The Advantages of Being Average

1332 Relax and Succeed - It may contain competitions within it

Have you seen the Alan Rickman film A Little Chaos? It’s about a peasant woman learning that she is freer than her King. Things can be imperfect. The sun can strike her skin, she can choose her own friends, she can relax. She can even fall in love.

Imagine being a King of yore. You couldn’t marry who you wanted to, you needed to marry for power. You can’t even wear what you like. You’re forced to always dress up in stockings, wear tons of ruffles and heavy buttons even when it’s hot. And who wants to wear scratchy wigs made of wire and hair from dead people and animals?

Tension and fear are the price for fashion in the King’s courts and so it is today. That white powder on the noble faces was lead-based, and it often killed them at far too young an age –all for appearances and a desire to somehow separate themselves from the peasants who worked in the sun.

If we look around us we can see today’s examples of the same dangerous desire to be special.

There’s the girl that gets third degree burns by leaving her tooth-whitening chemicals on for too long; the YouTube mountain biker that breaks their neck trying to get that great piece of footage; or during the running of the bulls in Spain, there was even a runner that favoured getting good footage of himself being gored over prioritizing his escape.

Seen another way, there are parents that end up with suicidal kids by pushing for strictly straight A’s. There are workers who destroy their families trying to get promotions that take them even further from their families. There are people who bankrupt themselves trying to keep up with the Jones’s.

These are all examples of us wanting. They all operate on the premise that we do not yet have enough value and must earn it in some way. It’s true that we can expand our value, but we should not live feeling as though our lives are a burden to the universe. Everyone is born worthwhile. Our value comes through the living of our lives.

If we’re motivated to stand out, then we can trust that. But we should not chastise ourselves for not wanting ‘bigger’ or ‘better’ lives for that is, in other words, a way of saying that we are content, satisfied and without want. According to many spiritual leaders, that’s the ultimate definition of ‘rich.’

Being the top dog has a price. No one should feel strange about being in the middle of the pack. It may not make us a household name, but it can offer us the wisest path to less ego, and more accessible fun. And the fact that it is the average is a demonstration that most people agree with our general choice.

peace. s

The Tyranny of Expectation

1329 Relax and Succeed - If our expectations are not met

It all happened in the foothills of the mountains, in a cold hard rain, in a tiny trailer that had a leak in the roof. The levelling jacks, the battery and the water pump all failed. Half the stalls in the campground were empty due to just the weather. It was raining so hard we had to keep the fire going or we would never get it going again, so we didn’t have enough wood.

I got really sick, so my friend had to pack up her two little wet, cold kids alone, all so she could drive an hour in each direction just to buy more firewood. The kids were pinging off the trailer walls all weekend. It was freezing outside and diapers meant the little one was in and out of her rain suit constantly. Mud was everywhere, and everything smelled like smoke and sweat and diapers. It was an awesome weekend.

If that seems unlikely or impossible, consider that the only reason that people don’t have worthwhile weekends in situations like that is due to the Tyranny of Expectation.

Rain, cold, crying kids, illness, bad smells, and yet there I was loving it (well, except when I was sickest, then I took a while to happily enjoy not loving it). My contentment in those circumstances is a good illustration of how peace occurs.

The person who gets to go on regular holidays considers time off normal, so they take that for granted and they want more. That’s how anything in nature moves forward –it gather’s more and more life as it goes.

The people with time off, who can afford to go –they’re past wanting any break. That’s assumed. Their current identity owns that reality (or so they believe). Having that, now they want a great holiday. Our ego sets that as a quiet but powerful expectation.

And it comes with strings.

If our expectations are not met we will pay an emotional price. We are disappointed. That is the feeling we get when experiencing the gap that exists between our in-that-moment expectation and our in-that-moment reality. To the contrary, due to my previous context I had it easy this weekend.

1329 Relax and Succeed - Contentment and happiness occur

Nine years of compressed care-giving and earning a living have lead me to experience the same set of rooms, the same set of painstaking and often unpleasant actions, the same frenetic, unpredictable schedule, and the same types of simple conversations and same list of dull tasks, repetitively, for years in a row with no days off. That kind of experience gets etched into anyone’s brain.

