Enjoy the Art of Being In Touch With the World

mystical forest

Human organisms are motivated by psychological drives. A psychological drive is “an innate, biologically determined urge to attain a goal or satisfy a need” (Oxford). If you are hungry, for example, wanting to eliminate or reduce the unpleasant state of hunger is what drives you.

The psychiatrist Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) theorized that we have two drives: a drive toward life—includes instinctual impulses to have sex, eat, drink and need for fun (see: Pleasure Principle)—and a drive toward death—includes anti-social behaviour, anger, aggression, hate and violence (good times).

I hate everyone

From these drives Freud theorized that personality is a system of three interconnected parts: Id (instinctual part: “Give me now”), Ego (realistic part: “No, I don’t think so”) and Superego (moral conscience part: “You should be ashamed!”).

Id, Ego and Superego are a translation of Es (it), Ich (I) and Ueber-Ich (Over-I). Id is like a horse. Ego is the rider and Superego lambastes Ego for trespassing. As your “ideal” self, Superego conforms to society and prohibits unethical behaviour (Simply Psychology).

id ego super ego

Freud saw ego as a good thing. Ego negotiates between human impulses and social standards. There are, however, other ways to look at it.

Cue music: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, “Man On Fire”.

As a ‘me’ ‘mine’ and ‘for myself,’ we consider ourselves distinct from the world, but if you look closely, you realize: it isn’t true.

If you want inner peace, break free of what Freud says.

Garry Shandling
Garry in high school. “It’s not the hair on your head that matters. It’s the kind of hair you have inside.”

Garry Shandling (1949-2016)—a comedian who made loneliness and self-hate funny before turning it into love for the world—said before he died (obviously):

All my journey is to be authentically who I am. Not trying to be somebody else under all circumstances. The whole world is confused because they’re trying to be somebody else. To be your true self it takes enormous work…. Ego drives the world. Ego drives the problems. So you have to work in an ego-less way. Egolessness, which, is the key to being authentic, is a battle” (The Green Room).

In spiritual circles ego is seen as an enemy and a synonym for “selfishness.”

Psychological drives operate on a feedback control system similar to a thermostat. When a need is satisfied, the drive is reduced. We relax. Eliminate a drive completely and a state of mental balance or psychological equilibrium is obtained

tragic humouros 2

When we’re calm and comfortable, that’s room temperature. When our emotional temperature changes, we feel tension and an instinctive response to potential conflict.

Some people perpetuate unpleasant states for purposes of enjoyment. They eat when not hungry, drink when not thirsty and enjoy death defying activities like skydiving and the thrill of almost dying (source).

Some people have a drive for lots of money, power, fame or whatever. Such people will experience an unpleasant state of dissatisfaction when they realize that externals don’t matter.

hungry-ghost-gaki-zoshi-arthistory

This is hungry ghost territory. This is, as Gabor Maté, M.D., said, “where we seek something outside ourselves to curb an insatiable yearning for relief or fulfillment. The aching emptiness is perpetual because the substances, objects or pursuits we hope will soothe it are not what we really need. We don’t know what we need, and so long as we stay in the hungry ghost mode, we’ll never know. We haunt our lives without being fully present” (Hungry Ghosts).

But, don’t worry. It’s normal.

As one seeks to survive in a culture of consumption and comparison in the midst of mass advertising, it’s only natural to want more than is possible. If you get hungry ghost-liketake a deep breath and ask yourself: “Do I have what I need?”

The psychiatrist Shoma Morita (1874-1938) proposed two other drives: a drive to live fully and a drive for comfort and security. Sometimes these drives are at odds.

drive

With eyes on a need yet achieved, there is anxiety and self-doubt. Such feelings cannot be avoided.  Emotions are messages.

Avoid or suppress feelings and you disrupt your ability to function. For example, if you are anxious in social situations, the inclination is to avoid them, but avoidance perpetuates a lack of confidence and the very anxiety one is trying to escape. Self-confidence comes with experience. Understand a feeling and take action if need be (source).

Some of us have drives that are difficult to satisfy. Sometimes a drive takes over and we are driven.

The question is: Where are we going?

charlie brown where are we going

Many humans—many, many humans probably (in fact)—experience a constant dissatisfaction with life. Their minds have made a judgment: Life is not the way it should be.

But why?

It could be that we experience dissatisfaction with life “as it is” because in comparison to life imagined, the life we live falls short of expectations. We try to make life match our ideal by noticing what’s wrong and making changes, but when we achieve what we want, we imagine how life could be even better. We think that once we fix what’s wrong, we’ll be satisfied, but when the “future” arrives, it’s just another dissatisfying moment.

al franken just remember you are good enough

It’s rare for people to feel a deep satisfaction with the way things are. We live as if the present moment is a barrier to the life we’d rather be living. The future we dream of never arrives and herein is the human conundrum.

Most of us live in a world of make-believe—even though we know life isn’t a fairy story. Most of us live a mundane existence in stark contrast to our make-believe world, but take heed: Reality does exist and it’s better than make-believe.

Reality is a world of opportunity, happiness and peace of mind. You might be content within a comfort zone of normal life—happy to take out the garbage, do laundry or whatever (all good stuff)—but there are degrees of happiness.

You could be only scratching the surface. Pay attention to what it feels like or sounds like to be here and now. Do this and you are taken from make-believe to a direct experience of reality. You start seeing, feeling, hearing, smelling and tasting the present in a way that you haven’t done since you were a kid.

Like Boston (the band, not the city) said, “People livin’ in competition. All I want is to have my peace of mind, yeah, whoa” (“Peace of Mind“).

Yeah. Whoa. That’s it precisely.

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Enjoy A Good Laugh

Now, too, on melancholy’s idle dreams 
Musing, the lone spot with my soul agrees
(“Sweet Was the Walk” Wordsworth).

To understand humans, just watch them. See what they do. Fascinating creatures. Watch their facial expressions and actions. Listen to their words and intonations.

