Nothing Definitive

Category: Heightened Awareness

Emotional Control and Petty Manipulation

Over the past year I’ve developed increasing control over my emotions coupled with complete shifts in my perspective on what emotion is and how to interpret it accurately. I’ve also changed much of my view on life in general and how to evaluate different matters more appropriately. These mutual shifts has resulted in something very interesting. For example, let’s say that due to a changing perspective and increased control over my emotions, I’ve grown more confident in my abilities. This boosted confidence along with the realization that certain actions or events aren’t as important or critical as previously thought, means that the value of my confidence is actually worth more. So not only am I more confident in myself, but that confidence goes further than before. In mathematical terms, it would be like A(confidence) – [B (required confidence) / 2 ] = total confidence, where previously it would have been A(confidence) – B (required confidence) = total confidence. Input A=100 and B=50 results in: 75 confidence rating in equation 1 and 50 confidence in equation 2. But even with this increasing control and fresh perspectives on life, I still find myself victim of occasional emotional experiences which are primarily negative and seemingly inescapable. Today was one of those days.

The day started with a stiff neck and slight headache which immediately set the stage for the rest of the day. After a quick breakfast and my morning routine, I realized I needed to quickly rearrange the office area so we could repaint the walls. This slight disturbance to my daily routine started the spiral of increasing negative energy. I soon found myself hot and sweaty, quickly bustling about a crowded and messy room. As the day moved on with continual distractions I also got pushed into repairing my truck rather than bringing it into the auto repair garage. This made me immediately uncomfortable because I am I completely inexperienced in this field and a job which was originally quoted to be an easy fix, suddenly hit snags. Oh, and did I mention that it’s a rainy and cool day which appears to be affecting my energy levels and interrupted our repair progress?

Ideally when encountering situations of petty frustrations it is advisable to escape for a quick 15 minute meditation. This can immediately restore your mental faculties and regain control over spiraling emotions. But unfortunately I was unable to find the time. Finally I managed to get away and found myself walking to the YMCA analyzing my behavior. I’ve achieved mental states with immense control over my emotions with deeply enlightened viewpoints that bring me to virtually untouchable locations (psychological invulnerability). And it struck me that my knowledge of these mindsets should simply be reason enough to access them. It’s not that I have to find the exact mindset (ex. a calm, serene feeling of control), but rather the realization that one exists at all should simply bring me there. And this thought did help and I found myself returning to a rational mindset with more control over my emotions, but it wasn’t enough and I couldn’t definitively attribute the change to that factor. Perhaps just getting away and walking to the YMCA was enough.

This analysis brings up another interesting point I’ve previously discussed about living in the moment. We only ever exist right now and can only ever utilize the systems current variables. You cannot access or change anything else. Thus it’s important to recognize the futility of emotional involvement in most activities. Regretting decisions or becoming angry about mistakes solves nothing. Instead you should reassess the situation, make calculations, choose the best decision to move forward with, and take action. For often, if not always, you will do this in time anyway, so you might as well begin now. This sort of thinking can allow you to catch your emotional self and say, “hey, calm down, your reaction to this solves nothing, make the best decision and move on.” And 99% of the time this works, but on days like today it somehow escapes me.

And that’s the point I wanted to share today. Even with powerful control over your emotions, there are still situations and chains of events that can trick your mind into becoming emotionally involved. And it should raise a serious red flag for you to realize that if petty things can push your buttons, then in truly serious situations where you desperately need your mental faculties, you will most likely break down. Take for instance the Boston Marathon bombing. Detonation occurs, and in your fantasies you run towards it to help with the injured, but in reality you run scared, your brain dictating your next move because self-preservation is too difficult to break. This is why it is so important to meditate on who you are and what is really going on inside your mind. It is almost always different than what you anticipate.

Lastly, I want to mention petty manipulation which, through my personal analysis, has become apparent to me. I think there is a part of me that almost enjoys feeling unhappy. I get some sense of self-pity out of it and thus my mind moves there. This is nothing but weakness and should remedied. Another reason I remain in negative states is to “punish” those that put me there. By acting negative or unhappy, I guilt other people into feeling sorry that they did something to upset me or pity me themselves. And on top of this, the idea of controlling myself and remaining happy and content won’t get the point across to those people. They won’t realize they messed up or pissed me off or should feel bad for me and thus I must appear negative. This is a very basic manipulative technique that seems naturally learned. Another simple weakness I will now assess and repair.

Adopting Different States of Mind

In today’s episode of Nothing Definitive, I talk about how we adopt different states of mind depending on what we’re doing. And not just in the short-term, but how over a length our mind adjusts to adopt the views and emotion of our surroundings. I give the personal example of how my involvement in eSports has led me to worry about petty and trivial things, even though I had spent 5 months meditating and enlightening my mind. But to my surprise, within 10 minutes of meditating one night I pulled myself back from the clutches of darkness and returned to a happy and content state. But it seems impossible to maintain this once you return to whatever it is you do on a daily basis. And what I realized was that some people may never understand this difference because they go from school, to college, to a full-time job, without ever just taking a moment to calm down, and find real happiness.

