Victims of Fashion

Not so long ago at all, a bride in Northern Europe would have been chosen because she had a strong upper body for churning butter. Today women are far compelled to feel equally concerned with their bodies but they also must add what they dress them in. There are few things that torture a teenage girl more than her wardrobe or lack thereof.

In trying to understand the illusion we all live under it is helpful to look at the idea of fashion itself. What is it to be fashionable? In the photo above a model shows work designed by students at Central Saint Martins Art and Design College, which is connected to the University of the Arts in London. These are some of the top design students anywhere.

These students are learning to be at the forefront of fashion. People would pay a lot to see these pieces shown. And yet most of the people reading this will look at the photo and deem tucking one’s suit coat into one’s athletic shorts is simply silly. It feels like that thing we all do when we’re young artists and we try to make ourselves distinct by trying to out-weird our classmates. And we’re right about that. But we’re also wrong.

The point is, fashion is just what’s in a magazine right now. I’ll change with the certainty that capitalism gives it. They can’t sell you a new shirt if you’re still satisfied with your old one. And so when we’re young and peacocking, the fashion seems worth it. Later when we’re juggling kids it falls to the wayside as other priorities dominate.

Some people stay in fashion and that’s wonderful. It’s an artful expression and like any field, only the very best and most dedicated and those most willing to make other life sacrifices make it to the top. But most people simply stop thinking , believing or caring that it’s more important than your happiness. Because there are a lot of people unhappy over their clothing and that just shows how paper thin our understanding of true happiness is. A wrinkled blouse can destroy it.

The fact is, every person you walk by will think different things about your hair, your face, your body, your clothes and any other identifying mark on you. No two people will react identically. We’re all snowflakes looking at snowflakes. It’s only words and language that forces us to group people together. If we looked more closely, we’d split most of those people apart for being so different. It all depends on what level you focus at.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to feel good. It’s not unnatural. Even old-world people like the Wodaabe tribe have standards for beauty, although in their case they apply more to the men than women. They also don’t enact their most fashionable selves all the time and leave it instead for special occasions. The rest of the time you’re allowed to be human.

While enjoying fashion is fine, we also must remember that a six year old would be willing to give a speech with a giant soup stain on their shirt and there would be zero self-consciousness about it because they’d be focused on the microphone and their amplified voice and the podium and everyone watching them. They wouldn’t even consider the shirt. It wouldn’t enter their consciousness.

We should all try to be healthy like that. We should all hear any clothing judgments as being from one snowflake to another. It’s like one grain of wheat telling another grain of wheat how a grain of wheat should look. It’s silly we ever fall for it but that is a part of discovering ourselves. We start life trying to be like everyone else, and with any luck and some awareness, we leave it only wanting to be ourselves.

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.

Let More Be

1189 Relax and Succeed - One person's craziness

Every year it seems, people are increasingly focused on their differences and very little heed is being paid to our overwhelming similarities. What’s curious about those differences is that they’re all theoretical. If you look beyond your personal beliefs to the greater truth that forms all realities they’re all equally uncertain.

Like everyone else, you’ve changed your mind about a subject or two in your life. Maybe you’ll even admit to executing a few of life’s inevitable flip-flops too. Maybe you thought Person A was your friend, then you thought they weren’t, and then they were again. It’s not like Person A was flip-flopping who they were. You were just changing the opinion you colour them with.

The fact is Raj or Sirah or Dennis or Clare or Sydney or Dylan sound like a group of friends when really that’s just a collection of words. Because who are those people? Not only will they each change at their own rates and for their own reasons throughout their lives, but likewise, so will their opinions of each other. So who is what, when?

1189 Relax and Succeed - Reality is negotiable“Society” is nothing more than the averaging of everyone’s assembled–yet still individual–views. We draw a Venn Diagram with seven billion circles and we find the layers of overlap and we call that “normal.” Whether it’s about people or things or ideas, we all come to accept ideas at different times.

Some people believe things as soon as they like them. Others need tons of proof. Others need high quality scientific proof. Others will only believe people they like, and they’ll never believe anything coming from someone they don’t like. Others doubt everything. We’re all on this spectrum somewhere.

