The Late Post

Writing about concepts like delay and malfunction seems very appropriate when working around a technical glitch that translates to today’s planned post being unavailable. This is exactly the sort of time a lot of people would experience panic, worry, frustration and anger, so it’s worthwhile discussing my own real-time “management” of those challenges.

First off, people aren’t horribly lost if they do feel one of those unpleasant ways. There is no horribly lost or totally found any more than there is a little love or lot of love. There’s only two states made of one state. So even not-love is made from unconditional love, just as frustration depends on expectation, and just as the black words I am writing to you depend on the white background of this page to be seen. Without that duality creation could not perform its own existence.

Since there are only two states, then you are always only one switch away from the peace or health or confidence you seek. But if you’re seeking then you’re not finding, and those work just like every other duality. You can’t look for something and find it at the same time, either one or the other is happening. In fact, it’s often when we relax and stop looking so hard for answers that they actually occur to us spontaneously. So when you’re lost, you’re not looking for some big solution. You just need one little switch. And you’ll notice it, not figure it out.

At first people tend to get their egos to do this, so as a teacher I’ll cooperate with that. It’s the act the of dropping-away of illusions. You have to do a few at a time. So at the start you’ll calm yourself down by using your ego consciously, but getting it to say more positive things to you. It’s really a translation process where the fear hits, the anger starts to form, you feel it and then retranslate it into a slow breath in and out and a ego-based self-discussion about how anger won’t do you any good.

Eventually you get to the point where you’ve had so many of those diffusions and derailments that you’re bored of the process. You go to begin it and your brain sort of surrenders, knowing that the outcome always leads to the same result. It’s a natural reaction of your mind to want to take the proven shortcut and then just let go. There’s no act of conversion now because our unwillingness to participate in the illusion suddenly exposes the nuances of present reality to us.

Instead of our minds filled with our thoughts about some part of the world, our minds are filled with the whole world unjudged. It’s just there, and we simply are, and there is no shoulds, so no one can go wrong and no one can go right. You just go. Otherwise known as living. Unhealthy people talk themselves into an emotion, and healthy people go quiet and they dive into their feelings.

I could have played ping pong with my egos word-based thoughts today. But instead I just did what needed to be done and then I sat down at a blank page and I summoned the same feeling I use to write to you every time. There was no rushed thoughts or ideas that things had gone wrong, nor was there any storytelling about how that might secretly be better in some unexpected way. I just felt that feeling as my activity and this post emerged quite naturally as a result.

Living that way is all you’re looking for. It’s all people read this blog and take my classes for. They just want to stop all of that agonised waffling and just be what they’re gonna be instead. Your ego can ask questions about who you’re supposed to be, but you can only really be you in the present reality, so those questions about what you’re supposed to do are in fact the very action you are involved in that prevents you from realising the reality that is before you every moment.

Don’t let changes in direction throw your psychology around. Your mood is the result of the patterns you initiate and continue to energise through your internal language and analysis. What’s happening isn’t nearly as important as whether or not you’re willing to be okay with whatever that happening is. So don’t try to get healthy. Just try to be okay with how things are.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

The Teacher

She taught Education. She had been asked a reasonable question: what should they do when confronted with a racist student? How should they protect the student under attack? What was the best discipline for the student doing the attacking? She understood their impulse. Her own reaction as a young teacher back in the 90’s was to come down hard. But then she told her students about him.

He was a handsome boy; bright, very engaged. He sat right near the front. It had been a week since he’d been to class. The parents said they would ensure he came, but still no Cameron. She was on her way home when she finally spotted him.

He was sitting at a coffee shop table with a fruit drink, reading a comic book. He didn’t know what to do when she just sat down across from him with her coffee and a big friendly smile on her face. “Hi Cameron!” He froze like a deer in the headlights, caught off guard by her friendly approach. “Don’t worry. You’re not in trouble. I know what the problem is. Everything is going to be fine now. You’re safe.” He was baffled.

“Safe from who?”

“From whoever is bullying you.” His eyes rolled a bit. He seemed less nervous. It was like he was mocking her efforts. “It’s okay Cameron. You’re not weak for needing help. We have to stand up to racism together. Just tell me who the student is and I promise, they’ll be disciplined harshly. I’m pretty sure I already know who it is anyway.”

“Oh yeah? And who’s that?” he finally said.

“It’s Nathan, isn’t it.” He just laughed her off like a fool. “It’s not funny Cameron. This this is a serious issue. If it’s bad enough he’ll be kicked out of school.”

“Well then I guess you’ve already done your job then, haven’t you?” he offered. Now she was confused and he now felt more confident.

“What are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about me. I’ve already left. You don’t need to kick me out.” She stared back at him, truly lost and confused and he knew it. He let her stew while he built up his courage. He loved her as a teacher, but it was time. Finally, he stepped forward to offer his coup de grâce. “I’m the racist Ms. Simms. I’m the bad guy in this story.”

