Putting Bullies to Bed

1297 Relax and Succeed - Grandpa Mom's not right

“Grandpa.”

“What?”

She takes a moment. She feels like maybe it’s an idea too hard to sell. “Mom’s not right about everything….”

Grandpa chuckles. “Oh, I know honey. I remind her of that probably a bit too often for a guy that wants a healthy relationship with his daughter.”

“I told Mom that Sasha and Mercedes were picking on me. But she just said I should ignore them. But I can’t. They’re in my school!”

Grandpa frowns, with his hands on his hips. He’s clearly thinking about something seriously. Then: “I’ll get a bunch of the guys I play cards with and we’ll go over to the school and we’ll beat your bullies with dead snakes and then drive over them in our scooters. How’s that?”

The kid giggles. “Grandpa. I mean it.” She pleads, “They’re mean.”

“No snakes eh….” By the time people are grandpas they’ve often learned a lot about being a human and about how adults get formed by childhoods. He can tell this might be a big moment, so he drops down beside her and slows himself down.

He restarts by tucking her in tighter, which she always likes. “Well sweetie, you know your Mom and I disagree about all kinds of things because we’re different people who do things different ways. But we both love you, which is why I agree with your Mom on this one.”

“But you can’t just ignore people when they’re there grandpa!”

“I ignore you when you bug me for candy.”

The kid finds this defense exasperating. “That’s candy. This is people! It’s not the same!”

Grandpa rears up. “AHA. There’s our answer right there.”

“Where? What answer?”

“You think candy and insults are different.”

“Grandpa, everyone wants candy. Everyone. No one wants people being mean to them.”

“No, you want the candy, not me. I don’t want candy. To me you’re just some kid bugging me for candy while I’m trying to read my book. That’s kind of like those girls trying to bug you while you’re playing. It’s the same.”

It is, but it’s not. That’s frustrating for her because she wants her pain. “I’m not confused. They’re mean to me.”

I tightens his embrace around the cocoon of comforters wrapped around her. “Aww sweetie, I’m sorry you’re hurting. I’m not saying it doesn’t hurt if that’s what we’re focused on. But I want to save you from that and we can’t make those girls go away.”

He just pets the child’s head for a bit before restarting. “Look, I don’t mind so much when you want candy. But it’s still not good for you to eat all that sugar, so as the grandpa your Mom deputized me in the candy police–

“The Candy Police???” Even a little kid thinks he’s getting a bit rich.

“–yes, because you’re too little to do what we adults call the ‘self-regulation of impulses.’”

“The what?”

“Nothing. Grandpa accidentally tossed a $20 dollar word into a $5 dollar conversation. My fault. What I meant was, adults know when it’s okay to do what we want, and when we shouldn’t. At least mostly. Except maybe your uncle Danny. Anyway, the deciding what to do and what not to do –that’s most important part of life.”

“So how do I make them decide to stop being mean?”

“You can’t. They’re free, just like you. You don’t want to be forced to do what they want you to do –do you?”

“NO.”

“Then you can’t tell them what to do either.”

“Grandpa, everyone wants candy. Everyone. No one wants people being mean to them.”

“But I don’t like it!”

“Well that makes sense, they’re being mean. No one likes that. But they don’t control what you focus on. That’s the thing you get to decide. Your Mom’s right. You can ignore them by deciding to focus on something else.”

The kid rolls her eyes. This grandpa has clearly never been to school. “Grandpa, you can’t just not listen. They’re right there.”

“No, I get that sweetie. There are times when you can hear the sound waves coming out of their mouths and those do hit your eardrums. When you’re there. But they’re not here now, right? They’re not in your bedroom on a weekend?”  Just in case, he checks under the bed.

Where’s he going with this? She’s so confused she can’t even figure out how to respond, so he just gets an exhasperated “Grandpa…!”

“No, I mean it. I’m serious. I swear, you’re confused about something. You don’t have to believe me. I’ll explain it.”

“I’m not confused.”

“Just about this one thing –you just haven’t had anyone explain this to you. I’ll make sure to give your Mom heck for not teaching it to you yet.”

This can be Mom’s fault? That makes the lesson much more palatable. She leans a little further into the idea her grandpa is pitching. He can see a common enemy has got them allied. That makes presenting an idea much more likely to succeed. “You like when we go fishing, right?”