This means the rules and ideas and concepts that shape and guide our society are like a collective amoeba, organically working its way along as we all pursue things that are in alignment with our current capabilities and our individual natures. This is the subtle person by person way that a society’s fundamental perspective can appear to suddenly shift, when really all that happened is that the slow ebb eventually tipped your personal scale.So collectively, first we believed there were Kings and Queens who killed you if they didn’t approve of you. Then only wealthy land-owning men could vote, and you could be destroyed if they didn’t approve of you. Then only men could vote, and you could be destroyed if they didn’t approve of you. And then women could vote, and thankfully there’s no one left for them to prove their strength to because at least all of us humans all equal.

The strange thing about “differences” is that you could still find people today who still believe only landowners should be allowed to vote. There’s people that still think only men should. And some think children and eventually animals should be able to. We are all alive on the same planet at the same time. So all of these views co-exist. Is that really something to get upset about? Doesn’t that just make sense? How else could it be?

So, if we’re all changeable, and none of us knows what we might believe in the future, then surely some of the views that we’re hearing today are actually correct and we will eventually change our mind. Maybe it’s about a musician or maybe it’s about a spouse, but that means big argument or small, you may just be arguing for a view you won’t have later.

Just think back. I’m sure you can find some painful examples of where you held a belief you no longer do. Everyone has loads of those. When I was a kid my neighbour used to want to be a fire truck. I doubt he does now. More recently, for a while, another neighbour thought they wanted to be married. But like I suspect the fire truck kid did, she ended up changing her mind about that. (I sure hope she also remembered to change her “divorce is failure” belief while she was at it.)

Who knows what you’ll believe a year from now? Why not just breathe out? Why not just let other views co-exist with yours like books in a library? You don’t have to read them, but if the cover ever does catch your interest, you can thank the people around you for placing that book in your library of potential beliefs. And if you never pick that book up. That’s fine too. You’ll leave plenty lying around that other people won’t read either.

The world appreciates the efforts of your good heart but there’s no need to suffer to save it. Yes, there are things for you to care about. But mistaking caring for worrying is like mistaking the efforts of love for the efforts of resistance. As Mother Teresa said, skip the anti-war rallies. Go to the ones for peace. So it is with life. Don’t resist it so much. Let more go. Be more fluid and flexible. Let things be. And in so doing, be free.

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.

Coaching Spirit

Here’s one that’s likely to hit you in the feels. While the media can be really focused on money and status and achievement, in the end we all know that what really makes something impressive is empathy, connection and love. People pulling together is always more meaningful than a solitary achievement. The story about the sacrificing parent is always more poignant than the tale of actual victory.

For too many young children today sports is looked at like career training, when its most valuable contribution to society is that it teaches teamwork. It clearly demonstrates the value of chaining human capacity together to accomplish something bigger than any individual could achieve. In this way it is a beautiful metaphor for living.

The truth is, you don’t want enlightenment as much as you think you do. It’s pretty boring. It’s hard to feel something when you feel everything. And you can’t even share an experience because you are both the experience and the experiencer. You’re you and everyone else. In oneness there’s no one to hang out with. So we use our infinite power to create duality and opposition and drama and bingo! We’re interested in this drama called life. Nowhere is this opportunity exemplified more than in most sports.

You begin each season with the odds stacked against you. Maybe 30+ teams are vying for one championship. You are essentially signing up for pain. With pro sports you are volunteering to participate in a giant public drama where your agony may end up on full public display. And you do all of that for the slim chance that maybe you’ll do it this year.

Despite being disappointed for 50 straight years, Toronto hockey fans still line up to buy tickets filled with excitement. What else would enlightenment look like other than a group of people being thrilled to participate in something they can almost be guaranteed will be an agonising drama? Every league in the world is filled with people happy to sign up for likely failure. So if we can do that with a sport, why’s it so hard with our life?

The truth is, you just want a little bit of enlightenment. Just enough to take the pain away–you think. But then someone explains that to get rid of the pain you must accept the pain. You must become one with your pain. At that point it’s not an obstacle, it’s an experience and we can survive those, easy. It’s what every losing sports fan has to do every time they lose.

