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.

Unknowable Truth

The ultimate truth of life, is that absolute truth isn’t knowable. Reality is only ever experienced from a particular perspective. When observed from different positions or at different times, what seemed true no longer is. We can easily witness this phenomenon as we age, yet we rarely regard its significance. Instead of acknowledging the truth of unknowableness, we pick a few “facts” and cling to them as long as we can, telling ourselves that they represent absolute truth.

We play this truth-game for as long as we can. Because these ideas aren’t actually true, they readily collapse whenever we fail to maintain our delusion. We’ll struggle for a bit until we pick a new “truth” to believe in. And on and on we go, attempting to make our leaky boat float, patching it wherever we find weakness. It’s a futile effort of course, but it’s a game we apparently like to play.

For playing this stupid game, we win the stupid prize of a flimsy foundation upon which our life rests. Our life never feels secure because it isn’t. But playing pretend isn’t the problem, the problem lies with trying to extract an absolute truth from these games. Within this world, we can only play: the characters we meet and the circumstances we experience are forms of fiction, not fact.

The things of this world are fictional and fleeting. And because nothing is of substance, it’s all frivolity. In other words: the temporary tales that constitute our experience reveal that it’s all for fun. Solid unchanging facts can be taken seriously, fleeting fiction cannot. Therefore, we purposefully play the truth-game in order to add solemnity and solidity to life.

The opposite is also true. If at any point we find life too intense, we can simply stop playing the truth-game. In other words, we can stop believing in the sources of fear and woe. Monsters disappear when we no longer believe in them. Once we stop fantasizing about the solidity of the world, there is no foundation upon which woe and worry can rest. By accepting and appreciating the ultimate truth of unknowableness, we cease in scaring ourselves — life turns from nasty nightmare into delightful dream.

At the Top

Sometimes I sit and stare at successful people. You know, like watch interviews and such. Some do just fine at the top whereas others stumble and fall, even to their death. Is life at the top THAT precarious? But of course, people die at the bottom too, probably much more so. And isn’t it better to die in a mansion than a cardboard box? If you gotta go, might as well go in style.

From those that survived falling from the top, they said their success was ultimately unfulfilling i.e. it didn’t solve their problems, so they had no place to go but down. And down they went. In other words, they had their wish granted but they didn’t feel satisfied — and with nothing left to attain, their lives felt empty. It seems that if you get what you want without an ability to appreciate it, you’re going to have a really bad time.

Typically these people are young, and rocket to success while lacking practice in appreciation. If you’re going to have fun at the top, you need an ability to appreciate it. You can’t be paranoid that you’ll lose it, you can’t be suspicious of everyone around you, and you have to embrace the lifestyle and trust that life wants you well. Otherwise, you might freak-out and literally jump off.

And I admit, it wasn’t that long ago that I imagined walling myself away from the world. In Minecraft for example, I used to build underground bunkers to protect myself from the harsh and brutal mobs. I would have full food supplies and whatever else I needed alongside extensive tunnels and air-lock style door systems. Zombies weren’t gonna catch me slippin. So if I had early success, I would’ve likely done something similar.

But nowadays I see the futility in “protecting” yourself from life. If life wants you dead, ain’t nuthin you can do. What determines your fate is a good attitude, that’s it. Believe in the goodness of life and you’ll receive it. Whereas if you believe in the bad, you’ll get exactly what you asked for. That’s the conclusion I reached after watching all those successful people. That’s the common thread that determines whether you enjoy your time at the top, and whether you remain there.

Today’s lesson: learn to appreciate. If you can’t do that, there’s no sense in getting to the top.

Sleepless Continuity

I’ve fought sleep for as far back as I can remember. When drowsy, I’d find a way to keep from drifting off, some sort of stimulus or distraction. I don’t know why. Even nowadays when I lay in bed at regular times I can’t remain asleep — I wake up throughout the night. “Huh!? Wha!? Oh, I drifted off… got caught slippin.” What’s going on?

I would hypothesize that fighting sleep is due to a fear of what’s to come. If every morning brings with it a brand-new day, and I distrust this world, then I’d be petrified of the sunrise. I’d want to maintain the continuity of the previous night. Late at night everything settles down and I’m at ease, the world around me is calm and at rest.

