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.

Frying Pan

I’ve swung so far: from surety in a brutal concrete reality to surety in a fictitious dreamworld. That’s a LOT of surety for someone that’s lost and confused. But when you’re drowning, you grab tightly to whatever’s near, whatever provides the most buoyancy amidst the turbulent waves that cause you to choke with panic.

You grip tightly until you’re eventually calmed by despair. I suppose hopelessness is the primary driver behind my religious conversion. There was no grand epiphany in which I was visited by angels, I simply couldn’t take the intensity of ever-present anxiety, and gave up. I quit caring. I stopped taking the game so seriously.

And nothing happened. I didn’t drown. It was as if I had been in shallow water the entire time. There was no danger. I was overreacting and only imagined myself drowning. Oops. It wasn’t my cunning and vigilance keeping me alive!? Oh well. Luckily, I’ve got it all figured out now! Nah, just kidding.

I know how to be pessimistic and overly serious, but I don’t quite understand how to play and have fun. I’ve simply gone from one confusing predicament into another. So now I have to spend my days dismissing my inherent negativity while attempting to add levity into everyday life. I have to find enjoyable activities and actively appreciate them.

Happiness isn’t easy, it’s a lotta work. But again, what would I know? I like precision and predictability and knowing how things function. Yet patterns and pathways seem to be purposefully derailed in this world. My inclinations don’t apply. Whatever direction I step doesn’t get me any closer to where I want to go. Nothing makes sense!

But if you’ve ever attempted to learn something new, that’s what it feels like. And over time, with practice, you get better. Living a good life isn’t something you inherently grasp, nor something you figure out in a day or even after a few years. You immerse yourself in the process and you stop trying to think your way through it; you let it happen.

Mental Priority

No thought is worth more than mental discipline. In other words, any idea or mental-image currently capturing your attention is less valuable than a well-focused mind. A thought will never provide the insight or satisfaction that mental discipline brings. This means it’s better to specifically direct your attention, instead of allowing it to wander amongst thoughts.

If you dismiss a thought, you’re not missing anything important. Thoughts come from a chatterbox that likes to hear himself speak. But he rambles on until he stumbles into a topic that thrills and excites, then you’re stuck with the resulting anxiety. You do yourself a favor by stopping this process and preventing this search-for-excitement.

This chatterbox is like a hacker brute-forcing a way towards anxiety, trying every combination of ideas and images until he finds a weak-spot into your attention. And once found, he throws everything he’s got at it. Deny such attacks by shutting down the spam, don’t bother looking at the attention-getting titles, just auto-filter it out.

This chatterbox is like a door-to-door salesmen that constantly comes knocking – don’t invite him in or you’ll be subjected to a stream of solicitations all day and night. “Boredom!? Not any more with the new and improved Thought-o-Matic Instant Anxiety Machine! It’ll make you tremble with stories so shocking, that you won’t be able to concentrate on anything else!”

Mental discipline is the practice of not answering that door. It’s the practice of denying thought-scans that seek surges of emotion. It’s the practice of putting proper focus first, above all thoughts. So stop giving thoughts priority, put them in their place below mental discipline. A well-focused mind is the key to your satisfaction.

Practicing WhoAmIism

I’m sick of imagining a dumb backstory. “Remembering” isn’t even the word for it since I don’t know if it really happened. Because honestly, who’s to say when existence began? I literally could’ve achieved consciousness this morning and presumed a bunch of ideas and injected a few false memories about who I am and what’s happened thus far. My examination of my situation could be further tainted by a negative perspective, leaving me with incorrect interpretations all around.

So now what? What does that leave me with? For one, it leaves me without ANY baggage to carry along. I’m free of whatever preceded right now. In other words, I can think of the present moment as the start of a dream. Nothing before this moment actually existed, it’s all concocted in an attempt to explain what’s happening now. I don’t have to take it seriously, I can ignore it or even invent a better backstory and believe that instead.

In a sense, I should approach each new moment as if I have amnesia, unsure of who I am or what’s going on. It sounds a bit odd yet it’s closer to the truth. I really don’t know who I am or what’s going on here. Sure, I’ve made a bunch of assumptions but I don’t know if they’re correct, in fact they’re more likely to be wrong. These assumptions I’ve made haven’t benefitted me in any way – and typically, they tend to make me feel bad.

In summation: As soon as I became conscious, I inadvertently focused on a lot of strange thoughts. I assumed they represented a factual reality. I further assumed that following those thoughts would lead me to an explanation of what’s going on here – but doing so only led to more confusion. All those thoughts I invested in turned out to be trash and are therefore unworthy of further attention. The present moment is the only time in which I should invest my attention. Focus on now.

Olden Days

“What a horrible time we’re living in! I wish things were more like they used to be! Things were uncomplicated back then! People were polite! They talked to each another! You could afford things! Politicians weren’t corrupt! Truth and justice weren’t just tag-lines in a comic-book!”