“Cameron I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“At least you got that part right.” She looked at him imploringly. He was a good student. She wanted to be a good teacher. But he almost seemed angered by her compassion. “I’m from South Africa Ms. Simms.” He paused. “I’m white.” She was still lost.

He spun the comic around and pointed to a character. “I’m the villain. I’m the bad guy.” She looked at him confused. “I had dogs back home that were trained to attack black people Ms. Simms. The person you want to kick out of school isn’t Nathan, it’s me.”

It was like someone flipped her world upside down. She started a hundred thoughts and finished none. He was South African. He was white. And South Africa was under sanctions for Apartheid. “But…” all of her preconceptions were smashing into what he’d said, and what she knew. “Cameron how could that be? Just because you lived in South Africa, that doesn’t automatically make you a racist.”

“Yes it does Ms. Simms. It does. Because I was. I was a racist. Do you understand? My friends and I beat black people.” She reacted as though he struck her. She flinched, and it made him feel more confident. “That’s right. I sicked my dogs on black people. They bit them. Badly. And I felt nothing. They were animals. I cared more about my dogs.”

She sat there feeling like someone had punched her in the stomach. She had no way to process what he was saying and he knew it, so he doubled down. “You’re from here, Canada. You talk to black students the same way you talk to white students, and Chinese students, and Native students. You’re a Canadian. You were taught to respect these people. I was taught to have dogs. Dogs that were trained to attack black people. And I was happy to use them.”

“But you’re not that person now…” she was almost begging him to confirm it. She couldn’t reconcile the nice kid she knew and the stories he was telling her.

“When you grow up and everyone around you thinks a certain way, you don’t even notice it. I was in Canada for months before I saw a white person treat a black person with respect. I’d never seen it before in my life. I thought he was crazy, or weak. My father thought he was both.”

“Do you still feel that way? Do you still want to attack black people?” Now he was uncomfortable. He didn’t. Canada had rubbed off on him in a year. He wasn’t friends with any coloured people, but he knew people he liked that were. He was going through his own conflicts. He couldn’t tell her how he felt because he didn’t know either. “How could you believe such a thing?” she asked.

“You thought I was a nice kid, right? You believed that. You took the little bit you knew and you told yourself a story about me and you believed it. So that’s who I was. I was who you thought I was. Well, the same for me. Everyone around me believed black people were animals, so I thought so too. I didn’t even know there was an option until I moved here.”

“But you’re so compassionate Cameron. I’ve seen you be kind. It’s why I like you.”

“It’s just guilt. I’ve done some very bad things.” That seemed to upset him.

“But you didn’t know better.”

“That’s no excuse. You said it yourself.”

She had. She now knew that had been a mistake. It had never occurred to her that she might not be able to recognise the racists. Her judgment felt too easy now, too casual. Now she felt like the bully. “I’ve made a mistake Cameron. I’m sorry. You’re making me realise that now. I’d never thought of the racist as a victim too.”

“A victim of who? We had all of the power.”

“I don’t mean the power. I mean the… awareness. The understanding. You had no way of knowing that you were participating in racism. I see that now. If everyone around you does it, then it’s normal. You’re making me realise now that I grew up in a family that had some pretty harsh ideas about Indians–about Natives–and I’m… maybe I’m not as good a teacher as I thought.”

“You’re fine Ms. Simms. You’re one of the most popular teachers in the school. The problem isn’t you. It’s me.”

Now she was feeling stronger. “No, it isn’t. The problem is that I didn’t have a discussion about racism, I just called one side good and the other side bad and that was it. I didn’t leave you any room. I didn’t leave a space for you and that’s my fault. That’s my failing. I not only let you down as a teacher, I let that whole class down and I see that now. I need your help Cameron.”

“My help…?” He was lost. He was young enough that he thought in absolutes. But she was changing her mind. And it was opening up new possibilities.

“I want you to teach us Cameron.” He seemed shocked. “I mean it. You’re right. I don’t know what I’m talking about. Just like you I’ve never even questioned my biases until now. I’m no better than you and you’re no worse than me. The problem here isn’t you. The problem is a lack of understanding. You can help us with that. Racism is subtle here in Canada. We like to think we have none, and yet I displayed some to you. I was intolerant of you. We have to fix that. This class can be better and it will be better if you explain it to us. We need to know why you had those dogs. We need to find our own versions of those dogs. Will you help me? Will you help us?”

She seemed serious. He liked her. And he liked school. He really wanted to be more comfortable with his black classmates but he had no idea where to start. Maybe this was his chance.

“Please Cameron. I mean it. I really need your help with this.” He looked at her a long time. He wanted so badly to believe he was a good person. He so badly wanted her forgiveness. He wanted all black people’s forgiveness. He started to cry. I mean cry. It started as tears but soon he was sobbing. She went around the table and put her arm around while he sobbed.