UPDATE 2016-02-04: Just to clarify further, the realization here is that, by never fully disengaging from typical societal patterns (or common social expectations), you may never realize that the mental states you’ve adopted, because of your surroundings, are more unhealthy than alternatives that might exist in close proximity if you would simply take the time (and risk) to explore.

Underestimating How Smart You Can Become

In this episode of the Nothing Definitive series, I talk about how important it is to recognize the abundance of information present in the world. From my observations of ordinary people, it seems that the amount of learning they do after college is significantly less and continues sloping downward until they plateau. This is of course is problematic if you consider that you could literally spend every waking moment, until you die, learning about things. You could never read all the books, visit all the websites, watch all the movies and TV shows, etc. This should raise a red flag that makes you ask, “how different would my perception of reality be if I continued learning on a regular basis? How different would I be now had I been doing that over the past year?” Consider how much you changed from high school to college, or even just year to year at your current rate of learning. You’re an entirely different person all the time, with an entirely different understanding of the world. Taking that into consideration, who you’re going to be and who you could be in a year from now, are probably insanely different. And you should be asking yourself, “what about the people out there that are doing this right now? How powerful and knowledgeable will they be? How much are my friends and family learning? Will I fall behind?”

UPDATE 2016-02-04: What I think is most important to stress here is that through learning, and the unpredictable changes that result from new knowledge, you can realize how misguided and ill-informed your life decisions are and have been. This can be an exceedingly painful process to accept (resulting in a true crisis of faith), but ultimately sets you free to make wiser decisions in the future and undoubtedly aids you in identifying and destroying other mental barriers that limit your growth potential.

The 3 Types of Awareness

Today’s video talks about 3 different types of awareness. The first is environmental or situational awareness, which opens your eyes and mind to your physical surroundings. Where are you? What people and objects are here? What past, present, and future actions are here?

The second is social or emotional awareness, which is the subtle art of detecting the thoughts and feelings of others. While this may be a difficult subject to master, it is incredibly useful in determining intention, someone’s next move, how they feel about you, etc. I personally call this “the game” and whether you want to play or not, whether you’re aware you’re playing or not, you ARE playing. So understanding it, and at least protecting yourself, is a must. Learn more here.

And last is self awareness, the ability to detect your own subtle thoughts and emotions. It may surprise you that most people don’t fully know themselves, and this most likely includes you. Your brain is a complex organ and does much more than your consciousness is aware of (at least at first), and understanding it is not a guarantee, nor is it necessary to live. You must take time and effort to reveal this hidden world inside your mind before you can ever hope to fully understand yourself and the world around you.

The Zen Practice of Living in the Moment

The other week I proposed an experiment where the subject would use meditation to try and rapidly alter their personality. This week I want to talk about another interesting and potentially beneficial activity to try out. This one, in my opinion, is probably virtually impossible to achieve, unless you’re a zen master, but could greatly increase your ability to focus, control your emotions, stay motivated, become more aware, etc.

The activity is very simple, all you’re doing is utilizing traditional zen thinking to calm and focus your mind. You should approach everything you do that day with 100% focus. For instance, when washing the dishes, focus entirely on the visual and tactile experience of the soap and water. What you’ll find is an immediate difficulty in trying to quell random thoughts from entering your mind. This is what we’re fighting, the constant barrage of extraneous thoughts your brain is transmitting to your conscious mind.

Aside: this is one area I’ve often thought about. First, your brain is probably transmitting thoughts that your conscious mind is becoming aware of, depending on how strong the neural connection is. Strong neural connections stimulated via the external environment through your senses will vary in strength recalling certain previous experiences, so it seems logical to assume that your brain is more a receiver of signals than something that generates them. This is why questioning your free will is important. Of course it seems like we can manipulate these thoughts and alter our personality and perception of reality. But I often wonder why it’s so important to focus on clearing your thoughts and focusing your mind in the zen tradition. Is it because a constantly active mind is somehow inherently bad? Or is it because much of our environment is littered with negative energy you’re unknowingly absorbing? Or is it simply to become stronger by exercising your power of will? Or perhaps it’s because slowing down and focusing unlocks the realizations I mention below.

So why bother interspersing this activity into your daily life? Because it results in some very powerful rewards. The first is the most obvious: a heightened level of focus. This has some close attachments as well, like an increased attention span and willpower. And with these changes, you realize the importance of one-dimensional focus and how much more efficient you are when employing it. It’s important to note here that it is myth that humans can multitask. Instead it seems more likely that we simply shift quickly between what we’re focused on. And even if we do have multitasking abilities they are very primitive and only result in reduced quality to whatever multiple things we are focused on. We cannot focus on two independent tasks and achieve the same level of quality had we focused on them individually. And if you analyze highly successful and motivated people, they often, if not always, focus on singular goals and tasks and work to complete them, rather than managing many different things. I’ve personally found this to be very beneficial and something I wished I had learned earlier on.

