The Act of Active Love

1277 Relax and Succeed - Appreciation was an actionMany people make beautiful connections with others, but too much proximity for too long can mean that we can slowly see those connections atrophy and harden into little more than terminology. Rather than listening to people, we only hear them. Rather than recognising people, we only see them. And rather than loving people actively, as a verb, we think about how we’re confident we love them without ever actually showing it. It’s not that we wouldn’t love them, it’s that we were too busy thinking to truly notice them.

Most people live like tomorrows are guaranteed long into the future when none of us truly knows if this is possibly our last week on Earth. We don’t have to sell everything and move to the beach in the assumption that it’s all meaningless, we can still live prepared for our tomorrows and still be fully awake and alive today.

Let’s look around our lives. What words do we use and is our life in actual alignment with those words or do we just know those things are true without any real evidence in daily life? And once we find those things (guaranteed, they’re there), will we care enough to act upon them? In the end, words are spoken thought. But thoughts turned into actions are what creation is made of.

I would strongly recommend watching this, because what I trust is your heart’s ability to interpret the undeniable beauty that lives inside each and every one of us.

Have a wonderful weekend loving everyone.

peace and love. 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.

Dedicated Awareness

1274 Relax and Succeed - Threat your relationshipsA few years back some newlyweds moved in down the street. You know the type. They were the kind of couple that frustrates unloved people because they are so doting, so nose-to-nose, as they bob in a bubbly beaming kind of love.

They got themselves the cutest little puppy. He wasn’t too sure-footed, but he made up for a lack of direction in enthusiasm. Their morning walks past my house looked like their conversations sounded, zipping from over here to over there for no apparent reason, but every minute of travel was full of life as he tangled the two together with his leash. I saw this little tableau play out every single morning at 6:00am.

After they had lived there a couple of years, their walk had switched to match the dog’s. Now it was a bit after 6:00am when they went by, although that worked because they could move faster thanks to the dog walking in a straight line while they just held hands and talked. Sometimes you could tell one had an early morning or a late night, because one or the other of them would go by alone with the dog, which worked, because by then the dog was less trouble in that he was much more predictable by then.

1274 Relax and Succeed - Do not let a lack of awarenessWithin a couple years after that people saw them together far less often. Their appearances grew less youthful and more professional. They walked and talked more professionally too, even to each other. By now they were almost ignoring the dog the walk was so predictable.

By about seven years in, he’s usually walking the dog alone, and if it’s not him alone it’s her. Whoever it is is now on the phone more than they pay attention to the dog. As we age we get jobs that demand more, our days start often earlier. Even the dog was starting to walk more slowly by then.

Over the next few years you saw them together and apart, but even when they were together it definitely seemed like the warmth had worn off. They’d go by, bundled up in winter clothes, never holding hands, often on their phones in separate virtual locations. I’d see the dog run around in the field chasing the ball, but no one was watching it, and they only looked for the ball after the dog was waiting for another throw, no more pride in him just finding it all.

I found it a bit sad to watch, because it had always been a good and loyal dog. But now he was slowing down and his running days were numbered and he seemed more anxious than ever to access his inner puppy. Mostly his excitement just frustrated them as they worked to calm him down.

1274 Relax and Succeed - The best time to plant a treeEventually the owner was waiting for the dog as it limped along. It just sat in the field now and watched the other dogs run, wishing it still could too. And so it would sit there, alone in the cold, while whoever was walking him checked their work messages before dragging him back to the house.

Of course eventually the dog died, as did the relationship. In fact, the track of their walks is very similar to the journey most relationships take, from focus and appreciation to assumption and demands. With each slightly colder step, we remove the heat from the relationship and we create unnecessary distance between us and others. This only happens due a lack of consciousness that it is happening.

The dog died with puppy still in his heart. But that pup could not play without someone to play with. So too went the relationship. The puppy; the loving, caring, bumbling, mistake-ridden, totally forgiven for crapping on the carpet puppy, was always present. All he needed was two partners who were prepared to stay connected and to notice he was there, as playful as ever. If we can all learn to do that one thing, we can all learn to keep our dogs for as long as we live.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

The Heartbreaking Cost of Finding True Love

1258 Relax and Succeed - We feel the love we giveWhen we’re young we think it’s anyone notable. Notably attractive, notably strong, notably wealthy, notably popular; and we’ll go after the best version of that we can find. If our standards are relatively low we can be happy for a long time, but if they’re very high we end up breaking up a lot.

By the time we’re a little more mature we’re looking for someone who’s more of a match for us. We want someone who’s naturally inclined to have similar interests and values regarding how the energy in life gets invested, so it becomes less how people are to others and more how they are to us. But we still are quite particular about what we’ll accept.

Once we’ve had some difficult life experiences with the limits of our tolerance we know that even someone compatible to our interests isn’t good enough and we begin to look for people that are simply easy to be with. Just someone to share life’s loads with. By that stage people have surrendered their big strict romantic ideals and they happily trade that for a daily partner who simply sees past our own faults and still makes us feel truly loved. (Although notably, precious few work on trying to be easier to get along with themselves.)

