Deep Sleep

January 31, 2007

I think I may have figured out a great way to deepen your sleep if you tend to sleep in the early morning hours (6 a.m. until 10 a.m.).  Well, early morning hours to me.  I’m sure some of you are up around 6 and start your day with a nice morning jog.  Not me.  Anyway, I find that since our biological clock is usually tempted to wake us up at daybreak, since we can see the light through the windows, even if we have blinds, so it is something we need to fight against.  That sun is a powerful energy force that will do anything to wake us up, but I think I may have solved that probelm from my perspective at least.

Here’s what I do:  Let’s say I fall asleep around 2 a.m. or so and don’t want to wake up before 10 a.m.  I can do one of two things.  The first is something that I believe is less drastic, yet still can accomplish a similar effect.  If you are familiar with blindfolds that block out all light, then you know where I am going with this.  Before you go to sleep each night, blindfold yourself so that when you do awaken, you will still believe it is dark.  And if your eyelids sense darkness, it will perpetuate sleep.  The other method is the one I use that completely gets rid of the light, which is me putting all of my covers over my head.  I don’t usually do this all night, just if I wake up in the morning and it is too early for me to wake up, I decide to put all the covers over my head and simulate late night sleep.  It allows me to feel like I am sleeping at night, and when I wake up, I assume it is still early, but when the covers come off, I know that I am ready to go.

I don’t use an alarm clock often, unless I know I have to be awake early for something in particular.  That hardly ever happens anyway.  I am not sure if many people would ever want to sleep in later than they already do, but just in case, this is what I have to say about that.

Sidenote:  I haven’t been feeling very motivated lately.  For some reason I just can’t seem to get started on anything.  It’s almost as if I am in a rut of some sort.  I feel like I should write at least five posts a week for some reason, and maybe that is the porblem.  If I write so many posts a week for so many weeks, eventually, I will be out of things to write about unless I keep fliing my mind with more information, or write information about the same topics over and over.  I am going to take the rest of the non-work day to journal and reflect on how far I have come since last February, and move on from there.  Let me leave you with a quote: 

Today is the first day of the rest of your life, and it could be the last.  Something about living life to the fullest, etc.”

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Equanimity

January 29, 2007

I recently came upon a term called equanimity, which means your mind is not swayed by external events and you do not let situations dictate the state of your mind.  It’s a state of calming balance, and inner peace.  The whole concept is that everything is impermanent, feeling good, feeling bad, feeling pleasure/pain, getting praise/blame, and success vs. failure.  That all are essential in human life, and none of them are permanent.  It is this realization that can put you on the path towards equanimity.  I believe this is a very strong goal to strive for, having myself remain calm even under stressful circumstances or when something does not go my way.

It is not a state of indifference, but a state of intense realization.  You do not have any stock in your current circumstances because you know they can change at any moment, and you are content with that.  You accept everything the way it is and don’t get caught by pressures put on you by society.  You don’t have to react.  You just don’t.

There are ten perfections in Buddhism, the first nine leading up to the coveted tenth, equanimity.  Here are them and a brief description of each:

  1. Generosity:  Develop your capacity for generosity.  Make it so your disposition or nature is to be generous.
  2. Integrity:  Develop your integrity, do not seek to harm any other living being.  Make it so the ethical foundation of your life is stable, solid, and unruffled.
  3. Letting Go:  Develop the capacity to let go, for example, to let go of a grudge, because when you let go of the things that trouble you, you can do deeper thinking.  A simpler mind can do deeper work.
  4. Wisdom:  Develop a capacity for wisdom.  Become a wise man, not a wise guy.  Be discerning, whatever that means.  I’ll have to look it up.
  5. Energy:  Develop a capacity for overcoming laziness, procrastination, and interia, be able to put in the effort.
  6. Patience:  Develop a capacity for patience.  If you are now putting in effort, it is possible to get frustrated, so this perfection is based on not getting frustrated when things don’t always work the way they should. 
  7. Truth:  Develop a capacity to be truthful and know what is true to you.  Be in harmony with what you feel is true.
  8. Resolve:  Resolve to do things and have the capacity to get behind it, no matter what external forces tell you.
  9. Love and Kindness:  Develop a capacity for love and kindness and be kind and loving towards everything and everyone you come into contact with.
  10. Equanimity:  The final step.  Develop a capacity of equanimity.  This is the culmination of the other nine steps.  All of these steps are part of your character building and this is the final step.  This is the pinnacle.  You are not ruffled by external events, as I explained above.

