Whittling Life

Whittling is a subtractive process, meaning you start with a block of wood and remove some bits until you arrive at the shape you want. Whereas carpentry is additive: you keep adding boards until you arrive at the final structure. Carpentry also has a jigsaw-puzzle aspect, where pieces have to fit together just-right. I never bothered to contemplate the difference before, but the other day I noticed that I’m a particular type of woodworker.

I had split a block of wood into tiny planks with the idea that I’d assemble them into a small box — a carpentry project. But I sat there staring at the boards, deciding on how to assemble them. Carpentry is about precise cuts with saws and lots of sawdust — and that’s just not my style. I’m a knife guy — I like cutting into wood and having curls drop off. For instance, I already have a small box made from a block of wood that I simply hollowed-out with a knife and chisel.

So instead of piecing those tiny planks together, I’ve been using them as starting-points for carved pendants. It turns out that I’m into subtractive art, not additive — I wasn’t quite aware of the distinction before. And it’s true: when faced with a blank canvas, I don’t know where to begin — my mind is equally blank. But when presented with a work-in-progress, I can certainly tell you what doesn’t belong. It’s basically a form of criticism: “Nope, that doesn’t look right! Remove it!”. You just keep pecking away until there’s nothing left to criticize.

And this serves as a metaphor for life. If presented with the idea that life is a blank-canvas, I’m frozen with indecision. I don’t know how to proceed — I need something to evaluate and judge. BUT, this criticism needs to be applied with the intent of creating a work-of-art. I had been criticizing and stopping there — I wasn’t actually cutting anything out. Therefore I always see the same bits that don’t belong, every single day.

So instead of looking for what I should add into my life, I should be evaluating what I already have, then actively removing the bits that don’t belong i.e. whittling my life into a work of art. I had been trying an additive approach, which simply didn’t suit me AND I had neglected to remove the bits that didn’t fit. For example, my tendency for general-negativity is something that needs to be sliced away — and my knife in this context is mental-discipline.

Game Goals

Existence is a game whose goal is a life well-lived — I will win this game.

Thoughts are the controls with which I influence my experience.

A better life is achieved through better thoughts. From thoughts streaming by, I’ll select only the finest to focus on while dismissing the rest.

Note: good thoughts are characterized by concepts such as appreciation and delight, comfort and contentment, confidence and competence, lighthearted amusement, and an overall enjoyment of life.

I’ll aspire to believe that ALL obstacles and limitations are SELF-CREATED through my thoughts.

I’ll endeavor to see this as a benevolent experience intended as a source of enjoyment.

To facilitate this enjoyment, I’ll strive to maintain a lighthearted disposition, a positive attitude, and trust in the goodness of life.

So that I’m not lost in the story and swept away in its turbulence, I’ll strive to maintain an awareness of this game-like perspective.

At any time I do feel lost, I’ll remove focus from my thoughts and remain focused on right now.

LOA Summary

This is my initial summary of the book The Law of Attraction (2006) by Esther and Jerry Hicks.

The goal is happiness. The way in which you achieve this goal is by focusing only on what makes you happy. How you feel, is the indicator of whether you’re correctly focused or not. When you feel good, it means you’re focused on the right stuff and you should keep at it. When you feel bad, it means you’re focused on the wrong stuff and should therefore change your focus to something you like, something that evokes a positive emotion. The better you feel, the better you’re doing.

To take control of your life, you’ll need to deliberately direct your thoughts, focusing only on the things you want to experience. You’ll need to disregard what you think you’re seeing, and imagine the situation you prefer. Life IS malleable and your thoughts are the tools you use to alter it.

As you’re going through life, evaluate experiences as they happen and determine what you prefer. Your work here is to decide what you want, and then focus on it. Look for the positive aspects of subjects that are important to you. Even when you seem surrounded by negativity, choose a thought that feels slightly better than the thoughts you’ve been thinking, just keep selecting better and better thoughts until you gradually change the direction of your thoughts. Or, try changing the subject. If you can see something you don’t want, you can now identify something you DO want through its opposite.