After a while someone appeared next to them. It was Robert. He was a sensitive boy. He’d been a refugee from Somalia. He was black. “Are you okay Cameron?” he asked. Cameron looked up and started to cry even harder when he saw who it was. Robert sat down across from him and took his hands his own. “It’s okay.”

Cameron looked at him through his tears. He felt so incredibly bad that he started a new jag of tears. He squeezed Robert’s hands. “Robert will you help me?”

“Of course I will.” He pulled Cameron up, into an embrace. He held him closely as Cameron bawled on his shoulder. People started watching them but they didn’t care. This was the beginning of it getting better.

When she looked up at her university class she was crying. They were too. Even the harshest, toughest boys. She took a moment to gather herself before speaking. “If I teach you anything in this class I’d like it to be this: you will learn more from your students than you can ever hope to teach them. So remember that when you’re at the front of your classes. Remember to never, ever, stop being a student too. Because in all of my years of teaching, no one ever made me a better teacher than Cameron and Robert did. Your job isn’t to police what’s good or bad or right or wrong. Your job is to build understanding. Do that, and you’ll have done the most important kind of teaching there is.”

And with that the bell rang.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

Cooperative Opposition

The reason you worry about you and your life and I don’t, is because you think you’re a Jennifer or a Sam or a Julie, and I see the you that you are before your parents named you. You were still a being then. You were awake and aware. But you had no identity. You hadn’t been taught to be anyone yet, so you were simply present. So I’ll talk to Sara about Sara’s life, and I’ll engage in its dramas, but it’ll all feel a lit like TV to me. Like even if we get it wrong it’s only on a stage.

After the real you was born into your body, slowly people told you who you were. You were Kelsey, or a girl, or smart, or finicky. And you believed them, so you started watching the world less generally and more specifically. You weren’t going to be satisfied with any path now. Now you wanted your path.

Meanwhile, who’s learning all this? Who learned to be you? Where did the being go that was there before the name and definitions went on? Are you your name? The sum of your thoughts? Are you your brain; an accident of biology? A byproduct of electrical signals moving through cells? Or is that just more story you told yourself?

How would you know one way or the other anyway? Who would you ask? And how can you be sure they’re not misleading you or that they’re even real? You can’t. So what’s left? What do you do? It’s a reasonable question, but you’re asking the wrong person. I don’t mean by asking me, I mean the person that needs to exist before you could do something.

Doing is ego. Being is reality. As egos do, they are someone, somewhere and they accomplish or fail to accomplish something. All those some’s are definitions. Beings happen. They aren’t limited by definitions. They just are, so their being and their doing are unified. The thinker and the thoughts are unified. This is what it is to be in flow.

How this works in practice is that if you’re talking to someone there’s two reasons ways in which you can disagree with them. The first is when your ego feels uncomfortable being isolated from the other person. Your being knows you’re still linked, but your ego feels you need to reunify you, so you try to get them to agree with you, or it’s like they’re questioning your very existence. The problem is, their ego feels the same way. Hence arguments that can escalate and if not faced with clarity, will devolve into grudges. You can’t be clear-headed and have a grudge.

The other way is to not be opposed to them, but to be doing something entirely independently from them that includes them. So what your being is doing is that it’s exploring the universe and this other being is cooperating with you like two tentacles on one octopus, as I like to say.

When you hold a soup bowl in front of you, your hands work in opposition to accomplish a joint task that benefits both of you. So it is with debating spirits. They’re not against each other, they’re leveraging each other for the sake of mutual exploring. This is how both science and co-writing music should work.

You’re not attached to your idea, so the argument doesn’t get into personal ego-based personality, but you do act as a representative of a perspective. The other person represents another idea. And together you give each other a leg up until you both find a mutual way out of the cave they’re trapped in together. Viewed from a healthy perspective, a conflict done well can help expose more of the universe to us. Every time you were proven wrong your ego might have shrank, but your world got bigger.

Your mind isn’t in some location. It looks through your eyes and hears through your ears and touches with your fingers, but you are just a visitor in your body. You’re an avatar that is slowly realising that it is not itself, but rather the product of another unknown being that you act on behalf of.

The point isn’t to know who that other being is because that is unknowable. The point is to be grateful for being and then be. Your avatar can trip and fall, but the real you is always safe at home. So there’s no point in fighting with, or feeling uncomfortable around what are apparently opposing avatars. Just always remember that the being inside your avatar is the same one that’s in everyone else’s avatar, and that being is simply treating all of us like the arms of itself, as it works together to create a unified expansion of all of us.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

Other Perspectives #95

Yesterday was about what real love is really like. Today I’m using an Other Perspectives post to discuss the dangers of where most of us start with love, and why we have to shift our beliefs before we can have a mature healthy relationship. Keep in mind that when I say “start” I mean when our egos start, because few of these requirements are associated with true love.

