Conveyor of Thoughts

A conveyor belt of thought moves past our awareness. Our job is quality-control inspector, allowing only the highest quality thoughts to pass through to receive attention. If we direct our focus to what we don’t want, we inadvertently select those items. We therefore dare not be offended or outraged lest we feed our attention the very things we dislike.

These passing thoughts are mere suggestions, daydreams, inspiration for action, things to do — simply say yea or nay. We must focus on whatever pleases, matching our preferences while ignoring the rest. To get good at our job we must practice, ever evaluating the stream of thoughts. We know we slipped up when our mood sours, after which we can cleanse the contamination.

Then we use these mistakes to get better, pinpointing the thoughts that act as poison. To clean, we dismantle the unwelcome idea and overwrite with what’s wholesome. Over time we become more efficient in this process, recognition becomes automatic and we surgically pick apart the pollutant and sew up the wound without a trace.

Our role as quality-control inspector means we must examine whatever’s thrown onto our conveyor belt, we don’t get to choose what gets placed on the belt, we simply select the items we want to focus on. We must remember, complaining about the assortment of items is in effect selecting those very things we’d rather not send to our awareness.

Return Trip

I’m back from my trip. About a month has passed. Our stays along the way down were pleasant and scenic — we primarily stayed by beaches overnight. What’s funny, is that I’m not sure why I even took this trip. Perhaps it’s to gain some perspective. In stories, characters are often developed through journeys. So perhaps me and my companions were due for some development.

I didn’t mind life on the road too much, although lengthy bouts within a compact car is a bit uncomfortable. It’s a little dull too, with pockets of civilization connected by lonely stretches of road. For various reasons, it’s difficult for me to consider commercial air travel as a viable means of transportation, so a car it was despite the discomfort. And it got hotter as we went, although after a long winter, the heat was not unwelcome.

When I leave New England I feel like a New Englander. When someone says “tree” I think maple not palm. When someone says “house” I think of a Cape Cod style in an ample yard. When someone says it’s hot, I think of 78F, not 96F. When entering other regions, the concentration of names change (people and stores) and things become slightly different yet not enough to be exotic.

What I imagine the point of the trip to be, is a demonstration of life’s goodness — and my acceptance of this fact — a reconciliation with life. Normally, I have an underlying feeling of imminent danger. It’s always been there yet nothing ever happens. I know someone that lacks this feeling and she’s much happier for it. My conclusion is that it’s a sensation that must be ignored.

It’s a bit of a burden to constantly ignore something so prevalent — yet much better than the alternative of bathing in anxiety. Remember though, boredom is our existential enemy, so we invite into our life whatever excites us. To leave anxiety behind, we need to embrace a new form of entertainment, engaging with life in an alternate way, lightheartedly.

That’s the secret to life you know: entertaining ourselves in a wholesome/nourishing way. It’s skipping the quick and easy scare, opting instead for activities that make us feel good about ourselves. We can chase boredom away in a few different ways, our job is to find and implement the most pleasing ways that align with our preferences.

I had no end-date set when I started the trip but I left when I felt like I was done. I experienced what I wanted and sensed it was time to go. Although, I think I stayed a little too long — but that’s good since it made me enthusiastic to get back on the road. I don’t feel particularly reconciled with life but I must admit that nothing horrible happened — the overall trip was pretty pleasant.

Yes there were some discomforts along the way but I should more likely blame myself for an eagerness to pick out what’s wrong with life. For me, this trip clearly serves as evidence of life’s benevolent nature. There were no dangers untold. Beauty abounded. There was childlike delight and fond remembrances of times not long ago.

Fun and Adventure

I have a lengthy journey coming up and my mind defaults to potential unpleasantries rather than all the good things. You could say I distrust life. I have a suspicion that all this Earth-stuff is an elaborate ruse to abuse me. It’s an odd perspective I know.

Instead of anticipating the adventure, I envision trials and tribulations that could occur along the way (like what befell cunning Odysseus on his travels home). There’s an onslaught of doom-filled thought.

But I’m hard at work putting out fires left and right to defuse any anxious feelings. And that gets the job done in a way, but I’d rather just feel excited. I suppose I’ll have to concoct something in my imagination to frame this journey as something enjoyable.

Game-day is approaching and these are probably just the pre-game jitters. When the time comes, not only will I lack fear, but I’ll find the fun. You wouldn’t think fun would be such serious business, but I take everything seriously — that’s part of my charm.

Underneath it all, I have no real worry though. It’s kinda like going through the motions of worrying, just a habit I’m attempting to break. I’m done with pessimism and I’m determined to have faith in the goodness of life.

P.S. I have not forgotten about the illusionary nature of reality. Any unpleasantries along the way will only serve as triggers reminding me to consider the fiction of my surroundings. But I’m guessing life will attempt to lull me into forgetting about virtuality by presenting the most pleasant adventure possible. Oh, life!

