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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Foggy Start

Oh man, what a morning. Ugh, and last-night too. Not the best. I won’t bore you with the details, but it was rough. My first thought and interpretation was: “this is definitely not going to be my day today, bad-day here I come.” But do you know what interpretation I settled on instead? “Witness my power, ye mighty, and despair!”

Through my ability to manifest the world I experience, I created a tsunami of unpleasant scenes. The sky itself was overcast while the streets were masked in fog. That’s true power right there. Of course it’s a dumb way to wield my creativity, but at least it demonstrates my ability to shape the life I’m living. If I want a horrible time, then so be it! It is done! Voila!

No, I didn’t specifically wish for a bad time — but that’s the problem. I didn’t specifically wish for a good time either — and the turbulent mind, when left on its own, undisciplined, will take you on a wild ride filled with dips and dunks. And boy, did I let my messy mind lead the way. Unpleasantness was the product of my unconsciousness.

Later that morning was a lot better, I had a fine time walking my son to school, then met up with my wife and we walked around town for about an hour. It was great. I couldn’t have planned it better and the temperature was just right. And the fundamental thing that changed was my attitude: from helpless pawn of life’s cruel game to absolute creator of my own reality.

Reason for the Season

Folks, the fundamental issue facing our time, or any time really, is this: an adherence to rigidity. “Should things remain exactly as I expect?” The answer should NEVER be “yes”. No offense, but your expectations are too low — compared to what could be, you’ll always be lack-minded. The world will always be greater than what you can imagine.

Once upon a time there was a guy shaking things up, telling people there was a better way. But thanks to an adherence to rigidity, this man was straight-up murdered for trying to improve the world. His name, if you didn’t know, was Jesus — it may sound familiar because we tend to celebrate his birthday around this time of year.

The people of his day couldn’t wrap their heads around progress. “You mean things can get better? Nah, things suck and they’ll always suck! You’re just a charlatan! Crucify him!” They could’ve ignored him, but no, they had to send a message, they had to cement their conservative stance and convict him in the court of public opinion.

And that adherence to rigidity remains with us today of course. “Keep things as they are! Why change!? One misstep and we’ll lose it all!” But such an attitude only demonstrates a distrust of life, a skepticism toward our creator. It is the very opposite of a godly attitude. God is infinitely giving — as demonstrated by all we’ve received.

Come this holy season, the true gift we give others isn’t in the form of trinkets, the regifting of what God has already provided — it’s in the love and acceptance we demonstrate towards them. It’s in the cheerfulness we maintain as we mingle with our fellow guests. This world is God’s gift to us all. What greater thanks can we offer back, but in helping others have a great time as we all share in this generous gift.

Crimson Wishes

“In darkest realms where shadows lie, where goodness fails and angels die — let my voice be heard and heed my word…”
“Wait, are you sure about this?” he cautioned.
“Ahem!” she continued, “Through wicked ways I summon thy power, from sacrificial blood in the midnight hour.”
“Whoa!” he protested.
“Calm down, it’s just a tissue from my last bloody-nose,” she assured him.

She placed the crumpled tissue in the center of an encircled star made out of small rocks. She swiped a match across the box and lit the tissue. She told the boy to throw the image of his desire onto the small fire. He took the picture and held it over the flame until it caught. “It is done,” she declared. The boy breathed a sigh of relief.

Rob didn’t like the idea of resorting to black-magic but he was desperate, so he asked his goth friend Emily to help. Rob really wanted an Xbox One X, and he’d do anything to have it. He lived with his mom and little sister and they didn’t usually have money for Christmas presents, and this year was no different.

Rob woke up the next day feeling the same as any other day. In fact he almost forgot about the previous night’s escapade except he saw the flyer from which he cut out the picture on the floor. At breakfast, Rob ate the usual bowl of off-brand cereal he always ate. It was the weekend, so no school today — Rob wasn’t a fan anyway.

Of course Rob had tried asking Santa for presents in the past, but unfortunately, his mall’s Santa wasn’t affiliated with the actual Santa — thus none of his wishes were ever forwarded, so he never received what he asked for. It’s not well-known, but Santa Claus has a goth cousin named Satan Claws. It’s who little goth boys and girls write incantations to during the holidays.

Satan Claws’s minions received Emily’s incantation and got to work on it the next day. They procured an Xbox One X and wrapped it in red paper. But in this case, the red paper represented the blood of the innocent. As he was instructed by Emily, Rob placed a dead tree in the center of his room and adorned it beautifully with lights and ornaments (in mockery of its once living state).

The Winter Solstice finally arrived and Satan Claws sent his minions out to deliver the “Bounty of Blood” as it was called. Those that summon the power of darkness receive the fruit of their invocation upon the darkest day of the year. Rob woke up the following morning to find a present under the tree. He was so excited and rushed over to open it!

On the gift-tag it read “To: Rob, From: Satan Claws”. Rob tore the red paper away and underneath he saw what he truly desired, an Xbox One X! He couldn’t have been happier. That’s when he noticed another present under the tree. It had a similar gift-tag and wrappings. He opened it and found a black Misfits t-shirt, over-sized black pants, and some glow-lights inside.

That night, in celebration of the bounty received, Rob dressed in his new outfit, met Emily and her friends underneath an overpass, and danced to techno music in intervals of six-hundred and sixty-six seconds. Rob was welcomed into the fold and he even invited some people back to his house to take a look at Red Dead Redemption 2 on his Xbox.

