Forging the Mind

The external is a projection of the internal. Therefore, if things are unpleasant on the outside, we know our own undisciplined mind is to blame. We shouldn’t rush to solve an exterior circumstance, we should sit and calm the mind, fixing its focus. This concept is easier to grasp when existence is perceived as a dream – a distressed sleeper has agitated dreams.

Additionally, our own errant thoughts are by far the greatest source of abuse we experience on Earth. A cascade of criticism mixed with embarrassing memory topped with dour prognostication make for an unpleasant stew we swallow daily. Through the effort of meditation and applied mental discipline, these thoughts can be muted. Life simplifies when such swirling malevolence is rejected.

Ah, but a vacuum forms! Boredom rears its head around the corner – a condition that encourages escape. As the mind thirsts for thrills and stressors, a hobby beyond self-immolation must be found. The hobby of finding a hobby begins. Long has poisonous thought made the mind a toxic space – let meditation fill the gap, making an intentional void. Cleanse the clutter, allowing room for lighthearted delight.

Through silence, visit the realm of pure potential where anything can be anything. Come often. Memory is reinforced through practice – stop recalling and allow old images to fade away. Stop living within the imagination – reality is right now. Strive to achieve a well-disciplined mind, ceaselessly forge it into shape – incorporating only the finest thoughts you can find.

Vignette No. 162

At the mirror, looking into his own eyes, he sees the glossiness that precedes an overflow of tears. “What have I done to be punished so harshly?”, he wonders softly to himself. “I’ve been convicted of no crime, provided no sentence, but apparently I’ve received the maximum penalty of the law!” – he speaks aloud in a frustrated tone. “What law even is this!? What justice is served?!” – he speaks even louder, angrier.

“For justice to be justice, a man must consent to the laws that bind him. I’ve made no agreement with this world nor its arbiter. Therefore, I reject any and all imposed fines! To hell with this world!” – he proclaims furiously.

Now quieter, almost a whisper, he says: “It may have my body, but it shan’t have my spirit. Nay, such a cruel world does not deserve an unrelenting opportunity to mock me. I am in this world, but I will not be party to its malevolence.”

As a declaration to existence itself, he continues at full volume: “In every scene and circumstance you present me, I shall laugh. No tear will ever drip from mine eyes, for I shall never invest myself in your nefarious narratives. You may have this body, doing with it what you will – but I, its consciousness will simply serve as witness to your wicked ways. For if justice truly exists in this universe, judgement awaits you.”

A knock on the bathroom door, followed by the words: “Rich! It’s breakfast, what are you doing in there? Who are you talking to? The sausages are getting cold!” He replies: “Sausages!? The good ones? I’m on my way!”

Thorns of Thought

In a virtual world, like a dream, anything can be anything. This fundamental fact is a prescription for eradicating anxiety. Since everything is malleable, there’s no application for worry. Early warning signs point to a potential, not to an absolute. Follow those signs and you’ll surely find what you’re looking for. But ignore them, and they’ll fade from existence.

Here’s something to consider: what is the interface for a virtual world such as this? There are no obvious buttons, no onscreen keyboard to summon – so how does one input their wishes into the world? There is but one way: focus. Of course, focusing one’s attention is a difficult operation to master. This is the purpose of meditation: it’s a concentrated practice of concentration – a way to make the seemingly-impossible possible.

The point is to stop following every little thought. These thoughts aren’t the problem, they’re like thorns as you walk through a garden. Don’t interact with them, and you remain without pain. Focus on them, wonder what happens when they press against flesh, then their prick provokes distress. Playing with each and every thought as it comes into view is an ever-flowing source of dissatisfaction.

Your focus betrays you. If you allow it to wander, you’ll crash. Whereas if you steer your attention in a delightful direction, your experience vastly improves. But be advised: this is not an effortless task because boredom encourages negligence. Thrilling ways lead to exciting days – and the mind seeks drama. This is the other facet of meditation: to become comfortable sans-spectacle.

Quiet the mind, intentionally guide it: you win. Forgo discipline and allow the mind to wander wherever: you lose. One evokes satisfaction, the other suffering. This concept can be tested and proven, faith is not required. Left to its own devices, the mind becomes a bitter pessimist poisoning your experience. But if you invest the effort, the mind may be molded into a cheerful companion that gladdens your days.

