Bad Daze

As previously stated, I’m on the hunt to find out why “bad days” exist in my life. I noticed another “bad day” yesterday and I’ll be discussing my findings here.

I did happen to watch another “negative” movie prior to this bad day. Did it influence my mood or did a pre-existing mood influence me to watch the movie? Either way, if I’m watching “negative” movies, then I can guess there’s potential for a “bad day”.

I should note that my “bad days” aren’t actually that bad on an absolute scale. In one sense, I don’t really have “bad days”. But relatively, I do. For example, my Internet connection went down yesterday. It rarely goes down, so that’s one of those external events that are beyond my immediate control. But guess what? It was only out for 30 minutes and I could use my iPhone’s cellular connection in the meantime. Therefore, I’m wondering if my “bad days” are just hysterical overreactions to the day’s events?

In other words, a “bad day” is just my mind having a temper tantrum. My mind wants something in the world, isn’t getting it, and therefore freaks out. And expectedly, I can’t calm it down by reasoning with it during the middle of an episode.

How does one effectively deal with temper tantrums? Well, that’s Toddler 101 stuff. A few years ago when I spent a lot of time with an actual toddler, I remember distractions worked wonders to snap him out of a tantrum. If I could get his attention off the tantrum and keep him occupied, the situation stabilized (this didn’t always work though). I also remember a validation technique in which his mom would say things like:

“I see that you’re upset. You’re really mad. You’re mad because you want to play with the remote-control but I wouldn’t let you. You really wanted to play with that remote-control didn’t you? But the remote-control could break and we wouldn’t be able to watch the TV. But I know you really wanted to play with the remote-control. I’m sorry you can’t play with the remote-control, would you like to play with your race-car instead?”

I know my mind has been frustrated lately, so it follows that my mind would have frustration-based tantrums. That also explains why reasoning doesn’t work once I’m in the middle of a “bad day”. So perhaps distractions, like a new activity, could work. And perhaps “journaling” in which I acknowledge my mind’s distress could help too.

I definitely feel different today, so it seems as though the latest episode has passed.

More Bad Days

I’ve been attempting to solve the phenomenon of “bad days”. At first, I wasn’t sure if “bad days” were just negative interpretations of a given day. As I’ve been actively observing though, I can confirm that concentrated cascades of chaos are actually occurring. I’ve witnessed headaches, wrong-address deliveries of packages, shipments in limbo, incorrect food orders, uncomfortable interactions with others, just to name a few situations that pile-on during a “bad day”. A lot of these events are outside my direct influence – and it’s not just a single event, there’s a bouquet of unpleasantries. Then like a storm passing, everything eventually goes back to normal.

In many ways, my life has improved due to the practice and application of mental discipline. Yet, I still have “bad days” mixed in – why? What’s the source of this discomfort? I can be going along relatively comfortably and then BAM, I’m roughed up. Is it due to a lapse in attitude, carelessness in my focus, or just an inherent challenge built into the game-of-life? There seems to be waves of unexpected unpleasantness attempting to turn my attention to some chaotic storyline.

Once a “bad day” begins, I haven’t been able to interrupt it – it feels like a storm I have to wait out. I’m still experimenting, but nothing’s worked so far. My motivation is zapped and I just wanna give up. I can recognize a “bad day” as it’s happening, but I feel powerless. At the very least, I’ve been trying to “do no harm” by engaging as little as possible. Then a new day comes and things are fine again.

I wonder if the movies and shows I watch are a significant factor. For example, I was recently watching the 1996 classic movie “Romeo + Juliet” – which is obviously filled with lots of tension and calamity. Like watching a horror movie before bed can result in nightmares, does watching a woeful movie encourage a woeful day? This isn’t the first time I noticed a possible correlation, so I’m keeping an eye on it.

The “bad days” seem so abrupt and obvious. In one sense, I feel like they should be easy to overcome because they’re so identifiable. But in another sense, they’re just so unrelenting and pile on the pain until I yell “uncle”. Life: Oh you think you’re tough!? Try this on for size! Me: Ow! It hurts! Stop! I give up! You win! Life: LOL….

My next step is to keep track of “bad days” on a calendar. I’ll jot down some details and such and see if I can get to the bottom of it. There’s something contrived about them, which makes me think there might be an obvious pattern and thus a potential way to abstain. Since they’re so difficult to deal with once they start, prevention seems like the best approach.

Frustrating Circumstances

I’m constantly frustrated. Like, that’s literally my primary character trait. Sleep? Can’t do it. Eat and expel food simply and easily? Nope. Carve a path through life? Yikes, no. Get something I want. Ha. Eventually get something I want? Okay, but it’ll just open up new pathways of frustration. Play a game or engage in a hobby? Okay, but again, it’ll just be another source of frustration.

Imagine a car-racing game in which the car bolts off the starting-line and crashes into everything. It swerves and skids and spins 180 degrees – it has a terrible time getting to the finish line, if it makes it at all. But why not simply slow-down to a manageable speed? Because, you’d lose by not qualifying for the minimum time allotted for the race. So there’s an in-between space that must be mastered: not too fast and not too slow.

