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.

Relative Discontent

I think one of the most difficult aspects of existence is the “sliding scale of dissatisfaction”. No matter how much life improves, there’s always a “worst”. Even if I eat like a king every night of the week, one of those days contains my least favorite meal. Even if I feel great most of the year, a day in which I have a headache feels like the worst day ever. This phenomenon demonstrates that external improvement can NOT lead to satisfaction.

It is ONLY by the cultivation and practice of “appreciation” that one can get anywhere near the realm of contentment. It’s an internal process utilizing mental discipline. It requires an awareness of focus and the application of effort to maintain focus on high-quality subject-matter. “This is the worst meal I had all week!” becomes “This is the seventh greatest meal I had all week! I’m so grateful to have a variety of foods to consume. Varying meals makes my experience better!”

Rating and comparing are dangerous activities rife with nastiness. When you play stupid games, you win stupid prizes – ultimately leading to dissatisfaction. Don’t like something? Don’t think about it. Like something? Appreciate it sans-comparison. Something is good for its inherent qualities, not because it’s better than something else. And again: if you can’t find an aspect you like, focus on something you DO like – even if it’s a fanciful fairytale in which everything goes your way.

Discontentment flourishes from comparison and criticism. “This is better than that! She’s better than me! This is the worst! I want the best! My expectations aren’t met!” Utilize mental discipline to cease comparison and criticism – stop encouraging such unpleasantness. Stop comparing to an idealized image. Encourage appreciation instead, place focus on what pleases and delights – things that invoke smiles and laughter, activities that inspire feelings of accomplishment.

Filling Voids

We all have something missing in our lives – and once we find it, we’ll finally feel fulfilled. Sweet relief! OR, once we find it, we’ll simply chase the next craving that comes up. Spoiler Alert! There’s ALWAYS something else we feel we need. No matter what we attain in this world, no matter the achievement, the sensation of lack and a need to fill it follows us around wherever we go.

This means we’re in a constant state of dissatisfaction with the world. Yuck. Nothing’s good enough. Nothing scratches the itch. We always want something else. The only cure for such a predicament, is mental discipline. This is the practice of deliberately focusing our attention. In all aspects of our lives we should maintain proper focus – and by doing this, we can improve our condition.

Essentially, we must train ourselves not to obsess over the treadmill of desire. We should take it less seriously and watch it lightheartedly. “I want something? Eh, okay I’ll chase it for awhile. Ha, this could be fun! Who cares if I catch it!” We should be focusing on appreciation instead of lack – focusing on the enjoyment of pursuit rather than the fact that we don’t have what we want.

After-all, as soon as we get what we want, we no longer want it – and soon enough something else takes its place. “But I REALLY want something!!” Well, obtaining it won’t cure the underlying feeling of craving: the sensation remains as the object of desire switches to something new. The only way to get rid of that feeling is through mental discipline i.e. focusing on what’s positive instead of what’s negative.

Satisfaction is an internal state achieved through internal means. It’s a perspective. Picture your life full of lack, you’ll feel dissatisfied. Picture your life full of abundance, you’ll feel satisfied. If you’re unsatisfied, it means your thoughts are arranged in a discordant way. What you need to attain is an answer to this riddle: how can I rearrange my thoughts so they evoke feelings of delight. Focus on THAT instead of external attainment and you’ll find an end to suffering.

Tough Life

Is life so hard that even God lost? Think about that. God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son. Yet God’s own son had a rather tragic experience on Earth. If even he had a hard time, how’s there any chance for the rest of us? Or was Jesus, through his tragic experience, actually revealing the path to victory?

What Jesus taught was simple: seek and ye shall find. Seek sickness, and you shall have it. Whereas those seeking to be healed, were made well. Basically, a bad attitude begets a miserable experience. Jesus also spoke of the unsavory religious leaders of his day – and guess what he found? Death by way of their vile machinations. Fight against anything in this world, and it’ll kill you: live by the sword, die by the sword. This is true even if you’re the son of God.

No one is exempt from the principle that like attracts like. An acorn grows an oak tree and pessimism grows dissatisfaction. Look for the worst in life, you’ll find it. Imagine yourself in a constant battle against the world and you’ll stuggle until the day you die. Whereas the meek shall inherit the earth because they’re not at war with the world. If like attracts like, this is also true: love the world and you’ll know love. Be gentle, and your experience will be gentle too.

So why did Jesus reveal a victorious path in such a negative way? Why not show a sweet and loving demonstration instead? Well he tried that – no one listened. You can see over time how he became more belligerent. Which would a faithless generation better respond to? “Son of God says love is the answer!” Or “Not even the son of God is safe in these turbulent times! Stay tuned for the excruciating execution by crucifixion!”

Jesus stated what was true and when it fell on deaf ears he demonstrated it through significant action. At first you’d be confused at the transpiring events and upon closer inspection you’d be even more perplexed – BUT, after some time and much contemplation you’d start to see the underlying meaning of it all. God didn’t lose, and life isn’t tough – people just need to calm down, lighten up, and focus on what’s good in this world.

Thought Rides

A thought is like a ride at an amusement park. You strap yourself in and cede control over to the thought and you’re whisked away. A thought can be all-consuming and take you on quite a journey: up, down, and all around. If you don’t enjoy thrills, some of these thoughts can be downright disturbing. So instead of jumping on every thought you see, a more enjoyable approach is to pick the ones suited to your tastes, those that evoke the most enjoyment. If you don’t prefer a particular thought, don’t ride it – pass it by and move on to the next one.

