Lost in Darkness

An excerpt from the fictional tales of The Wandering Monk.

When I think of the Garden of Eden, I don’t think of man’s expulsion as physical, but perception based. In other words, man remained in the general proximity but began interpreting his surroundings as unpleasant, seeing the good as gross. And likewise, man’s entrance into Heaven is the realignment of his perception, seeing only good.

Biblically then, the teachings of Jesus are the light by which man finds his way back to paradise. By abandoning brutish negativity and adopting limitless forgiveness, man releases his grip on darkness and opens his heart to the light. Eden surrounds, but man can only appreciate this when he’s open to receive.

There are those that walk a resplendent earth with an open heart and those that crawl upon a desolate rock, closed-off to the beauty. Heaven is here, but so is Hell. We choose our experience by the love and acceptance we maintain within.


Sweet Release

There’s a role we’re assigned to play and we know this because we each have preset preferences guiding our path. Our job is to be this character, following his inclinations at each fork. Where we get tripped up, is when we don’t trust the script and we’re too afraid to follow the prescribed path.

When we lack trust, we get anxious, we get irritable, we freeze, and sometimes we lash out from feeling cornered. We also become terribly selfish, grabbing and hoarding whatever we can for fear of losing it. Yet this nervous beast is not our authentic self, it’s merely the result of resisting our preferences.

Imagine needing to use the toilet really badly, but you hold it in. You’re obviously going to have an uncomfortable time at whatever event you’re attending. You’ll be preoccupied with pee or poop, fecally fixated, everything underlined with urine. But the moment you obtain sweet release upon that golden throne, you’re okay, it’s back to the buffet.

So in life, we must release the pent-up fear we’re harboring. We must respect and align with the path before us. To do this, we must develop a belief system that supports fearlessness. We must believe that life has our best interests at heart. We must reject any idea of randomness, replacing it with a pattern of positivity. We must see life as a party in which we’re all honored guests.

Random Belief

I’m surrounded by people wracked with anxiety. For instance, panic-attack is a common term I hear. And in my own dealings with life, I was always worried about everything. I could tell you dozens of ways in which every circumstance was dangerous or why every plan wouldn’t work. But I stopped worrying and stopped my incessant pessimism. How? I stopped believing in randomness.

I was taught early on by pop-culture that existence was a random occurrence. Not only were my origins random, but my time spent on Earth was just as random. What I do here and when I leave boil down to luck. Well that sucks. Diseases, accidents, murderous rampages, catastrophic weather patterns, astroids, exploding suns, bacteria — even my income, who I marry, whether my kids are jerks — everything was essentially random. I was a powerless pawn in a natural world that didn’t care one whit about me or my path.

I would get sad just thinking about it — my mind filling with existential angst. And I couldn’t not think about it, it was the very foundation of reality. Yet I noticed there were people that weren’t constantly frightened — and they were having a great time. But I couldn’t be like those blissfully ignorant fools, I knew too well the endless dangers of this world — oh woe is me, and my superior knowledge and intellect.

I was completely confident in how the world worked, fully aware that calamity could strike at any moment. But then something happened. I kept getting older. I was so sure that I wouldn’t survive past my early twenties. I was so sure that I’d never meet a significant-other. I was so sure that bad things would constantly happen — except they didn’t. I’m still here. Huh!? And let me tell ya folks, I’ve done jack-shit in terms of keeping myself afloat, I’ve just drifted through life pretty effortlessly.

The hardships I’ve endured existed solely within my own imagination. It turned out that the mysterious entity that was seemingly out to get me, was me. I was casting the shadows hiding in every closet, under every bed. So after I noticed how old I was and how easy life had been over the years, I finally stopped scaring myself. There was just nothing left to base my anxiety on. Randomness wasn’t real — but my negative attitude was all too real.

Randomness is a damaging belief. It’s crippling to believe that lightning could strike us at any moment. Therefore, traveling through life in an enjoyable manner requires we abandon the idea of randomness and seek to see an underlying programming that’s directing and balancing the action. We should think of life as a fulfillment generator — whatever we wish, we’ll soon see. And for our part, we must keep our thoughts filled with the things that delight and excite, eschewing negativity whenever it surfaces.

Spectrum of Engagement

I think people are at different levels of engagement with life.

For instance, there’s those that are completely lost to life, fully immersed while believing this is all there is. What they see is what they get. They’re taking the game super seriously and typically have behaviors reflecting it. For instance, they might have high-anxiety or frustration or sadness and they’re likely to have a selfish/self-centered attitude, too tuned for self-preservation.

Then on the other end of the spectrum, there’s those that don’t take life seriously at all. They’re probably always talking about some spiritual mumbo-jumbo that doesn’t make sense to anyone but themselves. They’re super-easy going, so much so that they’re unreliable since they’re barely there.

Then there’s people in the middle who have some balance in their perspective. To effectively play a game, any game, players need a certain perspective — not too close and not too far. To be too serious, is to suck out the fun and replace it with a fear of losing. And to be too aloof, is to have no structure and thus no game — games require structure and active participation.

People in the middle aren’t lost, they use their moderate perspective to maintain a healthy and wholesome view of life and the game they’re playing. They have a sense of humor that allows them to laugh at life and at themselves.

For reference, I started out in the super-serious camp and am trying to get into the middle camp by introducing myself to topics popular among the aloof bunch. There’s a balance to achieve and maintain. I have a friend that pretty much defaulted to the middle path, and I’ve used her as a model to aid in altering my perspective.