Inner World

Here’s a question you should be asking yourself regularly:

What kind of world am I creating within my thoughts? Is it a world in which I’m worried, annoyed, or frustrated? If so, then that’s a dumb habit you need to break. What’s happening in the mind is typically much worse than what’s happening in your actual external experience. Your thoughts devise tragic and dire consequences, haunting you with the worst outcomes imaginable. It’s not protecting you from future possibilities, your mind is straight-up torturing you right now.

Or rather, you’re tormenting yourself. Why? There’s no valid reason, so stop. Instead of creating a dissatisfying world, try thinking of a world in which you feel anticipation for something delightful, think of an amusing world, a world you appreciate, a world in which you experience an overall sense of satisfaction. It’s just thoughts, you can select which ones to dismiss and which ones to focus on.

If the external world burned around you, it wouldn’t matter. Your thoughts can be your refuge. The inner world you create should be an ally – not an enemy. It shouldn’t be used to pile on the pain, but ease your burden. Your thoughts should be your best friend, forever painting scenes to entertain and enchant. If this isn’t the case, then you’re in need of a major adjustment.

These are YOUR thoughts after all. If at any moment you feel upset, you know you’re focusing on unpleasant thoughts. Cease and desist this low-quality hobby – immediately. Perhaps you’re bored and scaring yourself for the excitement-factor. Find something better, something enjoyable. Focusing on unpleasant thoughts is like choosing the hobby of hitting your head with a hammer – it’s dumb, don’t do it.

Start a new hobby. No more creating a world of woe for yourself. For this new hobby, craft a wondrous world of wow. Stop taunting and start treating yourself to the most satisfying thoughts possible. Imagine an honored and beloved guest is coming to visit a world of your making, how would you design such a place? Now allow yourself to be that honored and beloved guest – allow yourself to live in that world.

Avoiding Angst

Wait, so life is like a “Try not to laugh challenge” but it’s a “Try not to get upset challenge?”

It seems so, yes. You can do what’s called-for in the moment, but you can’t overreact or obsess on the situation. Play your part, but don’t get lost. You can end up going backwards if you don’t maintain your focus. Do make the effort though: you’ll keep attempting to complete this challenge life-after-life if need be. And be warned: your progress (or lack there of) follows you into the next.

You should also realize that there are forces deliberately thwarting your attempt to accomplish this challenge. But every game has obstacles and opponents to overcome, right? So no big deal. In this game it’s things like anger, lethargy, confusion, craving, selfishness, and even beauty. These influences try to tie you to this world so you’ll feel invested – making you easy to upset.

Let me provide some scenarios with a couple different approaches (purely fictional, for demonstrative purposes only):

Life: “Hey Rich, your dog just died.”
Bad: “Curse this world!! Why do you taunt me so!? To give me love, only to snatch it away! Will this unyielding cruelty ever end!?”
Better: “Aw man (sniffle). Well, I appreciate the time we had together.”

Life: “Hey Rich, what do you want to do today?”
Bad: “Meh, nothing. Everything sucks, why bother.”
Better: “Hm, good question! I’m sure there’s something interesting I can find!”

Life: “Hey Rich, check this out, kinda neat right?”
Bad: “I NEED THAT NOW!!! GIMME!! I shall not rest even a moment until it is in my possession!”
Better: “Oh wow, that’s amazing. Might even be cool to have, but I’m fine either way.”

Life: “Hey Rich, I heard that guy called you a jerk.”
Bad: “WHAT!? I hope he fails at life. Should it ever be in my power to do so, I will personally smite him.”
Better: “Ha, whatever, can’t hear the haters! Although, maybe I can improve my interactions with others.”

Life: “Hey Rich, the cake’s all gone!”
Bad: “WHO ATE MY CAKE!!?? That was MY cake! I’ll remember this!”
Better: “Ah okay, well it WAS tasty!”

