Create More Unity in Your Community

1247 Relax and Succeed - If you want others to be happyWe evaluate, we name, we label, we judge, we value. Totally lost in ego, we use words like truth to represent what is really only our personal view. Reacting more to our own thoughts about things than the things themselves, we seek to remove all of our opportunities for personal growth by removing any and all offending ideas from our daily experience.

Is it any wonder that the world feels fractured when most individuals are walking through it with the constant urge to subdivide it down into groups rather than behaviours? How does it help to either subdivide or be angry at the perpetrator of domestic violence for instance? To be angry is to add even more negativity. It’s fine as an initial response, but once that washes over us our job isn’t to have a personal emotional reaction, it’s to do something constructive for our community.

Unity is created in a community when people from all walks of life can feel safe that they will be met with compassion and understanding when they’re struggling. That means the wealthy elderly lady walking her dog is equal to the strapping young man with the sort of childhood that leads him to be violent. People find it easy to be sympathetic to the little old lady even though (like every human being), she’s certain to have done some truly terrible things in her life. But our personal speculation about her will often be quite generous.

1247 Relax and Succeed - There are too many of usMeanwhile we have difficulty expressing compassion for a fearful or angry young man with equal challenges and his own set of mistakes. Our job isn’t to look at his clothing and terms of speech and his behaviour and then evaluate him, label him as an offender and his wife as a victim, and then dole out our compassion according to those judgments. Our job is to care about each of them in conjunction with their relationship.

To help we need to understand what in his life would lead him to be violent, and what in her life would lead her to stay for that violence. Our initial judgments are uninformed and useless. They happen inside our head. Even if they do externalize, they’re often just as ugly as what they’re judging.

The world does not benefit from our thoughts, it benefits from our actions. And that action should not be to judge and divide people into good or bad groups, our role is to support anyone struggling, whatever that struggle may look like. Right now, people are inclined to hate the very people that they should be loving the most.

1247 Relax and Succeed - Look out for each other

When we’re unhealthy and locked in ego we’re going to talk about how bad things are and who needs to change. We’ll start filling our social media with angry recriminations of this or that group, or we level this or that judgment about this or that social media post; or we comment on the news, on the behaviour of athletes, and politicians, and celebrities, and on and on and on. Meanwhile children watch us make those judgments, and we pass on to them a world more ever more steeped in the useless egocentric personal views that populate most people’s social media.

Those children deserve to see us offer them examples of where we find our own way past a negative judgment to find some positive sort of action, but instead we offer them endless examples of our judgments of how the world should be, or how it’s supposed to be. Even most television shows now involve someone actively judging someone else in a way that actually determines that person’s fate. It’s all built to appeal to our egos, not the unifying best that is at the heart of who and what we are.

We all have to drop that arrogance. It’s not our job, nor does any one of us know enough to be able to singularly know what the right answer is in any situation. We all need to stop casting judgments and making suggestions, and we all need to start getting to know our enemies better. We have to move toward the people we dislike the most, because the conflict is happening within us, not in the larger external world.

1247 Relax and Succeed - Compassion is a verbIt is we who must lower our sense of right and wrong and instead ask how we can help situations traverse the distance from tense and unpleasant to calm and rewarding. Remember, every time you either consistently negatively judge, or universally accept another person, you are engaged in the very deepest and most destructive state of ego. That’s like failing to throw a life preserver so you can instead scream at a drowning person about how they should have learned to swim many years ago. It’s cruel and it does not serve the larger community.

As Roger Waters said, (it doesn’t just apply to formal schooling), “We don’t need your education, we don’t need your thought control.” Indeed. Stop putting bricks of judgment between you and others. If you want to prove you’re developing spiritually, try tearing down your own wall, be vulnerable, and connect. Because while your judgments only serve to make the world worse, you compassion is the glue that can hold a society together through it’s most difficult times.

Trade in your judgments. Be a positive, constructive spiritual citizen in your community. If everyone learns how to do that, then when it’s us that’s struggling, we too will benefit from the compassion of those around us. Let’s all take immediate action to improve ourselves and the world in this way. I do hope you’ll join me.

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.

Momentous, Monumental Experiences

1242 Relax and Succeed - Roger Waters Us and Them 1You know them. You’re excited before they happen, you’re fully involved in the moments they’re happening, and afterwards you glow with excitement. That immediate sense eventually subsides into a deep appreciation that the event ever took place at all. In fact, the secret of the whole thing is that we value it so much that we slow down to give it our full and undivided attention. During these times our inner thoughts are completely silent.

