Seeing As We Are

193 Relax and Succeed - The most difficult subjectsLook at how your thoughts, your guesses, and your assumptions will subtly fill in, add, subtract, multiply and even change your sense of what’s going on in these photos. Look at one, make up your mind about who they are, then look at it again and imagine them as other people. Especially do things like turn them from a jerk into a friend.

You’ll be surprised at how different the photo can appear when you change your mind.

Our own experiences will create various awarenesses. This understanding is a form of connection between ourselves and others. But if we live as though our guesses are truths, then our ego will lead us into trouble. It’s important to remember you’re making those interpretations all day long, so make them generously and compassionately. Keep them flexible too, because they’ll often be wrong. If you’re unsure as to the value of this exercise, just wait until the next time someone misunderstands you. 193 Relax and Succeed - the peaceful heartNow try it out. Change your thoughts, change the photos. Make them into different people. Trust me, you’re good at it. You do it all day long, including to and about yourself. And it’s good to always remember that everyone we talk to sees us differently. 😉

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.

Here’s the link:

http://petapixel.com/2013/07/30/portraits-of-complete-strangers-touching-each-other/

 

Einstein’s Last Answer

Winner: 2013’s Blog of the Year: #3192 Relax and Succeed - When you really pay attentionLast night I heard the replay of an interview with some scholar on Michael Enright’s program, The Sunday Edition. He claimed that the very last answer Albert Einstein gave in life was to the question: If you were to start your life over again, is there anything you would do differently? And supposedly the greatest scientist known to modern man replied, “I would study more Talmud.” There are debates about whether this actually happened, but supposing it did: what would it teach us?

 

For those unfamiliar with it, think of the Talmud as essentially a Jewish holy book. Interesting. A noted scientist wishing he would have read more of a religious text would have a lot of people recoiling, and yet many scientists are religious. It is true that religious belief was at the heart of many an ugly deed done by mankind. But what people believe and what was intended can easily be lost in translation.

192 Relax and Succeed - I have no special talent

This is why spiritual love needs to be shared directly with others and the world around us. Writing it down is helpful—as hopefully this itself is—but it cannot hope to substitute for the effects generated by people actually turning these words into verbs in the everyday world. Loving, compassionate verbs.

Every holy book and every prophet has talked about love. Love has been paramount. Yes, it is a shame that people of all walks of life can be convinced to use religion as a cudgel to strike others with, but most of us can easily see that it would be quite easy for loving people of different religions to share the Earth in peace and productive harmony.

But why would Einstein want more Talmud? The word itself basically means instruction, or learning. Rather than books about physical miracles etc, religious texts are best seen as basic lessons on the discovery of love. The Talmud or Torah, the Bible, the Koran, the Bhagavad Gita, Tao te Ching etc. etc. are not lessons on being judgmental, dismissive, disrespectful, offended, angry, or violent.

Yes, I know it’s possible to interpret them that way, but if they’re not really about love, isn’t a bit odd that 100% of these books could be interpreted that way? Read with a clear head and a happy, healthy heart, they are in fact all lessons on love, compassion and connection. And those who have seen behind the veil of existence all agree on this.

192 Relax and Succeed - Buddha was not a Buddhist

Forget that the two worlds every got separated; the prophets weren’t sharing religious information. They were telling people about how to live a rewarding life. They had come to understand enlightenment and they were trying to share the secret to living in the moment. Because that is the same moment in which it is possible to love every aspect of your existence—including the fact that you and all others are truly One.

The Talmud:
“The highest form of wisdom is kindness.”

The Bible:
“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”

The Koran:
“All God’s creatures are His family; and he or she is the most beloved of God who tries to do the most good to God’s creatures.”

The Bhagavad Gita:
“Strive constantly to serve the welfare of the world; by devotion to selfless work one attains the supreme goal of life. Do your work with the welfare of others always in mind.”

The Tao te Ching:
“See others as yourself. See families as your family. See towns as your town. See countries as your country. See worlds as your world.”

The Buddha: “Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule.”

And it goes on and on and on. Again, can people scurry around looking for/creating uglier ideas from these texts? Yes. We see them on the news every night. But we must remember the news is selling us soap. But since we wouldn’t stay sitting there for soap ads, they have to scare us into not leaving our seats.

