Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Do you want to be happy?

It's a simple enough question, but one we often tie to our circumstances.  Of course I want to be happy, but my partner is an asshole.  WRONG ANSWER.  The thing I keep forgetting is that happiness is something we can actually have control over, regardless of life's circumstances.  To state the obvious, stuff happen -- billions of events from now until eternity.  Do I want to be happy regardless of what happens?  YES, I DO.  Once I accept that events will not determine my happiness, I can more easily find happiness.

My commitment to happiness starts with letting go of the part of me that wants to create melodrama.  I gain nothing by being bothered by the world's events -- I can't even really influence them. I simply suffer.  Being bothered seems to be my specialty lately, because I always find something to be bothered by.

The book I'm reading recommends being aware of when you start to become unhappy and simply LET IT GO (yes, the Disney song my 7 yr old sings ad nauseam). When life gets me down, and I say to myself "that ruined my day -- what good came of that?"  The answer is always nothing.  Absolutely nothing came of that.  I simply let it interfere with my happiness, which is the ONE thing that I truly want.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The End of Growth

Another great Jeff Rubin book that builds on the ideas from his first revealing book.
Rather than summarize all of it, I´m going to note a few personal learning points:

The caution siren is sounding, but nobody is listening:  I am confounded by the inability of governments to do anything that will lessen our dependence on fossil fuel.  The book mentions that the US continues to grant permits for deepwater exploration in the Gulf of Mexico for example.  After the Moacondo fiasco?  WTF.

Growth is the tenet of Economics: nobody quesitons it; it's the panecea of all economic ills

Potential growth is calculated from productivity and labour (are your factories at capacity, is your workforce growing).  The price of oil does not enter into the equation.

The good times of steady growth are over. An economy can't grow if can't afford to burn the fuel it runs on. Stimulus money and printing money not only creates a huge debt burden, but also causes inflation.

QE:  Fed buying up longer-term government bonds to bring down long-term interest rates. The lower rate of return on long-term gov't bonds, makes other investments more attractive by comparison.  Investors typically park huge sums of cash in long-term US bonds in an attempt to ride our a finacial storm. The Fed is trying to steer money to other parts of the financial system where it can do more good. Buying mortgage-backed securities also lowers mortgage rates which reduces borrowing costs for potential homeowners and hopefully stimulates the housing market.

China:  Every month, China's central bank shows up to buy US bonds (t-bills, t-notes and t-bonds) at the US treasuries auction. China buys US treasury bonds to help keep its currency from rising against the US dollar.  Their demand for treasuries is tantamont to a demand for US currency.  In foreign exchange markets, such demand is what allows a currency to hold its value. Rapacious American consumers have dined on cheap labour from China for decades.  China cycles the savings of these same workers into US treasuires so that Americans can keep buying cheap Chinese goods.    With energy scarcity, distance costs money.  Also higher Chinese wages boosts domestic economic activity which means less reliance on the US.  China is facing high inflation right now.  They can combat this by letting the value of their currency rise.  Letting the yuan rise in relation to the USD would mean that China pays less for imports (e.g. oil, corn) and gives Chinese consumers more purchasing power. China can simply turn inward to its 1.3B consumers.  Their auto market is already 50% larger than the US auto market. China could also start selling their US Treasuries -- this would flood the market, which would shrink the appetitie for buying US bonds at future Treasury auctions and sink the USD further.  In order to entice investors, the US would have to raise interest rates on their bonds.  This would affect US citizens (mortgage holders) as their interest rates would also rise.    

Admittedly, a lot of this basic info was beyond me.  What the hell did I learn at university exactly?  At any rate, the future is bleak.  And no one is doing anything about it.

More on the psyche

So much wisdom in such a short book.  Here are some more notes:

We build up a self-concept based on experiences, beliefs, opinions, sets of thoughts and emotions.  And we cling to this concept because it creates what we think is a safe rational place.  But unfortunately when something happens to shake the foundation of who we think we are (e.g. losing a loved one) our entire view of who we are (including our relationship to everyone around us) falls apart.  So we panic and fight to keep it together.  Instead of trying to make everything fit in our comfort zone, we should instead be questioning the model we've built in the first place.

A very good friend of mine follows this philosophy -- believe in nothing, because dogma is dangerous.  You will never by happy if your identity is tied to form or beliefs because beliefs should evolve with new information.  This is wise.  This book says that you should be free to experience life without mental boundaries.  This 'going beyond' is enlightenment.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

F'ed up psyche

Some more notes from the Untethered Soul.  Our constant anxious self talk is suffering.  It's because our psyche is so messed up that we think about it so much (e.g. worry if he won't like you, or replay what we said earlier).  Interesting that we rarely think about our physical bodies; only when there's something wrong (e.g. injury, illness).  Yet with our minds constantly 'on',  our psyches must be f'ed up.  Yep.  This book says that the dysfunction comes from fear.  We've given our psyches the impossible responsibility to make the world right. 