I’m not complaining, we’ve found ways to truly enjoy it. I chose it and it has its profound rewards for all three of us. They mostly visit their friends and play games, and it’s made me a better person. But it’s definitely not what one should could call easy or fun, which is why I have the routine. Much of it isn’t very motivating, so the schedule keeps me moving forward. Without it being packed to over-full, I would be even farther behind than I am.

There’s no way one person can get my entire daily to-do list done, so I have to focus on what I can get done and on keeping the biggest fires out. That’s doing well in the current context. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ . All of us will have times like this in our lives. We shouldn’t let our egos think something’s wrong.

I’m surviving that well because of the act of acceptance, but the holiday allowed me to make use of the principle that reality is relative. That’s why I had a great weekend. I had no expectations. I was too busy beforehand to even consider thinking of any. I was simply happily anticipating things being different. Otherwise, it had no parameters, so as soon as we’d left home I won.

Despite the rain and cold and challenges, we had fun playing board games and playing make believe, we covered some river safety, respect for plants and animals, and it felt good to model a positive attitude in difficult circumstances because that will be what will become the kid’s version of ‘normal’ when facing adversity.

On top of all of those benefits, the rain made things smell good, and the river was roaring. I also love the sound of a crackling fire and, thanks to the rain, that one needed to be lit all the time just to stay lit. Despite all of the smoke, I look back on the weekend as having been filled with wonderful freshness. It is a joyous thing to be in the presence of the bright spirit of little kids.

Precisely because my life is so repetitive it was easy for me to appreciate the difference and value that even crappy camping offers. But in principle, this can happen even for people living without that extreme contrast.

Disappointment for any of us will begin with anything below our ideal expectation. We are better to have never used our thoughts to create the expectation at all. Contentment and happiness occur not because our situations are ideal, but because we respond to things in a way that respects our time on this Earth. Life is short. We should enjoy as much of it as possible.

Sometimes feeling bad is what we want to do and we should let ourselves have that kind of happiness too. But when we’re ready to feel better, it’s nice knowing that a shift of focus and a dropping of our expectations can quickly convert a bad experience into a good one. It’s a skill worth practicing.

peace. s

Oprah’s Example

1325 Relax and Succeed - Oprah The Path Made Clear

I’m working on a project that lead me to be at the Oprah talk last night in Edmonton. It was me, a producer friend, 11 other guys and about 20,000 women. I can assure other men that no gym muscles or hot cars will ever get a man the sort of credit you get for just being a guy at Oprah. We were congratulated several times just for coming, which felt odd.

I’m sorry, I never remember to take photos at these things, I’m always too much in the now to think to interrupt the moment in order to try capturing the moment, and I don’t use a smartphone.

It was in general a very happy, cooperative, friendly crowd and it felt good to be there. The talk itself felt a bit more like a highlight reel featuring mixed metaphors than a one long whip cracking.

Rather than a raconteur spinning out a theme and ending it with a swell and a snap –where there’s a beginning, middle and end with a climax– this was more a collection of vignettes of poignant scenes done more like an anthology of distinct stories. It was a bit like the difference between a band performing an entire concept album, versus just their greatest hits.

Her ‘greatest hits’ included video clips that featured Gary Zukov, and she had Wild author Cheryl Nyland on stage for a very authentic-feeling section that seemed to really focus the audience’s attention. In the end, everyone we asked really enjoyed the event.

I was there for a very particular reason, but it was still very easy to notice how invested people are in their health and in caring about others. That entire show was about a generous, caring, open and accepting way to see life, and there were 20,000 disciples all saying, ‘yes, we’re on board.’

How can we see the world as ugly when that many people show up just to share space and love?

What struck me most about her talk was a particularly vulnerable section regarding her early life. For those unaware, Oprah had a half-sister given up for adoption, and she herself was not seen as a gift to either her mother or her grandmother. In short, she was almost entirely unloved throughout her childhood, and you could feel that she still carries the pain of that even today.