As a daily exercise, you should get yourself into a lighthearted mood and engage in a “Creative Workshop”, sitting for 15 minutes and deliberately thinking about the things you want to experience. Imagine them so purely that they evoke nothing but positive emotion. From data gathered throughout your everyday life, create a picture of yourself that satisfies and pleases. Browse the aisles of life for the things you like and add them to your cart. The world is a giant store in which you can select whatever you want off the shelves — it’s always stocked and there are no limits. The better you feel while doing this exercise, while becoming less contradicted, your world will soon be filled with these things.

Big or small makes no difference. What-can-be is not determined by what-has-been. There’s no limitation of resources, there’s no reason to explain or justify or deserve whatever it is you want. Justifying is a negative mode, you’re no longer focused on what you want. Competition is not a necessary component within this world of unlimited resources. Also, if you’re able to imagine it, it’s not “unrealistic”. If you have the desire, this world has the resources to fulfill it. There is no opposition but you. If you add a “but”, you spoil it. Avoid contradiction i.e. thinking about what you want AND its opposite. And don’t worry about the past, give your attention to something you want now.

Start with a general idea, then continue adding specifics up until they no longer feel good. Be specific enough that you feel positive emotion, but not so specific that you begin feeling negative emotion. For instance, if you can’t see how something will unfold, then that might feel bad. The means is only important if you want it to be. Another approach is to fast-forward to the happy ending — imagine already achieving whatever it is you want.

You can’t push away the things you don’t want, you’re only giving them your attention. If you’re resisting anything, you’re focused on the thing you don’t want. Don’t focus on thoughts of doubt or fear, simply think about whatever it is you want — and expect it. Feel the excitement and anticipation and the appreciation. If you’re worried or frustrated, then you’re focused on the lack or absence of the thing you want. You’ll know which you’re focused on by your feelings: are you feeling good or are you feeling bad.

Whenever you find yourself thinking about things you don’t want (signaled by negative emotion), stop and make an effort to find a better-feeling way of thinking. Find one small thing that makes you happy when you think about it — by focusing on it, you’ll find more and more of the same. In time, things will improve on ALL subjects.

When your body hurts, it’s difficult to put your thoughts on a healthy body. In these extremely negative situations, use distraction rather than trying to change the thought. Do something, a simple activity, that will change your thought. Keep in mind that some things are better than others, focus on the best of what you have right now.

When you feel negative emotion because you’ve seen something in others that you don’t want to see, it’s not their lack, it’s yours. By only focusing on what pleases you, you’ll no longer need others to behave differently.

Don’t simply tolerate others, allow them to be as they are. Don’t contribute to the problems of others by engaging in talk about what you know they don’t want. If you see someone ill, imagine them well. Don’t look at problems, look for solutions. Focusing on a solution brings positive emotion whereas focusing on a problem brings negative emotion. Nothing outside of you can mess up your experience of this world. DO put your head in the sand and focus only on what’s important to you.

How can you allow injustice? By recognizing that it’s not a part of your experience. Don’t try to control the experiences of others, simply set forth a clear image of the life you want to live. No matter what you’re doing, make your dominant intent to look for those things you want to see. You’ll soon notice that there’s very little in your experience that’s not to your liking.

If you haven’t established what you DO want, you’ll find yourself experiencing things you wouldn’t have chosen. If you don’t set deliberate intentions, you’re resigned to taking whatever comes. You’ll feel like a victim, vulnerable and not in control, you’ll feel the need to guard yourself from what might come.

You are living the results of thoughts you had before. A point will come when you will live the results of thoughts you’re thinking now. If you allow yourself to feel lonely, you’ll become even lonelier. If you allow yourself to feel unhappy, you’ll become unhappier. Whereas if you think thoughts that encourage feelings of health and prosperity, you’ll become healthier and more prosperous. Whatever you give your attention to, is what you’ll eventually experience. Always reach for thoughts that feel better.

First you have to want something, then you have to allow it. In other words, you have to expect it, believing in its certainty while disallowing all doubt and resistance. You CAN have it — don’t push it away with contrary thoughts. This often requires looking beyond what’s happening right now and imagining what you want instead.

DO pay attention to the things you want in life. Unless you allow yourself to want things and expect to receive those things, you’ll never be in deliberate control of your experience and you won’t have a satisfying time.