The need for 100% Honesty is based in a fear that we really don’t have the person on our side in a meaningful way, which is largely true in every youthful relationship and all jealous ones. We worry it might not be true when they say I love you so we constantly need to check. Also, as the hilarious hemorrhoid scene in the film This is 40 illustrates, later in life we realise we often don’t really want full honesty….

Where it is right is Forgiveness. That is the best skill one could hope to have for a relationship. 100% is impossible, but you can get pretty close. Great Communication helps, but there’s some couples that remain quite private by nature, choosing internal reflection over a lot of sharing. These people often feel most comfortable with someone just like them. It’s not for everyone, but it’s valid love.

Trust is okay–you want to aim to always feel trust–but there will be times where you’re insecure and you just won’t be able to help worrying and you’ll need some reassuring, as most women who experience breast cancer or men with testicular cancer quickly learn. Even putting on weight or losing one’s hair can do this. That’s all okay if it’s temporary or fleeting.

Faithfulness is far rarer than people realise. Not that it isn’t natural for some, but as many experts, including Dan Savage, often point out; most marriages actually survive thanks to some monogamish behaviours that can strangely remind us of the value of our long term partners. Patience at 80% is hopefully where you’ll get to, but don’t be surprised if your maturity won’t allow for it until you’re at least over about thirty five.

Similar Values at 50% is one of the few that’s backwards, That one should be closer to a high percentage because as you age you realise that don’t people divorce because one likes golf and the other likes marathons, it’s because one will cheat at golf whereas the other would never do that in their sport.

Time Apart at 20% only happens when you’re young and before your adulting starts. After that it is impossible because you’ll be at work for a third of your day so you’re already over, not to mention one parent spending their evening at hockey with one kid while the other’s at dance with another. Romance at 100% is the funniest. You will quickly learn that life gets too busy for things to stay romantic, which is fine. It actually means more when it’s mixed into a life that has other responsibilities.

Again, we’re back to agreeing on 100% Friendship. You can’t love the person’s appearance or style or identity because those are guaranteed to change. You have to be with someone who will be a good life partner and roommate more than a good romantic one. On the contrary, Zero Selfishness isn’t healthy. You need to put yourself first. You can’t give your partner what you don’t have. And Playing Games also comes with people dealing naturally with their discomfort around being totally honest. But it’s the last two that are most important.

Nearly the entire list is primarily immature, Unrealistic Expectations, and one of them is expecting yourself not to spend time dealing with Insecurities, which is an entirely unrealistic expectation to put on yourself or your partner. Again, think of breast cancer or testicular cancer survivors. It makes sense that would take some adjustment to get comfortable with. Besides, there can’t be a peaceful psychological and spiritual path unless there’s a not-path. Not-path is ego. You can get good at keeping it at bay, but to not have it at all is to miss out on a valuable aspect of being human that incites healthy growth.

We all start with unrealistic beliefs that were created by culture, so I’m sure they’ll sell a lot of these shirts. But inevitably, over time, as we age, the shirt will seem more and more ironic as we attempt to apply it to the messy edges of the real world. Which is why the real keys are the Friendship and the Forgiveness. Forget the rest. Focus on getting good at those and you’ll be headed toward the most successful kind of relationship there is.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

Love in the Trenches

They were out at the lake. The husband had just yelled at his wife for how how dissatisfying he found his lunch. He barely tasted it, choosing instead to storm back down to the lake and take another shot at fixing that stubborn boat engine. The very liberated daughter had watched the whole thing and she clearly was not happy.

“Why would you let him talk to you that way? If Ray ever spoke to me that way I’d show him the door.”

The mother just smiled as she picked up her husband’s uneaten food. She sat at the counter and ate it herself while they talked. “Ray’s way to be angry is to get quiet and cold. Honey, if I left your father every time he was upset we would have been divorced hundreds of times over.”

“All the more reason! Why do you let him treat you like that again and again? You didn’t raise me to be weak like that.”

The mother took a moment before speaking. “You’re right, we didn’t teach you to be weak. But what’s your definition of strong? He was one of the few liberated husbands when we were young. He cooked for you kids, he helped with school work, and he always made sure there was a roof over your head even if he really didn’t like what he was doing for work.”

“That’s 20 years ago! If you’d made him behave back then you probably wouldn’t be dealing with this now.” The daughter was very piqued.

“He’s not a child. And how exactly do you make someone behave? Withhold affection? Make demands? Fight with him? Why would withholding, demanding and fighting do anything for a relationship?”

“Mother! You just made him a incredible quinoa salad and he insulted you! He could at least appreciate that you made it for him!”

The mother pushed her meal aside and she went to the fridge and she started to make a sandwich. “Your father doesn’t like quinoa, you know that. When he was at the peak of his career I used to complain about him not being home enough.”