As someone that’s been alive for a few decades and has an interest in history, those kinds of statements don’t make much sense. Even a casual review of the historic narrative reveals a distinct repetition of themes and events. Facades change, but the foundational elements remain the same. Therefore, what the above sentiment is truly referring to, is not some point in history, but to some simpler time in the speaker’s life i.e. childhood.

What such people are really trying to say is: things were easier when I was a child because I was taken care of and I only focused on things that mattered to me at the time. And this is true, things ARE easier when you’re taken care of and when you only focus on the things that are important to you. So now what? Can we go back to a simpler time? i.e. a time when we possessed a childlike view of the world?

Jesus once said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Maybe he’s saying that we should focus on the things that matter to us in this moment, as children do — and in so doing, experience a heavenly time on Earth. Whereas focusing on the “big picture” and global-matters is a means of getting lost in the world, a condition that ultimately leads to dissatisfaction.

But what about being taken care of? Well Jesus also said this: I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body. Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ Your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. Do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself.

So when we lament the modern times we’re living in, perhaps our wish shouldn’t be to time-travel to some idyllic point in history that never happened – but to get back to a childlike perspective. And to do that, we must focus on what’s at hand right-now in this moment. Perhaps we should be focusing on who’s around us and whatever activities are immediately available. A childlike perspective is not dour or disparaging, but wondrous and appreciative of whatever’s happening all around.

In summation: in order to enjoy life, we must not strive to resurrect a fictional past, rather we must strive to attain a level of mental discipline that allows us to focus our attention on whatever evokes delight.

Lowest Point

Even if everything in your life improves, there will still be a “worst thing ever”. In other words, everything’s relative and there’s always a lowest point. For example, if the worst thing I dealt with was a constant fear of physical violence, and I eventually overcome it, I’ll then deal with anxiety from financial instability. If I overcome THAT, I’ll be worrying about the stability of my long-term romantic relationship. And if I eventually stop worrying about THAT, my worst day is having a headache that won’t go away. No matter what, there will ALWAYS be something to ruin your day.

So what? It means that you can’t achieve contentment through external means. It’s like that saying: wherever you go, there you are. If you simply change your surroundings, you’ll just judge your new environment by your old standards and place old labels on new things. Instead, you have to stop your tendency to criticize, stop applying those dumb labels. EVERYTHING should be 5 outta 5. Reset your rating-scale. You’re now having a full five-star experience! Whoa! Nice!

Everything in your reach is now the BEST. If you used to lie to yourself all the time and claim everything was the worst, why is this any different? Well, it’s not! Except that evaluating at the high-end makes you feel much better than evaluating at the low-end. If you claim that there’s always room for improvement, then you’ll never have a top-tier time — you’ll always feel slightly cheated and a little lacking. Whereas if you call something the best thing ever, you’re suddenly transported to a high-end experience that can’t be topped. Except that it IS exceeded by the very next thing! WOW!!

Wait, is this a joke!? No! The joke is that you’d relentlessly sabotage your experience on Earth by constantly criticizing everything while worrying about unpleasant ideas that you focus on in your mind. That’s a dumb joke. So through the power of mental discipline, flip the script and start thinking of your experiences and surroundings as an awesome adventure through wonderland. It’s madcap crazy! It’s exciting! Use an ounce of creativity to find your way there, paint a rose-colored hue on everything you encounter. Make this your new routine and see if you’re not suddenly living the best life ever.

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.

Tool Time

I absolutely love tools. LOVE. Throughout the years I never realized how much I adored them. The problem was: I never had much practical application for them. And relatedly, I wasn’t sure which particular tools I prefered. I would stare at tools and wander through tool aisles and wish to have a use for them — but it mostly stopped there. Yes I’ve collected various tools throughout the years, but they never saw heavy use.

A couple of times I tried to dedicate myself to small-scale carpentry projects but it didn’t last. All that measuring, sawing, and drilling got to be a bit much. The precision was a little too exacting. Measure-twice cut-once or the puzzle won’t fit together. I think my detour into computer-programming was a semi-related tool path. But again, I think the need for precision got to me. I prefer a craft that’s more forgiving apparently, something with a higher tolerance for sloppiness.

And so for the past few months I’ve been engaged in whittling or wood-carving or small-scale woodworking — whatever you want to call it. Things like pendants, spoons, rings, whistles, figurines, spinning-tops, cup-and-ball toys — just little things that don’t require exactness or too much time to complete. I’ve been having a great experience using tools and finding new ones to add to my collection.

In a sense, I really did have to find out who I was. I had to enter life’s buffet and sample the selections until I found items I enjoyed. I also needed to delve deeply into the esoteric details. I knew I liked tools for example, but socket-wrenches aren’t my thing, neither are table-saws. I like pull-saws, woodcarving knives, small gouges, and pin-vise drills. But who knew!? You can’t just guess at something so specific, you gotta try things out and see what you like apparently.

