Hello, fellow explorers! We’ve made it to the end of the series, let’s recap!
In this series we have explored an approach to effective living, with it we have emphasized the mind-set involved since that is the core fundamental underlying all of the insights and allowing for consistently effective action. This has been done by aiming to separate out all aspects of life into as few but as all-encompassing categories as possible. Three categories (or “buckets”) were explored: Social, Physical, and Mental. The categories themselves is an interpretation of existence. At the heart of all of these is the idea of deliberate action and the insight that YOU create the meaning your life has. The creation of (i.e. the interpretation that leads to) these buckets themselves can create meaning to life as doing so forces an individual to consider what is important to them and the relationships between items in these categories, it is in itself a practice in exploration.
Big Idea: Explore
Big Ideas from Each Realm
- What is it? Connection with “external” or bigger picture entities.
- Why is it Important? Increased connection leads to increased meaning in one’s life.
- How do I Develop it? Spend more time thinking.
- What is it? The body is a vessel through which the universe acts.
- Why is it Important? A body with a purpose/meaning is highly resilient.
- How do I Develop it? Approach sensation with a sense of curiosity .
- What is it? Relative compound interpretation of experiences.
- Why is it Important? Your conscious reality as you know it is no more than an interpretation.
- How do I Develop it? Do hard/uncomfortable things daily to train one-second interpretations.
- The more clear you are, the less psychological resistance you will experience during action.
- Tied strongly to clarity, in order to effectively change, knowing what to change and the direction to go is important as well as regular reflection to ensure you’re on the desired track. Making changes to identity, personality, or thought patterns is incredibly subtle and requires, first and foremost, awareness.
- Deliberate Action
- Effective action requires a presence removed from the past and future.
- Intensity of Stimulus
- This should be the metric in which you determine if what you are doing is effective for growth. Want to change your thought patterns? You should feel your brain work, a “buzz” of activation. Want to build muscle? You should feel the targeted muscle activate. The feeling starts of small and grows as you develop awareness. It should always be accompanied with deliberate focus.
- All growth results from resistance. If you are not failing at all and having (occasional) times where you feel defeated and beat down or overwhelmed (thinking “how am I going to get through this…”), then more resistance should be added in order to continue growing. Apply quality to your work and then rest with just as much quality and deliberation. Work hard, rest hard.
- Feeling a oneness with some (perceived) external aligns you with something bigger than yourself allowing for deeper meaning in one’s life to be developed.
- Suffering ceases to be suffering once meaning is applied. Meaning provides a strong weapon against the added pain from the psychological and clears away its negativity in proportion to the degree of meaning you apply.
The overarching principle linking all of these key words is exploration. Approaching your existence from a place of curiosity and openness is at the heart of every religion or spiritual practice, it is the one key idea that should be abstracted from such teachings because it is the most important. Becoming curious about your present moment and the sensations that you experience allows for a separation and is the very fundamental for removing thought and the added psychological pain that is often added to sensations.
Recall that even a Gazelle, shortly after being chased by a lion, returns back to grazing grass as if nothing happened, the present moment doesn’t present a threat anymore and the Gazelle gets to benefit from being at a lower level of consciousness (below the realm of “thought”). But, humans are at a level of consciousness that includes thought which puts us all at risk of applying some ineffective interpretation to the past or the future such that it has a negative impact on the present moment. An experience from our childhood could be haunting us without us even knowing it (because we simply don’t know any other way of existing that doesn’t include the trauma from that experience). This on top of the fact that our brains have evolved to keep us alive can have a very nasty downward spiral effect crippling our very being from the inside out. The most important point I can make across all of existence is that because we are conscious, we must learn how to live. Gazelles are below the realm of thought, humans are currently at the realm of thought, for us to evolve further (to what some might call “enlightenment”) we must go above the realm of thought, this can only be done by mastering thought itself (e.g. the ability to operate without any thoughts or being able to drop thoughts as desired). This path through consciousness is what many spiritual practices aim to promote without explicitly stating so (perhaps because the teachers themselves don’t know and only are repeating what they have heard or don’t have the words to articulate it), although as we have seen clarity is vital in making any lasting and effective change.
