Composing The Song of Our Life

1293 Relax and Succeed - Composing the Song of Our Life

A record label recently ‘signed’ an algorithm to a recording contract. Should the idea of a computer writing some of our music bother us? It’s not hard for something like that to feel strange, or alien or even uncomfortable or unpleasant. But it might not be as weird as it initially seems. And this really does have something to do with how our minds work.

Firstly, this initial record deal is more for mathematical, Brian Eno-like soundscaping than what we’d think of as composed songs. But it’s only a matter of time. After all, notes are mathematical divisions of natural vibrations and instruments simply create their own unique vibrations. When those waves hit our ears it’s our minds that turn them into music.

We don’t have to feel threatened by this new idea. Even if computerized songs get as good as humans, that does not mean humans have to stop writing songs. Human music won’t be suppressed, it will be added to. But learning about this can help us.

Algorithmic music (it even sounds musical), will be just another form of music, much like dividing acoustic and electric performances, or bands from DJ’s, or how we recently added new genres like Blues, the various forms of Jazz, many forms of Rock, R&B, Disco, Grunge and, Hip Hop/Rap.

Each of those types represent groups of patterns that have a rough mathematical border that can overlap other borders for other types, hence country-punk, and jazz-funk etc. I’m hyper conscious of patterns, but the fact that you know the differences between those music types proves that you comprehend this math as well. It’s just that you perceive your results more as a feeling or a reaction or a definition (the name you give the genre).

Note: if an older person has never listened to newer music then their brain won’t have learned that math and they may misidentify two Rock forms –say, Metal and Grunge– as one group, much like a kid in elementary can know odd numbers from even numbers but they have no idea which ones are prime.

So what’s this got to do with our spirituality or psychology? The answer is that explains why we get bored with things after doing them for a long time. A common reaction to music for people in their mid 30’s to 40’s is that they find they suddenly become far less interested in new music. This isn’t to say they’ll never enjoy a new song or that they are not open, but they are representing what it is to be full.

By full I mean that our brains have heard enough songs and enough patterns that by those ages we know those patterns so well that little can sound new to us. Evidence of this is the way that, around those ages, we start thinking of these patterns (in music or movies or shows) as being, like this meets this, or that meets that with a bit of that in it. Rather than new sounding fresh, instead you can hear combinations of known patterns mixing.

1293 Relax and Succeed - Like people some songs are popular

Now that you can see you have this skill, consider that you also divide up humans very much like that. Stereotypes like optimists, pessimists, leaders, shy people, Scottish people, mothers, bankers and firefighters are all groups of patterns on top of other patterns, because our mothers are also sisters, and accountants and baby sitters etc..

Personality types are also a part of those patterns, and when families say things like, “Dad’s being Dad again,” or “Raj, why are you always late?” they are expressing what they perceive as that person’s unique pattern. This is why family caregivers carry so much information about loved ones without even realizing it. They simply sense that something is wrong yet they may not know why, even though they are being kind of mathematical about it.

Since these patterns impact personality types it makes sense that it also informs how we know how our friends or co-workers are likely to meet the various patterns in the world (like songs, or traffic etc.) For instance, at a rest without influence, some people think in patterns that create sadness. Others idly create happiness, and still others worry or plan or create. For every type of person there is a pattern to our thinking, and our current conditions will influence those patterns in real-time.

The problem comes in when people see another pattern and wish it was theirs. This is to misunderstand the nature of the universe’s orchestra. Yes, we can improv portions and any song can change its genre at any time, but it also important to note that none of us is wrong being as we are. We just need to enjoy and capitalize on being whoever that is. Some people will like that pattern of being and others won’t. But that’s not personal. It’s just how the patterns go, just like some people like jazz and some don’t.

People’s appreciation of us is a separate issue, but all lives are like beautiful songs. Indeed, some are sadder, some happier, some angrier, still others confused, or even profound. But just as music contains flats a sharps, there are no truly wrong notes for us to play in life, and we can always change our style if we feel it’s worth it.

