Idle Gaming

I used to think of life as a competitive first-person survival-based game. That outlook didn’t do me any favors and resulted in a lot of anxiety. And as a result, my assumptions were all off – life wasn’t aligning with my expectations. Finally, after many years, I gave up on my warped perspective. Though not gonna lie, the transition is taking longer than you’d think.

Truly, and after decades of proof being thrown in my face, I understand that I was wrong. Oops, my bad. But despite that understanding, I still can’t reside in a place of peace. I’m still a bit suspicious and somewhat unconvinced of the benign nature of existence. Is life out to get me!? Hm….

Well whatever. As best I can, I’m going to treat life as a chill idle game. Am I in first-person anymore? No, I’m in a fourth-person perspective, which means I kinda just watch my character do his thing. I don’t reside in the world, I’m more of an audience to it. All my previous direct-action strategies pretty much failed anyway, so.

In an idle game, oftentimes there’s clicking or tapping involved. So what’s my “clicky-tappy” interaction as the player? It’s focusing. Essentially, my character makes his way through the game on his own, but I kinda influence him based on my focus. For example, if I focus on a dying dog, my character might cry. Whereas if I focus on chocolate cake, my character might eat some soon. Therefore, a lot of my energy is directed towards focus-management.

Thoughts are the limitless resource that comes pouring onto my screen. As the player, I must direct these granules to the appropriate processing-centers located around the board. Negative thoughts go in the trash basically. Currency is acquired through tranquility, accumulating through extended periods of well-managed focus. There’s no real winning or losing, it’s just having fun through the process of resource-management.

Fourth-Person Perspective

For research purposes I often play video-games. When given the option, I usually select a first-person perspective for piloting my avatar. It’s more immersive and I find it easier to control – plus the added intensity helps to hold my attention. I AM the character – doing what must be done. Whereas in third-person, I feel like I’m helpin’ the guy out – he’s the character, not me. But the downside of being in first-person is the intensity – if my character loses, I lose.

It got me thinking about a possible fourth-person perspective. I couldn’t find much written about the concept. One game, a few years ago, had the player make changes to an onscreen-character’s environment which influenced the actions the character took. And in writing, I heard the 4th-person perspective described as a collective viewpoint: “we” – personal and omniscient all in one.

I often switch up my meditation tactics. Recently, I noticed how hard it was to maintain a goalie-like reactive stance while meditating. Just waiting for thoughts to come made me a sitting duck – I was at the mercy of an onslaught of thought. Therefore, I actively pursued a “destination” in meditation. With my eyes closed, I intentionally stared at the mottled formlessness, the waves of hue and light, the pixels underlying all. I did so until I no longer had to fully focus my attention, I was there.

It worked in the sense that I felt like I reached a place of pure potential, dreamlike, where I left my body behind. You might say I attained a fourth-person perspective. I was beyond the intensity of “I”, beyond the demanding nature of “you”, and beyond the sympathetic viewpoint of “he”. Perhaps it was “we”. We are not just a body, a thinking mind, or even pure awareness – we’re that, plus whatever lies beyond – we’re also an influencer of what we experience.

Maybe the spiritual goal is to reach and sustain this fourth-person perspective. Get beyond the ego, beyond the avatar, beyond the narrative – encompassing all, yet limited by none. Think of a cake: a cake isn’t merely a collection of ingredients (which are measured and mixed into something far beyond what their individual nature suggest). A cake can have significance, representing much more than consumable calories. Perhaps the fourth-person perspective recognizes all this.

To exist in this perspective, is to be removed from the intensity, aware of the narrative but not lost in it, and free from the boundaries of imagined limitations. In the fourth-person perspective, of what importance or weight are those tiny thoughts originating from “I”? “I” is only a fraction of “we”. The process of babysitting thoughts and managing tantrums-of-the-mind loses significance when measured against this grander transcendent journey.

Forging the Mind

The external is a projection of the internal. Therefore, if things are unpleasant on the outside, we know our own undisciplined mind is to blame. We shouldn’t rush to solve an exterior circumstance, we should sit and calm the mind, fixing its focus. This concept is easier to grasp when existence is perceived as a dream – a distressed sleeper has agitated dreams.

Additionally, our own errant thoughts are by far the greatest source of abuse we experience on Earth. A cascade of criticism mixed with embarrassing memory topped with dour prognostication make for an unpleasant stew we swallow daily. Through the effort of meditation and applied mental discipline, these thoughts can be muted. Life simplifies when such swirling malevolence is rejected.

Ah, but a vacuum forms! Boredom rears its head around the corner – a condition that encourages escape. As the mind thirsts for thrills and stressors, a hobby beyond self-immolation must be found. The hobby of finding a hobby begins. Long has poisonous thought made the mind a toxic space – let meditation fill the gap, making an intentional void. Cleanse the clutter, allowing room for lighthearted delight.