These are the monuments of our consciousness. These represent aspects of our lives that stand tall and permeate everything else we do. It might be the day you escaped a war, or the day you got your citizenship, or your marriage, the birth of your children, the day you opened your business or your first trip overseas. Sometimes it’s just an arresting sunset with someone you care about. No matter what it is, these are the moments where gratitude and appreciation are at full volume. They create our sense of life’s richness and it is those feelings that drive us to make even more of our lives feel like those wonderfully wide-awake moments.

These events can happen in conjunction with other people and sharing that excitement with others feeling the same way is both beautiful and unifying. Despite that, these experiences remain deeply personal, existing only within our own consciousness, interconnected with virtually everything else in our lives precisely because they affect us so much. I recently had such an event in my life and the feelings around it reminded me of how exalted every day life can be when we’re deeply in a state of gratitude, and that feeling of inspiration lead to this piece of writing.

1242 Relax and Succeed - Roger Waters Us and Them 2I’ve always said I have a few heroes in my life. They’re the people in my life and the influences I’ve had that inspire the very best in me. Anyone who’s a friend of mine is like this. I’m always friends with people I admire for some reason that’s important to me. But there’s also key people I’ve modelled myself after; people like my parents, or my best friend, a particular aunt, a particular uncle, plus the fictional character Hawkeye Pierce from the TV series M*A*S*H and Roger Waters, the composer and creator of Pink Floyd‘s sound. This particular momentous, monumental experience involved Waters’ final concert tour.

Waters’ music is extremely artful, and yet it is deeply social and political poetry. The audience was understandably wildly varied, with people ranging from 14 to 80, and there was everything from a groups of nerdy looking political men, a group of girls in niqabs, a Sikh fellow with his father, a row of old ladies in outrageous clothes and some aging rockers. And everyone was on the same open page. Not a wisp of judgment from anyone. In fact, it was particularly accepting and welcoming. The influence of that kind of milieu has informed many of the ways in which I conduct my life and my own art.

I was attending the concert with a dear friend who is also a long time fan. His connection to Waters is like many Eastern Europeans–around the time of the fall of The Wall (Berlin’s, not Waters’), many states descended into dark nationalism and my friend witnessed first hand what propaganda and belief can do to otherwise excellent human beings. Mere thoughts could turn good friends into lethal enemies and he values Waters’ vigilance against such ugly motives.

1242 Relax and Succeed - Roger Waters Us and Them 3
Being his last tour, I will choose to miss Roger with a joyful poignancy.

For my part, Waters’ was inspired to write about peace by his father’s death in WWII. I was inspired by my father, who survived the war, but who maintained the same dim view of conflict and the same hopeful view of humanity that Roger Waters shares through his music. With that kind of awareness and motivation, I feel like we had similar childhoods strangely enough.

My friend and I deeply share Waters’ distaste for things that confine human freedom or that assigns labels and values, and we also share the love he feels for other people of all types. We connect with the idea that humanity is always at its best when things are at their worst, and that in the end we are all in this together. The affirmation of that, with tens of thousands of your fellow citizens, is like going to the most celebratory peace rally you could possibly imagine.

Waters is 74 and he’s announced that this will be his last tour. Knowing that, my friend made it all that much better by securing us seats dead center, in row two. My seat was even my “lucky  number;” the one I put on all of my hockey jerseys. It got even better when the four people in front of us turned out to max out at 5’2″ (155cm). They could stand and we could stay seated and still see the entire stage perfectly.

1242 Relax and Succeed - Roger Waters Us and Them 4
Roger feeling grateful over a 10 minute standing ovation.

As I watched Waters perform from such a close distance, I found myself in a deep state of gratitude, knowing not in words but in feeling that from this man’s life had grown weeks if not months of joy, of solace, of discovery and inspiration. I was in tears at times due to the gratitude I felt for even being able to have such an experience. It felt like my entire being was in a state of saying thank you for the entire show.

It all culminated in something that neither my friend and I could have expected. Early in his career, Waters had misunderstood audiences and hadn’t always been charitable–something he’s always regretted. That being the case, and it being the final show, Waters descended from the stage and he walked along in front of it, he proceeded to fist-bump about three quarters of the people in the first two rows.

I’m not one into celebrity at all, but this felt like touching the hand of the doctor who gave birth to a beloved child. From that very hand, a pen had scribed some of the most powerful moments in my life. That I got to ‘shake the hand’ of the man who gave me all that was deeply rewarding. It couldn’t have had a more fitting ending and fills me with gratitude.

1242 Relax and Succeed - Roger Waters favourite quote
Roger carries this with him like a talisman. I love seeing the handwriting from The Wall liner notes, and I’m also with him on the philosophy.

Despite my personal sense of fulfillment, what I love most is that I know with certainty that feelings like this lay in the future of virtually everyone reading this. No matter where you are right now in life, just remember that if we keep our eyes open and we live with the knowledge that life is abundant, it is only a matter of time before life rises up to remind of us of the incredible value of simply being present.