Even if we feel off-key, or that our timing is off, rather than turn our thoughts against ourselves we are better to simply learn to stop that critic. Because no matter how weird we or others think we are, in the end, the only way for us to play our special song is for us to ignore all judgment and to simply be natural.

peace. s

PS If you are not in Canada but would like to listen to the podcast linked, the international version if available here: CBC Q Podcast

What Death Provides

1290 Relax and Succeed -English countrysideChurches in England often look as though they’ve sunken into the landscape. That’s because the buried bodies around them have, for centuries now, biodegraded to create far more earth. So the churches didn’t sink, but rather their parishioners melted back into the nature. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust as they say.

The atoms and molecules that comprise ‘us’ and that carry our consciousness are only ‘us’ temporarily. If we think about that in a certain way we realize that this means we are free. Even the worst of our mistakes will merely melt into obscurity, as they did for the people who surround those churches. This is the grand perspective.

Far from avoiding thoughts of death, troubles are less troubling if we put them in the context of a natural death. Regardless of how much we choose to think about our ‘mistakes,’ they too will fade into larger and larger historical pile, where billions of people’s mistakes are added every single day.

Suicide is unnecessary because clearly we are not alone, and since that’s the case –a natural death generally leaves barely enough time for some really cool experiences so we have to keep having them. If we pay enough attention we’ll notice, when we feel worst is when we’re experiencing the least. So we can be bold about having experiences.

Our egos and ‘lives’ are just bits of ice temporarily floating in a sea of universal water. One day we will all melt back into all that surrounds us. Just like those people in those cemeteries. Who today thinks about those people’s mistakes? Even if they’ve only been gone for hours, most people just want the dead person back because they loved them, ‘mistakes’ and all. That shows us how much mistakes truly count for.

Each of us is preciously unique. Our identities get created when bits of the universe are frozen together by our independent thoughts. That’s why people can change; we can change our thoughts. But when there’s no one to think our problems into existence they cease to exist as our problems and they too melt into some new reality.

The clicking of our ice with other ice is what we call ‘life.’ People can see that as dismissive if they view it the way I don’t mean it. But the way I mean it, the ice is like a wonderful shadow theatre putting on shows for our entertainment and we too are characters. In seeing this for what it is, we gain a stunning reverence for the generousness of the water in allowing the whole thing to happen.

Religious readers may be familiar with that feeling of the water; something huge and powerful and trustworthy at the heart of everything. That’s what allows ‘life’ to happen and it’s everywhere, which is why we can find beauty in everyone and everything. We’re all bits of nature flowing together in the most amazing ways.

1290 Relax and Succeed - When we feel worst is when

The freezing action everyone knows personally as well, because what we freeze is an ego –a collection of perspectives. Our ego is where we tell ourselves the story of our lives. It plays a role in life with others so we don’t want to be rid of it entirely; we have to be someone. We just don’t want to take who we are too seriously and think that we are our thinking.

Remember; our consciousness does the freezing, but it is not the shape that we are left with. Those are only our personal, changeable thoughts. The real us is who thinks them. If we meditate on this enough we’ll fall into a way of being able to actually see life as a less personal dance of water and ice; like beautiful entertainment for our soul.

But imagine if your TV gave you the same level of feeling you get from being in real life? Conscious life is like the ultimate sensovision TV. But unlike TV, living in reality gives us the opportunities to have profound and joyful and awe-filled personal experiences, including painful ones.

Do we sometimes get caught up in our character just like we do in movies with the hero? For sure. But the lights eventually come up and we come to our senses. Those lapses don’t change the fact that pain or joy, it’s all an inconsequential dance that just happens to be profoundly beautiful.

We have to be in a certain place to feel motivated to truly slow down to genuinely contemplate these ideas. But if we do, what we find is that we can live with courage. We can live as ourselves, with the conscious awareness that our successes and failures will both only melt into the past regardless. Our job is to merely be.

