Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Live Your Life and Side-step the Distractions

I have a nasty habit of falling into distractions. They get me every time. Every single time. Maybe I'll waste three hours on Facebook, clickin' away from one page to the other. Lookin' up old friends to see what they're up to now. Mindless. I'll look at the clock after three hours and the pang of guilt hits me. Why???? For so long???

Likes on Facebook 

On another day, maybe I'll waste a few hours on YouTube, getting lost in the suggested links section. Utterly and completely unaware of time. Some people might say "It happens when you're in the ZONE man....time just flies by!". But there are a lot better things that could be "zoned" into than random "vines" clips.

The mind on auto-pilot is a weird thing. It eats up small satisfactions like Pac-Man eats his fruits and little dots. Just chompin away on the small things in life. How many people do you know who's lives' seem like this? They're just chompin' away on small satisfactions in life. I have met my fair share. Nom nom nom nom nom. Sleep. Wake up. Nom nom nom nom. Flickin' away on the TV remote. Playing "candy crush" on their phones. Nom nom nom. Mindlessly gossiping about people. Nom nom nom.

monsters

To me, this is junk food for the mind and soul. I think I "feel" emotions pretty well. If I'm in bad shape, I really "feel" in bad shape. Dreadful. I might get comments like "relax, it's not so bad" but down in my core I know it feels wrong when I mindlessly go through life. But most people who are "thicker-skinned" and "feel" less seem absolutely content. They could bounce a tennis ball to each other for 6 hours a day and be as happy as could be. I wish I could do that, and just be fine with it.

But I've always wanted to LIVE and FEEL GOOD. To actually LIVE a LIFE. But to live a good life I've always thought that I needed to work, work, and work like hell until I could figure out a way to make money doing the things I love, and maybe then I could LIVE. Oh boy what a hellish trail to take. Pure torture. To me it feels like going into the wilderness of the mind, or goin' a little crazy. Work, work, work and drive yourself further into the darkness of neurosis.

My mind would conjure up a million different scenarios. "How will I make money?" "What job will I do?", "How will I get there?" and I would spend hours, upon hours, upon hours on the internet looking for the answer. But the whole time I felt miserable. What I've learnt is that that miserable feeling is like my compass. If it feels wrong, it's the wrong way.

The only time I've really felt good is when I have decided to LIVE instead of chasing money and a million different ways to make a great life. Just live. Now. Get away from the computer. Get away from your own thoughts. Start living. Well how do I live? I ask myself "What makes for a good life?" Answers soon come like "be healthy, feel good, go on adventures, meet a lot of people, love people, have good character, get in touch with spirituality, experience the world".

In the process of starting this blog, I would get lost in the minute details of web design, promotion on stumbleupon, checking my stats every half hours, traffic sources and on and on, yadda yadda yadda Aaahhhhhh!! It drains the life from a person to do things like this. There's merit to some of it, and it has to be done sometimes, but you've really gotto learn to pull away when you notice that you're stuck in the irrelevant details. Not being able to see the forest for the trees.

Hunter S. Thompson via Dan Leister

I'm a big fan of Hunter S. Thompson, the "Gonzo" journalist. When I think about what made him such a great writer, it's not his command of vocabulary, perfect grammar, or sentence structure. It's the fact that he knew how to live a LIFE! And he put it down on paper for us all. He wasn't obsessed with the irrelevant details of perfection in writing. His perfection was in LIVING. That's the gold stuff right there. I would much rather read the messy scribblings of a wild adventure, than read the perfect prose of a person who spent their whole life perfecting this prose behind a laptop. It's not a life.

You are what you do. Spend your whole life reading books? You'll sound like a book. Spend your whole life watching the news? You'll sound like the news. Spend your whole life cleaning your house? You'll know nothing else but house cleaning. But spend you're whole life LIVING a life. Of adventure. Of good character. Of meeting people from different cultures. Of seeing beautiful mountains and jungles and landscapes of the world? Well, then you'd have a story to tell.

Mountains outside Narvik

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!”