“What’s this got to do with Sasha and Mercedes being mean to me?”

“That is a very good question and I promise to answer it. But first you have to tell me if you like fishing and if you do, tell me why?”

“You know why.”

“Why?”

She protests being forced. “Grandpa.”

“You like riding in Grandpa’s boat, right? You like when we stop the motor and just float, and you like how the shiny metal makes the bright lines on the water and the sound the waves make when they hit it.”

She restresses: “Sasha and Mercedes Grandpa, Sasha and Mercedes.”

“I’m getting there. I promise. In this story they drown –sort of.”

Now the kid’s more interested. “Really?”

Grandpa suddenly goes Zen and asks the obvious. “What’s a boat?”

“What? It’s a boat. Like your boat. The thing we go fishing in.”

“Yeah, but what is it. What does it do?”

1297 Relax and Succeed - Does a boat float on the water

“Boats don’t do anything. They just float.”

“Float where?”

Is he serious? “Grandpa. On the water.”

“On it, or in it?”

“Well…” she gives it super serious consideration. “…mostly on, but some of it is in –the parts where our feets go.”

“So then, a boat is kind of like a hole filled with air, down in the water?”

This is a crazy funny idea. “Grandpa, water can’t have holes!”

“Sure it can. They’re called ‘boats.’ If the sides of the boat weren’t there but the water still stayed back, wouldn’t there be a hole in the water where the boat was?”

“You mean if there was no boat?”

“Yeah, but the water stayed where it was.”

Okay wait, maybe he does have a point she’s starting to think now that she’s picturing it…. He’s getting an affirmative look so he continues.

“Okay. So a boat is a little like a hole in the water where we put our feet when we fish. But what makes the boat float is that the water can’t get in, right?”

“It would be a dumb boat if water got in Grandpa.”

Now it’s his turn to laugh. “They needed you on the Titanic.”

“What’s the Titan…”?”

“It was a big boat, but they forgot to keep the water on the outside.”

“That was dumb.”

“Suuuper dumb. But we gotta get back to Sashes and Mercedy there–“

She rolls her eyes and stresses, “Sasha. And. Mercedes….”

“Whatever; the ones that drown. So here’s what your Mom means by ‘ignore them.’ She means that your mind is like a boat you own. You can invite anyone you want into your boat, but the boat only floats –ours minds only stay healthy– if we keep the water out. And Sasha and whatshername are all wet.”

That gets him a giggle, but mostly she’s thinking, brow furrowed. “Sasha and Mercedes are made of water?”

“Well, not really them, it’s their thoughts that are the water.” He takes a moment to think of a way to describe it. “You know how you can’t run fast in the water when I chase you at the pool? That’s ’cause water slows us down. When you hear Sasha and Mercedes say mean things, that’s like hearing the water against the side of the boat. But when you put their water in your head it slows you down. But the water never gets into the boat unless we decide to think about the mean things that people like Sasha and… Merrrrr….–“ Oh oh.

“MERCEDES! MERCEDES! MERCEDES! MERCEDES!”

“–MERCEDEEEESSSS– say. Right? Get it? Them saying mean things at school is the water hitting the side of your mind –the side of your boat. But you thinking of them here in your bedroom, tonight, days later –that’s you pouring their water into your boat. Remember, boats float in water, not on it.

“So all our lives people will splash mean things in our direction, but none of that matters if we stay dry in our boat. So that’s what your Mom means. You sitting here in bed thinking about insults you got hours or days before now is you inviting those girls into the space in your boat when you could have been thinking about me….” Grandpa hangs his head, dejectedly.

She realizes he’s trying to steal her victim thunder. “Grandpa…”

“It’s true. You were thinking of them instead of us going fishing. Who do you feel better spending time with?”

“You. Of course.”

“So take me in your boat instead of them. I take you in mine. That’s why I miss you when we go to Arizona.”

1297 Relax and Succeed - You can invite anyone

She’s not sure she likes this. She’d like this to be Sasha and Mercedes issue to manage.

“Come on. Whose boat is it?”

She tries to wait him out, but he only raises his eyebrows until she reluctantly clucks out a quick, “Mine.”

“Exactly. Your boat is your mind and your job as the Captain is to keep the water out. Right Captain?”