“Well he wasn’t.”

The mother returned to the fridge for more ingredients. “He wasn’t successful to spite me. Why would I criticise him for something I was proud of? Aren’t you trying to get a promotion right now? Do you see that as an attack on your relationship with Ray? Of course not. You’re trying to succeed at being a good professional, like we raised you to be. It’s a sign of respect to others to do your job well. You know your father always says that.”

“He still shouldn’t talk to you that way.”

The mother stopped and looked at her daughter for a long moment before speaking. “I’m not sure what ‘shouldn’t’ means. Your Dad was in pain. I was just being compassionate. I’m not a pushover.”

“What pain?! He wasn’t in pain! He couldn’t get the stupid boat motor working and so he got angry at you, like he always does when something breaks.”

The mother went back to finishing the sandwich. “Your father prides himself on being able to fix things, it’s what made him look capable in front of his Dad. He feels like he’s letting his Dad down, or he’s not being a man, if he can’t fix something. He’s always been like that.”

“All the more reason for you to tell him it’s time to stop.”

The mother smiled. “I might do that if I could figure out a way to stop getting mad at him. Demands don’t fix relationships honey. Love does.”

“Love doesn’t yell at someone for making them quinoa.”

“That’s right, love doesn’t. He knows I made it because you and Ray were coming out. Your father just told me is that he’s feeling a long way from feeling good. That’s the problem, not whether he likes quinoa. My job isn’t to demand that he like the food you and I like it’s to love him when he feels unlovable.”

“He yelled at you!! Why would you be helping him!! It should be him crawling back up here to apologise to you!”

“Crawling?” The mother smiled at the thought. “Your father’s having his version of a tough day. He stayed too long trying to fix the boat and now he’s really hungry and he came up to eat and found something he finds totally unsatisfying. He gets angry when he’s hungry. That’s just being human.”

The daughter notices the sandwich. “You’re making that for him!”

“He’s hungry. I’m just being practical. He’s in a better mood after he’s eaten. When I’m menopausal and screaming at him for no reason, these are the things he remembers to help balance things out. You see him upset about quinoa. I see a man I care about having a bad day; a man who’s proven himself over and over for all of us.”

“Your expectations are too low.”

“I’m trying not to have any.” The mother picks up the sandwich and starts for the pier. “Sweetheart, you guys just had a baby. You’ve been exhausted and your hormones are going wild. I’ve seen you be pretty mean to Ray, but ninety percent of the time he just takes it because he loves you.” The daughter chases after her.

“That’s a baby! How can you compare that to a boat motor!?”

“Pain is pain. It doesn’t matter whether you broke a foot or a leg.” As they near the water we can see the daughter really cloud over. She is harbouring a lot of anger toward her father. The mother stops and addresses her before walking onto the pier where he and Ray are working.

“Honey. Again: your father’s problem is that he’s suffering. I’m not going to debate whether he deserves to or not. What makes a marriage isn’t weighing whose suffering is worse. I can think about me and what I want, but does he really look like he’s got much to give right now?” Just then the father hurls a wrench angrily onto the pier. The mother kisses her daughter on the cheek and walks out onto the pier and offers the sandwich. He half-heartedly thanks her, but he seems a bit embarrassed.

Later that afternoon he does get the boat going. After a nice steak dinner he suggests a boat ride. Ray suggests, “Should we head down to Half Moon Bay?”

The father walks to his wife’s side and puts his arm around her. “Diane likes the view down by the promenade. I thought we’d go down there.” The mother turns to the daughter, winks and smiles.

Later, while the father and Ray do the dishes, the mother sits down for a tea with her daughter. “Ray might go under soon and we all know it. Every business like his is struggling in this recession and he just had a baby. If that happens you can kick him while he’s down and demand that he do the impossible and undermine his confidence. But after 35 years of marriage I can tell you, you might find that you’d get where you’re going quicker if you just made him some sandwiches instead.”

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

Everyday Spirituality

Actually working to understand why ancient quotes can still be useful today is what this blog is all about. It’s not like drive-thru religion where you get a quick dose of spirituality without all the rules, and its not like traditional religion where following all the rules automatically leads to salvation regardless of the other deeds in your life–this is about those other deeds being your church. This is about you being dedicated to being human.

Reading quotes, finding one that vaguely applies to your situation and posting it on social media does not mean you’re pursuing your spirituality, it means your ego likes being seen as being spiritual. You can’t just dress the part, go to yoga and post the quotes; you have to ask yourself challenging questions. Questions like, what does the quote I posted really mean; or how can I take yoga from stretching and flexing into actual personal development?

The answer is meditation, but not the Ohmm meditation that monks do. You want to be like Siddhartha, sitting under the tree pondering why suffering exists. You want to ask yourself questions that don’t appear to have answers. You want to know how one wise guide can tell you to be peaceful by rejecting victory and loss, and yet another tells you that you can’t be balanced until you agree to lose.

