Our Potential is Limited by Insecure Thinking

1295 Relax and Succeed - When you feel fantastic

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

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

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

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

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

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

1295 Relax and Succeed - Real success is feeling good

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

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

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

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

peace. s

The Daily Struggle

1289 Relax and Succeed - We don't need a solution we need understanding

I recently did a post on the facebook page that read, “We should be in our bodies, not our minds. We should profoundly feel reality around us. We should note how our thoughts can make our bodies appear lighter or heavier. We should note how much less we spill or drop when we focus on the present rather than thinking a layer of before or later over top of a semi-automated present. Our consciousness needs to be filled with something. Fill it with the present rather than with thought.”

Following that post, a long time reader responded that she found staying conscious a “constant struggle,” which in turn has lead to this post, as I also know many of you who go through the classes experience this stage so it makes sense that others reading the blog will as well.

Your consciousness can do two things. It can be focused on the present, or it can think a reality into being for your ego to experience. Each action in the present or thought-triggered reality from the ego will incite various biological reactions that we experience as the chemistry of the brain and the feeling of our emotions.

When we notice our ego most is when it generates pain, but the pain itself often causes us to delve into the past and wonder why we allowed the negative feels to be conjured rather than staying focused on own role in the present regarding how we feel. That means we then add to the problem by chastising ourselves for having gone the route of ego, which just creates more thought-based suffering when what we needed was less.

We don’t need a solution, we need understanding.

The path we seek is defined by where the path is not. What defines the path is its not-path borders. So the ‘struggle’ we feel in bouncing into the underbrush isn’t us failing, it is simply us allowing our consciousness to drift through a lack of active awareness. In turn, our painful emotional reactions to events in turn signal us to return to the awareness and that leads us back onto the path. Without that there would be no path at all.

That “struggle” is not a failure, it is really just the normal oscillation of a soul from spirit to ego and back again. But again; without not-path there is no path, so that is why spirituality is a practice and not a degree. That’s the point behind yin and yang. We can’t have just one. They work together to create reality. That’s why the Buddha said that the end of suffering is the acceptance of suffering, and it’s also why Rumi said, the road home is home.

peace. s

The Aftermath of an Accident

1273 Relax and Succeed - Dad there's been an accidentHe came in the door quite tentative, as though he was afraid of even being in the room. It was a kitchen, and his father was busy making a sandwich and was slightly distracted. “Hey Dad,” he softly interjected into the moment.

“Hey! How was the day?” His Dad spun his back to his son, opened the fridge, and started balancing a big collection of ingredients in his arms.

“You know, it was a day. Not perfect by any means. It had some parts that really sucked.”

His Dad smiled as he closed the fridge with his hip and turned back to making his sandwich. “Well, you know how life is. We don’t always get what we want,–[starts to sing it like Mick Jagger] but if we try sometimes…”

“Dad.”

[singing] “…we get what we need!”

“There’s been an accident–I was, I was in, an accident.”

The sandwich froze in suspended animation. Totally still, looking straight down at his bread, the father very evenly asked, “You’re okay. You’re not hurt? No one else is hurt?”

“No! No. No, I’m okay, everyone’s okay, the airbags worked and the ambulance guys said we’d all be okay.”

His father slowly looked up in a very slow, very scary horror movie villain-ish kind of way. “And you said something about… my car…?”

1273 Relax and Succeed - You get more apologies

His son gulped. “The car… the car is–I was in an accident. A lady, she was coming at me, and she was speeding and so I thought I had time to make the turn but….”

His father is listening in a very clinical way, and he responds likewise. His voice is unnervingly even. “Okay, well… if no one is hurt, and you’re not at a fault, then the other driver’s insurance will cover everything.” The son’s eyes bulge, and one might conclude that the official report may not align with his own. “The important thing is that everyone’s alright.”

“What if she lies though? It’ll be my word against her word, so…”

His father doesn’t take long to realise the son is delivering the truth in less painful portions. “Mmhmm. If the police can’t verify the stories they’re being told then who knows, right?” The ‘right’ part is goes with it’s own accusingly arched eyebrow. The father is barely containing an explosion of anger.

The son’s still too naive to notice his father is being facetious. “Yes! It makes me so mad that she might get away with that!”

