In-Game Reward

As I was doing something a bit daring, a thought occurred to me: the end of this game isn’t worth NOT taking risks. In other words, there’s nothing to receive at life’s conclusion but “Game Over” — therefore, the ONLY reward to be had is in-game. So if you’re not maximizing enjoyment while on Earth, why not!? But of course, that gets us right back to where we started: a constant quandary about what constitutes a good time, including short-term vs long-term reward and the effects on others, etc.

But that last bit illustrates an important point: don’t over-think it. It seems best to flow with life, finding the fun in every moment. Whereas turbulence is a condition that should be avoided. Imagine sitting in a small boat on a river spending all day in a single spot because you’re attempting to paddle upstream — frustration builds as you’re thrashing and splashing with your oar to fight the flow. But, you could simply hoist your oar and let your boat flow downstream — yes, the familiar no longer lingers as the scenery rapidly changes, but that’s life. Fighting to maintain the familiar is a poor strategy.

Welcome the change. Imagine watching a movie where the actors never leave the scene and nothing ever differs — that’s a bad movie. Life too becomes drudgery if you never allow the scenes to flip from one to the next. Drastic change is what SHOULD happen, that’s what turns the doldrums into a thrilling adventure. If you’re not receiving a bit of thrill, you’re not really riding the roller-coaster, you’re sitting on the sidelines wondering why everything’s so dull. You’re what’s dull!! So take the risk and let life sharpen your edges as you flow through it.

At the end of your time, your character’s dead either way. There’s no bonus points for remaining the quietest, having less bruises, the least failures, or for longevity. The points are cashed in-game only — so spend them now. Live life NOW. The game keeps sending me this message: align with life and there is no struggle. In other words, the stress and strain I experience is all self-induced. Let go of the rope that ties you to the static shore, the dynamic journey awaits.

Grit Rushing

When you’re using sandpaper to smooth a surface, you start with lower/rougher grits and move your way up through higher and finer grits. For example, I might start with 150 grit to flatten out rough spots, but that leaves the surface a bit fuzzy feeling, so then I move up to 320 for a finer finish. If I want to get closer to an eggshell shine, I’ll follow that with 600 grit. And sometimes for the fun of it, I’ll go up to 1000 or even 2000 grit — the wood I use won’t really attain that level of sheen but I try anyway.

Okay, so what happens when you get impatient and rush through the grits? Maybe you’re sanding some wood or sharpening a knife or glossing up epoxy-resin. Well, if you switch to a higher grit too soon, the deep scratches from the courser grits won’t disappear, you’ll just get some shiny spots alongside the gashes. But you’re so anxious to see your reflection that you rush through the grits!

In life, I think I rushed through the grits. In many ways, I never got past pre-K. Just basic things like sleeping and using the toilet are actual challenges for me on a regular basis. I obviously have some deep gaps in knowledge. I suppose I skipped some early grits and wanted to get right to the final polishing. In gaming vernacular, you could call it a “speedrun”. Just get to the end!! Screw the build-up process and the prerequisites! I’m ready to graduate NOW!!

Thankfully, life isn’t an experience in which one must struggle for survival amidst a harsh and unforgiving landscape. I’ll be fine. Despite continually ignoring the basics, I’ve made it this far. That really says something about the degree to which life is willing to support and encourage my existence. It makes for an abrupt and disjointed narrative, but I don’t care. Life catches me struggling and says “Oops! You should be here by now sweetie!” and places me there anyway.

Not sure I’ll be getting high-score on this round guys….

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.

Foothold Summary

1. Life is a game, and the objective is a life well-lived.

2. The goal of everyday is to form my thoughts into delightful arrangements that evoke joy.

3. Reality is a dream and I’m the dreamer, so anything is possible — and control of this experience comes from my focus.

4. If I’m feeling bad, it means I must fix my focus.

5. Memory is not a mechanism to rely on, it’s a faulty storyteller.

6. Consistently become aware of right-now — and in that space, select something delightful to focus on.

7. My career is mental discipline.

8. A life well-lived comes from harnessing rampant thoughts — keep improving through continual practice.

Year Eight

Life IS a quandary, and the answer to this puzzle isn’t mere realization, that’s too simple. The answer lies in a life well-lived. To complete any game, you have to actually overcome the obstacles it sets forth, not simply realize their existence.