If we truly grasp that, it really takes a lot of pressure off of life, and that allows us to be ourselves. We need to surrender into our reality instead of trying to always make it better. We need to slow down and exhale. We need to let go. We need to simply let the universe be, and through our resulting and profound appreciation, we can become one with it.

peace. s

PS This is a two part answer, but it makes the case above quite nicely. It also demonstrates that we can contemplate ourselves into a lifetime filled with life.

 

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

Conscience as a Sign of Health

1288 Relax and Succeed - Photo - Someone feeling badly

If just before you started reading this you were using your thinking to criticize yourself, this your chance to stop.

Those thoughts don’t improve us even if we did screw up because it’s not the screw up that’s really the issue, it’s our thoughts about it. Those are after-the-fact thoughts about the past. If it’s in the past that can only be ego and egos are dangerous. You have to keep an eye on them.

The fact that we don’t feel good about whatever transpired is only because we already know we could have done better. That demonstrates that we are good people with good judgment because our judgment was able to detect something out of alignment with the range that we use to define our self.

If we let it, our negative reaction to exceeding those limits is what, over time, nudges us closer and closer to being able to live out our greatest potential. This is the process of getting wiser.

This is the point at which many people suggest that we need rules to be ‘good.’ But if they’re saying that they usually mean they want alignment with whatever they think everyone should do. But that’s impossible because we can’t all demand that. While rules can be useful, they aren’t needed to define ‘good.’

Everyone except psychopaths is familiar with the hounding a human conscience can give us. Many of us adults still feel badly about things we did as youngsters. But what is our conscience?

Think of it like an old fashioned thermometer. Humans are good from about +60C to -60C, (or -76F to 140F). Above or below that and we’re in enough trouble we’re likely to die. Our conscience is like a range of things that our real self –the self that creates our ego– has for our behaviour. That part of us is very wise –except for in psychopaths. They don’t have lines that are further out than ours, they don’t have any lines at all. The rest of us have healthy lines for a very logical reason.

1288 Relax and Succeed - Photo - Even huge mistakes

We as individuals are a part of a much larger flow created by our species. We’re all ultimately programmed to try to stay alive and see the next generation move on. Since we breed we obviously need others to do that, plus working in groups is safer than working alone, so our nature is to find ways to cooperate.

All of us can temporarily lose track of that connection when our thinking gets crazy, but our nature is to work to stay alive, not work to destroy what we need to stay alive; including others and their support.

Even huge mistakes are just ways of learning, growing, and maturing. Sometimes we inflict ours on others, sometimes they inflict theirs on us; sometimes we are teachers, sometimes we are students. Sometimes the universe benefits from regret, sometimes it benefits from tolerance.

Our ability to understand that flow of pain and regret in a non-personal way is the lesson we are all unwittingly teaching each other through the living our lives. And it’s also why many wise people have said, when you finally become a real guru you realize that everyone around us, has always been a guru.

peace. s

Nothing is Something

1269 Relax and Succeed - They are the chosen onesThey were sitting in a coffee shop. The decidedly unsettled woman twitched a statement his direction. “I can’t paint.”

“You painted all of those beautiful paintings in your house, and quite a few hanging in other people’s houses too, like mine.”

“There’s no point.”

“You enjoy it.”

“Not like this.”

“This isn’t painting, this talking about painting.”

She was already done her coffee. She leaned over toward the garbage and ditched it. “This is a kind of torture, being stuck like this. Constant procrastination, no work. No achievement, no sense of self-respect. But how could I think I was gonna get that from something so fated? So pointless?”

“I like the paintings I own of yours. I take pleasure from seeing them. Don’t you enjoy people liking what you’ve offered?”

“Praise is uncomfortable for everyone. It’s too rare. Feels weird. And my problem is bigger than procrastination–although that’s huge–my problem is metaphysical. It’s… philosophical. It’s spiritual. It’s so huge it’s not even my problem it’s the problem. With everything”

“Oh oh. Then it’s a problem for me too. What is this problem we have again?”