As Sam Houston State coach Matt Deggs so nicely puts it, rather than full enlightenment, you want the drama. Because in the heat of that, what you really enjoy is the joy of coming together. You naturally enjoy connection and communion more than the tearing apart and division, and this is how even a losing team can generate a winning experience. Because you can’t really enact enlightenment alone. It needs the whole universe.

Sports fields, workplaces, and within our own families, this sort of deep connection and appreciation can exist. All it needs is a few open people who are prepared to open up, be vulnerable, and love regardless of the setting. The question now is, are you one of those people? And if so, where will you share love today?

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.

Getting Along

Interesting term when one stops to look at it a moment: getting along. To get is to have or hold or receive something, but what are we getting? Along means to move ahead on some type of path. When the word was created the idea was that it was to take and, and long, and push them together into one word. So essentially the word means that you have found a way to continue to move forward.

Of course, the fancy word for this is diplomacy. This is when we take two or more perspectives that are in deadlock and they are jostled and realigned and adjusted so that all of the parts that can align, do align. This creates a greater unification of needs and that removes friction and that’s what gets things further along. So with people you like and enjoy, you simply go. But with people you find challenging in some way, some getting along is required.

In school it’s easier to align yourself with people like you because you have so many chances to mix and there’s so many of you. But at work you’ll often be in smaller teams, so figuring out when to concede and when to hold ground is more difficult because you can’t just join another group. And at work your boss won’t give you a low grade–they’ll fire you. At work the problem might even be with your actual boss.

A lot of people were raised by a parent to start off with demands. But if everyone only made demands how would anything get anywhere? Obviously everyone has to enter into a negotiation or discussion or debate with the idea of some concessions automatically built into the premise of the meeting, otherwise you’re just re-meeting to re-express previously stated demands.

Negotiation, debate and discussion require flexibility on everyone’s part. When things are stuck, what people get through some concessions is… along. They can back away and keep things as they are, or they can move forward by trading absolutes for acceptable losses.

I’m not sure if they still do this there, but I’d been told while living in Budapest that one of the nearby governments (Czech maybe?) had a process whereby unions and companies had to submit a closed, fixed bid on their arrangement. Then three judges would pick one of them, without alterations. I suspect the story is true in some way because, in principle, what would happen for most people’s minds is in alignment with what the storyteller told me, and that is that invariably the two sides would make extremely similar offers, which just goes to show they both knew where starting from extremes would lead anyway.

We don’t need to be forced to do these things. We don’t need to be left with no options before we consider another path. When we’re in conflict with someone else’s needs, rather than our own objectives, we’re better to share the objective of getting along. That means instead of finding a statement that represents your own interests, you state something that moves things forward; something that leads towards peace, or cooperation, or openness, or eventually, agreement.

Interestingly it appears around the 1700’s before someone puts get and along together to form the notion of moving forward in unison, and that is sometimes referred to as living harmoniously. That’s a good term, because in a harmony everyone still has their own individual note; everyone’s just made some adjustments so they blend well with others so that the whole can equal more than the sum of the parts. And that’s the secret. Adding each individual position in any conflict will not total as much as if each part surrenders something to a larger whole.

Next time you’re in conflict, spend less time asserting your position and more time looking for ways to align it with the opposing views. Sometimes it’s true, it cannot be done. But far too often people fail at finding a compromise simply because no one was willing to compromise on principle. Winning might get you everything. But compromise does get everyone something.

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 Freedom to be Beautiful

What kind of beauty are you interested in? Through movies and music videos and other kinds of  marketing for societal and cultural ideas, there’s a superficial, ego-centered view on beauty that involves comparing ourselves to advertised standards. But in that case superficial is really just another term for thin-skinned, so people who subscribe to that belief definitely worry and suffer a lot.

The other kind of beauty involves confidence and soul. It risks vulnerability to share connection. It risks judgment to realize potential. And nothing as wispy as the opinions of others has any hope of stopping it. Beth Ditto is a great example of how the size and scale of modern media is making more room for ideas that aren’t dictated by advertising objectives of the makeup or clothing industries.

