Wisdom in Action

People often ask, which students do best? I explain that the ones that don’t try –but that love the learning and listen well–are best. And who continues to do best? Easy: those most dedicated to their practice. This appears to be the most mundane and obvious part of being healthy, and yet it’s the number one place people lose touch with it.

It’s important to remember that you talk to egos all day long. They try and pull you into ego-world constantly, discussing problems or gossiping or commiserating. You need to defend yourself with meditations that get you back on course. People don’t learn this stuff and float away like Yoda. It’s called a practice for a reason.

Possibly the best student I’ve ever had for dedication to practice is a woman was always very successful at loving people but her anxieties had prevented her from fully realizing all of her personal and professional opportunities. I really liked the woman I met, and the one I know now pretty routinely brings great happiness to me because she’ll post things on social media that are great lessons for all of her friends.

Below are two sample messages from many she’s written like this over the last few years. I often wonder if the people who are always impressed with her resiliency ever notice that about half of her happy and positive social media posts are about things most people would view as “going wrong.” Here’s two great ways to take action in your own life so that others can contribute to your peace and happiness. But always remember, no one will take that action if they don’t see you taking it first:

So normally kindness comes easily to me, it’s second nature, but today it’s something I’m having to do very consciously, especially because although I’m comfortable letting myself be in a low emotional space today I am aware that it has nothing to do with the people I am interacting with.

So today I am finding it more difficult than usual to be my pleasant self with customers, but alas it is part of my job being in customer service to do my best to provide pleasant interactions. That being said I was being especially kind to someone today, in a very small way, but no one looking on would know I struggled with simply extending my kindness today.

A few minutes after this interaction another customer came to pay and commented to me how beautiful she thought it was what I did, which again was really a very simple kindness that we should extend to everyone but was difficult for me today. She told me how she really appreciated seeing me make someone’s day, at which point I very obviously broke into tears and thanked her for letting me know that, as today I was struggling and her simply pointing out that she had noticed had inadvertently made my day!

See how she let that other woman help her feel better? We need to be open to that. So many times people will offer us ways to be happier and we won’t take them. But of course, the more she does it the better she gets:

Talk about a morning full of ninja brain training! Was scurrying around trying to get out the door for work. As I’m locking the door I rest my big bin full of wire wrapping supplies on the deck railing. Mentally told myself to be careful. Locked the door, turn around to grab the bin and instead knock it off.

Bin takes a big fall smashes to pieces, craft stuff goes everywhere. I unlock the door to go inside and grab a bag to put everything into and quickly lock the door and shut it behind me so I can leave as soon as I collect all of my fallen stuff. Have everything collected and I’m ready to go. Wait. Wait. Where are my keys. Oh that’s right, I used them to unlock the door and then hurriedly locked and walked out without grabbing my keys.

Spend the next while breaking into my own house to the extreme amusement of my dogs as I climb through the window, close the window, grab my keys, and finally get on my way to work! Let myself have a few moments of frustration and anger and then because I’ve learnt how to use my thoughts for the better I let it go and decided, hey this was the perfect opportunity to work on my consciousness and my patience!

And somehow through all that I made it to work on time! However I am now offering FREE HUGS all day from 10-9 at Bonnie Doon while I’m at work because I know I could use a hug and maybe you could to!? So come get your free hug, I’ll even throw in a smile!

See that? She was in need, so what did she offer? Generosity. Now that’s wisdom in action. And these are all things we can all do. So let’s be like her and do them, shall we? After all, it is our 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.

The Voice of the Soul

Hey, you guys wake up. You see this?

What?

She’s just sitting there again.

Like before? Just sitting there thinking about all the things that she doesn’t like about her life? Why does she do that? It’s like putting us in prison. Doesn’t she feel how much it hurts us?

Oh she feels our hurtin’ bad kid, she just doesn’t understand.

Doesn’t understand what?

See, unlike animals, humans have language so they develop this framework they call ‘psychology.’

Psy…cholo…gy…?

Yeah. See, they can use their mind to talk to themselves, and they mistake their own talking for us.

Why would they mistake their own talking for their soul?

Well, see, they’re kind of loving their pain more than they’re loving us. That’s where they’re focus is. They don’t get that we’re a collection of experiences to be lived. When they’re lost they think that a soul is like this perfect shining thing, and so they keep sitting still and then they use their thoughts to compare themselves to their other thoughts about whatever their personal idea of perfection is.

Perfection?! And they each have their own ideas of perfection???

Yeah. Some wanna be skinny, some wanna be smarter or more popular or richer.

And they think if they get that they’ll get closer to us?