In order to more clearly direct your thoughts, you can cut the day into segments. You don’t want the same thing in every segment of your life, therefore “Segment Intending” is the process of deliberate identification of what’s specifically wanted in this particular moment in time.

Instead of becoming overwhelmed and confused by considering so many available subjects at the same time, Segment Intending allows you to focus more precisely on the fewer details of this moment. If you’re considering too many things at once, and moving in no particular direction, you’ll feel frustrated. At the beginning of all segments you could essentially say: “As I’m entering this segment, it’s my intent to see what I want to see.”

Identify when you’re moving from one segment (and one set of intentions), into another. Whenever you realize you’re moving into a new segment, pause and determine what you want most. For example, entering into sleep is a new segment. “It’s my intention for my body to completely relax. It’s my intention to wake-up rested, refreshed, and eager to begin my day.” As you open your eyes in the morning, that’s a new segment. “I’m intending to become exhilarated and excited about this day”. Then in the bathroom is another. “I intend to acknowledge my wonderful body and to feel appreciation for the magnificent way it functions. I intend to be efficient in my grooming and to bring myself to looking my best.” At breakfast, “I will relax and eat it in joy, allowing my wonderful body to digest and process it perfectly”.

If you’re listless or confused then you haven’t deliberately selected what you want, or you haven’t been clear enough, or your wants might be contradictory.

Meditation is a segment in which you’re intending to quiet your conscious thinking mechanism by withdrawing your focus from it in order to sense the broader perspective that stretches beyond the physical. Try meditation for 15 minutes everyday, sit and focus on your breathing. As the mind wanders, release the thought and return focus to breathing.

The Creative Workshop process is a segment where you’re intending to give specific and precise thought to the details of what you want. You guide your thoughts in the direction of your specific desire, aligning your thoughts in this moment with the desires you’ve previously identified. You cannot have a physical experience until you create it first in thought. Therefore, the Creative Workshop is when you give deliberate thought to the things you want.

Usually, more of your time is spent thinking about a negative thing after it already happened rather than when it’s actually happening. Most negative emotion could be eliminated if you would focus on what you now want to think about. Notice what uplifts you and remember it, use it as a touchstone to your happiness. The existence of positive emotion is your greatest measure of success. Joy is the confirmation that you’ve found what you want.

For interruptions due to the lack of Segment Intending, say “This will be brief, and I won’t lose my train of thought. I won’t lose the momentum I’ve set forth. I’ll deal with this quickly and efficiently, and I’ll get on with what I was doing.”

Through deliberately directed thought, you’ll begin to feel inspiration to act. Action that comes from a feeling of inspiration is action that’ll produce good results. Whereas if you take action without deliberate thought, your action feels like hard work because you’re attempting to make more happen in this moment than your action alone can accomplish.

As you set your intent for something you want, and you’re looking expectantly for it, you’ll begin to see signs of it. You’ll see others who have achieved something similar. You’ll notice more aspects of it. You’ll find yourself thinking about it and feeling excited about it often, and feeling very good about what you want. The positive emotion you’re feeling in anticipation of your desire is also evidence of its eventual entrance into your experience.

When you’re thinking about what you want, you should be feeling exhilarated, excited — some form of positive emotion. But if you’re thinking about the lack of what you want, you’ll be feeling negative emotion such as disappointment. The bad feeling is telling you that you’re giving thought to something you don’t want. Therefore, put your thought on what you DO want, then feel the positive emotion that comes from it and let the disappointment go away.

Make a decision to feel good. “Today, no matter where I’m going, no matter what I’m doing, it’s my dominant intent to see what I want to see. Nothing is more important than feeling good.”

By following this practice, you’ll be in creative control of your experience. You’ll no longer misunderstand why things are happening to you. As you practice and become proficient at directing your own thoughts toward the things you want, your understanding will take you anywhere you want to go.

Real Thought

I’ve been attempting to work with the “thoughts create your reality” philosophy for awhile now. It’s a bit embarrassing how long I’ve been trying to incorporate it into my way-of-thinking. This blog is basically a testament to it, but it hasn’t stuck yet. While I understand that my negativity is souring my experience of existence, those dumb thoughts just keep coming. And every-time I have an A-HA! moment of clarity, it quickly fizzles away.

