Jane Elliot: Brown Eyes Blue Eyes

This famous experiment is famous for exposing the nature of isms. Racism, sexism, ageism, etc. etc. It’s also fascinating as a demonstration of how much the world has changed. As brilliant as the teacher is—even she is rather casual regarding a case of child abuse. But nevertheless this remains a powerful study into human identity.

148 Relax and Succeed - You're not here to learnWhen it comes to the people in the video—rather than discuss racism or how they saw others, I am more interested in how they saw themselves. How quick they were to believe they we’re better… If you believe you’re not vulnerable to those sort of influences, then I would submit that you would be one of the cases that was in the deepest. Words create separation. There are no black people or white people, because where exactly would the line be? Is it this guy, or her? Is it by colour, or lineage, or year, or…? The truth is, everyone will have their own line in their own head. Realities are separate. One person can love someone, and yet another person may hate them. Better to erase the barriers between us than to try to overcome the hate.

This was a clever exercise, and she went on to do it at the corporate level for years. Pay particular attention to how easily their definition impacted their thoughts and therefore their feelings. Some think it’s not fair, and they get angry. Some think they deserve it, and they feel sad and disappointed. Some kids are scared because they’re having trouble trying to figure out what to think. But what’s really important is that with just a few suggestions from someone in authority, people realized completely different aspects of themselves.

Enjoy.

[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5NHeFgaVWs8]

peace. s

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

The Nature of Trust

147 Relax and Succeed - One does not become enlightenedAn unconscious life is an innocent one. An ego is so subtly formed that each individual will have no idea it’s even there. Essentially we live as a programmed robot, largely reacting to things for reasons we’ve neither assessed nor understood. And we’ll never change that unless we become conscious of our own patterns of thinking.

An ego is a pattern-recognition system that plays back whichever behaviour it believes is suitable, and our programs are constantly being rewritten by experience. So if under stress your mom drank and your dad yelled, then you will either yell, drink, or absolutely not-yell, or absolutely not-drink, but either way it will have been those primary relationships that generated that result. You will literally have been formed by your experience. This process continues throughout life.

If you’ve never had a person cheat on you and no one important to you betrayed someone else while you were watching, then you will be a naturally trusting person because trust is a natural state. That’s why little kids make friends so easily. But if you have been cheated on, or if you watched cheating really hurt someone you care for, then that possibility will now exist within your imagination. The real question is, how often do you access that imagination?

147 Relax and Succeed - I am not what happened to meIf you’re concerned about the commitment of your partner, then remember that agreements, rules, and promises are merely ideas. No one can guarantee their future behaviour, so in reality everyone could potentially cheat. But living under that constant fear isn’t living at all. So a simple decision must be made: either we leave a situation to remove the risk, or we accept the risk as an aspect of any relationship. The real questions becomes, what is the definition of accepting?

To accept something is to cease to think about it. Our histories are our histories, so we can expect that life will deliver us these old menus regularly. We can look over the dishes that life offers to serve us, and we can see that some of these dishes involve the suffering or jealousy or fear, but while we cannot stop the menus from being handed to us, we can consciously choose to avoid ordering painful experiences into our lives.

You worrying about someone cheating won’t stop them from cheating. But you worrying about it will make you anxious, upset and short-tempered and those things will affect a relationship. While you will always be the person your life created, you still want to be a conscious version of yourself. You don’t want unproductive thoughts to take up too much of your life. Like everyone you will have your moments of doubt. But to live in a state of doubt is to surrender your entire life to fear.

147 Relax and Succeed - Your history is not made ofYour fears in life are hard-won. You suffered for them and it makes sense that you would make serious efforts to avoid experiencing them again. But there are no guarantees in life and we cannot live based on what we don’t want to happen; we have to live our lives by creating the things that we do want to happen.

So be grateful for your emotions. Because when you feel the pang of fear or jealousy, you can use that feeling as a signal that your thinking has entered dangerous territory. And by being conscious of your thinking, you can appreciate both its validity and it’s pointlessness. This allows you to be yourself without having your past dictate your future.