“Can I get a hat?”

“A Captain’s hat?”

“Yeah.”

“We’ll see what we can do. But do you think you can keep Sasha and–“

She warns him with a look–

“–Mercedes,” he adds carefully “from getting inside your boat?”

“I don’t want their dumb mean faces in my boat.”

“Perfect. Then just don’t think their thoughts. Their thoughts are the water. You only take a thought when you need a drink. They’re not for filling boats. Especially polluted water like theirs.”

“Yeah. Polluted.” She looks like maybe she feels better.

With kids he knows it often will take a while for an idea like this to stick so he reminds her one last time. “Okay, so where’s the boat we want to keep dry?” She taps her head. “Right. And who’s the lake?”

“MERCEDES, and Sasha.”

“Right. And what’s the water?”

“What they think.”

“Their opinions. Right. And so who’s the Captain that keeps water from getting into your boat?”

“ME!”

“RIGHT! See. They can bang water against the side of your boat all day. But you practice keeping that water out then your boat will not sink my dear. Every boat gets some water in it because storms make the waves big. But we can always bail out what got put in, so you just remember to keep the inside–“ he taps her on the noggin “of your boat as dry as you can, okay?”

“Dry as a bone grandpa.”

“I believe that. You bonehead.” He lightly raps his knucks on her noggin.

She giggles. “I’m not a bonehead.”

“Sure you are. Your a chip off your Mom’s bonehead.”

Now she loves when he does this. “Mom’s not a bonehead!”

“She was when she was a teenager, ask your grandma.”

“Did she put a lot of water in Grandma’s boat?”

Grandpa stops and refocuses, sensing an opportunity for some fun and a chance to be a good husband. “You know what? That is a very good question. It’s such a good question that; the next time your Mom and your Grandma are together –and it’s a time when your Mom is really mad at Grandma– that would be a really good time to ask your Mom about the water she splashed into Grandma’s boat when she was in high school. If she’s mad at Grandma that would be a good time for her to remember the times she got Grandma all wet, don’t you think?”

That gets a big few nods in the affirmative. He gives her a little nod of agreement. They are on the same page. He switches to an official tone. “Ready for sleep mode?”

She nods her agreement.

“Okay. five deep slow ones.” The little girl takes five very slow breaths in and out in time with her grandpa. It sounds like they’re already asleep. “Good. That helps slow the machine down. Now you just keep breathing like that, and soon you get to dream! Tomorrow morning you can tell me about all the things you did in your dreams, okay?”

“Thanks Grandpa.”

He kisses her on the head. “Boat dry sweetie, okay?”

She nods, he smiles, and out goes the light as the bedroom door closes.

From the darkness, a confident little whisper responds, “Aye aye, Captain.”

peace. s

Hidden Genius

1296 Relax and Succeed - To live a great life

Fame, money and popularity are just as likely to lead to a person’s self-destruction as they are to equal a good or meaningful life. Despite our common drive to have those big identities, in many cases the most successful lives are those that happen quietly, in the background. Ours are likely some of them.

The greatest lives are lived by those who see greatness in others and greatness in the world around them –including themselves. It literally means they spend their lives surrounded by greatness and generally feeling great. How can that not feel good?

It’s important to note that a great life isn’t more fun or less trouble than other people’s lives. Instead, ‘problems’ and ‘mistakes’ are accepted as a fundamental part of the deal. That leaves the wise to focus instead on the wonderfully satisfied feeling that comes with relentlessly and confidently being ourselves and allowing others to do likewise –all while comfortably accepting the prices associated with us being us and them being them.

Examples of the sorts of quiet but internally great lives –the sort that have opened up universes of beauty for others– can be found by tracing a theory I’ve long had. That theory suggests that if we tracked backwards from the world’s greatest minds, we will often find the same teachers, or coaches or inspirations that many great people would have in common as powerful influences.

If you stop to think of your own life, there’s usually entire groups of kids who define a particular teacher as being one of the best they’ve ever had. It’s because those teachers are overflowing with their ability to see the world’s beauty in some particular way, and in sharing it they give others lifelong gifts that matter more than any other kind. We remember the people that gave us those.

1296 Relax and Succeed - Math teacher George Berzensnyi

This article features one of those visionaries. George Berzsenyi is someone who saw potential in others and he offered himself selflessly to them simply because he took so much joy from sharing the beauty he saw.

