Focus Game

Think about it this way. Perhaps life doesn’t know exactly what you want, plus the process of “selecting” is fun. Shopping is an example of this: it’s enjoyable to evaluate, reject, and eventually select an item that’s “just right”.

So there you are: center-screen like the spaceship in Astroids, and all these items come drifting towards you (like astroids). But in this game, you use your focus to capture items — like a tractor-beam. To do well, you’ll want to aim at items that interest you — while avoiding items that are undesirable. If you do capture an item that displeases you, it has a poison-like effect that lingers and lowers your stamina. Whereas delightful items temporarily boost your stamina — so keep focusing on and collecting the good stuff, it’s fun.

Sometimes big nasty things get in the way and block your field-of-view. Now what!? You can’t even see anything pleasant to aim at. You’re stuck!! Or are you? Zoom out, obviously. Stop focusing on that giant nasty object — immediately. Concentrate on pulling-back — keep going until that nasty object becomes as small as everything else. Don’t curse its presence, don’t poke it to see if it hurts, simply zoom out until you find something better to focus on. Widen your perspective, go beyond the smallness of your ship.

The items coming at you consist of EVERYTHING, so you have to be choosy. Don’t like it? Don’t pick it. Complaining about its presence IS focusing on it. You must only contemplate the things you truly want to collect. That’s the game, and games are challenging. Sometimes a nasty object will capture your attention and you won’t realize until the poison-like effect kicks-in. It’ll take all your effort to stop staring and zoom the heck out. But good luck out there and have a great game!

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Telling Tales

Can you tell yourself a story that’ll make you upset? For instance: “I just heard a noise and I’m pretty sure it’s zombies that came to destroy me.” If you can do that, does that mean you can also tell yourself a story that’ll make you feel good? For example: “I just heard a noise and I’m pretty sure it’s Santa Claus that came to deliver an early Christmas present — I can’t wait to open it!!!”

And what if you keep telling yourself pleasant stories from now on? THAT is how you have a great life. Perpetually telling yourself stories that make you feel good, while refraining from telling yourself stories that make you feel bad, is mental discipline. Neither story is necessarily true, they’re merely inspired by true events.

You have a choice in every situation: tell yourself a dour tale or a delightful one. And because YOU get to make that choice, it means YOU decide whether you have a great life or a nasty one. It’s that simple: if you’re going to keep telling stories to yourself, you might as well make them as pleasant as possible.

Standing Guard

Do you agree that thoughts form the foundation of the life you experience?

Yes! Most assuredly!

And in order to have the best life possible, you must tend to your mental garden? Negative thoughts must be plucked like weeds and positive thoughts must be planted like seeds?

Of course! How else can the mind grow into a delightful space!?

So let me ask you this, how much time during the day do you spend at this task?

Uh, say wha now? Oh, um, a few minutes per day perhaps.

Ah, well with that, I believe we found the underlying reason as to why you can’t sleep at night. Because you already sleep all day! You’re constantly running on autopilot, shirking your gardening duties and letting everything in your mind run amok! There’s weeds everywhere!

Listen: to be “awakened” literally means to be awake and aware of what’s happening throughout the day. You can’t let yourself fall into autopilot all day long. You actually need to do some work to achieve a well-groomed mind. And that work is this: don’t allow negative thoughts to take root, pull them whenever you find them. You’ll have to regularly scan through your mental-garden to know they’re there.

I know it seems like a burden for you to put effort into something, but that’s the trade-off. You get a beautiful joy-filled garden if you cultivate and maintain it, whereas you get an overgrown litter-box if you allow it to go wild. You must remain present throughout the day and be aware of what’s going on in your mind. You can’t just “checkout” and let “whatever” happen.

You’re always like “blah blah, I don’t have any goals or purpose, blah”. THIS is your purpose!!! Garden! Actually DO IT! The message has been repeated before your very eyes ONE-THOUSAND TIMES over the course of your life. Now DO IT! There is no drawback to this. Yes it seems like “a lotta hassle” but the payoff is a thousand times better than not doing it. Just stay awake and aware throughout the day, that’s it!