Effective and meaningful action as well as the ability to navigate through life’s struggles and obstacles (e.g. the discomfort of getting into good physical shape or talking to those you want to) are the reasons why you would want to progress above the level of thought, because it gives you far more control over your life (through controlling the interpretations of your experience and stimulus). The path to anything worth wild in life requires navigating through obstacles and struggles, life will hit hard, whether or not you make it through to the other side depends on the character and discipline you develop to handle your brain screaming at you during those moments. That is what evolving past the realm of thought will help with (i.e. control over your thoughts rather than them controlling you, e.g. this is uncomfortable, time to give up).
The way to truly address the problems that arise from thought as well as develop your own personal (there is no universal one-size fits all, although pointers and generalities can provide guidance) path through the realm of thought is a mindset of exploration (as opposed to an interpretation heavy, “things should be this way,” mindset). The two greatest tools in engaging in this exploration is Meditation and Journaling, it simply can’t be stressed enough. Following the practices mentioned in the “How do I Develop it?” sections of the overviews for each realm is a wonderful start. The practical applications and further strategies and insights for developing these areas will be explored more in future posts.
Everything is Connected
Some key ideas that link the three realms together
The most important ideas in relating each bucket together is intensity of thought/stimulus (deliberate action) and exploration of existence.
From a more readily applicable point of view, life can be seen as containing three fundamentals: Exercise, Rest/Sleep, Nutrition. Everything that is alive has to balance these three in some way, there is no exception, it is as if nature was like “here is life for you, all that is asked of you is to keep these in balance”. These areas can be abstracted even further to the degree that all three of the realms (Social, Physical, and Mental) can be related by sharing the abstraction.
- Exercise or Activity (Expansion)
- Each realm requires some deliberate actions to be taken to effectively explore and develop them.
- Rest or Reflection (Integration)
- A sense of reflection through journaling or meditation is also necessary
- Nutrition or Fueling (Enabling)
- Quality and deliberation requires energy to engage with intensity
- Exercise or Activity (Expansion)
Each of these realms also are related by having a period of exploration (activity, taking in information) and contemplation (reflection, integrating experiences into the bigger picture). For every experience obtained through exploration, an adequate amount of time (usually at least as much as that which was spent in exploration) should be spent in reflection. Just as the muscle grows during periods of rest after intense stimulus, as to your maturity and understanding of the world.
The brain’s default mode of thinking pays a lot of attention to the external world and not so much to the internal world (for survival reasons, but we’re not threatened by tigers so much anymore), the path to effective living is all about reversing this. This is basically the idea of increasing self-awareness.
There is no “finish-line” or a point where you can say “I’ve got it!”. This implies ego and is the opposite direction that you should go in if you want to effective living. Ego itself is an interpretation (ego is association or identity with form, an individual who has a “victim” mindset thinking everyone did them wrong and they should feel sorry for themself is also ego).