They think those things are us. Like I said, they think we’re a thing.

I’m still confused. What do you mean a “thing?”

Like, uh… an entity. They think we’re like a blob of glowing perfection or something.

A glob of…?

I know. But you gotta understand, they’re innocents. They all start like that. The boss figures if we lose them early, then they have their early life to learn to relax when they’re lost. When they do that they’re immediately home. It actually works pretty good. They call it, surrendering.

So if they go quiet they surrender then we start getting lived, but instead they’re trying to find the peace of surrendering by thinking about some blob of perfection?

They’re ‘better self,’ yeah. And, usually they won’t use the blob, they’ll use some other person –which is even crazier I know –but look– I’m not explaining it good. See, they think we’re like this thing that stays forever. They don’t get that we’re a collection of experiences that leaves oneness and returns to oneness. They don’t get that they have to spend us. They think they have to expose us, or be like us, or be pure, or extra nice or something. They think we’re a thing they get or achieve and not an activity they do.

So why don’t you just tell her!? Otherwise she’ll cry all night again for no reason and then we never get lived!

I know. It’s painful. But that’s all we can do is make it hurt. That’s us yelling as loud as we can. She’s the one that has to get up and walk us toward some unhurt. It can be anything. Peace, relaxation, kindness, generosity, fun, laughing, togetherness, love. She could use the legs and move toward any of those things, but we can’t just whisper in the ear. Her thought-words would drown us out. We talk in feelings.

I dunno why she wouldn’t listen. Otherwise she’s just letting us die inside her for no good reason.

I told you, it’s not like I can turn our feelings into words and then whisper them in her ear.

Then let’s signal someone else and get them to tell her.

Sure. Right. Now how the hell do you propose we do that?

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 Value of Pain


It shows up at times where we’re thinking of others. That’s why we don’t notice its value. When we use our experiences with pain, it will be in some kind of compassionate act. To heal them is to heal ourselves when we feel that level of empathy. That is when we see another’s pain as our own. That is when we feel a sense of oneness with another person.

Let us immediately distinguish pain from suffering. Suffering is psychological and it leads to psychological pain, which is only just now becoming important for people to distinguish from physical pain. As I noted in yesterday’s post, relative to our cellular structure language is a very new creation. As a result, our body keeps reacting under the assumption that we’re in physical danger, when really we’re just worried about what someone will think of us on social media. Clearly those things should not been seen as equally important or meaningful.

While the same chemicals can get triggered, with physical pain it can take a long while to heal, whereas sincere efforts at understanding the structures of psychological suffering can quickly reduce it almost completely, and over time people can soon learn how to deeply love their own lives. But we gain access to loving it by trading away our psychological suffering in exchange for acceptance of the certainty that we will experience both physical and non-optional psychological pain.

Physical we’re already ready to accept, and to what degree we accept it is generally referred to as our pain threshold. But buying office supplies for our new job, signing our married name, imagining our life as someone different–these are all either hopeful or wildly hopeful fantasies. We’ll all do them sometimes, but that doesn’t make it wise. It just makes ego human.

There is no need nor benefit for us to spend a lot of time leaping into a made-up future to concoct expectations. We can just stay in the now, where we can actually take action to impact our future, and in doing so we become less likely to avoid causing ourselves future psychologically pain.

Non-optional psychological pain is when our circumstances have changed so suddenly and so drastically that we literally have brain wiring that just isn’t set up to manage it. It’s impossible to be someone and not take on a world view, but if you’re a soldier and you get your legs blown off, then you’re suddenly someone who needs a revised identity. Same for someone who goes broke, has a divorce, loses a job or through the death of a loved one.

The depth of our love with our loved ones relates to the level of pain we’ll experience when they die and our brain can no longer interact with them in the present. That’s why it still tries, often until death. I haven’t lost a parent yet, but I know a lot of people who still ask their deceased parents for advice all the time. They’re just wired into too much other stuff. Their beauty is that they’re literally hard to forget.

By living through very painful experiences, we become valuable to anyone else experiencing those things, and in a ways that could not be known by people who had never actually been in the same position. This is the basis of empathy: our own psychological and physical pain. And when we’ll feel its value is when we bestow our empathy on anyone whose pain we truly share. Having surrendered ourselves into a state of oneness, healing them is to heal ourselves. And that is the value of our pain.

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.

Wrestling With Life

He had been that way since the 1970’s but I had no idea he was hugely famous until I moved to Australia. I was just horsing around with a buddy at my uncle’s and when I grabbed him in a mock headlock I said, “Bret Hart throws him in a sleeper,” and the two kids in the room just exploded in excitement at the idea of an adult that would voluntarily mention Bret Hart. Likewise, I couldn’t believe two Australian kids would even know who he was.

