Strawman Setup

I’ve been watching my mind a lot lately, you might call it the practice of mindfulness. Something I’ve been noticing, is my mind’s tendency to setup straw-men to fight against. It’s constantly offering me opponents to engage with — but I’m trying not to take the bait. It turns out that I’m very belligerent and always looking to battle, therefore my mind dutifully presents material that excites me. But I don’t want to consume that type of entertainment anymore, it’s too intense, so I’m refusing to participate.

There’s literally a new matchup every ten minutes. My mind brings in people from my past, from shows I’ve been watching, or from wherever — then conjures reasons for me to argue. But thanks to mindfulness, I’m noticing the invitation and declining. While it’s captivating and thrilling to wage war, it’s time for me to move-on from low-quality forms of entertainment. I want something a bit more refined.

That’s probably why I’ve been wrapped-up in woodworking lately. I love tools — and using them to shape wood is an enjoyably wholesome pastime. But boy, it takes constant effort to keep my mind clear during whittling sessions — it’s so inclined to wander where I don’t want it to go. But really, that’s a great opportunity to practice mental discipline — now whenever I’m whittling, I’m closely monitoring my mind and reining it in.

If I’m truly done with the drama, discipline is the practice I must perform to achieve the tranquility I seek. It’s such a silly way to live: perpetually attacking imagined enemies around every corner. It’s the junk-food version of existence. Now is the time for true nourishment, a life filled with cherished relationships and delightful activities — engaging with the best of what life has to offer. This is the boss-battle I must overcome: lay down my sword and stop struggling against a fictional foe.

Teasing it Out

Is “teasing” a fundamental force of the universe? I’ve noticed a lot of teasing in my life i.e. attempts to provoke a reaction in a playful way. I say “playful” because nothing overly-bad happens, mainly frustration. Things often annoy me to the point of exclaiming, “Gah! What the heck?!!” Sometimes I look around and notice amused monkeys smirking at my reaction. Because of my persnickety nature, I think I’m extremely susceptible to monkey-business. Just wind me up and I’ll go, go, go.

The underlying question is this though: who’s doing the teasing? Am I attracting this mild abuse because I actually want it? Or perhaps mischievous tricksters roam the land looking for fun? For instance, the two most prominent people in my life have very mischievous natures — coincidence?? Or am I the dreamer, purposefully harassing my character because it’s so fun to watch him squirm?

Even on the surface-level, it’s common to tease yourself. For example, we often do it to prolong pleasure: like lingering on each bite of cake or purposely waiting to open a package, drawing-out the joy of anticipation. Or even watching shows or news programs that are known to elicit feelings of outrage — there’s no cure for boredom like outrage. Or perhaps turning a dull conversation up a notch by throwing politics into the mix.

There’s certain people I talk to in which the conversation typically turns argumentative — specific hot-topic buttons get pushed by each participant. Then there’s some foods I enjoy eating, yet can’t do so without digestive repercussions. And of course there’s the classic circumstance of money lingering just out of reach — where my wants and finances are often mismatched. It’s teasing all the way down.

Again, it’s not that bad, I know I’m not in Hell. But am I in Heck? A realm of constant yet mild discomfort? Is there truly a trickster or am I the devil doing all this to myself? To get out of Heck, am I simply to stop tormenting myself? Yet because of boredom, I’m reluctant to do so? Nowadays I try to participate in low-intensity hobbies, interact with others in milder more polite ways, watch non-dramatic shows, and I’m also trying to soften my general reaction to situations I find myself in.

Well, as was the Buddha’s way, I must remember that my task here is to harness the mind. I apparently have a propensity for pessimism and masochism as aversions to boredom — and my primary objective is to harness and redirect the mind towards more enjoyable thoughts — that’s it.

Pie in the Sky

Imagine the main-course just ended and you’re sitting at the table and out comes a slice of delicious-smelling hand-crafted apple-pie that’s placed in-front of you. “Wow, that’s nice. Mmmm, the warm cinnamon scent is intoxicating”. Now you notice the plate it’s on. “A weird-shaped orange and purple plate!? Man, that’s ugly! Why would you place something so perfect on something so nasty!?” The plate becomes so distracting in fact, that it’s all you think about while consuming the pie. You barely notice any deliciousness as you’re too busy staring at the plate.