From the book: "You said to your mind:  I want everyone to like me.  I don't want anyone to speak badly of me.  I want everything I say and do to be acceptable and pleasing to everyone.  I don't want anyone to hurt me.  I don't want anything to happen that I don't like.  And I want everything to happen that I do like."

Whoa!  talk about a tall order.  No wonder my mind won't shut up!  And so my mind gives me lots of advice on how to change external things, so that my problems can be fixed.  But the thing is, it never works.  But I keep listening.  For example, if you feel loneliness, your mind tells you that the solution is to find a relationship.  However, that does not address the root of the problem which is that you don't feel whole and complete within yourself.  And so it goes.  The way to be free of my psyche making all these demands of me is to tell it that it's job is not to try and fix all my personal problems.  It's that easy.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Seat of Consciouness

More from the same book, the Untethered Soul.

Transcendence is the goal here.  Don't get sucked in.  Let things pass, which is not the same as resisting.  For example, I see someone looking super fit in their workout clothes and my inner voice starts up -- I wish I looked like that, WTF, why don't I look like that. I could look like that if I wasn't such a lazy, undisciplined git, oh fuck I'm pathetic for making so many excuses, etc., etc.  I work myself up into this mad frenzy over something completely stupid.  I've been sucked into my own melodrama.  Just as the super fit person passes by, so too should my pangs of jealousy pass by.  Let yourself feel the bad emotions, but let them quickly pass over you.  Don't get sucked in.

This book talks about the 'seat of consciousness'.  It's the place up high where you observe your life.  I imagine it to look like at umpire's seat at a tennis match.  As the observer you see life before you and you let yourself feel, but you stay separate from your feelings because YOU ARE NOT YOUR FEELINGS.  Feelings, like experiences are just part of being human.  I personally tend to make feelings more important than they are.  I forget that they quickly pass.  This books says that when you stay in your seat, you will feel energy come from behind you and flow through you.  I must admit I'm finding this a bit hard to grasp.  But it sounds wonderful -- the freedom of not being thought-obsessed or overcome by emotion.  Inner peace!

Last point to note is the idea of inner disturbances.  The book says that when we have something that bothers us, rather than remove it, we tend to work around it -- adjust our behaviour and circumstances to accommodate it rather than just remove it.  For example, if we have a fear of rejection we might choose to always please others before ourselves, or we might stay closed or avoid relationships altogether.  These inner disturbances are basically blocked energy from our past. They can and should be removed.  If we don't release them, we will continue to focus on them because our consciousness tends to get drawn to the most distracting object.  It's similar to bumping your toe or hearing a loud noise, it has your attention.  And this is what happens when we get sucked in and fall from our seat.  We're overcome with emotion and can't see the forest from the trees. Even worse, we start to act out (e.g. yell at someone else, take revenge, etc.) thereby affecting someone else's inner peace ... all because we haven't dealt with our issues.  Sigh. 

I think I might have to re-read some of these ideas or at least let them simmer more.  Good stuff all around!

Saturday, October 19, 2013


I'm reading an interesting book on consciousness and it's starting to draw some simple relationships in my mind.  This is helping me understand the concepts I've heard again and again, yet haven't quite grasped.  The idea that reality is based on perception starts to make sense until I think of feedback.  When I touch a table, it feels hard, so I know that it is there.  But is it really there?  Is it just what I've come to expect.  If I didn't experience the table would it be there?  OK, NOW YOU'VE LOST ME.

So this book breaks it down nicely like I am 6 years old, starting with the voice in your head.  I personally know this voice, because it talks to me constantly.  It reminds me of stuff I need to do (e.g. don't forget to call your mom), it chastises me for things I have done (e.g. why did you jump down his throat like that before giving him a chance to speak, you are so selfish), it likes to tell me why things are the way they are (e.g. he doesn't give a shit about you, he's disrespecting you again).  This books says that the voice is not you and just because it speaks does not mean we need to listen.  The voice is there to interpret reality for us so that we can feel safer in the world.  We often pay attention because we believe that it comes from some kind of inner wisdom.  But, really it does no more than fill the air.  For one thing the voice flip flips all over the place (e.g. you should work out, but then again your knees are sore and you need to rest, but you also ate like crap today and need to burn some caolories, etc.).  Secondly,  most of what the voice is doing is complaining -- looking for problems, looking for something to be bothered by.  In fact in my case, the voice never gives anyone the benefit of the doubt (e.g. why did he not say anything?  he's ignoring me again?  he's trying to distance himself from he -- he's trying to send a fucking message, etc.).  My voice dreams up all kinds of negative explanations when most of the time there's a reasonable explanation (e.g. he was on another computer and did not see my BBM, he was on the phone, he was deep into work).
Anyways, I've just scratched the surface but I look forward to learning more about this, including how to turn the voice off!  I have a feeling that it won't be possible though.  But awareness is usually an important step for me.  It's a nice way to spend a Saturday night.