There is no audio available from the interview with Rod, but I also did an interview with CBC’s The Loop.
This is the audio link to that interview, which offered us a bit more time to delve deeper into these issues.
Rod: Now that we’re finally about to resume our “normal” lives, we should be making sure we don’t take things for granted. Today, our Wellness columnist Scott McPherson is here to talk about some approaches to keep us conscious of our own good fortune. Hi Scott.
Scott: Good afternoon Rod.
Rod: You’ve told us repetition can lead us to take things for granted….do you think we did that pre-pandemic?
Scott: Yeah. It’s why the Dalai Lama always refers to consciousness as a ‘practice.’ If we don’t learn to be active and intentional about our attention, life gets shallow pretty fast. By the time we’re adults, most of us just filter and skim over reality without much real consideration. So, if we can go to a restaurant any time we want, then a ‘meal out’ is no big deal. But keep us from restaurants for a year and a half, and suddenly ‘eating out’ is an thrilling experience that demands our full attention.
Rod: So, do you think we’ll be more conscious about how lucky we are to return to “normal?”
Scott: For a while, yes. The dullness of the last year and half will make little things stand out. And that’s what makes our reality richer. The more we notice about an experience, the bigger the experience is.
Rod: What kind of things do you think people will notice most?
Scott: Everything and everyone will feel more vivid, and more worth our time. We’ll look at each other more closely, with more affection. And, if we’re eating, then there’s no masks. And that means seeing faces, and smiles. We might even start noticing the colours of our friend’s eyes, or really note their touch. Those are all things we would have barely noticed before. We might not even have made much eye contact, or engaged much with the staff at a lot of places we went. But for at least a while, it’ll feel like we’re holidaying in our own lives.
Rod: But how do we avoid slipping back into bad habits? So that were not taking all of this for granted?
Scott: It helps if we think about how our minds work on a holiday, when we’re somewhere new. Most of us are familiar with that feeling –that heightened sense of awareness we get when we’re touring through somewhere unfamiliar. We tend to attribute that vividness to the place we are, or the culture there. But of course, the people there are just as good at taking that reality for granted. So it’s not the place that makes the difference, it’s us. We have to learn to appreciate that our awareness is something we control. So we have to get more conscious about what experiences we want to have, and why they happen.
Rod: Okay, so how do we go about doing that?
Scott: We actually want to start noticing the relationship between those two things. Certain activities can make us feel certain ways. But our problem is, the world is filled with a billion details. And we’ll often skip them in favour of own internal narratives about how we’re disappointed by life. That’s how most of us actually missed out on a lot of happiness prior to the pandemic. If we don’t want to do that after the pandemic, then we have to do that by intention. And we can start with each of our five senses, and by making sure they’re each being used to add richness to our lives. We’d certainly notice if we lost one of them.
Rod: I know one of my five senses would really enjoy hearing some live music again…
Scott: Won’t that feel great? Yeah. Or maybe we want to hear the voice of a loved one overseas, so we plan a call? Maybe we walk in the ravine and listen for birds? We can do the same for our sense of sight. Maybe we go the art gallery. Or maybe we sit at the edge of the river valley looking at a view of the city. Maybe we go to a book store and enjoy choosing a new book. It’ll be personal for each of us. But by making sure we cover all five senses, each week, we’re helping to ensure that we’re staying conscious of our opportunities for a good life.
Rod: Is there more than our five senses to consider?
Scott: For sure. Rather than just thinking about things we sense that make us happy, we can think of things that make us happy, and then find our source in any form. Maybe we love to laugh. So, rather than going to a flower garden for a scent experience, or for a massage for a tactile experience, we can visit with a certain friend just because we know they’re hilarious. Or maybe we make sure we listen to Laugh Out Loud each week. This last week’s episode was really good. And laughter is a highly underrated experience. And there wasn’t a lot of it during the pandemic.
Rod: That’s for sure.
Scott: So making sure that every single week includes a near-guaranteed laugh is a smart way to stay healthy and conscious. But we have to be intentional or we will just go back to complaining.
Rod: As we approach July 1st and reopening….what’s your best advice on not taking life for granted?
Scott: Use a list….As strange as a ‘list’ might feel, until we’ve trained ourselves to be more aware, it can be a really good tool. It’ll encourage us to have more of a mission for our consciousness, where we have specific things we’re looking to pay attention to. So we might want to think about starting each week with a to-do list that includes our five senses. And maybe four or five of our favourite emotional experiences, like laughter, or peace, or learning. Maybe it’s a sense of achievement, or a sense of connection to a friend. Maybe it’s our love for someone special. That’s all ‘date nights’ ever were. They’re just scheduled reminders for people with kids; to help them stay conscious of the fact that they’re also still a couple. However we approach the list in our own lives, the important part is that it helps us to avoid negative self-talk, and to stay conscious of ourselves as psychological beings.
Our lives are lived as experiences. And yet we can miss important ones if we’re not careful. We all know the world was much better before the pandemic than afterwards. And yet before the pandemic, people often described life as being ‘dull’ or ‘disappointing.’ And that’ll happen again if we don’t remember that the good things always were there. What was missing was our active appreciation of them. And that’s where the list can help. It’ll ensure we’re having more conscious experiences. Because those experiences are where we mine all the richness out of life, whether that’s through learning, or playing, or loving. So let’s not just wander through our futures like we did with our pasts. Before the pandemic a lot of us were casually picking up experiences here or there, and we just hoped for the occasional good ones. Going forward, we can be more intentional about finding and creating our future. And if we do that, we’ll not only have a better life. But we’ll also be far less likely to take our lives for granted.
Rod: That would be a good thing. I know this is our last one of these as we head into summer, so thanks for this Scott.
Scott: My pleasure Rod. Have a great day.
Rod: Scott McPherson is our Wellness Columnist. He teaches mindfulness in Edmonton. Find him at relaxandsucceed.com, and on Twitter and Facebook.
I’d like to take this opportunity to invite you to join me for CBC Radio Active‘s Wellness Column, on CBC Radio One here in Edmonton. I’m normally interviewed by Adrienne Pan, who does a great job, but she is away this week. So I believe Rod Kurtz will be doing the interview (he’s also excellent). We’ll be running today, Tuesday June 22nd, at 5:20pm MST time.
You can listen to the show from 3-6pm, via AM740, FM93.9 (in Edmonton), or elsewhere through the CBC Listen app, or via the web on Radio One at CBC.ca. If nothing external impacts us, we are usually on every second Tuesday, at 5:20pm.
Once the show has aired, if there is an audio version available I will add a link to it here. A listing of all of the columns is here. I will also attach a transcript of the column to the top of this post within a week or so of airing.
By all appearances we are nearing the end of a once in 100 year event. For many people around the world the pandemic has stolen much of the value from their lives and many don’t feel a desire to go on. Others, whose fortunes fared better, are anxious to get back to the value they still have. And finally, a much smaller group were fortunate enough to thrive during the pandemic, so they’ll be happy to see the rest of us back at life. But, no matter which group we are in, we are all still human beings. And we all still create our reality the same way. And so whether we did great, or whether we did poorly, our days will still take their shape from what we are conscious of. That being the case, today’s column offers us some tips on how we can ensure that we’re using our consciousness in the most beneficial ways we can.
That’s what we’ll be covering today. If you get to hear the show and haven’t before, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. It’s on from 3-6pm, and they have a great team.
Take care everyone. Here’s to a grateful day for all of us.