Do not feel victim to your pain. Your thinking is intimately connected to your suffering, and whether you realise it or not, you always have control over your thinking. Don’t undermine your life with fears. Expand it with love. It doesn’t guarantee you will never suffer. But it does ensure that your life will be open and free, and in the end that’s both glorious and it’s as good as it gets.

Watch your thoughts. They’re yours, but they don’t control you–you control them. Now go use that power to enjoy your day, regardless of your history.

peace. s

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

The Yin and Yang of Chairs

If you’ve read my previous blog or enough of this one then you know that my mother was not looking to have another child when I came along. I have no judgments about that, so we can give any name we want to her reaction, but the important point is that it was difficult for her to be warm under the circumstances.

146 Relax and Succeed - Had I not made the mistakesThe natural reaction in me was to seek that closeness by being good at things—I tried to impress her. When that didn’t work, I began to shift my attention to winning my father’s favour, which was challenging because he owned his own business and he worked long hours. He’d been given a recliner when he left his old job, and I remember waiting at his feet while he read the newspaper in it. That chair ended up playing an important role in our family.

Because Mom had her experience of disappointment over me, I wanted to be close to Dad and that translated to me wanting to sit in his recliner while we ate lunch. And by we I mean the two sisters and brother that my family took as foster children. It’s important to note that I didn’t see them as foster siblings. Within a month they were as much my brother and sisters as my much-older biological brothers were. But it never occurred to me until adulthood that’s likely not how they saw it.

Every day we kids would come home from school for lunch and there would be a race to see who got the good seats for watching Gilligan’s Island. Every day I would claim dad’s recliner, simply because I wanted to be close to Dad. For a couple years I never realized that my sisters and brother were conceding it every day because they felt like I was the real son. Eventually I began to think that maybe they wanted it too, but I realized they probably didn’t feel they should take it.

My point in relaying this story is to communicate this idea: realities are separate. So since we can never agree on what is going on, we also can’t agree on an appropriate response. This means the ideas of right and wrong and good and bad go out the window. Instead there are only the intended consequences, and the unintended consequences.

146 Relax and Succeed - Life can only be understoodMy Yin was to be closer to my dad. It was motivated by love. But I also loved my brother and sisters, yet unbeknownst to me I was generating a Yang in them because I inadvertently gave them signals of being more important when my objective was to become more important.

This is why you must surrender your ideas of an idyllic world. Yes we can avoid a lot of large scale agonies by being more empathetic and generous, but don’t think we’re working toward a world of no suffering. There will always be suffering and it can and will be created by the same sorts of loving, meaningful acts that I made in wanting to sit in that chair. So even with the best of intentions, in my wake I will leave darker details like the lowered self esteem of siblings that I’ve always loved.

Even taking great care, you will inadvertently hurt all kinds of people in your life. You cannot try to guide yourself around their pain. You must instead guide yourself with what feels right for you. And in the healthiest situations, what will feel right for you will be generosity, compassion, and love. But it is always important to remember that even those things will have unintended consequences. Such is the Yin and Yang of life.

Enjoy your day.

peace. s

Interview With a Buddha

Yesterday I wrote about the Buddha I met. Many people asked me how this Buddha came to be a Buddha, but the truth is she never stopped being one. Because we’re all born Buddhas. But then we develop language so we can talk to others, but we also inadvertently talk to ourselves and that creates the Ego. I would have been just like you and I would have stayed lost had I not had my accident and started asking some strange questions as a result.

145 Relax and Succeed - Don't grow upWhen you were really young you couldn’t understand language, so you couldn’t be either praised or insulted. There was no right or wrong in your world. You simply allowed your nature to focus on whatever it focused on, and that lead to remarkable achievements. Learning how to walk requires fine motor control of muscles, using tendons and ligaments and calculating gravity and momentum etc. etc.  It’s very complex.