She spoke of forgiving her mother before her death, although I got the sense that is still unfinished business with her. She did say something beautiful and true, which is that it was the neglect of attention that Oprah suffered early in life that lead her to a life on TV, and then as a talk show host, and ultimately she became the loving person she is precisely because she had those unloving forces in her life.

1325 Relax and Succeed - How are we weaving our pain into love

Maybe what made last night work was that Oprah wasn’t some deity administering her balm to the audience’s wounds, she was there more as an equal. While the talk used phrasing about how grateful she was for the wisdom she had gained from so many wise people, it felt less like a talk from an expert, and more like another human connecting and saying, “Life is hard at times, but worth it. This is what I’ve found and it works pretty good. I’m glad we’re in it together.”

Any kid who doesn’t get love will either get super cold or they will become an expert on love, and Oprah both demonstrates love and she clearly also basks in it. It’s always a nice thing to see people who need love, openly enjoying getting it.

Considering what she’s given people, it feels appropriate that her mother’s missing, stable, narrow mile-deep love is being replaced by her audience. Maybe they can’t give her the sort of love that knows her as well and goes as deep, but regardless, it can extend across her horizons in every direction. After a tough childhood, it’s wonderful that she would have used her pain to build such a beautiful view.

I share with Oprah her sheer joy in sharing love with others, and I too cannot help but be grateful for even her grandmother and mother’s cold feelings, for without those the way would not have been paved for one of modern society’s most potent outlets of positivity. On a universal pain-to-benefit ratio, Oprah is a clear win for love.

Every person struggling with their parents will have benefits grow out of that struggle. The question isn’t so much; why didn’t Oprah’s mother openly love her, because we’d have to be her mother to fully grasp that. That means the real question is; what did Oprah do with that sad fact?

What Oprah did with that fact was to beam love through the airwaves into TVs and books across North America, and that lead to massive amounts of love flowing toward her. And that is a pretty good outcome out of two uncaring caregivers. Such is the yin and yang of life.

The final question is, how are we weaving our pain into love?

peace. s

The Laughing Buddha

1318 Relax and Succeed - Laughing Buddha

It gets mentioned often in my work because it really is important. It should be seen as a deeply spiritual act.

When did we each last laugh? Even when things are heavy, eventually we will need to lighten our emotions or we’ll be crushed. And laughter shouldn’t be something we leave to chance. We should have it as a part of our daily agenda in life.

We should all look at our weekly calendars and in them we should do our best to include some time with a funny friend, or to see a funny movie, or watch a funny show, or play, or to play some game that makes us laugh. We can even just watch comedians on YouTube.

Maybe we should even colour code times in our calendars where there is a high likelihood of laughing. Too little colour? That’s a week lacking in soul.

How and why we laugh doesn’t matter. It’s the laughing itself that we should see as being very real spiritual development. If that feels like a cheat it isn’t. Getting healthy not only can be enjoyable, to me it’s always been very weird that anyone ever thought that getting healthy needed to be painful. Why would that be? Catharsis maybe yes, but liberation feels great.

1318 Relax and Succeed - Laughter is a form

Let’s all make sure to keep our portals to joy open. Let’s laugh deeply and often and intentionally. We cannot lose touch with that part of ourselves. That version of us should be familiar.

Many times when working with someone new, I will see them react to hearing their own laugh for the first time in –sometimes years. So that ability might feel innate –and it is– but the more we do of it the better we get at finding reasons to do it. And it’s those moment by moment wins that add up to a great life.

We should considering making a category in our calendars for laughing. We need to ensure we get at least one good shot at some belly laughs every week at minimum and, if we can pull it off, we should go for one a day minimum. Everything over that is like icing on the cake. It just keeps getting better.

What a brutal spiritual guide I make, huh? Laugh more, I say. It’s because it’s a form of joyful prayer. When it is done so fully that we become the laugh –and cease for a time to be our ego-selves– that is where a state of enlightenment is discovered; a place where there is no time, and where we perceive no self to be judged or be wrong.

