thoughts

Wrong Thinking

Here’s a story about what I call “Wrong Thinking.”

Way back in high school when I was playing baseball, a pitcher named Catfish Hunter became the first baseball player to get paid over a million dollars a year. I thought that was crazy, in a bad way. One day I talked to my dad about it, and asked him why people like farmers and engineers who did more important work didn’t get paid like that.

He didn’t have a great answer at the time, and that thought kept on bothering me. These days I think a correct answer he could have given me goes like this: “Baseball is in the entertainment business, just like singers and actors. For whatever reason, some sort of supply and demand, society is willing to pay those people a lot of money. So if the money bothers you, what you can do is make that money just like Catfish Hunter, and then give it away however you see fit.”

How can we prevent our thoughts from wandering?

“How can we prevent our thoughts from wandering? How can we learn to focus our attention on one thing?”

“The answer is that we cannot do it with our brain alone; the brain cannot control its thoughts by itself. The power to control the activity of our mind comes from the body, and it depends critically on posture and breathing.”

~ From the book, Zen Training, by Katsuki Sekida

You become what you give your attention to

“You become what you give your attention to. If you yourself don’t choose what thoughts and images you expose yourself to, someone else will ... and their motives may not be the highest.”

~ Epictetus

No thoughts in my mind, just peace

Before doctors figured out that I have a rare blood disease called Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS), I went unconscious seven times, typically vomiting while I was unconscious.

Right before the first event I was stumbling around my apartment like I had been poisoned, splashing cold water on my face, and generally just trying not to die. Despite my efforts, I went unconscious.

Right before the second event I thought, “If I live through this one, I need to update my will.”

Right before the third event I thought, “Apparently I’m going to die soon. I just want other people to be happy, and if I live, I want to help them however I can.”

After that, for events #4 through #7, along with three subsequent cases of allergic angina — what I call “fake heart attacks” — I had no significant thoughts in my mind, just peace.

These days when something bad happens I recall those 7-10 events, and know that I could have died during any of them. When I think that way, all of today’s little problems seem insignificant.

Thoughts are not facts

“Thoughts are not facts.”

~ A quote from a local psychologist on the radio.

It seems that people who worry, worry about thoughts, not reality. I remember worrying a few years ago about doing a dance at a wedding, and in the end the reality was that I never had the chance to dance. What a waste of time that worry was.

Seeking a life and world to come

And it can dwell on moonlight glimmer,
On evening shade and loneliness;
And, while the sky grows dim and dimmer,
Feel no untold and strange distress —
Only a deeper impulse given,
By lonely hour and darkened room,
To solemn thoughts that soar to heaven
Seeking a life and world to come.

~ from Evening Solace, but Charlotte Brontë

Meaning of the word “reticent”

Today’s word of the day is reticent. Per Google, it means, “Not revealing one’s thoughts or feelings readily. ‘She was extremely reticent about her personal affairs.’”

Do not try to experience satori

“Do not try to experience satori. Do not try to drive away illusion. Do not hate the thoughts that arise, and do not love them, either. Above all, do not entertain them. Just practice the great sitting, here and now. If you do not continue a thought, it will not come back of its own accord.”

Ways to improve your brain power

Recently I wrote an article about using meditation to improve your concentration and brain power. Today I'd like to briefly outline a few other ways you can help improve your brainpower.

Use your off hand

You've probably heard about this already, but if you're right-handed, learn to use your left hand. Brush your teeth with your other hand, write with your other hand, basically reverse everything in your life as your hands go. You'll be amazed at the difference.