Altering Course

1270 Relax and Succeed - Your past is merely your trajectoryToday you’re going to do something incredibly simple. This test will give you an idea of how developed you are in terms of your psychological and spiritual strength and control. There is no grading, no judging, this is strictly for you to get a grasp on how aware you really are and how much control you can exercise with that awareness.

So what’s the test? The first part is to actually, very seriously, spend this one day monitoring your thinking. Treat it like an important medical test. You’ll fast from food for a test for 12 hours. This is a 16 hour thought-fast. Start counting from the words you’re reading right now, right until falling asleep.

Virtually all of you will literally be talking to yourselves all day and not be aware of it. You can’t change thinking you don’t sense. Don’t be the thinking, be the thinker. Listen attentively for yourself.

1270 Relax and Succeed - Optical and sonic illusionsGet to know the ‘sound’ of your own internal voice and listen all day for it like it’s a burglar there to steal your concentration from the moment you’re in–because it is. Then take your awareness and use it to remember that thoughts are always choices, and then switch off any thought that is critical of yourself or another person, place or thing. You can listen to the rest, but shut down or convert as many negative, judgmental or opinionated statements as possible. Just for today. One day. How hard can it be?

It’s actually not hard at all because you’re the one currently picking 100% of your thoughts. But you currently do it randomly and unconsciously, the way your family raised you pick them up. But that’s not necessarily the best way for you, so start your journey now to increase your awareness.

Wake up inside your own head and start paying attention to the real reality, instead of that show in front of your eyeballs. Optical and sonic illusions prove your senses can be tricked, but your thoughts will always result in how you feel. Listen for your thinking and for this one day, consistently move it away from self-criticism and judgment.

Wake up. Listen. When necessary, alter your thought-course. It’s in you to do.

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.

A Balance of Needs

1268 Relax and Succeed - Mindfulness is the aware.jpgMaybe it’s a few friends of yours. Maybe it’s you and you know it. Maybe it’s you and you aren’t aware of it; but we’re all somewhere on the self and other spectrum. Regardless of how various individual people define us, we can all appreciate that some people will be more selfish than others, just as we know some will give beyond their capacity to give.

Notably, either extreme appears pathetic from the middle. To be fair, the people on the extreme ends also don’t often have many good opinions about the people in the middle, and notably; they’re often viewed as the least-informed about life.

The most balanced people rarely experience their balanced nature because they have so little variation to compare it to, and so the experiences they do have tend to be filed under shocking, unpleasant or maybe bad simply because they’re so comparatively big. In that way life kind of works the way a lemon does, where it shocks you when you’re a baby, but lots of experiences with something means that today you can convert that lemony tartness into refreshing enjoyment.

1268 Relax and Succeed - There seem to be two kinds of searchersMost of you will know these varying spiritual states as political distinctions. People seen as over-generous and foolish by one side are seen as compassionate and generous by the other. Likewise, the ones viewed as selfish and careless are seen by their own side as focused and successful. Each of these opinions and every single one in between are all largely valid, which helps us realise the truly meaningless nature of opinions, because what we’re really talking about is the many ways people are.

There’s no correct place to be on this spectrum. You’re not healthier near the middle and sicker on the extremes, although those can be byproducts of being in those positions. Everyone on that spectrum suffers, just for different reasons. The two far ends of the spectrum find each other’s pure existence to be painful. In between people argue about what the priorities in life should be and how they should be accounted for. And in the very middle a bunch of people are pretty good at intellectually appreciating all the various positions taken, but they’re all a little lifeless due to a lack of extreme experiences.

This idea can be disappointing to a spiritual seeker because it indicates that a common theme is true; you are already home. The reason this idea gets confused is that we see our spirit as a thing, on its way somewhere, when it would be better to think of ourselves as a principle in motion. So it’s like we’re the principle of gravity and the body we live in is doing the falling that we call living. Yes, your nature is to pull toward the center–to fall–which also explains why the center can be confusing and disorienting to those born too close to it, making their subsequent lives feel shallow and often unlived.

1268 Relax and Succeed - It is not outer awarenessCan you accept that your nature is to move toward balance and that is the pull of life you feel each day? And can you simultaneously accept that your nature includes the idea that where you’re headed isn’t better than where you are, it’s just a different balance point with different challenges? The point isn’t to get anywhere, it’s to go; to live; to be. External outcomes ultimately don’t matter. It’s what Shakespeare meant with that “To be or not to be,” stuff.

Are there different types of prices for experiencing the various positions on this spectrum? Indeed there are. But pain is pain. It’s the part of life that allows you to contrast your joy, so there is no point in avoiding it. There are enlightened beings living all over the spectrum. The trick isn’t where you are, it’s how aware you are.

Wake up. Know yourself. And know that others are themselves too. And then work toward a less judgmental world where, more and more, you simply let them, and yourself, fully be.

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 Wisdom of the West Meets the Wisdom of the East

1267 Relax and Succeed - Decartes said I think thereforeThis blog is always about the quotes, sayings and parables and their actual meanings. Because each posts features quotes that essentially point to the same truth, we know we are developing our understanding if we can recognize the common underlying truth in these two quotes.

