Victims of Fashion

Not so long ago at all, a bride in Northern Europe would have been chosen because she had a strong upper body for churning butter. Today women are far compelled to feel equally concerned with their bodies but they also must add what they dress them in. There are few things that torture a teenage girl more than her wardrobe or lack thereof.

In trying to understand the illusion we all live under it is helpful to look at the idea of fashion itself. What is it to be fashionable? In the photo above a model shows work designed by students at Central Saint Martins Art and Design College, which is connected to the University of the Arts in London. These are some of the top design students anywhere.

These students are learning to be at the forefront of fashion. People would pay a lot to see these pieces shown. And yet most of the people reading this will look at the photo and deem tucking one’s suit coat into one’s athletic shorts is simply silly. It feels like that thing we all do when we’re young artists and we try to make ourselves distinct by trying to out-weird our classmates. And we’re right about that. But we’re also wrong.

The point is, fashion is just what’s in a magazine right now. I’ll change with the certainty that capitalism gives it. They can’t sell you a new shirt if you’re still satisfied with your old one. And so when we’re young and peacocking, the fashion seems worth it. Later when we’re juggling kids it falls to the wayside as other priorities dominate.

Some people stay in fashion and that’s wonderful. It’s an artful expression and like any field, only the very best and most dedicated and those most willing to make other life sacrifices make it to the top. But most people simply stop thinking , believing or caring that it’s more important than your happiness. Because there are a lot of people unhappy over their clothing and that just shows how paper thin our understanding of true happiness is. A wrinkled blouse can destroy it.

The fact is, every person you walk by will think different things about your hair, your face, your body, your clothes and any other identifying mark on you. No two people will react identically. We’re all snowflakes looking at snowflakes. It’s only words and language that forces us to group people together. If we looked more closely, we’d split most of those people apart for being so different. It all depends on what level you focus at.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to feel good. It’s not unnatural. Even old-world people like the Wodaabe tribe have standards for beauty, although in their case they apply more to the men than women. They also don’t enact their most fashionable selves all the time and leave it instead for special occasions. The rest of the time you’re allowed to be human.

While enjoying fashion is fine, we also must remember that a six year old would be willing to give a speech with a giant soup stain on their shirt and there would be zero self-consciousness about it because they’d be focused on the microphone and their amplified voice and the podium and everyone watching them. They wouldn’t even consider the shirt. It wouldn’t enter their consciousness.

We should all try to be healthy like that. We should all hear any clothing judgments as being from one snowflake to another. It’s like one grain of wheat telling another grain of wheat how a grain of wheat should look. It’s silly we ever fall for it but that is a part of discovering ourselves. We start life trying to be like everyone else, and with any luck and some awareness, we leave it only wanting to be ourselves.

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.

Interpretations

This blog is about taking the common quotes people see and then extrapolating them into useful practices that can affect your life today. To that end, today I leave you to do that very thing for yourself.

Your healthy realisation will come when you figure out how both of these quotes can be true at the same time. And you’ll know how dedicated you are to your spiritual development by how different you feel about finding your own meaning versus having me find some of it for you.

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.

Downers

A lot of our thinking stays within us and we’re the only ones that ever know our perspectives exist, but sometimes our thinking externalizes into actual spoken words. Since these words flow in the patterns that create our personalities, we can learn a lot about ourselves by listening carefully to ourselves with others.

As we start trying to catch ourselves we’ll need to do it with big things, and after the fact. Thinks like: what was the overall tone of my last conversation? What all did we talk about? Who started which subjects? What did I engage with and what did I ignore?

Eventually we start catching ourselves within a conversation and we suddenly become aware of where we are in that moment. If you don’t like where we’re at when we do, we suddenly prove how easy it is to change one’s thoughts because we’ll switch instantly and easily. We’ve all done this every time we’re having a big fight with our spouse and then someone from work calls and we answer the phone all cheery and positive. We’ll even flicker between the work identity and our married identity instantly as we cheerily say a sentence with a smile in it, and then as we listen we glare daggers at our partner.