Dumb right? Why would you focus on something so insignificant as a plate when there’s a delicious pie just waiting to be enjoyed? And THAT is the problem of “negativity” and why I’m on a negativity-free diet. Despite the goodness that surrounds, I too often focus on the worst aspects I can find. And if I can’t see anything on the surface, I’ll simply speculate as to what’s wrong underneath, or predict dire consequences that are sure to happen as a result of what I’m currently experiencing. What a horrible habit to have — I don’t want it anymore.

The simple answer is to stop focusing on the negative stuff. But obviously I have to realize I’m doing it in the first place. To do that, I have to pay attention to how I’m feeling. Feeling bad? “I’m doing it again! Stop focusing on whatever horrible thought I’m currently thinking! Now find a positive thought — try appreciating something!” That’s one part of the solution, but I can’t simply react, I have to encourage positive thoughts through deliberate exercises.

I’ve practiced pondering negative thoughts for many years, therefore I must practice pondering positive thoughts until I get good at that. I have to specifically seek out thoughts that feel good to think and purposely place my attention on them. As an illustration, the previous pie example should go like this: “Hm I’m noticing that I’m not enjoying the pie, I feel kinda bad. Ah-ha! I must be focusing on negativity! That’s it, it’s the plate! Okay, I’ll ignore that poor plate and focus on the taste of pie. Mmm, the cinnamon is really coming through. Ooh and that apple mixed with a buttery crust — sooo good.”

Workshop Modification

Again, I’m on a negativity-free diet this year. And in order to help end the negativity, I’ve been following the techniques described in the book The Law of Attraction (2006). In short, I needed to fill the void created by lessening negativity with something positive. In relation to that, I recently modified my “Creative Workshop” items and the exercise is feeling a bit better now. Previously, I had included very specific real-world items — but their obvious non-existence in my current situation became an irritation. Therefore, I went with more general items.

Here’s what I’m working with now: “I intend to experience appreciation and delight, comfort and contentment, confidence and competence, lighthearted amusement and an overall enjoyment of life”. And as I go through each word or phrase, I try to experience the sensation and feeling that each one evokes. I might imagine a fanciful scene or I might simply look out the window or I might meditate on the concept and how it feels.

An interesting aspect of the mind, is that you can simply think about a feeling and actually feel it. I can picture a scene playing in my mind and experience the associated emotions or just think about the sensation itself. If I want to feel relaxed for example, I can think “relaxed” and feel the tension releasing all around my body. If I want to feel contentment, I can think “I’m satisfied in every moment” and boom, I want nothing — I have everything I need right now.

Another example: for appreciation, I might look out the window and feel thankful for all the pretty trees out there, the flag blowing in the wind, and the white puffy clouds sailing across the beautiful blue sky. Or I might imagine being at a party and receiving a bunch of gifts and a cake and feeling thankful for it all. Or I might just evoke the sensations associated with appreciation, feeling them flow through my body. And after that, I’ll move to the next concept on my list.

Dog Training

When training a dog for example, you’re essentially improving your dog’s experience as well as your own. You want a well-behaved dog that meets your expectations i.e. poops in designated areas, plays with acceptable toys, and doesn’t jump all over people. Through discipline, you’re creating a pleasant relationship that benefits both. And so the same is true of training the mind: you’re disciplining your mind to improve your experience of existence.

Due to a lack of discipline, my mind currently wanders anywhere and everywhere. It gets filthy, often gets sprayed by skunks, gets covered in mud that tracks everywhere, chews on what it shouldn’t, jumps on people, and craps on the floor. So instead of dealing with the constant mess, my goal is to have a delightful day every day. To achieve this goal, I will train my mind so that it becomes well-behaved.

How does one do that exactly? Well that’s the million-dollar question isn’t it!? But now that it’s my priority to find and implement a long-term solution, I’ll attempt to answer it over the course of however long it takes. Maybe a couple days? Or perhaps a lifetime? But honestly, with all the work I’ve already put in over the years, I’m hoping to be on the fast-track (“Twenty years later…”). You don’t train your dog forever though, you just gotta get it on a disciplined path.