Now I’m not into wrestling at all, but I come from Alberta, and if you’re from here it was almost impossible not to know about the huge clan of Hart children and their father, Stu. They ran the Stampede Wrestling League out of Calgary, the birthplace of modern technical wrestling. And then Bret took over worldwide wrestling for a few decades. So why should you care?

There’s a great lesson in Bret’s life. Here we have a guy famous for being very polite and kind (when not playing part of his character’s role). He’s intelligent, he comes from a big, hard-working family with a great work ethic, plus he’s a respectful, likeable person. He became a huge star and made a ton of money. It seems like a dream life if you’re okay with the wrestling part.

Bret has respect, admiration, good parents, physical prowess, intelligence, business sense, financial success and he’s well liked. None of that protected him from a two divorces, a bicycling accident that lead to a debilitating stroke, and very recently he was diagnosed with cancer. And while all that’s going on, I heard him mention in an interview that his body is pretty badly banged up from all of those years in the ring and he’s in a lot of pain. So again, he sounds like a nice guy but what’s this got to do with your psychological health?

I would submit to you that the reason Bret has been so successful is that he has a great attitude. I don’t mean every second of every day, I mean overall. We can’t judge people by when their stone skips off a surface when that’s a tiny portion of how far they go.  That’s just the price Bret was willing to pay for his success. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as he accepts it, and he seems to do that with the same grace he did all his training with. He just digs in and does it.

But look at what got him to where he is. Note how double-edged every decision is. Bret’s great work ethic lead to a broken body. Maybe his success contributed some to his divorce. Maybe his money made it harder for his kids to trust that their friends were real. There’s all kinds of negative spinoffs out of everyone’s life choices.

Even a good work ethic and dedication to one’s career had downsides, so do you see how life works? You’re not supposed to avoid the downsides. Those are inevitable. That’s not what failing is.

Failing is not living; Bret Hart has really lived. Pain is mandatory in life, so rather than whine about it, just ask yourself if you’re in a situation where the pain seems appropriate both for its reasons and its duration. And then if it is: just feel it. It’ll hurt, but it won’t last as long as the agony of resisting.

Don’t avoid life because you don’t want to get hurt. You will get hurt. But it’ll hurt a lot worse if you die with your life left unlived. Go.

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.

Mo-ments

201 Relax and Succeed - The art of love
It took me almost two years to write this blog post. Not that I started it two years ago. Rather, I’ve known for almost two years that I didn’t want to write it. It still has its hard parts, but writing it now feels good, so that tells me to do it.

I am bad at all kinds of things, but like anyone would, early experiences in my life lead me to a few things that I’ve really focused a lot of attention on. Fortunately for me one of mine is love. I can make your knees weak with a birthday card, and it’s my understanding that I give a pretty enjoyable massage. Regardless of the form love takes, physical or mental, I am always simply translating how I genuinely feel into whatever form seems best.

Since maturing as a person I have found it quite easy to love someone fairly unconditionally. The way I look at people means I usually don’t even notice the sort of things that other people will. When I look at someone I feel like I’m seeing their soul. Literally everyone is beautiful to me. I love everyone, there are some people I just prefer to spend my time with. One of those people wasn’t even a people—it was my dog, Mo.

Was. Yes. My dear Mo is gone. I lost him just before my birthday, almost two years ago. I won’t complain. We had 17 years together and he was healthy right up until the end. Mo taught me a huge amount about love. I truly did study under him. I would meditate on why he would continue to be so consistently in love with me, even if I was so busy I had little time to spend with him, or even though I might have been tired and hadn’t played with him as much as he would like. He just loved me whenever he could. And it occurred to me that by doing that, he was offering the famous unconditional love that we’re all looking for. He doesn’t care about any details. Just the love.

201 Relax and Succeed - Scott loves MoMo and I were together for about 5 years before I went through the significant changes that lead to how I live now and what I write about here. Our relationship changed a lot in that time. As I went even quieter inside, I could “hear” him much better. I realized that he had very specific kinds of barks for specific events (surprise surprise!), that he had body language that was quite specific, and he was very clever about working around my previous lack of awareness. He had found ingenious ways of communicating with me.

When I lived with a girlfriend Mo had a bell hanging on the door. When he wanted to go out he would walk to the door, swat the bell and I would come and take him out. When we moved, the new house didn’t have the bell. One night I was watching an edit of my latest film and I suddenly got up to take the dog out.

