Dominant Component

It’s kinda weird to look at life from a “feelings” perspective and see their complete and utter dominance. Feelings are the primary component of experience, and therefore existence as a whole. Life is an emotional event – that’s it. In other words: it’s not what we do that matters, it’s what we feel about what we do that matters.

I watch a movie not because it has an awesomely original plot that absolutely blows my mind, I watch it because it inspires me to feel something. Movies are typically a bunch of emotion-inducing cliches strung together. “Oh no, the main-character is suffering! Oh good, he’s doing something about it! Oh no, he’s challenged once again! Oh good, he’s overcome that challenge! Yay!”

If I simply documented the physical activities I perform in a day, life would seem extremely dull and kinda dumb. “Stand, walk, expel vocal emissions, chew & swallow, sit, think, move hands around – and repeat those actions throughout the day until finally lying down.

But if I documented the emotional rollercoaster I experience everyday, that’s where the excitement’s been hiding! “Oh no, time to get up, I’m worried! Oh phew, made it through another morning. Oh no, I have the entire rest of the day left! What’s that!? Something unexpected!? WHY ME!!?? Oh, I got through it. I’m worried though!? What if something ELSE happens!? Oh, the day’s over, THANK GOODNESS!! Oh no, time for sleep!? I can’t sleep!!!”

Silly me, I had been trying to rein in my thoughts this whole time. But thoughts are just the tiny perceptible tip of a giant underwater emotional iceberg. It’s “feelings” I should be concentrating on. But on the bright side, emotions are relatively easy to manipulate – as popular media readily demonstrates. I could argue with my thoughts all day long and remain right where I started by the end of it. But daydream about playing with a rumpy-bumpy frolicking puppy? “Aww! Too cute! Okay I feel better!”

Fanciful Feelings

Start everyday with the feeling of “delightful anticipation”. For example: “How would I feel knowing today is the day I discover my purpose, my passion, the task whose undertaking inspires long-term feelings of fulfillment.” Wow, I can’t wait!

It’s the opposite of how I usually start the day, which is with pessimistic prognostication. “I hope today is only slightly worse than yesterday – and not a lot worse.” Why not make it wildly optimistic instead? You would think I’d have given up on pessimism because so much of the awful stuff never came true. So why not give idealistic expectation a try?

Before breakfast, I imagined the feeling of having a great time eating delicious food. Unfortunately, I was a few minutes late and it was cold – so not as flavorful as I hoped. I didn’t entertain feelings of disappointment though, I imagined other things as I sat eating. I mean, I did complain a little but saw it irritated my wife. I then imagined the feeling I’d get from saying something funny, making her laugh. I proceeded to say some amusing things and she chuckled a little. Overall, a success I think.

Here’s an important distinction to make: imagine the feeling you’d feel while experiencing an awesome circumstance. It’s not about the actual scene or situation, the significance comes from the feeling it inspires. It’s not about the process or the pathway to attainment, ignore the logistics. It can be completely fanciful – you’re only after the positive feeling it inspires. Imagine yourself in this awesomeness, how do you feel?

Chatty Trickster

I mentioned this point a couple days ago but I’ll re-tell it because the realization stood out as significant in my quest to overcome negativity.

I was standing there the other day and my mind started suggesting how subpar something was. As I listened to the complaint, I began thinking: “hey wait a minute, my mind has a nasty opinion about EVERYTHING – so how can THIS particular circumstance be below-average if they’re ALL below-average”. At that moment I felt as though I’d been tricked. A long-term trick too, one that took an embarrassingly long time to notice.

Was my dumb mind making me believe that I’m having a low-quality experience? What makes it low-quality? What criteria is being used to judge against? Or is my mind simply labeling everything “bad” by default? Is my mind and its constant-criticisms the actual source of my general dissatisfaction with life?

If true, that means I should withdraw effort from fulfilling my worldly desires (my mind will only sour the outcome anyway) – and I should instead concentrate all effort onto stopping my mind’s influence on my experiences. (Note: I’ve probably had similar realizations over the years, but such notions fade quickly as I lose myself back into daily life.

Quite simply, my mind cannot be trusted – its opinions are toxic. So, how do I stop my mind from influencing my experience? The typical answer I come up with is: by utilizing awareness and mental discipline. But if I’m still dealing with this issue, that method doesn’t seem very effective. And I can’t usually sustain it for very long, as daily-life seems to suck me back in. But what other options exist? Hm….