Whether this article drew attention to him or not, George would still have opened many wonderful doors for many people. And all of that joy and awareness was created directly through his sharing. That is a beautiful legacy. And what a win-win for he and the students –that sharing and that appreciation was how they spent their lives!

I know if it was film or TV I’d sincerely rather see a student I’d had win an award than to get one myself. That would likely mean they had seen the beauty I was trying to show them. I’d love to think I helped them see it, but the only really important thing is that they got to see it at all.

I feel the same way about this work. Everyone seems beautiful to me and I absolutely love sharing what I see in them, with them. It feels good when they see how beautiful they are, and how beautiful the people unfairly judging us all are –after all, we are all each other. If we learn to let that be, people struggle less with the world and they let it –and more importantly themselves– flow more freely, which naturally releases joy.

That being the case, let us commit to sharing our passions. If we don’t know what we’d share, let’s start figuring out why we don’t already know what that is and then seek the answer within ourselves, even if that means taking on some searching. Bottom line, everyone has wonderful things to offer. And the generosity feels good to give. So give.

It certainly does the world no good for anyone to withhold their light. Don’t hide yours. Shine baby shine.

peace. s

Our Potential is Limited by Insecure Thinking

1295 Relax and Succeed - When you feel fantastic

Once we gain the ability to see people unconditionally, it becomes painful experiencing someone turn in on themselves. Humility is attractive, but self-criticism based on insecurity is like watching someone slice their own soul open. If only people realized how incredible they are.

When we feel fantastic and when we feel awful, it is the same us generating both of those identities. We have to stop and really think about that.

We can’t let our sense of our selves or the quality of our days be left to chance. Yet, that’s what most people do without ever realizing they have an option. If we don’t become aware that we can conjure large parts of our lives with our intentions, we will view the world largely out of habit.

The danger in habitual thinking is that it means that if we are unhappy we will stay that way. People who think they’re going to have a bad day are going to be able to find one lurking within every day for sure because nothing is ever perfect. But the same goes for bad days. None are perfectly bad.

The variable quality of our lives is influenced, but how it feels will ultimately depend most on how hard we’re inclined look for evidence of things that inspire us, versus those that don’t.

This awareness of our ability to choose not only inoculates us against long term suffering, but it also promises the potential of an exalted life. Just like a sad or angry life, a wonder and love-filled life also exists in potential for almost everyone. But it is we who must consciously enact that life.

1295 Relax and Succeed - Real success is feeling good

We should be wary if we feel the urge to hide from our own lives. We are not failures, we are human. And each of us is the only person out of billions assigned to live our particular life. Every role is part of the larger whole, so if we consider our successes and our failures as part of a larger duty to the universe, then even our mistakes become important, impersonal contributions to the universal flow of yin and yang.

The world transfers energy between positive and negative sources. We shouldn’t panic if we occasionally and accidentally find ourselves the agents of the universe’s need to also express negativity. If we don’t like a feeling there’s little need to add guilt. We’re already motivated to change by how bad it feels.

The point is to avoid creating negative space within our own consciousness by taking action or changing the course of our thinking. At the same time, we must do this while still accepting that negative feelings are an integral part of life. They too make life worth living. The wisdom comes through experience in managing the balance.

Real success is feeling good about being who we are, struggles included. When we can bestow that kind of unconditional love upon ourselves, we are given the capacity to perpetually heal. When we can bestow unconditional love on others, we develop the power to inspire those with whom we share our lives.

peace. s

Re-framing Right and Wrong

1294 Relax and Succeed - When we know how to listen

This weekend (and for as long as we can sustain it), we would all benefit by engaging with any form of media by challenging and questioning our immediate reactions to it.

Every time we feel compelled to agree with an idea as being ‘right,’ we should reconsider our internal language. We should view the consistency between our view and a person we’re listening to, as being ‘in alignment,’ rather than describing them as ‘being right.’

Likewise we should do the same thing with statements we hear that we disagree with. Rather than defining the speaker as ‘wrong,’ we should see them instead only as differing from our view. After all, when we’re truly wise we realize everyone is a guru. If our judgments mean we decide someone is foolish then we will make no attempt to learn from that teacher.