There is a big underlying idea here with exploration and the associated experiences, and that is the idea of you having a pile of experiences which impact how future experiences will get interpreted and then added onto that existing pile of experiences. Experiences lower on the pile are harder to change (this is the principle of initial conditions) and are more likely to have been integrated into our personality already (especially if they repeat regularly). To live an effective life is to simply take control of this pile of experiences, the awareness that you have control over the interpretation of past experiences as well as the interpretation of future experiences is what a spiritual “awakening” is. It is to realize you have the control to change interpretations of those experiences but that you can’t change the experience itself. E.g. how can you turn the worst thing that ever happen to you the best thing? It is a fundamental perspective switch. Many experiences on our pile were obtained during the “default” period of our life which is what I refer to as during our “default identity”, or the period of life where we were no more than what others told us to be (starting from birth where we were reliant on others to understand the world, but self-exploration (especially in solitude) promotes the separation from the reliance on others and greatly increases the chances of breaking out of this trap sooner). The breaking out of this default identity is exactly what (in spiritual terms) an “awakening” is, it is a realization that you have the control (over interpretations, actions, how you view yourself, your identity, etc.) This awakening is a vital part to any “hero’s journey” or journey to having a great impact. This default identity is inevitable due to the simple fact that we are born a blank slate to individuals that we have to rely on in order to survive (at least at first). Most people go their whole lives without having an awakening (I define an “awakening” as simply the breaking away from this default identity), but this is something that should happen as soon as possible and preferably no later than the early teenage years. In general, the earlier the better since the earlier you awaken the more time you have to experience how restrictive the alternative can be by simply noticing those who are unawakened around you (i.e. if you were to have this insight at 15 years of age, then since you are still around a lot of people that are not awaken (i.e. teenagers), you get many opportunities to see the voluntary suffering that you would have put yourself through if you didn’t know better, you get to approach every situation and encounter with a perspective and a maturity that is incredibly rare at that age.) With that said, there is value in having gone through a period of life in this default identity stage, it can build up your ability to understand the alternative as well as provide fuel for seeking to share your experience with the world, sharing the message that modern mind-sets are, in a large part, mindless and destructive leading to no useful value being added to the species or the universe. This default identity stage could be thought of as living life “unconsciously” and the awakening period as a development of consciousness to a higher level. Having several years of self-awareness accompanied with suffering and hardships is important, more exploration needs to be done in this but from my own experience I have found particular use in beginning this awakening journey (in an incremental, never-ending, fashion) between 19 and 23 years of age.
A continuing theme is exploring your existence, which leads to developing whatever aspect of existence you explore. Putting yourself in situations that causes your brain to become highly active and want to run is the best way to engage in this exploration and discovering life-changing insights and understanding. This means that pleasurable situations don’t work as well in this exploration since your brain will encourage you to stay and therefore, unless you practice delaying gratification by turning away from the pleasure, the ultimately goal of exploring your existence becomes more difficult.
Doing what is difficult or uncomfortable is the fastest route to living with a unique and meaningful impact to your species and the world. This is because the interpretation of the experience is what is unique and the interpretation itself is influenced (to varying degrees) by your past experiences. Struggles demand brain activity (for survival), this activity inherently brings very intense interpretations along with it, with control over these interpretations you can offer the world a different perspective. The emphasis here is on the relationships between your past experiences and the current struggle, since interpretations are influenced by your own personal experiences, the interpretation that you make of some difficult or uncomfortable experience is unique and allows for you to relate the struggle to various other aspects of life (through your experience), all coming together to provide a unique perspective. For example, someone who has struggled through developing their long-distance running ability (and patience) but who is also working through the mental struggles in improving their programming problem solving ability can use the insights of how true progress in distance running was only made through consistent, deliberate, effort, pushing to improve regularly with a set schedule and prioritization to realize that similar deliberate effort must be engaged in in order to progress in programmatic problem solving. They can relate the insight that hitting a “wall” and feeling depleted and overwhelmed at some point late in the distance run is only a temporary feeling and if you stick with it (mastering the “one-second” decisions where the urge to quit creeps up) the feeling will subside, this can be related to the mental struggles involved with problem solving.
Ultimately, words are only pointers to ideas. The point of communication is to transfer ideas which is accomplished through the meaning behind the words, not the words themselves. Having more perspectives to understand big ideas in life allows for various ways of expressing them with words. This basically results in more “pointing” to the fundamental idea such that uncovering that fundamental idea with more clarity is increasingly possible. This can be thought of as if there is some fundamental truth underlying all but it is so subtle that discovering it is difficult, but with more words to point to the general idea can ultimately help to uncover the fundamental underlying truth.