Just as I suddenly stopped myself and asked how it was that I knew he wanted to go out. And that’s when I realized I had reacted to the jingle of my dog’s tags as he shook. And when I saw him waiting at the bottom of the stairs, I realized that when he lost the bell, he had switched to ringing his tags, but I was only picking up on it subconsciously. When I finally went quiet and we connected on an even deeper level, I really got the sense that he was relieved that I had finally figured out how to communicate properly.

Part of what changed in me in Budapest was my sense of life. I knew from my accident that it’s temporary. And you can feel that with a dog, who’s going seven years for every one you are. But I was now very much back in touch with everyone’s lack of permanence and that was making me even more loving. I was fully aware that every time I said goodbye, that it might be for the last time. I got very present with people. I got very present with Mo.
201 Relax and Succeed - If you realizeWhat made my love for Mo so consistently was that I always stayed aware that I would lose him. I always reminded myself that he would die and that I only had so much time left. That made me really focus and be with him, and I really do know he could tell. Out of compassion, I wanted to do all I could to ensure his departure from this world would be gentle and loving. To that end I began a ritual.

Once a week I would take out a special blanket from the closet and I would put it on my bed. In time Mo knew to jump up on it, and he would lay down in his favourite position and open up a bit for a belly rub. I would give him his favourite food, and he would swallow that, then he would lay back and sigh the most beautiful little contented sigh. I would rub his belly the way he loved, and I would say repeatedly into his ear, “Scott loves Mo, Scott loves Mo, Scott loves Mo….”

It made me cry with happiness every single time we did it. And for the last 12 of those 17 years we did it every month of the year, like a ritual. We both knew it backwards and forwards. So in a strange way, both Mo and I were ready for that fateful day a week before my birthday.

Two days before we’d been at the vet. She said it looked like it was his time. We weren’t sure what the problem was, but he was losing control of his rear legs. Whatever it was, it wasn’t something you’d put a 17 year old dog through an operation for. She said to take him home and see if he was better tomorrow. If no miracle, then I could bring him back in to say goodbye. Because I had thought about his death so much, about the only thought I had was that I realized I now knew the details of the story I had known to be true of all those years.201 Relax and Succeed - No coming no goingHe didn’t get better, so I had his closest friends come by to say goodbye while he lounged comfortably on the sofa. That night he and I spooned like we often did, with his back against my chest and my arm around him. We had slept like that for years, and just like every other time, neither of us ever moved. I just petted him and told him how much I loved him. I loved him. That’s what I did. That was the verb of my time that night. I was Being in Love with Mo.

My dear friend Christina had a lot of fears around the subject of death, so she asked if she could come because she loved Mo very much and she thought it would be good practice for her. We took Mo to the vet and he seemed quite comfortable. I laid down his special blanket and laid him down on it. He immediately rolled back for a belly rub, which I gave him. I skipped the food because he had lost his appetite even for treats, but otherwise it was just like every other time, and he seemed to feel that way too.

The vet is a wonderful woman, and she asked how I wanted to go about it. I told her I would say my goodbyes for a couple of minutes, I would let Christina do likewise, and then I would call her in. We would attach their syringes and I would commence my ritual. I explained that as I petted him I would be saying “Scott loves Mo, and on the third one she should push in the syringe. It went just like that, and I just kept petting him, and on the fifth “Scott loves Mo” his breath shifted and on the seventh, Mo sighed his last beautiful sigh.

201 Relax and Succeed - Just love Mo
Of course Christina and I bawled. I mean BAWLED. And then I took a big breath and I felt acceptance sweep over me. My Mo was gone. His drop of ink had returned to the well. He was now one with everything. And I really felt as though I could feel him everywhere. I did cry hard a couple times after that, but mostly I was feeling blessed. Out of seven billion people I got to be the person who lived with him all of that time. I got to live with his beautiful loving spirit. I wasn’t unlucky to have lost him. That was inevitable. I was lucky to have recognized how deserving of love he was while he was with me. That was an awesome 17 years.

Yeah, for a year every time I saw a white plastic grocery bag I would turn thinking it was him. Every time I unwrapped cheese I would listen for his nails on the floor. And at night there was a strange empty space in front of my chest. But all of those things just reminded me of how lucky I had been.

Dog, cat, person, whatever. If you’re sharing love with another Being in this lifetime, then cherish that. Because it’s the most beautiful and unifying connection we can have with another person and it absolutely will come to an end. So while you have it, make sure it’s getting appropriate attention. Trust me. It’s easily worth it.

Enjoy your day, and your life. And God bless Mo. He taught me so much. And I still love him, to this very day.

peace and cuddles, 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.