The key is to understand desire. Desire requires a result. You’re after something. You have a specific outcome in mind and your life is oriented toward achieving that outcome. The problem with the outcome is that is that it’s theoretical. This is why even the slowest fifty year old is wiser than a someone in their early 20’s thinks they’ve found their answer.

You can’t have the answer because that will change as you become different people through your experiences. We tend to think we’ve found the answer when we find a route to the future that finally makes sense to us, but then we think we’re lost when our old answer doesn’t suit our new selves and we feel trapped or directionless. It’s not the answer that changed, it’s the person asking it.

It’s a constant rejuvenation process. That’s why they call it spiritual practice. But aging is like a church where you’re constantly delivered new real-life parables that need explaining. Why did that person try so hard to date you and then leave you? Why did you think this was your dream job and now you hate it? Why can’t you lose weight the way you want to? What is the definition of the word friend?

Over time we ask countless questions but we look for the answers outside of ourselves. We conclude either we are good and the ex is wrong, or we are faulty and they’re right; the dream job either has the wrong boss, or maybe you do really suck; you’re either mad at your mother for teaching you bad eating habits or you self-hate; and you conclude either that your ex friends are bad people or you conclude you’ve not been good enough. Winning and losing, winning and losing.

Even when you win, now you have to stay on top. That takes effort and you’ll be a different person sometime within the next eight or so years, so maybe that effort won’t seem wise. That’s because winning and losing are funny terms. They almost shouldn’t exist as static ideas. They only mean something in the moment you’re in.

If you listen to interviews with people over 50 years old, almost invariably you’ll hear them discuss their challenges more than their successes. They almost seem bored or uncomfortable with success because by then they’ve realised it’s largely chance. They also know that when you get there it doesn’t look like it did when you embarked on that journey.

After enough disappointing “wins” we start questioning the meaning of winning. If half of North American marriages end in divorce, then those marriages weren’t a dream come true; they devolved into a nightmare. But if you knew that at the time you wouldn’t have chosen it as your path. And yet as you age you realise that your marriage wasn’t wrong, it just didn’t work out long term. You still walk away with a better idea of what kind of person you’re really looking for in the future.

Victory and loss are tied together. If we live without the desire for a victory we cannot lose. We don’t need goals so much as targets. The getting there isn’t the point, it’s about being sanguine for as much as the journey as possible.

Victories and losses are judgments laid over top of events. Remove that static idea and the meaning of those moments can always change, meaning any defeat could become a victory, and any victory a defeat. Everything lives in potential. There’s no need to win now when we know can we live in a way that seeks value from all our interactions, even the ones we attempt to avoid.

peace. s

None of You

What do all of these quotes have in common? No matter who you are, you will be judged. Even if you get every step just right people will hate you, because they don’t see the you that you see, they see a different you. All of them see their own you relative to their own them. As I noted yesterday, your friends largely agree on essentially who you are–but so do your enemies.

So if you’re going to be judged that harshly even for doing a fantastic job at life (that is one of the ways to attract the most criticism, by the way), then what are you supposed to do? Yet if you stop to think about it: if it’s an absolute you’ll get judged either way regardless, then you might as well just be yourself. But who’s that???

That’s the tricky part. You have been told who to be for so long that it’s really hard for you to remember who you were at three years old, before you had an ego. You yak at yourself so much that you can’t even hear 99% of it and yet everything you say to yourself can only be programmed ideas jammed into whatever form the languages you know will permit. Your spirit lives your actual life, your ego labels it and discusses it.

Most of what your ego discusses is your performance compared to others. Maybe all others, maybe only one other, but there’s a real or theoretical person that you want to beat or be. You’re striving. You’re incomplete without this victory. You need to prove yourself to yourself. That’s ego. A spirit isn’t guessing. It knows.

If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of spirit just think of it as the thinker versus the thoughts. The former is your spirit and it conjures the latter, your ego, by creating it from words. People with missing identities are merely people who forgot who they were supposed to be, so they were an identity-less person. What an opportunity!

You have to respect how much conformity has been trained into you. Even you call certain people weird when really they’re just choosing a rarer or more harshly judged route through life, but it might be realer than your existence. Einstein looked pretty weird, remember?

1137 Relax and Succeed - The value of identityEinstein’s mind was so busy on the stuff he thought about that he would apparently sometimes absentmindedly give lectures in his wife’s pink bedroom slippers. If he wasn’t Einstein and you saw that you’d think he was weird. Surely students in non math or physics-related faculties did when they saw him on a campus.

But Einstein wasn’t trying to be impressive, or beat any other physicist in a competition. There was just this problem he wanted to solve…. He didn’t even get great at mathematics before he tackled it. He had no credentials. He just sat and imagined things. How dare he! Imagine that: can you believe the gall of that patent clerk to think that his imagination had a value….?!

