“It’s not me. It’s my brain.” Self-Help, Brain Training and the Art of Enjoyment

Not so smart

“It’s not me. It’s my brain.” Self-Help, Brain Training and the Art of Enjoyment

Since Sammy Smiles (yes, his real name!) wrote the bestseller Self-Help in 1859, millions of books have been sold as self-help. In 2008 self-help brought in 12 billion dollars (The New Atlantis) and a recent search of "self-help" in Amazon revealed 436,600 titles.

In The Pros and Cons of Self-Help Ben Martin wrote, "Self-help books may in fact be helpful, but don’t expect them to work magic" and in The Science of Self-Help Algis Valiunus wrote, "The recidivism rate for self-help users is high." Apparently not all selves in the self-help game are helping. Maybe it's a, "the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" kind of thing.

Self-help is defined as, "the use of one's own efforts and resources to achieve things without relying on others" (Google). Is a Philosophy of Enjoyment any different from other self-help stuff out there? No. Not really. But it's a bit like asking, "What's the difference between you and Jimmy over there?" or "What's the difference between Bieber and Beethoven?" It's obvious: Each is unique. You are you. Bieber is the Biebs and Beethoven only looks constipated.

People have a mania for comparing and under or over rating each other. We're opinion machines. If the intent of self-help is to teach readers how to solve personal problems and achieve success, then a philosophy of enjoyment will do the trick. Everyone has problems. That's life, but you deal with them and success, what is that? How is it measured? If you enjoy life, isn't that success? In a Philosophy of Enjoyment, external problems are secondary and outward appearances of success are meaningless. What is foremost is sensory awareness. This has nothing to do with your self. It's not about you. 

The thing to do is to forget yourself. Enjoy what you see, hear and feel. No ego. No win. No lose. No success. Be as 24 hour radio: All humility! All the time! Stop what you're thinking. Take a break. Look at something small (a leaf, a stone, a fairy) and calmly abide. If you get distracted by negativity, return to abiding (like the Dude). With awareness of yourself in this world you can experience ecstasy as you are right now. You, in the form of criticism, regret, worry and fear, are a distraction. Only when you are gone do you know. You don't need drugs to remove the gauze of yourself. Use your senses. You are an observation post for the earth. Like a bird. Like a frog.

Be free.

The greatest thing is to forget yourself completely and to live in the sensations of hearing, feeling, seeing, and tasting. Attend to experience in a particular way: on purpose. When you work, work. When you look around, enjoy paying attention non-judgmentally. It's a zen thing.

A zen story tells of a woman carrying water in a bucket. She glances across the surface of the water and sees the reflection of the moon in the bucket. As she looks, the bucket breaks and the water runs into the soil and the moon's reflection goes with it. The woman realizes that the moon she'd been looking at was just a reflection of the real thing like her whole life had been (No Moon, No Water). In other words, thought colours what you see.

Jump thousands of years and science discovers what is there. Research psychiatrist and neuroplasticity - conscious use of directed thoughts - expert, Jeffrey Schwartz says, "You Are Not Your Brain." He explains that the mind or, "directed attention," changes how the brain sends messages. Schwartz says, "The brain puts things into our consciousness, but it is the active mind that makes choices about whether to listen and how to listen... the reward centre sits right embedded in the habit centre. Both are run by dopamine...Dopamine gives you pleasure, but in the process of doing that it gives you embedded habits... anything that gets that reward pleasure centre activated rapidly becomes a habit...balance the relationship between pleasure, reward and habit...Your brain becomes what you focus on " (You Are Not Your Brain). Moreover - and, in addition to - science says that our brains have a negativity bias (Our Brain's Negativity Bias). 

Don't you hate that?

Nicole Force (yes, her real name) writes, "Although some people are naturally more negative, negative events still have a greater impact on everyone’s brains..." (Humor, Neuroplasticity and the Power to Change Your Mind). Neurobiologist Carla Shatz calls Hebb's Rule, "Cells that fire together, wire together" (The Organization of Behavior). It's not that we want to stop firing, it's that we want things firing to help us enjoy. The trick to beautiful enjoyments is to realize that what your brain is doing isn't you, as in: "Excuse me. That wasn't me. It was my brain." Schwartz calls this your "true self" or "wise advocate. You can change your brain effectively through "wise focus of attention."

A poet of enjoyment lives in song. Shift attention to the beauty of the world like poets of long ago.  In 1818 doomed poet John Keats wrote: "A thing of beauty is a joy for ever: / Its loveliness increases; it will never / Pass into nothingness; but still will keep / A bower quiet for us, and a sleep / Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing" (from Endymion).

Reader, breathe deeply! Let go of what you think about money, ego drives and and materialistic success. Focus on your true goals. Live good and wholesome in a goodly way with tear-stained eyes and flushed cheeks until the day you die! Only you can see and feel what you feel. You are the window. It's true! Lighten-up to humour, love and sadness. In kindness go. Enjoy this sometimes beautiful world. What have you got to lose? It's all good even when it isn't. Enjoy it all in spite of everything. 

Let success be measured in moments of attention and awareness.

Published by Philosophy of ENJOYMENT

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