Watch a man drive aggressively. He tailgates. He cuts in and out. He races. He honks. He stops only when he must. Can you tell by his driving what he’s thinking? Probably.

angry driver

Hurry puts people in bad humour. Look at the face of an aggressive driver—narrowed eyes, angled eyebrows, gritted teeth—unless he’s a constipated criminal or Paul Anka singing, “Having my baby”, this is not the face of peace. This is the demon face of frustration and anger—not to mention arrogance and thrill-seeking behaviour.

Poor selfish lout, so stressed out. One might feel pity if he weren’t scary. Here is machine man surrounded by machine people who have become as gods to themselves. He might prefer to relax and enjoy a nice ride, but he’s too busy listening to reptilian brain chatter.

reptilebrain
Blocking My Reptile” by Stuart McMillen

We’ve all been there. The good old basal ganglia (aka reptilian or primal brain). It’s the part controlling automatic self-preserving behavior and the four Fs: Feeding, Fighting, Fleeing, and…. Reproduction (source). It’s the part that defends self, family and personal property and performs socially acceptable actions like handshakes and head nods.

The doer is revealed by the deed but it could be argued that everyone does the best they can—even if it is terrible (see  related post: “World Views, Weird Edges & Higher States of Consciousness”). If people could do better, they would, wouldn’t they? If we don’t pay attention, it is only in yesterday that we realize what happened.

As an individual, you live a life that no one else will live. Knowing yourself will only come from an intensely personal and passionate pursuit of what gives meaning to your life. Consider what brings you joy and focus on that.

Beyond the emptiness of perpetual pleasure-seeking and bad tidings of your disappearance in the wake of time and a society that’ll suck you dry…… there is another way.

society and individual

The trick is to become aware of your true self subjectively. This is the psychology of religion. To feel yourself as your true self is to have a profound feeling of yourself not in an egotistical sense—not in sadness, anger, fear, envy, jealousy, despair or some negative feeling—but by a silent awareness, a perception that, this is me. I am here. Look at this world. Isn’t it amazing? These people are like me.

put-that-away-your-moneys-no-good-here-danny-shanaha

If good old Aristotle with wine on breath, asked you point blank—BAM: “How should we live?” Dear reader: What is your answer?

Is the  focus on yourself or on society and its rules? As your mind races for words to answer Aristotle (how’d he get in here anyway?), you think about how life feels accidental. In flashes of memory you see your past and like a Talking Head ask, “Where does that highway go to? And you may ask yourself: Am I right?…Am I wrong? And you may say to yourself: My God!…What have I done?!” (“Once in a Lifetime”).

highway.gifLife stretches ahead as the past falls away (see: “Enjoy A Perfect World”). You enjoy yourself when you can and work hard as you must. You enjoy the cake you get and sing with defiance, “I will survive. Yeah, as long as I know how to love, I know I’ll be alive” (“I Will Survive”).

“How should we live?” Good question. Decisions made thoughtfully when young feel arbitrary when old. We have pleasures and aversions and find love where we can. When young we sing, “I hope I die before I get old” (“My Generation“) and when old, we sing a different tune.

simpsons_yells_at_cloud.jpgThings happen. Like Sid Vicious, Sinatra and Elvis, we too sing, “Regrets, I’ve had a few;  but then again, too few to mention. I did what I had to do. And saw it through without exemption” (“My Way”). We have reasons for what we’ve done but we might wonder at times, “Is it me, or is life meaningless? Where’s the fairness in this?”

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One person has a fantastic life and another is subjected to misery. Why is that? If God is randomness, then you are a believer.

Maybe philosopher Albert Camus (1913-1960) was onto something when he said that existence is absurd.

Man stands face to face with the irrational. He feels within him his longing for happiness and for reason. The absurd is born of this confrontation between the human need and the unreasonable silence of the world” (The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays).

camus car
In 1960 Albert Camus (aged 46) died when the Facel Vega he was riding in crashed.

How should we live? Why should? Who says should? Is this about ethical living? In the dictionary should is a verb indicating “obligation, duty or correctness, typically when criticizing someone’s actions.”

looking under the hoodWe know we should give more weight to promoting social welfare than to achieving personal gain but what’s more important, you or society? Here we come to the crux of the matter. A body with a brain is a person, but is there more to a self?

The trick is to enjoy yourself without causing harm in this perfect life that is all your own. Think of a person trying to decide whether to play video games, watch TV, go to work or go for a walk. The different “yous”—aspects of your personality—are conflicting, but the conflict itself is part of what makes you you.

Old wise Epicurus (341-270 BC) said in a letter, “It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and honorably and justly, and it is impossible to live wisely and honorably without living pleasantly.” Dance to your song and let the wheels of time turn as they will anyway.

Enjoy.

The Content of Contentment: Press Play

tightrope walkerThere’s a war going on. It’s been going on for a couple of thousand years. It’s happening right now. It’s on TV, in the news and in books and movies. It’s on the Internet and on billboards but it isn’t an obvious war. It’s subtle. There are no bombs as a rule.

jesus billboardLike The Troggs said, “It’s written on the wind. It’s everywhere I go” (“Love Is All Around”), but it isn’t love that’s all around: it’s thought.

From thought love flows or shuts off (“Real Love Is a Choice”). You can’t see thought of course—it’s more or less invisible, ergo: “spiritual”—but you can see evidence of thought (or lack thereof) in brain scans, behaviour and city planning.

Cue music: “Peacock Tail” or “Calcutta”.

willy wonka memeThe philosopher Michel Onfray—resident hedonist, atheist, and anarchist—says that it’s a war between materialists and idealists (source). It’s a war that focuses on the big question: “What is reality?”

How you answer determines how you relate to the world.

