Spiritual Sensei

Without control of your thoughts, you’re lost. Your turbulent mind is going to take you on a wild ride that you won’t soon forget. If you can’t shut your thoughts down or can’t differentiate between worthwhile ones and worthless ones, you’re going to have a hard time. If you think you can handle that level of difficulty, which maybe you can, have fun. But for those of you having an unpleasant time with existence, there’s a less intense route through this funhouse.

It’s called spirituality. The purpose of spirituality is to ease your journey through life — that’s it. Spirituality is a way of looking at the world that allows you to comfortably navigate through it. You CAN look at life as a struggle, and it’ll be every bit as hard as you imagine. But you CAN look at life as an enjoyable adventure, and it will be.

“But Sensei Rich, reality is what it is, life is cruel and hard, I’ve seen it!”

Then why are some people having a great time? Reality is relative or else everyone would be having a tough time. Everyone has obstacles, yes, but the difference is that they enjoy the experience. They see the game-like nature of life and have fun while completing the provided challenges. But it’s even better than that, once you get in the right frame of mind, you get to pick the problems you want to solve.

And this ability to appreciate life begins with spirituality. Step one, is to get your thoughts under control. Step two, is to redefine reality into something you can handle. Step three, is to enjoy. Not so bad right? Then what are you waiting for? Your options are these: keep doing what you’re doing and continue having a rough time OR pursue spirituality and start having a great time. Seems like an easy choice, yes?

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Over-examined Life

Dear Rich, if I’m so smart, why am I so miserable? Shouldn’t I be able to think my way out of this?

Why dear reader, the very source of your misery IS your thinking. It’s your over-analyzing that is robbing you of so much fun. Thinking and analyzing doesn’t make you smart — if anything, such dull diversion makes you dumb. How is it smart to preoccupy yourself with blathering nonsense while engaged in the great extravaganza of existence?

Happy people are such, because they don’t think — they experience. My apologies dear reader, in regards to your stupidity, but it’s the greatest folly to believe yourself smart when in actuality you couldn’t be any dumber. You need this blow to your ego for it has set you up for failure in the highest regard. Like a con-artist, your thoughts have fooled you into believing in their preeminence.

Yet nothing could be further from the truth. You’re an ignorant idiot. But luckily for you dear reader, you have just heard the truth. Now you can finally get to work on shutting down that mental chatter and start living the good life! Congratulations! Why to finally have that mental blockage out of the way — the good-times are surely coming your way.

Can you believe it? Those ever-present thoughts have been slowly poisoning your experience this entire time. But through the power of discipline, you will now shut them down, turning off the spout that’s been spreading toxicity. Now is the time to demonstrate your superior ability and outwit those mischievous musings — that is, if you’re up to the challenge.

Intro to Buddhism

There’s an underlying dissatisfaction that we experience in life. Typically, we blame this dissatisfaction on a particular circumstance that we believe is fixable sometime in the future.

For example: “I’m currently unsatisfied with life because I’m ten-pounds overweight.” In this scenario, everything that goes wrong can be blamed on being ten-pounds overweight. This small problem serves as a scapegoat for the underlying dissatisfaction with life: “Oh boy, when I eventually lose the weight, EVERYTHING is going to be awesome!”

But what happens when the ten-pounds IS lost? Uh-oh, the dissatisfaction doesn’t disappear. Now a new scapegoat must be found. And it’s best to find a problem that’s fixable in the future (but not too soon!). If the problem doesn’t have an obvious solution, then frustration will set in. And if you can’t find a small problem, you’ll likely accept a larger more daunting one.

OR, you can stop using scapegoats altogether, and tackle the broader dissatisfaction that’s been underlying life this whole time. It’s doable, but not by attaining something on the outside. It’s brought about by cultivating an inner satisfaction, a sense of satiety no matter what you’re served. And that journey begins and ends now, literally.

Long-story-short: Through mindfulness, quiet all intrusive thoughts and develop a perspective that allows you to trust and appreciate life.

Well-wishing World

If you attempt to get through the world as if it’s a purely physical place, you’ll tend to think of yourself as an only slightly evolved animal. But when we think of animals in their natural habitats (whether true or not), we tend to think of them on high-alert. Either they need to escape predation, or defend against rivals, or scour for a source of food. The world doesn’t care about them — each animal must fend for itself within a harsh and brutal landscape. And similarly, when we think of ourselves as human animals, we tend to go on high-alert.

Another name for high-alert is high-anxiety — we worry ourselves to death thinking about all that could go wrong in the world. But here’s the thing: not everyone is on high-alert — and they’re no worse off than those that are — in fact, they’re prospering and enjoying life. What this evidence demonstrates is: as humans, we are NOT living within a harsh and brutal landscape. And those that believe themselves to be, are confused. And unfortunately, high-anxiety is a symptom of this confusion.

The remedy to confusion is enlightenment. And enlightenment is the realization that everything is okay. You could say the point of spirituality is this: Be calm and trust that the world wants you well. Worry won’t protect you — if the world was truly a random affair, it could end you a million different ways before you ever realized what was coming. The only power that worry provides is the ability to make your experience of existence unpleasant. It’s a stupid power to utilize.

But if it’s already on, you’ll have to turn it off. And the way to do that, is to undermine it. Anxiety is built on a foundation of fearful beliefs — these must be dismantled and replaced with beliefs that instill calm and trust. Fear is not a protector, just a trickster that gets your heart racing. Perhaps you’ve even developed a nasty addiction to the thrill fear provides and refuse to see past the hole you’ve hidden yourself within. To move forward: trust there’s a way out when you look for the light.