Loving What Is – Summary

This is my summary/interpretation of the book Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life by Byron Katie.

Four Questions:
1. Is it true?
2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
3. How do you react when you believe that thought?
4. Who would you be without the thought?

Thoughts are forever flowing through our head. For the most part, thoughts themselves aren’t even true, they’re just a haphazard selection of ideas flying by our attention. Some of these thoughts cause us to feel bad — and we need to understand that there’s a cause-and-effect going on: negative thoughts cause us to feel bad. It’s not the external circumstance that causes the problem, it’s the negative thought about that circumstance that causes the problem — that’s it. When we imagine ourself in the same situation but without the thought, the situation always seems better.

In addition: it turns out that we are to blame for all our problems. Everything we think others should do, WE should do instead.

Whenever we believe that thoughts represent truth, we’ll suffer with stress. Like breathing, thinking happens automatically — and like the air we breathe, thoughts flow in and out. There’s no problems until we attempt to hold one in or keep one out — just let the thoughts flow unimpeded.

Everything that happens SHOULD happen. Don’t attempt to argue against something that already happened — it’s a recipe for pain.

We must mind our own business and stay out of everyone else’s business (including reality’s business). Attempting to control the world and everyone in it is a recipe for stress.

Unpleasant feelings are an indication that we are believing a negative thought. When we use unpleasantness as a means to find these thoughts, we can perceive their falseness and their ability to cause pain.

All the answers we need are within us. Essentially, when left alone, life takes care of itself. Any problems we experience are due to a belief in false thoughts. Stop believing in these pain-producing thoughts and life readily works itself out.

The external world we experience is a direct reflection of our thinking. We project our thoughts and stories onto the screen in front of us. It’s a bad idea to run over to the screen to try and change what’s on it. The better approach is to change what’s being projected in the first place. In other words, if there’s dirt on the lens, clean the dirt off the lens, not from the screen it’s projected on. Likewise, our problems originate inside, in our thoughts — not on the outside.

It turns out that every external problem we think we’re having, serves as a map to the actual problem in our thoughts. In this way, we can eradicate the source of every perceived problem we have.

Step one: if we’re feeling stress, trace it to the offending thought and write that thought down (this freezes the thought and allows it to be examined). Every stressful thought basically boils down to: “this shouldn’t be happening”.

For the first two questions, the answers should be “yes” or “no” — that’s it.

Example thought: My mom doesn’t understand me.

Is it true? Yes. Oftentimes her responses indicate a lack of understanding.
Can you absolutely know that it’s true? Hmm, I suppose I don’t know what’s actually going on in her head. No.
How do you react when you believe that thought? I feel misunderstood and separate. I then proceed to treat her like she’s a dummy. Overall it makes me feel bad.
Who would you be without the thought? I’d be more content in general and I’d be more satisfied with my interactions with her.

Turn the thought around:
Turnaround to self: I don’t understand myself.
Example: Sometimes I don’t even know what I’m trying to say. Why should I expect her to understand everything I’m saying?
Turnaround to other: I don’t understand her.
Example: It’s true, I’m not always sure what point she’s trying to make. And maybe she did understand me, but I couldn’t understand how her response was appropriate.
Turnaround to the opposite: My mom does understand me.
Example: Overall we do seem to communicate effectively, maybe I’m just nitpicking the little things.

The turnarounds are the medicine we seek. By pointing the outwardly-projecting thought back at ourself, we realize the true source of the problem. And when we know the source, we experience relief.

Whoever’s around us will expose our weaknesses, and in that way we’re taught to improve. And every “he/she/they should”, is really “I should”. We will blame others for our suffering and paint them as scapegoats — but the true source is always the confusion found in believing our own thoughts. Everything others say we are, we are — never defend, just see the truth in what they say. Whenever we feel defensive, we know we’re hearing the truth.