After all, when we’re truly wise we realize everyone is a guru. If our judgments mean we decide someone is foolish then we will make no attempt to learn from that teacher.

Rather than others being wrong based on our disagreement, we should skip the judgment and meditate instead on the simple question, what life experiences would lead someone to see things that way? In doing so we expand our empathy, our wisdom and our interconnectedness and those things all benefit us even more than others.

This is a very useful exercise, but it demands a lot of consciousness on our part. Even if we’re not that good at altering our narrative, we will all surely gain by paying more attention to what we’re doing with judgments made within our consciousness.

peace. s

Composing The Song of Our Life

1293 Relax and Succeed - Composing the Song of Our Life

A record label recently ‘signed’ an algorithm to a recording contract. Should the idea of a computer writing some of our music bother us? It’s not hard for something like that to feel strange, or alien or even uncomfortable or unpleasant. But it might not be as weird as it initially seems. And this really does have something to do with how our minds work.

Firstly, this initial record deal is more for mathematical, Brian Eno-like soundscaping than what we’d think of as composed songs. But it’s only a matter of time. After all, notes are mathematical divisions of natural vibrations and instruments simply create their own unique vibrations. When those waves hit our ears it’s our minds that turn them into music.

We don’t have to feel threatened by this new idea. Even if computerized songs get as good as humans, that does not mean humans have to stop writing songs. Human music won’t be suppressed, it will be added to. But learning about this can help us.

Algorithmic music (it even sounds musical), will be just another form of music, much like dividing acoustic and electric performances, or bands from DJ’s, or how we recently added new genres like Blues, the various forms of Jazz, many forms of Rock, R&B, Disco, Grunge and, Hip Hop/Rap.

Each of those types represent groups of patterns that have a rough mathematical border that can overlap other borders for other types, hence country-punk, and jazz-funk etc. I’m hyper conscious of patterns, but the fact that you know the differences between those music types proves that you comprehend this math as well. It’s just that you perceive your results more as a feeling or a reaction or a definition (the name you give the genre).

Note: if an older person has never listened to newer music then their brain won’t have learned that math and they may misidentify two Rock forms –say, Metal and Grunge– as one group, much like a kid in elementary can know odd numbers from even numbers but they have no idea which ones are prime.

So what’s this got to do with our spirituality or psychology? The answer is that explains why we get bored with things after doing them for a long time. A common reaction to music for people in their mid 30’s to 40’s is that they find they suddenly become far less interested in new music. This isn’t to say they’ll never enjoy a new song or that they are not open, but they are representing what it is to be full.

By full I mean that our brains have heard enough songs and enough patterns that by those ages we know those patterns so well that little can sound new to us. Evidence of this is the way that, around those ages, we start thinking of these patterns (in music or movies or shows) as being, like this meets this, or that meets that with a bit of that in it. Rather than new sounding fresh, instead you can hear combinations of known patterns mixing.

1293 Relax and Succeed - Like people some songs are popular

Now that you can see you have this skill, consider that you also divide up humans very much like that. Stereotypes like optimists, pessimists, leaders, shy people, Scottish people, mothers, bankers and firefighters are all groups of patterns on top of other patterns, because our mothers are also sisters, and accountants and baby sitters etc..

Personality types are also a part of those patterns, and when families say things like, “Dad’s being Dad again,” or “Raj, why are you always late?” they are expressing what they perceive as that person’s unique pattern. This is why family caregivers carry so much information about loved ones without even realizing it. They simply sense that something is wrong yet they may not know why, even though they are being kind of mathematical about it.

Since these patterns impact personality types it makes sense that it also informs how we know how our friends or co-workers are likely to meet the various patterns in the world (like songs, or traffic etc.) For instance, at a rest without influence, some people think in patterns that create sadness. Others idly create happiness, and still others worry or plan or create. For every type of person there is a pattern to our thinking, and our current conditions will influence those patterns in real-time.

The problem comes in when people see another pattern and wish it was theirs. This is to misunderstand the nature of the universe’s orchestra. Yes, we can improv portions and any song can change its genre at any time, but it also important to note that none of us is wrong being as we are. We just need to enjoy and capitalize on being whoever that is. Some people will like that pattern of being and others won’t. But that’s not personal. It’s just how the patterns go, just like some people like jazz and some don’t.