Essentially, I need to increase conscious awareness of my thoughts and feelings — then immediately discipline the mind when it misbehaves. And proactively, I have to feed it the best stuff I can, take it on pleasant walks, provide it with acceptable play-things, and stop treating it like a pain-in-the-butt and more like a respected member of the family. Obviously I’ve been a lazy owner that hasn’t put the time-in and I’m hoping to correct that mistake now.

Mind Trainer

I suppose the primary activity I need to perform here on Earth is training my mind. It’s basically obedience-training for rampant and unruly thoughts. After many years, I’ve proven that I can’t do anything worthwhile without that basic foundation in place. I tried letting my mind wander this way and that, doing as it pleases, but it’s just crapping all over the floor — the stench is finally getting to me. Enough is enough.

Obviously I’ve tried to discipline my mind over the years, but those measures were just quick-fixes to clean up the crap when it piled-up too high. After I tidied, I’d relax and let my mind do whatever it wanted again. Therefore, I need a thorough, all-encompassing approach that puts mental discipline at the forefront of my life. So THAT is my new profession: trainer of the mind. When I wake up every morning, mental discipline is what needs to be on the agenda.

Think of it like waking-up and training the body for athletic performance: going for a run, lifting some weights, eating nutritious foods. This is that, but for the mind. I’m a personal trainer for my mind — simple as that. Less simple though, is trying to develop and implement a training regimen. But at least it should be fun trying to figure something out. As this is now my priority, I’ll be able to see this work from a better perspective.

Like the body, the mind can also get out-of-shape. My mind eats whatever junk-thoughts float by, gobbling them up until it gets a tummy-ache. It’s bloated with bad-thoughts which encourages more bad-thoughts which spirals into a bad-thought binge. And to no surprise, it tends to react negatively to whatever situation it comes across. This isn’t acceptable anymore. So by training my mind, I intend to create a delightful day EVERY day.

Under the Tree

I must say, there’s an inordinate amount of monkey-business going on lately. Or is there? If I subtract all my negative-thoughts from the equation, things have pretty much proceeded normally. If I simply stay focused on my own day-to-day activities, nothing’s really different. It seems like a lot of people are experiencing change, but why should I focus on things outside my sphere of influence? “If surrounded by darkness, should we not seek the light?”

When I think of American history for example, I tend to think of bad stuff. But if I think of a runner in a race who hurt his foot, I don’t focus on his sores and tell him he should quit, I focus on his drive and determination to persist despite his injuries. “Look at him go!!” In the same way, despite its sores and flaws, America persists in its grand experiment. Should I not cheer as it goes ever toward the goal of securing the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all? Do I “boo” when it stumbles — or should I shout words of encouragement?

Dark times are but shadows residing in the mind. There’s always a better thought to think. To exterminate negative rumination as it infests the mind is the noblest act we can perform. Here be dragons, dark beasts that terrorize the quiet country-side of men’s minds, vermin to be slain by brave knights who dare tread past fiery onslaught. Claws do tear and fires burn, but we the Lighthearted Knights take up arms to conquer our own negativity — for pessimism is the only enemy we ever face.

It’s Buddhism 101, you see. In the end, the Buddha conquered his own propensity for pessimism and thus achieved enlightenment, freedom from the fetters of fear and negativity. And that’s IT. For those on this path, there is no other way. It is through the harnessing of raw and untamed thought that we find peace. Day in and day out, THAT is our profession, the practice we must perform. The anvil upon which we strike is the mind, hammering glowing hot thoughts into sharpened steel. It is through sudden stillness that we quench our work, from a flurry of thought to none at all.

And so I sit in the shade of the tree, whittling away rough edges, shaping and smoothing, forming thoughts into delightful arrangements that evoke joy.

Mischievous Monkey

Does mischievousness exist? And if so, how do I deal with it?

I believe without a doubt that mischievousness exists. In other words, there’s an underlying monkey-business that pervades the world — a teasing, a poking, a prodding just for the fun of it. But I don’t think it’s cruelty-based, I think it’s caused by existential boredom. And since we’re in a simulated-reality or dream, there really aren’t any consequences to this teasing — it’s just a prank bro.

