Oh. Ha. Okay I think I get it. Today is the 7-year anniversary of the very first post on this blog. SEVEN YEARS!!! I’m not excited, I’m amazed at my ineptitude.
Instead of actually disciplining my mind, I’ve been writing about disciplining my mind. I mean yes, I’ve improved, but more by osmosis rather than direct effort — that seems terribly inefficient. Had I directly applied myself to the task of mental discipline, I probably would’ve had better results.
My friend was just saying to me: I’m procrastinating instead of doing the work I need to do. And then it hit me: I’M procrastinating instead of doing the work I need to do!! For SEVEN YEARS no less!!! I should really stop procrastinating and DO the work.
Like the Dhammapada says:
As a fletcher makes straight his arrow, a wise man makes straight his trembling and unsteady thought. It is good to tame the mind, which is difficult to hold-in and flighty, rushing wherever it listeth; a tamed mind brings happiness. Whatever an enemy may do to an enemy, a wrongly-directed mind will do us greater mischief. Not a mother, not a father will do so much; a well-directed mind will do us greater service.
And so THAT’S what I should be doing with my time and effort: disciplining my mind. Therefore, I hereby declare by the powers vested in me by the state of consciousness, that I do solemnly swear to perform such tasks and fulfill said duties that directly lead to a disciplined mind. I shall henceforth engage in adequate activities that indubitably achieve the desired result of calm and steady thought. Furthermore, this pursuit will most assuredly provide receipts for ensured compliance.
— Faithfully and most ernestly yours, Rich.
The most important thing you can do to enhance your experience of existence is this: mental hygiene. In other words, if you’re having an unpleasant time, then you have a dirty mind. Every day, every hour, every minute, you have to tidy up as thoughts ceaselessly blow in through the window of consciousness.
The thoughts themselves aren’t necessarily “dirty”, it’s your own tendency to collect them and clutter up your mind that’s the problem. On their own, thoughts blow in, thoughts blow out — no big deal. But when you hold on to them, storing them away on a shelf for easy access, regularly marveling at them to the exclusion of new thoughts — you’ve got a problem.
Be careful of collected thoughts. Once you take a thought, it’s like plucking a flower off a bush. It’s cool to have it in your house for awhile, but it will wither and wilt soon enough, becoming a decayed version of its former self. And that’s fine, who doesn’t like some fresh-cut flowers around? But, you must maintain the vases and throw-out the flowers when they start to droop.
Who wants ugly or stinky flowers in their home? If a thought is unpleasant, don’t maintain it in your mind. Let it go, move on to the next one — there’s always a new one waiting to come in. Try not grabbing any, just soak in the sights as you browse the thought aisle. Scan past the ones you don’t prefer and focus on the ones you do.
In games, sometimes there’s a tipping-point in which you become the master. After struggling to get even a toe-hold, you get to a position where your dominance is inevitable. You don’t always want to reach that tipping-point though. If you’re not prepared to handle it, it will be very unfulfilling and you’ll be left with nothing but emptiness. Boredom will come — and from that, you can’t hide.
And it’s true — at one point, life presented me with a scenario I preferred, but I couldn’t handle it. Without a doubt, my negativity won. From there, I went into a multi-year exile. During those years, I trained — not my body as I had done in my youth, but my mind. I sat in isolation attempting to figure life out — trying to understand what I was doing wrong. The culmination of everything I gathered is within this blog.
In the upcoming year, I hope I’m ready to reach that tipping-point — to become a player that focuses on living-out his role the best he can. I hope that I’ve shed my negativity and developed an ability to appreciate the simple fear-free life. I’m done with using fear as a crutch to stave-off existential boredom. Anxiety, distress, worry, despair, anxiousness, hopelessness, frustration — these are words I knew well, but now wish to know only from a distance. I’m not afraid of them, I’m simply ready to mature beyond them.
I was meditating yesterday, methodically shutting down every thought that came into my mind — and a realization occurred: I shutdown this chatter in order to create an inlet for life to enter. These constant thoughts simply don’t allow life to happen, they choke it in every instance — like a loudmouth shouting over everyone else — or weeds preventing desirable crops from growing. So in this new year, I wish to listen — to allow life in.
Without control of your thoughts, you’re lost. Your turbulent mind is going to take you on a wild ride that you won’t soon forget. If you can’t shut your thoughts down or can’t differentiate between worthwhile ones and worthless ones, you’re going to have a hard time. If you think you can handle that level of difficulty, which maybe you can, have fun. But for those of you having an unpleasant time with existence, there’s a less intense route through this funhouse.
It’s called spirituality. The purpose of spirituality is to ease your journey through life — that’s it. Spirituality is a way of looking at the world that allows you to comfortably navigate through it. You CAN look at life as a struggle, and it’ll be every bit as hard as you imagine. But you CAN look at life as an enjoyable adventure, and it will be.
“But Sensei Rich, reality is what it is, life is cruel and hard, I’ve seen it!”
Then why are some people having a great time? Reality is relative or else everyone would be having a tough time. Everyone has obstacles, yes, but the difference is that they enjoy the experience. They see the game-like nature of life and have fun while completing the provided challenges. But it’s even better than that, once you get in the right frame of mind, you get to pick the problems you want to solve.
And this ability to appreciate life begins with spirituality. Step one, is to get your thoughts under control. Step two, is to redefine reality into something you can handle. Step three, is to enjoy. Not so bad right? Then what are you waiting for? Your options are these: keep doing what you’re doing and continue having a rough time OR pursue spirituality and start having a great time. Seems like an easy choice, yes?
Dear Rich, if I’m so smart, why am I so miserable? Shouldn’t I be able to think my way out of this?
Why dear reader, the very source of your misery IS your thinking. It’s your over-analyzing that is robbing you of so much fun. Thinking and analyzing doesn’t make you smart — if anything, such dull diversion makes you dumb. How is it smart to preoccupy yourself with blathering nonsense while engaged in the great extravaganza of existence?
Happy people are such, because they don’t think — they experience. My apologies dear reader, in regards to your stupidity, but it’s the greatest folly to believe yourself smart when in actuality you couldn’t be any dumber. You need this blow to your ego for it has set you up for failure in the highest regard. Like a con-artist, your thoughts have fooled you into believing in their preeminence.
Yet nothing could be further from the truth. You’re an ignorant idiot. But luckily for you dear reader, you have just heard the truth. Now you can finally get to work on shutting down that mental chatter and start living the good life! Congratulations! Why to finally have that mental blockage out of the way — the good-times are surely coming your way.
Can you believe it? Those ever-present thoughts have been slowly poisoning your experience this entire time. But through the power of discipline, you will now shut them down, turning off the spout that’s been spreading toxicity. Now is the time to demonstrate your superior ability and outwit those mischievous musings — that is, if you’re up to the challenge.
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.
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!