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.

Thorns of Thought

In a virtual world, like a dream, anything can be anything. This fundamental fact is a prescription for eradicating anxiety. Since everything is malleable, there’s no application for worry. Early warning signs point to a potential, not to an absolute. Follow those signs and you’ll surely find what you’re looking for. But ignore them, and they’ll fade from existence.

Here’s something to consider: what is the interface for a virtual world such as this? There are no obvious buttons, no onscreen keyboard to summon – so how does one input their wishes into the world? There is but one way: focus. Of course, focusing one’s attention is a difficult operation to master. This is the purpose of meditation: it’s a concentrated practice of concentration – a way to make the seemingly-impossible possible.

The point is to stop following every little thought. These thoughts aren’t the problem, they’re like thorns as you walk through a garden. Don’t interact with them, and you remain without pain. Focus on them, wonder what happens when they press against flesh, then their prick provokes distress. Playing with each and every thought as it comes into view is an ever-flowing source of dissatisfaction.

Your focus betrays you. If you allow it to wander, you’ll crash. Whereas if you steer your attention in a delightful direction, your experience vastly improves. But be advised: this is not an effortless task because boredom encourages negligence. Thrilling ways lead to exciting days – and the mind seeks drama. This is the other facet of meditation: to become comfortable sans-spectacle.

Quiet the mind, intentionally guide it: you win. Forgo discipline and allow the mind to wander wherever: you lose. One evokes satisfaction, the other suffering. This concept can be tested and proven, faith is not required. Left to its own devices, the mind becomes a bitter pessimist poisoning your experience. But if you invest the effort, the mind may be molded into a cheerful companion that gladdens your days.

Inner World

Here’s a question you should be asking yourself regularly:

What kind of world am I creating within my thoughts? Is it a world in which I’m worried, annoyed, or frustrated? If so, then that’s a dumb habit you need to break. What’s happening in the mind is typically much worse than what’s happening in your actual external experience. Your thoughts devise tragic and dire consequences, haunting you with the worst outcomes imaginable. It’s not protecting you from future possibilities, your mind is straight-up torturing you right now.

Or rather, you’re tormenting yourself. Why? There’s no valid reason, so stop. Instead of creating a dissatisfying world, try thinking of a world in which you feel anticipation for something delightful, think of an amusing world, a world you appreciate, a world in which you experience an overall sense of satisfaction. It’s just thoughts, you can select which ones to dismiss and which ones to focus on.

If the external world burned around you, it wouldn’t matter. Your thoughts can be your refuge. The inner world you create should be an ally – not an enemy. It shouldn’t be used to pile on the pain, but ease your burden. Your thoughts should be your best friend, forever painting scenes to entertain and enchant. If this isn’t the case, then you’re in need of a major adjustment.

These are YOUR thoughts after all. If at any moment you feel upset, you know you’re focusing on unpleasant thoughts. Cease and desist this low-quality hobby – immediately. Perhaps you’re bored and scaring yourself for the excitement-factor. Find something better, something enjoyable. Focusing on unpleasant thoughts is like choosing the hobby of hitting your head with a hammer – it’s dumb, don’t do it.

Start a new hobby. No more creating a world of woe for yourself. For this new hobby, craft a wondrous world of wow. Stop taunting and start treating yourself to the most satisfying thoughts possible. Imagine an honored and beloved guest is coming to visit a world of your making, how would you design such a place? Now allow yourself to be that honored and beloved guest – allow yourself to live in that world.

Bad Days

I’m pretty sure “bad days” are a real phenomenon. There have been days in which I feel good, like I’ve got things figured out, like everything’s going to be better than okay – like I’m a winner. Then all of a sudden, I’m sucker-punched in the gut, doubled-over and questioning my entire existence and hating everything this wretched-world has to offer.

Then things kinda go back to normal and I follow my usual daily routine. I’m not sure if those bad days typically follow the days in which I feel like a winner – or are they just randomly interspersed. Is it a normalization process in which my ultra-positive attitude is brought back down? Or simply some bit of chaos mixed into an otherwise boring routine?

It’s like having a nightmare. Hm, well if life is a dream, then having some nightmarish days makes sense I suppose. Although I wonder if I encourage them, or do they appear randomly. It’s really easy to get lost in the narrative of a bad day too. I suppose I should try to recognize those days as soon as possible and do something about it. Hm, but what – especially when my energy feels so drained.

Maybe bad days aren’t so bad? Maybe they’re just days filled with potentiality – swirling with chaotic creativity, providing a chance to switch things up, an opportunity to step off of a dull habit-formed path. Hm, maybe. Well, on a bad day I suppose I shouldn’t attempt to follow my typical daily routine – maybe that’s why I lack the energy to do so.

Since everything is harder, it only leads to frustration, so maybe I should try something new? Instead of: “Oh boy, it’s going to be a real struggle to get through today. Nothing I usually do is working, it’s like failure around every corner.” It becomes: “Oh wow, it’s a day of chaotic creativity! I shouldn’t expect my usual approach to work today. Therefore, I should refrain from my typical routine and try something different!”

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.

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.)

Add the Opposite

Adding a negative number to a negative number makes it even more negative. Whereas adding a positive number to a negative number makes it less negative (or positive if big enough). Likewise, adding positivity to your situation incrementally improves it. But if you’ve stockpiled a lot of negativity over the years, you’ll have a lot to make up for. You’ll have to add in a lot of positivity to get on the positive side of life.

Can’t you just discard the stockpiled negativity? Maybe. A lot of it’s stored in memories. To dump memories, simply ignore them when they surface and stop actively recalling them. Memories are reinforced through repeated recall – stop recalling them, and they fade.

Rule number one of positivity: DON’T FIGHT AGAINST THE WORLD. Don’t battle, struggle, resist, argue… nothing. The world is literally THE WORLD, you won’t win. If the world wanted you dead, you’d be dead. In fact, the world guarantees you’ll die at some point, it’s a promise. So don’t attempt to defend yourself from the world, the world is what sustains you – it keeps you alive.

Therefore, your efforts should not be spent in defensive strategies, your energy should be directed towards the cultivation of calm. You must restrain any tendency for aggression, stop criticism, and arrest anxiety. In short, you should spend your time focusing on what’s good instead of what’s bad. This is no easy task by the way, it takes significant dedication and effort.

As is written: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” But the keys to the kingdom are not simply handed over. No my friend, there’s a quest of course! There are traps galore, all set with bait to lure you into negativity. Resist these invitations! Whenever controversy stirs you to anger, resist! Whenever fear takes you by the hand, resist! Whenever suspicion sticks you to woven webs of delusion, resist!

To obtain your kingdom, this is the algorithm you seek: become gentle in thought, word, and deed.

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.