When catching our conversations, first we’ll note a lot of them are sad, or dull, or whiny, or angry, or if we’re lucky maybe they’re relaxed, or fun or hilarious or lively. If we cultivate a lot of the first four we’ll reach for “relaxed” or “lively,” but generally people who are struggling have conversations that sound like people struggling. There’s lots of talk about how misunderstood they are, or what they can’t do, what their limits are, what resources are missing, or how hard, unfair or bad things are.

It will also help to monitor those we talk to. If we’re all having a great time, then we’re good. If one of us is always down and the other is always trying to pull the other up, then that’s strained and it’ll inevitably end. If both of us are always down then we’ve been down long enough that we’ve formed a group of people who like to meet because we’re all so good at negativity.

Once we get better at listening to ourselves while we’re in-conversation we start to spot patterns. We go to certain people for certain things. We have certain patterns attached to certain activities or times of day. Some people will lean on us, others we will lean on. But overall if our tone averages as enjoyable then we’re good, and if it averages as negative for too long then people will slowly disengage and we’ll only hold on to other people who actually worship and nurture sadness like we do.

None of us likes to think we’re negative. When we are negative we prefer to view it as misunderstood, wounded, or betrayed, or weak, or burdened with history. We discuss how no one understands us, or we talk about the hurts we have suffered, or how people have been unfair. We discuss our inabilities and justifications for those inabilities incessantly, and we also claim that things that happened five years ago prevent us from taking action today.

All of this negativity presents as forms of resistance to being, to creation. But every one of us has within us the capacity to alter our world. Even Stephen Hawking’s broke, diseased body took the one thing he had –an abundance of idle time– and he used it to develop his mind to the point where it has travelled farther our into the universe than anyone ever has. And it was all done from a wheelchair.

It will hurt to be inactive in the world. We were built to contribute. Even ants change the world. We certainly were built to build; families, businesses, friendships, community. So we can take our life energy and talk ourselves and those around us into a sad, small, depressing lives filled with suffering, or we can use that same life energy to go out and help others realise something great about themselves or the world. And regardless of our awareness of the fact, our life will be made of the moment by moment choices we make in that regard.

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.

Wisdom in Action

People often ask, which students do best? I explain that the ones that don’t try –but that love the learning and listen well–are best. And who continues to do best? Easy: those most dedicated to their practice. This appears to be the most mundane and obvious part of being healthy, and yet it’s the number one place people lose touch with it.

It’s important to remember that you talk to egos all day long. They try and pull you into ego-world constantly, discussing problems or gossiping or commiserating. You need to defend yourself with meditations that get you back on course. People don’t learn this stuff and float away like Yoda. It’s called a practice for a reason.

Possibly the best student I’ve ever had for dedication to practice is a woman was always very successful at loving people but her anxieties had prevented her from fully realizing all of her personal and professional opportunities. I really liked the woman I met, and the one I know now pretty routinely brings great happiness to me because she’ll post things on social media that are great lessons for all of her friends.

Below are two sample messages from many she’s written like this over the last few years. I often wonder if the people who are always impressed with her resiliency ever notice that about half of her happy and positive social media posts are about things most people would view as “going wrong.” Here’s two great ways to take action in your own life so that others can contribute to your peace and happiness. But always remember, no one will take that action if they don’t see you taking it first:

So normally kindness comes easily to me, it’s second nature, but today it’s something I’m having to do very consciously, especially because although I’m comfortable letting myself be in a low emotional space today I am aware that it has nothing to do with the people I am interacting with.

So today I am finding it more difficult than usual to be my pleasant self with customers, but alas it is part of my job being in customer service to do my best to provide pleasant interactions. That being said I was being especially kind to someone today, in a very small way, but no one looking on would know I struggled with simply extending my kindness today.

A few minutes after this interaction another customer came to pay and commented to me how beautiful she thought it was what I did, which again was really a very simple kindness that we should extend to everyone but was difficult for me today. She told me how she really appreciated seeing me make someone’s day, at which point I very obviously broke into tears and thanked her for letting me know that, as today I was struggling and her simply pointing out that she had noticed had inadvertently made my day!

See how she let that other woman help her feel better? We need to be open to that. So many times people will offer us ways to be happier and we won’t take them. But of course, the more she does it the better she gets:

Talk about a morning full of ninja brain training! Was scurrying around trying to get out the door for work. As I’m locking the door I rest my big bin full of wire wrapping supplies on the deck railing. Mentally told myself to be careful. Locked the door, turn around to grab the bin and instead knock it off.