In that place we are always complete.

Laughing melts our egos into the energy of joy, expressed in a present moment. It’s like being in a church with walls made of light. Let’s all make sure we spend some time there on a regular basis.

peace, s

Real Princesses Have Real Problems

1302 Relax and Succeed - Princess Grace

Blinding expectation leads many of us to struggle with achieving our goals. Since everyone’s primary goal is belong, we tend to expect the love and acceptance we seek to come in a particular form, which causes us to miss when we’re actually getting offered what we need.

A good example of this innocent mistake can be seen in the film Grace of Monaco, starring Nicole Kidman as an extremely impressive version of the real princess (and Tim Roth doing an equally brilliant turn as her husband, Prince Rainier). It’s a stellar cast and script, but in today’s age of action heroes these sorts of profoundly human stories too often get ignored.

The fact that the writer managed to tell a profoundly human story about a princess was no easy feat. I’m not sure how accurate the film is (I do know a friend of Prince Albert’s –their son– and will try to find out), but for the purposes of this piece all that matters is that the writer a) used a very real event in history and, b) he accurately portrayed the princess making a common human mistake.

The backstory is that Grace Kelly grew up as the daughter of a wealthy American businessman. Grace constantly felt inferior to her sister and unloved and disrespected by her parents. Many people can relate to those feelings which is what makes a film about a princess, universal.

People short on love from the sources we’re told we ‘should’ get it from (like our parents), will often then seek that love in a much shallower, but broader sense from a much larger group of people simply because it’s safer. Who notices a few people not clapping in a room full of clapping people? Celebrity love is spread thinly enough to act as a form of fallibility insurance.

This is why many unloved people seek to be stars of various types. (It’s also why the disenfranchised in society join gangs and hate groups.) We all move towards people who care for us. That is where we are accepted and safe, and the highest form of love is love without conditions.

That is where we are accepted and safe, and the highest form of love is love without conditions.

Needing to feel cared for and admired, it’s no surprise that Grace the disappointing daughter had a decent likelihood of ending up in a job where she was loved regularly by people too distant to disappoint her. But despite her fame and success as an actress, she still did not feel accepted or respected by her family, and her mother refused to offer anything more than cold comfort.

As a demonstration of how important acceptance is to human beings, Grace’s response to not being respected and loved was to be swept off her feet into a fairy tale wedding with a Prince. Surely being Royalty would impress her family. Surely being a princess was romantic. But apparently not.

Grace’s problem in the film is that she wants to be loved so desperately. But her husband has a duty to the State and plays the sort of role that means he cannot be the husband she seeks. He is an able and trustworthy partner, but he was raised in too rigid a life to have developed the warm sensibilities she sought.

But remember what we said about expectation? Grace’s problem wasn’t that she couldn’t get love and respect, it’s that she kept trying to get it from people that couldn’t give it. For her parents it was pride and ego that were in the way; for her husband, duty and decorum.

1302 Relax and Succeed - The Meaning of Life

Critical to the story is that her marriage overlapped a crises for the Principality of Monaco. Having no taxes, France saw all of her businesses leaving the nation for Monaco. De Gaulle –the former French Resistance leader turned President of France– wanted Prince Rainier to force a tax on the Monaco’s citizens.

France had complete control of Monaco’s utilities, supply chains and harbours. They had little to bargain with. De Gaulle was threatening tanks in their streets.

The turning point in the story is when Grace realizes that her husband does love her, but must play his role. She also realizes that Monaco needs her, and that her own role actually means something.

Grace is media savvy, and so she knows that even Presidents are subject to public opinion. By surrendering her efforts to get love from a singular source like her parents, or her husband, Grace was free to become her own person by serving her people in the greatest role of her life –that of their Princess.

Grace didn’t need love as much as she needed to be valued.

I would like to think that the final scene captures the moment fairly honestly, because the very quiet and subtle film wraps up rather neatly and beautifully with the results of Grace’s growth.