Most people get criticised into shape. They act like a robot that was programmed by the people around them. Rather than sitting in their spouse’s slippers trying to figure out something important out, they perform a well-dressed, well-behaved character in the hopes of being liked. It’s just too small.

1137 Relax and Succeed - Get rid of the selfThey work jobs they dislike for money they need to look impressive or complete to others. They raise their kids according to their fears about other parent’s judgments. They spend their time in places their society says has value even if they totally feel unnatural there. Most people are egos living in fear rather than spirits living with possibility.

Free your Self from your yakking self. Stop listening to the words and start watching for your natural impulses. They’re still there. But you’ll need to actually listen to them before they’ll start speaking loud enough to drown out the crazy voices of ego.

Start now. Stay alert. Quell your voices. You only need to focus on the ego. If you shut that up, your spirit will show up all on its own. It’s always been there, it’s just been waiting for your ego to stop trying to be liked so that you can be your Self instead.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

All of Us

You know those Russian nesting dolls? The ones that all look essentially the same but are painted a little differently as you progress down in size? Those are a great metaphor for what it’s like to get along with others. Back in the days of them always being hand made, each set had its own theme and each doll was not only a slightly different size, but each was also given its own unique take on the overall theme. These layers of identical dolls are like the many aspects of people, including ourselves.

Maybe you like music, you have a really close family, you like discussing things from a philosophical perspective and you think trust is a relationship’s foundation. That would take us four dolls down, but they go forever, with many more superficial interests at the surface and many deeper needs expressed in the smaller, hidden versions of you.

People you immediately like have outside shells that look a lot like yours, so you immediately feel comfortable around them. Good friends will match a lot of your layers, giving you lots of things and perspectives in common. Those are the friends you not only do things with, but you’ll talk politics or religion with them.

Deeper dolls are reserved for lovers and lifelong, best friends. These people seem to be able to match you as far down as you can go, and even then, by the time you find some that don’t, no one cares because it seems so insignificant compared to the tons of matches that you do share. These are the people you can bring your smallest, darkest selves out with.

Likewise, people you don’t like at first have a shell that you find unappealing in some way. It’s boring or threatening or depressing. People you develop a real dislike for are ones where you can go down several layers and not find a match. Neither of you feels comfortable. But it’s important to remember that it’s not anyone’s fault or failure when we run into cases where there are no apparent matches. They’re just non-matches. A pear isn’t letting an apple down by not being an apple.

Of course, eventually everyone has a match. We have been a lot of people. We all have a lot of layers. If we go down deep enough, we eventually find some kind of touchstone–some kind of thing that relates us. We were both beaten by our mothers, or we both found out our partners were gay when we got left in a divorce, or we both secretly want to be DJ’s.

Enemies are nothing more than people who gave up on you–or who you gave up on–before you found those matches. And I’m not saying you should look for them because there’s a lot of other people you can be out having fun with. Life isn’t a test. You don’t have to take the hard way through it. But it’s helpful to remember that; if life forces you into a situation, there are ways to develop a bond.

Even if you got down to your last doll and there was no match, you then realise that you do have something in common: you’re both made of layers and you both have some small dark ones very few have seen. There’s no reason to hate that. Thinking someone has no value means you are falling for an illusion. You’re causing yourself suffering by voluntarily putting your own psyche through the act of hating, or actively thinking badly about, another person. You’ll blame them for your feelings, but that’ll be you.

People you like aren’t better than people you don’t like. They just agree with you more. Remember that when you’re agreeing–and especially when you’re disagreeing–because maintaining an awareness of that fact will truly help the whole world to get along better, and that will bring the most out of all of us.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

Shine On You Crazy Diamond

A group of seniors were being interviewed on the radio about what kind of person they were when they were younger versus today. Without any of them intending to, or likely even noticing, all of them gave the same answer.

All the answers sounded different in that they involved different qualities and situations, but all of them essentially said: I have this one skill I’m known for, plus I had these particular experiences that helped changed me for the better in this particular way that I’m proud of, and I knew it would help me if I changed this one other thing about me but, oh well, I tried but it didn’t work out and I eventually I just gave up.

My favourite part was how comfortable they were with themselves. They were not only letting themselves own failure, they were even letting themselves have their victories. They were proud of what they could do, proud of what they learned, and they accepted what they couldn’t do.

They hadn’t built some perfect soul like you’re trying to. You’re trying to be mistake-free, with a perfect life. What you really want to know how to do is fall. If you’re really good at falling and getting back up, then you’re a champion. Those seniors experienced a lot of unwanted falls before they ran out of time to fix them, which lead them to realise there was no point in worrying about changing anyway. They always seemed to be too busy living. They would have just have to accept who they were.