Bin takes a big fall smashes to pieces, craft stuff goes everywhere. I unlock the door to go inside and grab a bag to put everything into and quickly lock the door and shut it behind me so I can leave as soon as I collect all of my fallen stuff. Have everything collected and I’m ready to go. Wait. Wait. Where are my keys. Oh that’s right, I used them to unlock the door and then hurriedly locked and walked out without grabbing my keys.

Spend the next while breaking into my own house to the extreme amusement of my dogs as I climb through the window, close the window, grab my keys, and finally get on my way to work! Let myself have a few moments of frustration and anger and then because I’ve learnt how to use my thoughts for the better I let it go and decided, hey this was the perfect opportunity to work on my consciousness and my patience!

And somehow through all that I made it to work on time! However I am now offering FREE HUGS all day from 10-9 at Bonnie Doon while I’m at work because I know I could use a hug and maybe you could to!? So come get your free hug, I’ll even throw in a smile!

See that? She was in need, so what did she offer? Generosity. Now that’s wisdom in action. And these are all things we can all do. So let’s be like her and do them, shall we? After all, it is our 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.

The Voice of the Soul

Hey, you guys wake up. You see this?

What?

She’s just sitting there again.

Like before? Just sitting there thinking about all the things that she doesn’t like about her life? Why does she do that? It’s like putting us in prison. Doesn’t she feel how much it hurts us?

Oh she feels our hurtin’ bad kid, she just doesn’t understand.

Doesn’t understand what?

See, unlike animals, humans have language so they develop this framework they call ‘psychology.’

Psy…cholo…gy…?

Yeah. See, they can use their mind to talk to themselves, and they mistake their own talking for us.

Why would they mistake their own talking for their soul?

Well, see, they’re kind of loving their pain more than they’re loving us. That’s where they’re focus is. They don’t get that we’re a collection of experiences to be lived. When they’re lost they think that a soul is like this perfect shining thing, and so they keep sitting still and then they use their thoughts to compare themselves to their other thoughts about whatever their personal idea of perfection is.

Perfection?! And they each have their own ideas of perfection???

Yeah. Some wanna be skinny, some wanna be smarter or more popular or richer.

And they think if they get that they’ll get closer to us?

They think those things are us. Like I said, they think we’re a thing.

I’m still confused. What do you mean a “thing?”

Like, uh… an entity. They think we’re like a blob of glowing perfection or something.

A glob of…?

I know. But you gotta understand, they’re innocents. They all start like that. The boss figures if we lose them early, then they have their early life to learn to relax when they’re lost. When they do that they’re immediately home. It actually works pretty good. They call it, surrendering.

So if they go quiet they surrender then we start getting lived, but instead they’re trying to find the peace of surrendering by thinking about some blob of perfection?

They’re ‘better self,’ yeah. And, usually they won’t use the blob, they’ll use some other person –which is even crazier I know –but look– I’m not explaining it good. See, they think we’re like this thing that stays forever. They don’t get that we’re a collection of experiences that leaves oneness and returns to oneness. They don’t get that they have to spend us. They think they have to expose us, or be like us, or be pure, or extra nice or something. They think we’re a thing they get or achieve and not an activity they do.

So why don’t you just tell her!? Otherwise she’ll cry all night again for no reason and then we never get lived!

I know. It’s painful. But that’s all we can do is make it hurt. That’s us yelling as loud as we can. She’s the one that has to get up and walk us toward some unhurt. It can be anything. Peace, relaxation, kindness, generosity, fun, laughing, togetherness, love. She could use the legs and move toward any of those things, but we can’t just whisper in the ear. Her thought-words would drown us out. We talk in feelings.

I dunno why she wouldn’t listen. Otherwise she’s just letting us die inside her for no good reason.

I told you, it’s not like I can turn our feelings into words and then whisper them in her ear.

Then let’s signal someone else and get them to tell her.

Sure. Right. Now how the hell do you propose we do that?

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.