192 Relax and Succeed - We are not human beingsThey do that by using the few people who take ugly interpretations of those texts and then they magnify their actions. But there really aren’t many of those sorts of people. The vast majority of people are readily able to access their fundamentally loving nature. They are fundamentally kind. And most people who enter into religious practice sincerely do so as a way of increasing their sense of belonging and love for both themselves and others.

It is easy to present differences as obstacles, but I would urge you to see the different religions as different routes up one mountain. And regardless of which road-map you use, so long as your basic direction is loving, then you are surely ascending, and you are sure to attain the beautiful perspective that goes along with your rise in wisdom.

Keep love in your heart. Yes it’s good for others. But you are us and we are you, so it is good for you as well. And so it is with love. All who engage with it are victorious. This is why I love you.

peace and a loving embrace. s

PS Attached is a follow up article that stemmed from the controversy this one generated:
Science and Spirituality

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.

No Mistake About It

Winner: 2013’s Blog of the Year: #2

My accident had caused me to think differently, but the first time I recognized that was when I first noticed how people reacted to being wrong. It made Grade One surreal. Everyone saw wrong as a mistake or a problem or otherwise something that you do not want to do. That truly baffled me because it’s an indefensibly crazy idea.

191 Relax and Succeed - Self-education isYour brain processes/creates the world in such a way that you notice patterns in things. That’s how you know how the world works. So if your mom buys five cans of soup at the store, before too long you’ve figured out that you don’t need to look back in the cupboard for another soup if you’ve already eaten all five. By making that mistake when you were little, you learned that five is five is five and gone is gone and done is done. These are concepts that your brain had to learn to absorb and then apply elsewhere.

The point in the soup story is that you needed to be wrong. You had to try something that wouldn’t work before you could begin to understand the reasoning behind what did work. For you to recognize a pattern you have to identify its rough edges by failing. As William Blake said, “You never know what is enough unless you know what it is more than enough.”

Failing is why you lost your helium balloon as a kid. Kids always lose them because they are making the mistake that the balloon will fall down and not up. Because they’ve practiced that gravity idea, remember? They dropped stuff from their highchair all the time. Intentionally. Just to watch it fall. And in doing so they built the idea of gravity. And it looks like it’s always in operation—until a kid sees either a hot air or helium balloon, or a plane or helicopter, and of course these are all things that amaze kids. These things break the law of gravity and that’s one of the most certain ones we feel we have.

191 Relax and Succeed - Ever make mistakesThroughout life you collect that reasoning and the laws and principles that emerge in life (like gravity or grammar or customs etc.), and then you live your life according to them. But none of those neural networks could exist without you using Socratic Method. Your brain must guess and test itself through the world, and the wrong answers are more important than the right ones because they will eventually be what exposes why the right answer does work. And then that principle can get applied to other situations. So much like the best batters are also the people who strike out the most, being smart is like being willing to be wrong the most. Remember, when you’re born your brain doesn’t grow outward like branches on a tree. Rather the entire thing glows with possibility and by learning you shut ideas off—you remove possibilities. Yes you can add new concepts too, but in the end your beliefs/identity are less like a tree and more like a sculpture.

There is no shame in being wrong. As Jonathan Swift said, it’s a way of saying your smarter today than you were yesterday. How can you be upset about finding out you’ve been wrong? Finding out you’ve been wrong is the end of being wrong. Why would you be upset that the ignorant part is over? You should celebrate that. You just had a eureka moment. You’re bigger now. You understand more. You’re more capable.

Your vocabulary doesn’t expand if you don’t look up the words you don’t know. If you can’t admit you don’t understand it, then you can’t take the steps to correct your misunderstanding. So people who don’t like to be wrong are the same people who learn the least. You know those people; they’ve had the same job for 20 years, but really they haven’t grown—they’ve just re-lived the same year 20 times with no growth-from-wrongness occurring.

191 Relax and Succeed - When I let goLeap towards your mistakes. Revel in being wrong. Rejoice at learning that you were incorrect. This is an expansion of you. This is what makes you better at being you. Failed relationships increasingly point to what we truly want in a partnership and from ourselves. Getting fired points out either bad bosses or missing skills. Being turned down for one thing creates an opportunity for another.

Your divorce wasn’t a failure. It was you testing the world to see what you truly want. And maybe that was a healthy marriage for who you were at one time. But life changes. People grow. Sometimes together sometimes apart. So as experience teaches you that, you don’t think you made the wrong decision getting married 20 years earlier. Realize instead that you’ve had 20 years of growth from two people and that it would almost be surprising if they were still wanting all of the same things in life.