I think the only remedy is to label it as monkey-business and move on. In other words, identify it as mischief meant to provoke a reaction, then stop participating in it and switch to something you consider more satisfying. Perhaps playing along with some lighthearted histrionics might help too, letting everyone know that you’re on to their monkey-business. “Oh no!? Really!? Oh gosh! That’s so horrible!!” Then drop it and do something else.

My guess is that when the monkey sees you’re not a fun target that’s easily provoked, you’ll see less of his flinging feces. But consider this: the monkey that’s constantly harassing you might be you. I’ve certainly played enough video-games in which I’ve “tested” my character’s limits just for fun. YOU might be the one who’s bored and dreaming up shenanigans in order to add excitement into a boring life. Therefore, make sure you’re always engaged in some sort of satisfying pursuit.

LOA Summary

This is my initial summary of the book The Law of Attraction (2006) by Esther and Jerry Hicks.

The goal is happiness. The way in which you achieve this goal is by focusing only on what makes you happy. How you feel, is the indicator of whether you’re correctly focused or not. When you feel good, it means you’re focused on the right stuff and you should keep at it. When you feel bad, it means you’re focused on the wrong stuff and should therefore change your focus to something you like, something that evokes a positive emotion. The better you feel, the better you’re doing.

To take control of your life, you’ll need to deliberately direct your thoughts, focusing only on the things you want to experience. You’ll need to disregard what you think you’re seeing, and imagine the situation you prefer. Life IS malleable and your thoughts are the tools you use to alter it.

As you’re going through life, evaluate experiences as they happen and determine what you prefer. Your work here is to decide what you want, and then focus on it. Look for the positive aspects of subjects that are important to you. Even when you seem surrounded by negativity, choose a thought that feels slightly better than the thoughts you’ve been thinking, just keep selecting better and better thoughts until you gradually change the direction of your thoughts. Or, try changing the subject. If you can see something you don’t want, you can now identify something you DO want through its opposite.

As a daily exercise, you should get yourself into a lighthearted mood and engage in a “Creative Workshop”, sitting for 15 minutes and deliberately thinking about the things you want to experience. Imagine them so purely that they evoke nothing but positive emotion. From data gathered throughout your everyday life, create a picture of yourself that satisfies and pleases. Browse the aisles of life for the things you like and add them to your cart. The world is a giant store in which you can select whatever you want off the shelves — it’s always stocked and there are no limits. The better you feel while doing this exercise, while becoming less contradicted, your world will soon be filled with these things.

Big or small makes no difference. What-can-be is not determined by what-has-been. There’s no limitation of resources, there’s no reason to explain or justify or deserve whatever it is you want. Justifying is a negative mode, you’re no longer focused on what you want. Competition is not a necessary component within this world of unlimited resources. Also, if you’re able to imagine it, it’s not “unrealistic”. If you have the desire, this world has the resources to fulfill it. There is no opposition but you. If you add a “but”, you spoil it. Avoid contradiction i.e. thinking about what you want AND its opposite. And don’t worry about the past, give your attention to something you want now.

Start with a general idea, then continue adding specifics up until they no longer feel good. Be specific enough that you feel positive emotion, but not so specific that you begin feeling negative emotion. For instance, if you can’t see how something will unfold, then that might feel bad. The means is only important if you want it to be. Another approach is to fast-forward to the happy ending — imagine already achieving whatever it is you want.

You can’t push away the things you don’t want, you’re only giving them your attention. If you’re resisting anything, you’re focused on the thing you don’t want. Don’t focus on thoughts of doubt or fear, simply think about whatever it is you want — and expect it. Feel the excitement and anticipation and the appreciation. If you’re worried or frustrated, then you’re focused on the lack or absence of the thing you want. You’ll know which you’re focused on by your feelings: are you feeling good or are you feeling bad.

Whenever you find yourself thinking about things you don’t want (signaled by negative emotion), stop and make an effort to find a better-feeling way of thinking. Find one small thing that makes you happy when you think about it — by focusing on it, you’ll find more and more of the same. In time, things will improve on ALL subjects.