I’m stuck alternating between those two extremes, losing either way – hence my perpetual state of frustration. In games, I can sometimes manage to make this back-and-forth work. Practicing at the fastest and the slowest can sometimes get me to a middle-ground that’s workable. Why can’t I just start at medium? I don’t know. It’s either all-in or barely-in, and then I can potentially maintain an “average” for a limited time.

Is this the middle-path that the Buddha spoke of? I don’t know, but I do know that I’ve been perpetually frustrated and I don’t like it. At some point it’d be nice to achieve a state of mastery in which things just work. Instead it’s: “Oh no, another problem, another obstacle, another reason this can’t be done.” Frankly, I’m sick of it. If there was a reward for all this effort, great. But I’m simply trying to get through each day, performing the most rudimentary tasks.

Okay, let’s calm down and think for a second. If I’m supplied with an endless quantity of frustration, maybe that’s a good thing? Frustration is invigorating. For example, if a task goes smoothly, it’s over and done with – quickly forgotten. “Oh I won? Cool, what’s next?” Whereas a frustrating task keeps me coming back and burns itself into memory. “Gah! I’ll get you this time! Ha! Victory never felt so sweet!!”. You see? Without frustration, you wouldn’t care.

Take that car-racing game as an example. Imagine you’re able to easily drive through the first few courses. Why bother with the rest? You know the outcome, the game’s too easy. But as soon as you swerve off and smack the first tree… the challenge begins! There it is: the thrill of the hunt! Can you improve?! Can you make it past this race-course!?? Oh no!! There’s a conundrum, a puzzle to be solved – a question without a known answer! And you’re off, energized by the investigation.

So dear Richard, you’re simply being an ungrateful complainer. The game sparks your interest and you curse it. And if each day passed without challenge, you’d also curse it! Think about what happens if you win the car-racing game? You receive a virtual trophy. The point being: rewards are insignificant – just superficial symbols that cannot satisfy. They are finish-lines painted at arbitrary points for the purpose of providing something to race towards – giving you something to do. It’s the pursuit that matters. And the very thing that powers pursuit is: frustration.

Therefore, you have unlimited access to the greatest and most powerful resource ever created: frustration. Ipso facto, you’re very rich and powerful. Congratulations, you’ve done it!

Self-care Routine

I practice self-care through the process of mental-awareness combined with mental-discipline. In a sense, I allow myself to have a good day. This is not related to external circumstances, it is solely in regards to how I’m feeling. I watch my thoughts through the practice of awareness and when something inappropriate is detected, I steer them away through the practice of discipline.

Again, my physical situation isn’t important, I’m only concerned about my attitude: is it positive or negative. For example, if I look up to the sky and see an astroid hurtling towards me, I’d notice a disturbance in my feelings. As soon as I’m aware of this agitation, I’d drop those thoughts and adopt other thoughts that improve my mood. “Oh how beautiful that burning rock is! And to think it should all end like this, in a magnificent world-ending event! This must be what I came here to see! Amazing!”

But honestly, I’m rarely if ever exposed to disturbing external events. Most of what disturbs me is self-inflicted. In a sense, I’m constantly hitting myself with a stick. A stick that takes many forms:

“Hm, why do you look like that, what’s wrong with your face. Why aren’t you good at anything? You know, there’s a term for unfit creatures like you, it’s called extinction. Imagine your life if you weren’t so unpleasant to be around, people might like you – or maybe not. Why’d you do it that way!? That’s dumb! You’re going where!? Do you know how dangerous the world is!? You must be a special type of moron to have a complete lack of regard for personal safety! Uh-oh, is that an ache? It can only mean a severe disease followed closely by death.”

It’s surprising how much of my life is just me bullying myself. Therefore, the most significant step I can take to improve my life is to stop hitting myself.

Diet Evaluation

At the beginning of this year, I made a resolution in accordance with the New Year’s Day tradition. On January 1st I began a negativity-free diet. This diet was so-named because I was attempting to lessen my focus on negativity. In other words, I was too anxious and pessimistic and wanted a change – I wanted a better experience of existence. So, I tended my mental garden and tried to pick out all the weeds. I also cut out a bunch of external forms of entertainment that contributed to a negative outlook.

Well?? Did it work!? With weightloss, you can just jump on a scale or measure body-fat percentage or analyze how your clothes fit. With negativity, I think the measurement is a little tougher to analyze. And if the process is gradual, it makes differences difficult to notice. I asked a couple people I know and they said I seemed less negative – I “laugh more freely” for example. Funny enough, a longstanding digestive issue seems to have finally cleared up. And I naturally fall asleep at a reasonable time every night nowadays (I still wake-up all throughout the night though).

But do I feel better? Again, it’s been an entire year so I’m not sure how much I’ve changed. I’m not so overflowing with improvement that I’m proselytizing my diet as the best thing ever. In terms of negativity, I started out as “morbidly obese”, so perhaps a single year isn’t quite enough to balance everything out. I obviously made some progress but I need more time and practice. I still have “bad days” – but relative to my previous bad days, they’re probably much better.

