Once I Was 7 Years Old

When I was 7, I had a tooth pulled. My mother made me take a Tylenol that I did not want to take. To me, it did not make sense that if I had a pain in a small area, I should take a pill that gets absorbed into my entire bloodstream. I hated that people were being taught to rely on pills for pain. I was furious with myself for letting her make me take the pill. So, I vowed to never take a pain killer again. I believed that I could teach my body and my mind to deal with pain. I knew that, to some extent, pain is in the mind. I often trained myself to deal with pain in various ways. When my fingers would hurt from bowling, I would squeeze them and abuse the skin to harden it. I would deprive my body of oxygen just so I could hold my breath longer next time. When I had no hot water, I took cold showers facing them like they were mental exercises. I chose to see pains and challenges as a way to develop mental fortitude. Fast forward 26 years, and I’m one of the few people who never gets headaches. The longest headache I’ve had in those years has lasted about 8 seconds. I can’t say with certainty that there is a correlation, but there’s certainly probably a correlation.

When I was 12, I was not very disciplined when it came to eating, my parents let me eat what I want when I wanted. One of the challenges of staying thin was what I called the “stretching stomach”. I observed that, when we went to a buffet for dinner, I would stuff myself for maximum value and of course, feel completely bloated. The next day, I would always be able to eat bigger meals than usual. Instead of feeling full after a usual meal, I could eat almost double. I later learned that champions of eating competitions, use this concept as part of their strategy.

As such, the “stretching stomach” concept was formed in my 12-year-old mind. I imagined that when I devoured a delicious meal and felt full, the bloating feeling was literally my stomach stretching. My strategy for dealing with this was what is called “intermittent fasting” nowadays. After over-eating a delicious meal, which I often did, I would fast generally somewhere between 12-20 hours, using liquids and sleep to push past hunger. I imagined the feeling of my stomach grumbling as the processing of stored fat. I believed that I was teaching my body to process its reserves more regularly, essentially increasing my metabolism.

Now I am no medical expert, so I do not advise you to try what I have tried. I listened to my body and I essentially pioneered intermittent fasting for myself. All I can tell you is that staying thin for me has always revolved around regulating the size of my inner stomach. After fasting, if I could limit myself to a small meal, I usually fell back on track. It took some time to develop the discipline to limit the first meal after fasting. Over time, I found myself dealing with hunger with multiple small portions roughly every 30 minutes. This was a natural response to avoiding the full/bloated feeling, which is essentially the key.

This also stuck with me because it resonates with some deeper concepts of mine. I’ve always believed that time and change are interrelated, if time is moving forward, everything is changing. You are getting stronger or weaker, you are getting more skilled or less skilled, faster or slower, smarter or slower. I believe we ride all these rollercoasters and many more…

I can only hope I’m helping somebody along the ride… Peace!

Guess Who’s Back

I took a little break from writing because I needed to sort a few things out with myself. For one, I needed to understand why it is that I blog, at least a little more completely. I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting lately, as my life changes in little ways every day, and in big ways in the background.

I don’t get a whole lot of feedback, so I had to ask myself “Who am I writing for?” In many blogs I began writing, I realized I was writing for myself. I needed to sort things out, understand myself better. I’ve been doing this periodically for years, when I feel the need for change. Usually, it involves me writing down things I want, asking myself a series of whys, and realizing I have conflicting desires.

Essentially, my writing has been the same. Writing puts me face to face with a number of conflicting desires that I have. For a few examples: I want to teach, but feel unqualified because I’m still learning; I want to beat my addiction to thinking, but writing is essentially me expressing my thoughts; the conflict between writing for me, and writing for you, because I don’t actually know who you are. Well maybe I do, but really I don’t. You see all these conflicts?

It took some time, but I realized a few things. I’m not actually writing to teach, I’m just here to share ideas and experiences in which someone may find valuable lessons. I’m simply sharing what I’m learning as I go, even though I don’t have it all figured out. And maybe, someone will find lessons that help them.

I understand now that I am qualified to speak about my experiences. After all, they are mine. I am definitely qualified to speak how I beat a decade-long depression without doctors or medication. I am definitely qualified to speak about how to use your mind more effectively. I also understand that there are things I am not qualified to talk about, like how to stop thinking.

My thinking has taught me a lot, but there are times when I am unable to turn it off, and in my attempts to sleep better, this is a problem for me. Now that I’ve separated that issue from writing, I am back.