Subpar to Par

How can everything be subpar when I haven’t experienced “par”. In other words, how can everything be below-average when there’s no actual average to compare to? I don’t have satisfying experiences, I have disappointing experiences – and that’s always the case. Maybe it’s because I’m comparing my circumstances to an “ideal” that only exists in my imagination?

That sounds like a trick my chatty-mind is playing on my experiential-mind. So there I am, experiencing life, my consciousness is quietly observing – but then, that bully of a mind starts with the imaginary comparisons. “Well this could be better! If they tweaked a few things, it would improve substantially! As it is, this experience is horrible!! It’s basically torture!” Hm, yeah that’s what typically happens.

So, all this time I thought I was having the worst experience possible. But it turns out that my chatty-mind just keeps trash-talking everything, so things seem like they’re the absolute worst. Yet they can’t be – you can’t have a “worst” if there’s no range of options – there’s no “best” or “just right”. It’s always some form of unpleasantness, it’s either “meh, this is lame” or “gah, this sucks” or “hmph this seems okay, but it’s probably bad”.

What’s the takeaway from this realization? That my chatty-mind is cruel and ruins everything. It’s literally the worst thing that’s ever happened in my experience of existence. Wait, that sounds like something my chatty-mind would say about everything else, yet I’m saying it about my chatty-mind. Hm, I’m not sure what the takeaway is. Maybe my chatty-mind needs a hug.

Habitual Negativity

I was wondering whether I could drop my “negativity habit” and develop a “positive practice” instead. Well it’s been a week and I thought I’d report my initial findings.

First off, I was questioning whether “negativity” was simply a habit I could dump. Basically I’d have to recognize when my mind’s swirling with gloom and use discipline to stop it. That’s something I typically do nowadays and it’s kinda doable. The problem with that, is it’s an endless game of whack-a-mole – just slapping down pessimistic ideas multiple times every hour. So the more relevant question is this: can the initial negativity be replaced and prevented altogether?

Essentially, I need to make a habit of positivity. I need to get my mind so used to thinking good-thoughts, that pleasantness becomes the default. As it is, my mind just spews trash all day and night. Instead of that, I want a mind that wanders pleasant paths, one that bathes in creativity, presenting enjoyable projects to work on, one that appreciates the world it lives within, one with a lighthearted attitude that always finds the fun.

As initially suspected, developing a positive practice IS a lot of work. When I catch myself steeped in negativity, I stop and say “Okay, the concepts you’re currently considering are what you DON’T want. Now, what is it you DO want, think THOSE thoughts.” Then, I have to sort through my thoughts and focus on the ones that suggest creativity, appreciation, or lightheartedness.

For example, “Hm, what do I want to draw the next time I go sketching? Hm, maybe some fantasy creature with a cool outfit.” Another example: “Wow, this incense that’s burning smells really good. Whoa, haven’t heard this song in awhile, it’s great.” And as the last example: “Ha, I just remembered my friend laughing so hard at dinner tonight, I had her in stitches!”

At this time, after a week of this practice, I believe it IS worth continuing this experiment.

One Wish

If I was only able to make one wish, I suppose it would be: for a mind that wanders pleasant paths. In other words: when my mind is lost in thought, I want it to think about awesome, interesting, lovely, delightful, always enjoyable ideas. As it is, my mind constantly assaults my awareness with pessimistic complaints about anything and everything.

Imagine waking up, greeted by a mind welcoming you into the world, painting pretty pictures of potential things to ponder. A mind that entices you into participation through advertisements of vibrant experiences. Whereas whenever I wake up, my mind just shouts nonsense at me, telling me how everything sucks and how today won’t be any better – probably worse in fact.

Imagine walking into a room and NOT experiencing the worst thoughts my mind can muster. Instead of anxious, pessimistic, and disparaging ideas; my mind invites a sense of wonder through curiosity and appreciation. “Wow look at that, it looks so interesting!” Unlike now, which is more like: “Ugh! Gross! This is dumb.”

I wonder if this is something I could practice? I’ve already gotten to a point where I can identify and mitigate negative thoughts – but that’s a daily game of whack-a-mole. If I could prevent those thoughts from popping-up in the first place, that’d be great. Maybe negativity is just a habit I could quit. Instead of simply dismissing negative thoughts, perhaps I could practice replacing them with more enjoyable ideas.

Hm, that sounds like a lot of effort – and I’m pretty sure I’ve had this exact same idea in the past. Although, maybe this time it’ll work. Perhaps I can more effectively imagine enjoyable circumstances nowadays. Well, I guess it wouldn’t hurt to try. So the task is this: when you identify negative thoughts, don’t just brush them aside – stop and actively come up with a better thought, something delightful perhaps.