Through silence, visit the realm of pure potential where anything can be anything. Come often. Memory is reinforced through practice – stop recalling and allow old images to fade away. Stop living within the imagination – reality is right now. Strive to achieve a well-disciplined mind, ceaselessly forge it into shape – incorporating only the finest thoughts you can find.

Solving for X

I suppose you could say it’s my mission to solve the riddle of this world. I suspect though, that the world actively and deliberately thwarts any attempt to be figured-out. Therefore, this situation is a game by definition. Why must I decipher it? I don’t know, but there’s not much else I’m driven to do. My consciousness has been placed in this predicament and wants to find its way out – like a maze.

People have been trying to reach God since humanity began. I suppose my efforts are similar in this regard. So, how does one get to heaven? The pathway seems to be by way of mental discipline. Through proper focus, steered by discipline, one can arrive at the intended destination. But life will place many obstacles, in the form of distractions, along the route.

This is a very silly world, so engaging in earnest is a poor strategy. To take this world seriously, is to lose from the outset. Games are for fun after-all. Being a game, losing is an option. Due to many in-game hints, it seems that death is not an actual end, it’s just a respawn, the game continues until it’s ultimately won. Fundamentally, the game wants to be won, or it wouldn’t bother to provide a winning option.

Ultimately, I think the mind must be made to perceive existence as a lighthearted illusion – a dream basically. With that mindset, one’s experience within this dreamworld can be influenced by deliberate focus. By utilizing mental-discipline to maintain focus, one’s circumstance of existence is hammered and shaped into a key – a key that unlocks the maze. And with that, the goal is reached, the game won.

Mouth of Man

There’s a guiding voice in my mind. I hear it and oftentimes transcribe the words and publish them here. But today, I’m merely the man. I must admit that I don’t particularly enjoy being an embodied being. It’s an experience that leads to a lot of frustration.

For instance, I know what it’s like to be a loser, having lost so many times. I know what it’s like to feel powerless, even hopeless. I know sadness, despair, and wanting to give up. I know worry and fear. I know pain and the wish to escape it. I know isolation and loneliness. I know lack and unfulfilled craving. I would prefer for those aspects of this experience to end. I’d prefer something new. I want to try winning instead of losing.

Instead of being fueled by frustration, I’d rather creative inspiration be my guide. Instead of a constant stream of criticism flowing through my thoughts, I’d rather be overcome with appreciation. I want no more dread, just gleeful anticipation instead. I want to know what it’s like to live within a state of satisfaction. Do you hear that, guiding voice from beyond? It’s me the man, the simple creature stuck in this predicament.

No offense, but despite all this “guidance”, I’m still struggling to an embarrassing degree. I say, let’s just accept that I need too much assistance at this point. Let’s flip that switch over to “easy” and go from there? I’m too old and not invested enough to care anymore. The time for strain and struggle is over. How ’bout coasting to the end, just living an easy and enjoyable existence? That sounds like some sweet relief to me.

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.

Racing Around

It seems like the most common feeling I experience is “irritation”. Wouldn’t it be better though, if instead of a constant state of annoyance, a more enjoyable sensation dominated my experience? Oh I dunno, maybe something like anticipation, delight, appreciation, and just an overall sense of satisfaction? That seems like a much better approach to life than finding reasons to be upset all the time.

But doesn’t life manipulate your feelings through external stimuli? I’m not so sure about that. Although I believe that life intentionally introduces “surprises”, I think my reaction to those surprises can be steered. Not perfectly controlled, but at least influenced. It seems like my internal attitude makes a significant difference in regards to external stimuli. It’s like driving a car: if you overreact or overcorrect, you’re going to have a bad time. It’s better to stay calm and stay the course.

Gentle turns, soft acceleration, light breaking, maintaining adequate distance – it’s not that difficult. The same goes with the human avatar. If you go nuts, you crash. Why wouldn’t you? Isn’t that obvious? If you get distracted, you miss a turn. Now you’re scrambling to get back to where you were going. There are consequences for being a bad driver – why shouldn’t there be? Gun the engine, strip your gears. Pay attention, or pay the toll.

My point is this: the human avatar is NOT a ride-car that’s safely and securely fastened to a track, whisking your consciousness around a preset stage of audio-animatronic characters programmed for your amusement. Think of this more like a car-driving game in which crashing IS an option. The benefit is that there’s an element of excitement and a greater sense of immersion. The downside is that you have to maintain proper focus at all times – you’re a player not a passenger.

Like in any video-game, there are aspects and cut-scenes that are scripted. For example, a car-driving game has a bunch of race-courses you have to carefully navigate. Games aren’t very open-ended, they provide a lot of structure for a character to follow. This leads to confusion about “free-will” – am I in control or not in control? Basically it’s both. Within the preset parameters of the game, you can control a limited aspect of the character.