If you choose to delve into the simple pleasures of life (i.e. not the deeper pleasures of simply existing and a connection to the some bigger picture entity), then this is not for you. But then you don’t have the right to complain about being uncomfortable or experiencing pain. You have chose it, you can’t have one extreme without the other. The shallow pleasures of sweet food, sex, and other physical experiences are only pleasurable as an evolutionary means to encourage their pursuit for the survival of the species. Food had to be hunted and actively sought out (not just obtained from a walk to the kitchen), this required expending energy and effort to obtain it and potentially have to face aggressive species that themselves don’t want to be killed, the pleasure of food was simply to encourage this in order to provide the energy to the body and brain to promote survival (why survival is promoted should be a question bubbling in your mind, as if there is something at the end of the tunnel that each existing thing must aim to preserve the pursuit of, but it is a very fascinating topic to explore which I’ll go into great depth on later). We are the only known species to have adopted such sophisticated ways of storing food (of any type), such as refrigerators and cans. The ability to store food like this has not been around for the majority of the human species. The point is that the abundance and ability to manipulate things to obtain the maximum sustained pleasure from has caused a very strong over-consumption of. A lot of what people deem as (physically/shallowly) “pleasurable” in the moment is often indulged in without the need that caused the evolution of the pleasurable sensation in the first place (i.e. eating in excess without even needing to eat at that time). Furthermore, it is often these things that lead to the future pains and disorders (e.g. disease) due to their consumption when they were not meant to be consumed (at that time). This (future pains from the (emotional) pursuit of shallow pleasures) is a common theme that comes up in any situation where there is a widespread trauma or dysfunction of some sort (e.g. war, disease, anger/hatred/outrage).
This can be challenging, it isn’t for those who want it to be “easy”, it is for those who want to discover a deep and invigorating connection with something that drives them to taking massive action and ultimately providing a meaningful impact to the species, world, and universe. It is for those daring philosophers who are utterly fascinated and curious about their existence and are not afraid to go deep into the unknown even if the curiosity leads to some dark dungeons in the back of their subconscious. When you stop running and you face the darkness that is within you, you gain a level of power than is tough to articulate in words, you gain an alignment with nature that makes things seem to “click” into place, synchronicities and compounding insights begin to occur, things more and more start to “make sense” when you remove the baggage that thought has created. From health, fitness, clear thinking, sleep, all aspects of life just seem clear in how to progress in them and when you act in alignment with nature understanding the steps you are taking are actually on an effective path (i.e. not constantly questioning, “am I doing it right”) then the confidence and steps you take in life will inherently have a feeling of meaning and purpose to them. Imagine if you could engage in some strength building or skill developing regimen knowing that every step you take is towards your goal, due to a full understanding of what is involved and the pieces at play. It is like understanding every component of a toaster and all of their relationships to one another, if something were to not work right in a particular way you would be able to develop accurate theories that suggest the exact location of the failure or at least a starting point to then discover what broke and then have the know-how and understanding how to fix it to work as desired without being crippled by uncertainty and having to replace the entire thing, you may find your confidence in using toasters and even optimizing (or building) them to suit your personal needs feels natural and second nature. It is this sort of clarity and understanding that comes from seeking the fundamentals, first principles, and properties of a thing, this is exactly the sort of mind-set and approach that is taken with life itself. You can develop such an understanding of a single thing like a toaster, or you can develop an understanding of the more general category of mechanical devices and with that gain the ability to not just have the clarity with a toaster but all mechanical devices, in the same way understanding the fundamentals of life and the underlying operational principles you can properly handle any aspect of life (e.g. want to learn a new skill? Well you’d have the understanding of the ways your brain works and learns material so that you can take effective steps to learning that skill). The aim is to find that most generalized category in life so that you can live more effectively, it is simply learning how mechanical things work instead of learning how a toaster works in order to be able to transfer your knowledge to any mechanical thing.
Big Idea: Effective living is achieved when socially imposed connotations are removed.
Basically: Provide structure to your life through categories and develop each directly.