My Mid90s

Mid-90s for me was late high school. I could sense my sentence coming to an end. I began to isolate myself. I quit band and lacrosse and barely socialized at lunch. Even though it was almost over, it wasn’t relief I felt. What was I going to do now? At least in school I had a set-place to go, assigned things to do, I had acquaintances.

But f*ck school, man. Just a piece of sh*t prison by another name. Well that’s how I felt anyway, a suburban kid in an upper-middle-class town near Boston. On the outside, this is an uninteresting story — it reflects a boring motionless time — but on the inside, an intense adventure raged on.

I was visited by the triptych of fear, uncertainty, and doubt. And on top of that, more loneliness than I ever felt. My time was spent wrestling with those feelings and the dour images they inspired. I ended up continuing school in the form of college. To belabor the prison analogy, I was sentenced with a combination of house-arrest and probation for the next few years.

In college, I knew no one. There was no time to form acquaintanceships. But do you know what happened in the mid-90s? Windows 95 was released. And do you know what happened not long after that? An explosion in the popularity of personal-computers — the PC era was born. And do you know what followed that? An explosion in the popularity of online-services (AOL, Prodigy, CompuServe). And you obviously know what happened next? THIS. The Internet became a global phenomenon.

But back to online-services. Within those silly-little text-boxes, I was able to chat with people from around the country. I could finally interact with people in a way that felt comfortable. And I did just that, for a few years at least. It was at the end of the mid-90s when I met my friend (on an online-service, in a chat-room of course).

So the narrative I experienced in the mid-90s can be summed-up as this:
1. Self-isolation and the resulting loneliness.
2. Discovery of a new platform of communication.
3. Awakening as a communicative being.
4. The foundation of a lifelong friendship.

That’s a tidy little narrative don’t you think? How can something like that happen within a physical-world based on random-chance? Sounds a little too coincidental, no? My character’s lack fulfilled by a deus-ex-machina-level intervention? Hmm. But I appreciate it, without doubt. My life after meeting my friend was much improved.

Bad Days

I had a bad day yesterday that also bled into today. In this instance, a bad day is defined as a day in which a series of unpleasant circumstances occur — and in many cases, these circumstances are clearly outside of the experiencer’s control (for example, a scheduled package never arrives or a website goes down).

I’d liken it to a roller coaster ride. Once you get on, there’s no getting off, and the intensity is too high to see anything but the particular scene that’s playing right in front of you — there’s no time for reflection.

And even though experiencing all those uncomfortable scenes in a row is an obvious tip-off to the artificiality of it all — it’s still hard to break out of it. For instance, I was drowsy and had a headache all morning — making it difficult to concentrate.

From past experience I know the roller coaster ride eventually comes to an end — then I’m so glad it’s over, I forget everything that just happened and go along my merry way.

A bad day serves as actual evidence that the things we’re experiencing within this world are manufactured. And if the circumstances are fake, then a world so-malleable must be too.

The question becomes: did I unwittingly write this stupid tangent — or is something external punishing me for some reason — or is this a scheduled hardship in my greater narrative? And the questioning continues: is there anything I can do to short-cut this nonsense or prevent it from occuring?

I know it’s fake but my mind gets so cloudy and keeps reverting back to the discomfort I’m feeling. Perhaps it’s part of a Harrison Bergeron style handicap placed on characters — without which, we’d be playing in god-mode, but as we know from video-games, god-mode gets boring fast.

I suppose the conclusion always comes back to this: if given the option of an easy time on Earth, we wouldn’t take it as evidenced by the fact that we don’t have an easy time. In other words, if we’re truly an infinite-being playing as a virtual character, we at some point chose to play the game exactly how it’s currently set-up.

Being it’s creator, we could have played ANY way possible, but we selected THIS option. That means THIS is the most engaging scenario we could devise. That means the discomfort we experience is part of the fun. After all, overcoming obstacles is the very foundation of every game we play, is it not?

Wandering Wrongly

Dear Rich, I’m a bit unhappy with life, what’s up with that?

Well dear reader, from my experience it typically means that at some point, you developed a fundamental misunderstanding of life. Fortunately, information that can correct this exists — unfortunately, because of your misunderstanding, you wouldn’t recognize it by simply stumbling across it — it’d just seem like nonsense.

The typical pattern then proceeds as follows: at some point along the way, you’ll become so unhappy with life that you’ll eventually reject and abandon every idea you ever believed in. With this blank slate, you’ll be ready to receive new information — and the only ideas left, will be the ones that more-accurately explain the fundamentals of life.

In other words, because of your misunderstanding, you’ll keep going in every wrong direction until eventually, only the correct direction remains. That makes it sound like you’re a moron, but that’s not true — you’re simply an ignorant noob that has no idea what you’re doing.

Is there a way to shortcut this wandering? I’d say, why bother. You have to do something while you’re here on Earth, right? So the search for understanding is as fun a path as any, and certainly as meaningful — don’t you think? And let’s say you did shortcut it, then what? What do you think people that understand the fundamental nature of life do?

Even if you became the most enlightened person possible, you still gotta keep busy. If you examine the people that look like they’re having a great time, they’re doing normal everyday stuff — the only difference is that they appreciate it, and through that appreciation they thoroughly enjoy it.

I mean yeah, there’s some things you could do to make things easier on yourself now, for sure. But that takes trust and dedication — and I’m just not sure you’re ready. What do you think?