When your body hurts, it’s difficult to put your thoughts on a healthy body. In these extremely negative situations, use distraction rather than trying to change the thought. Do something, a simple activity, that will change your thought. Keep in mind that some things are better than others, focus on the best of what you have right now.

When you feel negative emotion because you’ve seen something in others that you don’t want to see, it’s not their lack, it’s yours. By only focusing on what pleases you, you’ll no longer need others to behave differently.

Don’t simply tolerate others, allow them to be as they are. Don’t contribute to the problems of others by engaging in talk about what you know they don’t want. If you see someone ill, imagine them well. Don’t look at problems, look for solutions. Focusing on a solution brings positive emotion whereas focusing on a problem brings negative emotion. Nothing outside of you can mess up your experience of this world. DO put your head in the sand and focus only on what’s important to you.

How can you allow injustice? By recognizing that it’s not a part of your experience. Don’t try to control the experiences of others, simply set forth a clear image of the life you want to live. No matter what you’re doing, make your dominant intent to look for those things you want to see. You’ll soon notice that there’s very little in your experience that’s not to your liking.

If you haven’t established what you DO want, you’ll find yourself experiencing things you wouldn’t have chosen. If you don’t set deliberate intentions, you’re resigned to taking whatever comes. You’ll feel like a victim, vulnerable and not in control, you’ll feel the need to guard yourself from what might come.

You are living the results of thoughts you had before. A point will come when you will live the results of thoughts you’re thinking now. If you allow yourself to feel lonely, you’ll become even lonelier. If you allow yourself to feel unhappy, you’ll become unhappier. Whereas if you think thoughts that encourage feelings of health and prosperity, you’ll become healthier and more prosperous. Whatever you give your attention to, is what you’ll eventually experience. Always reach for thoughts that feel better.

First you have to want something, then you have to allow it. In other words, you have to expect it, believing in its certainty while disallowing all doubt and resistance. You CAN have it — don’t push it away with contrary thoughts. This often requires looking beyond what’s happening right now and imagining what you want instead.

DO pay attention to the things you want in life. Unless you allow yourself to want things and expect to receive those things, you’ll never be in deliberate control of your experience and you won’t have a satisfying time.

In order to more clearly direct your thoughts, you can cut the day into segments. You don’t want the same thing in every segment of your life, therefore “Segment Intending” is the process of deliberate identification of what’s specifically wanted in this particular moment in time.

Instead of becoming overwhelmed and confused by considering so many available subjects at the same time, Segment Intending allows you to focus more precisely on the fewer details of this moment. If you’re considering too many things at once, and moving in no particular direction, you’ll feel frustrated. At the beginning of all segments you could essentially say: “As I’m entering this segment, it’s my intent to see what I want to see.”

Identify when you’re moving from one segment (and one set of intentions), into another. Whenever you realize you’re moving into a new segment, pause and determine what you want most. For example, entering into sleep is a new segment. “It’s my intention for my body to completely relax. It’s my intention to wake-up rested, refreshed, and eager to begin my day.” As you open your eyes in the morning, that’s a new segment. “I’m intending to become exhilarated and excited about this day”. Then in the bathroom is another. “I intend to acknowledge my wonderful body and to feel appreciation for the magnificent way it functions. I intend to be efficient in my grooming and to bring myself to looking my best.” At breakfast, “I will relax and eat it in joy, allowing my wonderful body to digest and process it perfectly”.

If you’re listless or confused then you haven’t deliberately selected what you want, or you haven’t been clear enough, or your wants might be contradictory.

Meditation is a segment in which you’re intending to quiet your conscious thinking mechanism by withdrawing your focus from it in order to sense the broader perspective that stretches beyond the physical. Try meditation for 15 minutes everyday, sit and focus on your breathing. As the mind wanders, release the thought and return focus to breathing.

The Creative Workshop process is a segment where you’re intending to give specific and precise thought to the details of what you want. You guide your thoughts in the direction of your specific desire, aligning your thoughts in this moment with the desires you’ve previously identified. You cannot have a physical experience until you create it first in thought. Therefore, the Creative Workshop is when you give deliberate thought to the things you want.