No biggie.

matrixImagine holding a spoon. You see it. You feel its weight and cool metal in your hand. These perceptions happen within your brain where data from sensory organs comes together and forms an “image” of the spoon in your brain, but apart from your perceptions and awareness of the spoon, is there really something outside and separate from your mind? Do you regard the spoon as real or not?

Materialism says yes.

Idealism says no.

Which one are you?

To a materialist everything is matter because everything, including mental activity and consciousness, is physical. It’s matter acting upon matter. Reality is independent of perceptions.

materialist

As the philosopher Alexander Spirkin (1918-2004) put it in “Matter as the Substance of Everything That Exists”, “Consciousness belongs not to any transcendental world but to the material world.”

The word “materialist” also refers to someone who displays conspicuous consumption of material goods or who pursues wealth and luxury.

If materialism had a theme song it would be Let’s get physical” with Olivia Newton John or “Material Girl” with Madonna.

Now, the opposite of materialism (everything is “matter”) is idealism. To an idealist everything is mental (not matter) and therefore immaterial because the mind, as in, thoughts and ideas, make reality for you (source).

In the movie The Matrix, a boy bends a spoon without touching it and says, “There is no spoon.” To an idealist this means that you can’t manipulate reality, you can only manipulate yourself. Only when you change yourself can you change reality.

perceiver and perception

Idealists can be dualists or nondualists. Dualists (“being two”) think the world is made of divisionsgood/bad, here/there, self/other, past/future; whereas, nondualists (“not two”) think these divisions don’t exist and that we don’t really experience them at all because everything is interconnected and not separated.

Nondualists in Eastern and Western traditions say that a dual, divided experience leaves us feeling finite and vulnerable because we think we’re separate from everything else but if we really understand the nondual unbroken-experience, feelings of separation and suffering end completely (Science & Nonduality).

duality and nonduality

Idealism says, “I am Consciousness. All objects of my awareness are really Awareness in disguise”  (source). If idealism had a theme song, it would be “Life Is But a Dream” with the Harptones, “Spirit In the Sky” with Norman Greenbaum, or “Hurdy Gurdy Man” with Donovan.

The word “idealist” also describes a person with high ideals or qualities of perfection and excellence.

when I was young

In this war the lines are drawn in phrases of persuasion. When Onfray says, “Religion is like magic. It’s all about tricks,” he expresses a materialist’s position. When British physicist James Jeans (1877-1946) says, “the Universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine,” he expresses an idealist’s position. But why must we choose between one or the other? Why not be both together?

bubble

Whether materialist or idealist, we each live in our own little bubble of awareness. The bubble is our self—a universe of one. Some bubble-people float alone. Some bubble-people stick together like suds. Inside our bubbles we think we’re awake and aware of our surroundings. Consciousness seems to come from the operations of our brain but consciousness is tricky that way.

It’s like there’s a locked box inside our head and the key to open it is inside! Thinking about thought is like that. As the Platters said, “Only you can make this world seem right” (“Only You”). The best we can do is to make educated guesses about what others are thinking (source).

lady in a bubble
Photograph by Alex Kisilevich.

The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) wrote, “There are no facts, only interpretation” (source) meaning, truth and reality are concoctions of someone interpreting reality and therefore creating it. It’s an idea verified by science. In “What hallucination reveals about our mind” neurologist Oliver Sacks said that we see with the brain but the brain can be fooled by hallucinations that mimic perceptions.

brain is outside inIn “Your brain hallucinates your conscious reality”, neuroscientist Anil Seth said, “What we consciously see is based on the brain’s best guess of what’s out there. Our experienced world comes from the inside out, not just the outside in.”

You could be a materialist who isn’t materialistic or an idealist without ideals, but not likely. Materialism’s determination that everything is “matter” goes with a materialistic desire to buy and idealism’s realization that reality is mental goes with caring more for ideals of excellence and goodness than for anything purchased.

materialism3In the article “If You Shop on Thanksgiving, You Are Part of the Problem” Matt Walsh writes of  the materialist’s credo for happiness: “Everybody buy. It doesn’t matter what you buy. Just buy. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have money. Just buy.”

To which George Monbiot adds, “The more we consume, the less we feel. The richer we are and the more we consume, the more self-centred and careless of the lives of others we appear to become” (“Why we couldn’t care less about the natural world”).

A materialistic bid for happiness confirms research that shows, “Those who pursue wealth and material possessions tend to be less satisfied and experience fewer positive emotions each day… Life satisfaction—surprise, surprise—is correlated with having less materialistic values” (“The Psychology Of Materialism, And Why It’s Making You Unhappy”).

idealist cartoon

Psychologist Felicitas Heyne writes, “If you are an Idealist, life represents one continuous search for a deeper meaning: Who am I? Where am I going? What is my destiny? This already describes the most important pillar of your personal concept of happiness: The meaning of life!” (“How Idealists can find Meaning in their Lives”).

To be awake means to be fully conscious in the present moment. To be “unconscious” is to be not conscious. It is to be “without awareness, or cognition” (Dictionary.com). 

In the film, You, the Living, a psychiatrist delivers a bleak assessment of the human condition: “People demand to be happy at the same time as they are egocentric, selfish and ungenerous. I’d like to be honest and say they are quite simply mean, most of them. I’ve stopped trying to make a mean person happy. I just prescribe pills, the stronger the better.

So, is the answer in a pill?

red pill or blue pill

When Bob Dylan said, “The answer, my friendis blowin’ in the wind,” he said a slurring mouthful (“Blowing In The Wind”).

Peace_and_Contentment_Eduard-Grützner
Peace and contentment by Eduard von Grützner, 1897.

As an idealist, you interpret the world as if it were a person and then, as a materialist, you enjoy it. Two sides. Same coin.

Contentment is simply seeing and enjoying what is seen and enjoyed simply.

In a state of satisfaction with absolute acceptance of yourself and your situation, perfect gratitude hits you with perfect ease and contentment.

And there you are.

Here.

Enjoying.

