The Stream of Time

What does Henry David Thoreau mean? Is this silly? Opaque? Meaningless? Profound? It’s actually all of those things, and you’ll turn it into whatever it becomes. Clearly people post it as a quote because it means something, so it’s not silly or meaningless, but it can also be so obscure that its nature can conceal its profundity.

Anyone who looks at it and thinks about it long enough knows that you are only ever alive now. You lived 10 years ago, but you’re not alive there now, you’re here, in the present. So any thoughts about your past or about your future are all thoughts, and they are all thought now, about then or later. You can think about other times as a present-time activity. So you can use now to revisit then if you like. The problem is that you do it a lot when you don’t like it, but that can stop.

Sometimes you’re just casting. You’re not after anything, you’re just reminiscing. That’s the best kind of fishing. The kind where it’s just as good even if there’s no fish, or no keepers. And if you’re that casual about your life, then if you pull in something that you think is ugly or unwanted, you can just catch and release–you can just let that collection of thoughts go.

Other times you’re casting looking for pretty specific fish. These are the old hollows you return to in your mind, over and over, in a bid to finally land that big fish and end your fishing. But you fail to notice the irony of fishing to end fishing. You don’t erase unpleasant experiences from your psyche, you just don’t load them into active memory. You don’t fish for what you don’t want to catch.

Understand, your body is alive in the present, but you’re usually not with it in the present, you’re time travelling forward or backward using your thoughts. So your experiences of fear or anxiety or sadness or loss, these are all thoughts about other times, and yet because they are emotionally imprinted, you see them as your life.

You have to take where you go and what you fish for more seriously. Far too many people just fish for whatever their parents fished for, without much thought of whether or not that’s actually the best route to an enjoyable fishing trip. We should use our feelings to grade our thoughts, and if they’re leading us to feel lower or worse, then we should stop thinking them.

You have no big huge miraculous thing to do. You already live within an enlightened state, you just want to be more conscious of it. To do that you only need to stop yourself from fishing in your yesterdays or tomorrows, and instead focus on being on the river now, today. Because that is where you life is lived and that is where your balance is kept. The present literally is a gift. Come alive within it.

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.

Limited by Time

I know at the start of this year I said no Thursday blogs but, as longtime readers know, I often make changes mid-year. This year those changes include returning the Thursday blogs but I’ll also be adding in some shorter, more highly focused single quote posts I believe you’ll find useful.

947 Relax and Succeed - Do one thing at a timeAnother thing I said at the start of this year is that I promised to write to you about time but I’ve been continually surprised at how complex it has been to study. I’ll do my best to describe to you what I’ve learned thus far because it can save you a lot of heartache. Also, as abstract and philosophical as this may sound, I would encourage you to take a literal meaning from this: this isn’t about learning about time, this is about how to live in that magical moment called Now.

Based on my observations it’s as natural for you to plot events on a timeline as it is for me not to. Of course I’ve heard the countless arguments for why I’m crazy. People point at a calendar and a clock and say, well obviously there’s time. They’ll tell me that they were at their friend’s for dinner two weeks ago and how could they do that if there wasn’t any time? Answering back with physics or some quasi-spirituality meets with very low levels of acceptance.

Let’s take that dinner at the person’s friend’s. Does it make sense that in this moment the person is remembering another moment? We are remembering the moment in which a Now became a memory. So we are replaying an old Now in the current Now. But the other now is two weeks ago someone will say. I realise that is a compelling narrative that’s believed by nearly everyone you know but that doesn’t make it right. That isn’t another time. You’re replaying a memory and you’re doing it Now. It has literally has always been Now.

947 Relax and Succeed - Don't take now so seriously

Now is before anything. Now is so pure that no matter what you’re doing while you’re Now you won’t even notice the time passing. That’s because you’re so profoundly involved with the present moment that you aren’t layering an egotistical personal narrative just slightly behind the rise of the event. In essence things happen and then we tell ourselves a story involving classification and judgment about whether we liked or disliked what unfolded.

