The Man Who Discovered Happiness

The entire world knows of him. The most popular name since Einstein. It is miraculous how he could do what he did. All discoveries and inventions are minor in comparison, since he was able to make just about the entire world happy.

It didn’t take long either since once he announced his discoveries and traveled the world speaking about what he discovered, everyone’s brain lit up. The darkness was forever lifted. People got it.

The unifying thing about humans is not a single one does not want to be happy. The singular shared goal of all human life is happiness. We seek it out in so many different ways. It is what every human being aspires towards so once he was able to figure out how people could actually be happy all the time, it caught like a fire in a dry forest.

 

His name was Joe Ollman. Obviously he has been dead for some time now, but his discovery has still to this day changed the lives of everyone on planet earth. Even though we all live indoors now and are continually on-line, we have all found a happiness that is far greater than any kind of happiness experienced by humans who were off-line and went outdoors. Psychotherapy, psychiatry, life-coaches, self-help gurus, spiritual gurus, all of these professions are a thing of the past. No longer needed. In school I read about how many, many, many years ago, these were the most popular professions. They were everywhere and bookstores were filled with self-help and psychology books written by these people. Not any more. None of them exits today, since everyone is happy.

Joe Ollman. This is a name which will never be forgotten as long as humans are around. You can ask anyone, even children who Joe Ollman was and they will tell you the man who discovered happiness. And his discovery was not even that difficult. It is strange that authentic happiness eluded humans for so long. Joe Ollman just made it very easy for everyone to understand and implement it.

 

For those of you who are interested, Ollman’s Theory of Happiness is: To be happy is the absence of negative thought. Pretty simple, right? That as long as a person has negative thoughts they will not be able to be happy. In order to be happy a person must be able to eradicate all negative thinking. Sounds simple but not so easy. The genius of Joe Ollman was that he made it easy.

When Joe Ollman was alive he lived in a society that created deep unhappiness. The society that Ollman lived in was so dysfunctional that the vast majority of citizens had to take pills to make them feel better and more functional in what he called “The Sick Society.” Can you believe that? Society was at one time so dysfunctional and unhealthy that people had to take a pill, which generated more serotonin in their brain chemistry so that they could function better in that society. Even though it was over sixty years ago since things have really changed it still surprises me that this is how things once were.

People were continually worried about having enough money and what other people thought of them. People distracted themselves with things that caused them to feel even more empty inside. The routine and monotony in people’s lives caused them to live with this empty feeling inside, which drove them into states of deep anger and depression. Wow. Everyone was stressed out since surviving in The Sick Society caused a person to have to do a lot of things that they did not want to do. People had to pretend to be happy about working at jobs that they did not feel happy at. Everyone was disconnected from one another. No real relationships were able to be sustained in this harsh climate of anger, addiction, worry and depression. People pursued happiness but could never find it because their heads were filled with negative thoughts and people spent most of their time lost inside their heads. Fear prevented almost everyone from living the life that they wanted to really live. People were committing suicide and violent crimes everywhere. Men interested in power and money ran the world and the masses were much too afraid to rise up against the state. The people were powerless. They had no choice but to submit. It was pure madness. The only thing that could help this situation were psychiatric pills. It was the real Dark Age.

 

Joe Ollamn is a global hero because he is single-handedly responsible for bringing people out of these dark ages. He basically rescued everyone from the darkness and brought almost everyone out into the light. All with his very simple Theory Of Happiness. Joe Ollman was also once a very depressed and negative man. He admitted to often thinking about suicide and then he realized that there could be an alternative way. He did not have to physically die as much as he needed to psychologically change. Ollman realized that he needed to eradicate negative thoughts.

Ollman started practicing Mindfulness meditation intensively so that he could develop the awareness needed to know when he was starting to have negative thoughts and feelings. “When the emptiness and darkness was starting to creep in,” he often said. Once he was able to have this awareness he could catch it and turn the thoughts and feelings into something positive before the negativity snowballed into a miserable state. The importance of awareness in being a happy person was not discovered by Ollman but it was really brought into the mainstream by him. Today most people practice mindfulness meditation and it is because humans are much more aware that they are able to subvert negativity the moment it arises.