“Everything comes from somewhere.”

“Why is that a problem?”

“It’s just a giant universe of pool balls, clicking and clacking away. We live inside a math formula.”

“What?”

She caught the eye of the bearded guy behind the counter then looked at her companion. “You want another one?” He signalled he still had 90% of his existing drink. She held up one finger and the barista nodded in understanding. “This whole thing. Everything in the world was predetermined by every other thing. It’s all just billiard balls.”

“I’m going to need a bit more detail.”

“Just think about it: why are we speaking English?”

“…Because we’re in Canada? Because our parents speak English?”

“Exactly! See! We had no choice. English came to us, we didn’t pick it off a list of German and Japanese and Italian and Swahili. Our lifestyles. Why do our Dad’s both own businesses–because their Dad’s did.”

“We’ve got friends who own businesses whose parents worked at jobs.”

“Yeah, but those people didn’t want to be like their parents, so in a weird way the parent still dictated what they did. It was all inevitable. All billiard balls. Every song, based on the notes developed by others, using the timing systems developed by others, and played on instruments invented by others. Everything is so derivative. There’s no point.”

1269 Relax and Succeed - Millions long for immortalityThat last statement shot the eyebrows of her companion up. He was thoughtful while she fidgeted even more, checking her phone. He broke her attention away from it when he spoke. “What if it’s not balls?”

“What?”

“What if it’s not balls? What if the reason it feels like there’s no point is that we’re not all individual balls in search of individual achievements. What if we’re all just one big flowing mass? Then aren’t your actions both kind of predetermined and also awake and alive? Isn’t it possible to be fully occupied with fulfilling our ‘own’ aspects of that flow? Doesn’t an ocean crash on anew on every shore? Isn’t that both ours and the–and part of the ocean of everything?”

She seemed genuinely impressed that it hung together in the end, but it didn’t line up with what she already believed, so her initial reaction was rejection. “That’s too easy. It ignores the nihilism of it all. I cannot paint with any kind of meaning. All anyone is ever going to get is just another reflection of every force I ever encountered as life unfolded me like a predetermined plan.”

“Can’t all of that be true and still leave you space to feel like you’re a part of a great oneness? Isn’t that what a muse is? The hand of God needs fingers right?”

Eyebrow. “Hand of God?”

“I was shooting for poetic.”

“Ah… no.” In the background the barista was foaming her latte.

“You’re the one going on about metaphysics and nihilism. I’m not even sure either one of us knows what those words mean exactly.”

“I just want my life to have meaning. Is that so much to ask from the universe?”

“How would I know? What’s meaning? Meaning changes as we mature anyway. I don’t see the crap we did at 10 years old the same way now that I did then. I can only assume that since everything else in my life is like that, now will be like that too. So what’s meaning? Meaning’s some floating idea we temporarily layer over an experience or a memory. But what’s so great about that? People have different opinions about the same book. Why can’t that be wonderful? Why do they have to agree on a meaning?”

“What’s the point?”

“That’s like asking for a meaning. Can’t life be the point? Can experience itself be the point? What do people who find out they’re dying want? They want more experiences. They might have had a lifetime of crappy ones and they’ll still want more when you tell them it’s over. There has to be something to that. Picasso was billiard balls too. I remember you getting pretty excited about Picasso. Wasn’t that joy real? Wasn’t that a thing? Isn’t that a point? To just…–live that? Doesn’t the universe need witnesses?”

This catches her attention. “Witness?”

“What if we’re not here to do anything? What if we’re just here to be? To see it. What if we’re just all witness-actors in the universe? What if this whole wondrous thing only happens because each part does its part, for every other part?”

1269 Relax and Succeed - A life worth living“Can’t be. I’m sitting here. I’m not doing anything. I’ve stopped the flow of the balls.”