Your life isn’t a collection of successes and failures. It’s a set of tests that had results, and the results informed which directions you chose in life. That’s all anyone is doing. And even if they’ve been super successful at negotiating the work world, that doesn’t mean they’ll have been good at the marriage world, or the kid-raising world. So stop comparing yourself. And stop beating yourself up for the mistakes that are an inevitable part of your growth. Your realizations that you’ve made a “mistake” are merely you recognizing that your tests of life have lead you to become someone who is both bigger and better.

peace. s

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

Your Greatest Self

190 Relax and Succeed - Rise in the morningDo you want to know how to recognize your ego? It’s the thing you define yourself by. If we asked your friends what your defining narrative is, they would quickly know. They would say that you define yourself as someone who was embittered by your ex’s behaviour during your divorce. Or maybe they would say that you believe you work with a lot of unintelligent people so you are perpetually frustrated by your co-workers. Or maybe you’re always broke, always afraid, easily offended, or no good at business. We can be highly judgmental, thin-skinned, martyrs, babies, control freaks, weirdos—whatever. Whoever we think we are, we are.

You can even be held back by your Fibromyalgia or be suffering from Major Depression. Your narrative may be based in scientific fact. Or it may not appear to be true to others, but that’s irrelevant. Even if you really do have terminal cancer or debilitating back pain, all that matters is: how do you see yourself? Because guaranteed I can find you people in all of those situations who are thinking appreciative thoughts, so they will be leading lives they will perceive as fortunate.

There have been plenty of people who felt their life was meaningless, boring and largely unfortunate, and then then end up in some Third World circumstances like Haiti after the earthquake, or maybe they’re in Thailand after the tsunami, or Japan after Fukishima. Maybe they’re in an accident, or they’re fortunate to beat cancer. Suddenly they come back to their own life with a spring in their step. The very same life they had previously complained about suddenly seems extremely fortunate and wonderful.

190 Relax and Succeed - It's a good dayI’m not saying you’re not really in pain. I’m not saying you don’t really have challenges. I know you do because everyone does. Some people’s are highly visible, like Stephen Hawking, or Stevie Wonder. Other people’s are harder to see, like someone who has to fit the needs of a seriously ill child into an already too-busy routine. But absolutely no one gets through life without some serious challenges. But as a study on luck demonstrated, fortunate people don’t have better lives—fortunate people pay more attention to whatever good fortune does come their way.

Make it a habit. Wake up and remind yourself that you are fortunate. If you’re reading this and you earn more than even $30,000 a year, you’re already—and I mean this literally—one of the richest people on Earth. And surprisingly, if you make $60,000 you are in that famous top 1%!

If you get to see co-workers, family or friends that matter to you, remember that nature will eventually take all of them from you (or you from them). You can’t predict when that will happen, so every chance you get to see them is one less time—which makes each time important. You’re lucky every time you see them, so you want to be awake for them by feeling that gratitude. If you take them for granted you will use the present to discuss other times in your life—and the story you’ll tell the most often is that defining narrative I referred to earlier.

190 Relax and Succeed - Inhale love exhale gratitudeThat narrative is built by you but it’s been subconscious, so let’s make it conscious. Wake up and decide who you are. Of course you’ll slip back to former versions of you—everyone does. Expect that. But when you have it happen, that’s your cue to go back to being the other person. Feel fortunate. Feel bountiful. Feel in a way where overflowing generosity is your nature. Feel so full that you have more for others.

You don’t become some perfect way and then achieve the world’s love. That’s backwards. How it really works is; you learn to love the world you’re already in, and the love that was always there suddenly reflects back to you through your relationships with people and your environment and yourself.

Figure out who you want to be and begin to think like you already are that person. It will feel strange at first, but do it like you’re in a play. Perform that part. And slowly over time you will come to feel comfortable, and after that you will realize that it feels no different than any other way you have been in your life. Everyone you’ve ever been was a performance in your consciousness. That’s how you can be different now than you used to be.

Your personality, traits and your results are largely in your control. All you need to do is exercise that control by ensuring you quiet any debilitating thinking and switch instead to simply being the person you’ve chosen to be by thinking their thoughts and enacting their behaviours. It’s what you’ve been doing your whole life anyway. It’s just now you’re going to do it consciously.