Ollman’s Theory Of Happiness stresses that if a person wants to be happy they must be able to not dwell in their heads. That dwelling or ruminating in thought is unhappiness. In order to avoid this a person must engage in distractions that allow them to feel engaged, focused and better about themselves when finished with the distractions. People just needed to become better able at choosing more quality distractions for themselves rather than just taking what is being offered by the highest bidder. It is because of Ollman’s discovery that Hollywood, Netflix, HBO, social media, cable television, most forms of advertising, Amazon Prime are now things of the past. Corporations that created and profited off of human misery are now gone! People now actually live quality lives. Who would have ever thought? All because of one man.

 

Ollman once said in a YouTube interview, “If human beings want to be happy they must be able to remain present and aware. It is so crucial that people are present and engaged in their lives in a carefree kind of way. If a person wants to be happy they must be carefree because if they are not stress and worry and depression will quickly rise up. The Sick Society did not allow people to be carefree. Everyone was worried and stressed out all the time and this is why unhappiness was such an epidemic. If people really want happiness it is so important that they are able to live in  a carefree way. Moment by moment, day by day without worrying about the future or thinking about the past. When a person is truly happy they are fully in the moment. They are fully content and engaged in the moment without a care in the world. The moment a person is no longer carefree, unhappiness sets in. The thing about humans is that we do have the ability to be carefree. We just need to exercise this ability or potential more regularly through mindfulness meditation practice.”

This was once of the most viewed videos in YouTube history and it is where Ollamn’s Theory of Happiness was presented to the world. Einstein wrote books and papers but it is interesting how things change. Ollman wrote no books or papers but presented his discoveries through YouTube videos. No one reads books anymore. Everyone just watches YouTube videos and Ollman was visionary enough to know that this would be the case one day. Ollman was such a genius and I am so grateful for his presence on planet earth. I do not know what the hell anyone would do without his Theory Of Happiness. We would all be taking pills and living in that dark and very sick society that almost caused Ollman to take his own life.

I am so happy the dark ages are now behind us.

*This is an essay written by a young girl for her online eighth grade Sociology class.

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Take Care Of Yourself! A Conversation.

Why can’t you take care of yourself?

What the hell is that supposed to mean?

You don’t know how to take care of yourself!

Why do you say that?

Because you don’t! You sit around. You let things go. You withdraw into books. You are struggling in your work. You struggle to exercise and get outside in the sun. You are unfulfilled and feel stuck in your life but still you do nothing!

I think you are being a bit critical. I do things.

You do the bare minimum just to get by.

Really?

Yes, and then you expect others to pick up the slack. To take care of the things you don’t want to take care of. To take care of you.

I don’t know about this. I have a business where I help others every day.

Yes, but you are a fraud. You are no better than your clients. You are trying to get well or to manage, just as they are. I do not think you are fit to serve. Just like you need to be fit to run a marathon you need to be fit to serve. Maybe the reason why your job does not make you happy is because you are running in a marathon without being in good shape?

I have not thought of it like that. I think I am fit to serve because I am trying to be a better person every day. I am trying to more effectively deal with the crap I have inherited from my parents- my past conditioning. I am trying to manage it more effectively so it does not make me a miserable person. This continual effort I think makes me fit to serve.

Maybe. You have part of the equation correct but you are still unwilling to do things that would make you happier and healthier in life.

What do you mean?

What do you mean?

What?

You don’t want to take charge. You don’t want to cut the bullshit. You don’t want to stop staying stuck. You don’t want to do the hard work that it would take to change things for the better. You don’t want to push yourself.

Maybe. But I do what I can. I try.

Yes, but this is not enough. You are just staying stuck in the convenience of habit. You are not willing to change and so you make do with what is. This is bullshit! Push yourself man. Do not be so fearful of hard work!

Maybe it is about accepting what is. Maybe it is about not trying to change anything but instead just making peace with what is? Maybe the reason why humans are so fucked up is because we are not able to just make peace with things as they are? We are very critical of ourselves and others and think things should be how we think they should be. Maybe when we become really critical it does not actually motivate change but instead creates more depression and unhappiness. I think you may be going about it the wrong way.

You are saying that it is about accepting things as they are? Accepting your lack of motivation. Accepting that you do what you can (which, by the way is never enough), accepting that you can’t really get things done, accepting that you have a hard time taking care of yourself? You are basically saying just accept that the garden is not being taken care of and let it stay in its disheveled and dried out state?