Spiritual End

Isn’t this blog just a bunch of naval-gazing? Shouldn’t I be concentrating on the experience of existence rather than simply contemplating it? Isn’t spirituality a means to an end, not an end in itself. To be here in the world is to live as an embodied being. After all, how did the Bhagavad Gita end? Arjuna didn’t don a robe and dedicate himself to God. Krishna successfully convinced Arjuna to stop his whining and get out there on the battlefield. As he said in the beginning: “Why such weakness in a time of war? Stand and fight!”

There’s a saying: “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” And what I take from that, is this. At some point along your spiritual journey, you have to drop it and get back to living life. You’ve been stopped at the rest-stop for awhile, you’ve refueled and refreshed, now get back out there! You can’t stand on the sidelines talking to God forever, that’s not what THIS is. THIS is earth, the realm of physical existence — do THAT.

And no offense, but you’re not a spiritual teacher. It’s not something that interests you. And the proof is in the pudding: no one cares — nor would you want them to. You care about new technology, culinary delights, entertaining shows and movies — I mean come on, you’re not a spiritual guy, that’s not you — you took this spiritual pitstop as a way to get back on your actual path — that’s all it is.

What wakes you up in the morning? Some spiritual endeavor? Service to others? Hell no! You’re excited by new technology. You stop and stare as Teslas roll past you in the street. Almost a decade ago, during a depressive episode, your spirits were kept high by the impending release of the second-gen MacBook Air (you actually drove with your friend to New Jersey to purchase it!). You don’t stare at nature with awe, you stare at those robotic creatures from Boston Dynamics with amazement. When your son asked you your superhero name, you thought: hmm, OM-Man, no, Enlighten-Man, no, Mr. Technology? — that’s a bingo! Would you prefer to see angels ascending into heaven or a Falcon 9 rocket launching and self-landing? You know damn well which one you’re more excited over. Would you prefer to visit a Zen temple in Japan or use an advanced Japanese toilet-seat? Jets of water all the way!

Arjuna was built for battle, you were built with an appreciation for technology. Unfortunately, I have no idea what you should do with that appreciation — but obviously something to do with technology would be barking up the right tree. Aren’t you the guy that couldn’t even understand spirituality until it was framed by a simulation-theory perspective? But once you “get it”, there’s nothing left except getting back into the game. You don’t sit there reading the rules over and over, you play. Now go! Stand and fight!

Seeking Conflict

The world is FULL of potential combatants. There’s conflict to be had everywhere. But should you seek it? Conflict, like fear, is a low-quality, low-effort source of amusement. Conflict is certainly a common source of excitement, but it’s not necessary for a good time. There’s companionship, laughter, delicious foods, artistic pursuits — and of course there’s even symbolic-conflict in the form of games, and fictionalized-conflict in stories.

If you’re not pursuing some other avenue of entertainment, conflict becomes an easy option to alleviate your existential boredom. But the going wisdom is: don’t do it. Conflict and fear are easy paths to pursue whereas higher-quality paths require effort on your part. It’s easy to generate excitement when you imagine EVERYTHING is out to get you. Step one: stop being so lazy. Conflict and fear are cheap thrills, you can do better.

The highest spiritual pursuit is to end fear and conflict, to see the world as the wholesome place that it is. The world is not devising ways to destroy you — you’re not that good, you couldn’t avoid it if the world really wanted you dead. So stop it already, you’re embarrassing yourself. You’re an invited guest imagining that the host keeps slipping poison into the food, but through your skill and cunning you’ve successfully managed to navigate through the minefield of danger. That’s dumb.

Have some respect for yourself, as well as the host. Accept this invitation into existence graciously and gratefully. “Wow, thank you! This is a really nice place!”, “Oh, for me? Wow! Thanks for this delicious meal!”, “Hey, some companions too! Wow, the giving doesn’t stop around here!”, “Hey let me show you how much I appreciate the time I have here! Check this out!”, “What a great day that was! I can’t wait for another! This place is awesome, thank you so much!”

Life in the Slow Lane

When in love, nothing changes except for the perception that she loves you too — and from there, the entire world alters before your eyes.

And just imagine if the signal you received was only a mistake, a misinterpretation on your part, suddenly the world darkens once again.

Interesting no? That an entire world brightens or darkens on such a simple thing. That’s all the proof you need: what you’re perceiving “out there” is nothing more than a fanciful fiction manipulated by your mood.

YOU create the world you inhabit, of this there can be no doubt. So induce a positive interpretation. Encourage feelings of love and satisfaction and triumph — and whatever else you enjoy.

You can always feel loved by a benevolent power that creates this world for your amusement. And in every face you see, you can interpret love. In every hint of warmth, you can feel a hug, love’s tender embrace.

This isn’t hard. On one hand you can allow your ceaseless thoughts to take you on a rudderless journey through an intensely turbulent world, while on the other hand you can purposefully direct your interpretations to perceive nothing but resplendent glory.

The entirety of freewill boils down to this decision: engage in the practice of discipline and direct your mind to see the glorious garden before you — or simply concede control to an erratic mind that takes you on a wild ride.

If you can handle it, go right ahead and feel the thrill of such an unpredictable experience. But for those that prefer quiet-pools and kiddie-rides, there’s an option for you too. You haven’t been left out in the cold. Seek it, and hot-cocoa by the fireside awaits.