Anyway, I just want you to know that I needed some time. It’s not you, it’s me…

I’m Addicted, You’re Addicted

We may not all be addicted to the same things, but we are definitely addicted. Addiction is an interesting paradox to me because the more you are aware of it, the less it is a problem. But the less you are aware of your addiction, the more trouble it can cause without you understanding why.
Addictions come in all shapes and sizes. I’ve been addicted to sugar, to alcohol, to sadness, to anger. I’ve been addicted to the thrill of fast speeds, to video games, and countless others. And I’ve had friends who are addicted to sickness, to working, to mayhem, to attention, to you name it.
It’s not really the obvious ones that concern me. It’s easy to realize you’re addicted to cigarettes or candy or Facebook, but it’s difficult to realize you’re addicted to something like sadness or anger.
For a long time, I didn’t know I was addicted to my emotions, and that caused some serious problems. It’s pretty easy to look back on it and see it, because I can see that when I was addicted to sadness I would literally choose to be sad, I would even play sad music all the time. Sadness built a home in me.
I didn’t really know it until I had a solid stretch of happiness. I was finally overturning my depression, and after being happy for a while, I caught myself feeling like a hole or a void for sadness. Something happened that made me a little sad, and that “home” feeling came back, like I had “missed” sadness. It was a big moment for me, because catching myself was key. If I didn’t notice, I could have easily started making decisions that would lead me to sadness, even at an unconscious level, just to fill that void.
I know people who are addicted to work and stress. If they aren’t busy or stressed, they’re not “at home”. I know people who are addicted to conflict, they can’t handle calm and don’t even know it. I definitely know people addicted to anger.
I do okay with anger but it’s tricky. I catch myself at least once a day getting addicted to anger on the road. For 1-5 minutes I want to be angry at bad drivers, slow drivers in left lanes, and I want to ask angry questions to absolutely nobody. I basically direct all my focus at things that make me angry about driving right now. 1-5 points for anger, almost every day.
You see, that’s why emotion addictions are the ones I worry about! They score points and you don’t even realize! That’s why I do okay with anger, I can generally catch it before it gets too far ahead to cause serious problems. Like where it rolls over into my work day and I think the entire universe is out to cut me off and shit on me all day. Then tomorrow comes and anger’s got a tent setup now, ’cause he’s been camping on my front lawn for a day. He’s on the lookout for things to be angry about, and he’ll be sure to point them all out to me. After a year, he’ll have a watchtower built and a telescope. Then I can be angry about everything everywhere. Anger and I will live happily ever after.
I’m not the greatest painter, but I hope you can see the picture I’m painting. Even if it doesn’t make sense, I hope it still has some meaning to at least someone.
We’ve all got addictions. It’s the ones you don’t know about that really get you. When you know about it, you can do something to score some points and get back in the game. But when you don’t know, you wake up like me one day and see a scoreboard for “Sadness vs You”. The score is 26000 to 12.
Sure makes for a glorious comeback though…

Good luck!

Turning Bad Into Good: The Happiness Skill

The first breakthrough (recognizing the I’ll-be-happy-when cycle) wasn’t really a complete breakthrough. All I really figured out was that happiness would come from enjoying the entire journey, all of the ups and all of the downs, all the baggage, all the hardships, and all its rewards.

I needed more breakthroughs though, so I called the kool-aid man. After busting through my wall, he told me I was addicted to sadness. He said that I was choosing to focus on things in a way that made me sad, instead of choosing a happier perspective.

I was too young to fully understand the kool-aid man, plus there were bricks, drywall and kool-aid everywhere, so it was difficult to focus and take advice about gratitude. “How am I supposed to be happy about a big hole in my wall, kool-aid man!? The couch is ruined! You want to have a serious conversation about life and happiness, and there’s nowhere to sit?” But unfortunately, he was right. He made it very clear that sadness was a choice, and I chose it often. I chose to focus on lack of friends, lack of girlfriend, lack of car, lack of money.

I was like a fish who never left the water, and didn’t even know I was in water. Surrounded by one of the greatest resources on Earth, water or love, and I couldn’t even see it. Finally I was pulled out of the water, and I could see where I had been swimming. Sometimes the love needs to disappear for you to realize it was there in the first place.

Ultimately this was my question, the question I needed to answer to really make happiness click in my life. In the worst of circumstances, whether I’d lost someone or something, lost everyone or everything, or whether I felt like I’d never even had that someone or something to lose, how am I supposed to be happy?

If I could solve that, and turn the worst of sadnesses into happiness, I would solve happiness. While the solution is essentially my third and most major breakthrough, it’s really been years in the making, and I’m definitely still learning.

During a phase of self-help books, there’s really only one that stands out as a game changer for me. It was the piece of the puzzle I needed. This book was all about beliefs. The basis was that our perception defines our reality, and that our beliefs define our perception. To fully absorb this concept and this book in one sentence, I would tell you that you need to understand how it’s possible for God to exist to you, and to not exist to someone else, and you’re both right.

