Chapter 1 Life Can Be Less Difficult if You Step Outside Yourself: Be Event Neutral: Don’t be Self -Centered


Old Zen Saying:  “What is more valuable, a handful of wet dirt or a handful of shimmering gold?” asked the old master.  “A handful of gold of course”, answered the disciple.  The old master replied, “But what if you are a seed?”


Life can seem very difficult.  But, if you can train your mind to change your thoughts, your thoughts will change your emotions, and then life can suddenly become much simpler… and happier.  The first thing to realize is that what makes a person unhappy is their thoughtsIt is as simple but yet as complicated as that.  When you encounter a difficult situation (according to your point of view), always keep in mind that you have choices on how you can respond to that situation, and it is not the actual event that is making you miserable, it is your feelings about the event.  All events are actually neutral.  If it is raining on your wedding day, and you feel the rain is a tragedy, it may have been a salvation to the local farmer who has experienced a drought.


One of the main things to understand is that a personal cannot usually be unhappy without an unhappy life story.  And that unhappy life story is ingrained in your own thoughts, which you choose to believe.  Those very thoughts then affect your emotions for the negative, so then you become unhappy.  So the main thing to do is to address the core of the problem, which is your thoughts.


It is very interesting to understand the truth that that you do not really have the freedom to “choose” your thoughts without training.  Normally,  your thoughts happen to you, not the other way around.  When you drink a cup of tea, your kidneys eventually filter the tea automatically, without your own volition.  When you breathe at night, you do not really choose to breath, the breath comes to you.  You must appreciate that as a human being, you have a part of the brain called the “Hippocampus” which keeps and retains long term memories.  Then, the brain itself processes the thoughts you implant and those thought repeat themselves over and over again, without your own conscious effort.  Therefore, it is of paramount importance that you try and empty your mind as much as possible in a positive way.


One easy and simple observation is a sports season that you have been participating for so long.  You worked out hard and trained and practiced.  You cheered your teammates and gave it your 100% effort, but at the championship game, you lost in a tight game by one point.  To you, this is a tragic event and you may feel terrible.  But think about it.  It is a neutral event.  Like your grandparents always told you, someone had to win and someone had to lose.  For a member on the other team, your loss was their gain.  They are every bit as happy as you are sad.  So the first part of understanding how to be happy is to view events as basically neutral, after you step outside yourself, and train your mind to respond in that healthy way.  Keep in mind simply that “Life Happens”, and it is only your mind that can make you unhappy.


Another example I can think about, and there are endless such examples, is a big rainfall on your wedding day that you decided to hold outdoors.  You prayed it would not rain, you asked your church to pray likewise.  To you, it is an utter catastrophe, and you may fall into serious depression.  You may think God hates you or you did something bad so the universe is punishing you.  But again, it is a neutral event.  But there is a struggling local farmer, who has seen a drought the entire summer, he was praying for rainfall every single day, and his prayers were answered on the day yours were not.  This big rainfall could be an answer to his and his family’s prayers and saved his farm from foreclosure.  Thus, if you do not pick a self-centered approach, you will have a lot less bad days.  Always remember, there cannot be an unhappy life without a corresponding unhappy life story.  And, you cannot have a bad day without a bad interpretation of your day.  You are running late to work, and hit a red light.  But your red light is another person’s green light.  That person may have been in a hurry to get to his doctor’s appointment, and the green light made all the difference in the world.  Basically, you need to drop your life story whenever you feel stressed and just try your best to live in the moment viewed the “now” moments with a neutral attitude.  We’ll discuss this later, but it really means dropping your ego.


If you live your life like you are on a location on a GPS unit and are the “center of the world”, you will face a life of misery in proportion to your self centeredness.  This is like a law of physics.  Instead of asking God or whoever “Why me?”, stop and ask “Why not me?”   Without your continuous retelling of your unhappy life story with you as the main character, you cannot be unhappy in the present moment, which you will find is the only moment that you can ever recognize as real, and the only place you can live in.