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Enjoy Your Self Feeling Infinitely Subjectively Groovy

Sky_Grass_Moon_Balloon_House_1920x1200.jpg
A-ah-ahh-ah. A-ah-ahh-ah. We come from the land of ice and snow from the midnight sun where the hot springs flow. Hammer of the gods will drive our ships to new land. To fight the hordes and sing, and cry. Valhalla, I am coming” (“Immigrant song“).

One day, over wine and cheese, on a Tuesday, after too much cheese, a philosopher named Aristotle asked a new acquaintance, “How should we live?” The new acquaintance, a fellow academic, shrugged his shoulders and walked away mumbling something about nature calling.

nature callsIt’s a question we might ask our self on occasion. There’s a lot we should do but don’t. Why is that? Maybe it’s because we’re human and being human isn’t easy. We know where we’re headed. As Sigmund Freud said, “Everyone owes nature a death.”

Death is a gloomy consequence of life. We know we’re finite, but knowing doesn’t stop us from longing for something infinite.

sunshine
“Some cardiac arrest patients recalled seeing a bright light; a golden flash or the Sun shining” (source). Puts a new spin on “Here Comes the Sun.”

We’re told death is the end but people take comfort in religion or scientists who say otherwise. A University of Southampton study, for example, found that, “40 per cent of people who survived described some kind of ‘awareness’ during the time when they were clinically dead before their hearts were restarted” (source).

beaker2Stuck between finite awareness and infinite imagining and longing, everyone wants to enjoy themselves but feeling ethically responsible in an expanding human ant hill gets in the way of enjoying (unless ethics over aesthetics is your thing).

There’s a battle going on.

The battle is between those who live for pleasure and those who demand an ethical existence.

Are you secretly singing, “How does it to feel, to be on your own, with no direction home, like a complete unknown,” (Dylan, 1965) (see video of the chaos of being: “Like a Rolling Stone”) or is your song “All Together Now“? “

If you do not pursue pleasure as an Individual living a life that is beautiful (aesthetically speaking) and dedicate yourself to helping the greatest number enjoy maximum pleasure (ethically speaking), what then? How does it feel? In the end, with the last breath on the last day, life still hits you in the eye “like a big pizza pie!” (“That’s Amore”).

And then you die.

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Whether we like it or not (or admit it or not), how death is regarded (or disregarded) is intimately bound up with an individual’s entire view of life.

Is this a “me” life or a “we” life? What’s the line of separation? Your body? Your mind? What’s the deal? Is life summed up nicely in that Trooper song from ’77, “Here for a good time (not a long time)”?

linus and his blanket.jpgThe human race as a whole has replaced the role of God and fate. This has encouraged a standard of morality that doesn’t rise higher than the goal of the greatest happiness for the greatest number. Individuals are encouraged to work for the welfare of the group and future generations. We survive to survive without any enlightenment about the problems afflicting “you” as an individual.

me weWe’re encouraged to go from a selfishly materialistic “me generation” into a “we generation” where we celebrate differences at the same time we level everyone in the mania of a carefully orchestrated We Day pep rally for social change featuring big-deal speakers.

The Individual “me” is the smallest natural unit of humanity. An Individual has existed from the very beginning of humankind. Over time, Individuals chose to associate within societal structures for the benefits of those associations. If there are no benefits, the Individual may choose not to participate or to escape physically or mentally in an alternate reality.  

Burning_Man_2015_Galen_Oakes_Art_1
“Joyful desert art / A rolling sea of neon / In another world” (Haikus & Happiness At Burning Man).

It is short-sighted “reasoning” to advocate the needs of society at the expense of the Individual. Society only exists through the consensual efforts of the Individual due to benefits that cooperation yields.

pendulumBoth “me” and “we” perspectives seem oblivious of transcending their pronoun. Do you put yourself first or the group? Some might say, “That depends.” Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) observed, “In the depths of my heart I can’t help being convinced that my dear fellow-men, with a few exceptions, are worthless.”

Humans historically believed in the fantastical, but the pendulum has swung from belief to reason.

Some people think it’s a virtue to believe in something without evidence while others think it’s foolish. This leaves two types of people: those who look for logical explanations based on reason and those who look for magic (and find it). But all people – whether believers or not – seek a deeper meaning, purpose, and significance in the things that happen to them.

What if the answer to our transcendental longing is in our words? Look at the word “universe” which is, “the totality of existing things.” “Universe” literally means “turned into one.” It comes from unus meaning “one” as in “alone, one unique” plus versus, past participle of vertere meaning, “to turn, turn back, be turned; convert, transform, translate; be changed” (source).

It’s like the song “Turn, Turn, Turn” from ’65! The universe is one alone transformed. That’s you! “One Alone Transformed!”

cobblestone2People know you by what you do but how do you identify yourself? Your self is your will and your lack of will. Your will pulls you together into a coherent whole complete with muscular tension. There are no mistakes. The big trick is to take that leap and see the beauty and miracle in the ordinary.

The most important level of relation is not between your self and others or your self and yourself, but between your self and everything else as an individual: life, the world, the universe, nature, God – call it what you will – but most especially, it’s not a word but a subjectively beautiful Feeling Groovy” loosey-goosey lovely feeling!  

When you decide that “this is true” and “this is not,” you identify “beliefs” that you have based on experiences you’ve had while trying to satisfy your longing for meaning, purpose, and significance.

flower in a crannied wall
“Flower in a crannied wall” (Tennyson).

Transcendent enjoyment involves you as a self and everything else merging in a feeling beyond reasoning.

If Aristotle with wine on breath, asked you point blank, BAM: “How should we live?” dear reader: What’s your answer?

Enjoy A Perfect World

drivingtowardsrain

Imagine you’re on a highway. Up ahead is a storm. It’s a big one. You want to get where you’re going, but should you turn around?

Before deciding what to do, you stop to enjoy the view. The air is earthy. Electrified. Colours vivid: dark green, dark blue, pink, distant purple.

a-perfect-world
Casper doesn’t want to go out and boo people. He want’s to be friendly,”  from There’s Good Boos Tonight.