- Hunter S. Thompson

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Get The Basics of Life Right First!

                Tree

When you look at your life as a whole, there are a couple of key, fundamental aspects which make a huge impact on the quality of life you experience. Like the solid trunk of a tree, you can grow steadily from this foundation. Some of these things can seem so basic when you look at them, but I've often wondered to myself why I had not figured them out before. And why I had expended so much energy on the irrelevant distractions in life, rather than these basic fundamentals. This is kinda like gettin' your hands dirty with the metaphorical "nuts and bolts" of life.

One of the greatest factors to consider is your health. Mental and physical. Your health has the single largest broad sweeping effect on your happiness and life experience. It is the solid foundation on which you can build everything else upon. For example, you cannot run a business if you are low on energy, stressed out, miserable etc. Doing things this way is putting the cart before the horse. You need to be vibrant and full of energy first before creating anything of value. It has to start from the inside and work it's way out to the world.

So look after your physical health. Eat organic foods whenever you can, get lots of sunshine, load your system up with clean fruits and vegetables, start green juicing, eat healthy complex carbs for stable energy throughout the day, get plenty of vitamins and minerals. Eat as "naturally" as you can. Have a vision in your mind that you are gonna feel healthy, and vibrant and full of energy. These things add "life". You will now have the energy to create.

Things that "suck" the life out of your body are things that have been diverted from their natural state. Your body, being a "natural" organism, has to work too hard to assimilate the unnatural things that are put into it. I have yet to see a cheese burger or can of soft drink grow from the ground. But the key is not to start hating on these things. They are nice little snacks and treats sometimes. But start looking to foods that are full of natural life and make these the core foundation of your diet. Soon enough, you will be so healthy that you could afford to treat yourself every now and then with burgers and sugary sweets etc. But fast food as a core foundation of your diet is only going to suck the life and energy out of you. 

Your mental health is another fundamental. Neurosis and "The Monkey Mind" are the greatest obstacles to good mental health. Present moment awareness, positive imagination and good feeling thoughts all create a vibrant outlook on life. Present moment awareness creates razor sharp focus. It also grounds you firmly in reality. Positive imagination and good feeling thoughts provide inspiration, hope as well as creating goals and visions to work towards. 

This is all about starting with the big picture and then working your way through the details. The big picture is happiness. Now divide that into manageable parts. Great physical and mental health can create happiness. Now divide those into manageable parts. Organic fruits, meditation etc. Another fundamental, which I will cover in another post is your environment ie "What you spend your day doing", job etc. But always get back to the big picture of "Happiness" if you get lost in the details. The problem I see a lot is that people say "Once I'm rich, then I'll be happy". They get lost in the details of investing, promotion, working like a maniac, deadlines etc and it becomes a nightmare. They can't see their way out. They lose sight of the bigger picture. So start with the basics. Get those right first. Slow and steady wins the race. Less "crashing and burning" and more "steady sailing ahead". But above all, remember to be happy. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Good ol' Character!

By the time I get the courage I am drunk and you are tired...

I have always been a fan of people with great character. Fictional characters also. Personality is there abouts as well, but character seems to spring from somewhere deeper. To me anyway, there seems to be a scale that runs from the shallow end of personality to the deep end of spirituality. And character lies somewhere comfortably in between. I say comfortably because things always seem to work out when you hit that sweet spot in the middle, while experiencing the other extremities now and then for a bit of adventure. But that middle ground is your stability. In Buddhism they like to talk about "the middle way" a lot.

Personality, to me, is based in reality. It is the image of ourselves that we present to others briefly. Banter, chit-chat, small talk all fall into this category. News programs like their weathermen/women to have bubbly personalities. Your favorite fruit and veg grocer might have the same, but you can never get a good sense of a person from this alone. It seems like this personality image can be easily discarded. If you spent your whole life small talking and chit chatting, it would seem wafer thin. It would feel like you spent the whole time splashin' your toes about in the shallow water at the beach. Sure, you'd get a bit of sand and foamy water between your toes, but it would get a bit pointless after a while.