How this effectively works is, say for instance I’m in a business meeting with another producer and they’re the leader on a film. By entering what James Carse calls the field of play I agree to function within the laws and ethics of business and to bring my best self to realising the quality of the work. If I have a passionate disagreement with the lead producer I make my case clearly, I give them an opportunity to shift emotionally, and if not then I make the case one last time. If they don’t accept it then I accept their role as the leader of the project then it’s over for me.

By “over” I mean I don’t think about it any more, I won’t hold resentments and I’ll drop that moment to be focused on whatever Now I’m currently in. So if the other producer and I had sharp words while working through the idea I wouldn’t see that as a problem they have to fix in some future Now. I wouldn’t feel they owe me an apology because I wouldn’t have thought about it at all other than while it was happening. I would have just liked how it had such passion back then.

947 Relax and Succeed - Nothing is permanentIf I’m working with people it’s because I believe they share my belief that the best business model is a good quality product and sometimes passionate debate is how you find it. I can handle someone’s passions splashing onto me personally because by the next time I meet them I’m in that Now and I react to them in many ways like I’m meeting them the first time. People change and I’m always prepared to see that change instead of my thought-form of who they were in a previous time.

Like you I will be aware of an event happening but I lose it pretty quickly because I don’t keep it alive by remembering it in subsequent Nows. In fact, since I had my accident I don’t think I’ve ever actually had a firm grasp on time now that I’ve studied it more. If it weren’t for school times, work times and the schedules of the people I lived with, I would have gotten totally time lost–as I did recently when I was working on some films and on my book. Hopefully I can turn my journey to understand time better into something that you can use to ease some of your fears and regrets.

I’ve learned I’m going to have to comprehend time in some artificial way in order to get along with the modern world but that’s just so I can enter the world’s fields of play. I cannot live there like you do because it’s so easy to see from here that that is where most of your pain arises. So I will continue to find ways to make time more conscious, but I doubt would ever even want to see time as anything more than a collective dream because that’s what it truly is.

If you didn’t sense time most of your troubles would go away and you would be very pleased to live a life that would have neither grudges nor pressure. You would still drive some people nuts by not subscribing to their dream but at least you’d have still put far more into the world than you’d have taken out. And I can tell you from experience, that’s a very enjoyable way to live.

peace. s

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

Wonders Never Cease

I am writing to you during one of the most remarkable events of my life. I am experiencing an emotion I haven’t felt since 2001: shock. Powerful insights like this tend to hit you a while before you’re aware of them, and then they generally unfold over several days, with your consciousness slowly making sense of the radical new truth over time. Everyone’s had insights, it’s just that very few people turn these sorts of events into language by discussing them with others, so people don’t really recognize them as insights.

914 Relax and Succeed - Actual picture of meThe first major insight I had was in the hospital shortly after my brain injury when I was five. That was when I first realized that if you could die at five, then the only point of being alive was to move in a positive direction until then. In my observations people were extremely consistent in that those who didn’t move in a positive direction were fearful and ultimately afraid of dying. I already knew death was inevitable, so going a positive direction until then seemed smart to a five year old so that is what I did.

My understanding that our thoughts create our reality was built very slowly over time because I discovered it through all kinds of secret experiments I rather callously conducted using virtually everyone around me. So the knowledge that reality was an inside-out manifestation came to me far too gradually to feel like a strong single insight. It was more like a slow and gentle awakening with no specific start or end.

My next major insight was in Budapest in 2001. The combination of a non-Latin-based language that left me mentally lost, the relaxation of a break after some intense work, and feelings of love and appreciation about the people and surroundings around me all lead to the perfect situation to have a profound realization.

As I’ve noted before, maybe it was a Bolte-Taylor styled stroke–there was a flash of whiteness and a deep tiredness immediately following it. Stroke or epiphany, however it came, a deep and abiding peace came over me and has stayed with me ever since that day.

914 Relax and Succeed - The pastSince then I’ve understood the perspective that provides our spiritual gurus with their unworried nature. Since then I’ve also understood formerly incomprehensible spiritual quotes. And most importantly, since then I’ve realized that not everyone understands that they’re always thinking, nor that their thinking is creating their reality. That was a big shock. In fact, it was the last shock I had before this one: you guys don’t know you’re creating your reality.