All Ends Are Dead

As an experiment, I adopted a few varying perspectives over the years to see if such outlooks could improve my experience. Perhaps I was simply looking at circumstances in the wrong way. Decades have gone by and I still haven’t found a solution. Repeatedly trying and failing to fix something is frustrating to say the least. It doesn’t even matter if things improved slightly because I’m still well within the bounds of dissatisfaction.

The conclusion I keep reaching: answers cannot be found and improvement is impossible. Red-herrings abound as the underlying mechanism of life is pure deception through and through. There is much philosophy and many practices in terms of achieving a more satisfying experience of existence – but it’s bunk. Nothing fixes the underlying problem of dissatisfaction. My efforts were futile. I was under a mistaken belief that my experience could get better.

Life isn’t some nurturing mother-figure full of love and devotion on high-alert lest her baby feel an ounce of discomfort. Life isn’t taking my hand in order to comfort my woes – nay, life is taking my hand and slapping me with it! Life is a mean older sister asking me why I keep hitting myself! I wasn’t wrong to begin life as a suspicious pessimist, I was wrong when I doubted myself, thinking I was being paranoid! Life is a bully, and a nasty one at that.

After all this time, I still don’t get what’s going on here. I’m as confused as I was on day-one. “Alice in Wonderland” seems to be the closest analogy for my experience. There’s no progress only frustration, circumstances are annoyingly silly, inhabitants don’t help and are more likely to harass – it’s nonsense all the way down. Well, perhaps there’s one possible question in which “Earth” is the legitimate answer: If a celestial being once asked himself, “what’s the absolute dumbest thing I can come up with?”

Garbage Disposal

Do you share your poop with the world? Do you even share your poop with yourself? No, of course not. You flush it – oftentimes without giving it a second thought. In other words, your body produces waste-products that were never meant to be shared or honored or held in any regard.

My point is this: fear, anxiousness, anger, frustration, hopelessness, gloominess, regret, shame – all these negative emotions are mere waste-products of an overactive mind. The mind is producing thought after thought – and in the process, detritus develops. You certainly shouldn’t collect it, then parade it around for all to see!

FLUSH IT. Don’t honor it, don’t sweep it under a rug, don’t store it for safe-keeping – just rinse it down and never think of it again. Something happens and your mind makes a big-deal of it, then all these negative emotions fill-up your mental space ready to spill their toxicity at the slightest nudge.

Instead of waiting for an imminent disaster, dispose of this sludge responsibly. Don’t make it anyone else’s problem. Don’t even make it your own problem. Put in the effort and apply the discipline to keep your mind clean and free of debris at all times. As they say: A mind is a terrible place to store waste.

Random Thoughts

Without thoughts: tranquility and contentment. With thoughts: drama and discontentment.

The formula’s simple folks. It’s “thoughts” that are bringin’ you down. Anxious, antagonizing, and abusive thoughts that keep runnin’ through your head – THAT’S the problem. Consider this: right after some event happens – it’s over. Yet your thoughts keep that event on replay so you can see and analyze it within your imagination indefinitely. And if it isn’t an external event, your thoughts just torment you in other ways, maybe tell you how dumb and ugly you are.

Folks, there’s no denying it, “thoughts” have got to go. I’ve tried being a good roommate, it doesn’t work. Those “thoughts” tear the place up everynight and take a dump in the kitchen sink. Are you just gonna spend the rest of your life wiping up after your thoughts? Hell no! Hey “thoughts”, get out – we’re done here.

I’ll be sitting there minding my own business and all of a sudden I feel bad. Hm, that’s weird. Oh yeah, my “thoughts” were running their mouth again. Well guess what “thoughts”? GTFO! I’m not following your random tangents into turmoil anymore.

Hey “thoughts”, how about I interrupt YOU and take a dump on all the garbage-ideas you keep contributing? How would you like those apples, sport? “Ha, I didn’t know thoughts could be so ugly! Wow if thoughts were physical objects, they’d be varying consistencies of puke. And if thoughts were a smell, they’d be an unflushed toilet. Hey, this is kinda fun isn’t it ‘thoughts’!? But you suck, so what would you know! Ha! I suppose thoughts are just worthless drivel meant to be ignored? Thoughts seem to be the slag of consciousness, mere scum that’s meant to be cleared away.”

Aww, now that’s not nice is it? So maybe “thoughts” should try a bit harder to contribute constructively to the conscious experience. Spewing crap all the time isn’t exactly “random”, it’s pretty predictable at this point. Therefore “thoughts”, stop being toxic or else just stay away. Silence is fine. Buh-bye.

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.