I recently read The Law of Attraction (2006) book, and it’s essentially telling me the same stuff I discovered over and over during the past few years. But where I think it adds to the perspective, is this: I should be MUCH more proactive in imagining the life I want to experience. I’ve been taking a more reactive approach in which I diffuse negative thoughts instead of focusing on the stuff I want. In a sense, I’m still focused on negativity.

I should stop that and deliberately devise pleasant scenarios in my imagination instead. I should take time in the day to imagine an overall picture of the life I want to live AND I should consider what I want from each part of the day as I’m entering it. In the book, these activities are called the “Creative Workshop” and “Segment Intending”. I’m not supposed to simply react to whatever life throws at me, I’m supposed to intentionally create the experience I want.

I’ve been taking a VERY passive approach and it shows. It turns out that I AM supposed to be applying quite a bit of effort i.e. “hard work”. But instead of external action, I should be crafting internally, imagining scenes that evoke the best-feeling emotions I can muster — I should be doing this throughout the day. And if I’m not doing that, then THERE’S the source of my problems. Essentially, I’ve been expecting life to paint a pretty picture for me, but it doesn’t work that way apparently. I must paint the picture and life renders it.

Life renders whatever picture you’re crafting in your mind, but if you don’t intentionally set it, you’ll end up experiencing the sum of a mishmash of haphazard thoughts. Therefore, life will seem chaotic at times and stagnant at others. It’s a little bit of everything all mixed together, resulting in an unsatisfying flavor. That’s a bingo for me and why I’m trying to improve my experience.

Satisfying recipes have a few carefully selected ingredients specifically blended together in pleasing proportions, you don’t just throw whatever together. Same with music, it’s a few notes selected for their harmonic blend, you don’t just play every note in an indiscriminate arrangement. In life, it seems that thoughts are the basic building-blocks we have to work with and it’s in our best interest to deliberately arrange them in a manner we find most pleasing.

Cosmic Accident

Dear Rich, are humans a cosmic accident?

Well dear reader, if you want a thrill-filled and ultimately miserable experience, then yes. But if you want to enjoy your time here, then no. I’ve held both positions at different times in my life, and I can tell you that option-one produces a lot of angst whereas option-two produces a much higher degree of comfort and satisfaction overall.

Option-one, that humans ARE a cosmic accident, entails a belief in a perpetual struggle for survival. It means my ancestors fought and clawed their way into modernity and I am the result of that competitive exertion. And I too must continue this endeavor lest I fall prey to those forces that are stronger than I. And to that end, I am prone to worry so that I’m not caught with my guard down.

Option-two, that humans are NOT a cosmic accident, entails a belief in a world created to take-care of its inhabitants. A cozier idea don’t you think? It takes all the pressure off. I can feel myself relaxing as I contemplate the concept. And guess what? I’m still alive, even thriving, despite the fact that I’ve completely let my guard down. I don’t worry about anything anymore and life chugs-along just fine.

And believe me dear reader, I was a stalwart adherent of option-one. I was so committed in-fact, that I eventually broke under the strain. I became a believer in option-two not because it appealed to me, but because I was beaten into submission by my belief in a cold cruel world. I couldn’t handle it anymore and finally dumped the idea. What filled the void was option-two.

And once I adopted option-two, the obviousness of it was everywhere. I had only imagined the necessity of struggle, when in actuality, none was needed. Sure, I felt like a big dummy for scaring myself silly with a fearful fantasy throughout all those years, but I got over it. Life in general got a lot easier when I stopped imagining the worst. Nowadays, I simply trust that my existence isn’t an accident and it’s made all the difference.

Life is a LOT more enjoyable when you no longer believe in a harsh and uncaring world where vigilance is the only thing keeping you alive. Give up that idea dear reader, and you’ll see a vast improvement in your experience of existence.

Half Confused

Should one simply accept negativity as half of the whole (the other half being positivity)? In other words, is life truly a balance between light and dark, hot and cold, pleasant and unpleasant, pleasure and pain? And therefore: are anger, misery, and worry fundamental aspects of the human experience that we should honor?