“Ooo. Look at you. The grand ball stopper. The whole universe? Come on. But: what if this procrastination is just you misunderstanding that this is not when you’re supposed to create? What if you’re living this, but you don’t even understand why yet, like the Kierkegaard quote? But what if this is all part of that big flow? What if you being stuck is perfect? I don’t know art, but I’d bet another coffee that Picasso got stuck too.”

She’s thinking. This logical explanation has thrown a wrench into her nihilistic negativity. Despite herself, she’s finding some gleeful exuberance bubbling down low. “I dunno. Seems too easy. And where’s it leave us anyway?”

“Under that explanation there is no ‘us’ and no ‘where’ anyway, so it’s a nonsense question.”

The barista drops down her coffee and quickly swipes her cash card. While he’s going through the motions she continues her conversation. “Right. Oneness. Flow. That was good”

It’s as though he’s realising it more than stating it. “If everywhere is the same place then your lostness is inside foundness. Right?”

She’s confused herself. “Now you’re getting too deep for me.”

“You wanna get out of here?”

“Actually if it’s cool with you, I think I might head home. This actually makes me want to paint.”

“What’s the point though?”

She tosses a sugar wrapper at him. “My own joy of the doing.”

“That sounds worth it to me.”

“I’ll hate you during the hard parts.”

“What are the hard parts?”

“The parts on which there is no paint.”

“Ah. I get hated right to the end then.”

“I get a painting out of it though.”

“A nihilistic painting?”

“I dunno. I’m going to experiment with flow.”

“I guess I’ll wait to see 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.

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.

The Heartbreaking Cost of Finding True Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

peace. s

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

A Life Made of Moments

1257 Relax and Succeed - What makes a life awesomeYou’ll find cases who are big stars, or some will be your friends, family or maybe a mentor or lover. They don’t feel like failures to you because they don’t feel that way themselves. Even someone with a small life filled with disasters can really like how it all unfolded, because they know that even most awesome-looking lives are filled with reactions to failure. What makes a life awesome isn’t based in our results, it’s found in the quality our interactions in pursuing them.

A good example of the results not mattering was yesterday’s post, where we looked a gold medal athlete who might move into retirement feeling sorry that they passed on a must-win attitude that makes both themselves and their child their worst, most impatient, critical selves. A gold medal can’t fix the fact that the quality of their daily interactions will have suffered to get it and, in the end, which is worth more when the athlete’s 50? Love and companionship, or ostensibly a necklace too ostentatious to wear every day?

When we hear of people shifting in this direction or that, extremely few of them are following some muse or calling, because, even if they were that does not remove the fact that life doles out a lot of punishment on its way to giving us its rewards. (Warning: movie spoiler alert.) This is what makes the ending of the film Arrival so beautiful; even though she knows she’s signing up to watch her daughter slowly die, and to be deserted by a beloved husband, when given the chance to do it all again, she joyfully takes it.

1257 Relax and Succeed - Successful people aren't betterMost of the moves we see people make in life are because of the punishment life delivers. Part of this life-game is down at the bottom of Maslow’s Pyramid and we all need to eat, so some aspect of life is invested in providing for ourselves and/or others, and our comparative minds we tend to evaluate a large part of ourselves on the basis of how much ‘food’ we’re able to provide. Likewise, we judge others on much the same basis.

This means we can detect the possibility that a manager who moves into a lower position in a new company may have been fired by the previous company, but we don’t often realise that the creation of a new TV show was actually the product of someone having their previous show fail and be cancelled. We see the new show as a victory, not as a reaction to the failure of the old show.

Lawyers lose a lot of cases. Athletes lose a lot of games. Lovers have their heart broken, and a parent can move up or down in status in their pursuit to ensure they’re providing for their children. This means that lives that we may judge as failures are also filled with successes, just as the lives we view as successes are always also filled with rejections.