So, that’s the basic outline of equanimity.  I think it is a rather good goal.  I am striving towards it every day and it couldn’t hurt to do so.  All of these qualities are qualities I would love to see in myself, so there is no conflict in me doing this.  I listened to a talk about this, referred from a poster on Steve Pavlina’s site.  I really enjoyed the talk, and if I can find the link, I’ll get it to you.  Happy trails!

Edit:  I found this talk on equanimity very helpful.  Here it is, if the link does not work, I can refer you to this site.  It’s the Steve Pavlina discussion board, where the member Mike-2 brings this talk up.  I sure hope you enjoy it.  Thank you.


Minimalism

January 27, 2007

I read something yesterday that had to do with minimalist living, a form of decluttering, if you would.  Getting rid of things that are not necessary.  To tell you the truth, there isn’t even much to say about minimalism except that fact that getting rid of extra possessions allows you to have a more clear mind and remving excess thoughts from your head does the same.  It is a kind of simple living that allows you to appreciate nature and life itself, rather than having your enjoyment of life rooted in external possessions, like your fifty-inch television.  I think that this is a good philosophy to adopt and I am working towards it. (I started yesterday, but have been thinking about this for almost a year.)

I do not own my own house or apartment yet, so the best I can do is minimalize my room.  Yesterday I spent about two hours cleaning and decluttering.  It felt good to get rid of some of the old junk, but even some of it I could not dispose of.  Some of my old papers from school, some papers that people in my family would say, “What are you crazy?  Why did you get rid of your W-2?”  So I kept some things, but my wastebasket is full once again after being full the previous day with other junk.  I’m also planning on eliminating junk from my life, excess packaging, etc.  It is good for the planet anyway.  I wish they recycled down here in South Carolina.  I can’t believe they don’t have someone come around and collect your recyclables.  It shows that living in a more developed area (RI) and then moving to a place like this (SC) can have its shortcomings.  I just find it hard to believe these people don’t even really consider it.  Plastic bottles go in the trashcan.  I mean, it only makes sense to cut down on waste and recycle the things you can, otherwise we wil be in dire straits in the next fifty years.

I think the best thing to consider is to not get things you don’t really need.  I mean, if you really look at it, the only things that are pertinent to a human’s survival is food, water, and shelter, so I can see how some people could cut down that far, but not me.  I don’t need a laptop and internet connection, but it would certainly be beneficial to me.  I don’t need a desk to put my laptop on, but the damn thing rips my leghairs off when I put in on my lap.  I don’t really need a bookshelf, but I look at it as a shelter for my books.  I need a chair to sit in so I don’t develop scoliosis.  I need a bed to sleep in because sleep is very important to me.  Everything we buy is pre-garbage anyway, so everything else is really dust to me.  I don’t own much clothes, only two pairs of shoes (both sneakers), maybe 20 shirts, which I never wear anyway, except on rare occasions when I am not working.  I am going to strip down my life to as simple as I can get it.  That way I’ll have extra money and resources to pursue what I want to pursue.  And I almost forgot, I no longer have a television in my room.

So, I’m going to try this and I’m pretty enthusiastic about it.  Cutting down on the things I have and cutting down on the waste I produce from having those things is something I believe will contribute to making the world a better place.  All right, it is time for me to go eat a plum and an orange, part of my nutritious breakfast.  Have a nice day.