Hiding From Life

You’re sitting there terrified. You’re a little ball, crushed down by your own cruel judgments. You peek out at life, brushing against it here and there and feeling electrified, knowing it’s so much better than the little space you live in. But you don’t have the courage to venture out. You just feel too weak and too unprepared and too broken. You think many thoughts.

You know what’s weird? Successful people can’t figure that out. They are completely baffled by that. They are as confused by you as you are. You see, you see you as you, but they don’t. Successful people see people as people.

If you’re presenting as a weak person you would assume Einstein was Einstein and you were you so you’d never even try to be him, and yet a successful person would just think Einstein had a brain and he used it to study a subject, which is why there’s tons of students today that know more than even Einstein did. He may have been first to that subject, but that just made it all easier for the rest of us. Now there’s teachers. He had to teach himself. So give him creativity, but his brain couldn’t do more than yours, it just did more than yours.

So why should you care? Well, first off, you’re in agony. I’ve yet to meet the person who wouldn’t like a bigger more exciting life, no matter how small or big their life was. The only challenge for people who think small is their extremely low tolerance for routine psychology. Almost anything is too much. So rather than learn to turn down the volume on their own TV, the insanely shy person just never watches anything and is neither entertained nor informed. They literally miss out on life itself.

Why’s this matter? Because nothing matters. You’re not going anywhere. No one’s judging you. Heaven is an inkpot, you are a splash in that inkpot, and hell is forgetting that you’re always on your way to returning to heaven and rejoining everything and everyone that ever was. This is seriously far more like one long crazy dream than you’ve ever thought. In fact, it’s almost more honest to see your dreaming self as the real you, and your waking self as the asleep one. That’s how ego works. It wakes up in a world made of thinking and spends its life trying to escape.

So life is kind of like an escape room. It’s not like you’re really trapped, you’re getting out for sure, eventually, even if you do nothing. But why have the arc of your inkdrop sit in a room terrified? Literally, what are you avoiding other than happiness and joy? You’ve got worry and pain and agony in there with you. Why not break out? You just end up in a new room anyway. Figure out how to be 30 years old and they’ll lock you into the 40’s room. But it’s fun getting out.

Look, we have this hospital in Edmonton called The Stollery Children’s Hospital. It’s pretty obvious it’s filled with both tragic and heroic stories. But one thing I can assure you, is that some mother sitting bedside with her ten year old, with a child that may only live for another week–that mother knows the value of you sitting still.

That mother would give anything for her little girl to have the years you’re getting. You couldn’t blame her for finding it painful that you’d waste them hiding and not living, and yet your inclination is to hear that and beat yourself up even more. Do you see how you do it to yourself and that you’re actually free? Do you see how you forgo life to think those thoughts?

Life’s the biggest opportunity anyone get, and you got it and sick kids didn’t. That would be like me asking everyone to push me around on a wheelchair when I’m fine. It’s disrespectful to ourselves, others, and to the universe itself. Feeling that sense of ongoing respect for life itself is good for us. Life is the most fortunate opportunity anyone gets.

Give up on hiding. You’re only inviting agony and your space shrinks over time. Besides, it’s fun out here. You don’t watch an entire afternoon of kids playing and then focus on one skinned knee. That will obviously lead to unhappiness.

Think about what you’d do this week if you knew by next week you’d be in some North Korean prison, locked up in solitary for the rest of your life. Suddenly the few days you have left would be all the time you’d have to go all of those important places and eat all of those foods and listen to all of that music and see all of those important people and say all those important things you want to say. So say them. Far from dangerous, your vulnerability is what will create the connection you’re seeking.

Call me or someone else if you need to. It’s okay. You’ll be fine. Lots of us love you. But you have to come out so they can find you.

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.

Scarred Childhoods and Adult Relationships

If we learn not to overthink we can often do it with smaller, less important stuff, but we struggle with what we call the big stuff. Of course little and big stuff just refers to stuff your life trained you to think of a little versus the stuff your life taught you to think a lot.

In reality we’re all really works of art, so let us say that God or the universe created your base stone and now your parents are walking along a gorgeous cliff of fantastic marble. They see a piece they love and so they have a big chunk cut out of it, and they load it onto a land barge.