I suppose I am saying do what you can and accept that. Maybe a person is not meant to have a beautiful garden because they, for whatever reason, are not able to devote the time and energy needed. In this case the person needs to be able to accept that they have a garden that is not perfect. That is partially dried out. That it is not much tended to. Such is life. What I am saying is that in just accepting things as they are, even though they may not be desirable, it releases a person from all the stress and unhappiness that comes up as a result of trying to fix and change things and thinking things are not good enough. Maybe change happens through accepting what is.

I don’t know man. I think this is the greatest act of rationalizing one’s own illogical bullshit that I have ever heard. I think you are just perpetuating the status quo. You are just trying to accept the status quo. Anyone who is great never got anywhere with the perspective you are articulating. No one has ever mastered anything or become really skilled and successful thinking like that. That train of thought will get you nowhere besides right where you are which is struggling to take care of yourself.

I understand this. But maybe my work is in accepting that I will not be that person who is great, masterful and successful and super productive. That that is not who I am. This is just not in the deck of cards for me. Perhaps happiness for me is in accepting that this is just not who I am.

But you have talent. You have potential. You could do whatever you want. You could be great. You could have a beautiful garden if you pushed yourself more.

Maybe so, but maybe I am just not that kind of person. Maybe I am more fated to live an imperfect life. A life of slowness or no great achievements. Maybe I am just going to be average. Maybe I am going to need help along the way. Maybe I am just that kind of person.

And you are ok with this? You really want to accept this?

I see no other way if I don’t want to be miserable for the rest of my life.

Bullshit man. You know this is bullshit. You just don’t want to do the hard work.

Maybe so. I don’t remember ever being a fan of hard work.

Ok. There is no making sense with you. You are not getting it. You want to keep sitting on your ass and just let all the potential in your life go- go ahead. You want others to take care of you. You don’t want to deal with the hard stuff. Ok. Fuck it. I am not getting anywhere with you.

You know, what? I don’t like how you are talking to me. I think this conversation is done.

How To Become A Mindfulness Teacher

Recently I have received not a lot, but an unusual amount of emails and phone calls from people asking me how they can become a mindfulness teacher.

I admit, I have been surprised by this since I do not think of myself as a mindfulness teacher. A part of me feels flattered that people are seeking out this kind of guidance from me but another part of me feels perplexed. Asking me how to become a mindfulness teacher is like asking an abstract painter to explain how she or he made that strange, abstract painting. It is not an easy thing to do.

My first inclination is to respond to people by saying, “I really don’t know” or “Read a lot of books on mindfulness and then apply what you learn.” But I recognize that this knee jerk reaction is a kind of unwillingness to talk about how I think a person becomes a mindfulness teacher (although reading a lot of books is important).

I never set my life’s course in the direction of becoming a mindfulness teacher. It is not something that I ever thought possible for me. I have always approached mindfulness in an effort to help myself more skillfully deal with the intense anxiety, depression and anger that I have struggled with much of my life.

Fifteen or so years ago while I was meditating in my small apartment in Oakland, I did have a vision of myself as an older man, sitting in the lotus position with a group of other people also seated in lotus position. We were all sitting in a circle practicing meditation and it kind of seemed like I was the teacher but I was not sure. I remember thinking that it would be nice to be able to be a meditation teacher but I had no idea how that kind of thing could ever happen since at the time I was consuming high doses of paxil, beer and marijuana to get through my anxious days.

Fifteen or so years later and people are asking me how to be a mindfulness teacher. It does feel strange. I do think, “Who, me?” But let me tell you how I think this sort of thing happened.

Professional Development Mindfulness Seminars, Mindfulness Certification Programs, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Programs and other mindfulness courses that you can take are all helpful in developing your understanding of the basic principles and application of mindfulness practice. They are almost always a necessary first step to install in your brain a better functioning operating system than the damaged one you have kept running all this time. But finishing one of these mindfulness programs is really just the very beginning and far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far from the end of your mindfulness education.

How you then proceed to deal with your daily suffering is the much more important part of your education.

Are you aware of your mortality right now? Are you aware that this next breath could really be your very last? If not and you want to be a mindfulness teacher you might want to work on this. The continual awareness of your own mortality is one of the most important understandings you will need to have in order to be an effective mindfulness teacher.

Why? Because when you are really aware of the impermanence that underlies every single aspect of our lives, it allows you to place a much greater value on letting things go and living as fully as possible in this moment. This moment will mean more to you than anything else.

The reason why most of us are not present is because we have forgotten that we are going to die. We are operating under the false assumption that life goes on forever. As a result we refuse to slow down. We take ourselves very seriously.