But next morning… BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! Alarm clock! GO GO GO! The deadline is TODAY!! Your appointment is TODAY!! New challenges begin TODAY!!! Holy sh*t!! Last night, before sleep, things were so quiet, so peaceful, nothing needed to be done, nothing was due. I could sit back and relax in solitude while experiencing a complete lack of engagement.

I would speculate then, that I won’t sleep well until I trust that life isn’t out to get me. I must believe that every morning isn’t a new opportunity for the world to torment and harass me. I must have faith that each day brings with it the gift of a good life. It’s not about finding the right concoction of pills or potions — it’s about developing a positive and appreciative perception of this place.

Seeking Conflict

The world is FULL of potential combatants. There’s conflict to be had everywhere. But should you seek it? Conflict, like fear, is a low-quality, low-effort source of amusement. Conflict is certainly a common source of excitement, but it’s not necessary for a good time. There’s companionship, laughter, delicious foods, artistic pursuits — and of course there’s even symbolic-conflict in the form of games, and fictionalized-conflict in stories.

If you’re not pursuing some other avenue of entertainment, conflict becomes an easy option to alleviate your existential boredom. But the going wisdom is: don’t do it. Conflict and fear are easy paths to pursue whereas higher-quality paths require effort on your part. It’s easy to generate excitement when you imagine EVERYTHING is out to get you. Step one: stop being so lazy. Conflict and fear are cheap thrills, you can do better.

The highest spiritual pursuit is to end fear and conflict, to see the world as the wholesome place that it is. The world is not devising ways to destroy you — you’re not that good, you couldn’t avoid it if the world really wanted you dead. So stop it already, you’re embarrassing yourself. You’re an invited guest imagining that the host keeps slipping poison into the food, but through your skill and cunning you’ve successfully managed to navigate through the minefield of danger. That’s dumb.

Have some respect for yourself, as well as the host. Accept this invitation into existence graciously and gratefully. “Wow, thank you! This is a really nice place!”, “Oh, for me? Wow! Thanks for this delicious meal!”, “Hey, some companions too! Wow, the giving doesn’t stop around here!”, “Hey let me show you how much I appreciate the time I have here! Check this out!”, “What a great day that was! I can’t wait for another! This place is awesome, thank you so much!”

Interpretive Dance

Is the act of eating strawberries a violent and exploitative endeavor in which one organism crushes and consumes the life-energy of another? In other words, the way in which we interpret life matters. And if people genuinely disagree on whether certain things are right or wrong, then the solidity of our reality is far from set.

And if our interpretation of reality is indeed malleable, why would we ever shape it in a way that causes distress? In other words, if I find strawberries delicious, why would I ever interpret the act of eating them as sadistic? By plucking it from the bush and consuming it, I’m clearly ending the fruitful-existence of the strawberry — but why would I want to see that as cruel?

Instead, I choose to see it as a celebration of life. The strawberry and my body are part of a choreographed dance in which we coordinate to make the cycle-of-life happen. It’s a beautiful thing. There’s nothing grotesque or brutish about it. And deep down I see the entire scene as flickering pixels anyway, there was nothing truly lost and nothing truly gained (except for the entertainment value of the experience).

Yet, there’s things I do interpret negatively, resulting in an associated experience of distress. For instance, I hate cheesecake — f*ck that stuff, I’m sorry but it’s gross. Look, now I’m all upset, and it’s stupid-cheesecake’s fault! I told you that crap was no good. But the question is, why would I do that to myself? Why bother to interpret something as bad when it changes NOTHING but my mood (from good to bad)?

Stupid right? And the solution is obvious. If I want to remain in a good mood, I should simply accept life as it is and assign a pleasant interpretation to EVERYTHING i.e. The Pollyanna Approach to Life. If that’s the obvious solution, and I’m NOT implementing it, what does that tell you? It implies that I enjoy the feeling of outrage. Oops.

Ladies and gentleman of the jury, the evidence is quite clear on this matter, the defendant is a sicko that gets-off on the anger and disgust and condemnation he feels towards life’s innocent artifacts. He conjures up the most malevolent fantasies imaginable just to feel indignation surge through his body — this is the very definition of a deranged individual.

Does negativity then qualify as an addiction? Something done for the rush yet results in distress and can’t easily be stopped? Perhaps it’s time to quit the stuff? It’s time to put down the pessimism, lay off the fear, and back away from the constant criticism. Wait, just one more scare! Come on! How about a little disparagement at least? No, no, I can’t!