People’s appreciation of us is a separate issue, but all lives are like beautiful songs. Indeed, some are sadder, some happier, some angrier, still others confused, or even profound. But just as music contains flats a sharps, there are no truly wrong notes for us to play in life, and we can always change our style if we feel it’s worth it.

Even if we feel off-key, or that our timing is off, rather than turn our thoughts against ourselves we are better to simply learn to stop that critic. Because no matter how weird we or others think we are, in the end, the only way for us to play our special song is for us to ignore all judgment and to simply be natural.

peace. s

PS If you are not in Canada but would like to listen to the podcast linked, the international version if available here: CBC Q Podcast

Favourites

1291 Relax and Succeed - Favourites

Sometimes favourite children exist unconsciously, sometimes they are known but unspoken, and sometimes parents come right out and admit that they have favourites. The latter choice can seem cruel when our culture isn’t used to it, but it might be worth our time to revisit some cherished ideas.

Parents are people before they are our parents. When they were young some school acquaintances were attractive as friends, others were left only schoolmates. The same with dating. People don’t want to ask out everyone they meet in the bar. Some stand out for reasons we can’t really explain. Chemistry, we call it.

So it goes with favourite children. The parent doesn’t love them more. They’re just the ones the parent finds enjoyable as a friendship as well.

Is it really so odd that a single human might, in a group of three or four other humans, have a preference for time spent with one in particular? Or is that more what we’d all expect –in any other circumstance except parenting? Again, we’re talking about time and attention, not love.

Of course, in most cases these feelings go both ways. Most kids like one parent more than the other. Does that mean we’re rejecting the other parent? No. It just means we’re human and have preferences. If every kid baked a different kind of cake we’re not bad people because we’ve happened to like chocolate all our lives. That’s not to say it will always happen, but when it does it’s a natural reaction.

Thoughts that these attractions are unnatural can lead to crippling guilt when it shouldn’t. Society implanted the thought of it being ‘wrong’ to like one family member over another but society is nothing but a set of external lessons we all unconsciously agree to and then apply through our thinking. There’s nothing guaranteeing the rules we develop are all correct, or true, or that they will or should stay that way.  Each new generation sheds some.

1291 Relax and Succeed - There are enough people

If we took all the expectation of out it, ‘favouritism‘ is simply people being attracted to time with people that align well with them. If a child comprehends ‘favouritism’ in such a way that they see it as merely shared perspectives or interests –and that it’s simply a personal preference and not a value judgment– then it’s much easier for a child to accept it as normal when it happens.

It’s important that it feels normal to them because in life it will both happen to them, and they will ‘perpetrate’ that judgment on others. Kids also feel terrible guilt about having a favourite parent or sibling or friend, and they also often worry that they may not be other people’s favourite children, siblings or friends.

Put in the right context those preferences are presented as entirely normal, which is in a way, offering the child a form of future freedom to simply like what and who they like without feeling a need to feel guilty about their preferences. There are enough people and experiences to go around.

Since having a favourite is natural, hiding it is difficult. We have to ask ourselves, is it better for kids to have context for the behaviour than to witness evidence that may lead them to think they are unloved despite people’s words?

The subject feels pointy and awkward at the start, but over time we cannot help but notice that it comfortably explains a lot of what troubles many others. After all, none of us was ever built to satisfy everyone.

peace. s

A Life Well-Lived

1276 Relax and Succeed - Authenticity the courage to be yourselfA lot of the reason that people feel like they may not be doing the right thing in life is because they have pre-constructed the concept of success in their imagination and what they imagine isn’t an action, it’s a definition or result. While a healthy person is merely fascinated by what they’re doing, someone lost and uncertain will be trying to raise their value, status or power in some way, shape or form.

Since the media is a nearly unavoidable force in the raising of a child it is important to see a child’s actions as not only being based on the child’s caregivers, but also on other significant forces like media trends, which lead to all sorts of unintended consequences, like the formations of things like cultures of irreverence, or of uptalkers for example.

One of the other unintended consequences of media as a learning force is that children automatically and unknowingly come to see success as being linked to popularity or fame, hence “be famous,” has only recently been added as an answer to the question, what do you want to do with your life? (People used to say astronaut, or doctor or deep sea diver.)

