Everyday Buffet

Imagine you have a plate in front of you. Upon that plate you spoon on servings of frustration, worry, disappointment, and hopelessness. It’s a small plate so you can’t fit anything else. You’ll notice that there’s no room for delight, contentment, appreciation, or enjoyment. And everyday, you head to the buffet and pile on more of what you’re used to, more of the same disgusting dishes that fill you with dissatisfaction. To you, the world becomes a nasty one-star dump with multiple health-code violations on the verge of closing down.

But it turns out that better selections exist. You don’t have to repeatedly scoop the same slop day after day. You can choose something different, something delicious in fact! Of course you won’t naturally do this – you’ll logically assume that every entree is as bad as the ones you’re already consuming. Although sometimes, you’ll get so sick from eating the gross glop that you’ll have no choice but to try something else. Yet, if you do happen to find something better, oftentimes you drift back to the old stuff over time as habits are hard to break.

WAKE UP!!! That’s the only sure-fire way of fixing this situation. You must become aware and REMAIN aware of what you’re scooping onto your plate. The way to win at a buffet is to take many small samples so as not to overwhelm yourself, then go back and get larger portions of the stuff you liked. And whenever you return to the buffet, only grab the SAME items you liked during the sampling phase. IGNORE the items that brought about feelings of revulsion, just focus on the good stuff.

Again, mindlessness and habit will steer you back to what you knew. This WILL happen. It is therefore imperative to utilize discipline in order to maintain focus on the good stuff. You must constantly steer your attention, keeping it on the correct course. You should either be sampling new items in small portions OR taking hearty scoops of stuff already proven to be good through sampling. Do this continuously and the world becomes a five-star masterpiece of unyielding delight.

Manual Appreciation

I was watching some interviews recently and left dismayed each time. Basically, the interviewees had so much luck that their lives turned out great. Life essentially intervened at every point and made sure these people experienced charmed-lives. There was no planning on their part, life took care of everything — they were at the right places at the right times. They’re successful in all regards, top of their field, admired by others, working with who they themselves admire, and having an overall great experience that they fondly remember. WHAT THE F**K!!?

I can think of many times in which life could’ve intervened within my experience, but didn’t. It coulda provided awesome parents and siblings. It coulda had random kids come-up to make me laugh just for the challenge of it. It coulda made my programming interests align with the dot-com era. It coulda made my stock-picks soar. It coulda made my YouTube or blogging endeavors successful. But no, NOTHING.

Uh-oh. I just realized that I’m a do-it-yourself type guy. What if I flipped every switch to “manual” and said “eh, I’ll figure it out”. F**K!! I’ve literally done that in a bunch of games. For example, I’ll often flip off “auto-fire” or “aim-assist”. But which switches can even be flipped?? I know “survival” is on automatic-mode or else I’d be long-dead by now. Luck? Appreciation? “Luck” must be the process of life assisting with the fulfillment of your narrative. “Appreciation” must be the functionality of automatic enjoyment. I don’t think I have either of those on automatic. My narrative sucks and I don’t tend to like stuff. Oh and “sleep” seems to be on manual as well, which has been difficult.

Relatively recently, I’ve been working on “manual” appreciation where I’ve been attempting to specifically focus on aspects of life I prefer. I think in some ways this seems to work, but it’s slow-going and it’s like sorting through the trash. As far as the narrative situation, I’m simply trying to do the little things I prefer — it’s nothing grand of course, just a way to pass the time.

Yet in the scope of things, maybe the grandest of accomplishments mean little to me. Perhaps I wouldn’t care about the “trophies” I received — quickly moving on to the next thing as soon as I won the current thing. So instead of ticking off accomplishments, perhaps I chose to focus on manual effort? And instead of something basic like “survival”, it’s something a bit more esoteric like “appreciation” — ha, that sounds like something I’d do. What a dick.

What an emo, hipster, gourmand, wannabe, dummy that couldn’t simply take the pre-planned narrative and experience a fulfilling life. I had to showoff what a boss I was and bite off more than I could chew and choke my way through existence. Stupid. Well if it helps, I’d like to call this little experiment a failure and recommend that all automatic switches be turned ON. It’s not worth the effort. Thanks.

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.