How to Self-Sabotage

It’s fascinating to me that the better my life is going, the harder it is to analyze the thoughts and notions within my mind.

Yet when I’m sad or anxious, self-analysis and philosophical inquiry is a breeze!

Maybe it’s simple laziness.

Perhaps I can’t be bothered to dig into difficult questions unless I really have to; unless my very existence seems contingent upon approaching answers to those questions.

When you are getting what you want, there is no survival pressure to question or examine whats going on. Why examine pleasure, and risk tarnishing it?

One does not consider the mechanics of walking until confronted with unstable, hazardous ground.

There is one comforting conclusion I can take from my thoughtless, lazy condition; that self-examination and philosophical analysis are the results, and not the causes of my negative states.

Self-sabotage hides in waiting for those who feel uncomfortable with their own success and resultant satisfaction. If you are identified with the chase of positive emotions and high social status, you will knock yourself down again and again in order to maintain the identity of the chaser.

Unable to stand naked without the lack you think of as the essential driving force behind your personality, you will destroy all gifts you are given, and fill in all the ditches you’ve dug.

You will pursue the zero state as fiercely as you did the dreams you thought you wanted.

The zero state is not difficult to attain. It is life’s default. If you are not careful, you’ll be back there in the blink of an eye.

 

 

 

Understanding Failure

Failure shows us what to avoid.

Success tells us what we must repeat.

The success-starved are lost because they do not trust their own judgments. They have no verification that their own judgments are credible. Like a disoriented man in the water, they have lost their sense of up, and are immobile because they fear swimming only deeper down towards the abyss.

A gulp of air, a flash of light, however brief would tell them “Yes, this is the way!” and lead them towards the surface.

So many of us have lost sight of the surface, and are either slowly suffocating or else swimming away from the air we so desperately need.

Today, I caught a glimpse of light and realized I’ve been swimming in the right direction for some time. It came just as I was beginning to doubt myself. Right at the point where I was going to change my aim, reality rewarded me.

Thanks, reality.

It is hard to overstate the importance of monitoring the world’s reactions to your desires and actions. Often we confuse intuition and passion with our rational faculty for calibrating to the external world.

Passion can guide you but rarely does it course correct.

Passion is the engine and rational analysis of the world is what steers the vehicle. You must have both if you are to reach your desired end. Otherwise, you will stall out, or crash head-on into one of the many obstacles arranged on the track.

 

 

Getting Lost

Being lost has its benefits.

You’re forced to pay close attention to whats around you.

You’re made to engage with unknown objects and gaze through the fog of fear.

Nature looks you in the eye and screams, “Do something! Quick!”

You can only survive by answering that call.

The fear will make you desperate, and you may take directions from others more lost than you are. The longer you follow such directions, the more distant your goal will become. You will forget where you started, and where you were headed.

Getting found requires remembering how you got to where you are–recalling the point at which you entered the unknown.

Was it negligence or arrogance that brought you there, or bravery?

For what reason are you lost?

These are the questions that make the lost want to clutch their heads and collapse to the ground, or else accept a sort of formless existence, without aim or intention, and therefore no standard by which they can be judged as lost.

Of course, being lost is not a general condition: almost always, parts of our lives are in decent working condition, whilst others have been severely neglected and thus we have drifted off course.

When we have the horrible feeling of being pulled apart by internal contradictions, we know at least part of us is not in proper orientation with the rest. Proper orientation is at once determined by the demands of the Universe, the body we exist in, and our conscious mind’s desires. A lack of awareness of these determinants destroys our ability to navigate the world.

And who are the great philosophers but cartographers of that which is common to all maps?

Who are the specters of history but fellow travelers of the unknown, their missteps and triumphs kept alive through words?

If you are lost, consider consulting the maps of those who came before.

 

 

 

Tiny Habits

We often think of habits as things to be perceived at the macro level, across long stretches of time. Rarely do we perceive the minuscule actions and thoughts that work in tandem to create what we perceive as a habit.

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“Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.”

Take something as simple as coming home and immediately positioning ourselves in front of a screen for a comforting dose of entertainment.

The action of sitting and switching on the screen is only the last in a long chain of small decisions and allowances that have been made according to previously established and unquestioned patterns.

Perhaps one has a habit of mulling over all future responsibilities on the commute home, whilst listening to radio advertisements that remind the mind of a particular snack’s deliciousness.  This results in a pattern of stress that makes a run to the fridge the only natural action upon arriving at home, and the pleasure of entertainment the only way to drown out an overwhelming stream of disorganized worry.