We are sad because we tell ourself sad stories. When we change the story we tell, we change our experience of existence. And there’s never anything to forgive, simply because we cause our own problems. Never wait for a particular condition to be true in order to be happy, “skip the middleman and be happy now.” Despite any tumult that surrounds, remain calm and unconfused, then we become an example for our surroundings to follow. “With the thought, there’s stress, and without the thought, there’s peace.”

The experience of existence is as gentle and pleasant as the stories we tell about it. If we don’t want stress, don’t argue with what’s happening. In this moment, everything is as it should be. Nothing needs to change, it’s not our business anyway.

Stressful feelings and suffering are the result of believing that a thought represents reality. Whereas if we don’t believe thoughts, the effect is a peaceful life. Life is paradise when we no longer default to trusting thoughts.

Whenever we feel wronged or insulted, how many times do we replay the scene in our heads? WE are the abuser that torments ourself with repeated showings of the incident. We are more unkind to ourself than anyone has ever been.

“I am willing to…” turnaround: I am willing to have my mom not understand me.
“I look forward to…” turnaround: I look forward to my mom not understanding me.

With these types of turnarounds, we embrace what-is. We no longer have to deny certain circumstances or assign them the label of “things to avoid”. We can be fine with whatever happens. Inner-peace is attainable right now.

What is within our power to change? Our thinking. So that is what we should change. If we want to clean up the world, we must start with our thoughts. We have everything we need right now. We have the right amount of money and financial security for the moment we’re in.

When we realize a problem is our own darn fault, we laugh — suddenly we’re no longer a victim and we have the power to fix things. We go from loser to winner. Whereas when we blame others, and think our suffering is their fault, we’re forever a victim and constantly stressed-out. We often abuse ourself through others.

Try this instead:
Step 1: Notice an unpleasant feeling.
Step 2: Write down the associated thought.
Step 3: Ask the four questions.
Step 4: Turn the thought around.
Step 5: Feel much better.

Love is the only motivation we need — not anger or fear or frustration or guilt.

Self-judgement example thought: “I’m a failure.”
Is it true? Yes.
Can you absolutely know that it’s true? Hmm, maybe I’m doing exactly what I should be doing. So, no.
How do you react when you believe that thought? I feel like a loser. I feel bad.
Who would you be without the thought? I’d be more confident and I’d feel better.

Turn the thought around:
Turnaround to the opposite: I’m not a failure. I’m a success.
Example: I do what I do — I’m successful at being me.

Using “My thinking” instead of “I”:
The statement becomes: My thinking is a failure.
And it’s true, my thinking makes me feel bad.

Decisions are already made. When the thought to do something appears, do it. That part of our story begins with the thought, and ends when the activity is completed. In this way the story of our life unfolds before us. The internal debate about doing something is the problem. Instead of doing, we worry. Don’t worry, just do.

For the best circumstances, the mind must be clear. If the mind is turbulent, the world will appear so too. It’s useless to work on the image that’s projected, we need to work on the projector itself. And when the mind is clear, our impulses will show us where to go and what to do — that’s a happy life. Whereas if the thoughts are stressful, then it’s time to ask the questions and turn the thoughts around.

Unpleasant feelings are simply an indication that we’re confused. Ask the questions and turn the thoughts around to become unconfused. The world should be a source of joy and comfort — until it is, keep asking and turning.

Substitute “my thinking” for the perceived problem:
Example thought: “I don’t like violence because it makes me feel bad.”
In the turnarounds this becomes: “I don’t like my thinking because it makes me feel bad.”
or: “I don’t like my thinking about violence because it makes me feel bad.”

Our bodies maintain balance and are self-healing, they’re more than capable of running themselves. What gets in the way is our stories about our body. “My body is sick! My body is in pain!” Confused thoughts are the problem, never the body itself. Let the body take care of itself, we’re not capable of controlling the circumstances surrounding its smooth operation. The only thing we can contribute to a healthy body is our healthy thinking — focus on that. The body is a reflection of the mind: a sick mind leads to a sick body — heal the mind, heal the body.