You also learned to speak one or maybe two, or even three or four languages, and you weren’t consciously trying to learn them and no one was really thinking they could teach it to you in the classical sense. And yet you mastered the complex rules of grammar and memorized a fantastic collection of words that could be used in a variety of ways. These are major achievements. And then you got an ego….

So what’s it like to live without someone constantly judging your actions? What’s it like not to second-guess yourself? What’s it like to live rather than commentate a life not lived?

Because our conversation was so in-depth and because I was asking questions with a real focus, I am now able to create a sort of interview. It’s formed from the answers she gave me on the day I learned that the source of her great happiness was in fact her great understanding. So here, for your elucidation, is a quasi-interview with the Buddha I met:

145 Relax and Succeed - It is no measureBUDDHA: Scott, you work a lot with mind stuff. Am I crazy? Am I a sociopath?

SCOTT: A sociopath?!  You’re a very kind, compassionate, generous person. Why would you think you’re a sociopath?

BUDDHA: Because I don’t feel guilty. Everyone else feels guilty about things, but if I decide to do something I figure, why be guilty about it? I picked it! Maybe people don’t like it afterwards, or maybe I realize something about it sucks later, but at the time it’s really what I wanted to do!

SCOTT: So you’re worried that your lack of guilt makes you crazy? Most people come to see me to get rid of guilt.

BUDDHA: It’s not just that. I just don’t get why people think about things so much? It’s not like the thinking fixes anything. I might be sorry someone got hurt, but it’s not like I was trying to hurt them. I was just living and that’s what happened. I didn’t do it to them, so why would I think about it afterwards?

145 Relax and Succeed - When guilt runs your lifeSCOTT: I share your feeling that continuing to think about that sort of thing is pointless. Guilt or shame or worry or fear never changed anything. They just steal our energy.

BUDDHA: I know, eh! That’s the other thing. Thinking about all of that is so draining. It feels terrible. That’s mostly why I don’t do it. Why sit there and feel terrible about what happened when I can be having fun now!

SCOTT: You’re very good at leaving the past in the past. That’s what people want when they say they want to Live in the Moment.

BUDDHA: Well it’s not really the past anyway. It’s not like I can fix anything there. I’m just using up Now to re-live Then. But if Then sucked, why would I want to drag it into Now?

SCOTT: I don’t personally see a reason to dwell in the past either, so I can’t really answer that question other than to say that most people have trouble living like you do, so they feel a strange obligation to re-live dramatic past events.

145-relax and succeed - Because your heart is so beautifulBUDDHA: But why?! It’s not going to do anything to make your life better. It feels terrible. I hate thinking thoughts like that. It’s like why I can’t hate people. I know [our mutual friend] Simon hates me, and I get that. I cheated on my boyfriend. It’s a shitty thing to do and it hurt him and I get that Simon’s a nice guy and that he hates me for disrespecting my boyfriend. But it’s not like I did it to hurt my boyfriend. But at the same time, if I really wanted to be with my boyfriend that bad, then I don’t think I would have cheated. So it just got us to where we were anyways, right?

SCOTT: Why doesn’t it bother you that Simon judges you?

BUDDHA: Because those are his thoughts not mine. How he wants to feel is up to him. I don’t hate him back because it sucks to hate people. I don’t like how it feels. I don’t know. It’s crazy I know. But I just don’t want to dwell on that stuff. I always like to look at what I like about someone and I know Simon’s a really good guy. He loves his girlfriend and she’s super nice so that’s good. And I really like how he treats his co-workers and customers. And he’s super funny. And even when he’s not, everyone has a rough day. He’s entitled to have them too.

SCOTT: I applaud your generosity. I don’t think it’s possible for you to comprehend how rare that ability is.

145 Relax and Succeed - Peace comes from withinBUDDHA: I just don’t think thoughts I don’t like because they feel bad. It’s not like it’s complicated. If they hurt just don’t think them.