The weird thing is is that some people get stuck in this "extremety". They overindulge in it, and fail to see anything outside of it. Their life is shallow chit chat. Whether it be the weather, their local sports team, their favourite TV show etc. it's all good "common ground" stuff. It greases the social gears at work. Sometimes families even rely on it. But it can become extremely frustrating. Nothing substantial ever gets spoken about. People are always looking for the right thing to say, the socially acceptable point of view. It's the easy way out.

The other extremity is spirituality. It is profound, deep, they talk about "oneness", "reality is just an illusion", "we are the unconscious part of God's dream" etc etc WHAT!!?? That jump between chit chat and "cosmic energy" is just too great. That's why to the average person, spiritual types seem crazy, and why to spiritual types shallow people seem crazy. The shallow "feeling" of small talk seems to crash when it encounters spiritual "we are all projections from the source" talk. And one side ends up thinking the other is crazy.

I have met my fair share of "profound", "deep", "intellectual" people, and I can honestly say it can be just as frustrating as small talk. It's an obsession with "the profoundness" of things. I have been there myself. And I annoyed the hell out of myself. It's just being stuck at the other extremity (the deep end) of things and not being able to see the way out. For example, in the morning you wake up rubbing your eyes, turn and mumble to your partner "what are you doing today...." and your girlfrind/boyfreind says "I'm communicating with my higher self. Reality is just an illusion, we are all God" What!!??

The way to get out of this in my opinion is finding the sweet spot of character. Character lies somewhere in between. When I think of character I think of honesty, courage, bravery, humility etc. Now these things can integrate with everyday life. It's the rock on which you can "build your house". From this stable platform you can indulge in a bit of small talk AND spirituality on the other side. The "leap" isn't THAT great. You're the link between the two extremities. The physical (personality) and the non physical (spiritual).

Anyway, to be a great character you've got to WANT to be a great character. Let your mind go in that direction. It's got to be a vision that pulls you towards it. You will get your own moments of clarity. You will look to great characters that you admire. You will figure out the core principles of their character. Hard work, humor, courage, bravery, honesty. You will incorporate these ideas into your own life. You might see great changes. Anyway, I just like to ramble sometimes and that's that. No great "one liner" sentence that sums it all up. I shall talk more about character in the future.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Letting Your Monkey Mind Float Away And Getting "In The Zone!"

frustrated
I have quite a bit of trouble controlling neurosis or "the monkey mind". It's such a funny thing to figure out. Some people have a natural ability to tune into reality with razor sharp focus. That means that very few thoughts are running through their mind while they absorb information easily. They have a natural ability to "live in the moment". Someone who has obsessive thoughts on the other hand, has extreme difficulty with "living in the moment". It's like a blurred screen which clouds and distorts reality.

Once I get stuck into a state like this it becomes my normal. I somehow fail to recognize that I am in this state, and I slowly drift out of touch with reality. It's like I start skimming over the present moment. This clouded state of being can go on for months without me recognizing that I'm wrapped up in it. And to me anyway, this is a source of anxiety. It feels almost like a state of frenzy. My mind's cogs and wheels will be working overtime to solve some perceived problem which I never seem get to the bottom of. It just keeps going.

This is where perspective gets lost. My world becomes my thoughts. My reference points aren't based on reality anymore, they come from these imagined thoughts. This is why some people are said to be living in "fantasy land". Controlled correctly, imagination can be a great thing, as long as you don't overindulge and remember to "return to reality" ie the present moment every now and then. But a lot of people's imagined thoughts are of a fearful, anxious nature. It's like being stuck in a storm of thought where you forget what peace and calm feel like.

This peace and calm is what many people call "Zen" I suppose. But when I look at sportsmen, it must be what "being in the zone" is. You hear golfers talk about the feeling of "being the ball" while hitting a winning put shot. Their mind is COMPLETELY quiet. They are at peace. Thoughts about "missing the shot" or "oh no, the world is watching me" don't enter their mind at all. They are 100% focused on that little ball. This "being in the zone" is something that I am very fascinated by.