1276 Relax and Succeed - Study hard what interests you mostThe truth is, fame and fortune are not at all what makes a good life. Richard Feynman won a Nobel Prize almost because he was a famous iconoclast, too dedicated to his own curiosity to ever get anywhere had it not been for the fluke that his curiosity primarily landed in one field (while he was well respected in many). But if his passions had not been in physics right while physics was literally exploding (he worked on the atomic bomb), his life may have been much less notable. Likewise, most truly great lives are not noticeable to anyone but the people living them, and those closest to them.

I was recently at the funeral of my parent’s neighbour. I’ve known her since I was three. As I sat in the pew at the church listening to the speakers, I was struck by how much I admired the woman, and almost precisely because she was so different from me. Since being teased relentlessly as a kid I’ve ignored other people’s views in favour of a set of guiding principles so, I’ve always liked my life and how I live it, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate equally authentic lives that unfold in their own unique ways.

Whereas I am a quick thinking enthusiastic person who has generally held leadership positions and would be in that tiny group of people that takes action when others won’t, she was extremely gentle and appreciative; always a safe harbour for any and all troubled neighbourhood kids. I’ve travelled the world and had awesome jobs and worked in film and TV and made lots of money–my life looks like (or rather used to look like)–the kind of life people would want to have. Hers was much smaller, but it was equally a rich life and it was very well lived. I had fun in my other life, but I’m actually more like her now.

1276 Relax and Succeed - Don't change so people will like youJust as I had cared about the big exciting things I was doing, she was caring deeply about the smaller more intimate details of life. Where I might be inspiring or informative, she offered comfort and support. She earned the love of her family throughout her life. She was enthusiastic about her work while she was a worker, and as a homemaker she was one of those dream Moms who always has a warm smile and fresh homemade food. She was also a very dedicated and loving parent and stand-in parent to her own child and many others.

If someone asked me today; if you couldn’t live your life, which life would you live, I have generally answered I’m loving the life I have. But if you forced me to choose, a life entirely like hers seems, to me, as enjoyable and as profound as my own has been, and the change of pace would be educational I’m sure. What’s curious about this is that many of my students come to me wanting to be more like I was, and by the time we’re done they want to be more like themselves, which is often much more like my parent’s very successful neighbour with her very successful life.

She died wanting more. That can feel like it should be sad, but it’s really the opposite that’s sad; when they’ve gone past their desire for life the death feels more like a relief. But right up until the end she had a tomorrow to be excited about and, when she finally realised she wouldn’t get that, she became just as excited by what was next, smiling just before her death, uttering the words, “my parents…” It really doesn’t get more beautiful than that and I am glad such a wonderful woman got such a fitting end to a life very well lived.

Life is in the details. Don’t always look above you. Sometimes what you’re looking for is already around you, or even possibly something you previously left behind. But do not assume bigger is better. Better is whatever your nature leads you to. In that regard, may your life be as successful as hers.

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.

You Are An Alien

1275 Relax and Succeed - MIB headRemember the aliens inside people’s heads in Men in Black? Well, without knowing it, you’re one of them–or rather very like them. I know this might come as a surprise but it’s actually good news. It explains your anguish as a human. You keep trying to figure out how to feel better, but until you realise you’re an alien all of the advice you get will be for naught.

You’re from the planet Bbking, so-named by a NASA scientist who discovered it and its people. She loved the blues and knew that, just as BB King couldn’t sing and play guitar at the same time, the aliens from that planet could either pull levers or talk, but they can’t do both at once.

In human terms, this is your true self versus your ego. The lever-pulling operator versus the alien sitting still and talking. The talking is just talking and does nothing–the levers run your life. But some aliens come to Earth and the air here makes them a bit squirrely. (Squirrels on Bbking are very similar to squirrels on Earth. They’re actually one of the more successful species in our galaxy, strangely enough.)

1275 Relax and Succeed - Quiet your mindWithout noticing it, aliens become slowly addicted to how the air encourages them to speak rather than move. They end up light-headed, babbling away to themselves to the point where their life doesn’t even happen. They go places and do things, but it’s all automated. They’re body will just mimic the bodies it was raised near unless the Bbkinger on board actually shuts up and grabs the levers and steers.