Why Do We Exist?

January 25, 2007

I have been doing some deep thinking lately and been wondering why it is humans even exist in the first place. Why we’re even allowed to live on this planet and use up its natural resources and destroy its ecosystem, not to mention the rainforests. Why we’re allowed to pollute the air and put animals in a cage on display in their “natural habitat.” Why we’re allowed to go hunting for fun, with no real purpose other than killing animals, chopping off their heads, and hanging that head on the mantle. (I am all for hunting for food, but hunting for the hell of it is not cool.) Why we allow the planet to get more and more destroyed every day, allow several different species of animals to go extinct each year, some of which we are ignorant of wiping out. Why it is taboo in certain cultures to do certain things that other cultures don’t even think twice about. What have we given to the universe that has allowed to exist for this long?

I know we weren’t nearly as destructive in previous centuries and millennia, but in the last four to five centuries, we have done major damage to the planet, and garbage has increased quite a bit. Every piece of food people buy today has packaging, all of which is thrown away into the garbage, where it sits in a landfill for years. Logic tells me that in the next hundred years, as population increases and garbage also increased, and space decreases, the landfills will start to overflow, and the sewers as well. Bacteria will run rampant throughout the cities and towns and rats/cockroaches will be the kings of the cities. The further away from natural living we go, the more problems there will be.

Let’s go out and have a tire fire later, won’t you? Let’s take some bleach and ammonia and mix them together. Let’s not talk about just how many people died in a natural disaster, let’s also talk about the animals who also suffered. Oh, wait, animals hardly ever die in natural disasters because their instinct lets them know when such a thing is going to happen. Usually, the only animals that die in natural disasters are the ones on a leash or in a cage, and even they know that something is coming, they just can’t escape their prison.

It just seems to me, with all the destruction and the mayhem we cause in this world, I find it hard to believe that nature has allowed us to live for so long, or is it just that we keep finding new cures to everything that ails us? And all of this genetic engineering stuff, I can’t see any real good coming out of that. Sure, it may help people walk for the first time, and that’s good, but I can also see that kind of technology also used for evil. Actually it already is, because some guy patented a genetically engineered crop and even though the seeds went into another farmer’s farm, he was allowed to extract the crop from their farm, contaminating their farm and now those farmers had to go out of business because of the massive lawsuit filed against them.

I don’t know how much longer the human species will exist, but I do know that us as a whole are going too fast for our own good, with the resource depletion and the overconsumption of everything. People want and want and want, mostly because they are conditioned to want, or it fills some kind of void in their life. And most of the things they want are totally unnecessary. I wish that people could see the total consequences of their actions. Destroying our fragile ecosystem for factories that pump more toxic gas into the air and put more toxic chemicals in lakes and streams than is imaginable. Just so you can have your iPod or your too shed.

Let’ not forget about the factory farms, the concentration camps for animals, where they are put in such confined areas with so many animals squished together, they need to be pumped full of antibiotics so they don’t die while in there. Then the horrific way in which they’re killed, scalded while they’re still conscious, thrown into crates to be shipped, just awful. I know this may seem like a negative post, but it is just something I have been wondering lately. Why are we here and are we too intelligent for our own good? Ponder that while I go and eat a hearty breakfast.


Something About Not Watching TV

January 23, 2007

The last couple of nights I’ve spent watching television after I came home, just to see if it still held any merit for me anymore. Here are some things I have to share about that experience and why I don’t plan on doing it for much longer whatsoever, excluding DVDs.So, after work last night, I decided to get back into my old nightly viewing habits, which consisted of King of the Hill, Seinfeld, Futurama, Family Guy, and the occasional Law and Order, and South Park, which all play within the same two hour window, so I spend most of my time flipping back and forth from channel to channel during commercials. There were two episodes each of King of the Hill, Seinfeld, and Futurama last night as well, so I was actually watching nine or so total shows. The time span was from 10:35 until about one in the morning. It was a very passive last waking hours.