They brace it with timbers and they slowly drag it down the mountain to where you will become you. In this metaphor the chipping of your stone is like birth and infancy. You won’t remember it, but it’ll leave marks on your stone nevertheless and your mother will sure remember dragging you down that hill.

Next you’re in Michelangelo’s studio, where the raw potential of your stone begins to be shaped into the vision your parents imagined. They’re the ones that shape the early you, and in doing so they offer you fantastic opportunities while simultaneously camouflaging other potential versions of you. These include genetic memories that create physical issues from birth are like cracks that emerged during travel from the cliffs to the studio. They will impact what the stone can become, but not how much it can be valued.

Regardless of who we are, over time the Michelangelos of life will use friction to shape us, at first knocking off big chunks defined as male or female or black or white or athletic or brainy, and later as more refined choices, like electrical engineer or watercolour painter or pediatric nurse, or eventually as you’re known for being challenging, or soft, or wise.

As we age we begin to realize that the Michelangelo’s in our lives not only carve and shape us intentionally, but they also grind into our stone unconsciously as a side effect of their personal working style. Some areas will be rubbed so long and hard that over time they score the base stone so deeply that it cannot be hidden. This of course isn’t a fault in the stone, it’s a just a byproduct of being shaped by just a few artists near the start of life. Plus those artists will usually have been trained in the same family of artists, so they’ll all tend to grind the same spots out of the same habit.

As you age so too do the Michelangelos around you. They go from using hammers and chisels to just the chisels, and eventually they reduce to scraping, before later moving onto sanding and finally polishing. Each stage will refine us, and as we grow wiser we get wiser about only giving access to better artists,. Every stone has scars, but the wisest artists know how to make the most of them.

Everyone had parents. Everyone had someone–or a lack of someone–raise them, and those forces were the strongest in your life and they left the most indelible marks. Sometimes those lead to beautiful arcs in our life, and others just disrupted areas that would have otherwise gone smoothly. But there is no point in lamenting those scars any more than we lament the base that the sculpture must sit on. Far from being problems, these are just the essential elements of having been in the studio at all. No sculpture is created without them.

When we’re in a relationship and something really bothers us, it is literally caught in our groove. And it’s not our essential stone that’s reacting to it, it’s how we were impacted by childhood. So you can work your whole life searching for the best artists and yet like a bad tattoo, they can only do so much because they have no choice but to work with the unconscious choices that the early, less experienced artists left behind.

Your job in life is not to try to orient your sculpture so that no one sees your scars, nor are you supposed to wear yourself out trying to remove or hide the marks that others have left on them. Instead you are simply supposed to realise that every sculpture has them as a natural part of their creation.

Keep in mind, you can’t blame those early artists for screwing up, because later in life you suddenly realise that you too have been an artist, and through your blind ignorance to the fact that your actions were shaping others, you too will have accidentally scored some people’s stone. And it is understanding that –that inevitable chaining causal reality– that when understood, allows us to shift from being psychologically better, to finally achieving a sense we could call peace. That way it all makes more sense.

The world isn’t broken. People don’t need fixing. People simply need to stop believing that the world’s job is to create perfect sculptures. Instead we must accept that life is a verb. It’s not a statue, it’s the sculpting. And since we all need and are sculptors, and since we all will improve throughout life, suddenly what were failures become more like beautiful attempts at loving and artful creation, much the way childhood fingerpainting may not be good even though it’s gorgeous.

Thanks to our early life, if we look carefully we’ll find we often attract people that seem to have deep scars in their marble precisely where we’ve been trained to look for them. If your Dad yelled a lot, then you stand a good chance of marrying someone familiar like that (or the exact opposite). At that point you have two choices.

You can forever lament that they ended up with the same damage one of your sculptors had, or can note that they are looking right at your scars too. A lack of acceptance can mean you’re the worst possible people for each other, but an act of acceptance can make them the best possible person for you. Because one way you’re just staring at each other’s damage but ,at the same time, if you both focused on getting good at it, who’d possibly be better at overlooking at a fault than someone who spent their life around it?

Don’t lament that art needs sculptors, nor that sculptors get better by creating art. Simply focus your energy on not scarring anyone else more than than is necessary and then ignore what scars you can. Because every time we grind unproductively into into another person’s pain, we only serve to make the scar fresher and deeper.

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.