding before you. “What is this HELLHOLE!? Please make this nightmare stop!!” Because you’re so lost to the story, everything seems seriously significant.

If you find yourself uncomfortably captivated by this place, you can adjust your perspective and improve your experience. Imagine sitting in the first row of a movie theater with your neck straining to look up, your eyes overwhelmed by the brightness, your ears pounding from the sound, and the air-conditioner causing you to shiver. Now imagine moving back a few rows until everything feels just right. You can do that here too.

In this world, you can adjust your position by shifting your focus. What are you thinking about right now? For example, I used to think about spiders and I’d get anxious, my eyes would scan the room for creepy crawlies… Ahh! What’s that?!! Oh, just a speck on the wall. I’d go from relaxed to paranoid in no time. The fix for that situation is NOT securing every crack and spraying a perimeter of poison. The fix is to NOT think about spiders i.e. stop focusing on stuff you don’t like.

And you know what happened once I stopped focusing on the stuff I didn’t like? Less of it showed up. I barely see spiders anymore and even if I do, I have a friendlier relationship with them. I simply stopped telling myself the story that spiders are everywhere and they’re out to get me. While it’s true that we’re captivated by life, we do get to control our own focus. When this is realized, and actually put it into practice, life gets much better.

So the root of any problem is this: life is SO captivating that you don’t realize you can simply change the channel. Don’t like what you’re experiencing? Focus on something you DO like and stop telling yourself how bad everything is. You can tell the tale of your life any way you want to. It’s a skill you must develop through constant practice: direct your attention away from the bad and towards the good.

Simulated Satisfaction

How to be happy within a simulation.

Step one: pixels.

You don’t need to acquire anything, it’s not real — it’s just flickering light. Attainment is simply an updated entry in a database. Nothing changes but a value — sometimes coordinates are modified or a boolean is flipped from false to true.

Step two: perception.

If nothing’s real, then everything’s mental. Solidity is imagined, therefore your focus determines how permanent something is. If you believe in a particular obstacle, that obstacle will become a fixture in your life. And if you maintain a memory through constant recall, it’ll remain as a constant companion. So the most logical option, is to focus your mind on things that evoke delight and refrain from recalling the repugnant.

Step three: practice.

Your mind wanders. Your satisfaction within the simulation is directly tied to how well you can steer it. Think of this world as a driving simulation: thoughts come racing by and you have to steer clear of all the ruts in the road that’ll send you reeling. Negative thoughts are the source of all misery — avoid them as they enter your field of view. Not all thoughts are unpleasant though, some are downright delightful — stop the car and take some time to visit with them and appreciate their presence.

Wrap-up.

The pleasant perception of pixels takes practice. But as your skill grows, your life within the simulation greatly improves. Whenever your life is less than awesome, you can be certain that you’re smashing head-on into negative thoughts. Slow down.

In fact, you should pull over to the side of the road and sit still. You have the ability to take a break. Simply watch all the thoughts racing by on the adjacent road. For right now you’re no longer part of traffic. Thoughts come and go, but you remain motionless.

Happiness is a state of mind: you are provided the raw-material of random thought, “happiness” is the careful cultivation of this resource. Whereas misery is the consequence of allowing random thought to run rampant. The choice of pursuing happiness is yours to make.

Challenge of Enjoyment

Why should it be a challenge to enjoy existence?

Have you ever tried to do something that’s really hard? Something that takes a long time to get the basics down?

Consider this: if someone sat you in the cockpit of a giant airplane and said “have at it!” You’d probably stare at the dials, switches, and screens and “nope” the heck outta there. I’ve tried flight simulators, and they can be daunting. You CAN fly, but it’ll take patience, practice, and a desire to learn.

So, imagine being a bodiless being that’s suddenly provided a body. You’re disoriented, you’re shocked — you feel sensations all over your new body. What the heck is happening?! Is THIS hell? Is THIS what eternal damnation feels like? Someone get me outta here!!

Therefore, the problem is NOT that existence is horrible, it’s that existence isn’t intuitive to a bodiless being. Now what? Well for one, don’t just flip every switch in-front of you. Yes, you’ll see and hear some action happening, but good luck if you actually get the plane into the air.

YOU cannot fly a plane nor can YOU control a body. YOU are a bodiless being. YOU are the consciousness, the observer. YOU have no idea what’s going on here. And that’s fine. Your avatar in this world DOES know what it’s doing. Your avatar is perfectly capable of navigating this world without issue. Lucky you.

Whereas if YOU attempt to flip switches and turn dials, you’re going to mess things up. Whereas if YOU sit still and enjoy the ride, you’ll have a fine time as your avatar whisks you around this world. You’re not supposed to know what’s going on, that’s the avatar’s job.

YOUR job, is to develop and maintain the right mindset — that’s it! YOU must strive to find the full 5-star experience in every circumstance. Is it challenging? Only if you insist on maintaining a negative attitude!! Otherwise you simply watch and play along as the scenes unfold before you. “Oh wow! Ha, what fun! Isn’t this great!”

The challenge therefore, is in disposing of your initial interpretation of existence. You were surprised, then you rejected everything afterwards. It’s like showing up at a surprise party thrown in your honor, but instead of feeling delighted, you feel betrayed by each and every guest for startling you in the dark. Essentially, you have to get over it and join the celebration.

Step back and see the greater party happening all around you. Accept and appreciate the avatar you find yourself within. Let go, allowing yourself to be transported around a magical world of endless entertainment. That’s all. It’s a dream come true, enjoy the experience.