These tiny actions and thought patterns can be easily observed in the early morning: our minds tend to default to a familiar set of mental images and emotions upon waking. These prime the next set, and those the next, and so on and so forth.

The term ‘autopilot’ is often used, but it fails to convey that autopilot systems are the result of thousands of tiny adjustments, decisions, and calculations that result in a predictable pattern of behavior.

This is why meditation is so powerful. By observing our thoughts for a mere hour, we can see the wellspring from which all of our mistakes, failures, and disappointments come. We can see the reason why day after day, year after year, things remain the same, and problems come and go like so many lights on the highway, each just like the last, stretching out behind us and into the horizon.

Framing the World

We view the world through frames because to perceive everything at once would make life impossible. Some things must be left out, and it is what we choose to ignore that largely determines who we are and how our lives will change in the future.

We don’t construct these frames consciously. They materialize over time, in reaction to pains, triumphs, and hangups of the past.

We ignore what we think will bring us pain, and build the frame around that which we think will bring us pleasure. Unfortunately, our estimations of what will bring us pain or pleasure are usually inaccurate. Many of us have a perverse attraction to that which hurts us because we do not believe ourselves worthy of joy or pleasure.

Good things come to bad people largely because bad people are eminently skilled at believing themselves worthy of good things.

On the other hand, many good people who are good precisely because they are so aware of their own shortcomings, do not believe themselves worthy of the good. They start to perceive the good as that which is farthest from their current condition. They reject the good and push it away until eventually, they lose the ability to see it at all. In such a state, every moment becomes painful because there is no possibility of a better future.

Human beings need a better future to aim towards, to fantasize about. In order to have such a vision, one must have a reasonably accurate understanding of what is good and what is bad. Further, one must feel worthy of the good.

Being “present to the moment” is of no use to someone who does not know up from down. All the money in the world is useless to someone who cannot envision a future enhanced by that money.

Examine the frame and be careful to shape it so that all the light in the world is not filtered out.

Enough is Enough

“Enough is enough,” says the alcoholic, teetering on the brink of death and tired of it.

“Enough is enough,” says the abused partner, refusing to let themselves be wounded once more.

“Enough is enough,” says the depressed person,  sick of the sound of his own thoughts.

Is there a more powerful phrase in the English language?

Only “No more” comes close.

When someone says “Enough is enough” and means it, they mark a new era in their life.

The words are generally preceded by events so terrible that we are thankful that they happened, only because they forced us to do what we long put off.

I uttered those words today, and I meant them.

How did I come to that point?

A man walking through the desert with a heavy pack will eventually be faced with a choice: either drop the pack or collapse.

I dropped the pack just before I fell to the ground, and though I’m still on my feet, the Desert remains. I am searching for water.

Probably I will look down and see this Desert is a sheet of ice, and all the water I could need is just inches below my feet. I will see that the years of difficulty were merely the result of an illusion, one that I myself created and so am responsible for destroying.

I look forward to that day of realization. A sure sign of a happy man is one who can laugh at the mistakes of his past.

 

Today I said, “Enough is enough.”

Tomorrow I will say, “Time to begin again.”

The Pit and the Ladder

Everyone has a deep, dark pit that is particular to them.

No one’s pit looks the same, and no one arrives at their pit in the exact same way as someone else.

Some get there by getting lost in the dark and wandering too far from the light they worked so hard to kindle.

Others charge in full speed ahead because they forget what their pit looks like, even if they’ve crawled out in the past and sworn never to return.

Still more people throw down a rope and descend with a smile because they so enjoy the feeling of needing to be saved, of hoping to be saved.

Being in a pit is a good excuse for not doing other things.

Being in a pit keeps us safe from the dangers of the normal world, just as it keeps us isolated from the thrill of challenge and pleasure of triumph.

We forget what those things are when we’re in the pit. We wonder if they were just a delusion. We think to ourselves:

“Is there even a world up there?”

There is a world, even if your pit is so deep that the world’s light doesn’t reach. The proof is the ladder. Just as everyone has a pit, everyone has a ladder.

If there wasn’t a world up there, why would there be a way up?

Finding the ladder means fumbling around in the dark.

As you fumble, you may encounter things you wish you hadn’t. Ugly things, terrifying to touch. You threw them in the pit for a reason, but by doing so you only made it a more terrible place to fall down into.

But no matter how terrible they are, they cannot keep you from the ladder.

The ladder is always there.