Spoiler Alert! To live life well, one must cultivate and maintain the right attitude and perspective. It’s not what you physically do, it’s how you perceive what you do that counts. But make no mistake, finding and retaining the right outlook is a difficult task.

I’ve had revelation after revelation over the years. “WOW! That’s IT! I’ve got it now! I finally understand!!” But those moments quickly pass and life returns to what I’m used to. I haven’t had the tactics or discipline to maintain the momentum of my epiphanies.

This blog for example, is the primary method I’ve used to log my thoughts. Tomorrow will mark the 8-year anniversary since my first post. I have written-evidence of all those insights over the years. So in one sense, I get it. But in another sense, I’ve been unable to consistently apply those insights to my daily life.

Therefore, that’s what I’m working on nowadays: the consistent application of a greater perspective into my daily life. To do that, I’m attempting to maintain an awareness of “now”. Because in this moment, right now, I have the ability to select whatever it is I want to focus on. And what I want to focus on, are thoughts and experiences that evoke appreciation and delight, comfort and contentment, confidence and competence, lighthearted amusement and an overall enjoyment of life.

In so doing, I’ll achieve a life well-lived and therefore win this game.

Persistent Focus

Picture a lack of persistent focus this way: You want to thread a needle in order to sew something up. You focus very intently on the end-of-the-thread and the eye-of-the-needle, lining them up about a half-inch away from one another. You can see with just a bit of forward movement the thread will easily enter the eye. The goal is so close and the conclusion is obvious. Now on to something new! You look out the window at the rustling leaves on the nearest tree. Your hand with the thread moves in the direction of the needle and it misses.

With whatever you want in life, you can’t simply “set it and forget it”. You have to see it through, keeping your focus on it the entire time. This isn’t “babysitting” it, you’re engaging with it. You WANT to watch it happen, seeing it unfold before you — that’s the point of doing it. When you watch a movie for example, you’re not simply skipping to the end, you’re watching the events progress and conclude. In the same way, don’t just devise a goal and wish for it’s hasty conclusion, maintain your focus in an interested way.

If you’re not showing interest, why bother finishing it — right? It’s like playing a game on your phone in the middle of a movie, who cares how the movie ends, you’re obviously not interested anymore — stop the movie and move on. Similarly, if you’re not following your goals along and taking daily interest, why bother seeing them through to the end, you’re not that interested. This is why you need persistent focus in order to get results. If you simply say: “I want a better life!” and then you do what you usually do, it’s not gonna work obviously.

You have to maintain a persistent focus on this goal of yours. You have to delve into it. What would you actually change? What parts need improvement? Is anything already good as-is? What’s the better stuff you’d want to experience? Can you provide some details, perhaps dig-up some examples? What would your improved daily schedule be like? In other words, you should focus so much and so often that the details of your goal become ingrained in your thoughts. With this level of considered attention aimed at your goal, you’ll surely thread the needle.

Finding a Foothold

I spent most of my life just trying to get a grasp on what’s happening here. I became conscious in the 80s and was freaked-out by all the high-hair, garish makeup, outlandish clothes, strange music, bizzare gyrations, unpalatable food, tedious routines, random violence, and cheesecake. I didn’t get it, was it cake in the form of a pie? And why cream-cheese!? That stuff belongs on bagels.

I honestly didn’t understand the setting I found myself in. I couldn’t deal with the life I was living. What am I supposed to do here!? I spent a lot of time watching TV, which didn’t really explain anything, in fact it probably made things worse. I would spend the next few decades completely lost, trying to get a foothold on ANYTHING. I was seeking solid truth, but I was in Wonderland.

Looking back, it’s painfully obvious that this is not an objective physical reality that I’m experiencing. This is in fact a highly subjective virtuality that I’m experiencing. I think the closest analogy would be a dream — and I’m the dreamer. And the things I think about and focus-on flow in and out of my experience. There’s a narrative for sure, but I’m the one telling it.

