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.

Typical Saturday

My current dream right now? Hm, moving into my forever-home. I want to feel at-ease, like I can finally sleep and be well-rested. I want to head into my office/workshop, surrounded by many tools and gadgets, forever tinkering, collecting, organizing, and upgrading. Throughout the day I’ll be hanging-out with my small family, chatting, eating familiar breakfasts, and delighting in delicious dinners. I’ll also watch shows, videos, and movies – simply absorbing life’s entertaining aspects at a comfortable intensity. And that’s it, not a tall order by any means.

Within my thoughts, there was always a prevalence of lack and impermanence. I don’t have “x” and even if I do, it won’t last long. “That’s too hard to get, I’ll never have it, it’s outta my reach.” Along with: “Things break, they degrade over time, nothing lasts forever.” A mythology of meagerness pervaded my mind. And as it did, my life proceeded thusly. I sought scarcity and found it around every turn.

Was life unpleasant because of its inherent nature? Or was life unpleasant due to my own perspective of paucity? I cannot deny my negative mindset, it’s there. But was it developed as a response to a malevolent world? Or did my mind unjustly paint this place as a squalid slum unfit for occupancy? It seems quite reasonable that I might have to accept blame.

As my outlook softened over the years, I’ve noticed improvements in my physical surroundings. Therefore, one might assume I need to keep improving my perspective in order to see an even better world. I suppose that speaks to the dreamlike nature of reality: circumstances generally flow the way you think they should. And if my life is in anyway unsatisfactory, it’s because I believe it should be – I believe in a lackluster world.

But how does one change their mindset if they’re busy believing in the worst while at the same time experiencing the fruit of their incessant pessimism? It takes a leap of faith to deny one’s current situation as an objective fact – it also takes repentance in the acceptance of blame for its creation. Is the world truly unpleasant, or does the mind make it so? And if an unruly mind makes it so, the solution boils down to the application of mental discipline.

Focus the mind on the greatest aspects of every moment and appreciation of goodness becomes the dominant path in which thoughts flow. Finding greatness in the small builds until greatness pervades all aspects of existence. Soon enough, life becomes an abundant source of awe and amusement to be appreciated.

Packing Purpose

If you know where you’re going, it makes packing much easier. With packing, you can’t always bring everything you own. And even if you can, you still have to prioritize accessibility of items – some things get buried on the bottom while others are kept near the top. What’s the weather like? Hot, cold, rainy? What activities will I do? Which accessories should I keep at hand? How long will I be without the stuff I leave behind?

A couple years ago for example, I emptied out a storage unit that contained stuff I left behind ten years prior. More than half of that stuff was irrelevant and got thrown out. I’m at a similar spot now. I have to leave but I don’t know where I’m going. I have to pack but I don’t know what to bring. Will the rest go into storage again? Another decade entombed until my return? I’m obviously not pleased by this prospect.

If I had my druthers, I’d simply buy a nice home in a pleasant location and settle there. I’m able to make more suitable choices for myself than the powers that be. Yet for whatever reason, something wants me riled up. But honestly, I don’t like this world enough to bear any inconvenience. It’s a relationship in which my needs are reluctantly addressed. Me: “Can I get an ice-cream cone?” The world: “We have popsicles at home.” Me: “oh.”

So dear world, you disappoint me once again. If I could end this relationship, I would. But I know any authority so petty and cruel would not allow such a circumstance – thus your prisoner I remain. Whatever. I have nothing better to do apparently. One would assume that a good host would make their guest’s stay a pleasant one. Yet, it is an absolute chore to attain any sense of enjoyment from this place. Good day to you.

Mental Wrestling Federation

The mind. It’s like you walk into a giant exhibition center filled with a hundred professional wrestling rings. In each ring a wrestler waits, often goading you to enter his domain. “Come on you pipsqueak! Show me what you got!” Oftentimes you take the bait and enter the ring. Ding! He lifts you up, suplexing your helpless body into the mat. You’ve had it. One! Two! Threee! It’s all over!

You’ve got a few options for dealing with this situation.

One: if the guy looks like an absolute maniac, DON’T get into the ring. It seems super exciting when you’re on the outside and he’s provoking you with his taunts. But you don’t stand a chance, you’ll get pummeled.

Two: Slide out under the bottom rope and run back to the crowd. Once you feel the intensity of being in the ring, just forfeit the match. You weren’t going to win anyway. It’s a valid option and it’s within your ability to simply dump-out any time.

Three: Pick a chump. Don’t get ahead of yourself, pick a guy that looks reasonable. There’s no championship on the line, you’re simply browsing through the expo-center – might as well enjoy yourself. There’s challenging yourself and then there’s being foolish. Don’t be a masochist, thinking you can beat any guy in the room.

Four: Play along, don’t take things so seriously. You got dinged and bumped around? So what. An insult cut a little deep? Your knee hurts? Well that’s the game, you get knocked about a bit. If you can roll with the punches and get into the act, then that’s an option too.