1257 Relax and Succeed - When your'e not concerned with succeedingWhat counts is: what did that person do in the face of rejection? Curl up and die? No, they move forward on whatever path is best, whether it appears to lead up or down? Because it’s not like we can tell where a path is going by how it looks at the start. No one begins thinking their wedding will lead to a legal nightmare, just like they won’t assume divorce is the greatest thing that will ever happen to their love life, and yet both things often happen just that way.

Our failures will come. Some we’ll see coming, some will be unexpected. The healthy reaction is to avoid turning that fact into a personally destructive internal narrative about failure. We must free ourselves by understanding that failure litters every life, and that the quality of your life will actually be dictated by how you react, and not by what happened.

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.

The Most Precious Gift

1254 Relax and Succeed - Togetherness and connectionEveryone feels their time is rushed and that it is increasingly valuable. But time is made of moments, and moments happen in our consciousness–they are where the external fates of the world meet our focus; our attention. Our problem isn’t so much that the wrong things come to us or that we focus on the wrong things. There really are no wrong things when you’re seeing things clearly. Our challenge is that we don’t focus at all.

Thanks to things like smart phones and social media, people live inside a constant stream of distractions, as our minds our actively encouraged to flit from thing to thing, without ever giving anything enough attention for us to ever come to truly understand what we’re taking in. How many times have you walked into a room and forgotten why you went in there? We do this with food, tasks, people. But we must remember; we don’t want to just see or hear, more importantly we want to watch and listen.

The rewards are two-fold in the case of focus, because not only is it a calmer, more natural state than our busy-mindedness, but also the person, place or thing being focused-on starts to take on remarkable dimensions as it or they become a part of a rewarding connection to your soul. This is how people can become the very best kind of lichenologists, fashion designers and parents.

1254 Relax and Succeed - The most precious giftOur real life isn’t an app or notification, it’s the events, places and people that we interact with each moment. The way we get distracted in our minds is much like we do on our phone or computer. You’re doing this or that and then your phone or computer beeps and you’re off to look at whatever it told you to. In your mind you’re in a moment talking to your spouse, or child or a co-worker and then suddenly you start talking to yourself about what’s happening and that’s your mind wandering.

When you let your mind wander like that you literally stop recognising an important truth about the other person, be they a loved one or a stranger. The moment you do that you become an ego who will see the world as a set of labels that only exist in relation to you:

Your fussy child isn’t possibly sick or otherwise uncomfortable if they’re seen as simply preventing you from getting where you’re going. Or that other person appears more attractive if you compare your spouse as simply an ego-list of the things you don’t like. Similarly, that person at work has let you down, they aren’t struggling as they go through the experience of losing someone dear to them. These are all ways that we disconnect form others, the world around us and ultimately ourselves.

1254 Relax and Succeed - The bird in a forest can perchIf you’re talking to yourself you are dividing your attention between two egocentric you’s and they are the source of your problems and your suffering. The real you is the being thinking those other two you’s into existence. That you is already deep and wise and steady and open. Your ego you is selfish; smart in some ways, dumb in others; you’re rarely calm and centered because you have so many wants and desires; and you get offended and bothered by things easily, meaning you’re not really being open.

The wise you lets things be. While it can wander too, your healthy soul notices thoughts that disturb your personal Star Wars-like force. It can feel you creating resistance by having a value-based conversation with itself, and through those thoughts you create  conflicting wants and desires. The separation between your separate you and those separate things (relationships, cars, jobs, status etc.) is the gap through which all of your suffering seeps. If only you’d realise you don’t need anything so that you’d come home to yourself more often.

Wisdom isn’t hard, it isn’t out of reach. Nor is calm, or compassionate, or loving or connected. These are all natural states when we quiet our busy egos. When we’re there we are our best selves, without judgment, without desires, and profoundly satisfied with our lives as they are. Take today and focus. Write it on a bunch of post it notes you’ll bump into, or ask a friend to text you randomly. It’s worth practicing, because deep down you’re literally learning to be yourself by doing so.

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.