Taisen Deshimaru was a Zen student and teacher and philosopher. He often remarked that a select few Western philosophers had stumbled into Zen without realising it. It’s unknown whether he meant they understood it intellectually but could not practice it, or if he meant that they were actually practicing Zen but under different names. Either way, his point above still holds.

Descartes was a mathematician and the most famous thing he ever wrote was that the only thing we knew for sure was that because we could ponder existence, we existed, which was pretty smart and his ideas still form the basis of much of Western philosophy. But Descartes was from the world of math and science, where Aristotle’s subject and object reign supreme.

What Deshimaru is saying is that Descartes was referring to the post-present moment’s ego’s existence, not the soul’s. The soul is what Deshimaru is referring to by creating a second existence. (Similar to James Carse’s Finite and Infinite Games.) But note that Descartes’ version of being requires Deshimaru’s to exist, but Deshimaru’s does not require Descartes. Descartes is smart, and he points out something very significant, but whereas he is saying, I have discovered the spinning lostness of ego, Deshimaru is saying but the real me is still underneath it, actively creating that lostness, meaning even lostness is truly within oneness as well.

1267 Relax and Succeed - To obtain satoriThe second quote points to the verb indicated by the first quote. Egos think while they do, souls become the doing. So Descartes knows he exists because he can ponder all of his symbolic words for everything he perceives as separate from him, but Deshimaru forgoes that layer of illusory thought and moves directly to action. Rather than think about the world we want to move and be alive as an aspect of it.

Despite these two being famous and capable thinkers, what makes them famous is that their point lives in each of our lives every day. Your suffering lays in your ego’s choice to talk to itself all the time. All of the emotions you feel hours or days after events come from your Descarte-esque thinking about the event, not the event itself. Deshimaru would forgo that suffering by taking original action in his life in the new moments presently unfolding.

Today, live Deshimaru, not Descartes. Don’t think about your day, your week or your life. Just be. Do things. Answer questions then have your mind go quiet and engage back into action. You have so many calories to burn each day. How many will you spend churning thoughts and how many will create more for you or another in this world? Because the former is the path to an egocentric life of suffering, and the latter is a path to peace of mind. Either is yours to take, and you can change direction at any moment.

Surrender your words for actions. Surrender. Words for actions. Words. For. Actions. Make that your habit and you will be free.

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 Star Trek Problem

1266 Relax and Succeed - Star Trek Star Trek was an attemptAlex was just trying to watch Star Trek but he had trouble focusing because he was very upset about what was happening at work. The owner of the company had set up a test to see who should get a promotion. Alex and a co-worker had both worked hard at that test and not only did the co-worker stab him in the back at the last moment, but later he learned that his competition had a secret deal with the boss! It was infuriating. It had been bothering Alex for weeks and tonight he was particularly upset.

“You know, sometimes you don’t act like you care when I’m telling you this stuff.”

“Oh, sorry. I didn’t mean to give you that impression. I just don’t want to engage in conversation about it because every time it comes up you end up really upset, and I care about you so I figured you’d rather watch Star Trek and get your mind off it than to be upset. I didn’t mean for you to feel unsupported.”

“Well I’d like a little more empathy over here. Going through all of that really hurt.”

“I’m sorry Alex. I know you’re hurt. It’s why I came over even though I had plans tonight. When we have an expectation of how things are going to go, it’s a very painful thing when we find out we’ve been working under false pretenses. I know you’re hurt, it’s why I didn’t go to the game tonight and came over instead. But if I care about you I have to do it the way I do it because I don’t know any other way.”

“Well it’s not helpful and I’d prefer if you’d at least consider doing it my way. And how can this crap not upset you? You believe things should be fair, right?”

“Okay, first off, we’re watching Star Trek, so this feels a little Borg-y.”

“Borgy?”

“Sorry. Aren’t they they race that needs you to assimilate to their perspective because they can’t tolerate individuality?”

1266 Relax and Succeed - Star Trek Picard“I’m not asking you to give up your individuality I just want some support for this crap that happened at work! I am not Borging you dude.”

“Okay, I’m sorry. I care about you, and it sucks that you got hurt. I don’t like any part of that. But I don’t look at the world the way you do so it’s hard for me to do what you want.”

“What’s so hard about giving me support?”

“But that’s not what it feels like to me. To me it feels like I’m engaging in co-dependency.”

“Co-dependency? I’m not addicted to getting screwed over at work dude.”

“Are you sure you’re not maybe a little addicted?”

“How do you figure I’m addicted to pain because I got ripped off and lied to at work–all so some idiots could rip me off based on a bunch of lies?”

“I don’t mean you’re some crazy addict, but look; here’s how I see this stuff: You’re upset because you thought for sure you had the inside track on the project that was going to win over your boss . Then you found out that the goof you work with had lied to you about what the boss wanted. So you were mislead and it hurts. That part I totally get because that is super crappy. But you love Star Trek. To me, what the guy did at work isn’t so much a problem; it’s just a Kardashian being a Kardashian.”