Ultimately we can’t know anything. Therefore, the best course of action is to accept life exactly as it is in every moment. Develop a positive perspective and proceed from there based on the inspiration we’re provided. And the way in which we develop a positive perspective, is to blame our problems on our confused thinking — NEVER blame the world or life itself or our body or our choices or other people — our problems begin and end with our confused thoughts. Fix the confusion, and the problems disappear. In other words, stop trying to wipe the screen at the other end of the room, clean the lens of the projector instead.

The world is attempting to help us perceive our confused thinking. Nothing out-there is ever as bad as the internal hell we create with our incessant maschochistic thoughts. We imagine the worst and repeatedly live those thoughts everyday. We craft a horror-story and fantasize that we’re in it with no way out. We perceive injury and insult and replay it within our minds over and over again for years. We assign roles to people, making them the villains of our life. Yet WE are the villain tormenting ourself in a prison of our own design. We are the villain tormenting others, treating them as if THEY’RE the bad guys.

Without the horror-story, life becomes a joy to experience. Investigate the horror-story by using the four-questions and the turnarounds in order to discover its untruth. The pain we experience right now is self-inflected — it’s based on a story we tell ourself. We must stop being so unkind to ourself. Explore the depths of these horror-stories and let the light in. Start with whatever is causing stress right now.

Thoughts just appear. Pain comes from blindly believing them. Undo this attachment to the untrue thoughts, then feel relief. The path to a peaceful life begins and ends within — no other input or participation of others is necessary. The world we experience WILL reflect our own internal mental state — a joy-filled mind leads to joyful circumstances. When we finally understand that this is a benevolent world, our questioning will be over.

Remember: our judgements about others become a prescription for ourself. Any advice we give out, is actually for ourself. We are our own student.

Seeing is Believing

Dear Rich, what if magic ISN’T real, what if random-chance IS the only determiner of outcomes, what if the world IS a harsh and brutal hell-scape in which you must struggle for survival? What if you’re only deluding yourself?

Well dear reader, unfortunately the cat’s already outta the bag. When I was younger, those possibilities had some plausibility, but I’m too old now and I’ve experienced too much. Wishes work, random-chance is a fictional mechanism, and the world is a well-functioning fulfillment factory. And I did delude myself for several decades in fact, I kept telling myself how scary and horrible the world was. Now that I’ve seen otherwise, I can’t go back.

Yes I still see some nasty things, but those scenes are just remnants of a reforming masochist. There’s no doubt that you’ll see whatever you want to see in this world — it’s a fulfillment factory, remember? I can still conjure up gloomy days, but beyond the clouds I can sense the sun is always there, shining bright as always. Whenever I want, I can let go of my character, I can stop focusing on my story and become the watcher. From that vantage point, the intensity resets — I return whenever I’m ready.

The idea of random-chance is a scare-tactic used to make life seem more thrilling and dangerous. It’s fun for sure, but it’s only a mechanism of make-believe. It’s great if you’re a masochist attempting to evoke a sense of suspense and potential doom.

Logic and the lack-of-magic is a limiting-mechanism, an artificial obstacle — this concept adds constraints to make accomplishment seem impossible. But it’s just a story-telling gimmick to make life appear harder than it is — which increases frustration (a favorite feeling of masochists).

The idea of struggling within a harsh world is another scare-tactic. But if you examine the concept closely, it’s such an easy facade to see-through. In my own life for example, obviously my cunning, skill, and vigilance aren’t the reasons I’m still alive — that’s absurdly comical. So anytime I go into “survival mode” I laugh at myself — me versus the world is a silly concept. My existence is sustained by a benevolent author that resides beyond my character — and that’s a fact.

I tried to trick myself into believing otherwise — and I was good at it, so good in fact, that I eventually scared myself awake. I was so full of fear and worry and despair that I finally lost all energy to sustain the deception. I was so despondent that I shut down. And without the energy to maintain the contrived concepts of random-chance, logic-based lack, and the need for struggle, I finally saw life without the lens-of-negativity. Without all that self-imposed pessimism, life seemed okay.