I woke up today and had no thoughts of the shows I watched, although I could remember them with a conscious effort. I had seen all of the shows before, meaning that particular episode, in the past, barring the Law and Order episode. For some reason, remembering watching those particular shows did something for me. I guess it’s the fact that not all memory is perfect and we need to see things a couple of times before they really have meaning, but even then, they don’t really contribute to my life when I’m not watching them, unless we’re holding discussions about television shows. Which I rarely take part in.

I could have come home, sat down here at my computer and written a blog post, or even journaled about my day and my state of mind. But no, I figured, at the time I came in, that doing those sort of things would be too time consuming at the late hour, and opted to sit in front of the television, taking in nine shows in one-and-a-half hours. It was just convenient, but at the same time, relaxing. I’m all for relaxation, but after watching the Patriots-Colts game on Sunday with my family, I know that television can be more than just a passive activity. My mother could not sleep after the pathetic display the Pats put on.

Now I’m not really the biggest sports fan anymore, but when I was, the Patriots and Red Sox were a big part of my life. After moving to the deep south from New England, a region who prides itself in its sports teams, I became less interested in watching sports, partly because my teams’ games were shown so sparingly here. Not only that, but it seemed every time my team was shown on television, they lost. So it wasn’t really worth the time or the frustration. Sure, I’m still Patriots and Red Sox fans, but since they’ve both won the highest awards they could have in the past three years, I see no reason to watch them anymore with an attachment to outcomes. If I’m going to watch them, I have to do it in a less stressful manner.

I find that rather than watching television, I can use that time to do things that are more beneficial to me. I can finish writing my book or learn a new language, possibly talk with someone over the phone or in person. Watching television is something to do when you can’t find any other activity to pursue. That is something I have to stop doing on a regular basis. I hate having televisions in the house sometimes because if they’re on, you really can’t help but look. It’s the whole stimulus-response mechanism where the people who run the shows know just what images to display to immediately get your attention. Maybe I should walk around with my eyes closed. At least that way I won’t see the newest Geico commercial.

I was barely even awake last night while watching Law and Order, and my head was tilted to the side as my neck could no longer support my head, but I kept my eyes open, mostly, to watch that show. It took almost and insurmountable amount of willpower to turn the damn thing off. I ended up falling asleep in the chair in which I watched these shows, then, in the middle of the night, went into my bedroom. I ended up sleeping until 11:30 this morning and I was a bit discouraged because lately, I have been unable to get out of bed, possibly in correlation with the television watching. Maybe it sucks energy out of me. It’s definitely a possibility. All I know is that I definitely function better when I don’t watch it. So perhaps it is time to rid myself of it for good. Maybe not.


Paycheck to Paycheck

January 22, 2007

People who live paycheck to paycheck, I feel you.  People who can’t make ends meet, people who try and “make a dollar out of fifteen cents,” (thanks Tupac) and people who feel victimized by their poverty, I know where you’re coming from.  Living paycheck to paycheck is miserable.  Knowing that if you got hurt or could not work for one week, you’d be out on the streets to fend for yourself.  It’s how most of America lives.  I have been hearing something about how the middle class is disappearing in America and it’s very sad.  I just wish this was not an occurence in today’s world, where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. 

People who have all the money are usually reluctant to give it away to people who need it more.  There are exceptions, but most rich people hoard every penny they have, while most poor people have to do the same because they have hardly anything.  “All men are created equal” is a big joke.  We all know it.  With very few exceptions, the rich stay rich and the poor stay poor.  It’s just the way it has always been.  Sure, there are some rags to riches stories, and even some riches to rags stories, but I believe poverty and wealth is just as much about the mindset as it is the amount in  your bank account.