In a metaphor of her own life, Princess Grace not only cleverly saves the nation (no spoiler for you there –it is still there after all), but in doing so she demonstrates that a person’s ability to value themselves does not depend on the fickle love of others.

Our self-worth is inherent. Once we become aware of that we have few needs, from there we need only find how to serve with the abundance that is us –not enacting what we have to offer is as painful as not knowing it’s there.

We are at our best when we feel secure about ourselves. Without the debilitating drag of our insecurities, were are automatically left with an abundance of love to share with others. So rather than expecting love to come to us in the form of affection, we need to maintain an awareness of the fact that some of love’s greatest forms are actually found in the sense of exaltation that can only be created by sincerely giving our all.

peace, s

Re-Awakening

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
This is Scented Chamomile from my own garden. It is a truly problematic weed for farmers, but it also demonstrates how much beauty we can find in our our back yards if we’re looking for it.

As children we are filled with wonder. Every new thing is so completely new that it fills our minds with experiences that are so profound that they leave us with no space or time for the generation of an ego. At that stage we are so thoroughly focused on taking the universe in that we simply have no thoughts about our selves.

Most of us drift away from that sense of wonder slowly, once we learn to talk and name things. Once we know the name of a kind of bird, we effectively stop seeing it. We never look to see what’s unique about that individual versus another individual, they all just become merely ‘sparrows,’ or ‘robins’ or ‘crows.’ The problem is that we also do that to people, and the other treasures in our lives.

Let us intentionally regain our sense of wonder for the universe this weekend. Let us go to a botanical garden with a magnifying glass. Look at the gemstones in our local museum. We can go to a science center and look though a microscope, or go for a walk in the wood and really look at the woods themselves. We need time to go slow. To sit still.

In the ravine near my house, if a sitter is patient, seeing a fox is not impossible but extremely exciting. As in much of life, patience pays dividends.

Here’s a man who’d seen his hobby become too ordinary. It took some creativity and boldness on his part, combined with the support of a friend and an open and friendly public, and not only did he remind himself about how great his hobby is, but he also re-introduced wonder to a lot of lucky strangers.

If you’re in Edmonton, where I am, you can arrange to look through some wonderful telescopes through RASC, which is linked to the Telus World of Science. Every city will have similar organizations. Consider attending. It will stretch more than just our knowledge. Experiences like these help place ourselves in the universe in a curiously spiritual way. These experiences manage to be both grand and humbling.

Our problems live in our heads. We often to do more to solve them by getting out of our heads. Let’s make the world less personal and more universal. It can help to put our challenges in a larger perspective.

Enjoy your weekend.

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

Thank you!

1281 Relax and Succeed - Are you curious as to what people lined up onI would like to begin by thanking you all for the very warm welcome back. You caught me a bit off guard; I had been so focused on what I had to do that failed to consider external reactions along the way.

I’d also like to thank you for your impressions, ideas, needs and hopes. In one way or another I will attempt to give each person who commented some form of answer in the blogs in whatever form they ultimately take. What I really appreciated was that you all described your perspectives quite well and your requests were very interesting.
Are you curious as to what people lined up on?

I was floating the idea of the assignments because those had been extremely popular in the past, but I was also aware of one thing: the world has changed a huge amount in a short period of time. Everyone today feels overloaded.

Work is filled with constant upgrade courses, getting customer service on anything takes forever, everyone’s stressed polarized and more inclined to be rude, and the gig economy has people working all hours for too little insecure income, and life in general is seen as simply far too busy.

Phones are now largely seen as quite unpleasant things by anyone with a serious and responsible full time job. It’s more like a leash, or a cattle prod. Or a procrastination drug. So who wants some assignments on top of all of that? A few people, but most would like something more open. And more positive.

Negativity and argument were big themes. People are exhausted through simple exposure to such rampant negativity. The reading of the blog itself can act as relief to a small degree, but people were looking for non-assignment-based ideas about how they can practically impact their lives to generate a more positive –and dare I say– fun environment. I can relate to that desire, so that definitely helps the writing.