In a sense, strive to be mellow. It may seem like a strange objective – but really, what else can a person truly control in life? It’s attitude and focus. Maintaining awareness and constant course-correction aren’t easy tasks by-the-way. But this is the vehicle we have, and this is the mechanism by which we steer. Think about driving an actual car: stay within the lane, maintain appropriate speed, avoid obstacles, and don’t overreact. In both situations, calm behavior gets you to your destination.

Three Threads

The Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 14) clearly establishes that one’s eternal essence is bound by certain forces that influence its earthly experience. Being born into this world, the spirit is entwined and anchored by these forces. It is the earth-dweller’s task to unbind its non-physical portion from these influences in order to rejoin the spiritual-whole from which it came. Failing to do so in one lifetime will simply result in another opportunity within another lifespan – and so on.

A question that arises is: why does a supreme-being confine a fraction of itself within an embodied-being and then expect that spiritual-portion to find its way back? In a sense, it’s an “Escape Room” scenario in which the spirit must collect clues and solve puzzles in order to find its way out. Additionally, the spirit must first discern that it’s trapped to begin with. Perhaps this entrapment is simply the byproduct of an overthinking celestial entity.

Whatever the reason, the spirit must untangle itself from the threads that bind it. How? By becoming smooth and friction-free. Imagine a rough non-slip surface that catches on everything it touches – it’s stuck. Now imagine a smooth surface that slides easily through life. By not allowing itself to become wrapped-up in the narrative, the spirit can glide through life and find its way back to the origin. Essentially, the conscious mind has to lighten-up and relax.

By perceiving life lightheartedly, one travels an enlightened path. Imagine the undisciplined mind as Velcro’s tiny hooks persistently grasping at every loop the world offers. Now imagine a disciplined mind as being sleek and hookless, no longer grabbing those loops. The loops are there, but the disciplined mind doesn’t keep getting stuck, it’s free of attachment. The world still turns, but its weight no longer rests on the spirit’s shoulder.

So the goal is this: to experience existence without getting upset. And the tools to do this are awareness, attitude, focus, and interpretation. Maintain awareness of attitude and focus. Actively improve attitude and shift focus to non-distressing topics. Seek and sustain an enjoyable interpretation of life. By engaging in this practice, the spirit can overcome its entanglement and return to a place of peace.

Bad Days

I’m pretty sure “bad days” are a real phenomenon. There have been days in which I feel good, like I’ve got things figured out, like everything’s going to be better than okay – like I’m a winner. Then all of a sudden, I’m sucker-punched in the gut, doubled-over and questioning my entire existence and hating everything this wretched-world has to offer.

Then things kinda go back to normal and I follow my usual daily routine. I’m not sure if those bad days typically follow the days in which I feel like a winner – or are they just randomly interspersed. Is it a normalization process in which my ultra-positive attitude is brought back down? Or simply some bit of chaos mixed into an otherwise boring routine?

It’s like having a nightmare. Hm, well if life is a dream, then having some nightmarish days makes sense I suppose. Although I wonder if I encourage them, or do they appear randomly. It’s really easy to get lost in the narrative of a bad day too. I suppose I should try to recognize those days as soon as possible and do something about it. Hm, but what – especially when my energy feels so drained.

Maybe bad days aren’t so bad? Maybe they’re just days filled with potentiality – swirling with chaotic creativity, providing a chance to switch things up, an opportunity to step off of a dull habit-formed path. Hm, maybe. Well, on a bad day I suppose I shouldn’t attempt to follow my typical daily routine – maybe that’s why I lack the energy to do so.

Since everything is harder, it only leads to frustration, so maybe I should try something new? Instead of: “Oh boy, it’s going to be a real struggle to get through today. Nothing I usually do is working, it’s like failure around every corner.” It becomes: “Oh wow, it’s a day of chaotic creativity! I shouldn’t expect my usual approach to work today. Therefore, I should refrain from my typical routine and try something different!”

Self-care Routine

I practice self-care through the process of mental-awareness combined with mental-discipline. In a sense, I allow myself to have a good day. This is not related to external circumstances, it is solely in regards to how I’m feeling. I watch my thoughts through the practice of awareness and when something inappropriate is detected, I steer them away through the practice of discipline.