You do not need to look like her, or her, or her. You don’t need to look like him or him or even him. That is mimicry. That isn’t even close to being. It’s literally the other side of the coin from being. You either perform being someone or you be yourself, but if you’re using comparison or fear to dictate your choices then you are not as courageous as Beth and you won’t find your own version of her beautiful voice.

The pressures on young men cause them to keep their real attractions secret. In the locker room immature males seeking approval will suggest that anyone who doesn’t like the hottest possible girl has their masculinity in question. This isn’t actually an anti-gay perspective even though they might even use that term. This isn’t being against gays, it’s about being cock of the roost. It’s about wanted to be the most masculine, not fear of being the least feminine. Half the time the guy is touting a girl whose type he’s not even sincerely interested in.

Of course, in the girl’s locker room the girls who do align with an immature boy’s attractions will then try to create even more separation from them and their competition by trying to draw attention to how others don’t align with what is actually a rather bizarre external reference. No healthy person wants the look or body of another person, they want to be themselves.

Young women are particularly bombarded with these ideas via the media and it starts so young it’s difficult for a woman to protect herself when even her own mother is probably also a victim of these false beliefs. We all have to have a real dedication to ourselves and to the individuality of others so that our culture begins to adopt a healthier set of standards that involves people feeling fulfilled instead of feeling coveted.

Make room for yourself. Make room in your opinions of others. Be the change you want to see by stopping your own judgments. Question others judgments. And pay more attention to who is really living big. Because those are the people who can teach you to do it too.

Have a fantastic week everyone. Start it off by giving yourself permission to be you. Accept yourself. That won’t mean everyone responds to you positively, but it will mean they’ll be prompted to deal with you more honestly. And if you get to be you, that’s all you really need.

peace. s

PS You might also want to check out Beth’s song Oo La La, which I also love.

She Said Lenny

She Said Lenny, by Jim Donovan (film below)

There’s a of people who believe the idea of genderless love is silly and yet others who believe it is exalted. None of this is written to change your mind, but it is provided as a potential insight into the other side’s views.

The world itself might seem like a thing but it is in fact a concept you have. The trick is, your brain’s identity is comprised of how you’re taught to see things, and we were all taught when we were younger. So no matter how old you are, the older you get the more different the world gets from the one you were raised to initially understand. My parents have trouble understanding ideas that are based on ideas that were developed long after they were young.

Today, at least in the Western world, we have this weird thing: we currently have two generations cohabitating and yet one grew up with “gay people” and the other group didn’t. Of course gay people either accepted or stressed over their own knowledge of this fact, but the point is, it wasn’t a common concept shared in the culture. Straight people rarely if ever heard about gayness. We quite literally didn’t know it existed. Liberace was creative and flamboyant, not gay. Rock Hudson and Richard Chamberlain were dashing leading men that women fawned over. No one said anything about them loving men.

Can you be blamed if a secret is kept from you? Because you surely and simply cannot be blamed if you learn a life-altering secret and it takes a while for your brain to install that new idea. Like in this case, maybe the idea of genuine homosexuality. Remember, in some countries there’s still a lot of disbelief about the reality of being gay. Even where I’m from in Canada, being gay was only “made legal” in 1967, and gay people couldn’t be married until 2005, and yet Canada was the fourth nation in the world to make it legal.

History is short, and the people that don’t understand homosexuality or bisexuality or transexuality are all being very honest. Those things have never really been planted as ideas in their minds and, once they were, they were treated in very hostile ways by people’s existing beliefs  because that’s what brains do. So for many the new idea didn’t survive. But we’ve all done that, just about things other than being gay. We all do that with ideas we’re not accustomed to. Even having crutches can be stressful because it asks us to alter our view of our own place in the world.

Meanwhile the new generation are more like the Greeks, who had many words for love. That’s better than one word, but it’s still carving an incredible whole into pretty incomplete pieces. So more mature people are somewhat correct; the world generally isn’t improved by creating more definitions because a definition is just another word for a separation or a difference. That creates the potential for duality and conflict and boom, we all have a mess to deal with. Better that we forget the words and divisions and just respect love as love.