The moment you become more aware of your own mortality, the present moment automatically takes on a much greater value. You are not as easily caught up in emotions and thoughts about the future and past. You are not as easily seduced by judgemental thoughts of yourself and others. It becomes much easier to accept things as they are, let them go, have some compassion and live more fully in this moment.

Are you noticing that you are breathing in or out right now? 

A mindfulness teacher without a deep and personal understanding of the importance of this breath, of living life from moment to moment, aware of but not attached to everything that is going on, is like a bird without wings. It just doesn’t make any sense. No certification program or class can provide you with this innate and immediate understanding of your own (and everyone else’s) unavoidable end. This is something you will have to come to on your own, through your own life experience. A mindfulness teacher ideally acquires this very real understanding and insight long before they find themselves in a hospital bed.

The present moment is not really a real thing. The moment you become aware of the present moment it is already the past. The future is continually becoming the past, so in a sense there is not really an exact present moment. I use the term present moment in the same way a religious person might use the term God. It is pointing to an experience of something that is never really right here. A mindfulness teacher knows that the present moment just means being aware of the experience you are having right now rather than being completely lost in thought.

Being aware of our present moment experience (sensations in the body, sounds, smells, tastes, breathing) rather than being caught in the web of the wandering mind, is the essence of mindfulness practice.

There are mindfulness teachers and practitioners who are very dialed in to their present moment experience almost all of the time. I have studied with teachers who could be called expert meditators and as a result are not that invested in their egos. When we talk about being caught up in the wandering mind (identified with thought after thought after thought) this just means a person is very identified with their ego. There are mindfulness teachers who have worked hard and thus are not very ego driven. As a result, they suffer much less than you and I.

But this is not the kind of mindfulness teacher I am. I suffer. I struggle. I am still identified with my ego. I kind of like my ego and don’t want to eradicate it. I am just like most of the other people I teach- trying to more successfully and skillfully manage my own physical and psychological afflictions through the practice of mindfulness.

I still deal with anxiety, anger and depression- sometimes a lot more often that I care to admit. But to be a mindfulness teacher I do think it is important to suffer and struggle with these very human things. It is important to humanize yourself by being open about your own personal struggles instead of trying to come of as a person who has all their shit together. People will see through this (hopefully).

Besides, what use is a mindfulness teacher to people who are really struggling with very human difficulties if they are not willing to honestly share how they use mindfulness to deal with their own personal struggles? This is the essence of being a mindfulness teacher. Show people how you do it and let them decide if they want to apply it or not.

I could be wrong, but a mindfulness teacher who has eradicated all anger, anxiety, depression, grief does not exist. This is why it is important not to hide behind credentials, certifications, status and degrees by pretending like you have eradicated suffering, because you will always know this is just not true. As a result you will feel like an imposter.

Be courageous. Talk about your shit. Talk about your struggles and about how you apply mindfulness to the problems in your own life.

When you are angry, depressed or freaking out take the time to apply the basic principles of mindfulness practice. Do this again and again. This will be the most important and never ending aspect of your mindfulness education. No matter how angry or sad or worried or afraid or angry or depressed you get, keep coming back to your awareness of the present moment. Notice that you are breathing in and out. Let it go. If you can do this successfully more often than not- this will be your greatest qualification as a mindfulness teacher.

If you notice that days or weeks go by where you forget to apply the basic principles of mindfulness practice becuase you are all caught up in frantic thoughts and emotions, this is normal. You are human. It is just important that at some point you remember to bring yourself back to the awareness of the present moment and let go of whatever crap you have been caught up in.

If you go away from the present moment a thousand times, what is important is that you bring yourself back into the present moment a thousand and one times.

Remember the importance of being fully alive in this moment rather than being caught up in worry, remorse or judgment. None of it is as important as you think. Let it go. Practice living your life from moment to moment rather than living in terms of tasks you need to accomplish and/or worry about. When you realize you have gotten caught up in thoughts and have been living your very precious and very mortal life from the neck up (lost in your head) bring yourself back to what is happening right now. Do this again and again and again……..

It is the degree to which you suffer and then apply the basic principles of mindfulness practice while being honest with others (and yourself) about your process, which will determine the degree to which you are effective as a mindfulness teacher.

My Impulse Control Disorder

I became a psychotherapist to get better control over my impulses. Isn’t that why most people come to being a therapist? Isn’t it because they have certain psychological issues and that is what draws them to the work? For those who are mentally messed up, becoming a psychotherapist is a kind of illusory redemption. The world sees you as being more psychologically competent. You work hard at maintaining this ‘I got my shit together” image automatically ordained on a person with a psych degree, but when you go home you are just as messed up as everyone else. If not more.