Again, my physical situation isn’t important, I’m only concerned about my attitude: is it positive or negative. For example, if I look up to the sky and see an astroid hurtling towards me, I’d notice a disturbance in my feelings. As soon as I’m aware of this agitation, I’d drop those thoughts and adopt other thoughts that improve my mood. “Oh how beautiful that burning rock is! And to think it should all end like this, in a magnificent world-ending event! This must be what I came here to see! Amazing!”

But honestly, I’m rarely if ever exposed to disturbing external events. Most of what disturbs me is self-inflicted. In a sense, I’m constantly hitting myself with a stick. A stick that takes many forms:

“Hm, why do you look like that, what’s wrong with your face. Why aren’t you good at anything? You know, there’s a term for unfit creatures like you, it’s called extinction. Imagine your life if you weren’t so unpleasant to be around, people might like you – or maybe not. Why’d you do it that way!? That’s dumb! You’re going where!? Do you know how dangerous the world is!? You must be a special type of moron to have a complete lack of regard for personal safety! Uh-oh, is that an ache? It can only mean a severe disease followed closely by death.”

It’s surprising how much of my life is just me bullying myself. Therefore, the most significant step I can take to improve my life is to stop hitting myself.

Art of Life

I suppose I’d liken life to the production of art. In art, you have a certain set of tools to work with, and each toolset has distinctions and limitations. The medium of choice has its own characteristics too. You’re also producing a product that fits within certain expectations. If you don’t do anything, your medium will just sit there – which is true in life. You have to actually go about sketching, painting, sculpting, constructing – whatever.

In my experience, I could simply sit alone in a room and nothing much happened. So in that way, life is not a ride on a track whisking me around, showing me all the wondrous things I should see while I passively sit back and relax. But, there seems to be impulses of inspiration encouraging me to do certain things (just like in art). In some ways I think I can ignore these urges.

An artist shouldn’t necessarily paint over his entire canvas with a splash of maroon simply on a whim. Some impulses should be ignored depending on the selected theme. And art can certainly be frustrating. It often takes years of practice for brush strokes to come across as artistic additions instead of blotchy mistakes. Sometimes the initial vision wasn’t right and you have to repaint or repair.

For example, I initially painted life with dour hues – so now I’m trying to paint the whole thing over with brighter colors. There’s just so much grey and sometimes I need several coats. I try to stay focused on the pretty parts I’ve updated while ignoring the rest. What happened before this point in time? I don’t care, I’ve moved on. That paint’s dried and I can safety paint atop it.

Problematic Analysis

Due to an abrupt interruption in lifestyle, my character perceives a problem that must be fixed. How can I maintain or upgrade my situation? A potential downgrade is unacceptable – so therein lies the issue. One way to workaround a downgrade is to shift perspective and see it as an upgrade – but that technique is more of a last-resort.

Scanning potential options…. Hm, oh-well I suppose shifting perspective is all I have available at the moment. I don’t see any feasible physical-world solutions. I have “hoping” and “wishing” but I’ve yet to see satisfactory results from previous attempts. My most effective strategy for life has been resigning myself to “what is” and then engaging in some form of small-scale distraction therapy.

Through observation, I can tell that this life is a fictional construct. Also, it seems to be very dreamlike in that the plot goes “wherever” and circumstances follow “dream logic” (reasoning that only makes sense in the dream). Therefore, life isn’t like a ride on a track, a mechanism constructed to gradually reveal an interesting concrete narrative – instead, it simply flows all over the place like a dream.

But not quite “all over the place”. It flows in the general direction of the thinking-mind. I suppose that’s what the “law of attraction” stuff is basically saying: think pleasant thoughts, have a pleasant experience – think nasty thoughts, have a nasty experience. It comes down to controlling the dream through a prevalence of theme. In other words: deluge the thinking-mind with awesomeness in order to live an awesome life.

I admit to beginning life as an untrusting pessimist that searched for ways in which things would fail. And in that way, my wish was often granted. That great things should come to an inelegant end, is well within my belief system. So of course it is of no surprise to be unceremoniously booted from my current abode. But I’m sick of losing, I’m ready to accept a magical transition to an elegant end-game in which I effortlessly excel in the game of life.