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.

Dwelling in the Past

1259 Relax and Succeed - Maintain a quiet mindHabits. Your mind is built around recognizing patterns. Done with awareness, it’s a great tool for efficiency. Done blindly, it digs the rut that leads to an early grave. Often we’ll work on our behaviour habits without realizing that without changing the underlying thinking, there is no hope of lasting change; no hope of new awarenesses forming.

Real change happens when we study something closely enough that we can have truly profound realizations about that thing. To most of us, our own families are simply patterns and we’ve stopped interacting with each other with any authenticity long ago, and that reality usually isn’t faced until there’s a death or serious illness. This is what it is to be asleep, spiritually.

When we’re open we’re free. Our minds hover, unattached, unattracted, and quiet. When we’re lost in ego we’re attached to our desires and our minds are busy. They bounce around familiar conversations like they’re the walls that form our own mental prison. We get in the car and every day we yell at fellow drivers, never seeing our own upset as being the habit that is generating our suffering, but using our thinking to instead blame others the suffering we have chosen through a lack of awareness.

1259 Relax and Succeed - Watch your thoughts

We walk into rooms and begin old and familiar self-conversations about arguments from the past; or we talk to ghosts from our history about days we wish never would have happened, or we see things in symbolic ways rather than open ones. These are all common, understandable events to begin, but to stay healthy we must catch ourselves in these states of mind and we must consciously shift out.

The value isn’t so much in the switching, because any pain we feel is confined to our thinking anyway, so the important part is the awareness. Once we understand it in a larger context, any suffering we do is less meaningful. By placing it in a larger context it takes on a contrasting value that is difficult to recognize when we only see it as something dark that we want gone. Like a big, mean dog that we’re trapped in our homes with, if we can’t wish it away, then we’re all better to make friends with the part of us that has the potential to tear us apart from the inside.

Don’t move through your life with blind habits of thought. That’s to live the life of a spiritual zombie. Awaken. It’s not some big mysterious paint your face in the jungle thing, and it’s not something profound and holy and out of reach–true spirituality is with you when you do the mundane mindfully. It is not what you are doing, it is how mindfully you are doing whatever it is.

There are walls in your life that restrict you. From how you wake up, to what you listen to, to your route to work, to your reactions on the way and when you’re there; these things are all too-often decided before you even start your day. If we live unconsciously we will bounce between barriers formed by nothing more than our own limiting thoughts, and we will live repetitive, unimaginative existences. We have to get out of our common thoughts and develop our awareness like a muscle.

1259 Relax and Succeed - We do not heal the past

Here’s a little brain test: I’d consider slotting it into at least one day of your week as purely worthwhile exercise. Maybe it’s the radio in your car, maybe it’s a podcast instead of a music playlist, or a streaming audio book–it doesn’t really matter–your job is strictly to listen. Do whatever you’re doing safely and with the appropriate attention, but to prevent your mind from otherwise wandering to familiar self-talk narratives, stay listening instead.

If you miss even one sentence, double back and listen again. Do that; frustrate yourself until you can maintain your focus well enough to simply listen to whomever you choose, for what is really a relatively short period of time. If you can’t hold your focus for that long, or you can’t even keep dedicated to that single achievement, then you know you haven’t suffered enough yet to truly want your health.

If the awareness doesn’t motivate you then that’s fine–but it does definitely mean you are actively choosing suffering, because once we have that shift in understanding,all of this gets easy . We’re suddenly aware that our day is built by us, and so for the day to improve we have to improve at building it, not at finding some secret hidden in our past.

What kind of day will you build today? Will it be made from an unconscious collection of learned habits from your past, or will you awaken to your own originality and create your day anew, from freshly minted and silent moments of now? You make the choice every day. The only< question is: are those choices conscious or not?

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.