I’m at mid-game now and it’s about time I figured this out. I’ve been so unfocused that I’ve been seeing the most haphazardly slapped together world I could imagine. It’s truly embarrassing the stuff I’ve been giving all my attention to. Okay, no more of that nonsense, it’s on to bigger and better things. Everyday, and all throughout the day I’m now focusing on the stuff I actually WANT to experience.

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.

Hard Work

I’ve never had ANY inclination towards a professional career. Ever since I was a kid, people would ask what I wanted to be when I grew up and I never had an answer, all I could say was “I don’t know”. It always made me uncomfortable that I didn’t have an answer. And a few decades later, guess what? I STILL don’t know what I should be doing with my time and efforts. I often wonder if I’ll stumble into some sort of career at some point.

I’ve primarily engaged in hobby-level activities. For example: tinkering with computers, writing essays (blogging), making digital art, watching YouTube, playing the tin-whistle & recorder, whittling wood, shooting Nerf & air-soft guns, flying toy drones, playing video-games. I did attempt to become a professional computer-guy & programmer for a few years and I was finally excited to answer the question “so, what do you do for a living?”. But that career was short-lived.

I often hear people praising the virtues of “hard work” and “working hard” and I kinda shrink up, feeling a bit embarrassed. They say things like “earning your keep” and “paving your own way” and a bunch of other stuff in honor of the Protestant Work Ethic. In one sense, I don’t have a desire to “work hard”, but in another sense I feel guilty about not grinding away at some laborious task. I do like hangin-out and passing time in frivolous ways — it just seems like I shouldn’t.

But why not!? Now that I’m starting to understand that life isn’t serious-business, that I’m not engaged in a constant struggle for survival amidst a harsh and brutal landscape, I’m starting to lose this self-imposed constraint. Of course I should be having fun, that’s the POINT!! If life’s a simulation, which I believe it is, the purpose of any game is to enjoy oneself — so if you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.

I’ve been plagued by these contradictory beliefs my whole life: on one hand, I lack the aspiration to participate in a professional career — on the other hand, I seem to believe that professionalism is a necessary component of self-worth and success i.e. if you’re not a “chef” or “engineer” or whatever, what are you? You can’t simply be “Rich”!? Well one of these contradictory beliefs has to give, and guess which one it’s gonna be?

Relatedly, I’m approaching a test, a deadline. So the question becomes: will I be able to maintain my frivolousness and prove myself worthy of a carefree lifestyle? As the deadline nears, all my external effort is invested in frivolity, tasks that lack utilitarian value. Whereas internally, I’m focusing my thoughts on the enjoyment of existence. There’s no going back now, nor would I want to. Onward! To the lighthearted life!

English Class

It was the early 90s and Mr. Haviland seemed straight out of a different era. While many of us wore baseball caps with t-shirts and jeans, this guy had an actual suit on — with posture and diction to match. He’d often refer to us as Mister or Miss so-and-so — always proper and always polite. Although he wasn’t physically intimidating, his demeanor demanded respect.

A teacher from a bygone age acting his part. We students acted our part too, a listless bunch that didn’t care. We weren’t unique in our disposition of course, we simply expressed it in a manner appropriate to the times we were in. Skateboards, metal-bands, and ridiculing “try-hards” (people that actually cared and tried to do well). Think Beavis and Butt-Head.

While Mr. Haviland proceeded on his anachronistic course, we proceeded on ours — a civil exchange nonetheless. At this point, you’re probably waiting to hear a poignant anecdote. Unfortunately, I don’t have one. I’m not a storyteller. I mention all this simply to remember an interesting character I once knew. I’ve always been in awe at how well he performed his role.

He seemed to enjoy who he was and never varied, a polished professional. I was a freshman when he was my teacher but our paths last crossed in study-hall when he was the teacher-in-charge — taking attendance and doing whatever teachers did (grading papers I’d assume). I never saw him after that. I heard he retired not too many years later, having worked there for a few decades.

In life, there are those that relish their well-defined roles and there are those that avoid being pinned-down by labels. But are those living as nonconformists simply acting out the role of “contrarian” in their wholesale rejection of the status quo? Instead of some “square” that sold his soul to the system, perhaps Mr. Haviland was the most Zen-like of us all.