The mindset of wealth is you have more than enough.  You have tenfold or more what you need in this life.  You have no real worries about any sort of financial situation, unless it involves putting your investments in the right company.  I mean, if you were to just let the money sit in a checking account, you could live out the rest of your years without any real concern about losing your house or your car, or even your sense of financial security.

The scarcity mindset is always, “I don’t have enough to scrape by.  I need more money.  I don’t have enough.  I’m going to lose the house/apartment.  Whenever I get ahead, I always fall back.  How come I can’t save any money?”  The thoughts you have about money bring to you the money you attract.

Then there’s the whole perception of money as good or bad.  Some people view rich people as dishonorable people, people who walked over at least ten other people just to amass the fortune they have today.  There are the people who say that money makes you more of who you already are.  If you’re a good and honorable person, wealth is a good thing.  If you’re a terrible, kniving, backstabbing greedmonger, then the more money you have, the more greedy you’ll get.

Another distortion some people have is that money will make them happy.  Like as soon as they get a certain amount of money, happiness will follow.  People who are hoping for a miracle, for a million dollars to just fall into their lap and they can finally relax and be happy.  Some of the people who play the lottery fall into this category.  Not all of them, but some.  It would be nice, but having that sum of money is not something I need to make me happy.  It may increase my happiness, but it will not make me happy.

Money is neither good or bad in itself.  And it’s quite useful if you need to solve certain problems.  It’s a great resource from where it works, and it’s immensely beneficial to getting you out of debt.  That should be obvious.  It’s a powerful tool that can be used for good or evil.  It has a great potential and can grow beyond your wildest dreams.  But how much do we actually need?

I’m not sure.  I am not a financial expert.  I do not write books about how making millions of dollars will improve your life significantly.  I’m not going to say that.  If you’re happy now, then hopefully money will only increase your happiness.  If you’re sad now and you inherit one million dollars, it may get you happy for a little while, but who knows if you can maintain that sort of happiness? 

I am on my way to achieving financial abundance in my life.  All it is going to take is for me to align my beliefs with that of a millionaire who is honorable.  Someone who uses his/her money for good purposes, and doesn’t just buy a f*cking blimp for $12 million.  My first thought of me being wealthy is to go into small towns and randomly give away $10,000 or so dollars to random people, people who need the money, people who have to realize that kindness goes a long way.  One visualization I get is me sitting at a restaurant and leaving a $10,000 tip on the table and walking out of the restaurant.  Just imagine what that would do to the waiter/waitress who was at my table?  Just showing people that being wealthy is all about attitude and mindset.

There is nothing that would fulfill me more than doing something like that, along with motivational type speeches, with much humor injected of course.  Seeing the look on people’s faces when you hand them an unexpected sum of money.  I’m sure the press will catch wind of this so I may have to go undercover.  With all the money I’m planning to have, it should not be a big problem to concoct a sufficient disguise.  I’ll be the Master of Disguise (one of the worst movies ever).

Getting to a state of financial abundance is something I wouldn’t mind doing.  I’m working towards it every day and the process is so enriching, so motivating, because I know that with the money I have, I can change people’s lives for the better (hopefully).  I’m going to look to give the money or advice to good people so they can also do the same good to other people if they ever achieve a state of financial abundance.  Isn’t that what life is all about anyway?  Being the best person you can be and helping others do the same.  Well, wish me luck.  I hope the same happens for you.


Success??

January 19, 2007

Success is something people always want, but so few ever get there.  I have read a lot of inspirational texts about success and what causes people to succeed, and what I’ve found is that it’s not being “lucky” that allows you to succeed, but being persistent and triumphing in the face of adversity that makes one successful.  A lot of people use the analogy of the best baseball players of all time.  Even the highest batting averages were less than .500, meaning they did not get a hit more than they did.  So what does that mean?  It means that if you are to be successful, you will not succeed every time, and failure will be more apparent than success.  All successful people had to start out as a novice.  Nobody wakes up one day and decides he/she is the best tennis player of all time.  It takes hard work and perseverence.  It takes losing, it takes failure.  Failure is not a bad thing, but an essential key to success.