Become your greatest self by deciding that is you are. There’s no reason to delay. Do it right now.

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.

Your Cast of Characters

If you were enlightened you would understand that you and all other things are all made from the same love, and so any distinctions are done with narrative story-lines, not by having actual individual entities. So there is no right or wrong story, there is only the story you choose to tell yourself.

189 Relax and Succeed - Don't put the keyAs you tell these stories, you should be focused on the chemistry your generating within yourself. If it’s unpleasant, then stop telling that story whether it’s about you or anyone else. But if you think a character in your story dictates how happy you can be, then you have misunderstood the source of true happiness.

If there is a story in two lifetimes featuring a husband and a wife, it is not a great story if they’re still both together at the end of the book. It’s great if they chose to both stay because the relationship was so rewarding. You don’t stay in a marriage because you’re married. You stay because you are dedicated to helping create joy for your partner and it’s their nature to reciprocate. In short, you want to want your own life. You want to appreciate how fortunate you are.

If someone is making your life miserable with a lot of anger, or fears, or judgments, then it is not a bad thing to write them out of your story. Again, you don’t win at life by keeping characters in your book from beginning to end. That may or may not happen. What counts is, what actually happened on each individual moment/page? Was it rewarding and/or enjoyable? If it is, it doesn’t matter if there wasn’t one consistent character other than you.

You being with this or that person will not be what makes you happy. No one else decides what you think so no one else can make you happy. That is a moment by moment choice, and each individual must make it for themselves. So stop saying your sad because you’re not with this or that person. It’s not the cast that counts, it’s the play. You can put an amazing cast in a terrible play and no one will find it appealing. But put a rotating cast in a great play, and everyone will give it a standing ovation.189 Relax and Succeed - If you're still looking

Make the sort of choices that lead to happiness, not to longevity. If you’re waiting for someone else to become someone else before you can be happy, then plan on waiting a lifetime. Because you could die with that wish unfulfilled. Meanwhile you would have missed out on spending time with truly amazing people doing truly amazing things.

Pick your cast well. Avoid vexatious or negative people and seek those who are open and loving and patient. Then you will have chosen happiness by choosing to surround yourself with its sources. Congratulations.

peace. s

Ferrett Steinmetz: Dear Daughter

188 Relax and Succeed - If you love a flower
Thanks to a friend I recently stumbled on to a blog entry that demonstrated unusually high levels of character. Most people claim to have principles, but those will quickly evaporate if there is any social pressure applied. Our sense of belonging is so strong that our ego will often make enormous sacrifices to try to fit in—including being hypocritical about our principles.

If someone really believes in equality then they accept that their children will need to; suffer to grow; and they deserve to have the same shot at life that their parents did. Maybe an even better one if we all continue to develop our compassion through developing our consciousness as this father has. This is very simply an honest, loving presentation of how open and empathetic true love is and I invite you to enjoy this excellent piece of writing:

There’s a piece of twaddle going around FetLife called 10 Rules For Dating My Daughter, which is packed with “funny” threats like this:

“Rule Four: I’m sure you’ve been told that in today’s world, sex without utilising some kind of ‘barrier method’ can kill you. Let me elaborate: when it comes to sex, I am the barrier, and I will kill you.”

All of which boil down to the tedious, “Boys are threatening louts, sex is awful when other people do it, and my daughter is a plastic doll whose destiny I control.”

188 Relax and Succeed - You must love

Look, I love sex. It’s fun. And because I love my daughter, I want her to have all of the same delights in life that I do, and hopefully more. I don’t want to hear about the fine details because, heck, I don’t want those visuals any more than my daughter wants mine. But in the abstract, darling, go out and play.

Because consensual sex isn’t something that men take from you; it’s something you give. It doesn’t lessen you to give someone else pleasure. It doesn’t degrade you to have some of your own. And anyone who implies otherwise is a man who probably thinks very poorly of women underneath the surface.

Yes, all these boys and girls and genderqueers may break your heart, and that in turn will break mine. I’ve held you, sobbing, after your boyfriend cheated on you, and it tore me in two. But you know what would tear me in two even more? To see you in a glass cage, experiencing nothing but cold emptiness at your fingers, as Dear Old Dad ensured that you got to experience nothing until he decided what you should like.