Driving for hours in a time machine car has put you in a trance. The road ahead has taken you into the future and left the past in a rear-view mirror (see: Kevin Costner explain In a Perfect World).

lightning2The sky rumbles and ruminates upon your fate as you stand bewildered. A thundering song rocks your brain: “I was caught in the middle of a railroad track (thunder!). I looked round and I knew there was no turning back (thunder!)” (“Thunderstruck,” AC/DC).

clashstayorgosingle
Source

Between waking and sleeping and thinking and doing you breathe deeply. The storm edges closer but there is no hurry, no tension, no mental chatter. You are as loose as a wet noodle as you listen to sound come and go. Your face is stupidly slack. Vision widens. Inside the car the Clash asks your question, “Should I stay or should I go?”

It’s perfect.

Everything is just so: earth, sky, air, body. The voice within goes quiet when you touch reality. Judgement: suspended! Impatience: gone! A childlike freedom hits. You’re like a bird perched on a branch giving way, but why worry?

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Life is forever asking: What are you going to do? (see also: The Joy of Living and Everyday Ecstasy).

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,” said Macbeth immersed in a future that didn’t exist. Life is “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,” but like a lot of people living fictional lives, he confused thinking with reality. That’s probably where the whole notion of a spirit within came from.

a-murderer-will-kill-youWe trick ourselves into thinking there must be a watcher for something to be watched, that what happens now follows the past, but it’s the other way round: the past follows from what’s happening now.

It’s a head-game we play in our storied lives where actions have responses and character is revealed.

Even though we know actors are pretending in a show, we pretend with them. Management (MGMT) was correct, “We are fated to pretend” (“Time To Pretend“).

wantMost stories go want-obstacle-action-response (repeat) – outcome (when the want is gone or resources are depleted). That’s the beat of a hero’s journey. Behind it all there’s an underlying message or “big idea.”

What we want associates with what is lacking: a hungry person wants food, a thirsty person wants water, a prisoner wants freedom, a sick person wants health, a cheated person wants justice, a bored person wants excitement, a weak person wants power and so on ad infinitum. 

Wanting never ends.

A person who has everything probably wants more. It’s hard to imagine that you can contemplate your way into a mental state aligned with nature and make wanting and getting one and the same.

If asked, “What do you want?” what would you say? Is it food, shelter, money, sex, health, longevity, love, happiness, freedom? contentment, excitement, enlightenment… a stupendous high? What?

All of the above?

While you might feel stressed and worthless as you try to achieve, if you imagine achieving whatever it is, there could be a point afterwards when the achievement isn’t that important. When that happens, you realize that you’re the same person you’ve always been.

Within the life you lead, you will be about as happy as you choose to be. No matter how fantastic the achievement, eventually it will pass and become old news. Look at how research into lottery winners shows they’re not much happier than those who didn’t win (source).

Of the 108 billion people who have lived and the 7.5 billion swarming today (according to the World population Clock), there are just as many people with just as many problems and wants as ever. At the end of the last day without understanding, a billionaire and pauper will tremble naked and alone under their clothes.

In a world where automation replaces people, in the not too distant future half the people will need something to do. That’s when a philosophy of enjoyment will be critical.

george
“It’s not a lie if you believe it.”

Our storied brains help us enjoy despite self-destruction as a species. And yet, if you want to get everything you want, the answer isn’t in satisfaction of urges.

It’s the opposite.

Like Jerry Seinfeld said to George Castanza, “If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.” “Yes!” says George. “I will do the opposite!” (see: George does the opposite).

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Imagine looking at yourself from ten feet above. Feel aware of yourself in all that you see. Breathe consciously. When you’re done reading, don’t do anything. Just pause. Look around. See yourself seeing. This is it. There isn’t any more. Your heart is beating. Love what you see. It’s a perfect world. Sense everything in its entirety and flow with what is. Feel purely natural like a planet going around the sun without any sort of control, force, or attempt to revolve.

All insides have outsides. Yours doesn’t end with the skin. Hear Bert’s “African Beat” and know the world is your body! Engage in spontaneous effortless movement like a stream and what you want and get are made one and the same.

Enjoy! Enjoy! Enjoy.

So This Is Christmas

christmasChristmas. It’s a time to enjoy being a kid again. ‘It’s time to be nice to the people you can’t stand all year’ (Blink 182, Won’t Be Home For Christmas). It’s time to lighten up like a string of lights and not be so serious. Serious people lose their sense of humour. They lose perspective, get mad, start wars (or self-destruct).

Let go of expectations. Lower the bar! It’s time to take stock, have a good cry and then: move on – refreshed – ready for a new year.

where is mindIt’s time to pay attention to matters of love and friendship and textured vests. It’s a time to want what you get and be thankful for it. It’s a time to enjoy being mild and to smile for no apparent reason. It’s time to relax your face muscles completely, to not be critical of the idiot next door or find fault with yourself and all the others out there.

It’s like Ebenezer Scrooge said in A Christmas Carol after his nightmare and metanoia (change of heart), “It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.” And then, later a new and improved Mr. Scrooge said, “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!”

scrooge

It’s time to hear a Medieval Christmas Carol and imagine. Christmas is a perfect time for a philosopher of enjoyment because isn’t enjoyment what it’s all about? Isn’t that why we’re here? Don’t all mothers and fathers want their children to be happy?

With or without a religious affiliation, everyone believes in love. Everyone believes in happiness. Christmas is a time for traditions, for remembering good times and the lessons learned in bad. It’s a time to stop competing, to get off the rat race and enjoy being alive.

being in the momentChristmas is a time to enjoy seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, imagining (and caroling). It’s a time to be in time (not on time).

It is time to take a simple approach: When looking, look. When hearing, hear. Look without judgement. Hear what is there. Let thoughts come and go like the trace of a line left by a fly.