Note: it wasn’t like they were unaware. They were always aware of how they were challenging for others as a person. But we are who we are and after a lifetime of trying, eventually they just decided those so-called faults weren’t worthy of any more attention. They said things like, I probably should have spoke up more, but that just wasn’t me; I know was too pushy a lot of the times but what are you gonna do–and I did get a lot done; I spent two decades drunk. I can’t get that back, so I’m just thankful for being sober today.

Rather than spend much time or emotional energy on the negative thing, they shifted pretty fast to an oh well perspective. What are you gonna do? several of them said. It was very casual and comfortable. That’s the sweet sound of surrender. That’s someone no longer striving because they’re too busy being.

Don’t wait until you’re 75 to give yourself permission to be multifaceted. On a diamond we see the table and its pedestal. But the reason the light fires back out of the table with such an intense sparkle is because of all the angles below the setting. They aren’t pretty in and of themselves, but those angles are just right for reflecting your light back out of your more polished sides. They are what allow the top of the diamond to shine. Yes, maybe you wish you’d had a better relationship with your Dad. But the fact that it wasn’t good was why you worked so hard to nurture the excellent relationships you have with your kids. It’s all connected.

It doesn’t help to look at the bottom of someone else’s diamond nor does it help to look at yours. Your brashness will create opportunities for you and others, your shyness will give chances to some that wouldn’t get one, your fears make you excellent at advice on bravery, and your outrageousness brought joy to many.

That’s what all of those people learned in their lifetime; you’ll change in ways you never planned to that are really meaningful, so just let those happen; and you won’t change in some ways even though there’s some benefits to it, but that’s just how it goes so you might as well just settle into being who you were born to be and enjoy it.

That’s good advice for all of us. Find out who you are–all of you–accept that person and then just live. Accept that you were never supposed to play any other part but yourself. That flawed, sometimes embarrassing person is who the world really wanted you to be. Thank you for playing your part. Without you, we’d be missing out on an important part of life.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

Wabi-Sabi Awareness

When people want to learn how to be they’ll often (and entirely without irony) ask me, what should I do? Well there’s the obstacle right there; you can’t do anything. You can’t enter a state of being by doing. Being shows up precisely when you stop doing.

The reason our egos are willing to perform and not enact our true selves is because we’re looking to a fill a want. We think something’s missing so we’re trying to make ourselves and our lives acceptable to those around us. We want some acknowledgement and applause for our performance. But in the real world we are love, living within love, interacting only with other love. So we don’t need anything. Our wants are merely egotistical ideas in our heads.

In looking after my parents there are many helpful things I can do for them. To them I’m doing something for them, but when I’m healthiest and it’s going best I’m simply being in love with them. If I act from a place of love then my actions are a part of my being, and only then can the products of my active love actually generate real value between us.

This is important when caring for people who need help. Often their interactions with us can be very limited so you truly have to be able to immerse yourself in the simplicity of your relationship. Parents of babies, those caring for the severely disabled, and those looking after very elderly but beloved parents are all examples of people that gain great value from unifying themselves with that connection.

The essential simplicity in that type of care is what exposes its value to the person performing it. Essentially hopeless, these people needs are demanding and they can often limit rewards; the child is very challenging and ungrateful, the disabled person will not improve with better care, and the beloved parent will get worse and die. There is nothing we can do about those things, and so understanding a child or person or parent’s imperfection and impermanence is what leads to acceptance and appreciation.

Wabi-Sabi is a Japanese term that’s difficult to turn into English, but it refers to a form of simple beauty that emerges in part from an acceptance of the ever-changing, disordered impermanence of life. So think of a kid on a farm with big dreams of hitting it big in the city. When then they come back home spiritually worn out from adulting, they actually feel the slow pace of life. And it is that new appreciation that allows them to experience their beloved but imperfect parents and siblings in a more profound way.

The feeling of Wabi-Sabi usually refers to those calm but imperfect gardens with the raked stones that you know from popular culture. For a farm person from the west, they get that feeling when they sit having a coffee looking out at the old barn where they used to have to do chores and where they hid as children from their parents.

With enough time and enough memories, as dilapidated and imperfect as it is, the barn gains a certain rustic beauty to it that it would not have were it not for the time needed for all of those memories to grow, and the fact that it may not even be there to contemplate by the next visit. Better to take it in. Better to be with it now.

If I do a bunch of things to help my parents stay alive then I am clinging. But if I am present and accepting of everyone’s imperfection and impermanence, then I can fully be with them. Babies will grow. The disabled will not improve. The aged will die. These are all things to grieve at times but, for the most part, if we can see them from the perspective of Wabi-Sabi then we are engaging with the most beautiful and essential aspects about them.

Do not lament imperfect things and do not cling to certainty. Because after all, it is the very bitter-sweetness at the basis of our feelings of Wabi-Sabi that are what makes the barn worthwhile, the garden beautiful, the baby precious, the disabled person valued, and the parent appreciated.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.