188 Relax and Succeed - Do all things

You’re not me. Nor are you an extension of my will. And so you need to make your own damn mistakes, to learn how to pick yourself up when you fall, to learn where the bandages are and to bind up your own cuts. I’ll help. I’ll be your consigliere when I can, the advisor, the person you come to when all seems lost. But I think there’s value in getting lost. I think there’s a strength that only comes from fumbling your own way out of the darkness.

You’re your own person, and some of the things you’re going to love will strike me as insane, ugly, or unenjoyable. This is how large and wonderful the world is! Imagine if everyone loved the same thing; we’d all be battling for the same ten people. The miracle is how easily someone’s cast-offs become someone else’s beloved treasure.

And I would be a sad, sad little man if I manipulated you into becoming a cookie-cutter clone of my desires. Love the music I hate, watch the movies I loathe, become a strong woman who knows where her bliss is and knows just what to do to get it.

Now, you’re going to get bruised by life, and sometimes bruised consensually. But I won’t tell you sex is bad, or that you’re bad for wanting it, or that other people are bad from wanting it from you if you’re willing to give it. I refuse to perpetuate, even through the plausible deniability of humor, the idea that the people my daughter is attracted to are my enemy.

I’m not the guard who locks you in the tower. Ideally, I am my daughter’s safe space, a garden to return to when the world has proved a little too cruel, a place where she can recuperate and reflect upon past mistakes and know that here, there is someone who loves her wholeheartedly and will hug her until the tears dry.

That’s what I want for you, sweetie. A bold life filled with big mistakes and bigger triumphs.

Now get out there and find all the things you fucking love, and vice versa.

Ferrett Steinmetz
http://www.theferrett.com

True love looks and feels like freedom. Share as much of it as you can.

peace and love. 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 Duality of Happiness

187 Relax and Succeed - Go ahead and leaveEnlightened people are simply people who know how to live in the moment a lot of the time, but we slip out of that state of mind too. We get caught up in our thoughts just like everyone else. The only difference is that we will notice we’re out sooner; and we’ll be a bit better at getting back in. But we do not live free from suffering, nor would we want to. None of us is looking for some enlightenment where we don’t suffer anymore, we’re looking for the one where we don’t mind that we still suffer.

It’s very easy to intellectually understand duality. It’s easy to understand that we can’t see these black letters without the white background. But that’s recognizing the effect. We need to recognise the principle behind the cause. We need to understand the nature of duality. We cannot have a wave without a crest and a trough. They are separate yet we cannot have one without the other. So it is with duality.

We cannot know hot without knowing not-hot. We cannot know tired without not-tired. We cannot know happiness without not-happiness. We don’t have to spend much time in states of mind we don’t enjoy but, if we don’t resist passing through them on our journey, we can pretty easily escape back to grateful, appreciative thoughts.

187 Relax and Succeed - Go where the peace is

Since appreciative thoughts are more natural, it’s as though we’re in an old motel and there’s channels on our TV of Life. Even in the techno world, there’s no remote for this TV; only we ourselves can turn our own old-fashioned dial, and the channels just go in a circle, alternating between yin and yang; between things you enjoy and things you do not.

As an example, let’s say the horror channel that we don’t like is between the happiness and love. So you’re twice as likely to grab the healthy one first but, even if we do, we still can’t get from the love story on channel one to the comedy on channel three without passing through the horror on channel two. If we simple accept that, we can flick by it very quickly.

What people’s egos will do instead is; as they switch from channel one to channel three, they’ll linger on channel two, noticing all of the reasons they don’t think it should be on their TV.  But if we actually tune to it and then get mad at the TV as though it controls the station rather than us, then we are simply locking ourselves on to that channel with our dislike of it. It’s not a healthy thing to do.

187 Relax and Succeed - There's nothing onWe must accept that life will always present situations where there is no point in trying to see it as positive. But we also don’t have to dwell there. After something unpleasant or awful has happened, we must move our thoughts into the present moment as soon and as often as we are able. The pain is our guide. Lingering on painful channels does not promote the living of our lives. Our spiritual selves knows that, and so the bad feelings urge us to change our minds; to think different thoughts–or better yet, think none at all.

Unpleasant feelings are our sign to check in to our thinking to see if we can make better choices regarding what we’re currently inviting into our consciousness. We should learn to be grateful for them for that is how we come to experience enlightenment. We simply accept that even the things we thought of as bad are in a strange way still just a part of the things that are good, and knowing that, we can then lead ourselves to a very nice life indeed.

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.