She leans towards taking life too seriously at times whereas nowadays I often lean towards not taking it seriously at all — but I think it fluctuates. For instance, I was on the toilet last night, and something I had eaten earlier didn’t agree with me. Let’s just say I was uncomfortable. But then I said “AHA! I caught you life! You’re trying to engage my senses, making me think I’m a biological being on the bowl!”

Well that put an end to my discomfort and I went along my merry way. Life is always trying to engage my senses and I really appreciate the entertainment value. But, I have to watch out so that I don’t allow the cheap-thrills to serve as a means of excitement lest more come wandering in. Only high-quality entertainment for me thanks! Like laughing with companions, celebrating life’s bounty — just the lighthearted stuff.

Lost to Thought

I enjoy getting lost in thought and often seek to do so. But I used to follow any stimulating idea that crossed my mind — I’d go down gloomy labyrinths fraught with thoughts of doom. And that was a mistake of course, as it led me down too many dank alleyways awash with sewer that stuck even upon exit. You don’t eat something just because it’s on your plate do you? No, rotten food should be discarded — and it’s the same with rotten ideas.

Rotten thoughts are those that poison the mind — not only are they initially unpleasant but their effects linger long after the introduction. When they knock, it’s our job not to invite them in — no matter how persistent they may be. It’s a skill to block thought though — but it’s an ability we can practice and improve upon. For instance, we have to regularly poll our emotional state: How am I feeling? Good? Good. How am I feeling? Sad.. scared.. seething..? ALERT! ALERT! ALERT!

Sir! We have a situation. All indications are that we’re currently experiencing emotional distress.

All stations CODE RED! I repeat, all stations CODE RED! Shut this down immediately! DO IT! GO! GO! GO! This must be contained, or it could blow at any minute!

Sir! We’ve successfully ceased all physical and mental activity, we’ve gone into meditative mode and we’re quietly waiting out the shockwave.

Sir! I’m proud to report that there have only been minor leaks to the outside — nothing unmanageable. Residual aftershocks are being dealt with as they roll in and the initial cause for upsetness has been defused through a reset in perspective.

How am I feeling? Good? Good.

Eventually, the process of recognizing and rebuffing unconstructive thoughts becomes more automatic. And instead of periodic polling, we can use the heightened emotions themselves to trigger a recognition response, effortlessly setting the whole deactivation sequence in motion.

So it’s rare that I get completely lost within my thoughts anymore. I’ll certainly wander without knowing where I’m going, but my sense of direction is better, I can tell where home is, and I’m more street-savvy, knowing which avenues to avoid.

Middle Path

What are we looking for when we begin an activity? We’re looking to get lost in the activity. We’re looking to become so captivated that we forget everything but the task at hand — and so focused that we block out everything except what’s in front of us. That’s pretty much true with existence too. Life ensnares our attention to keep us constantly engaged. And if we step back a bit we can recognize the artificial process powering the spectacle — we can see there’s an underlying narrative to life.

Ordinarily we don’t need to think about the mechanics of a game, we just play it. But what happens when we become too overwhelmed by the intensity of a game, when we take it too seriously? Typically, we’ll fail to enjoy ourselves. The game will become a burden, perhaps even a torturous experience. At that point we could rage-quit, or we could step back a bit, perhaps take some time to understand the fundamentals of the game better and most importantly take a more lighthearted approach.

This is where the path to enlightenment comes in. It’s not some beam that sucks us up into the heavens upon attainment, it’s simply the way in which we learn to better engage with existence. When we develop problems with life itself, it shows we’re taking things much too seriously — we’re spoiling our own gameplay. Enlightenment is what allows us to reset ourselves to the middle, where life is not too somber or too silly (a game played too frivolously is no fun either).

Enlightenment alters our perspective of the world, allowing us to understand the game-like nature of it all. Fears and frustrations melt away as we see the fiction before us. And we like games and stories of all sorts, so no fun is lost along the way — only enhanced. There’s no pressure to perform anymore, the past doesn’t matter, there’s nothing in the future to lose, and we realize that the point of every game is simply the enjoyment we receive from engaging.

Order Up

Some people enjoy cheesecake. I do not. And although I find it difficult to comprehend, I realize that some people don’t enjoy chocolate cake (an actual cake by the way, not some pie-like abomination). An array of options exist in the world, some we like, some we don’t. What a horrible habit it is to focus on those options we don’t enjoy.

I had that habit for many many years and suffered accordingly. Although we don’t realize it, our emotions are optional too. I regularly ignore fear, sadness, disgust, and anger. They come to visit sure, but I no longer invite them in. I no longer sit with them and listen to their stories. And if they persist, I berate and belittle them until they shrink away. And as expected, I’m much more satisfied with life.

Some people do enjoy sad sentimental tales, they delight in the feeling of tears flowing down their face. I do not. Some people appreciate the thrill of a good fright, they relish the feeling of a pounding heart. I do not. Yet I spent so much time wishing these options didn’t exist instead of exploring the options I did like.

It’s not my right to remove cheesecake from the menu. Nor is it my right to eradicate sadness and fear as emotional fodder. The polite approach in life is to order the items we do like and stop worrying whether we’ll be served the wrong ones. And if the wrong plate is set before us, we must find a way to enjoy our evening nonetheless.