The takeaway for me was that I needed to choose beliefs that served me better. It doesn’t matter whether or not I believe in God, it matters how that belief serves me, how it drives me. If I’m out murdering people, it doesn’t matter if I believe in God, if I’m male or female, or if I’m any kind of different, I’m murdering people!

But what if you’re murdering yourself? I mean internally, what if your beliefs about yourself, about what you can and can’t do, who you can and can’t be, what if they’re sabotaging you? On the bright side, nobody died from your beliefs, but they might still be worth a look.

Essentially, I think of happiness as a skill. To me, it’s like bowling a great shot. If I succeed, it’s still only one great shot. If I want continuous happiness, I’m going to need to do it again and again.

The skill to takeaway from this is like any other: simple to learn, but hard to master. I challenge you to take a shitty situation in your life right now, and name 2 good changes that it’s bringing to your life. The more you get good at this, the better you are at happiness.

If you’re more systematic, here’s a 2-step system, and the good news is step 1 is super easy.

Step 1. Shit happens, you feel some kind of bad about it.
Step 2. You figure out how to see things in a way that serves you better.

Concept in perspective: I’m driving home from work, and some guy cuts me off. I make some sarcastic comment like “nice signal” and I’m a little angry now. But now I want to be angry, so I’m watching like a hawk for the next bad driver I see, and I’m going to be twice as sarcastic on my next comment! “Oh look at me, I’m a driving magician! I don’t need signals! If I just move over slowly enough, I don’t need to look because people magically move out of my way! Abracafuckingdabra!” So now, by the length of my conversation with myself, and the elevation of the tone of the conversation, you can tell I’m pretty aggravated. My breathing is shallower, muscles are tighter, and I realize I just let some asshole or idiot, or idiot asshole, make me upset. Somehow, I’ve given him the power to upset me, to ruin my day. Then I’m mad at myself for letting someone steal my sunshine. I should be happy, I’m on my way home!

Concept in a much more serious perspective: I lost my mother and naturally I was sad. Step 1 complete. But step 2 meant finding good ways to look at her death. Obviously, challenging. Looking back, I see this as a defining moment in my ability to change my beliefs. Your problems will always be unique to you, so you will always have to find your own solution, but if it helps, here was my solution to my greatest challenge.

I decided that I didn’t want to think of my mother and be sad, I wanted to think of her and be happy. I knew that when she was alive, she was suffering, and so I chose to focus on the fact that her suffering had come to an end. I promised myself that every time I thought of her, I would focus on our love for each other, and how grateful I am for it. Not only does this serve me better, I also feel that it’s the best way to honour her.

Occasionally I have caught myself missing her really bad, bad enough to break into tears about it. But sadness is something on which I’ve also changed my perspective, I actually really appreciate my sadness. I am quite lucky to have been able to experience such a great loss.

Every scenario is different. I am certain that happiness is a skill or habit. I’m still working on mine, but for me it’s all about catching myself in a bad feeling, then choosing to focus on things differently. It may be easier said than done, but I’ve done it many times, so now I’m saying it. In the words of the kool-aid man: “Oh yeah!”

The Observer Effect

I was always fascinated with math and science as a child. But one day, one very pivotal day in my twenties, I learned about a kind of science called “quantum mechanics”. Learning about the double-slit experiment and the observer effect simultaneously was the second major step in me overcoming depression.

The observer effect is something very real, and actually confirms a theory I had at a young age. At the quantum level, an observer may affect electrons, but in real life, an observer can affect an entire being. A child behaves differently if they know their parents are watching. An employee behaves differently if his boss is watching. Many toilet paper rolls have been destroyed by pets that were not being watched.

There’s a spectrum though, of how much something or someone can be affected by an observer. The smaller or more fragile it is, the easier it is to affect, like an electron, or a low self-esteem. When you have low self-esteem, and you just wanna fit in, you’ll try all kinds of things to please observers. If your certainty about who you are and where you are going were to increase, it would be harder to affect you. 

The movie from which I learned the observer effect was called “What the Bleep Do We Know?”, and it definitely changed my life. I always seek to find out how concepts apply on more than one level. For the observer effect, it led me to wonder how much I was directly influencing my reality, simply by what I was looking for. If you look for electrons, you find them. If you look for problems, you find them too. If you ride the train of thought that I did, you’ll begin to question your observations and their effects, and your destination is a new perception. Safe travels!

Stairway to Heaven

One of my first breakthroughs when I was depressed, came from recognizing the pattern of times I would think “I’ll be happy when…” I looked back on many of the times I thought those same words, and realized I had achieved a lot of them! I got the girlfriend, I got friends, I got the car… I got all the things I once said I’d be happy with, so why wasn’t I happy?

Each time I achieved or acquired something, there was a short happiness, which was quickly replaced by a desire for the next thing, for the next step to heaven. You can see the problem. Not sure why it took me so long to see it too.