Oh and another potential benefit, I’ve been engaging in a new hobby for most of this year: small-scale, hand-tool woodworking. Perhaps clearing out a bunch of negativity made room for something fun. I’d done woodworking in the past, but it was mostly frustrating – this time around it was much more satisfying. Well anyway, I’ll be continuing the diet into the new year.

Good Games

If I should avoid playing stupid games, what are some good games to play instead?

T.E.A.C.H.

Teamwork. Build and strengthen relationships with others.

Exploration. Wander through the wondrous world.

Appreciation. Focus on things you enjoy, engage with them, recognize the delight they provide you.

Creativity. When inspiration strikes, do it.

Hopefulness. Imagine the best possible outcomes.

Indignity of Existence

I think a lot of the problems we have with life are due to the perceived indignity we experience. In other words, what stifles our participation, is a stubbornness that’s driven by feeling humiliated, by thinking the world is somehow disrespecting us.

It’s as if we came into existence expecting the deference shown to a god, yet we’re treated as a mere mortal, a basic character. HOW DARE YOU!!! DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM!!?? I need to see a manager, Right Now!

And so we remain stubbornly stagnant, sitting there with a sourpuss, arms crossed. We refuse to participate without an apology, without receiving the proper respect.

BUT THIS IS WHAT WE SIGNED UP FOR!!! To actually experience mortal existence!!! If our body gets battered and beaten? GOOD! If we’re treated like a common earth-dwelling inhabitant? Great! THAT’S the game: EARTH!

You’re NOT a god here, not even a demi-god. In this world, the dream is to become a mild-mannered everyday-working-stiff like Clark Kent, NOT Superman. Getting disrespected is part of the fun!! This is a roast, and you’re getting roasted.

Step one: get over yourself. No, you don’t need to see a manager, everything is fine — you’re overreacting.
Step two: this place has dirt floors, expect things to get messy.
Step three: it’s like finger-painting, filthiness is part of the fun.
Step four: get in there and get dirty — there is absolutely no way you can maintain a sense of dignity or decorum in this world — IT’S NOT POSSIBLE. Poop literally comes out of your butt on a regular basis — if you take this world seriously, you’re an IDIOT.

In summation: if you’re having a problem with life, it’s likely that you’re taking things too seriously (even though it’s painfully obvious that existence is a comedic experience). Solution: lighten up.

Upgrading Narratives

By its nature, invincibility doesn’t need to be tested, there’s nothing to prove. For the invincible, the outcome is certain: I win every time. Therefore, invincibility doesn’t result in a desire for conquest — if anything, invincibility breeds patience and compassion. “These poor little people, what hope can they have against my might, I could squash them as insects — yet I won’t, I will show them my benevolent nature instead, for I am a kindhearted god amongst mere mortals.”

Perhaps invincibility isn’t for everyone, but for those that are always anxious, it’s simply a different story you can tell yourself. Is it any less of a lie than telling yourself: “I’m a worthless wretch that’s subject to the whims and ways of an uncaring world”? No, and in fact it’s a better story, a story in which you feel good about yourself instead of like a fragile creature struggling for survival amidst a harsh and brutal landscape.

If you sit in fear, afraid to venture out, now sit in superiority with no need to prove what you already know. The outcome’s the same, yet in the second scenario you feel like a magnanimous ruler. But I’ll tell you this: with the feeling of invincibility flowing through your thoughts, you’ll become energized — oh yes! You’ll start moving around. And wandering through the world won’t feel dangerous anymore, it’ll seem as a mild stroll through a comfortably familiar place.

This superpower already exists within you, you simply need to release it. All you have to do is trade the scary stories you keep telling yourself for stories of invincibility. You’ve already proven that you’re an effective storyteller: you’re scared shitless — that’s all the proof you need. Now let the narrative of an invincible-you begin. See yourself as the indomitable-being that NOTHING can overcome. Feel the power surging, the pure energy flowing, witness yourself emerging, reborn to a new narrative in which YOU are the very definition of supremacy. Repeat after me: “I am invincible.”

Inevitably Invincible

I keep seeing the theme of latent-ability released through adversity. In other words, a character has a power that he doesn’t know he possesses until he faces a challenge tough enough to force its release.

In one sense, he’s finally sick of losing. He’s tired of deriving pleasure from pain, done with his masochistic ways. He’s ready to handle invincibility.

So let me ask you this: are you ready to win? Ready to wield the hammer that constructs victory conditions? Willing to climb the hill to become king?

Illness and ache? Negativity and lack? Adversity and bad-luck? Are you done with these concepts yet? Forged from these fires you will awaken as steel, shined and sharpened. You will know only invincibility.

Dirigo. I lead. I am the North Star by which ships sail.

I’m conscious, therefore I tell my tale.

For me, in order to get into the mindset of invincibility, I picture myself as Wolverine, adamantium claws extending, and posturing to strike. Wolverine is invincible, an unstoppable force of pure fury. Similar to the Honey Badger: Honey badger don’t care. Honey badger don’t give a shit.

One of my new mental-training exercises is to bathe in the imagery and sensation of invincibility for five minutes. It’s very invigorating.

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.