SCOTT: [laughing] I agree. I would suggest that is why they hurt—because they’re essentially telling us not to think them.

BUDDHA: So why do people think them anyway and then blame the person they’re thinking about?

SCOTT: I don’t think they have the connection between their Thoughts and their Reality as clearly understood as you do.

BUDDHA: So do you think I’m crazy?

SCOTT: [laughing] No. No I think you’re far too kind and generous and fun to be crazy. But I understand why you might think you are. When everyone else is crazy, crazy can look sane and sane can look crazy.

145 Relax and Succeed - It is very simple to be happyBUDDHA: All I know is if something hurts, I stop thinking about it.

SCOTT: Everyone else turns that into a much more complicated process than it really is.

BUDDHA: What’s to complicate? I have to think about something. If I don’t like thinking about this, then why not just change to that?

SCOTT: That would be the part that people find hard. That’s what most of my work with students focuses on—teaching them to let go.

BUDDHA: But it’s so simple!

SCOTT: It is. But the simplicity is the most challenging aspect for them to comprehend.

BUDDHA: All I know is; if I focus on stuff I like then I feel good. After that, whatever….

SCOTT: [smiling] Nicely put.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is a writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.

Buddhas Among Us

I met a Buddha the other day. While I was delighted by this knowledge, it did not come as a complete surprise. But where I found this Buddha will probably surprise you

144 Relax and Succeed - Happiness is not somethingVirtually all of us were brought up to translate vestments and beads into spirituality. We look for our guru’s in churches, or ashram’s, or temples, or in New Age settings. We look for sacred texts, or candles, or certain kinds of music. We seek quiet, somber people who speak in parables and riddles. We will often look outside of our own culture and toward the world’s oldest cultures in Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and other ancient cultures including Native North and South Americans. Many people travel all over the world—literally or virtually—in search of answers. And yet there are Buddhas among us to learn from.

I’ve met this woman many times. She always comes across as very friendly, but I feel confident in saying that virtually no one would sense the powerful depth that is alive within her. When you get to know her better you realize that she truly is thoroughly positive. She compliments others often, she’s very compassionate regarding other people’s suffering, and most importantly she realizes in a profound way that there is no value in focusing her thoughts on narratives that don’t feel good.

My talk with her was thoroughly entertaining in that I was doing exactly the opposite of what I normally do. Because she is surrounded by the controlling egos of unenlightened people, she naturally feels out of step with a lot of what she sees going on around her. So rather ironically, the discussion where I came to realize she was a Buddha was one wherein she was earnestly enquiring into the idea that she may be a sociopath.

144 Relax and Succeed - The happiest peopleNow a Sociopath is someone who lacks a sense of social conscience or moral responsibility, which is why the most notorious versions of them are able to seriously hurt people when others would have a sense of empathy preventing them from doing so. But we’re not talking about someone who puts their needs above others to the point where they would seriously hurt someone. We’re talking about someone who’s free. Truly free. But because freedom is so rare in our culture, her freedom strikes people as unfair. In short, people don’t like that she gets to follow her heart and not feel bad about it.

Guilt, regret, and fears about our status with others are not fences that guide us toward healthy lives. These are cages built by our egos that keep us from living our natural lives. These barriers exist only in our minds—they are not an aspect of the actual world. So if most people feel compelled to leave a relationship, they worry about hurting the other person, they worry about how their friends will react, and they worry if they’re making the right decision. Free people just go toward whatever they are more attracted to and they give it no further thought (except maybe to occasionally wonder why they don’t give it more thought when most people seem to think about these things for years).

144 Relax and Succeed - In the end these things matteredOther people’s feelings are their concern just as yours are your concern. If this Buddha was dumped herself, she would simply accept that by not giving it further thought. That would free her up to start looking at her life for the most appealing direction to go. This is what living in the moment is: you move toward whatever makes sense to your spirit regardless of what happened in the past. People who live in ego move toward what they think they should move toward, and they will routinely offer excuses to themselves about why they’re not moving toward what they truly feel excited about. Moreover, they will tend to really dislike people who don’t have those limiting thoughts.