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I ask for lenience. An addiction by definition is something not easily controlled. For whatever reason I became addicted to negativity — and I’ve carried that burden throughout life. I’ve paid the price for harboring such pessimism, locked in a prison of my own making. I was blind, but now I see. I can henceforth dedicate my life to a new and better perspective. And with that improved outlook I can help others who have a similar predilection for the gloom and doom.

Lack and Limitation

We had just moved down to central Florida. I had the resources of my newly retired parents, but all I could understand was lack and limitation. For whatever reason I strictly budgeted myself and refused tickets to the parks for awhile. We went around to all the places on property that didn’t require an entrance fee. Disney-on-a-Budget I called it.

But free and unrestrained access to the resorts? That seemed too extravagant, too easy, essentially cheating. You must pay to stay in order to play. Those weren’t the rules, yet they were MY self-imposed rules. You can’t have fun without limits, that’s indulgence! And indulgence needs to be paid for with punishment.

When I finally moved out of my parents’ house, I had a job that could afford the lifestyle I was looking for. But it wasn’t enough. I stayed at the computer all day and night whether I needed to or not. Even though the work was relatively easy, I made it as hard on myself as possible. I couldn’t have fun. I barely made it to Disney anymore. I barely made it outside of my apartment.

I made it so difficult in fact, that I finally cracked and gave-up on my software-development career altogether. We left the state in a self-imposed exile to the north amidst the dead of winter. We arrived to snow and cold. We dared not leave our tiny shack for fear that our little car couldn’t hack it.

Thinking back, I can see that my attitude was atrocious. It’s embarrassing in fact. What an idiot. On any plane of reality you wish to accept, my actions had no valid justification. I was paranoid. I was an extremist hell-bent on maintaining a belief in lack and limitation and I made sure I suffered at every turn. Sick.

Let me reiterate this point: even though I had EVERYTHING I wanted, I couldn’t accept it, I couldn’t appreciate ANY of it. It was a classic Greek tragedy. I had a wonderful wife, a respectable career, I lived in a town I loved, right down the road from my childhood happy-place — yet it was all a source of pain. So much so that I had to leave — and enter into the literal pain of an isolated snowy winter up north.

Deep breath. In… Out… It’s a little rough to contemplate and convict myself of such stupidity. It’s undeniable though. But through grace I am forgiven. It was about an 8-year exile. I’m back now. I’m not in a perfect situation but I’m attempting to appreciate it nonetheless. I am attempting to eschew any thoughts or feelings of lack and limitation.

With my consent, my friend is taking the wheel this time around, so anytime I’ve tried to pump the brake she kicked my foot away. My goal nowadays is to make amends for my gross and unacceptable attitude. I apologize to life itself as well as to my dear friend that’s always been there for me. The only restitution I can offer is a commitment to better myself.

To that end, I seek to enjoy my time on Earth and help others do the same. I seek to develop an authentic appreciation for life, fully realizing the gift I’ve been so lovingly given. I seek to make trust my default. I seek to be a worthy friend and father. And of course I seek to rid myself of my long-time addiction to negativity. Goodbye fear. Goodbye lack and limitation.

The Dreamfinder

You entered a dreamworld whose ongoings are influenced by your intentions and focus. Essentially, whatever you want to happen, will happen. But this dreamworld isn’t harsh, so it puts a buffer on the fulfillment of your wishes. Imagine if in a fit of anger you wish the worst thing possible — thank goodness it probably won’t manifest.

But everything that’s given a home in your head eventually becomes a wish of what you’d like to happen — the good and the bad. “I’m an idiot!” Wish granted! “I hope she doesn’t come over and talk to me! Oh no, here she comes!” Wish granted! ANYTHING you focus on comes into being. If you say “I don’t want cheesecake” you’re still focusing on cheesecake.

Unfortunately for a lot of us, we don’t realize our power to manifest the world around us. And what’s worse, is that we got spooked when we entered this dreamworld and started creating some scary stuff that snowballed into a full-blown nightmare. But all of that nasty stuff you experienced was because you didn’t know any better. Oops.

But luckily, this is a dreamworld. If you want to wish the past away, you can — just shift your focus off of it. You can forget it altogether or simply mold it into a past you’re proud of. And as far as today and the yet-to-be, those are wide-open as well. Focus on the things you enjoy and answer every “why” with a reason that delights.