“I can totally understand son.” The Dad slaps a piece of meat on the bread so hard it splatters his mustard, but he doesn’t even blink. “I can totally understand your anger. Your intense, burning, rage. It’s just so… intense, isn’t it? Isn’t it intense?”

The son’s starting to catch on and he realises he’s hiking pretty close to a bear. “Maybe I should just go and, and, think about this.” He gets an idea that he likes and runs with it. “Yeah! Dad, if it’s okay with you, it’d probably be good for me to meditate on how this happened to, you know, make sure I don’t do it again. I’m really sorry about the car.”

1273 Relax and Succeed - How much more grievous

The dad clears his throat, struggling through his pain. “Thank you. Ah, yeah. That sounds like a good idea. You go. And we’ll talk about this later when we’re both not so… emotional.”

The son eats it. He blew it and he knows it. Resigned, he looks his father in the eye. “Are we okay Dad? You and me? Is this too big?” The son looks genuinely scared.

The Dad sees his son’s character underneath his mistake. He’s still seething, he doesn’t deny that reality. But he can see that his son feels genuinely bad. The only explanation for that is that his son cares and shares his wish that it never happened. “Nothing is ever too big. Ever. Do not make me confirm that by having to visit you in prison. But even there–yes–I love you. But you’re right. This one is big. I am currently seething and I am barely not screaming at you.”

“If you have to I understand.”

“I would also be the first one to call the cops if you did anything serious.” The son puts his hands up. “How bad is it?”

The son grimaces. “I don’t want to tell you.”

“AH!” His father cries out in anguish and buries his face in his hands. Eventually, he slowly emerges by turning the act into a facial massage and a chance at attitude renewal. “Okay. Okay. Yes. Okay. Clearly Bad. Bad. It. Is. Okay. But you’re okay, everyone’s okay. That is the important thing. That is what’s important. It is.” He’s really trying to convince himself it is.

“Everyone is safe. All the people are good. It was just the things Dad. Only things, no people.”

The Dad sees his son’s attempt to paint it all as favourably as possible and that makes him madder. “Yes. Just the… just my… car.” He just wants the kid to take it! And he’d demand that if he was half good at doing it himself, but at twice his son’s age even he still sucked at just eating obvious responsibility. The whole reason was because people did care when they made mistakes. That made it hard to stay mad.

Suddenly the son turns and says very authentically, “I’m really sorry Dad. It was my fault. I wasn’t paying attention. I’m so sorry about your car. I know you really loved that old thing.”

“A lot of my life happened in that car.” His son just looks at the floor, understanding that it was more than a car that was wrecked. It was a talisman that helped his Dad find his way back to some cherished memories. The father clears his throat. “Okay. I am mad, you feel bad, that seems… appropriate. I would definitely like some time away from you though.”

1273 Relax and Succeed - Control your emotionsThe son puts up his hands again, guilty. “For sure.”

“Okay, good. Thank you. That will help. Please don’t ah… don’t try to make me feel better. I’ve just gotta–this is really painful, and I’ve just gotta feel that. If I don’t I’ll end up resenting you, and I love you, so that makes no sense. I can’t feel that love at the moment, but I know it’s there, so I’m going to trust the love I have for you and spend some time focusing on other things and eventually we’ll be able to sit in the same room without me picking at your smaller mistakes untiI I finally create an excuse to yell at you a bit. If and–no, when–that happens, please think of it kind of like a pressure valve. It’s better than a full explosion.”

The hands go back up again. “Totally understand. Perfectly reasonable price for such a big and horrible mistake.”

He’s still biting back a lot of fury, but he also proud of himself. “I like to think so.”

“No no–you’re doing good.”

“Really? Because honestly, I just want to kill you right now.”

The son grimaces. “I get it. I kind of want to be dead right now.”

Now the Dad grimaces a smile. “That helps.” He nods, with tense approval. “That helps; knowing you want to die.”

The son is entirely okay with that. “Good. Good. Yes. A slow and painful death. I deserve that pain.”

“You’re my son, I don’t know if I need the pain, but the death… the desire to die does make me feel a bit better. Thank you.”

“No problem. Thank you. This is…” The son motions to the space between them. “This is very reasonable.”