The other end of the spectrum encompasses a wide range of mental disorders in my opinion. When I see a "mentally disturbed" person walking down the street talking to themselves, I am almost certain that they are suffering from extreme addiction to obsessive over thinking. They get to point where they cannot see their way out.

Thoughts create feelings. If you have obsessive thoughts of a fearful nature, your body and self will be filled with fear and anxiety. If this carries on for months and months and maybe years, you will no doubt feel depressed and anxiety ridden. I have first hand experience of this. It is nearly impossible to see anything outside of this state. It is like being lost in the woods. If you have overly obsessive thoughts about making money, those thoughts will keep triggering that "lust for money" feeling. This feeling will keep fueling the over thinking but it isn't true peace and calm, which is what this person is after I'm sure. "Once I make my money, I will be happy".

The way to really experience peace and calm is to "let go" of your thoughts. The best way in my opinion is to focus using your senses. A lot of meditation teachers like to focus on the breath etc. This is fine but I suspect that a lot of people might find this boring and be turned away from it. I like to focus on "busier things". More exciting things. Like watching a sports match. I will see how long I can maintain my focus before I drift away into my thoughts. When I realize that I have been thinking about something else (for like 5 or 10 minutes sometimes!) I return to present observation. Going deeper and deeper into observation. This produces profound effects. You might come across this while reading a book. At the end of a page you might think to yourself "What the hell was I reading!" and have to read it again. The key is to try and sustain your attention for as long as possible, while going as far "into" the object of your attention. It provides an intense feeling of calm. Try it!

Friday, June 6, 2014

It's a Brain Off!

intellectuals at home

Brain-Offs fascinate me. It's a level up from guys who posture about the place with bravado and big muscles, and girls who over indulge in make up and their looks, but it's still within the same ballpark. The name of the game is competition, and the the star of the show is Mr. Ego.

The ego's purpose in life is to win. It shall reign supreme. It will survive and outlast the rest of the field. Weakness is total failure. Lack of general knowledge brings shame and embarrassment. The dull, blunt-edged ego will be shunned and ignored from society. There is no mercy shown to the weak ego. "Keep up, or stand by the sidelines and stay out of the way!" says Mr. Ego

Mr "Hero" Ego generally has a knack for sucking the life out of good times. These are a few examples of what I like to call "Brain Offs" or ego showdowns........

  • Any time you see any political debate. I generally try and stay the hell away from these, unless I want to be reminded of how bad things can get. The other guys are ALWAYS the bad guys, the other guys ALWAYS screwed things up when they last were in charge, the other guys are ONLY interested in serving themselves. It's just points scoring. The winners have their ego's soothed, the losers lick their wounds. No one really feels good about anything at all. Small satisfactions here and there keep them goin. Their faces show signs of severe miserableness. 
  • The "life and soul of the party" guy. Genuine, authentic life and soul is great, but we all know guys that when they enter a room, theres lots of back slapping, arching back pointing at people, people pointing back laughing loudly, there's no real joke or anything really funny, it's just a bunch of people pointing at eachother. It's a weird thing to see. It's even weirder that they're serious about it. If girls are around this is ramped up like 5 notches. It can become unbearable.
  • The "bat away the competition with cheap shots" person. That person who enters the room with a smug look and dirty cheap shots. This can kill a good laugh and good times pretty fast. Easy "crutch" jokes are used a lot. Mother jokes, your sister jokes, your team sucks jokes basically guys with open weaknesses are picked up on first. Very unoriginal and most of it stolen material. No real good times at all. 
  • Friendly banter that turns into an ego showdown. General chit chat and merriment is interrupted by two people using big words and "hard to grasp" concepts, and a debate breaks out about the economy of a country no ones heard about. Random, obscure facts are dropped in to show off one's Big Brain. This can be pure torture. Two body builders may as well be arm wrestling. I honestly consider them roughly the same thing. 

Anyway, the ego is probably THE cause of the world's problems and we would be doing well to atleast know what it is and how to manage it.