For example, if you display trust in the world, the world becomes trustable. Whereas if you’re paranoid and suspicious, THAT wish is granted! If you’ve developed a bad habit of scaring yourself, you’ll need some practice keeping your focus on the good stuff and devising the best world you can. But there’s no time like the present — get to work!

Imagination is your key to unlock the hidden wonders of our world. — Dreamfinder

Into the Deep

I gotta tell ya, I am just not in the mood today. Tired. Sick and tired. Drained. On my last nerve.

But you know what? When you reach the end of the road, there’s nothing left but unexplored territory. So that’s where I’m going today — into the wilderness.

I was just listening to a fella on TV talk about faith and belief. And today, that resonates with me. Screw what my senses say, I’m gonna go by what I believe, period. I’ve always been an autodidact do-it-yourself-er, and I’m sick of my senses telling me what’s what — dictating what I’m supposed to believe in.

No sir, now it’s going to go the other way. Belief first, senses second. Think of the scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade when Indy has to take a “leap of faith” across a ravine. THAT’S how it works. You step and suddenly find yourself supported. “But Rich, that’s crazy talk!”

If you’ve lived a cloistered unsuccessful life like I have, then yeah that’s crazy talk. Whereas if you actually do stuff in the world, then no, you’ll find that the physical realm manifests according to your wishes. How the F*UCK are people flying at 500mph in aluminum tubes above my head right now!!?? That’s INSANE if we lived in a physical-world ruled by random chance. It’s absolutely bonkers that anyone would attempt such a daring feat. But not only do they do it, they do it casually, incorporating it into their schedule like it’s no big deal. HUH!?

My senses are lying to me day and night, tricking me into thinking this is a physical world. I hate liars, so f*ck you, senses. I know, I know, it’s not their fault, I’m just confused and wrongly blaming my senses. The senses are just perceiving what I believe — so it’s actually my beliefs that are screwed-up, causing stupid sh*t to be projected out of every orifice.

Okay, so I really need to stop pretending that I’m a scared little animal randomly placed on a rock hurtling around a gigantic fireball. I must have an addiction to fear-laced beliefs, I keep coming back like a junkie lookin for his next fix of fear. But you get comfortable, thinkin everything is great, easy, maybe even too easy, then all of a sudden you start getting bored — and you can’t have THAT — anything but that!!! So the anxiety starts, oh yeah, feeling good already, I could die at any second… ooh baby, scare me some more. NO!!! No more!!

It really comes down to an addiction to anxiety — it’s just so easy to rely on fear as a means to alleviate boredom. It’s a quick-fix to any situation that’s startin to slow down. But you have to fill your time with something… why not let it be a little thrill…. NO! Destruction is the easy route — just stain some walls with graffiti or smash ’em down. No, the more respectable path is creation. Even if it’s just a better belief system — construct something. Start with yourself if that’s the only building-material you can muster.

I gotta say, I’ve always felt like the smartest guy in the room, but it just shows how delusional I was. I didn’t have everything figured out, I simply held tight to a tiny set of ideas and outright denied everything that wasn’t contained within my clenched fists. Oh well, you live, you learn.

Becoming Childlike

It is written: We must become as little children.

Have you ever seen the sheer delight on a child’s face at the mere mention of a simple treat? Or have you ever witnessed the unflinching forgiveness and fearlessness a child has toward a parent. “You’re my mommy and I love you!” — nothing gets between that sentiment.

So here’s the deal. You grow up. You get jaded. A treat just isn’t going to cut it anymore. And now you’re scared — you’ve been hurt too many times to forgive. Now it’s “Leave me alone! I hate you!”

So what happened? Is your creator a wicked monster that beat the love and wonder out of you? Or, did you just get spooked and run away to hide in the darkest dingiest hole you could find?

Let’s analyze this for a second. Either your creator is a horrible sadist hell-bent on torturing you… or, you were a bit overwhelmed and had a bad reaction. Have you ever seen how some teenagers overreact to perfectly reasonable parents?

Listen, you’ve got to settle down and stop acting like an angsty teen. Your creator is not trying to ruin your life, your creator has your best interests in mind, your creator loves you now and always. You misunderstood and were frightened, no big deal.

Now get back to delight and appreciation, return to forgiveness and fearlessness. Reach out and feel the love of a creator that wants nothing more than to give you the gift of existence. Show your smile, say thanks, maybe “I love you too”.