There are deeper realizations that result from this sort of practice as well. One is an increased sensitivity and awareness to your emotion and surroundings. This is something you may take for granted at first but becomes incredibly apparent later on. Although I will admit that it can also be really depressing at times because you’ll notice your absorption of negative energy more clearly. I think before the realization you simply absorb it without notice and may even block it out more, but ultimately you’re still gaining negative energy. This realization can help you notice it, get away from whatever is causing it, and meditate back into a happier state. This also helps explain why people react negatively after a long day with things like outbursts, crying, etc. It’s because a lot of times you’re absorbing a high amount of negative energy (tension, stress, etc.) during the day you’re not even aware of it and eventually you crack under the pressure. If we never slept we’d see many more people breaking down all the time and exploding with emotion. Sleep breaks the cycle and resets our energy, but with this awareness you can manually manage it and ensure that you feel happy and content whenever you want to be.

The next realization is this idea that you have much less control over your mind than you think you do. We all go about our lives thinking we have free will and are in control of our actions, but through this sort of practice and meditation, you begin to realize that your conscious mind is often times at the mercy of your brain. That your inability to control the thoughts flooding into your conscious mind, even though you desperately want to stop them, reflects just how little of control you actually have. And eventually this leads to this idea that we have degrees of willpower and that you must earn control by exercising it. The crazy thing is that it becomes increasingly apparent in people around you. You’ll begin to notice all these weird little things that humans do that you never really noticed before, and you’ll realize that many of them are like automated behaviors that their brains are doing outside of their control. It’s really weird and gives you the impression that you’re living among half-aware robots.

Self-improvement and enlightenment are long journeys and this is just one tiny glimpse of the puzzle. Zen thinking, calming your mind, clearing your thoughts, meditation, etc. are all designed at awakening your mind. Don’t expect to try these practices with the hope that days, weeks, or even months later you’ll understand it. I’ve been doing these sort of things for 4-5 years and I’m just now beginning to really notice changes. Be patient, be diligent, and the rewards of heightened states will come to you.

Avoiding Negativity

Whether you’re on the path to enlightenment or not, avoiding negativity is great practice. It may seem obvious that we don’t surround ourselves with people that rag on us, but even the subtle negativity we receive from the news can affect us. Avoiding negativity is a key element to bettering yourself and recognizing flaws in your worldview.

It is well understood that people succumb to a herd mentality. If you’re surrounded by negative people, you will most likely become more negative yourself. When we are part of a crowd, we tend to adopt their level of enthusiasm or anger (aka mob mentality). Take Nazi Germany or North Korea, when you’re born into a highly manipulated world, even the most intelligent will follow along. It is very difficult to go against the grain.

In America it’s no different. Our news reports on fear. We are surrounded by economic hardship. Our cities have crime. We fear terror plots and mass murders. Our children can’t go outside unsupervised. You’d almost expect the sky our sky to be dark red with swirling black clouds. Fear and uncertainty ripple through our society because we’re so interconnected. Because we rely so heavily on the same media platforms for information. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

By avoiding negativity and focusing on the positives, we can change the tides. You don’t have to read or watch gruesome news reports. You don’t have to sit in a depressing office with people who hate their jobs. You don’t have buy meaningless merchandise which eats away your precious money. And most importantly, you can realize that money is only a distraction. That it’s fiat and it’s value is merely perceived. I once heard an interesting analysis of old alien invasion movies. In them a mysterious, powerful alien would show up to Earth and kidnap a beautiful lady. The hero would rise and valiantly rescue her, scaring away the alien foe. Now in terms of entertainment value, I’m sure it was a fun watch. But if you break that story down there is a key flaw: that the woman’s beauty derives from a physical property. That even the alien will recognize her beauty because it’s an inherent trait, recognizable throughout the galaxy. In reality though, beauty is not a physical property, but a perceive one. Each human on this planet observes beauty in a different way. And thus an alien invader would probably not be able to tell which humans were beautiful or not. The same could be said about money. American dollars are NOT backed by gold or some form of inherently valuable currency. Additionally, it does NOT have a property about it that is valuable. It is simply paper that we’ve all agreed is worth something. That’s it. Nothing more. And upon realization you can then agree that exchanging your happiness, health, and livelihood for mere paper seems foolish.

But you may begin to argue that these things matter! That turning off the news will result in your ignorance, that quitting your job will put your family at risk, that devaluing money is unrealistic. And maybe you’re right. Maybe you can’t do those things because they are too entrenched in your life. That’s fine, I agree not everyone can so readily let go. My point here is to show you that negativity surrounds your life. That news, jobs, money, girlfriends, diet, hobbies, etc. may be drowning you in sorrow. That it’s not one of them will fill the pond of your demise, it’s all of them together.

So what’s the strategy? To reduce negativity, not eliminate it. By recognizing the flaws, you can begin to remove the easy ones. Find the little things in your life that cause you stress and unhappiness. And as they begin to fall away you’ll realize how much better off you are without them. You’ll begin to see that even the bigger ones like a shit job, bitchy girlfriend, or abusive boyfriend can be eliminated, you were just too weak before. Start small and work your way up, and I promise you, the world will begin to see brighter, warmer, and more welcoming.

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