The Dad mock smiles. “Good. Good. Well, I think I should eat something–keep my blood sugars in alignment, you know. So, uh, you have a good day and we’ll, uh, talk.”

The son pauses. He looks at his Dad again. “Thanks Dad. I’m sorry.”

They have a moment where there eyes meet and they both know they’ll be okay. “Go.” The son half-smiles as he heads back out the way he came in.

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.

True Action

1264 Relax and Succeed - The best place to findSome people approach the act of learning to manage their consciousness with fears that it is too difficult for them to do (it isn’t), or they may have have fears that without thoughts about religion or guilt that humans are destined to descend into chaos, but these are very weak and bleak views of ourselves and of humanity, unsupported by history and daily experience.

Certainly humans get a lot wrong, but for better or worse we managed to go from just another ape to being the dominant species on the world with 7.5 eventually to be 11 billion people. Clearly we cared enough to about people to do that, and now that we’re starting to get slightly competent with that we have switched our attention to the other living things that comprise our environment.

Despite our many mistakes, humanity also offers daily examples of compassionate, heroic responses to need, from cleaning oil-slicked seagulls, to entertaining the elderly, to inventing a simple, yet life-saving, medical technology. These aren’t the sort of stories that fill the news and sell lots of security systems or insurance, but they happen every day nevertheless.

1264 Relax and Succeed - The truth is everybody is going to hurt youThat connection to the others around us that leads to heroism is where we’re at when we’re healthiest. But we can’t be in that state if we’re slicing up the world and the people in it into labels, and then sorting them by how we value them at that time. That is one valid representation of the world, but it’s not the only one, but our judgment process delays our action and takes it out of the realm of in-the-moment callings and makes it a thought-based decision.

A hunting animal doesn’t make a decision. It skips straight from awareness to action in a constant whirling flow like a spinning Yin and Yang. A gazelle does no pro and con list as it tries to evade a cheetah. At that point it is so involved in appreciating its own life that it surrenders thought and the animal trusts the secret forces inside itself that are telling it which way to go and when. After that it’s simply chess between it and the cheetah doing the exact same instinctual in-the-moment thing.

We feel impulses. There is a consistency to them. If we’re looking for our calling we should look for what naturally matters. You might be the biggest toughest guy on the block, but if every time you see a special needs kids you go soft and react the instant you see an unmet need, then maybe despite all that tough exterior, you’re a caregiver.

1264 Relax and Succeed - You can sufferEgos will feel guilt about not being home for the kids, or about not wanting to be home for the kids. But trusting ourselves means that we do whichever one we feel is necessary for our fulfilment and we accept the consequences of that choice. Modelling being oneself is also important to children. Freedom isn’t freedom from pain or consequences, it simply allows us to make the kinds of sacrifices we find it more natural to make, despite how significant  or unwise they may appear to others.

Let’s take today and pay attention to our reactions to the world. Where are our impulses and what do they have in common? We’re not looking for the cloying needs of our egos, we’re talking about actions where we can’t recall having decisions attached to them. These are times where we’ve acted as our true selves in an actual present moment.

These moments of reality pepper our days. As uncomfortable as our calling might feel to our ego, we need to ask ourselves what those moments say about who we fundamentally are and therefore where we might find the heart of our calling. Asking that through observation is important because, after all, no one knows the answer to that better than we 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.

Type One and Type Two Fun

1260 Relax and Succeed - By seeking pleasureI heard an astronaut on the radio yesterday. When asked if it was fun to do a spacewalk, he responded that it was Type Two Fun, meaning it’s not the kind of fun that you really feel while you’re doing it. The two are very different, but it’s often easier to look at the day around the fun to help determine whether it’s Type One or Type Two Fun.

Type One Fun days are often a lot easier. That’s stuff like going to the beach, or having a party, or going to a good show. Type Two Fun comes from experiences where our own attention needs to be highly focused and the experience is more demanding, like on a spacewalk, or during a big dance number in a show, or when I race my brother’s race car. It’ll be a fun memory when I think about it later, but at the time I need to stay present to keep a very fast car from hitting a wall.

Type One is fun at the time. Two is rewarding later. Rather than suffer for our whole life by trying to avoid Type Two days, we’re all better to understand that inactivity and a lack of motion or creation will lead to our worst suffering. Meanwhile the pain endured to acquire strength or skill ends up as stored energy that releases Type Two Fun when our own personal genius makes itself known through action.