“They’re Carda–ss–ians, not celebrities with big butts. And what, you mean he’s just a greedy scummy liar who’s trying to get power for himself?”

“Pretty much, yeah. And you’re half-Klingon, so now you’re all revenge-y because to you, your word means something.”

“How’s that help me?”

1266 Relax and Succeed - Star Trek Cardassian“But if he’s one of the girls with the big butts, isn’t scummy part of the deal? Isn’t that the difference between the crew and the captains on these shows? The crew gets caught up wanting the character to be who they want them to be, and the captains always take them as they are and they manage that instead? So I was just saying, be like a captain. Don’t take what he did personally. He would have done it to whoever he was up against. He’s a… Carda-ssss-ian.”

That did make Alex feel a little better. The guy at work had always been pretty consistent, so it was helpful seeing him as a Cardassian and not as the jerk he was personally. “Yeah, but that still doesn’t explain my boss being a prick.”

“Doesn’t it? To me that makes sense too. Your boss just does what greed does. He’s 100% greedy Ferengi. The Cardassian offered not to ever go after the Ferengi’s job if he got the promotion. He’s lying and you know it, but the Ferengi would happily support the Cardassian being promoted if he felt like it would keep him in charge of the rest of you.”

Alex did have to concede that his boss was pretty Ferengi. “So, what…? You’re saying rather than being personally pissed off about this I should just see it as my Klingon honour being offended by a Cardassian political move that was supported by a greedy Ferengi?”

“Pretty much, yeah.”

Strangely, Alex had to admit; that made it all seem more sensible, and he liked the idea that he got to assume the role of Captain in the deal. “So this is how you deal with stuff like this?”

“I’m half Vulcan half human. I use logic for stuff like your work thing, but I’m still human enough to care that my buddy got hurt.”

“Why did you say I was only half-Klingon?”

“This stuff all happened a few weeks ago. I got that it offended the Klingon part of you, but the fact that you’re still thinking about it now makes me think that maybe your Klingon Dad slept with a Trill, because I think you’re holding onto this memory for longer than it’s worth.”

Alex gave that a think and conceded that it was reasonable. “At least Trills are hot.”

“You do still have that going 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.

Slow for Improvement

1265 Relax and Succeed - Wonderful things will happen todayLife is filled with choices and one of the first ones we make is why, when and how we wake up in the morning. The slowest, gentlest awakening allows us to make a gradual shift from our sleeping state to our waking. Waking up at the last possible minute to a screaming alarm, means that the very first encounter that your mind has with the day is being startled into it with panic and demands. It’s not an ideal start.

If we’re tired a lot, rather than going to bed earlier, most people get louder alarms and shock themselves even worse in the morning. This exacerbates the problem when the real answer is to stop paying attention to schedules and days and time and try to pay more attention to how you feel. This doesn’t make you late if you do it right, it makes you flow. You have to have an awful lot of fun in those hours before bed before you’ll equal the life advantages to being well-rested for the entire next day.

Listen to your body when it screams for sleep. Adjust your life accordingly; don’t make it one of the many bricks you voluntarily take on that weight down your day. Even if you’re late, rushing is a compulsion but it’s generally not effective. We get out of our routine and we spend so much time getting mad at ourselves by forgetting things. That’s compounded by our own mapping out the consequences of being late, from traffic, to angry bosses, to the worst parking spot on the lot, that it just leads us to make more and more mistakes, which leads to more angry conversations when in the end the only cure would not be to fix the time but to fix your mindset.

1265 Relax and Succeed - May your choices reflect your hopesThe time you can’t change. Your approach to your day is always yours to choose. Breathe. Again: understand the value of how you start. Take a few moments to appreciate it. Don’t judge it, don’t give it weather or time or any other meaning, just wake. Then take a moment to collect yourself. You can note if you’re late that you’ll need to be efficient, but that’s setting an intention, not generating panic.

We’re not comparing ourselves to being perfect, we’re noting that our day will require us to be sharp, and so setting that tone consciously allows us to be doing what is appropriate rather than rushing to simply meet a schedule with no value placed on the mindset we arrive in. Can you see that harried days happen in your head, while the more focused ones are more of a verb; an action? We need to center ourselves over that action and not the words around the action.

In the end, most people’s lives are bad because they are completely unmanaged. People put far more attention into some trivial thing they purchase than they do toward managing their own days. Too often our lives aren’t coordinated or designed to create a rewarding life, they strictly meet the current tyranny of a clock.

1265 Relax and Succeed - The ego is nothing otherWe often still need to be places at specific times to coordinate our efforts with others, but that still leaves us with ample choices about our bedtime, our sleeping arrangements, and how we choose to wake up. Don’t let daily life experiences like that happen by accident and without consideration of how your morning can set the stage for a healthy day. Wake up gently, feel the qualities of a worthwhile day gathering, and when you feel enthusiasm for the day strike, that’s your time to move.

Don’t live out of blind habit. Take a moment in the morning after waking to simply assert to your being. What sort of day do you intend to extract from your daily events? Will you watch for their downsides or their upsides? You can always switch at any moment during your day, but no moment sets the right tone for a day like those first moments after waking. Spend them wisely.

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.