The Buddha and I have a mutual friend who I know much better than the Buddha. What’s fascinating is that the friend is on a very sincere and earnest journey of conscious self-discovery. I’ve always been impressed by his desire to grow and change in these important ways. He reads about the subject, enjoys films and television programs about spiritually healthy living, and he does his best to live a humanitarian lifestyle. I admire everything about him except his contempt for The Buddha. And even there, it is easy for me to see why he wouldn’t be able to recognize her Budda-nature.

Can you see his misunderstanding? He wonders how she can end a relationship and not feel guilt or remorse. And by expecting and looking for that, he fails to notice that she gets to skip out on feelings of guilt and remorse and instead she gets to feel the excitement of looking for her new future. She quite rightly can’t see how thinking those thoughts would have any affect on her life and so she wisely chooses not to think them. So she can do what he aspires to do, and yet in his thoughts she is the furthest thing from what he imagines his target to be. Such is the strange paradox of enlightenment.

144 Relax and Succeed - And those who were seen dancingIf you’re seeking the truth you may find it in a religious setting. You may find it in a New Age setting. You may even find it in a quasi-political setting, as is the case with the Dalai Lama. But where you will always find it is wherever true happiness is.

Everyone spends some time in an enlightened state. But it is worth paying attention to the happiest, most carefree people in our cultures. Because dissatisfaction in life comes from running into the fences that most egos build with their narratives. So the people to follow are the ones with no fences. Like the character Bartholomew in Christopher Moore’s hilarious book Lamb, truly enlightened people rarely have a bad word to say about anyone else, they don’t care what anyone else thinks about how they live, and they laugh and smile a lot. Who knows? Like my friend does, maybe you have a Buddha in your life right now and neither of you are even aware of it.

Being enlightened isn’t made of being good. Being enlightened is made of being free. So stop stopping yourself with words and go be free.

peace, s

Scott McPherson is a writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.

Wishes

Amy hates her curly hair. She wishes she had long, dark, straight hair like Bonnie’s. Bonnie hates how fat her legs are. She wishes she had legs like Caroline’s. Caroline hates her knees. She wishes she could run like her brother Dean. But Dean hates running now. He wishes Evan, his recently deceased friend, was still around to run with him.

Evan didn’t like running with Dean because it made him look even shorter than he already was. He always wished he was really tall, like Fez. But Fez hates his height. He loves Gurpreet, but she loves a well dressed man, and it’s hard to get clothes that fit a guy that tall. But Gurpreet hates 143 Relax and Succeed - Sometimes you can't seeher addiction to fashion. It makes her a slave to her job. She wishes she had the freedom of her friend Henry.

Henry’s a self-employed writer, but he hates that because he has no health care plan. He wishes his brother was a dentist so he could get free care like his friend Isaac gets. But Isaac hates having a brother who’s a dentist. His parents are always wishing he would do as well as Jacob. But Jacob is divorced and rich, so he can never trust any of the women he dates. He wishes his life was like Kevin’s. Kevin got married at 18 to his high school sweetheart. But part of Kevin has always wished he’d played the field like his friend Larry.

Larry got a few girls pregnant and it’s ruined his financial life. He wishes he would have inherited a lot money like his friend Mary. But Mary hates her life. Her father was a tough, ruthless businessman, which made him a tough, ruthless father. She wishes she had a Dad like Nathan. But Nathan has never been able to tell his dad that he’s gay. He wishes he had the freedom that his openly gay friend Orlando has. But Orlando hates being gay because sometimes it just feels like everyone hates him for no good reason.

Orlando wishes his life was like his comedienne friend, Patti. She gets to stand in front of an appreciative audience every night. But Patti hates going on stage. She so nervous she’s usually sick to her stomac143 Relax and Succeed - Stop comparingh. She wishes she was like Quan. He can stay calm no matter what. But Quan hates being a comic. Being on the road all the time is what lead to his painkiller addiction. He wishes he was still a healthy young man like Ron.