1260 Relax and Succeed - Dwell in possibilityType One Fun is easy. But yin and yang means that there is no getting around certain kinds of suffering in life. Let me write that again: there is no getting around suffering in life. Not for anyone. Young people die, you can’t fight City Hall, and around the world the weak suffer. What makes existence holy is when we accept this fact and we begin turning an idle sadness about life into an action that converts difficult times into rewarding Type Two Fun. Med school is hard. Saving lives feels awesome.

The only help people ever need with Type One Fun is if they start to dose it with thin pleasure, from things like drug addictions etc. But for the most part Type One Fun is easy to enjoy, just possibly harder to find. Opportunities for Type Two Fun abound. They are plentiful all around us. Every complaint points to a potential Type Two Fun solution. Like with being a doctor, refugee camps are hard places to work. Saving lives there feels awesome.

When we’re urged to do what scares us it’s not the fear that has the value, it’s the discovery. Doing things outside our comfort zone increases the size of our comfort zone, and as that circle expands, its growing perimeter encounters increasingly more opportunities to do the sort of things we tend to look back on with pride and self-satisfaction. That’s credit we know we’re truly due, and it never feels better than when we rightfully give it to ourselves.

1260 Relax and Succeed - For most people their spiritual teacherIf most of us look at our lives, our suffering is caused by our resistance to things that are “hard.” That fact is a demonstration of how we all live in illusory worlds, because if we stopped to meditate on our own lives for just a while, we would suddenly make the genuine connection between our suffering and our avoidance of challenges, versus our joys and our overcoming of them.

You will make choices regarding your path every day. Some will be motivated by fear, others by fun, but for greater clarity we require a greater level of consciousness about those choices. Rather than perpetually seeking Type One Fun and torturing ourselves in that act, we are better to fully grasp the value and profound rewards that go with taking on Type Two Challenges.

Don’t hide from what scares you. Use the yin in your life to make room for the challenges that you can then convert into a wave of Type One Fun. It’s in you to do. Enjoy your day.

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.

What’s Your Hidden Agenda?

1255 Relax and Succeed - The moment I saw youOur ego is sly. It’s been with us since we were little, so its voice is so ubiquitous that it just disappears into the background. But it has an agenda, and the problem for our soul is; that isn’t our agenda, it’s our ego’s.

Our ego doesn’t like challenge, or discomfort or pain. Avoiding those experiences means that our ego makes us pay for that resistance with anxiety, insecurity and suffering. It’s really not a very good trade; living in an ego state where you need things to be your way when your soul is fine with how things already are–including you.

A good example of this is when people are super upset. Presuming the experience isn’t common, people rarely see anyone extremely upset and it can be alarming at first because everyone’s family does that differently. Some people talk about suicide or destroying things, others go dark and silent for days, other attack those present with lashing words. Regardless of what it looks like, it’s when someone is in in an egocentric state and they are experiencing serious distress.

1255 Relax and Succeed - Never in the history of calmSo how does an ego react? Our ego isn’t really interested in the world, it’s focused on its own personal impression of the world, but our ego can’t even have a personal impression of anything because it is created by other people and experiences. It’s like a recording, or a Turing Machine, or set of levers. It’s not very flexible and it only has access to knowledge but no wisdom.

When someone is extremely upset our ego wants them to calm down quickly because it’s uncomfortable for our egos to be in challenging circumstances. Instead we generate anxiety as we struggle to figure out what to say to achieve our own agenda, yet when someone’s in distress, our agenda isn’t going to be relevant whether we want it to be or not.

Our soul has no agenda, so it needs nothing from the other person. It merely observes and responds by nature. This means rather than trying to think of the right thing to say, (which is like using our hand to smooth the ripples out of water), our soul can simply be present. It rightfully understands that it is present for the other person’s experience, but it’s not having the other person’s experience. That alone should generate some helpful gratitude.

1255 Relax and Succeed - To obtain satoriOnce we’ve taken away our personal resistance to the behaviour we’re witnessing we can then have our natural wisdom take over. When we’re in that state we seem to say just the right thing, even if it immediately might not feel like it to our ego. Rather than asking the person’s ego to find the soul that creates it, instead our soul invites their ego to surrender and be at peace in the chaos. Your ego wants them to feel better, your soul is prepared to join them in feeling badly.