This Christmas be introspective with a difference: Pay attention to sights and sounds and let thoughts move along like marching bands in a Santa Claus parade.

santa-clause-paradeIf you get sucked into the vortex of thinking, take a deep breath and start again. Gaze at Christmas ornaments unabashedly wide-eyed. Listen to music of love like it’s as essential as the air that you breath. Watch thought bubbles come and go and you will feel lighthearted love for all.

bubblesNot that thinking is bad (unless it is bad thinking). It’s just that being perpetually absorbed takes you into a mental world that isn’t real. Before his transformation Scrooge was in a mental world where only money mattered. He was blind to the world outside his mind. But you don’t need ghosts to tell you what is.

christmas ballsLook at Christmas tree balls. No sorrow. No lamenting. No coveting. No grief. Feel a passion for what is real in every moment, undistracted and accepting.

Christmas is a be-in-the moment thing.

christmas treats

Christmas is a time for bitter-sweet tears of loss and heartache (in a good way!), but try not to let emotions of love get mixed with pain. Love hurts. That’s what it does. Too often people have unrealistic expectations and engage in too much self-reflection. As a result, there’s an increase in depression and suicide attempts (Psychology Today).

christmas3The trick to all this is to ignore how the media presents Christmas perfection. Christmas is not perfect. Be with what is and remember the kid that you were.

expectationsAs much as we may ponder the past and worry about the future, Christmas is time to focus on now.

This is it. This is it. This is it.

If you want to be happy in the world, there is nothing more important than to understand this. The trouble is that we spend our lives forgetting and overlooking the truth. We flee from it and manage to avoid being happy while we struggle to become happy by fulfilling desire.

Listen to that old song called Stewball that goes, “Oh Stewball was a racehorse, and I wish he were mine. He never drank water, he always drank wine,” and remember how Stewball became something else.

Stewball’s melody was turned into a new Christmas song about love, “So this is Christmas and what have you done? Another year over and a new one’s just begun. And so this is Christmas, I hope you have fun, the near and the dear ones, the old and the young…” (John Lennon, So this is Christmas).

Now is the time that is. Now is the time for your transformation. Now is the time to enjoy what Christmas is. Go forth and enjoy all the love that you can.

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Nonordinary Enjoyment


After scuba diving, Charles Michael Kittridge Thompson IV (aka Blackman Francis or Frank Black) from the band the Pixies was inspired to write, “With your feet on the air and your head on the ground. Try this trick and spin it. Yeah. Your head’ll collapse, but there’s nothing in it. And then you’ll ask yourself: Where is my mind?

He’s not literally looking for his mind. One doesn’t lose one’s mind like one loses one’s keys (see post: A New Way of Looking).

flippersWhile he was scuba diving Black probably did lose his mind, not to madness, but to a beautiful feeling when there’s nothing in it but the beauty of being in the beauty of what’s all around. When inner talk runs between wanting and not-wanting, and liking and disliking is stopped—particularly in a natural setting—we can feel aware of beauty in the outside world and enjoy it like nothing else. 

Stilling the inner monologue has been talked about by artists, poets, artisans and all those who lose themselves in creating, by athletes who lose themselves in playing, by mothers, fathers, lovers and friends who lose themselves in loving, by meditators who lose themselves in breathing, by comrades in camaraderie, by martial artists in the zone, by co-workers and soldiers, by mystics and bakers – by anyone who suddenly feels aware of the world with a shock of boundless love and the enjoyment of being.

If your mind is always busy, angry, depressed or confused, if you are always trying to achieve goals and better health, you won’t enjoy living because you are always somewhere else. You’re living for for a future perfection that never comes. If life doesn’t feel quite right, it never will. Life is never quite right because it cannot be what you like. It’s only when you allow yourself to relax that you relax and in so doing, enjoy life in its unfolding.

There may be future goals, hazards, struggles and sorrows but each seeker of happiness should know that we don’t want happiness later. We want it now. Happiness isn’t at the  top of the hill.

path

We want a path to happiness right now but we only find good reason to be satisfied on that path by being satisfied. Feel satisfied and you are. That’s it. Tell yourself and you will listen. It’s an unconscious thing. You don’t love because, as in, “for some reason.” You love because you do.

When thoughts of self-gain subside one’s mind is extended from brain and body to world all around. Ego-brain and ego-mouth are Trumped by love and forced to be quiet. Everyone is just another you. It’s a merging. Scientists and mystics call this an altered states of consciousness. You can see it happen in brain scans. 

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The Pixies 1988 version of “Where is my mind?” is in the movie Fight Club. Other versions of the song include Maxence Cyrin’s (set to scenes from The Mysterious Lady, a silent film from 1928 starring Greta Garbo), the band Placebo‘s and Sunday Girl’s version in the show Mr. Robot.

It’s a song that gets around.

batmanEnjoyment can be conscious – as in, you consciously choose to read this – or unconscious – as in, you feel something without knowing why.

Feelings are real.

Most people think their mind is in their brain. Some say that “the mind is a function of the brain” in the same way that seeing is a function of eyes and hearing is a function of ears (The Automatic Mind). Others say the mind is your personality, but personality is in the eye of a third-person and mind is a first-person thing.

The mind is what it feels like to be you. When that mind—the feeling of being you—is blown away, “you,” as in your individual feeling of consciousness receives sensory information from the environment around you, you are shifted from a self-perception to utter contentment and a good solid floating feeling.

Float on that dandelion seed of imagination and enjoy the sensation.

where is my mind seed

In the British Journal of Psychiatry Susan Greenfield (2002) wrote, “Now consider ‘losing the mind’ or ‘blowing the mind’. Because we are still conscious when these often much-sought-after events occur, I would suggest that it is wrong to conflate ‘mind’ with ‘consciousness’. Just think a little more about being ‘out of your mind’. In such situations, the individual no longer is accessing personalised cognitive perspectives, the world no longer has a personalised meaning and instead one is the passive recipient of incoming sensory information” (Mind, Brain and Consciousness).