Instead of an office, now I want to create a small shop in which all my woodworking dreams come true. My computer desk has been turned into a workbench and I sit next to a stack of drawers filled with tiny tools. In one sense, I’m a tool lover that expresses that love through casual woodworking — what I create isn’t as important as acquiring more tools. I’m always on the lookout for inefficiencies that can be improved by a new tool. And I like it that way, even upgrading older tools is a great option.

So that’s where I’m at right now: attempting to appreciate and engage with something I enjoy (tools). My previous life-strategy was to complain about everything I didn’t like — that turned out to be an unpleasant experience. Oh well, you live you learn.

Siren Call

I came in thinking that this was a harsh & brutal realm ruled by random chance in which only the strong survived and the lucky thrived. My relative weakness and lucklessness meant I was doomed to experience a brief and miserable life. I was shocked when I made it to young-adulthood. I had nothing planned since I was confident I wasn’t going to get that far.

Long-term plans are meaningless in a world in which accidents happen. I wasn’t going to waste my time working towards a goal only to have my preparations crumble beneath me. I was so certain that the world was a dangerous place filled with predators always watching for me to falter, ready to attack. Well, none of it happened!! I waited and waited with my back against the wall, ever vigilant of my surroundings, and NOTHING!! I simply got older.

I was wrong. I completely misjudged the world. It’s not what I assumed it was. BUT that leaves me with a bigger question that I’m still trying to figure out: what IS going on here?? I have a lingering suspicion that I’m being deceived by this world. Is it trying to lull me into a false sense of security, baiting me into complacency to fulfill some cruel intention? Am I an experiment that gained consciousness, made to live out an empty life in an artificial world? Or, are my suspicions simply wrong again?

I keep suspecting something nefarious — yet I was wrong the first time. So wrong in fact, that I caused myself to have a miserable experience. Perhaps this is why it’s not beneficial to focus on thoughts. Thoughts, it turns out, are a lot more unpleasant than the actual world. Had I not focused on thoughts, I would’ve had a better time. Every unpleasant experience was only made worse by the accompanying thoughts — thoughts that lingered long after the offending event.

In their meandering complexity, thoughts often masquerade as worthwhile plants in the garden of the mind. “Listen to me, and I’ll protect you from the dangers of this world”, they say. But these are seductive sirens’ calls, luring you to crash upon rocks. Masked in beguiling beauty, it can be difficult to figure-out if a sprout’s a weed that should be plucked. The simple test is this: does a thought fill you with hope and happiness or fear and despair? Only nourishing thoughts should be allowed to remain.

In short, “suspicious thoughts about the world” should go on the “things to avoid” list. And stop focusing on your thoughts in the first place!!! Geez. Just do whatever you’re doing WITHOUT the running commentary that has NOTHING to do with what you’re actually doing! Getting lost in thought is the siren’s call, avoid it. THIS is the reason you keep having a bad time, your physical life thus far has NOT been a punishing experience but your THOUGHTS about life have been a source of self-inflicted torture — stop it already. Oh and lighten-up for christ’s sake.

Things to Avoid

In my quest for mental discipline, these are some things I’m looking out for.

Belligerent and argumentative. I find that my mind is constantly setting up straw-men to battle. So whenever I sense internal conflict, I stop the engagement and move on.

Novelty means disaster. Any new information presented to me is automatically interpreted as “bad”. So whenever I sense doom accumulating, I stop the prophesy in-progress and simply listen.

Outrage. Show me some current events, and I’ll tell you why I’m offended. I typically avoid “news” and the like and try to stop any rants from forming.

Startled. A sudden noise or sight, evokes anger or fright. I’ll tend to overreact to a quick surprise – but since my reaction is so fast, I don’t have time to stop it. Therefore, whenever I sense a startled reaction I exhale all the way and hold it until I become uncomfortable. Yes, this is straight-up physical-punishment – but it works.

“Downs” always follow “ups”. I tend towards a perspective that says good can’t exist without bad — a karmic balance must be achieved. Because of that, I don’t readily accept good things without expecting to pay for them through some form of punishment. I now dismiss this sentiment when it appears in my mind.

Criticizing gifts. I can’t accept gifts without immediately looking for something wrong with them. Even if it’s something I wanted, there’s probably a defect lurking below the surface. I recognize that this is a horrible attitude and try to overwrite it with appreciation.

Limited lifespan. Nothing lasts forever, in fact it’s likely on its last legs – on the verge of collapsing in the next minute. Any mechanical device I see or interact with is doomed to die sooner rather than later. When I sense this foul forecast, I replace it with thoughts of reliability and longevity.

Criticizing others for what I’m actually doing. “You’re doing something wrong!” Oh, actually I’m doing something wrong, sorry about that. Others are never the problem, my bad attitude is ALWAYS the true source of every problem I encounter.

Getting lost in the game. I started using hourly chimes to remind myself to take a step back and realize where I am. I’ll use that awareness to release any tension I notice and to say something like “I intend to have a lighthearted disposition”.