It isn’t hard to see that if we’re prepared to feel badly then we get to avoid the anxiety, worry and second-guessing involved with trying to figure out the right thing to say. Sometimes there is no right thing. Sometimes the person just needs time while they feel loved and then the process can unfold. But no matter where anyone is in that state, no one is wrong, no one is lost, and no one is right and no one is found. We are all simply either being an ego or being ourselves and we will balance between the two as the act of living our lives.

Take time to be present with suffering even if it’s your own. Rather than fix it just observe it. Prove to yourself, that can be more comfortable being present than being happy, and in doing so, enjoy your day.

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.

Remembrance Day

1252 Relax and Succeed - Remembrance DayIn Canada November 11th is Armistice Day; more commonly known as Remembrance Day. It’s focus is on the exact time the treaties following WWI took effect, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. Both of my parents served in WWII, so this has always been an occasion that I was taught by example to respect, for I had family on Dunkirk Beach, and family in POW camps and family killed on the line.

I was never taught that Remembrance Day was a sad day. Somber maybe, but not sad. The point from them was always to take the lesson; war is hell for all involved. As my father described it, “It’s just farmers from one country shooting at farmers from another country and they’re all good men and all they’ll want to do is to get back to their farm.” No hatred, no greed, no desire to conquer, and no sense of revenge. In fact my Dad moved to Canada right after the war and when he started his own company he hired some Germans, which points to one of my favourite things about my Dad.

I tend to write about Remembrance Day most years precisely because it would be a more serious and focused day in our home than any birthday, Christmas or Thanksgiving. It’s my parents sacred day, and it has become mine as well. Despite being so important, and despite my having written about it before, I find this year there is an adjustment in how I feel about it.

1252 Relax and Succeed - I wear a little poppyRather than being maudlin about it, I’ve always been taught to be grateful there is no war, and to be grateful to the people who gave their lives in the effort to maintain our freedom. Additionally I was taught that enjoying my life was the price I should look toward repaying if I wanted to honour that sacrifice. If they were going to give up their life to create the opportunity for me then it would be fitting that I would create something worthwhile. I was never made to feel guilty, but somehow they instilled in me that it was fitting to honour the dead with more life.

I still feel that this year, but there’s a new layer too. I love that about life. When you’re present and quiet-minded so many connections between things occur to you. This year it’s that Remembrance Day is not only a day of profound gratitude for me, it’s also a time of deep meditation. On suffering.

When I want to really comprehend the opportunity I’ve been given I get into the nitty gritty of the moment to moment life of those guys in the trenches. Eighteen years old (if they weren’t like my Dad and lied to get in at seventeen, or even sixteen some of them). Rain. Winter. Cold. Wind, trenches filled with water, dead people and rats. And all of your gear for the next few weeks. Oh yeah, and a bunch of people are intentionally shooting and lobbing shells at you, so you’re also terrified. You also have little to no idea why you’re there.

1252 Relax and Succeed - Courage It doesn't mean you aren't scaredIf you get deep into the moments of something like that, you start to have things dawn on you, like; a good friend could die and you would have literally not have even a single moment to fully grasp it at the time. Grieving would come later, as a blur of uncertainty about what really happened because it happened so fast. Or you could lose your squad, lay in injured while shells hit the sand all around you and you’d have no choice except to lay there in agony waiting for a medic to wander by. Even simple things like; what if you have to pee super bad during a battle? And then on your break you go back to the trench and the cold and the wool and the rats and corpses and you eat some three month old sardines from a tin. These were tough people.

Today is when I suddenly realised that that is when and how I set my year for gratitude up, because I always build new experiences every year. Soldiers in different places, doing different things, experiencing different things. Yet during the following year, when I want to generate patience or compassion or connection–or especially gratitude and appreciation–I suddenly realised I always call back to that year’s memory and I compare what’s happening to me to that.

It is remarkable how fast I go from upset to feeling truly silly. It’s funny; being humiliated by the comparison brings out the best in me. We’re all like that. Humans are better than they give themselves credit for either singularly or as a group. We do like it when the group likes us, but we like it even more when they respect us because they think we’re a good example in some way. So when we see things we respect, it inspires us.

