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.

Guilty Pleasures

We must stop punishing ourself for every perceived transgression while assuming pain is the necessary payment. To say “this” is a natural consequence of “that” is a horrible sentence we impose upon ourself. Counter examples exist of others not receiving the same results for similar efforts. So is it luck? Well if random chance rules, then all hope is lost anyway as any accident may befall us — no precaution can keep us safe from everything. We’ll stew in anxiety as we wait for an eventual disaster to mark our doom. We must therefore assume that consequences are not written in stone, unwavering in their dissemination.

It may very well be that we invariably receive the exact outcomes we expect. Our primary discomforts in life might just stem from self-immolation. I did wrong, so I must be punished. I ate like a little piggy, so I must start resembling one. I consumed sugary treats, so my body must experience dental decay. I exposed my fair skin to the burning sun, now delicate flesh must burn. I’ve treated this person without due consideration, now I am cursed by karma. I embarrassed myself, so now I must suffer endless ridicule. My efforts were weak, so I deserve nothingness.

O ye of little faith. Why should we engage in constant persecution of ourself? What a wicked way to spend our day. It’s as if we sickly derive pleasure from regularly accusing ourself of wrongdoing while savoring the punishment we mete out against this hapless victim — a self-sadomasochism of sorts. No, find a new hobby, a new outlet. We’ve no right to be judge, jury, and executioner over even ourself. Forgiveness is not a charity we arbitrarily grant, but the law itself. We are to freely forgive because all that we receive is freely given to us — no earth-bound effort can pay for the life we’re granted.

Is it not better to accept this gift we’ve been given without complaint? How rude it is to pick out every flaw of something we’ve received. Truly, in this way we create our own calamity. About the sweater from Santa, we should not scoff and lament the bike we lack. But by seeking to appreciate every aspect of the life we’re living, we receive the fruit of gratitude. Existence is a force far beyond our power to comprehend so we must simply accept this world and look kindly toward the character we temporarily play. And so in this way we may apologize:

Dear fellow, I am sorry for the many harsh judgements I’ve rendered against you — please feel free to live the life most likely to facilitate your happiness. I will endeavor to refrain from constant criticism and no longer seek out cruel sentences for perceived abuses. It is impolite of me to imagine the worst outcomes possible and impose them upon you. We are of course connected but I am not your master as I had inconsiderately assumed. Let me cheer you on as you travel your path. I, your faithful fan.

Question of Worth

A question came to my attention this morning. Do I feel myself unworthy of life’s goodness? In my active thoughts, no, the idea never crosses my mind — I do not think myself unworthy. But do I “feel” unworthy and do those feelings manifest themselves?

If I analyze the details of my life, there does seem to be a pattern of low self-worth. I’m often forgotten about and tend to go unnoticed, I live in a most meager manner, I’m quite removed from the external world, not bothering to participate. And the little I do try to contribute goes largely unnoticed.

But it’s such an odd circumstance because I don’t say these things to myself, yet the evidence seems to suggest otherwise. In my thoughts, I justify my situation in a way that satisfies, I’m not riddled with frustration or angst. But it’s true that I don’t live in a setting I find agreeable and it’s true that I’d prefer to be on a higher rung in society’s ladder.

I can dismiss these materialistic meanderings, but I don’t like the idea of my character feeling unworthy and behaving as such. My pitiful character is receiving the insufficient lifestyle he feels he deserves. No, this won’t do at all — I’ll simply not have it! I must therefore take a concerted effort to reverse this poor fellow’s fortunes.

Goodness, I just had no idea. Of course the clues are all around now that I’m looking, but I suppose I’ve been a bit too self-centered, always focusing inward, not enough on my surroundings. Hm, but how to proceed. I’ll just have to start by bolstering this fellow’s confidence in himself and instilling feelings of worthiness.

Do you hear that, you lamentable brute, I’m going to fix you up good!

Easy Enlightenment

An excerpt from the fictional tales of The Daily Beacon.

Dear Rich, I don’t have the time nor energy to dedicate decades towards enlightenment, I want the good stuff quick and easy, please advise.

Dear reader, you’re right, it’s the modern era and people need 21-day fixes. Let’s see if this works for you. I’m not promising anything, but it’s worth a shot, so why not. And at the very least, perhaps it’ll inspire you to go further by the end of it.

First, you’ll have to prove that you’re dedicated to this task and follow the regimen I’m about to lay out.

