Cover photo: a spectacular sunset it was my pleasure to see in Rocklin, CA.
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I once, for not quite two years, bicycled around Palm Springs, California. When I say bicycled around, I mean bicycled around: my bike was my means of transportation. For those of you not familiar, Palm Springs is in the desert. Not in a Sahara-like, all-sand desert, but still the desert. Hot in the summer and with only five inches of rain (12.7cm) a year. I had a discontinuous series of odd jobs, jobs which, when combined with the generosity of friends (a number of whom I had only recently met), kept me mostly afloat. There were times of not having much money and little to eat (lemon juice and molasses kept me going for a day or two one time); times when I was not sure where I was going to sleep that night; and a few times when I did not have anywhere in particular to sleep and slept on the figurative streets. In theory, I could have, I suppose, gotten a usual job if I had tried harder. But could I have? I would not let myself. My spirit would not let me do what I had, time and again, done before. The usual business of making money, buying things, participating in society, yada yada held little allure to me. Those pursuits paled compared to my search for meaning, and Life. I was sure life had to offer more than just marking off time, I reckoned. I was searching for, and to a good extent eventually found, my meaning in life. Not likely the one and only meaning of Life, I think, but my meaning. My purpose.
Prominent in that purpose was/ is the desire to feel better. To feel, usually, good. I did not need to/ do not need to be eternally high, always happy. But I would like to be mostly happy. Mostly feeling good. I think: why not? Why not, if possible, feel good? I had but a few belongings and usually not much cash. I could not buy myself into feeling better by shopping, or going to the movies often, or eating when and what I wanted. What I did have, however, was my mind. My mind, and what I actively choose to think about. I could and did decide how I was going to think about things. About my life, others, and Life.
About a year into this odyssey, I had breakfast at a fast food restaurant with a new friend. This person was going through a difficult time. Had been for quite some time. Their worries were great. But between the two of us, though I was ostensibly in the far worse position, I was, in fact, in the much better mental space. I was not always cheerful, my life was not particularly safe or easy, but I was in good spirits overall. The more we talked the more amazed the person became. It got to the point that this person said they wished they could have my mind; that is, to think as I did.
The comment stayed with me. Exactly how did I come to such a mostly-stable state? A state where I was, in general, feeling good? From the exterior, my situation was dire. Catastrophic. I saw clearly then that we are more than our exterior. We can experience the more that we are If we allow ourselves to.
That is the genesis of this book. I wrote the first version over a two week period a couple of weeks after that breakfast. It introduces the reader to ways to think, and suggests things to think about, and, in the so doing, feel better. In the so doing make life better.
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