Quote For Remembrance Day Remembrance Day Quotes Amp Sayings Remembrance Day Picture QuotesMy parents have been a great example, teaching me to honour the sacrifices made while not emotionally taking over the event for myself; they taught me to value life and liberty, and that’s lead me to take my citizenship and connection to others very seriously; and they taught me to be grateful for the life that was literally protected for me by total strangers. I’ll be wiser this year seeing my meditation on the 11th in this new way. I’ll see it as a touchstone; a talisman; or a spell. When I face adversity, I will use that meditation to generate the appreciation that will drive away any thoughts I have of excessive personal suffering.

Find your own examples of these prices. Maybe second generation immigrants can consider what their parents sacrificed to give their children greater freedom. If your parents have served during wartime, or suffered disease or loss, it is a worthwhile thing to consider that deeply.

Maybe you’ve recovered from a drug addiction and can think back to your own past. Look at your children and remember that places like children’s hospitals are filled with children and parents who were never so lucky. Feel the pain of that and know that some people carry that pain daily, and that it is love that carries them through. It will make you more empathetic toward everyone, because if you do the meditation thoroughly, you’ll realise that most of these identities are invisible when you walk past these people on the street.

Consider creating a yearly meditation. It can be a different subject every year, it can be like mine and stay the same with just the details changing, but find some touchstone of true suffering. Something you believe you can truly relate to. Then use that for the rest of the year. When you’re in a long line at the store, just think back to the kinds of things people have survived before you and you’ll soon find you’ll be feeling better, because there’s really nothing better you can do with a bad experience from the past.

Respectfully, 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.

Intentional Courage

1248 Relax and Succeed - Bethany Hamilton professional surferThis is Bethany Hamilton. You might recognise her. She was thirteen years old when a fourteen foot tiger shark took her left arm while she was surfing with her best friend in Kauai. Beautiful place, best friend, a favourite activity…it was all a dream come true. Even after the shark attack, Bethany used her sense of intention to adjust her dreams and then she made those true.

Bethany was an active young woman who loved surfing and spending time in nature. Today Bethany is an active young championship surfer who loves to spend time in nature with her husband and two children. Note that losing her arm did not change who Bethany is. She was always determined to live deeply and fully and the shark only intensified that drive.

Within two months of losing her arm she was back in the water and not long after that she was competing. The arm didn’t stop her from meeting a man, the fact that it was missing attracted a particularly strong and loving man. She’s written a book, had a film made about her, she’s started a charity, works with many others, and she’s been on countless television programs for her charity work promoting positive mental attitudes, faith and a general outlook of abundance.

1248 Relax and Succeed - Just because today is a terrible dayMany people fall asleep within their own lives and they sleep most of the way through living them. Generally only illness or divorce or the loss of a job or some other tragedy will temporarily wake the person up, but they’ll rarely account for the fact that they feel more alive when they’re struggling to survive than when they are stultified into not even noticing their life is ticking by.

Bethany loses an important limb to a shark and shortly thereafter she’s back in the water, competing on a surfboard, married and pregnant. That’s a lot of belief in a bright future and note it kicked in almost immediately after the injury. In fact, she faced the injury with the same positive attitude she faced the rest of life with.

You can argue for your weariness. We all do it for periods and you can bet she did too. But it’s how much time we spend in which mental states that decide how much control we can maintain throughout our lives. If we see the world as fatalistic and ourselves as unlucky then we have doomed ourselves with a literal intention to have a bad life. But we can use that same force of intention to create a full life like Bethany’s.

1248 Relax and Succeed - ForwardBetween toiling in oblivion and struggling for equality, most people focus on sadness over who they were rather than seizing the opportunities that emerge from who they now are. Bethany’s positivity route is actually the easier and more enjoyable to live, but to get it you must be positive even when the indications urge you to feed a darker aspect of yourself. This is where Bethany takes control and makes her life happen, rather than idly watching it happen and then commenting to herself in her ego, after the fact. A good life is created by action. A bad one by inaction.