Thoughts are like wrestlers attempting to tie you up in leg-locks or half-nelsons, they want to flaunt their stuff and smash you into the mat. If you can’t take the intensity, don’t engage. If you want some fun, wrestle someone a bit more manageable. If you want even more fun, get into the spirit of things and get in there.

Futile Resistance

You’ve seen it: a character is placed into what he believes to be a prison. He proceeds to struggle, fight, lash out, not listen, attempt escape, complain, and exhaust himself with all these futile efforts. Eventually, he gives up his belligerent ways and starts to harmonize with his situation. He goes from miserable to okay. He might be attending a new school or joining a new family – whatever it is, it’s new and different and he’s ready for battle.

But then there are characters like Annie. She resists her predicament and actually ends up in a better place with Daddy Warbucks. She didn’t have to accept a hard-knock life and eke-out little bits of happiness wherever she could. She didn’t have to alter her perspective and ignore the muck and mire until she found joy within. No, she was plucked from her predicament and placed in a loving palace filled with earthly delights.

“Face it kid, you’re an orphan, your parents aren’t coming back to get you.” But Annie wouldn’t accept this. She had an enduring optimism in what would come and an unwavering faith in her parents’ love. She left to find them. With the intent of finding her home, she found it – it just wasn’t quite what she expected.

I relate to the feeling of imprisonment and straining against my situation and resisting assimilation. It’s been several decades and I still haven’t harmonized with my surroundings. I spend so much time and effort trying to embrace earthly existence, just trying to get through each day with a decent attitude. I’m no where near the point of actually living life, I’m still trying to accept the basic premise.

“Maybe far away… or maybe real nearby….” Nowadays I spend my days in the prison wood-shop. I make little things as a way to pass the time. Earth feels like a waiting room, with the TV tuned to something I don’t prefer. Waiting for what? I have no idea. I might be doing something wrong, but I don’t know what else to do except sit quietly and wait. I don’t expect anything at the end of the wait, simply the receptionist telling me that they’re closing – and out I go.

Cake Life

If you add nasty ingredients, you’re going to make a nasty cake – right? Frustration, bitterness, suspicion, disgust, jealousy, fear, rage, pessimism – these types of ingredients would make for a nasty life. A great life requires great ingredients. When mixing up a cake, you don’t throw whatever’s in the pantry into the cake – right? Some oregano, strawberry jelly, and a can of beans? No, you only include the required ingredients for deliciousness, such as flour and sugar.

Ingredients to life are added through focus. For example, if I arrive at a surprise party, I can focus on the fact that my family tricked me and betrayed my trust as they jumped out of the darkness to scare me. How dare they! Or, I can focus on the effort and thoughtfulness that must’ve went into planning the party and maintaining the element of surprise. Wow, what a great family!

Life’s ingredients are added every moment of the day. A pleasant experience is created when we focus on aspects of life that amuse and delight. Whereas a thrilling high-intensity experience is crafted by focusing on aspects that evoke fright. The recipes are pretty simple: for something sweet, find the fun – for something bitter, focus on the most unpleasant facets you can find.

Life is whatever you focus on. Focus on struggle and strain and all the failures you’ve had? Life is hard and you’re a loser! Focus on the great things you’ve done and all you’ll eventually accomplish? The world is full of opportunities and you’re its champion! Your focus determines the world you experience. Focus on filth, then everything’ll be dirty. Focus on ducks, you’re going to see a lot of ducks. So why not focus on the things you enjoy most. (One caveat: don’t focus on the LACK of things you want. Proper focus should always evoke pleasant feelings.)

Trees versus Thoughts

From one perspective, I’m simply sitting here gazing out the window at the tree-line in the distance, the rising sun’s rays adding gold to the green against the light-blue sky. But from another perspective, my mind rages as waves against a rocky coast, smashing thoughts into focus. And not high-quality thoughts filled with nourishment and delight, but dank and disagreeable ones unworthy of attention.

Why do toxic thoughts incessantly pollute my experience of existence? The only answer I’ve surmised is that it’s due to a lack of mental discipline. In other words, I allow it to happen like a negligent caretaker. My mind is a puppy needing to poop: without guidance, he poops where he pleases, leaving undesirable piles to step in. But with diligent observation and some encouragement, those poops can be properly directed.

Apparently though, I’m a VERY lazy caretaker. I’d rather trudge through the muck than spend any effort avoiding its accumulation. Or, perhaps mischievous forces are injecting obstacles onto my path. Either I’m to blame for my own misery, or I’m a hapless victim struggling against a wicked foe. Experience tells me that victimhood is a sorry state to cultivate, so that means I must settle for being indolent and irresponsible.