But of course, a good masochist isn’t going to give up that easy. It took many years of back-and-forth to finally get to the point of truly grasping the benevolent nature of existence. The proof was all around me of course, but I stubbornly refused to accept it.

So dear reader, this isn’t a mere “belief” I have, there’s no “faith” involved, I’m not “hoping” these things are true. The life I’m experiencing right now is literally full of magic, it’s lacking in random-chance, I’m not struggling, and the world is actually a pleasant place to live.

Magical Morning

You talk a good game, and it sounds like you’re attempting to crawl out from beneath that crushing rock of negativity, but are you actually having fun?!

Okay, okay, fair question, well check it out. Today, I had a Magical Morning with Michelle. We went for a walk at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Just a walk, simply strolling around for the fun and fitness. It was the perfect weather too, blue-skies and temps in the mid-60s. Since we were pretty early, the parking was perfect — from our car we simply walked to the front gate and waltzed right through, no waiting anywhere. Yes there were crowds, yes some people were waiting, but not us — it was a smooth flow right through. That’s magic.

The sights, the sounds, the smells — it was a pretty day at the park. I could smell the buttered popcorn cooking. We wove through the throngs of bustling tourists, delighting in our aimless jaunt — no ride-lines to wait in, no reservations to keep, just out and about enjoying the atmosphere. It didn’t take us long to traverse the entire place, probably about an hour, we walked a couple of miles in total. We did stop to watch the Stormtroopers march at one point. And I’m glad they’re putting in the Galaxy’s Edge, Star Wars attraction, it should add a bit more space for walking.

How’s that for fun, huh? It’s not everyone’s cup-of-tea, but it sure is mine. Walt Disney World was my childhood happy-place and it’s good to be back. I tried living here a decade ago but I just couldn’t accept it — my pessimistic, lack-minded, masochistic tendencies flared up and I had to leave. But now that I’m relinquishing pessimism, abandoning lack-mindedness, and discarding masochism — I’m feeling a real sense of enjoyment here. It was even my idea to go today, it just seemed like an enjoyable way to spend the morning.

And all it took was several decades of self-inflicted suffering to finally get to this point! Not bad! Imagine being so stubborn that you refused to see the world in any other way than a harsh and brutal landscape hell-bent on your destruction. I was convinced that life meant pain and hardship, that random-chance was the only determiner of outcomes, that all this was a futile experience not worth having. Oops. But I suppose that’s just my story-arc, the typical Scrooge-like character that couldn’t see the goodness that surrounded him. I’m finally waking up to a new and glorious day in which I see the glistening greatness of this world.

Procuring Pain

Dear Rich, why am I a masochist?

Well dear reader, you seek out pain in its various forms because it’s an easy way to feel alive. So not only are you a masochist, but you’re lazy. You use fear to make even the mundane seem thrilling, you use frustration to make your blood boil in every endeavor, you actively suppress your own enjoyment of life, and you use hurt to sour every experience.

You and I both know you can do better. First, let’s accept that you’ve been purposefully torturing yourself for lo these many years. Cheap thrills, I get it. But that kind of fun doesn’t last forever, you need something more meaningful. And that “something” is already inside of you waiting to come out, yet you’ve been preventing its development.

Second: if you want to stop the pain, stop hitting yourself. The pain you’ve been feeling is self-inflicted. Third: when you cease seeking the cheap thrills produced by pain, a more meaningful path through life appears to you. From there, you do you. THAT’S the person you were meant to be, the one that surfaces when you stop your stupid hobby of humiliation.

And the best part, my dear lazy reader, is that you simply need to stop your pain-producing efforts. That’s right, you need to become even lazier! Just sit there and watch for now. Observe what you’re doing to yourself — then the absurdity of the act will cause you to stop. Once you see the torment happening in real-time, your own sense of decency will kick in.