No, negativity has no merit. Here’s an example: if wretched things are meant to be honored, then vomit your first meal of the day into a cup and drink it back up. Take some time to honor “disgust” today. Oh? You don’t want to do that? So there’s a line you won’t cross? Then draw the line further: put fear and frustration and all other forms of negativity beyond that line as well.

If there are aspects of negativity that you won’t do, why do any of it? Lashing out in anger. Constantly complaining. Being perpetually pessimistic. The negative aspects of the human experience are NOT fundamental activities that we should perform, they are the manifestation of a mistaken perspective.

If you believe that negativity is something you should practice, you’re confused, and you’re attempting to justify your bewilderment by pretending it’s an inherent part of life. It’s not. Imagine you’re trying to operate a forklift but you don’t know how it works, so you wing-it. From that point on, you assume that whatever you did is how it’s done. When someone finally attempts to explain the correct operation of the forklift, you belligerently tell them that you already know how it works. BUT, it turns out that frequent crashing and dropping boxes is NOT a necessary part of forklift operation.

In the same way, you entered life in a state of complete ignorance. From there, you managed to scrape together a strategy to navigate through the world. But the so-called strategy you devised sucks, and results in a LOT of crashing. Thankfully, it turns out that negativity is NOT a necessary part of life. You don’t need anger, outrage, frustration, regret, fear, worry, misery, pain, or anything else that results in a poor experience.

Life is better than that. YOU are better than that. So stop swilling your own vomit and cut out the negativity. Living life “right” simply begins with NOT purposefully hurting yourself. Life is NOT a struggle unless you make it one. You’re in a shallow pool flailing around like a madman: stop and stand up. Be still for a bit, listen to the quiet, examine the mechanism of existence.

Mechanical Man

Is man mechanical? A mechanical man is subject to defects, wear & tear, environmental conditions, and requires regular maintenance. Is it true though? Fortunately, it’s false. The mechanical-man myth is just another story we tell ourselves to inflict fear through the concept of solidity. By believing ourselves mechanical, we can worry ourselves into an exhilarating tizzy. But really, it’s just another form of masochism.

“Oh no, I’m getting older and the environment is so harsh! Things don’t run as well as they used to! I better perform regular maintenance or my body will never last!” The obvious falseness lies in the fact that not everyone adheres to the mechanical-man theory — yet miraculously, they live long full lives. Mechanical-man believers simply chalk it up to “good genetics” or “luck”, but they’re full of crap.

I know all about the mechanical-man theory because I used to be a believer. My body existed on borrowed time, it was decaying since the day I was born, the sun damaged my skin any chance it could while toxins snuck in from impurities in my food and water. Everything was poisonous! And germs! Don’t forget about the germs that lied in wait until my immune system entered into a weakened state.

But all of my vigilance was for naught. It was delusion, a fantasy of mechanization. To think that my meager efforts at maintenance were actually effective is laughable. I would pick and choose which parts required service and perform strange rituals of repair in hopes that they’d be beneficial.

And these rituals-of-repair regularly change with the fashion of the day. I had to eat a certain way, exert effort in a certain way, and deflect illness in a certain way — but every few years the current methods become out-dated and new methods take their place. Even location matters, as different regions practice different regimens.

As you can see, the mechanical-man myth effectively puts perfection out of reach. And if you do manage to fix one problem, there’s sure to be another following along. What a clever game to keep our attention so captivated by an endless stream of preventative-maintenance and repair. “Another ache! I’m so concerned! What could it be!? I better take action!”

Personally, I’ve chosen not to participate in that game anymore. There are better ways to entertain myself. And would you believe it? I’m still alive! My cunning and vigilance weren’t really keeping me safe. I’m not mechanical after-all! And without the threat of constant mechanical failure, I’m no longer plagued by worry and I’m much happier.

Imperfect Experience

Existence is the experience of imperfection. Imperfection provides reason for action. Whereas if something is in a state of perfection, nothing needs to be done. Therefore, we are constantly striving towards a perfection we hope we never achieve. Imperfection makes things fun.