This train of thought drove a shift of perception in me: happiness was no longer a destination, it was a journey. In order to have long-term happiness, it became evident that I could not just enjoy the destinations, the I’ll-be-happy-whens along the way. I had to learn enjoy the entire journey.

While it was great realization, it really only redefined the problem. So I was onto the next pickle: how the heck do you enjoy the entire journey? How do you enjoy all the crap life throws your way?

Now I’m no pickle eater, but we’ll bite into this one later.

Happiness = Sandwich?

WARNING: Only one moment of happiness is guaranteed by this solution. Repeat for more.
The solution to a lack of happiness:

1. Gratitude.

The solution to a lack of gratitude:

2. Mindfulness.

The solution to a lack of mindfulness:

3. Deep Breathing.

Or actually anything else that you can enjoy every day, like delicious food. Sometimes you scarf down a delicious sandwich, and you barely taste it at all because you’re busy, busy stressing out and multitasking and stuff. But if you wanted to, you could decide to slow down for a moment as you’re about to bite into your sandwich. You could look at it and see how beautiful your toppings look, hanging out the edges of your warm, soft bread. You could salivate as you open for a big one, and as you crunch through the lettuce, your eyes could roll back and your mind would go “mmm god yes!” Then you could chew three times and lose control of your good manners as you speak with your mouth open: “oh god, mmmrghumrgh, so good, mghagrmph”. (After multiple edits, I’m still undecided as to whether or not that is a good attempt at spelling out the sound of loud chewing.)
You could take the time to do all that. At this point, if you did, you’d be moaning and it would seem like you are getting a little sexual with your sandwich. Maybe you should get a room, like that room in your mind, where you’re having a mental orgasm because your sandwich is so delicious.
In summary, the solution to happiness is only one step: get sexual with your sandwich.
But when you don’t have a delicious sandwich:
3. Deep breathing: relax yourself
2. Mindfulness: appreciate the feeling of a deep, relaxing breath. Really feel your heart calm down. Or of course, get a delicious sandwich and put your phone down. Remember to taste the food, listen to the music, feel the breath. Tell your mind to shut up for a sec. 
1. Gratitude: shouldn’t be that hard at this point to thank the Universe, you probably already proposed to a sandwich.
0. Happiness.

This is what I’m working on at this point in my life. Too often I catch myself not actually listening to music I like, or tasting the food I love, instead they are somehow background noise. After all, if I can’t enjoy and savor delicious food and great music, what can I enjoy?

2 + 2 = You

When I was young, I heard a quote from Blaise Pascal that really shaped the way I think about everything. It wasn’t quoted accurately, or I didn’t hear it accurately because I wasn’t listening, I rarely listened much in school. But the concept still applies. The way I heard it in French, translates to: “We are infinitely large, and infinitely small.”

He went on to explain that what Blaise meant was that from one perspective, we are larger than our organs, our organs are larger than their cells, which are larger than their atoms, which are larger than their protons, etc. Infinitely large. From another perspective, we are smaller than our community, our city, our country, our planet, and so on. Infinitely small. Both perspectives are opposites, but they are both true.

I was fascinated by the idea that a change in perspective could actually change the truth. The way you perceive things ultimately determines how you think and feel. I think it’s important to understand that you are the “=” sign. You are the observer, and your perception of the results defines what the results “equal”.

I think I was 13 at the time. The reason this heavily affected the way I still think today is because I took this theory to the extreme. I started trying to prove to myself that complete opposite things were true. Like zero = infinity, or -1 = 1, light = darkness, joy = sorrow, etc. Eventually, I started getting good at proving opposites to myself. 

Mind: opened.

Since then, I have proven things to myself things like God doesn’t exist, and God does exist, both simultaneously. I have proven to myself that death = life. I have proven that destiny is real and not real simultaneously. These are kind of like philosophy puzzles, and I actually thoroughly enjoyed the challenges.

Mind: provoked?

Welcome

Welcome to my blog, thank you for coming. I wanted to call this blog “Peace by Piece”, but the name was taken. This is going to be an outlet for my hyperactive mind, and I hope that as I share pieces of my mind, I help people achieve peace of their own.

I see a lot of black and white in the world today. I called this blog “Spectrum Perspective” because I hope to open my mind and yours, to see a bigger part of the spectrum. I think we are all guilty of being narrow sighted at times, so focused on one part that we fail to see the whole.

I plan on taking a look back at some of the concepts that changed my life. Many of these concepts came from my journey out of depression. Many of the lessons come from things I have done for a long time like bowling. A concept doesn’t stick with me unless it applies on many different levels, so most of my posts will take one lesson from life and turn it into a lesson about happiness. I don’t have it all figured out, but you are welcome to join me on this journey…

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