What you actually control isn’t quite obvious here. It’s not the avatar directly. Think about “walking” while walking, and you’ll likely stumble. For the avatar to perform effectively, you essentially have to keep your consciousness from trying to micromanage. Like driving a car, you’re just nudging it from time to time, keeping everything steady, staying between the lines while the vehicle does the work rolling down the road.

The destination is already known, it’s the checkered finish-line. Your role is to sit in the driver’s seat with a first-class view, gently influencing the controls. And your primary mode of control is through focus and attitude. Focus on stuff you don’t like and you’ll drive right into it. Have a bad attitude while rip-roaring down the road, and you’ll likely crash. It’s a direct correlation, just simple arithmetic, nothing complicated.

Therefore, if the most common sensation you experience is “irritation”, then we can deduce that you’re not applying enough consideration to your role as driver. You’re likely just sitting there, gazing out the window as the side of your vehicle scrapes against the guardrail and the worn-out windshield wipers drag across dry glass. “Boy I wonder what all that noise is? It sure is annoying!”

Striving to Serenity

In order to successfully traverse life, it seems that one must strive to soften over time. Like a stone that’s weathered and smoothed by the elements, a person should likewise allow his rough spots to be ground-down by the buffeting circumstances of life.

When irritation strikes, you shouldn’t see it as an opportunity to cement your opposing position, you should drop the thought that’s triggered. In other words: that collection of contrarian opinions isn’t something you should maintain. They’re not “you”, they’re just a bunch of dumb ideas you collected. Situations that activate your sense-of-annoyance are helping you to notice these dumb ideas – your task is to dismiss them.

For example: “Ugh, cheesecake for dessert!? I hate cheesecake! Why can’t they just have cake-cake!!” This becomes: “Cheesecake? You little scamp! Cream-cheese in the form of a pie, masquerading as cake! Ha, you’re a silly one. But it’s great that people enjoy you. Well, I’m full from my entree anyway. I’ll be satisfied seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces as they consume you!”

Basically, life should be lived lightheartedly. The active practice of life consists of doing what you’re inspired to do – but in the calmest manner possible. As Jesus stated: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Some translations use the more familiar word “gentle” in place of “meek”).

Sources of irritation themselves aren’t supposed to be removed. These are simply signs alerting you to calm down. Obstacles aren’t the actual obstacle. Or more confusingly: the feeling that an obstacle is an obstacle is the obstacle you need to surmount. In other words, don’t seek to destroy annoyances, seek a state of non-annoyance (i.e. acceptance). Despite the raging inferno that surrounds, be okay with the unfolding events: “This is fine.”

The choice is this: fight a losing battle all the way to the end OR practice unconditional acceptance of everything you encounter. Think of it this way: you’re a block of stone being carved into a beautiful work-of-art by life’s circumstances. You can fight against the artist and refuse to be shaped into something nice – OR you can accept the hammer & chisel blows, allowing the process to happen, letting the rough stone fall-off, revealing the stately statue within.

Three Threads

The Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 14) clearly establishes that one’s eternal essence is bound by certain forces that influence its earthly experience. Being born into this world, the spirit is entwined and anchored by these forces. It is the earth-dweller’s task to unbind its non-physical portion from these influences in order to rejoin the spiritual-whole from which it came. Failing to do so in one lifetime will simply result in another opportunity within another lifespan – and so on.

A question that arises is: why does a supreme-being confine a fraction of itself within an embodied-being and then expect that spiritual-portion to find its way back? In a sense, it’s an “Escape Room” scenario in which the spirit must collect clues and solve puzzles in order to find its way out. Additionally, the spirit must first discern that it’s trapped to begin with. Perhaps this entrapment is simply the byproduct of an overthinking celestial entity.

Whatever the reason, the spirit must untangle itself from the threads that bind it. How? By becoming smooth and friction-free. Imagine a rough non-slip surface that catches on everything it touches – it’s stuck. Now imagine a smooth surface that slides easily through life. By not allowing itself to become wrapped-up in the narrative, the spirit can glide through life and find its way back to the origin. Essentially, the conscious mind has to lighten-up and relax.

By perceiving life lightheartedly, one travels an enlightened path. Imagine the undisciplined mind as Velcro’s tiny hooks persistently grasping at every loop the world offers. Now imagine a disciplined mind as being sleek and hookless, no longer grabbing those loops. The loops are there, but the disciplined mind doesn’t keep getting stuck, it’s free of attachment. The world still turns, but its weight no longer rests on the spirit’s shoulder.

So the goal is this: to experience existence without getting upset. And the tools to do this are awareness, attitude, focus, and interpretation. Maintain awareness of attitude and focus. Actively improve attitude and shift focus to non-distressing topics. Seek and sustain an enjoyable interpretation of life. By engaging in this practice, the spirit can overcome its entanglement and return to a place of peace.