Fight-Club-Where-Is-My-Mind

You don’t need a rave to enjoy. You don’t need anything. When mental chatter about wanting and not-wanting are silent, you become enjoyment itself. You shift to lamp mode. You glow.

lampWhen you enjoy, you become as a poet.

And what is a poet? A poet is a person speaking to people. A poet adopts the very language of people. All good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerfully good feelings (adapted from Wordsworth’s Preface to Lyrical Ballads).

Medicine for an unhappy mind is not just sensory awareness of outward beauty, but in states of feeling, and of thought coloured by feeling, under the excitement of beauty.

With practice of character, self-awareness and attention to your senses in your surroundings, a sense of beauty and love – a fantastically happy feeling – can happen anywhere, any time. Even right now. Why not?

You’re here aren’t you?

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A New Way of Looking

keys
Here’s the thing: If someone says, “The secret to life is...,” that person is unknowingly (or knowingly) misleading. Why?

Because.

It isn’t a secret. If it was a secret, everyone’s secret would be different.

It’s like looking for keys and not finding them even—though they’re under your nose. You’re in a hurry but waste time running around looking for keys and not finding them because you’re in a hurry. You look repeatedly on the table—where they should be (and are)—but don’t see them. Why? In desperation you start looking in weird places. So too do people look for enjoyment in weird place when they don’t have to. Enjoyment is right under your nose.

When you finally do find find your keys, you feel extra extra-annoyed because they were there all along, and you wonder: “How could I not see them? Am I blind? (No.) Am I an idiot? (Only partly).”

The power is in the focus. It’s a matter of attention. It’s all a matter of awareness.

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In the hurry to find what you’re looking for you see with eyeballs but not with brain. Hurry causes stress. Stress causes the release of cortisol in the brain. Cortisol can kill brain cells in the area responsible for memory (Your Amazing Brain). If you add multi-tasking to a frantic searching, you have zero attention (Brain Rules…).

what a view

Searching for keys in all the wrong places is like searching for enjoyment. We don’t see what’s in front of us. Enjoyment is simple. It’s so simple that we don’t get it until we do and then we doubt it because we might be expecting something that isn’t so subtle.

If you’re reading this—wherever you are in this world—you’re probably alive. If you’re alive, you’re halfway there, but the other half isn’t easy. Nature isn’t on your side. Nature isn’t on anyone’s side. Nature is cause and effect.

The trouble is that happiness gets tied to desire and expectations. We define happiness as, Wanting what we want and getting what we get and hoping the two coincide.

overthinking2You see, it’s because of our brains. We either over-think and make it complicated, we under-think and act on insane urges or we multi-task and miss everything.

We think, “If I have this (or that), I’ll be happy,” but not only do we think that something outside ourselves will make us happy, we’re drawn to things that actually hurt us.

pawnsOur brains send messages. Sometimes these messages are destructive—ask anyone in therapy, rehab, prison or who is about to blow himself up. Not only do we deceive ourselves, other people trick us with their deceptions and w can become like pawns in the game of life, sacrificed for someone else’s idea of enjoyment.

So, what’s the answer?

Fred FlintstonePicture brain messages symbolically like they do in cartoons with a devil-you and an angel-you on each shoulder arguing their case for you to decide (see Internal Multitudes and Enjoyment Decisions). The devil-you often wins and when he does, he gets harder to stop.

Pleasure and habit are linked. Cells that fire together, wire together. In other words: Habits are hard to break (see: It’s not me. It’s my brain.)

It’s like a battle between, on one side, the Rolling Stones at 120 decibels singing “Sympathy For The Devil”, “Please allow me to introduce myself, I’m a man of wealth and taste,” and on the other side, a string quartet playing “Hallelujah” in your living room.! Who do you think will win?

innocenseOn one side are symbols of light, innocence and wholesomeness (sappy?) and on the other, just the opposite (exciting?). In the battle between it comes down to focus. What do you choose to enjoy?

Enjoyment of life and of healthy beauty is decided by awareness of what “you” choose to pay attention to.

daffodils2Do you take the gentle path of life as represented in Wordsworth’s poem, “I wandered lonely as a cloud; That floats on high o’er vales and hills; When all at once I saw a crowd; A host, of golden daffodils“? Or is that boring? “Daffodils? You’re kidding!”

zobie3Do you prefer your entertainment on the excitingly evil side? How about delightful depravity and edgy cruelty that’s funny too? What’s your pleasure? Do you choose a quiet read, a walk in the park, a pint with a friend, or ‘gorified’ death in a Zombie Apocalypse?

It’s a tough decision for most people.

Subtlety is missed by mobs fed on chatter, drugs, violence, convenience and bread and circuses. A butterfly caught in a web is easily killed by the spider. It takes heart and courage and a focus on what is wholesome to overcome dark greed.

butterfly.jpgWholesome isn’t a word used much these days. It alludes to marketing all-natural breakfast cereals and family values but back in the year 1200 wholesome meant “of benefit to the soul.” It comes from the word “whole” meaning “healthy” (undamaged, entire, safe) and “-some” meaning “tending to” (Etymology Dictionary).

Wholesome relates to “Hallow!” as in Hello! Health! Holy! It’s a greeting and a call to health and Hallelujah! (Word Origins).

Imagine: You go to a concert in a high school auditorium but your brain is messed up with problems. You miss the first part before your spirit gets caught up in the music and then… and then

A switch to whole.

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You see where you are. Your face relaxes. Totally still you breathe and your eyes… your eyes! they widen and go slack. You see as if you were life itself.

What was a disheveled auditorium with flickering light bulbs about to die and chattering nuisance people becomes… beautiful. You enter the stream. You are empty absolutely. You know that life runs along like a runaway train as you float in your body behind a face.

life is beautiful
A scene.