About youngkim3000

I grew up in Virginia and went to a top tier high school, being so ambitious and wanting fame and fortune like the next kid. I received good grades and then I went off to the University of Chicago where I majored in Psychology and Economics. After a brief but successful "Wall Street" career, I realized that I was not happy and left thinking that a career in the medical field would satisfy me. Then, I did some post Bac work at Northwestern and UIC, and then ended up at UIC Medical School. The problem was I was not happy there either. The structure, the repetition, and lack of being able to be free and spontaneously creative really knocked me down. Having to be subject to constant subjective evaluations sucked my soul dry. As I sought another chapter in my life, then came the financial collapse of 2008-9 which destroyed the "nest egg" and saving that I had worked so hard to build after college--which I so "identified with". I was so depressed at the loss of career and the loss of money that I fell into self pity and a deep seated depression. For weeks on end, I could not even get out of bed. I went to many doctors who could not really help me. I took so much anti-depressant medication and also self medicated with alcohol to dull my mind. One day though, I went to the public library in Niles, IL, and picked up some books on "Self-Help". I figured what do I have to lose? I was already so depressed I could barely get through a day. I picked up books by Wayne Dyer (Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life), Deepak Chopra, Louis Hay, Ram Dass, Osho, and Eckhart Tolle (A New Earth), The Dalai Lama, and revisited my faith in Catholicism. I devoured so many books to unearth just why I was suffering so much. I learned so much about myself and realized that my deep suffering was actually a gift for me to discover myself. Simply put, those words in those books saved my life. I was taking so many drugs and my physical health was in serious jeopardy. I realized that I could not live with myself any longer, and I needed to be free. I realized...that it was my own thoughts that were making me so depressed, as was my own "life story" that I replayed over and over. I realized that my mind was busy creating negative thoughts. Thoughts are "things" and expand. I understood that you do not "normally" choose your thoughts. Just like the digestion of a meal, the mind automatically creates all kinds of thoughts whether you like it or not. Just like you do not "choose" to breathe with your lungs or "choose" to make urine from your kidneys, you "normally" do not "choose" your own thoughts. They just happen, just like digestion. And if you had a bad experience, your mind recreates the negative thoughts without your conscious consent but you are forced to relive them endless times per day. It is only through CONSCIOUS INTERVENTION that you can make your mind change course from recycling negative thoughts. This is just like your breathing. You breathe automatically, but you CAN choose to influence your breathing, you can hold your breath if you are going to dive deep in the water, or you can consciously "slow down" your breath if you are relaxing in meditation and prayer. Once I realized I did in fact have an ability to control my thoughts, I consciously redirected the thoughts to positive uplifting notions. I noted that I had built such a large ego that the collapse of it dragged me down in catastrophic fashion. A big ego is different from self esteem. Both were destroyed, but I learned to regain self esteem through positive affirmations and knowing that the negative thoughts are not reality. I was choosing definitively to live in the past via my repetitive thoughts. I was also choosing to live in an uncertain future that I painted with dreadful possibilities. I realized that if I live in the "now", the present moment, I really did not have any reason to be depressed at all. I discovered I really only live in the "now". The past and future are fictions. It is akin to a motorboat on the water on a lake. The "wake" that the boat produces is the past, my vision of the future is what I can see in front of me, but I really only exist ON the boat in the present moment. I was living my life only on the "wake" created many meters before. Soon, my self-pity slowly subsided as I learned to accept "what is" and not grasp for anything and everything that is valued by Society. I concurred that it was my own "expectations" not realized that were causing such waves of discontent. Once I dropped my self imposed sad "life story", my yesterdays, I came to my senses that there was no need to feel upset at all. That realization hit me like "a ton of bricks" and quickly lifted me out of the well, like a rope thrown down the dark walls of the deep well. I would like to share that it was only that single moment of enlightenment, a "satori" event that forever changed my life, but that was not so. It was a gradual climb out of the abyss (over about a year). I realized that my mind was like a superhighway of blazing thoughts that went through my mind over and over based on the recent past. While my "life story" was going great, I believed in those thoughts, and my ego grew such that I became arrogant and sometimes unkind. Then when my "life story" changed for the worse, I similarly believed in those new negative thoughts with the same passion (which hurt me so deeply throughout my waking hours). I noted to myself that this was why I craved so many "tranquilizers" and medicines that would halt my thoughts. I realized that I was drowning in my negative thoughts and that I was CHOOSING to believe in them. But I learned through focusing on positive affirmations, meditation and prayer, I did not need any more drugs to "halt" my mind from stabbing me to death. Through the filter of society's measure I had evaluated my own life, unable to fully realize that it was all a fiction that my mind had created. I was completely unable to live in the present before this profound awakening. My life had turned into a constant "replay" of the past, the anxiety of the uncertain future...and my destroyed ego. Because of my belief that my thoughts were the ultimate truth, I suffered so deeply... but needlessly. Once I changed the direction of my thoughts, everything changed. The way I looked at my own life changed. I realized that LIFE is not a long emergency where the one with the most toys at the end wins. I realized LIFE is something to be lived fully, and joyfully...not some series of problems to be solved. Once I realized these insights, I realized that I was the creation of my own depression. Although a devout Catholic, I am also deeply moved by the ideals of Buddhism. About Karma and "Dependent Arising"...both of which are also in the Bible (Galations 6, Do not be deceived, God will not be mocked, a person always reaps what they sow). And I was...for the better part of my life, a runaway train into disaster that I was blind to...that I had planted the seeds onto. Putting money, fame, accolades, trophies, and so forth as the ultimate end to my goals sowed the seeds of psychological calamity when the inevitable tides of change occurs in every life. A person who extols those superficial qualities dooms himself/herself to disaster. The only variable is "time". Would it take a long time to find yourself in a train wreck or a short time? It doesn't matter. What matters is how soon can you realize the truth of existence and your place in it...and rise above what Society tries to focus you to believe. Society always makes you compare yourself to others, Society never leaves you alone to just be yourself. You have to exert effort and unlearn what Society has poisoned you with. I am now doing various "work" (not holding down any soul sucking corporate job), teaching, making money through various income sources like buying items at rummage sales and reselling them through Craigslist, asking neighbors and doing work they need, trading stock options when my financial tools indicate that there is a good trade. I am not focused on any "ladder to climb" or any "prestigious career"...and I am so much happier and at peace. I'd rather be "waterboarded" that go back to Corporate America. I have also a solid equanimity, and i am OK with whatever happens, and thus accept what God and the Universe wish for me. I wish to share my newly found wisdom and hope that my story and my interpretation of my newly found contentment can benefit others and I also wish to hear similar stories of awakening. God Bless, thanks for reading my "profile" and leave me your stories of awakening. Outside somewhere is a field where all of us are the same, I cannot wait to see you there...Namaste...
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