Being aware of your own existence is beautiful and awe inspiring. There is immense value to be had in exploring all aspects of this existence (positive and negative, regardless of labels such as good or bad). This is a journey that, for as long as you are consciously aware, never-ends. Modern society has morphed and brain-washed individuals to having a view of reality far from being in alignment with nature, the exploration mentioned in this series is to objectively seek the real underlying truth and question all the assumptions we have so that an effective life can be lived and an impact on all of existence can be made. This is a never-ending journey which continues from generation to generation in a progressive (as opposed to the modern society approach of a degrading) manner, with the sole focus on finding truth. I share only my experience so far, new experiences will develop my understanding even further as I, myself, continue to explore. There is something universally and fundamentally all-encompassing out there, it can be felt in brief glimpses during this exploration, I am devoting my life to exploring it. The emphasis is on going deep instead of remaining shallow, let’s explore that depth together and discover alignment with nature. This requires a subtle, but intensely giant perspective switch, realizing all that you thought you knew is wrong, but not just once, over and over in an iterative fashion throughout this exploration. Again, there is no finish-line, an “end” implies time and time (past/future) are likely byproducts of brain functioning in an attempt to make sense of the world, the reality is probably an enormously big “gotcha” that no one saw coming. I don’t have the answers, but I am an explorer discovering what it means to live effectively through first principles and uncovering fundamental truths, no matter the cost, I am a mere vessel through which the universe acts for its own exploration.
Because we are conscious, we must learn how to live.
What to Expect in Future Posts
The foundation has been laid, many important topics are now introduced and hopefully your own self-reflection has begun. The journey of consciousness to above the realm of thought is something that once you have personally connected and aligned with and experience a glimpse for yourself, cannot be turned around. It is like a thing that can not be unseen once seen. DELIBERATELY go back through the past posts and pick them apart, feel free to engage in discussion in the comments and provide challenge. The point is to ENGAGE with this as much as possible. My aim with these is my own exploration and sharing what I’ve learned with others, I am looking for truth and effective living. I share what I find to be the underlying fundamentals of what worked for me (not just the shallow motions but the mindset that accompanies them, depth and quality over mindless words). During your own exploration (e.g. meditation, contemplation, journaling) through this series of posts, bring a sense of mindfulness to your actions, notice any urges to turn away from a particular thought or discomfort that arises, instead of habitually turning away from this uncertainty and discomfort, challenge yourself to instead do a complete 180 and dive deeper into them. The key take away here would be to notice that you are okay, even after facing the discomfort head-on. “This too shall pass”. Also notice that however bad you thought something would be isn’t actually that bad once you remove the resistance and furthermore you may notice that recovery from such intense stimulus occurs much quicker, there is no residue of torment and fear, much like how the Gazelle returns to grazing grass after escaping a lion. The complete 180 serves to remove a lot of the psychological pain and resistance, which should be the start of you realizing that perhaps the suffering you perceive in your own life is simply due to your interpretations and added thought onto what is, which is neither good nor bad, it just is.
Being conscious of our own existence is beyond intriguing, let’s explore it together and see what positive change we can make in the world in the process.
Because we are conscious, we must learn how to live. Done through exploration.
I plan on exploring my own posts in this series as well and devise clear examples in the form of short-stories for each of the realms to better illustrate these (understandably) abstract but fundamental ideas. This process will also serve as a journaling exercise of sorts as I jot notes on scratch-paper forcing myself to get clear with the message I want to deliver and further getting to the core fundamentals. This is the same practice I’ve done for the past 4 years that has led me to articulating these ideas. What I have shared in this series comes from a place of experience and deliberate exploration, putting myself in struggles and exploring what I experience.
My point here is that there is a lot of meaning and emphasis backing the words that I say and the “Big Ideas” or “Key Words” that I emphasize. Their meaning has been found to be important.
Your Call to Action
Thank you for reading!
I would like to hear about your thoughts on this Life Simplified series. What were your big take aways and how could the content be improved? Thank you! Share in the comments section below!
Don’t put off contemplating what the insights from this article mean, find a quiet location and think deeply about what it might mean for you. Just 10 deliberate minutes can make a large difference, set a timer, do it regularly and you will notice the changes within a few weeks. You improve your ability to think and therefore make effective decisions by spending more time deliberately thinking about the relevant subject. Consider applying journaling and meditation to see more profound changes, these are just more deliberate and concentrated forms of quiet and focused thinking. Slow down, find stillness.
I am always looking to improve my reach and the impact that I have with my writing, please provide your feedback in the comments below.
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