Today, keep in mind that this alien is you. Listen for that little voice. Blah blah blah. Nothing it says means anything because it’s not from here and doesn’t even know what’s going on. It’s all guesses. Look out the eyeballs, use the ears and other senses, and then grab the levers and steer.

Remember: talking is the alien drugging themselves with nothing useful. Life is pulling levers. Don’t try to act like other people, you can’t tell them from your fellow aliens. But once you know how to pull levers instead of talking inside your own head, your vision will improve and you’ll be able to tell who’s a head-talker and who’s pulling levers, and the latter group will likewise be able to recognise you.

Don’t talk to yourself like an average human, be yourself and be freed through your actions. Join the culture of health. We look forward to seeing you.

peace. s

PS BTW, if you want to know what your original name is on planet BBKing, it’s an unusual process, but you take the first district or region or area you live in for your first name, and your last is created by adding the name of the last drug you were prescribed.

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.

Be-ing

1263 Relax and Succeed - Simply be it's a mindful activityMake no mistake, as inactive as it it might seem, it is an entirely serious psychological and spiritual practice to simply be. Today the lesson is no lesson. Today we practice the idea of understanding. You always were perfect and always have been. Try actually living like that’s true just for the day, even if there’s a part of you that has trouble believing it. Just for the exercise, try it.

Today your job is to be clear. Allow all you encounter to pass through you, only offering your own input when it is absolutely necessary, but avoid the tug and pull of unconscious habit. Do not think, avoid opinions, keep your mind silent. Today, only respond to what is necessary to respond to, and spend as much as your day as possible in a pure state of being.

It isn’t easy at first, but it is natural, so practicing is easily worth it. Free yourself. Put all of your attention on it. 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.

Symbolic Living

1261 Relax and Succeed - Today is a great dayPresence isn’t a difficult or complex thing to achieve and yet most of us live entirely symbolic lives. We’re not with the world, we just pass symbols about the world back and forth. We say and do things like think and talk about how terrible a news story is, and yet we don’t really stop to think about how terrible the news story really is for the individual human beings involved.

This isn’t to say we’re bad people, we’re simply unaware. We know inside we’re fundamentally good, which is why our ‘bad’ behaviour bothers us and our good behaviour is a source of pride. But today life is so busy–so filled with symbolic work–that we’ve lost touch with a deeper, richer reality. Our mind glances off things, or skims over them, but we don’t slow down to stop except in the most extreme circumstances.

Today is Thanksgiving in the US. The name is pretty self-explanatory and yet every year on Canadian Thanksgiving it’s easy to hear people passing platitudes around about being grateful, and yet the fact that they even are platitudes is a demonstration that they are other people’s analytical expressions of meaning and not our own. We generally don’t even think about most things deeply enough to even come up with our own expressions to describe them.

If you want to know how to live an unaware, emotionally wrought life of tortuous ups and downs then know that’s what it looks like; when people wish each other Happy Thanksgiving, talk about being grateful, say their platitudes, and then mindlessly go right back to their usual awareness level/personality where it’s easy to watch those very same people spending the entire day enacting their their normal, unconscious, ungrateful personality.

1261 Relax and Succeed - Thank youNo matter where you live, don’t make gratitude a symbolic word, make it a call to action. Instead of riding to work thinking about that person you’re mad at, or that thing you feel guilty over, or that thing you regret and or are worried about, and replace those with some easy meditation; what in our lives are we each taking for granted? What fruit is laying around our lives bruised and uneaten simply because we never gave it its proper exalted place on the table, in our personal cornucopia?

We must prevent ourselves from long bouts of self-centered rumination about ‘our lives’ and we should instead meditate from the perspective of a guest–a witness–to our own lives. In doing so, by taking life less personally, it’s easier to comprehend our impact within a greater whole and to see our causal relationships with others. From there it’s easier to appreciate who has brought what into our lives.

Pay more attention to your thoughts. Watch yourself and how you jostle symbols in egocentric self-conversations about how you want things. See that as the noise that it is, and invest your energy in digging more deeply into where the riches in your life are really coming from. Do that and you’ll be grateful for even the worst parents in the world, because even if they are terrible, just conception and birth are the two biggest gifts we will ever get–it is through those that we get any chance at all to have any kind of life, and life itself is the grandest of adventures.

Wake up. Stay aware. Be grateful. It’s that easy. Here’s to all of us.

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.