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.

Funny Thing

I went to get my license renewed the other day. Not long ago they moved the office to a location closer to where I live — which was a pleasant surprise. I walked into a large waiting room that was completely empty. I pulled a number and was immediately called. The number happened to correspond to my current age. I probably spent less than ten minutes there. Afterwards I got some pizza and ate in a nice park on a pleasant day.

When I received the notice about my renewal, I was displeased about going through the license renewal process. What a bother I thought. I put it off for a bit and finally, begrudgingly, went. Later that day I got a massive headache though, so I suppose I was able to work some negativity into the day.

Even though I neutralized the unpleasant images surrounding the license renewal, I couldn’t perceive any positivity and was still bothered about the process. Neutral is not inspiring. Yet in actuality, it turned out to be a decent time. I suppose what this means is that I should practice the art of positivity more often.

Though to be honest, Pollyanna style positivity doesn’t particularly excite me, maybe that’s why my mind defaults to negativity, as that rarely fails to incite emotion. I like humor though. Instead of positivity, maybe I should find a way to fashion my thoughts into something funny. Perhaps comedy is a valid substitute for optimism.

In Harry Potter lore, they use the Riddikulus spell against boggarts, it changes the creature’s frightening appearance to something laughable. Overall I think humor works best at diffusing tense situations. Instead of framing outcomes as pure positivity, perhaps I should frame them as funny. Hm, now I just have to figure out how to be humorous….

Sensory Input

Where my friend sees a refrigerator, I see clutter, decaying produce, fluctuating temperatures, excessive noise, a cracked shelf, smudges — and that’s just one appliance in the kitchen. I have a tendency to see what’s broken within my surroundings. I do enjoy problem-solving but oftentimes my problem-identification process is in overdrive. But of course, if everything appears broken, the world will seem like it’s falling apart.

Where my friend sees a pleasant outing in the park, I see the potential for rain, the potential for too much sun, lack of toilets, traffic issues, food issues — and that’s before we even get in the car. I have a tendency to be overly cautious. I do enjoy planning and preparing but oftentimes my contingency-identification process is in overdrive. But of course, if everything seems as if it can go wrong, the world will appear like a hectic hellhole.

Where my friend sees a complaining worrywart, I see a vigilant guardian of well-functioning systems — and that’s just one of my duties. I have a tendency to be idealistic. I do enjoy pointing out potential issues but oftentimes my pronouncement process is in overdrive. But of course, if I announce every problem I perceive, it will be annoying to those around me.

Upon inspection, I can see that the world is not a hectic hellhole in which everything’s falling apart. This means my problem-identification process is too sensitive. It’s not the world itself that requires fixing, but my own perception of the world that needs adjustment. I can’t fix or plan for every problem or contingency, therefore an overly-sensitive system is not useful. Not only is it not useful, but by broadcasting every minor issue, it drowns out higher priority items and becomes a nuisance to others.

To tune an overly-sensitive system: I must readjust my sights to focus on what is working rather than what isn’t. I must monitor my identification process and reject unwarranted concern. I must resist the impulse to indiscriminately describe imperfections. Instead of drowning in problems, I can concentrate on the few I prefer. Instead of cautious inhibition, I can do what I please. Instead of irritating, I can be insightful.

Frightful Fun

If fear does not promote our safety, what is it and why does it exist? Realize that the world is all things to all people. Consequently each of us has the capacity to experience everything within it. Some people truly do enjoy a bit of fright in their life — scary movies, fast rides, tense standoffs, even relationship drama. For them, fear is a way to induce a thrilling adventure.

Then there are those of us that do not prefer such things — we like life a bit more mild. For us, eating spicy food is an exciting part of our week. When gazing over at the thrill-rides we balk at the idea that anyone could enjoy those contraptions, and yet they do, smiling and laughing as they disembark. But likewise, there are those that can’t fathom how sitting still and reading for hours on end can be fun for some.

Again, the world is all things to all people. If someone doesn’t like reading then the plan for them is easy: don’t read. The simple prescription for life is this: don’t engage with what you don’t prefer i.e. focus on what you like, not on what you don’t like. What about when people attempt to include us in activities we don’t prefer? We need to concentrate on doing our own thing — which can be a challenge in itself, but that’s the goal we must set.

It is within our ability to dismantle fear too. We can abstract life to the point of believing that nothing is real. Should frightful narratives cross our path we can refuse to acknowledge them and get back to what we want to experience. Fear is fine for those that enjoy it, but for those that don’t, we’re better off ignoring it completely. Instead of inspiring us to fight or take flight, fear tends to freeze us in our tracks — and we end up doing nothing at all.

In conclusion, fear is a valid means of moving life along for some people. For other people, fear causes anxiety and inaction and needs to be rejected.