Such is the reality of most forms of professional life. It is a façade. A costume. An image that is not real. “I am doing great thank you. How are you?” This is the fake party line of the cult of professionalism.

I am trying to fit in. I am trying to do my job responsibly and professionally. I know this is what people want. We are all guilty because we want to pay for the illusion. We have all voted for the cult of professionalism with our hard-earned cash. We all want to know that the professional person we are dealing with has it “all figured out” and so we pay good money to enable this illusion. In a universe that is chaotic and out of control, we crave certainty.

This is why it is not good that I have been getting up in the middle of my therapy sessions and dancing around. This is why it is not good that I have been using the fuck word more in my therapy sessions. This is why it is not good that I pick my finger nails, nose or hair while I am listening to my clients speak. I think I am starting to freak them out, as entertained as they sometimes pretend to be.

Impulse control is a very serious thing. I have suffered from it since I was a kid. In first and second grade the school bus would drop me off in front of my house and once off the bus I would pull down my pants and expose my butt or turn to face the bus and pull on my developing penis. The students on the bus loved it but the professionals did not think it was funny. I was put into impulse control therapy for the vast chunk of my developmental years. It did no good.

As a young man my lack of impulse control ruined my life. I would walk downtown in the nude. I would spend all my money on things I did not need. I would scream at people whom I felt were acting like assholes in public. I would steal things from stores. I ate way past the point of being full. I would take prostitutes out for lunch. I would take money from the register at whatever service job I was working at. I would have sexual interactions with strangers when in serious relationships. I would spend my entire days in dark strip clubs. I would eat red meat even as a vegan. I would masturbate when on an afternoon jog. I had no ability to control my life.

There comes a point in every person’s life where they must get their impulses under control or else they will end up dead, bald, fat or in jail. I worked hard taming the beast within. I went on month long meditation retreats. I studied with the renowned mindfulness teacher, Jon Kabat-Zinn. I became sober (even though that never lasted long). I was in weekly psychotherapy with a highly regarded Gestalt psychotherapist who eventually ended up jumping off a bridge. I studied Greek at UC Berkeley hoping that the knowledge of this ancient language would bestow some wisdom upon me. I went to weekly AA meetings. Years passed by and even though I was able to get some of my more destructive impulses under control, new impulses developed.

Now I deal with the impulse to say outlandish things during serious conversation. I also deal with several other impulses that I am yet unable to control: massaging my penis when walking down a busy street, standing on my head at fine dining restaurants, picking my nose when talking with other professionals, making terrible decisions for the healthy development of my life, using the fuck word and dancing around during serious psychotherapy sessions, leaving status updates on Facebook that provide too much information about the less positive aspects of myself. The list goes on and on.

As a forty-five year old, married man I feel that I have gotten the more self-destructive impulses under control. I no longer cheat on my partner. I no longer pick up prostitutes in dangerous neighborhoods and take them out to lunch. I no longer pull down my pants in public. I no longer spend my days in strip clubs. I no longer drink or do drugs excessively. I no longer steal. I no longer walk out into public in the nude. But I still over eat. I still scream at people who are acting like idiots when in public places (especially when people are talking on their phones around me). I still struggle with impulse control and now that I am a professional who owns a home and has a reputation to protect, this concerns me. Will my inability to control my darker impulses end up destroying my life and reputation? Will I lose everything because I can’t stop swearing and dancing around during my psychotherapy sessions? Am I saying too much on Facebook? I have been meditating a lot more recently. I have a lot more to lose now than when I was young, but these fucking impulses still feel way out of my professional control.

Notes From The Present Moment, Part Two.

Are you kidding me? Do you really believe this present moment bullshit? You got to be joking. Oh I stay present and just watch my depression like it is a cloud moving across the sky. What a bunch of bullshit. Do you really want to soften your personality like that? Do you really want to not deeply feel? Do you really want to become some new age, enlightened meditor? You would lose so much of who you are.

Maybe it is good to not be so reactive. Maybe it is good to not be so stressed out. But there are other ways to go about it than engaging in this New Age speak. The Greeks and many philosophers gave us much more intelligent solutions to the problem of suffering than mindfulness ever will. Do you really need to use mindfulness? Cant you find more intelligent ways to get through life?