Ron doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life. He wishes he was like Stephen, where he’s already well on his way to a good pension. But Stephen hates how safe a life he’s lead. He wishes his life was more exciting, like Terry’s. But Terry’s addiction to adventure has cost him a marriage to a woman he loved. But his ex-wife Ursula doesn’t feel loveable at all since she put on all that weight after the divorce.

Ursula wishes she was skinny like Velma. But Velma hates her bulimia. She wishes she ate healthier, like her friend Wayne. But Wayne hates himself because he lies to his friends about how good his diet is. He wishes he had the humility of Xavier. But Xavier hates that he can’t advocate for himself at work so he never gets a raise. He wishes he was more like Yan, who is paid extremely well. But Yan hates that pay because what goes with it is lots of responsibility. He wishes he had a life like Zara. She’s an artist that works from home, but she also has cancer. 143 Relax and Succeed - We are all in long-termAnd she would give anything to have hair like Amy’s.

Do you get it? Are you enjoying your life, or are you wishing for a better one? Because you can live, or you can wish. Which one do you do? Because that crazy chain of people pretty much represents what every ego does, all day long. Egos always want something other than what they are or have. And there is no way to feel good when you’re in a state of wanting. You need to start appreciating what you already are. That’s how you create a worthwhile life.

Listen to yourself. Stop wanting things you’re not. Start celebrating what you are. It’s not wrong, it’s not silly, and it’s not meaningless. You are uniquely you. You bring things to the universe that which no one else could bring. Literally. Without you the universe is missing something. So stop worrying about what’s missing from you, and start appreciating your own value. Because it’s a lot easier for other people to do that if you do it first.

Respect yourself. Love your own life. And live that love into a beautiful day. 😉

peace. s

Matthieu Ricard: The Habits of Happiness

142 Relax and Succeed - The only wayYou’re so busy trying to arrange the outside world so that you can be assured of happiness, and yet happiness is not an experience of things outside of yourself, happiness is your experience of the inside of oneself. I wrote a lot this week about getting in touch with your inner experience and this Ted Talk is in keeping with that theme.

Matthieu Ricard is a Molecular Biologist-cum-Buddhist Monk who uses his understanding of the struggles of the 21st century ego to express his own understanding of how happiness arises. It is amusing, warm, and for those with open minds, extremely informative.

Enjoy.

peace. s

The Origins of Happiness

You don’t know your life as well as you think you do because you’ve never stopped to truly figure out how you came to experience the things you enjoy. Mothers forget the pains of childbirth when they look into the eyes of the children they love. People experiencing a triumph at work may forget that they only got there by being fired from their previous job, or because they quit one they didn’t like. You forget that many of your closest friends were met in classes you claim were awful. Even teams that lose championships bring about friendships that last a lifetime.

Your life isn’t good sometimes and bad sometimes. Your life is your life. You’re either being in the moment or you’re fighting the existence of the moment but that is your only real struggle. Your value judgments only have value in the particular moment you make them because, again, the terrible class at school could be what introduced you to your best friend—or even your spouse.

I’ve used the analogy before—your life is like a river. Time to you is like a raft on the river. It’s the position from which you judge the river. So within the confines of your raft of thoughts the rapids may have felt like a dangerous, treacherous patch of life and yet once you’re further down the river you may look back at that section as very exciting and life-affirming. So your opinions of sections of the river of life can vary widely. Danger becomes fun. Fun becomes calm. Calm becomes boring. Boring becomes safe. Safe becomes dangerous and yet still life is life just as the river is the river.

141 Relax and Succeed - I'm meditating on my inabilityPeople want Enlightenment. They want the peace and equanimity that comes with that discovery but they want it in a fast food kind of way, as though I could do all of their meditating for them; as though I could meditate and then just write down the nugget of truth and save them some time, but that would be like saying I could go to the gym for you. Me working out won’t make your muscles larger. You need to exercise them yourself.