Of course I communicate with people who live in the ego-world full time, all the time, and I spend time there too, so I’m comfortable with it and I visit there often. But even when I’m there I know that ego creations are really an illusion of mind, which is why I’m successful at helping other people recognize in a very solid, scientific sense that our thinking absolutely does impact our reality. If it’s explained by someone who truly understands it, it’s very straightforward to come to the understanding that many things we take as real are in fact not-real.

My third major insight unfolded over the last few days or maybe even a week or more. Looking back, I can see signs that it developed over time, but because the insight directly involves time I’m not really sure how long it’s been unfolding. I just know my awareness has slowly been creeping toward reintegrating time into my consciousness.

I didn’t recognize this at first, but over the last 12 hours time has reformed into something I recognize. Of course I realized that time always should be kept track of, but losing track of its ongoing existence over longer periods of time was an oversight rather than a decision. I remembered the past fine, I just never noticed that I never noted when an event took place. I know it seems weird, but seeing time has been as weird to me as you not seeing it is to you.

914 Relax and Succeed - I'm not normalSince my accident as a kid I was aware that time was mental construct. This fact is why NASA is struggling with what to do with time in deep space. Leave a pretty arbitrary set of rules behind and suddenly time becomes an extremely slippery concept. So NASA agrees that time is a fiction, but mathematically proving that and actually living outside of it are two different things.

I honestly don’t know if something happened slowly over time, as with my study and understanding of thought and reality, or if it came as a result of my own stroke of insight (to steal a phrase) in Budapest. Signs point to the fact that it began that year in Budapest but either way, at some point I began living so thoroughly in the present moment that I literally stopped noticing the passing of time. I had a few hints of this over the years, but I never added them up to a loss of that sense almost entirely.

I know this all sounds incredible but I mean what I’m saying quite literally. Because as any decent physicist could explain, if you don’t glue a bunch of now’s together with your imagination there is no time. This isn’t to say I wouldn’t be aware of a vague date, but at the same time I wouldn’t automatically plot that on a larger timeline in relation to other events. It would only exist between its two nearest points and then vanish. This was an extremely common practice a few hundred years ago before clocks, but for today it’s a very, very unusual way to live (in at least the modern world).

The benefits I get with no passage of time include no grudges or the harbouring of any other negative emotions. No worry, lessons rather than regrets, no blame, and in most cases I can switch emotions comfortably and quickly toward more positive experiences. I can still experience time pressures but I can’t hold onto them.

914 Relax and Succeed - I awoke only to seeI am very available to human beings or living things when I’m present, and I feel a very strong sense of responsibility to others, but I don’t have a solid enough idea of a “me” to help me with a natural grasp of more conceptual things like time or even money. So a debt makes more sense to me than the dollars, does that make sense to you? I can add and manage both money and time very well, but their illusory nature makes them less sticky for my mind and I’m now aware I have to make their reality a much more conscious effort.

How much time has passed since this shift is what has shocked me. I’m not even sure what lead to me becoming aware of it having happened other than the fact that I appear to have caught up on my sleep for the first time in about eight years. Maybe it was a stroke and I just reconnected an old circuit. I suppose it could be that simple. But regardless of how, I suddenly became re-aware of time!

I’m still aware it’s an illusory state, but it was a complete mistake to not artificially integrate it into what was otherwise a very healthy understanding of reality. I suspect I would have accidentally hurt others due to this temporary displacement of time. In the past it was probably my other work and relationships that caused time to be kept more prominently in my mind. Without a regular schedule I lost my final mooring to the idea of time, at least until whatever brought it slowly back over the last week or two.

The net result of all of this is that I have a lot to catch up on and the books that are being completed are extremely important to me in that they represent what is really a life’s work in trying to understand what my accident taught me. So to ensure I have the time to live up to all of my existing responsibilities plus add some additional ones relating to a renewed dedication to time, I have no choice but to temporarily change the schedule of the blog.