So it appears that rather than a plotted plan like an assignment structure, we will end up with something more free-flowing and open to evolution, but it’s thrust will be positivity and practicality. That works perfectly, because this is not only my blog, it’s also me working out parts of an upcoming book and those are the themes. The reason we likely lined up on what we feel pulled toward is that many of us are all experiencing the same sensations.

No matter what ‘sides’ they are on, people are tired of watching society render itself into individual pieces. Rather than just wallowing in negativity most of us want something more active and positive to rally ourselves and others around. We all want direction on how to make an effective, long term positive difference in our lives lives and the lives around us. That’s it in a nutshell.

1281 Relax and Succeed - People want direction on how to makeSo now that we know what it’s about, I want to discuss its frequency. I really have no idea how easy it could ultimately be on each weekday as before, but even under current conditions that might be doable if the pieces are a bit shorter. It depends on a lot of unrelated things. At the same time, I may find I only have time for one piece a week on a general theme and one on caregiving and what can be learned about ourselves from that. Even non-caregivers can learn about life from the latter.

We’ll have to wait and see what we end up with, but I enjoy bringing value to your lives so I’ll do the best I can.

Finally, if you’re a man reading this, I think it’s worthwhile noting that a very large percentage of the communication I had on the issue of how to focus the blog, surrounded the problem of very negative husbands who made home-life a constant angry discourse on what is wrong with the world.

We all feel that way sometimes so I’m sure the spouses can relate. But when almost every woman writes with the same issue, regardless of what part of the world they live in, then we as guys simply have to accept that it’s possible that the ways our brains are naturally wired is not leading us to meet today’s world in a healthy manner and we need to get conscious and change course or we’ll start having more concrete reasons to feel like things are going wrong.

This applies to virtually any of us who’ve been overly negative –which is likely all of us. I know I’ve had my own little flurries on days where I’ve had to figure out the sort of stuff no one wants to ever have to figure out, especially for people you love. So the world also needs tolerance for when people are in pain and lash out, but at the same time we all want 2019 to be a more positive year.

How about we end this blog with a simple reminder that by watching for positive things we tend to find them, and that if we truly love the people we’re around, we shouldn’t be trying to get what we want, we should be trying to build a positive environment for ourselves and others. Because it feels really good to make a difference.

Thanks again everyone. It feels good to be back.

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.

Connection and Expansion

1271 Relax and Succeed - Connection and expansionWe know it’s good for us to practice gratitude each day. We endeavour to steadily move through our day from observation to observation without layering any words over our connection to whatever or whoever it is that we’re appreciating. But while words themselves are a product of the subject-object world of the ego, the feelings behind them can both be genuine and worthwhile.

What we often do not do as an aspect of gratitude, is to stop to look back to find a very precise example of someone warranting our reconsideration and appreciation. Birthdays make us think of individuals, and things like anniversaries or marriages cause us to think about those events in our own lives, but there is no occasion in society that asks us to slow down and consider to whom we may not have shown the sort of gratitude that would feel as good for us to express as it would for them to hear.

Whether they know how important they are to your life or not, find this unsung person. Find them via social media or through friends, or work or school. Figure out who they are today, and find them and talk to them before Monday. If we’re going to grow by pushing outside of our comfort zone to talk to someone from out of the blue, then it’s nice that it gets to be for someone who’s done so much for us.

1271 Relax and Succeed - Feeling gratitude and not expressing itNo matter how timid we are about grabbing our own lives, surely we can see the value in making a genuine connection of genuine appreciation, because if we won’t even reach and grow for people we like, then our problem isn’t whether we’re good enough, our problem is we’re being too cowardly to ever learn enough to get good.

Free yourself. Any danger is strictly psychological and it lives only as your own opinion inside your head. Your thoughts of isolation do not mean you weren’t born belonging, but to revel in that belonging you need to embrace it with the depths of your soul. Open up. It’s less painful than our masks.

Thank someone. Not for them, for you. 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.