So I guess failure is inevitable.  Failure is something we’re all going to have to get used to if we want to succeed.  Embracing failure has to be a part of our lives.  But so many people have a fear of failure, like it’s going to kill them or something.  I am guilty of this at times.  Not wanting to do something because I fear I will not be very good at it, but I have to understand that if success is worth having, failure is part of the equation.  It is my dream to become a famous stand-up comedian, but not too famous, just famous enough to have a solid fan base around the country.  But I have to let go of my fear of failure.  I have to accept I will fail at times and maybe people won’t laugh.  That is part of the equation. 

I feel if I get stuck in this fear-based paralysis for too long, I will never become what I need to be.  I just have to start getting out there and doing it.  I give the same advice to you readers.  If you have a goal, go for it.  Don’t let anything hold you back.  Immerse yourself with your goals.  If you had no goals, what would there be to live for?  Even preparing your next meal is fulfilling a goal.  But you have to go for success in the field you want to be in.  You can’t spend all your time living other people’s goals.  Challenge yourself.  Don’t let up. 

I obviously have a slightly different perspective on life because of my brain cancer.  I am happy just to be alive, and that kind of complacency is excactly what is holding me back, I think.  I feel fortunate to be here on earth, because I know if I was around in the nineteenth century or earlier, I would be dead right now.  I would be without life.  But I had a talk with my higher self a few months ago and I asked it, “What is the meaning of my life?”  And he said, “Well, we gave you a second chance to live your life the way you want to live it.  You were paralyzed by fear before and after you survived a life-threatening disease, I thought it would rid you of all fear.  I guess I was wrong.  You need to work out the rest of your fears.”  So that’s what I’ve been doing. 

The whole problem with a fear of failure or a fear of success is that the things we fear haven’t even happened yet, so why are we so afraid of them.  I’ll give you an example:  I have eye movement problems from my brain tumor.  It is a condition known as Parinaud’s Syndrome.  I cannot look up and my eyes moving side to side is a challenge.  I did not think I would ever be able to drive an automobile because of this.  I’m not aware of my complete surroundings.  But I’ve been working at it.  I’ve been practicing.  It will take me much longer to be completely comfortable with driving, but I know that is is a possibility.  The fear I kept having was that I wouldn’t see a car, wouldn’t be able to change lanes, wouldn’t be able to parallel park because of the constant switching back and forth moving the eyes.  My biggest fear was I’d cause an accident because I couldn’t see everything.  And I’m still working through this fear, but I’ve gotten a lot better.

The most courageous thing you can do is face your fears.  Fear of failure, fear of success.  Know that your fears are nothing but exactly that, fears.  I’m not claiming to be perfect at this yet, but I realize that if I am to live in constant fear of everything, I might as well curl up and die.  I’m a survivor.  I don’t need to fear anything.  I can do anything I set my mind to.  And so can you.  Just realize that fears are holding you back. 

Motivation is another key to success.  You have to want to do the thing you are striving for.  I am struggling with going back to college.  I am.  I’ll admit it.  I don’t know if I want to put up with all that heirarchical and beaurocratic crap.  I don’t want to have to keep paying money I earned working hard.  I’m not even sure which type of degree program I should pursue because I don’t like being limited to one aspect of myself.  That’s what I feel college does to you.  It limits you, it takes your frame of mind and stifles it to one position.  I have to let go of that fear as well.

Here’s what I define success as.  It’s not getting to some static destination where all your problems are solved.  It’s enjoying the path you are on.  It’s loving all aspects of the path, the good, the bad, and the ugly.  It’s facing your fears.  It’s doing things even when other people tell you you’re crazy.  It’s loving every moment on this Earth.  It’s doing what you’ve always wanted to do, and making a living at it.  Now go out and live it, breathe it, be it.  Success.