914 Relax and Succeed - People will neverThis is a major insight that I’m confident all of us can learn from, so just as I took some time to write this one, I will add blog posts as I uncover this fascinating mystery. Already I’ve had an incredible amount of time-related insights, so I will add posts as circumstances allow. I really do have many very important things to take care of, but I’ll be sure not to waste this rising awareness. Hopefully my learning about how to move toward your sense of time will help you also understand how to move toward this very peaceful head-space, where time seems a little less tyrannical to you.

I know I have a lot of loyal readers for whom this will be very bad news and I am sorry. But these coming pieces should be very deep and similarly educational. Also, please always remember that the capabilities I write about here are always a natural aspect of you. You don’t need to improve or get better or learn something from me. I’m not creating you, I’m just waking you up.

You just need to forget there’s a you. That’s where the peace is that everyone’s looking for. Add to that an awareness of some key abstract concepts like time and you can find ways to combine your ego’s skills and spirit’s wisdom to create a much better life whether you are being taught to do so or not.

I thank you for your graciousness in creating this extra time for me. It’s still a very strange experience to suddenly become aware of something as basic to people as that. I’m sure it will teach me a lot to study it and reintegrate it and I look forward to sharing those lessons with you in the unknown future. Until then, please take good care of yourself and all those you love and I will see you all sometime soon.

With great respect for your time and attention, 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.

PS It’s just the most bizarre and incredible thing ever. And yet it somehow feels immediately natural. This is remarkable.

Fears About Memory

You’ve all done it. You walk into a room and think to yourself, what did I come in here for? Or you’ll forget the name of someone you know well. Or you’ll forget how to do a simple task at work. Sometimes you’ll even look at your taps and wonder which one is the hot one. And people are correct about being concerned about it. They’re right–it is getting worse. But not because Alzheimer’s is running suddenly rampant.

794 Relax and Succeed - We don't rememberLong term and short term memory require you to be present for what it is you’re trying to remember. So what’s this mean for some housewife who leaves the grocery store without the thing she came for? Or the husband who walks down the hall to talk to a co-worker only to forget what he came to talk about? The answer is mindfulness. Presence. It’s to get out of your head and back into your body.

Of course it’s possible you could have some form of dementia and yes the odds increase as you age. But they’re still long odds. It’s far more likely you’re just a victim of the present day and you have too much on your mind. By the time the wife gets to the store she’s thought about a million things. On the way down the hall the husband thinks about who he should ask to play squash next Tuesday, and did he remember to call the furnace guy, and what had that woman said to him earlier? Thoughts thoughts thoughts.

People have never been more forgetful, and there’s signs of this everywhere. When I’m at the store the cashier always asks, did you find everything you were looking for? and of course they all say that because they’re taught to by the research firms that tell them a lot of people would have spent more money if they only remembered what they came for, therefore it is worth it to remind them.

794 Relax and Succeed - Love where you areBecause I know people are very nervous about their memories, when they ask those questions I will often lie and answer that I usually remember when I get home, which will almost always get the people behind me to burst out laughing in understanding. They’ll often comment to confirm how many times they’ve done the same thing.

The truth is I rarely forget anything at the grocery store. I’m more likely to do it in my office where it’s easier to be distracted by things my brain considers more important than shopping for groceries. But when I’m shopping for groceries that’s pretty much all I’m doing. I’m in my body, I can feel the weight of the cans in my hands, I can feel the coldness of this surface versus that, I note the textures on the fruits, the details of the colours on the signs and labels. I’m drinking in the world around me without judgment or thought. It’s just there and I witness it. And that’s the key. The witnessing. If you’re not present you can’t witness, and if you can’t witness then you can’t remember.

Want to get a better memory? Want to worry less about your mind? Then tell it to shut up. After all, it’s just you talking to yourself. It’s not like you don’t know that stuff already. You don’t need to think about it. You can’t multitask, that’s already been proven. So if you can only really do one thing at a time why do you keep trying to do 100? The problem is not that you have 100 things to do, the problem is that you’re not present for the one you’re doing.