1258 Relax and Succeed - May you be held in compassionWe can be lucky and find profound connections like that right away, but even they aren’t often destined for life. Regardless, for most people who do ultimately find true love (which isn’t a large percentage), it often takes several relationships and a lot of meeting people before they finally find someone that defies everything they’ve learned, and everything they know about themselves. At that point we are left with a very inexplicable attraction that exists despite all complications, including those surrounding our own confusion and/or lack of trust.

In the other relationships we were certain, and then we beat up ourselves for not being able to figure out how to make the relationship feel worth it. Each time we thought we’d finally figured it all out and finally knew what was right for us, but then we realised that all we did was graduate from one level of misinterpretation to a more sophisticated version of misinterpretation. Yet, in the case of actually realising true love, we’re often so startled by it that we question even ourselves. Despite our brain being uncertain, we find ourselves with a strange dedication nevertheless.

We do think these are the most beautiful people in the world, but not in the way we’ve traditionally thought of that concept. We see them as having deep and wonderful connections to various aspects of our lives, and yet they may have less to do with our personal interests than any other person we’ve been with. They are easy to be with in a very special way. These are people you can be at your worst with and still feel safe.

1258 Relax and Succeed - True love can be foundIn unexpected ways, the ultimate people for us will have all of the qualities we’ve always sought, they just won’t deliver that package of qualities the way we might have originally imagined. But how they always stand out is that these are the people we’ll pay a price for. These are the people who we are devoted to despite our better judgment. They are the ones who somehow magically compel our hearts to make significant sacrifices that aren’t about us feeling unworthy ourselves; they’re about us seeing the other person unconditionally.

There is no explaining them, and there is no way in which to go about finding them, they simply occur. But when they do they’ll stay with you for life, whether they live or die. We’ll never know enough to understand all the wonders that take place in our consciousness, but true love is what it is nevertheless.

Some people frustrate us because they only represent a part of the universe we’re looking for. But when we finally find a person that is whole to us as they currently are–even with us aware of their faults and weaknesses–well, then, that person is someone who can open a universe to 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.

Adult Parents Adult Children: It’s not always easy

1241 Relax and Succeed - Everyone grows at different ratesNow that Baby Boomers are the age they are, many are having to manage challenges relating to unsatisfactory relationships with their adult children, including complete estrangement. Things like the opioid crisis, shrinking job opportunities, and even anger over the parent’s past divorce or the child’s current one can all create rifts as the child–however old–works through their own personal issues.

The reason the Baby Boomers were less likely to hold their parents responsible for their struggles was simply because, at least the western world, the idea was that your accomplishments were always your responsibility, and so therefore they were also your own. Some families were naturally supportive and others offered little incentive or inspiration at all, but regardless the notion didn’t exist that a parent could or could not set their child up for success. Success was generally seen as a post-parenting adult pursuit. They were just supposed to keep you alive and make you into a responsible citizen.

Once psychology went from something philosophers studied to something that was used on laypeople, it took some time before people like Dr. Joyce Brothers popularized it on TV and then people like Benjamin Spock suggested there were better and worse ways to raise a child and suddenly a family was something to be analysed and graded and altered if it wasn’t thoroughly efficient at creating wealth and status and happiness. For the first time, a child’s adult problems could now be the parent’s fault. There was now a list of things that they ‘should’ have done.

1241 Relax and Succeed - If you've never been hatedWithin a few generations the unconscious families of the 60’s and 70’s gave way to the highly conscious–some might say overly self-conscious–parenting that is so concerned with micromanaging success that a new term was required: helicopter parent, which spawned the resulting term: adulting, to describe that period where the child becomes aware that they cannot be insulated from the responsibilities of life forever. Yet still today if a kid isn’t a Baby Einstein half the parents are worried they’ve destroyed their entire future already and so they try even harder.

Meanwhile the younger Boomers consider their parents in The Greatest Generation, and Millennials consider their Boomer parents, and both are either coming home or not coming home out of a sense of anger and disappointment. Now all of their personal struggles have been attached to all these new ideas about parenting that didn’t even exist when they were young. A parent can’t use 2017 techniques in 1970, and yet they will be judged by today’s standards, not those of the years during which the parenting happened.

1241 Relax and Succeed - Yes we are adults
The fact that this exists says a great deal.

In the 60’s western doctors were still teaching that it was unhealthy to show love to your children because it would steal their strength. Like today, those parents were following what they were being taught, but what they learned was from the infancy of the psychological movement and many mistakes were made. It’s no easy task. As we now know, what replaced it was possibly even worse, and efforts at improvement have instead lead to a record number of people who struggle psychologically.