Meditate twice daily for 20 minutes each, selecting times when you’re not sleepy. Sit cross-legged, arms resting lightly on your thighs, eyes gently closed, and breathing normally. During the exhale portion of your breath, mentally say the word “OM”, inhale, OM, inhale, OM. At many points throughout the 20 minutes you’re going to stop saying OM, notice this, and simply go back to silently saying it. Do this for all 21 days.

To further prove your discipline and dedication, you’ll need to go on a basic diet for all 21 days. The foods should include nothing but basic ingredients, nothing complex, just nutritious foods with simple ingredients. Serve yourself reasonable portions — don’t stuff, no second helpings.

Additionally, you’ll need to bathe your mind in the spirit of enlightenment. This is not a sales-pitch so you’re welcome to seek out alternate books, but I happen to have two short books of the type I’m prescribing (mine have the advantage of being brief enough to be read in a few days, are low-cost, and available in various formats — paperback, kindle, iBooks, etc). The first book should be about enlightenment itself (mine’s called Path to Enlightenment by Richard Lawrence). The second book should be a translation of the Bhagavad Gita (mine’s Bhagavad Gita by Richard Lawrence).

Attempt to attain a general awareness throughout the day. If you notice yourself feeling angry or anxious, remind yourself of the path you’re on, think of OM or the books you’ve been reading — return your focus to the path. Additionally, it’ll be easier to watch your thoughts if you write them down, so keep a daily journal throughout the 21 days. If you begin to write anything unpleasant, stop and ponder until you select something good to write about. Just stare at your thought-stream until something pleasant pops up.

And finally, regularly remind yourself of this belief: the Buddha was just a prince perturbed by life who simply sought a way to deal with his suffering. He sat in meditation until finally his dread disappeared. You can do likewise.

That’s it dear reader. Do that for 21 days and you’re sure to set yourself on a worthwhile path.

Defining an Identity

When I think about myself, there’s a particular identity I’m imagining. I am “this”. If my behavior falls outside of this preconceived identity then I’d be severely disappointed in myself, it’d be a violation of who I am. For instance, I see myself as a thin person. Anytime I notice my weight getting past a certain point, I automatically eat less and consume nothing but wholesome food, there’s no stopping it. I can’t violate who I am and betray my identity.

My identity defines the life I live. But sometimes the identity we imagine includes unhelpful traits. For instance, we might think of ourselves as timid or worthless or a failure. Our imagined identity serves as the map we follow on our path through life, we’ll pick routes that conform to the characteristics we define.

The good news in all of this is that we can define any identity we want. To realign our identity with our goals, we need to determine the qualities we prefer and write them down. From there we can practice visualizing scenes in which we act according to those preferred qualities. We don’t have to force change, but simply visualize again and again until this new picture overwrites the old. In time this mental practice will influence our daily life, we’ll become exactly who we prefer to be.

Contrasted Happiness

Because we’re so susceptible to contrast comparisons, our highs cannot exist without lows. It’s not just wishful thinking to believe adversity is a necessary component of life — hardship literally makes us happier. Good times will be perceived better if we’ve experienced discomfort. A perfect life necessarily includes contrasts.

But of course we don’t stop at evaluating our own lives, we also compare ourselves to others. Our happiness is related to the happiness of others. When we idealize the lives of others on social-media, we often feel less happy. But the opposite is also true, when we see the misfortune of others, we enjoy our own situation that much more. Because suffering exists, we’re happier.

It’s not that we enjoy the misery of others, but the contrast allows us to appreciate our own lives that much more. We don’t even know the entirety of their situation, we’re just guessing based on the limited data we can discern. Our happiness therefore, is derived from what we imagine, from our flawed perception of what surrounds us.

Because happiness is based on contrasting elements evaluated within our mind, we can manipulate it without involving the external world. In other words, we don’t need to change our lives to be happy, we need to change our minds. We can alter how and what we compare. Our standard of judgement is arbitrary, if it’s no longer in our favor, make it so.

Blaming Life

When someone interacts with me, I see it as life interacting with me. People are the constituents of life, not autonomous individuals. Did someone treat me unfairly? No, it was part of life’s narrative — life concocts the characters and events that lead to every encounter. And when I respond, my response is also part of life’s narrative.

And because of this perception of individual blamelessness, my thoughts about events tend to be much more muted. So in a sense, I’m placing all the blame onto life itself — but it’s easier to forgive life, my creator and caretaker, than hundreds of individuals. And there’s really no forgiveness needed when I imagine life’s perspective.

Life is doing what it can to construct and sustain this world, and for whatever reason, is depicting this particular narrative, perhaps as a form of entertainment — and instead of complaining, it’s probably best to accept the story and politely follow along.