794 Relax and Succeed - Don't fill your headHuman culture is becoming addicted to thinking. People have come to see a sea of language as being where they live. It’s why they’ll write Look Up on the sidewalks of major cities. Because people are so lacking in presence that they need to be reminded that they’re on a street and that there are serious dangers present.

You have five senses you’re consciously aware of. Start recombining them back into one holistic experience. Stop all of the commentary, the bitching, the worrying, the wondering–and just be. Just be where you are and do what you are doing. You’ll be calmer, happier, you’ll get more done, you’ll make fewer mistakes, you’ll be more original and you’ll remember it all much better.

There’s a reason you sleep a third of a day. You need time to wire the other two thirds into the rest of your memories. So all you have to do is get a good night’s sleep and keep hydrated enough so your cells will function effectively and you can wire all those memories in and then use them the next day, week, month and year.

794 Relax and Succeed - All you need is lessIt is very unlikely your problem is your brain. It is very likely that you are using your brain in a way that is making you busy-headed. Quiet all the thoughts and connect with your natural environment. You won’t trip, choke, bump or drop things. You will be where your physical self is. And that presence will help your awareness take in more information which can be cross-wired with more information, thereby strengthening the overall fibre of your memory.

Do not panic about losing control of your mind. There are many benefits to mindfulness so take control instead. It is your mind. Use it to be where you are, doing what you’re doing, and then notice how you walk into a room and you do remember what you went in there for because you didn’t divert to do a bunch of thinking in the time it took to walk fifty feet.

Relax. You’re fine. You’ll notice how fine if you quiet your mind and slip into Now. It’s a really awesome place to be alive I look forward to seeing you there. Have an awesome day.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is a writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.

Leaving the Past Behind

We all know them. You might be one of them. A lot of people are. People who have either experienced difficulty most of their lives, or they faced one big event that included very high levels of betrayal or pain or fear. I’m talking about the people who aren’t happy today because of something in their past, be it as sharp as a violent parent, or as diffused as a marriage lost to “drifting apart.”

613 Relax and Succeed - When your past calls don't answerThe good news is that we are under no obligation to re-live those painful, scary or sad events. We call them big and therefore we claim to ourselves that they are somehow especially compelling; that you have to think them.

When I say stop you’ll say I can’t help it. But that’s hilarious because you don’t need to help it as though it takes some kind of effort. You need to take effort away by stopping yourself from assembling the narratives in the first place. You can’t make a narrative go away by replacing it with a second narrative that tries to justify the first. Remember, you put work into these narratives. I’m saying be peaceful instead. It’s much easier.

The only reason you believe you have to think certain things is because you do think those things a lot, and your brain gets good at anything you ask it to do a lot. So it’s like like the biggest valley in your head, caused by the largest amount of flowing water. That’s the route most of your thinking travels. If your attention is skipping across your brain it’s more likely to settle in the widest, deepest valley, which is created by the greatest amount of thought. But that doesn’t make it inevitable. Hardly. They’re still your thoughts. Who else would be thinking them?

613 Relax and Succeed - NowThis isn’t like you being chased through your own consciousness by some past event. It’s more like you going into your consciousness, way down into the basement where you keep all the painful stuff, and then you dig through years and layers of different thoughts—any of which you could choose to think—and instead you grab these same sheets of paper you often do, and you re-read them again, all the time complaining about how bad the story is that’s written on them.

I remind you that life remains filled with other filing cabinets also filled with other thoughts and, even more importantly, our actions in this moment are creating brand new pages in the story of our lives. If you’re choosing to think back and select a painful event, how is that the fault of the world or the people who were involved in the thought? Why does something that happened ten years ago need to be thought of today?

Time exists only in your head. You are always alive now. You are never alive any other time other than the moment you are in. But you can take that current moment and you can think about when you lived. You can take your aliveness and you can invest it in remembering and therefore in re-living past events, but why would you do that when those events are painful? You only do it because you think you must head to those deep valleys in your brain. But your brain changes as you use it. The less time and energy you spend on recreating the past in your imagination, the more time and energy you have to move your life forward today.