So stop being so fatalistic. Stop throwing in the towel so early. Stop spending your time in your car angry at other drivers and start spending it trying to truly understand why it is you are angry. Meditation isn’t difficult but it is something you have to see real value in before you will do it. So here’s an easy one for your drive, or the walk in your golf game, or your wait in line: take some time and actually think back to the origins of your life.

Think back to where things spawned. In doing so you will do as the Buddha did and you will recognise the concept of causality. You will see that the lines of division between good and bad are merely thought-barriers that exist only within your consciousness. There is no border between the ideas that math class is terrible versus the idea that math class is where you met your spouse. The world is a braid of inter-dependant existence and the experience of your life is made of your choices regarding which strands you chose to follow.

141 Relax and Succeed - Remember that not gettingIf we didn’t break up we couldn’t find love. If we didn’t get angry we couldn’t calm down. If we didn’t get hurt we couldn’t offer sincere empathy to another. Everything is connected. The borders are in your head. Without them; All simply Is.

Take some time to really meditate on your life. You’ll find lots of examples of where getting what you wanted created a terrible experience and you’ll find lots of examples where not getting what you wanted was a fortunate experience. So stop trying to figure out what you truly want. Stop fighting what is. We are all far too small to ever be able to truly comprehend meaning in the universe. So surrender the idea of trying to find a good, safe, happy path and instead just be present on the path you’re on, because we don’t create happiness with our choices, we discover happiness with our awareness.

Enjoy your day.

peace. s

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

The Good Life

140 Relax and Succeed - Meditation is a surrenderYou want to be strong. You want to be capable. You want to choose a path and you want to walk it with determination. You want to get somewhere, accomplish something, become someone. You’re thinking about what you’ve been taught is good and right and successful; and you have been taught about the pitfalls you should worry about: being bad, being wrong, or failure itself. And you are trying to make your way though this maze of words and ideas to your destination. Your doorway. You are passing the test of goodness that will gain you some reward. Right?

Ah, no.

Sri Ramana Maharshi said it nicely: You carry heaven and hell within you. Look, even if you’re looking from deep within a religion, the Kingdom of Heaven is an eternal place. It has existed for all time, and it will last for all time. I’m good with that idea. But we have to see this “place” as a state of mind within ourselves. Because if heaven and hell are eternal, that means they are happening right now. They don’t start when you die—that’s a bit arrogant. None of us are so important that our personal death suddenly incites the existence of Nirvana.

Heaven always exists and it lives inside of you, but you can’t see it because you are trying to negotiate your way through the words, and the ideas that the words construct. You are stumbling through words like good and healthy etc. etc. etc. With the best of intentions you are surrendering every Holy Moment in the pursuit of Holy Moments. You turn your back on God to try to find God.

The basis of everything, the energy of life—the source of your Being—is the Oneness that is God. You don’t need to be religious to experience that. You just need to lower your barriers. You have all of these ideas and identities built within yourself that prevent you from meeting the universe holistically.

If God-energy comes to you in the form of a friend, you accept it. If it comes to you in the form of a powerful sunset you will stop to simply witness the God-energy being itself. If it comes to you in the form of a book or piece of music you love, you will call it inspired, and in that you mean inspired from the great beyond—from the formless awesomeness of that which is the basis of everything. To these things you are receptive, and open, and clear.

But if God-energy comes to you in the form of an enemy, or an obstacle, or a challenge, you suddenly turn your back on God; you stop your worship of all that Is and you instead shift to rejecting what the God-universe has wrought. You get picky. You get personal. Only certain forms of God will do. And yet your salvation lies not in embracing what you already love, it lies in embracing what you cannot recognize as an aspect of yourself.