Nothing wrong with emotions man. Nothing wrong with being caught up in negative thinking all the time. It’s what makes great art. It is the soil from which most creativity grows from. Life is suffering. It is a difficult thing and the creative person deals with this truth by making some kind of art. The moment you just become present and let thoughts and emotions come and go in a detached and mindful way- you will become less interesting to yourself and the world.

Don’t do that!

Struggle. Feel pain. Get pissed off. Cry. Be depressed. Be miserable. This stuff gives you character. It gives you personality. It brings forth the interesting art that is within you. Stop being a sissy. Knock it off with this mindfulness, new age mythology. Stop it with the Buddhist rhetoric. It is so cliche at this point. Get on with your life. Feel like shit if you feel like shit. Get depressed if you want. Have some courage. Deal with the hard shit head on. Your favorite writers and poets went deep into despair, they did not just breathe around it.

Get your head out of your ass. Life sucks. It has its brilliant and beautiful moments as well. Embrace all of it. Don’t use bullshit excuses and meditative practice to try and deal with it. Just make art. Read. Feel it. Write. Live life as fully as you can. Living life fully does not mean being happy and fully present all the time! It means feeling what it means to be you. Really feeling it. Getting lost in it. Going deep into your darkness. Working things out within yourself and coming back up to the surface with some kind of interesting, insightful and engaging art. That is the best any human can do.

Stuff To Make Sandwiches With

Mayonnaise.

All of our lives are running away from us and all we have to let us know that this is happening is our withered reflections when looking in mirrors. I am someone who is continually aware of how my life is running away from me. Often I will look at pictures of people in the 1950’s and 60’s and think about how their lives have completely run away from them. I am well aware that I am up against the same fate, every moment of every day.

I have a particular practice or daily exercise that I employ for better managing the feelings of dread and futility that arise when a person is aware of their life running away from them. I make sandwiches. I try to make at least two sandwiches a day but on a bad day I will make five. There is no greater satisfaction in my life than eating a sandwich that I have made. The thicker the better. I do not enjoy thin sandwiches. Thin sandwiches are for those who are not courageous. Thin sandwich makers are so afraid of the realities of life that they do everything to calorically restrict themselves so they can feel the illusory impression of being immortal and unaffected by aging. I prefer thick sandwiches because not only do they satiate the more fear prone parts of my brain, but they also allow me to better enjoy a life that I know is running away from me.

I use the healthiest bread that I can buy. This means bread with a high fiber and seed content. Not only is this bread delicious but I do not feel so guilty after eating large amounts of it. I know that I have superseded my daily recommended fiber intake and this helps me feel more confident about the workings of my bowels. I prefer using organic mayonnaise on whatever high fiber bread I use, but since my wife is vegan I normally have to resort to using organic vegan mayonnaise. The good thing about using organic vegan mayonnaise is that I can use larger amounts of it and not feel so doomed to coronary heart disease. I also like to use large amounts of organic spicy mustard, the names of which I can never pronounce. The combination of organic vegan mayonnaise and organic spicy mustard usually and temporarily suspends any kind of existential dread.

My wife and I both try to keep our refrigerator loaded with stuff to make sandwiches with. My wife is younger than I. Not much younger in terms of the span of human history on planet earth but much younger in terms of the deterioration of the human body. Fourteen years can make a massive difference when it comes to the ravages caused by aging. But because my wife also suffers from a certain existential awareness (a fundamental signifier of an intelligent mind) she too is aware of life running away from not only herself but also from her beloved husband and her even more beloved three dogs. In a way I envy her youth. Even if in youth a person is aware of their lives running away from them they still have the underlying comfort of knowing that they still have a good amount of time to lose. Once you are older, the awareness of life running away from you fills you with more despair (or denial) because you know you have much less time to lose.

My wife has picked up the sandwich making practice from me. She also finds it an effective way to deal with the awareness of a run away life. I appreciate that she dedicates just as much interest in keeping our fridge filled with stuff to make sandwiches with as I do. Because my wife is still young enough where she still has the ability to have an incredibly attractive figure (which often provides a person with the fit illusion of being immortal) she does not make her sandwiches as thick as I do. She usually makes her sandwiches with things like organic vegan cheddar cheese, organic sprouts, organic pickles, organic lettuce or organic kale and organic sauerkraut. For some reason she always insists on toasting her seeded wheat bread, which is something I never do. This is another luxury of being young- you feel like you have more time to spend on doing trivial things. I never toast my bread, only because I feel like I just do not have the time. For her she still has a good amount of time to give to such superfluous things. (This is why most good art, literature, film and music is made in youth. A young person has more time to spend passionately dedicated to such things. Once a person is older they just want to spend time with life or living because there is less time and energy to give towards working at things that feel more superfluous the older and sicker a person gets.)