You look out of yourself self-aware. This moment is captured in the very being of yourself – not as an ego, but as… a spirit.

The purest illuminations come unsought.

You are transfigured but no one knows. How could they? You are alone in yourself but through the eyes of another you see the importance of all this. It’s in relationships and immersion. You’ve put your will to the side and thrown yourself out.

Such is enjoyment seeing.

Cease demanding that life conform to desire. See daffodils and ignore zombies (they aren’t real).

“It’s not me. It’s my brain.” Self-Help, Brain Training and the Art of Enjoyment

foggy forestSince Sammy Smiles (yes, his real name!) wrote the bestseller Self-Help in 1859, millions of books have been sold as self-help. In 2008 self-help brought in 12 billion dollars (The New Atlantis) and a recent search of “self-help” in Amazon revealed 436,600 titles.

It just goes to show: people want help.

selfhelpcartoon3In The Pros and Cons of Self-Help Ben Martin wrote, “Self-help books may in fact be helpful, but don’t expect them to work magic” and in The Science of Self-Help Algis Valiunus wrote, “The recidivism rate for self-help users is high.”

Apparently not all selves in the self-help game are helping. (Big surprise.) Maybe it’s a, “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” kind of thing.

chickeneasySelf-help is defined as, “the use of one’s own efforts and resources to achieve things without relying on others” (Google).

Is a Philosophy of Enjoyment any different from other self-help stuff out there? No. Not really.

But it’s a bit like asking, “What’s the difference between you and Jimmy over there?” or “What’s the difference between Bieber and Beethoven?” 

bethoven and bieberIt’s obvious: Each is unique. You are you. Bieber is the Biebs and Beethoven only looks constipated.

frankensteins-monsterPeople have a mania for comparing and under or over rating each other. We’re opinion machines.

If the intent of self-help is to teach readers how to solve personal problems and achieve success, then a philosophy of enjoyment will do the trick.

Everyone has problems. That’s life, but you deal with them and success, what is that? How is it measured? If you enjoy life, isn’t that success? In a Philosophy of Enjoyment, external problems are secondary and outward appearances of success is meaningless. What is foremost is sensory awareness.

cartoon3This has nothing to do with your self. It’s not about you. That is, the thing to do is to forget yourself. Enjoy all you see, hear and feel. No ego. No win. No lose. No success. Be as 24 hour radio: All humility! All the time!

Stop what you’re thinking. Take a break. Look at something small (a leaf, a stone, a fairy) and calmly abide. If you get distracted by negativity, return to abiding (like the Dude). With awareness of yourself in this world you can experience ecstasy as you are right now.

bird on postYou, in the form of criticism, regret, worry and fear, are a distraction. Only when you are gone do you know. You don’t need drugs to remove the gauze of yourself. Use your senses. You are an observation post for the earth. Like a bird. Like a frog.

Be free.

The greatest thing is to forget yourself completely and to live in the sensations of hearing, feeling, seeing, and tasting. Attend to experience in a particular way: on purpose. When you work, work. When you look around, enjoy paying attention non-judgementally.

It’s a zen thing.

moon reflectionA zen story tells of a woman carrying water in a bucket. She glances across the surface of the water and sees the reflection of the moon in the bucket. As she looks, the bucket breaks and the water runs into the soil and the moon’s reflection goes with it.

The woman realizes that the moon she’d been looking at was just a reflection of the real thing like her whole life had been (No Moon, No Water). In other words, thought colours what you see.

Jump thousands of years and science discovers what is there.

SchwartzResearch psychiatrist and neuroplasticity – conscious use of directed thoughts – expert, Jeffrey Schwartz says, “You Are Not Your Brain.” He explains that the mind or, “directed attention,” changes how the brain sends messages.

Schwartz says, “The brain puts things into our consciousness, but it is the active mind that makes choices about whether to listen and how to listen… the reward centre sits right embedded in the habit centre. Both are run by dopamine…Dopamine gives you pleasure, but in the process of doing that it gives you embedded habits… anything that gets that reward pleasure centre activated rapidly becomes a habit…balance the relationship between pleasure, reward and habit…Your brain becomes what you focus on ” (You Are Not Your Brain).

Moreover – and, in addition to – science says that our brains have a negativity bias (Our Brain’s Negativity Bias). Don’t you hate that?

water on leafNicole Force (yes, her real name) writes, “Although some people are naturally more negative, negative events still have a greater impact on everyone’s brains…” (Humor, Neuroplasticity and the Power to Change Your Mind).

Neurobiologist Carla Shatz calls Hebb’s Rule, “Cells that fire together, wire together” (The Organization of Behavior).

endymionIt’s not that we want to stop firing, it’s that we want things firing to help us enjoy. The trick to beautiful enjoyments is to realize that what your brain is doing isn’t you, as in: “Excuse me. That wasn’t me. It was my brain.” Schwartz calls this your “true self” or “wise advocate. You can change your brain effectively through “wise focus of attention.”

Shift attention to the beauty of the world like poets of long ago.  

In 1818 doomed poet John Keats wrote:
“A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing” (from Endymion).

alley catA poet of enjoyment lives in song. Try: Run Runaway, Alley CatMoulin Rouge, Walk A Thin Line, My Best Friend’s Girl, Ballroom BlitzPart of the UnionChirpy Chirpy Cheep CheepLily The Pink! or enjoy silence and stillness. Whatever! Life is your song.

Reader, breathe deeply! Let go of what you think about money, ego drives and and materialistic success. Focus on your true goals. Live good and wholesome in a goodly way with tear-stained eyes and flushed cheeks until the day you die!

Only you can see and feel what you feel. You are the window. It’s true! Lighten-up to humour, love and sadness. In kindness go. Enjoy this sometimes beautiful world. What have you got to lose?

It’s all good even when it isn’t. Enjoy it all in spite of everything. 

Let success be measured in moments of attention and awareness.

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