So here I am, perpetually pushing a rock uphill. But in my case, it’s the perpetual application of mental discipline. Simple realization has never been enough, I must actively adjust my focus away from the unsatisfying and toward the fulfilling. I must keep myself from constantly criticizing and steer towards appreciation. I so often let go of the wheel, allowing my mind to wander into the gritty gunk that leads to unpleasantness. Oh well, brush it off and go again.

Inside the House

I’m several decades old already and I can say without a doubt that the worst experiences I’ve had thus far, have been the times I’ve spent focused on dour pessimistic thoughts. Yes that’s right: bleak, hostile, sad, and worrisome thoughts have served to torture me for many years. I can therefore confidently declare that they are my enemy. They’re intoxicating and unrelenting and they’ve tried to destroy me on many occasions.

In my naivete I thought they were my ally, protecting me from a dangerous world. They were not. I thought they told the truth, warning me of risks all around. They did not. I thought they were simply a part of who I was, just everyday thoughts. They are not. No, these negative thoughts are more like a demonic influence sowing seeds of discontent within every experience. And I succumbed. I failed the test of temptation and accepted every somber suggestion provided.

To be sure, it was a tragic mistake that led to much misery. Yet there was one flaw in the devil’s plan. Turn up the heat little by little and the victim never realizes he’s in hell. Turn up the heat too much at once? The predicament becomes more obvious. “Wait a second, why’s it so hot in here!?” But the illusion is so complete that it’s difficult to discern – despite an awareness of foul-play. Something is wrong, but what, and from where?

Well, it’s those thoughts. Although it seemed external, the enemy was within. “The calls are coming from INSIDE the house!!” And this prankster won’t stop – so I’ll let it ring. Decades have proven to me the harmlessness of these thoughts. It’s okay to ignore them. This devil has no authority, no means to make bad things happen, just tricks to make the good seem bad. The way out of this hell is to maintain focus, ever looking to the light.

Hope and Joy

My Christmas message this year is about hope. Hope is simply faith in our imagination. Hope typically implies a pleasant image of what’s to come. Why waste energy hoping for something distasteful? So the ideal approach, is to hope for what seems most delightful. In other words, hope is about spending time inside an enjoyable daydream and accepting its premise as plausible.

In our minds, we could certainly spend our time conjuring-up dour predictions of the future. Or, we could eschew such dismal hobbies and partake in satisfying ones instead. THIS is the gift we could give ourself. The gift of joy through hope – but, are we willing to receive it? A gift so grand requires an appropriate vessel to contain it – the only way to hold it, is through mental discipline (the practice of maintaining focus).

To extract joy from hope we must remain focused on that satisfying thought. Of course we could criticize it, pointing out a hundred different ways it’s wrong, or generate a thousand dour scenarios to drown it out – but we won’t. Through our dedication to giving and receiving this gift, we won’t. The joy resides inside, unlocked by our commitment to this cheerful cause.

So it is upon this Christmas Eve that I recommend this gift that’s been waiting within for you to unwrap. Read the tag “To you, From you”, rip off the ribbon, tear through the paper – focus on gratitude for a gift given in the spirit of festive merriment. Maintain that focus! Steady! Think of nothing else! Bathe in appreciation and the warmth of joy, feel the sensation of tingling as calmness flows and a smile forms. In your imagination everything is as it should be, perfect, complete.

Farcical Frivolity

In Wonderland, Alice would often get frustrated by the absurdity because she was trying to be serious. Yet being sincere within the nonsensical is illogical – it’s obviously the wrong approach. I had a bad day yesterday which was made worse by my attempt to thoughtfully approach a topic with the intention of being helpful. You can’t “help” in Wonderland – it results in circumstances like painting the white roses red. So instead of digging my hole deeper, I just sat quietly for the rest of the day, trying to escape through not-thinking.

Despite my attempts at not-thinking, I came to the conclusion that I should stop doing anything at all. Nothing works as I intend, so why bother (a logical conclusion). I sat there some more, got bored, and went to watch some YouTube videos. I felt a little better and further concluded: when I attempt to do something “seriously” THAT’S when things go awry. Just watching videos is fine, casually hanging out with a buddy is fine, eating a tasty meal is fine, small woodworking projects are fine.

In a way, humans are robots with a higher propensity for failure. Whereas a robot is engineered to perform repetitive tasks correctly, humans seem designed to perform tasks with a high likelihood of failure. So if I try to do something with the intent of a successful outcome, there’s a good chance I’ll be disappointed with the result. Therefore, in a farcical land, the most frivolous activity makes the most sense.

In other words: if I try to do something practical and it doesn’t work, I’ll be disappointed. But if I do something that’s whimsical, an activity that produces nothing but pure enjoyment, then I’ll achieve satisfaction every time. In the Skinner-box of Life, I’ve been punished over and over for taking things too seriously. I keep doing it though. I keep getting suckered-in and then SLAPPED. Therefore, I’m going to re-double my efforts to stop being so solemn. This is a fun-house, I have to stop being startled and start being amused.