Usually, more of your time is spent thinking about a negative thing after it already happened rather than when it’s actually happening. Most negative emotion could be eliminated if you would focus on what you now want to think about. Notice what uplifts you and remember it, use it as a touchstone to your happiness. The existence of positive emotion is your greatest measure of success. Joy is the confirmation that you’ve found what you want.

For interruptions due to the lack of Segment Intending, say “This will be brief, and I won’t lose my train of thought. I won’t lose the momentum I’ve set forth. I’ll deal with this quickly and efficiently, and I’ll get on with what I was doing.”

Through deliberately directed thought, you’ll begin to feel inspiration to act. Action that comes from a feeling of inspiration is action that’ll produce good results. Whereas if you take action without deliberate thought, your action feels like hard work because you’re attempting to make more happen in this moment than your action alone can accomplish.

As you set your intent for something you want, and you’re looking expectantly for it, you’ll begin to see signs of it. You’ll see others who have achieved something similar. You’ll notice more aspects of it. You’ll find yourself thinking about it and feeling excited about it often, and feeling very good about what you want. The positive emotion you’re feeling in anticipation of your desire is also evidence of its eventual entrance into your experience.

When you’re thinking about what you want, you should be feeling exhilarated, excited — some form of positive emotion. But if you’re thinking about the lack of what you want, you’ll be feeling negative emotion such as disappointment. The bad feeling is telling you that you’re giving thought to something you don’t want. Therefore, put your thought on what you DO want, then feel the positive emotion that comes from it and let the disappointment go away.

Make a decision to feel good. “Today, no matter where I’m going, no matter what I’m doing, it’s my dominant intent to see what I want to see. Nothing is more important than feeling good.”

By following this practice, you’ll be in creative control of your experience. You’ll no longer misunderstand why things are happening to you. As you practice and become proficient at directing your own thoughts toward the things you want, your understanding will take you anywhere you want to go.

Hard Work

I’ve never had ANY inclination towards a professional career. Ever since I was a kid, people would ask what I wanted to be when I grew up and I never had an answer, all I could say was “I don’t know”. It always made me uncomfortable that I didn’t have an answer. And a few decades later, guess what? I STILL don’t know what I should be doing with my time and efforts. I often wonder if I’ll stumble into some sort of career at some point.

I’ve primarily engaged in hobby-level activities. For example: tinkering with computers, writing essays (blogging), making digital art, watching YouTube, playing the tin-whistle & recorder, whittling wood, shooting Nerf & air-soft guns, flying toy drones, playing video-games. I did attempt to become a professional computer-guy & programmer for a few years and I was finally excited to answer the question “so, what do you do for a living?”. But that career was short-lived.

I often hear people praising the virtues of “hard work” and “working hard” and I kinda shrink up, feeling a bit embarrassed. They say things like “earning your keep” and “paving your own way” and a bunch of other stuff in honor of the Protestant Work Ethic. In one sense, I don’t have a desire to “work hard”, but in another sense I feel guilty about not grinding away at some laborious task. I do like hangin-out and passing time in frivolous ways — it just seems like I shouldn’t.

But why not!? Now that I’m starting to understand that life isn’t serious-business, that I’m not engaged in a constant struggle for survival amidst a harsh and brutal landscape, I’m starting to lose this self-imposed constraint. Of course I should be having fun, that’s the POINT!! If life’s a simulation, which I believe it is, the purpose of any game is to enjoy oneself — so if you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.

I’ve been plagued by these contradictory beliefs my whole life: on one hand, I lack the aspiration to participate in a professional career — on the other hand, I seem to believe that professionalism is a necessary component of self-worth and success i.e. if you’re not a “chef” or “engineer” or whatever, what are you? You can’t simply be “Rich”!? Well one of these contradictory beliefs has to give, and guess which one it’s gonna be?

Relatedly, I’m approaching a test, a deadline. So the question becomes: will I be able to maintain my frivolousness and prove myself worthy of a carefree lifestyle? As the deadline nears, all my external effort is invested in frivolity, tasks that lack utilitarian value. Whereas internally, I’m focusing my thoughts on the enjoyment of existence. There’s no going back now, nor would I want to. Onward! To the lighthearted life!