Understand: the big new concept-acceptance process is brain-difficult for any person who tries to learn, whether it’s learning something else, or learning that homosexuals can experience the same genuine love the person feels in their own relationships. It’s equally hard for some person who’s accepted those ideas to understand that there could be people who are very genuine in their sense that homosexuality is wrong. Both things just feel wrong to opposing view. We can make it legally right, but that still won’t help some people to change their minds.

This short film, She Said Lenny, by Jim Donovan, is a great example of someone experiencing the moment where their ideas about the world are challenged. Much as the lead character learns in the film The Crying Game, this doesn’t mean straight people need to convert, or that gay people need to be angry that others don’t share their views. It is possible for us to agree to disagree, so long as we’re willing to let others be as free as we ourselves are.

Society is a work in progress. The good news is, history has always added more and more types of people to the accepted family, and that is becoming increasingly easier as people like NASA seriously begin to plan to meet potential cultures from other planets. It’s good we’re practicing this skill with other types of humans in a way. Maybe it’ll make it easier for us when the Darius Kasparaitis lands on Earth and we actually meet Hakan Loob, the leader from from the planet Jyrki Lumme. Won’t that suddenly make us all feel like one family.

peace. s

PS With thanks to my buddy Craig for pointing the film out to me.

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.

Thens and Whens

The definition of Stultified is “to cause to lose enthusiasm and initiative, especially as a result of tedious or restrictive routine.” Sound familiar? You have an instinct for how life should feel and let’s face it, because egos seek security over experience, a lot of folks feel like their lives are small dashes of fun amidst a sea of monotony, responsibility and anxiousness. And who can blame them. Who wants to think that’s all there is?

But here’s the deal: think or live. The world is not terrible, you aren’t inadequate, your life does not lack potential. So why are so many people thinking those three things? Habit, supported by the fact that every other ego around you is doing it too, which makes it appear sane when it’s actually the key form of mental disruption for people.

People want answers but there aren’t any; you are an answer. Your life is an answer. And you write that answer as you live and that is a part of the perfection of how this all works. That’s once again why Kierkegaard went on about how you live forward but understand backward. So everyone can simply be, and life would be the jostle we experience together. But we can’t do that because most of you avoid jostling.

You don’t like being uncomfortable. You don’t like it if someone doesn’t like you, and you don’t like to fail. But achieving comes from trying and trying is another word for failing, so now what do you do? Success is on the other side of failure. Do you go for it anyway? Or do you live in the past or present, constantly thinking, always trying to figure out who you were supposed to be, calculating what’s wrong now, and then figuring out how bad your future is likely to be?

Seriously? No way. You have way too much potential for that. You stop the fearful thoughts by carefully considering what’s actually happening, which then leads to the eventual realisation that the only suffering you’d be open to was from your own thinking. Fortunately, you control that, so essentially you’re free of everyone except yourself. And even if you do attack yourself, it’ll be harder to take yourself seriously when you’ve truly considered how meaningless your fearful thinking is to the world.

Rather than living your life afraid that the world is too big for little you, live knowing that life is a powerful imperative within you. Standing in its way is sure to be painful. You were meant to be. As the naturalist David Attenborough said about plate-sized lichens, surviving for hundreds and thousands of years, “They simply exist, testifying to the moving fact that life even at it simplest level occurs, apparently, just for its own sake.” If you’re going to feel an urge to live anyway, why be a lichen? Why not live and enjoy a bunch of it?

I recently saw a quote: “The worst kind of sad is not being able to explain why.” Look, either you found out you have cancer or you didn’t. Someone died or they didn’t. Let’s not pretend that sadness just shows up like some kind of invisible cloud. It’s brain chemistry that’s fired by what’s in your consciousness. If something didn’t recently happen, then the reason you’re sad is why anyone would be sad: you’re taking your nows to think about depressing thens or whens. It hurts because it’s not your path. You were meant to be not think.

The pain just increases as you avoid life and think more. It is your nature, your destiny and your future to fill your lifetime. The universe simply wants some things to be and the internal arguments you replay in your head mean nothing in the face of it creating your life. Instead of talking to yourself, it’s time you climbed on board your own life and then ride it to wherever you really feel like going. Even if the route is hard.

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.