Don’t use Bethany’s example to beat yourself up for perceived shortcomings because that is not what Bethany would do. She would not account for what is missing, she would account for what is there. She could have been just another anonymous woman with a missing arm who lead a sad life because of a tragic accident. Or, she could become who she’s been; a rare person who’s both been attacked by a shark and who has survived. Add her positivity on top of that and now she’s so rare that you can see why she can make a living on TV and by doing public speaking on the value of faith and a belief that the universe is working with you and not against you.

Every day you choose a path. Sometimes the choice is conscious, sometimes not. But for our lives to improve, those choices must not only be made more conscious, they must be made with the sort of courage that allows us to step outside of a common narrative so that we can instead continue to be ourselves even in the wake of whatever tragedies we face. None of us are the results of what has happens to us. All of us are the result of how we chose to face what happens to us. Get active. Live consciously. It’s the only way to find your actual life.

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.

Big Mistakes

1244 Relax and Succeed - there is always a simplicityIn life we will vary in our risk-taking. Some people have the sort of childhood that encourages them to be naturally bold, whereas others like things to be safer, with less risk of major downsides. It’s one kind of doctor that wants to deliver babies and another who will do your surgery. There’s some overlap, but they specialize for a reason.

Even if we’re the type of person that is careful about risk, our circumstances can alter our natural setting. Being unusually attracted to a person can lead us to be braver, romantically, than we might ever have been before. There’s entire industries built around offering the poor unlikely though not impossible relief from constant struggle. Even going a long time without a win can really motivate someone to take chances they otherwise wouldn’t.

The trick is, even when we’re reacting in-the-moment and we know our extra effort or courage is coming from a much-desired opportunity, we still must stay aware of how we have shifted our identity and what we have left at risk. That doesn’t mean you never take chances–you have to to live–but it does mean that they’re calculated. This not only helps you succeed, it also helps you fail.

1244 Relax and Succeed - Things are just thingsWhen answering readers questions about time management, I’ve posted before that sometimes a failure to succeed is not even within reach. I myself have very elderly and frail parents that often can’t wait, but I also need to earn a living and attempt to maintain the rest of life, including maintaining friendships, although that last one is often the sacrifice when caring for people who generally can’t be left alone for a long stretch. There is no amount of management that solves that.

The worst thing we can do is regret that we may not be able to avoid failure in some significant way. Either you’ll run out of time, resources or enthusiasm before you’re done or not. Understanding those limits allows us to act quickly, and with as much wisdom as possible, if things tumble out in unpleasant ways. This is inevitable in any life, so we can’t live seeking to avoid it, we must learn to surf the bad waves as well as the good ones.

The hardest part for people is their attachments. If we believe we need some object or amount or victory before we can feel good about our lives, we’ve lost control. But if we feel our duty is to say balanced and minimize damage, then we’re just doing what we’ve always done–we’re managing our life with the most balance possible.

1244 Relax and Succeed - The reason most people give upIf staying on your surfboard requires you to throw away some valuable weight, spending time assessing the loss will only delay your reaction and generate more pain. Conclude, accept, act and then move forward with grace and dignity. Ultimately there is no other way and resistance only creates more pain and delays things further.  It’s not like your priorities will dissipate just because you have. No matter how bad the work day was, your children or your parents or your other responsibilities don’t cease to exist. In fact, they’re a gift. Because when you can’t do much to improve your own life, a really great reaction is to try to improve someone else’s.

Don’t dwell on big mistakes, even if you worked hard to plan or work around them. Don’t get caught up in ideas of fairness or the volume of your effort, those are all irrelevant at some point. Take solace in the fact that the effort will still have helped strengthen you, even if the effort itself failed. Knowing how to face hardship is ultimately more valuable than any other life skill, and even there, you can fully exercise your character and values.

Everyone experiences hard times. If you’ve put in a good effort and tried your best, as the Dalai Lama notes, there is no basis for any regret. We can take a moment for the painful acceptance to sweep over us but, once it has, our duties are usually self-evident and there is little else to do but to change paths and begin walking anew. By that point, the only thing that will make it particularly painful will be your own voice, in your own head, discussing what-ifs. Those can be compelling, but they are also created by and for you. So you’re free to create them. But all your ego will do is keep you from the clarity you require from success. Even in the din, a quiet mind will stay closer to wisdom.

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.