If you’re not good at something, great! That’s the point! Games, for example, get boring the moment you master them. Excitement emerges when things don’t go as planned. Variety springs forth from imperfect implementations. Sameness is tediousness.

To extract enjoyment, we must accept and appreciate a playful approach towards perfection. We can’t allow ourselves to feel frustrated by a lack of perfection because we truly don’t want to get there. We WANT the condition of imperfection to inspire our efforts.

It’s a game like any other: we should be sincere in our pursuit but not solemnly so. We should genuinely engage in an activity, but not too seriously. We shouldn’t feel disdain for imperfection, but embrace it on an impossible path towards perfection.

Unknowable Truth

The ultimate truth of life, is that absolute truth isn’t knowable. Reality is only ever experienced from a particular perspective. When observed from different positions or at different times, what seemed true no longer is. We can easily witness this phenomenon as we age, yet we rarely regard its significance. Instead of acknowledging the truth of unknowableness, we pick a few “facts” and cling to them as long as we can, telling ourselves that they represent absolute truth.

We play this truth-game for as long as we can. Because these ideas aren’t actually true, they readily collapse whenever we fail to maintain our delusion. We’ll struggle for a bit until we pick a new “truth” to believe in. And on and on we go, attempting to make our leaky boat float, patching it wherever we find weakness. It’s a futile effort of course, but it’s a game we apparently like to play.

For playing this stupid game, we win the stupid prize of a flimsy foundation upon which our life rests. Our life never feels secure because it isn’t. But playing pretend isn’t the problem, the problem lies with trying to extract an absolute truth from these games. Within this world, we can only play: the characters we meet and the circumstances we experience are forms of fiction, not fact.

The things of this world are fictional and fleeting. And because nothing is of substance, it’s all frivolity. In other words: the temporary tales that constitute our experience reveal that it’s all for fun. Solid unchanging facts can be taken seriously, fleeting fiction cannot. Therefore, we purposefully play the truth-game in order to add solemnity and solidity to life.

The opposite is also true. If at any point we find life too intense, we can simply stop playing the truth-game. In other words, we can stop believing in the sources of fear and woe. Monsters disappear when we no longer believe in them. Once we stop fantasizing about the solidity of the world, there is no foundation upon which woe and worry can rest. By accepting and appreciating the ultimate truth of unknowableness, we cease in scaring ourselves — life turns from nasty nightmare into delightful dream.

Experimental Update

A few years ago, I began an experiment in perspective. I stopped thinking of the world as a physical object upon which I was a creature struggling to survive, and began thinking of the world as a virtual experience — like a computer-simulation or a dream. I can now say without a doubt, that the experiment was a success.

Just as an example: within that time, I moved from a single-wide mobile-home in a trailer-park to a two-story top-floor condo in the heart of a beautiful downtown overlooking a park. I invested zero-effort within the external world to achieve that change, it was 100% internal. But keep in mind, it was an intense effort to completely flip my perspective — I spent months and now years dedicated to the idea of “virtuality”.

And guess what? I’m still here! This proves to me that life is NOT about struggling for survival atop a harsh & brutal world that’s hellbent on destroying its inhabitants. It turns out that the experience of existence is actually pretty nice — it was a harsh & brutal perspective that made everything unpleasant.

Is my life currently perfect? No. But is it significantly better? YES, by a long-shot. I no longer bathe in worry, I don’t have existential dread, I more often look for what’s good rather than what’s bad, my frustration with life has lessened, and I believe existence is a benign experience meant to entertain.

When something does suck, I recognize that it’s caused by the turbulence formed from a bad attitude and negative thinking. After a few years of experimental observation, this theory has only proved more true. Life doesn’t suck, I suck at managing my mind. And whenever I mismanage it, bad things are sure to follow. But the reverse is also true, when I DO manage my focus, I have a much better time.

So there you go: by maintaining the illusionary nature of existence in my mind, I’ve been able to vastly improve my experience on Earth. The more I’ve accepted the idea of a virtual reality, the better things have gotten. A lifetime of angst simply vanished — it was all an illusion. I’m no longer lost in a sea of negative thoughts, I’m able to focus on right now.

If you’re looking to improve YOUR experience of existence, I highly recommend a virtual approach to reality.