140 Relax and Succeed - The spiritual journeyCan you imagine that some people see you as difficult? Can you imagine that some see you as an enemy? That some people find you troublesome, or incomplete, or ineffective? And yet, have you ever tried to be any of those things? Of course not. You were just doing what you were doing, and occasionally another boat got swamped by your wake, or even impacted by the conflict between their course and yours. But everything is God, and so the accident is too.

Without accidents and problems there would be no heroes. Without wars no war brides and no baby boom. Whether you have the war or don’t, all sorts of lives will be lost. There are no one-sided coins. Stop trying to find your way out of life through words and symbols. Stop trying to negotiate with concepts and ideas about reality. Stop trying to become something you’re not, and start enacting what you are.

You are a divining rod. Your feelings are a guidance system. They will take you where they will take you. There is no wrong place to go. There are only words that make aspects of the God-energy appear to be wrong, or unattractive, or unappealing, but even the negative words are made of the God-energy, so you can see how futile it is to battle against them.

140 Relax and Succeed - Be content with what you haveThe only reason you want to figure out the words and the path is because you want to avoid the pain. You want to find a way through the maze of life without all the pain. This is why you must be lost before you can be found. It makes sense that you would want to avoid the pain.

As you spiritually mature you come to know that what you seek is impossible—it is a denial of many forms of the God-energy. This is the acceptance that The Buddha came to. He did not dispel suffering. He accepted it. He accepted it as a constant companion and, in doing so, it lost its power to control him. Because he was not trying to avoid it, he was able to go whichever directions he felt he should go.

Maybe you think a relationship is crazy. Maybe you think having a baby now is nuts. Maybe you’re worried you can’t afford to quit your job, or go on that trip. Maybe you wish you had a different past, or were set up for a different future. All of these things are ideas that control you because their existence tells you which way to go—which is away.

If most people look closely at their lives, they will see that much of what they enjoy today came from sources that appeared unlikely to provide joy. So it is with God-energy. There’s no point in second-guessing it. It’s too huge for that. Better to just relax and go along for the ride. Because letting go is what allows you to relax into what can only be called the good 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.

Who Do You Think You Are?

Gandhi was raised as a Hindu, but Buddha said the same thing, and so does Christianity–and even science too. The Christian version of this would be, “God created man in his own image.” People always think that the “own” is “God’s image” but it’s actually “the man’s image.” So God created man in his–the man’s (or woman’s)–own image.139 Relax and Succeed - A man is but the product

Using the religious perspective, this means an all-powerful intelligent energy created a man, and now that man–like a projector–is free to be whoever he believes himself to be. If he thinks insecure thoughts, he will be insecure. If he thinks confident thoughts, he will be confident. So to rewrite the phrase, it would be: God created mankind and gave them the power and freedom to choose the characteristics that will enact their lives.

If you prefer science, then let’s define “God.” You’ll know that biology is ultimately chemistry, which is ultimately physics. So if you took the body, and went down to the cell, and then down to the protons and electrons and the logic that make up the cell–if you took all of the energy and logic that makes up the man, just call that energy and logic, “God.”

So now there’s this Being, and all of the cells would still be there whether it was alive or dead, but there’s this extra energy–this “electricity” that inhabits more than just the cells. This energy is what brings a Being to “life.” And that life-energy appears to us as consciousness, which in turn is a performance space in which we can enact whatever psychology we choose. We can invest our power of thought in creating an image of an insecure man or a confident 139 Relax and Succeed - People don't need to be savedone and the Being will believe it either way. The energy of life will be used to tell the Being a story about itself and that story is who the Being will “be.”

So whether you believe in God or science, the answer is still the same. Knowing how powerful you are, and knowing you will enact whatever narrative you tell yourself, be prudent and quiet your critical, judgmental mind. Instead, engage with the energy of the universe around you, whether that’s a rock, a tree, some water, a friend or even a total stranger. And when you do, do it with great confidence. For you are ultimately made up of the very same energy as every enemy and every hero you’ve ever known.

Now go Be a hero.

peace. s