In none of this has the parent really done as much wrong as the child’s perspective might lead them to imagine, which is why there is so much estrangement today. The kids who feel they’ve failed and are ashamed to come home, choose to hide. The ones who’ve been taught to feel that they were owed more either stay defiantly away in an attempt to exact some pain in revenge for the perceived mistake, or they come back angry wanting to know what deficit in their parent lead to such a huge mistake? That child will often get particularly emotional because if the issues aren’t with the parenting, then the fault will fall to the child, and that can be a terrifying responsibility to face.

1241 Relax and Succeed - One cannot be taught the valueA parent in 1960 couldn’t prepare their child for an internet, world any more than a parent today can prepare their kid for the world in Blade Runner 2049, or the one in GATTACA, because a kid born today is roughly the age of the lead characters in those films. Think about a world of robots and gene editing and uploaded consciousness and who knows what kinds of business and political structures; and then ask yourself if the parents of Boomers could prepare for a post-WWII world filled with divorce, women’s liberation, intercultural marriages, a health craze, and working online?

Given how old they are when they do it and what circumstances at that time are, and how much the world is changing around them, plus how uncertain the future has always been, no one can ever really know what a parent should do to prepare for a future that’s so unknown most of us can’t even begin to imagine it. Children will never understand the challenges of parenting until they are a parent themselves, and they will not understand what it’s like to be a senior parent dealing with adult children until they themselves have adult children. Experience is something that we have to wait to happen.

That’s why I like the Kierkegaard quote, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” And so, as tragic as some cases are, in every case a parent will have passed from this Earth before the child is even capable of fully processing what their relationship was. This creates poignant and sad events for people, but they are genuine events nevertheless. But they still are not signs of either a parent’s or a child’s failure. It’s simply how life is destined to go when parenting is seen as a subject-object concept that we should analyse rather than simply experience.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

The Emotional Wobbles

1209 Relax and Succeed - Happy piggy desk wobblerBoing. Maybe you even have one of these wobblers on your desk or dashboard. They remind me of people. When we’re younger we have an idea of our lives that is unperturbed. It’s starts as a straight line. We have a general direction and lots of energy and we see no reason why our crisp clean dreams won’t line up.

But dreams are a form of expectation, and when we’re young we tend to overvalue the happiness that will be derived from the achieving the expectation, which leads to unhealthy attachments. Simultaneously we undervalue our own internal peace. Many of us can remember some early, less mature relationships that we took to be true love, when really those were just some of our first encounters with non-familial love, so they felt a bit intense due to a lack of contrast. We overreact because we don’t have that spectrum of experience to balance things with yet.

Our love is true then in the sense that we see none of the person’s undesirable traits when we look at them, but when we have limited experience it’ll be highly conditional love based on the person meeting our expectations, which were based on our dreams. But they can’t act out our dreams. They have a dream of their own that they expect us to be a part of. And when we both first feel that impact to our egocentric, thought-based dreams, it sends us reeling. Our pendulum naturally swings hard to one side, which in turn generates a near-equal and immediate response and we all fly back in the opposite direction.

1209 Relax and Succeed - Things that matterBecause your dreams of your future depend on this person loving you, you are prepared to reach too far to bend yourself into your dream. But the more you demand, the more the person insists on being themselves and the more they move away from you, and the push and pull between your ego and spirit have you penduluming back and forth for a while before you calm down. (As an example, think of how teens and parents push against each other’s wills.)

What you really want in your life is love, but if you mistake the person for the love then you can end up wobbling strongly off your center in your attempt to connect to them, when in fact you’re actually reaching for a finger instead of noticing that it’s pointing at the moon. You eventually surrender your dream as you realise you’ve miscast it. As you wobble your way out of those thoughts your emotional swings are consistently less dramatic until life gets almost too still and too boring.

Over time we get sanguine about the impacts. As each hit comes and does the same thing, and as we see ourselves react, it’s not like our life is rocked less; it’s more that we accept the extreme motion as a natural result of the intensity of the original event. Rather than making it worse by hurrying to calm it, we learn to just ride it more like a seasoned circus performer whose act is to gracefully balance. They can do that because they stop focusing on the external motion and they focus instead on maintaining their internal center of balance.

1209 Relax and Succeed - Focus on the goal not the obstacles

With any event, the less you focus on the impact and the faster you focus on the way out, the better. But this means letting go of our attachments and even after we’ve grown in wisdom, that’s not a painless process. But then again, we need some sources of sorrow too, don’t we? Otherwise we’d lose all of the beautiful relevant art as well as all of the empathetic experiences we share and connect through.

Allow yourself to swing from side to side when you’ve taken a hit. But don’t make that emotional sway your identity. You’re still the thinker of those thoughts, you’re not the thoughts themselves. You still get to choose your thoughts and your attitude about life. They’ll just get interrupted by emotional extremes while your wobbles are extreme. But once you feel them, use that as a signal to reset and calm your internal voices.

Over time, and by nature, the swings always reduce in intensity as you learn to let your internal arguments go. And by the time you’re life is too still, a part of you will be secretly conspiring to get some drama back. Because deep down our spirit likes that drama. You can tell because, when you stop to think about it, most of our wobbles actually originate with 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.