613 Relax and Succeed - Do you want to be happyStop worrying about days gone by. The real question is: if you had just been someone else, and you just died and got reincarnated into your who you are right now, you wouldn’t care what your body had done 10 years ago. You would assess its capabilities in the now and you would use those to move yourself forward.

There’s no reason you can’t do that yourself right now. Just do not invest energy going to collect and replay old memories of unpleasant events. That is not the fault of the people in those stories nor is it proof that there’s anything wrong with you. But the pain you’re feeling today is 100% your responsibility because no one chooses what you think about other than you. That’s why the thoughts are painful. They’re telling you not to think them.

Forget about worrying about the future or regretting the past. Be alive today. Because it’s what you choose to do today that will create where you get to start from tomorrow. Your past is over. It’s your future that’s open to change. Start living like you know that’s true.

Have yourself an awesome day.

peace. s

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

Broken Glass

My boyfriend cheated on me a year ago. He says he would never do it again and I believe him but I can’t stop thinking about that one time. He’ll go out with his friends and he’ll come back and I’ll have thought about it the whole time and I’m yelling at him right away. He told me to get over it or leave but I can’t. I told him it’s not that simple. How are we supposed to get over this?

signed,
Feeling Cheated

Dear Cheated,

My condolences regarding the painful feelings you would have experienced upon learning your partner had cheated. I have no judgment about people’s natural drives but it’s never pleasant to hear about another human being experiencing suffering.
303 Relax and Succeed - Your feelings are not caused

It makes perfect sense that you would be angry and attack your boyfriend if you spent the entire time he was out ruminating about his act of betrayal one year ago. Whether you’re thinking about it as it happens or thinking about it a year later, as long as you process it the same way you will get the same feelings. It’s logical that angry hurtful thoughts would lead to angry hurtful feelings and actions.

While those feelings may be logical, as you know they certainly aren’t constructive. In fact, they aren’t even really reasonable because nothing can be done about events in the past. So in fact your boyfriend is correct: the only thing you can do other than leave is to forgive him and stop thinking about what happened in the past.

That forgiveness is an action in the world and it means you stop talking to yourself and others about your identity as a person who has been betrayed. Because that’s what had you so mad when he got home, right? It wasn’t the event itself, it was your thoughts comparing your expectations of what you wanted to happen to what actually happened. That was not a positive comparison, so because you had done all of that thinking (a year after the event), you dosed yourself with anger chemicals and that’s what’s hurting you, your boyfriend and your relationship today.

303 Relax and Succeed - Life is like riding a bicycleThink of your relationship as a bicycle moving through a huge space. You can ride it anywhere you want, but it needs momentum to keep upright. The important thing to the bike is the peddling. It’s the two individuals motion towards each other that keeps the relationship intact. But you still have freedom over where you ride, and if you keep returning to the twists and turns of your previous life (i.e. when you got cheated on), then you should fully expect to feel like you did back then. It’s as though you rode over some broken glass a year ago, and today you’re re-riding over that same glass in an effort to make it go away a year ago.

Things in your past don’t go away. They’ve happened. You either choose to re-live them or you don’t. So the first big mistake was your boyfriend’s transgression a year ago. But if you chose to accept that event and continue on, then you truly have do that. You can’t say you did that and then harbour these thoughts. You can’t ride over that same broken glass of thought repeatedly and still hope to keep air in your relationship tires. He did something that was very disrespectful to you. But even then, you still can’t blame him for your thinking a full year later.

You have to either decide the experience was bad enough to leave him for, or accept that you’re going to stay. But if you do the latter, then don’t think you can have a smooth and healthy relationship if you’re  constantly circling over broken glass. Your relationship will quickly be deflated. Things in the past are not alive today. If they were painful previously why rekindle their existence with our thinking? Live in the now.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Take responsibility for your psychological landscape. Either accept life without your boyfriend, or accept it with him—but with him also means with his history. You don’t have to focus on or think about it too much but you have to accept that it exists. Because if you keep re-riding over that same sharp and dangerous spot, then you should fully expect to have sharp and dangerous experiences as a result.

Surrender to reality. What is is what is. Just let things be. You really can do it. And I wish you and your boyfriend every good fortune going forward.

peace. s

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