I stuff my sandwiches with a plethora of different organic things. I use various kinds of organic nuts, organic onions, organic vegan cheeses, wild tuna or wild salmon from a can, organic humus, organic pickles, organic sprouts, organic vegan sausages (usually uncooked), organic cabbage, organic kale, organic mung beans, organic sauerkraut, organic habaneros and organic baked barbecue potato chips for extra crunch. I find that stuffing my sandwiches with things that create a crunch effect allows me to discharge a lot of the anger and frustration that I feel with regards to a life that is running away from me and everyone I love. Crunching is a very effective way to deal with this chronic frustration that I feel in my life.

It requires mindfulness and slow movements to keep everything in the sandwich, rather than falling out onto the plate. What I have found is that with the right positioning of everything inside the sandwich and with mindful movements, overboard condiments can be avoided when eating a thick sandwich. Whatever things do fall out on to my plate, I make sure to eat once I am finished eating my sandwich. I look as this as a kind of dessert.

My grandfather, on my father’s side, used to do a similar thing. After the age of forty he was also very aware of life running away from him. He often spoke about how he could not believe how much older everyone was getting. “One minute they were young and filled with life and now they are older and filled with all kinds of unwanted obligations, wear and tear,” he would say when talking about friends, family members, old lovers and celebrities that he liked. Every day for lunch he would eat a large hoagie sandwich. He lived in Philadelphia where there was a hoagie/steak sandwich establishment on every corner. Philadelphians obviously are also very aware of life running away from them and deal with it by making and eating very large sandwiches. Have you seen how big these things are? Some people refer to them as subs, because they are so long. My grandfather would eat one all to himself. Everyday. All alone. A sandwich filled with not organic cheese, meat, hot peppers, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, mustard, mayonnaise, vinegar and oil. He would shake not organic pepper and salt on top and whenever he took me to a hoagie place on one of my yearly visits he would always say, “It is all in the bread kid.” To this day I still believe that to be true but instead of using freshly baked white sourdough bread, I use high fiber wheat or rye seeded bread.

I have found that making sandwiches on a daily basis has been an effective, short-term way for me to deal with the day-to-day knowledge that my life is running away from me. The thicker the sandwich the better. But I also realize that this is a short term solution. I have to keep making sandwiches, sometimes several times a day in order for it to work. Once I am done making and eating my sandwich it is a matter of an hour or so before my sense of life going quickly by returns. I notice when it returns because I feel somewhat depressed. This is usually when I will make another sandwich. If I am away from my home and not able to make a sandwich I will settle for having one made for me. It does not work as well, but it still eases the pain of knowing that it is all quickly passing by.

By the way, now it is Fall. I stay inside as much as I can when it is Fall. Fall is a season that can literally fall on you, so please proceed with caution. Look up, even as you eat sandwiches.

The American Middle-Class Ailment. Conversation #51.

I thought we were done having these conversations?

I need them.

Why?

I am messed up.

Ok. Why do you think you are messed up?

My mind will not stop racing. Kept me up all last night. It is not supposed to happen like this. I meditate and teach mindfulness. But still my mind (or brain) worries me all the time.

I see. What are you worried about?

Everything! What am I not worried about would be a better question.

Fair enough. Why were you up in the middle of the night last night?

Worrying about work. Worrying about money. Worrying that I have done something wrong and people will not like me. All the same old stupid shit. Because my psychotherapy business does not feel very stable right now, I worry about losing a lot of business and then not having very much money. I worry about people not liking me and as a result no longer wanting to work with me. I think I have felt a lot of rejection from people lately. I try to pretend that it does not bother me but I guess it does. My feeling of self-worth is way down.

That is just your ego being effected.

I know. I know. I try and just keep myself present and let all of this stuff go. “Just let it go. Be present. Breathe. Everything is fine right now,” I tell myself but my mind swirls with worry and feelings of rejection. I am feeling more insecure in the work I do. Feeling like people are judging me and not liking the quality of work I do. I hate feeling like this! Why should I care! Fuck what other people think.