Initially it’ll be boring since you have to pass on so many thoughts. But with your focus away from thrills, you’ll start to notice there were other slower-paced thoughts the whole time. You had ignored them, probably labeling them as lame and boring. Also, you’re not missing out by skipping the thrills – you don’t have to do everything. You don’t order EVERY item on a menu, you pick and choose what you want. Let the thrills go, don’t concern yourself with them, leave them alone and focus on delightful stuff.

At amusement parks, thrill-rides don’t jump the tracks and come looking for you. You must seek them out and step into the ride-car. For example, if you busy yourself on the lazy-river, that’s all you’ll ever experience. But if you carelessly wander the park, you might accidentally wind up on a ride that’s too intense. And to a chaotic mind, everything seems chaotic. An anxious mind will imagine itself drowning in the lazy-river for example. So the key to all of this is mental discipline.

Mental discipline is the practice of intentionally directing focus, it’s a combination of ignoring some thoughts while paying close attention to others. It’s like going to an amusement park with a map and some prior research. For instance, you can watch a thought from the outskirts and notice your reaction, then dump out if it seems like it’s producing an unpleasant feeling. Don’t like something? Don’t think about it! Is that challenging? KINDA! On one hand, it requires a lot of self-awareness but on the other hand, it’s better than remaining in misery.

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.

Hope and a Smile

I think quality-of-life can drastically change based on my focus and perspective. Therefore, by adjusting and shaping my thoughts, I can improve my experience of existence. And the crux of this, is mental discipline: the practice of deliberately monitoring and adjusting my thoughts, feelings, and reactions. It doesn’t matter how seemingly upsetting or how logically dire a situation is – with properly applied mental discipline, my state of mind can be improved.

I could attempt to alter my surroundings and the world through physical means – or, I could simply see everything as perfectly fine. Yes, this is EXACTLY like the cartoon-dog sitting in a burning-house meme when he says: “This is fine”. But, he died with hope and a smile. Would it have been better to die in a state of panic and despair? From what I’ve seen, positive attitudes lead to more enjoyable experiences and better outcomes.

As is said: if surrounded by darkness, should you not seek the light? And if that light-source happens to be a raging fire, well that’s fine too. As the poster reminds: Keep calm and carry on. It’s not a defeatist attitude, it’s just pivoting. When you can’t jump high enough to get over the hurdle, you could simply sit and enjoy the day regardless. If you can’t think of something nice to say, you can say nothing at all.

Mental discipline is still a form of striving by the way. But instead of struggling against physical obstacles, it’s striving to shape my perspective into something positive – no matter what. It’s like those people that train themselves to sit in icy water despite the seemingly uncomfortable and improbable nature of the task. I tend to see situations as unpleasant or impossible, and I must overcome that tendency through the practice of mental discipline. I must have hope and smile.

Calm and Easy

If you want a calm and easy life, you need a calm and easy attitude. Hm, I suppose that sounds plausible. Even though the external circumstances of my life are relatively calm and easy, I maintain a raging storm of distressing turbulence on the inside. My thoughts tend to be anxious, disparaging, selfish, petty, paranoid, and pessimistic. In summation, I have NOT harbored a calm and easy attitude – quite the opposite in fact.

Despite that, my external experiences are typically mundane. I suppose I simply couldn’t handle more than that. Remaining relatively isolated in a small room all day? I can do that. But of course that provides ample opportunity for me to wrestle with negative thoughts – resulting in a life that is NOT calm and easy despite its appearance. So now what?

I think after all these years, I’m ready for a calm and easy life. I’m tired of the turbulence. I’ve spent so much time straining and resisting – against what? I rejected life, wouldn’t accept it, and remained constantly suspicious of everything. Yet, this cantankerous contentiousness has not benefitted me in any way. I can finally recognize that perpetual negativity is a dumb hobby.

So is that it? We good here? Is this little epiphany enough to flip my attitude around? Um, hello? Apparently not. So now I’m in a limbo of sorts, aware of my situation and stuck cleaning up the mess? Am I supposed to undo decades of discontent and attempt to fashion a positive attitude from scratch? Well that sounds like a lot of work.

Spoiler Alert! It is a lot of work! I can say that with confidence because I’ve had this exact epiphany over and over for many years. This 8-year-old blog is a testament to that fact. A realization isn’t enough, it takes applied effort. Every minute of the day I’m presented with a new thought that must be processed. It’s tedious. Why are so many so negative!? The defects must be rejected and tossed into the trash.

But how can I catch them all!? I miss a lot of these faulty thoughts and one bad apple spoils the bunch. I’m always looking for a more efficient approach to everything and this process is no exception. If it’s not obvious, I haven’t found it yet – I’m still grinding away. It seems like the biggest obstacle is “forgetfulness” and getting lost in everyday life. I’ll have an epiphany, devise a strategy, then I’ll simply lose it as the day’s drama unfolds.

And no, simply writing it down doesn’t work – as this 8-year-old blog demonstrates. Well whatever, I’m gonna try my hardest to adopt a calm and easy attitude. That’ll be my mantra for now until it’s lost to the repetition. “Calm and easy, calm and easy, calm and easy…” I’ll be an unsinkable cork floating atop the undulating waves of the world on my own joy-filled frequency, calm and easy.