Maybe because you are worried about the money and the status that comes with being good at what you do.

I am worried about losing social status? I never thought that would bother me. Maybe that is a part of it. But I just don’t like feeling rejected. When a client does not want to work with me. When people stop wanting to see me. When the groups that I lead are less filled with people- I feel like I am messing up. Like I am doing something wrong and it is all going to come crashing down at any moment.

You feel like something bad is going to happen?

I have had this sense of doom in my gut for a few weeks now. Doom with regards to my business. Like something bad is going to happen because I have been irresponsible or am not doing my job well enough. I’ve had this feeling like some kind of collapse is on the horizon. Like I am going to get in some kind of trouble.

Why do you feel this way?

I really don’t know. It doesn’t make sense because everything is ok. I received a text on Sunday from a client asking for my email address so she could write to me about something. I became suddenly nauseous and tormented with anxiety. I felt like she was going to tell me that I had done something wrong and no longer wanted to work with me. I was plagued with impending doom and anxiety for hours and then I received her email and she was writing to tell me how much I saved her life.

Oh jeeze.

I know. I really do not understand what is going on here. Maybe I have become too successful in a sense. Maybe things were going too well and now I am terrified of it all falling apart. Losing what little I have. I don’t know what it is. But I do feel much less secure in myself. I feel like the ground can fall out under me at any moment.

That is rough. Yes, you probably do worry about losing what you have. I think that is an anxiety that is always present, just beneath the surface, in most middle-class people who have a home and things that they like. It is a middle-class ailment. A result or symptom of the fact that the middle-class is gradually disappearing.

Hmm. So you are saying that the worry and anxiety that I feel is what a lot of middle-class people in American are feeling right now?

Yes. Because the middle-class is losing the security that they once enjoyed. It is a lifestyle that is disappearing and the anxiety that you feel is a fundamental symptom of this process. The anxiety that you feel lets you know that you are that middle class person who is fighting to maintain the lifestyle that you have. And you feel like it is slipping away from you. You did not feel this way when you were poor?

No. Never. Funny. I never even thought of myself as middle-class.

Well, now you know. Welcome to what it feels like to be middle-class in America.

Oh man.

I know.

And then there is the issue of my health.

Your health is certainly going to be effected by all of this.

Yes. I always worry about this.

You have always worried about your health.

I know. But now I am more worried because I am older and have more to worry about now. I try not to worry about it but I have this feeling like I am not taking as good of care of myself as I should. A part of me feels like my health is fine but then there is this other part of me that is worried. I have just not felt in optimal health. Something feels like it is there and I know how most diseases come and go away, come and then go away. Come back stronger and then go away again until it finally makes you really sick. I see and hear about people becoming sick and dying all around me. Cancer has infected so many people that I know. I am just concerned. At the age of 45 I no longer feel like I am in safe waters.

Cancer is an epidemic right now. Especially with the middle-class who are feeling so much tension and worry. Cancer seems to be a fundamental part of this middle-class ailment we are speaking of.

That is a frightening thought. Cancer is a result or outgrowth of the worry and stress that middle-class people are living with right now? It is the disease that is caused by the gradual disappearing act of middle-class security?

Absolutely. All this worry and stress with regards to losing your security, losing the things that you love, losing your social status can cause cancer.

That is a huge statement!

I know. Maybe go to a doctor and get a physical?

Yes. I probably should. I just don’t want the doctor to tell me I have something and then be stuck in the system for the rest of my life. I want to try and improve my health now and see if I can get whatever is in me under control.

We all have some kind of disease in us.

I know. But it just starts to manifest more in middle-age.

And once you become middle-class.

Jeeze.

I know. It is important that you get your mind under control. All of this worry and feeling like something bad is going to happen is not good for your body. You need to really try and calm things down upstairs.

I would like to but it is like my mind continually is running off without my permission.

Well then just keep bringing your mind back to your breath. Just breathe and come back to being present. In the present moment you are all right. In the present moment the security that you need is there.

Yes.

Worry is all about some made up future in your head. You just need to keep your focus in the present moment. When your mind runs off and starts thinking about all the things that can go wrong in the future, refocus on your breathing. Come back to the present moment.

Yes. I would like to do this. This middle-class ailment is really a problem. And no one is talking about it!

We are.

Yes. Well, that was helpful. I needed to get that stuff off my chest. Thanks for listening and talking.

Sure. Glad it helped.

It did. I

Good talking with you again.

You too.