Thank you Roger Waters. Thank you so much.

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 Bucket List

1238 Relax and Succeed - It is pleasant to have been to a placeMuch like the film The Princess Bride, I’ve haven’t yet ran into any people who disliked The Bucket List after seeing it. As with anything I’m sure they’re out there, but most people of all ages find that it has a stellar cast, a excellent script that is both funny and touching, and the final production all comes together quite tightly. It’s a very moving but highly enjoyable experience if you haven’t experienced its rewards yet.

While studios vy for our attention with giant, effects-filled extravaganzas, it’s always been humorous to me that these simple stories, generated by boring, elderly people, are the ones that sneak up on us and become beloved. It is fitting that The Bucket List is deceptive about its value, because it’s a great lesson regarding a common human mistake.

The film features Morgan Freeman as a very plain but dedicated family man who works as a mechanic, but who reads about the world with the hope of one day seeing its wonders. In contrast, his hospital roommate is played by Jack Nicholson, the extremely wealthy man who owns the hospital they’re in, and who can go anywhere and do anything, but his life is otherwise empty. Where one man’s life has depth, the other’s is shallow.

1238 Relax and Succeed - We must let go of the life we have plannedJack Nicholson is living the life we all believe we want. He has wealth, power, and the beautiful companions he surrounds himself with are easy to come by. But he’s dealing with a potentially fatal disease regardless, and all of his control of the hospital cannot help. Meanwhile Freeman feels like he’s dying with his dreams left inside of him, unlived. Nicholson has money, Freeman has dreams, and so despite the laments of Freeman’s wife and family, the two men set off together to tick off the items on their respective bucket lists.

Freeman’s wife is shocked he would leave his family considering his condition and potentially short time, but Freeman cannot escape the fact that he feels unfulfilled; that his life has been too small. In contrast, Nicholson appears totally fulfilled, but as the film progresses and the two men are away from home longer and longer, Nicholson begins to question the value of his life, as does Freeman. Where the rich man sees little, the poor man begins to recognise his wealth.

This is the nature of getting lost. It’s necessary in order to be found. People haven’t ruined their lives when they feel incomplete at 35 years old. They are on their way, first away from the relative peace and security of innocence, and eventually to boomerang our way back to what matters. We appreciate life when we are young and very old, but in the middle we’ll often get caught thinking too much and trying to achieve. The film lets us play out our dreams to their logical end, whereas we usually stop at the objects of our desires.

1238 Relax and Succeed - Fall in loveMoney, travel, achievement nor power can hope to bring us the peace, connection and value that comes from our relationships with those around us. As the old saying goes, they don’t put luggage racks on hearses. We all only have so much time. Sure, there’s things we want. But how many of us would trade the value already in our lives to get it?

Take some time today to really check in with your values. If you had six months to live and someone offered you the chance to jet off with no complications, no worries, and no financial strain, to experience all of your material greatest dreams, would you trade what you already have? Would you sacrifice that precious time by being away? For anything at all?

Too often we do as the Morgan Freeman character does; we live rich and full lives wishing for a rich and full life. Take the time. Look for what matters. And if we find it, we should be grateful that we began to realise that value long before our final departure.

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.

Avoid Getting Caught

1234 Relax and Succeed - One day I woke upDespite our self-criticisms all of us are actually smart and capable. Our problem isn’t our potential, it’s our limits on that potential. The potential is always ready to go by nature. It’s not that we aren’t realizing it, it’s that we’re holding ourselves back by being tricked into going the wrong direction.

We should think of ourselves as a fish. Our three-dimensional world gives us the ability to move in any direction. Eating another fish would be like combining ourselves with another part of the universe and we would use the energy to grow even larger and more capable.

The ego-based world is more like bait. There’s some fisherman who lives in a world nothing like ours, and they’re going to pull us into their two-dimensional world and eat us up. Knowing the difference between bait and nourishment is key to our enjoyment of life.

1234 Relax and Succeed - We don't need anything more

Today, on each and every decision that we can recognise (we’ll probably identify less than 10% of them), we must ask ourselves whether the decision we made/are making was/is about more, or for better? Are we just trying to get more time, more money, more stuff, more respect, or more control etc.? Or was/is the decision about improving how we feel about our life?

We have very healthy feelings just before we quit a job we despise, or just before we end a taxing relationship. We’re giving up more for better and it feels good. That’s like flailing and getting the hook out of our mouth.

All day long we make these little decisions and brick by brick they build our world. So greater consciousness is critical, but to do this we need awareness. But our radar can’t learn to pick up that other 90% if we don’t start with trying to find the big, easy 10% that affects 90% of our life. We shouldn’t be working hard to save things that have no meaning.

1234 Relax and Succeed - Nothing makes a fish bigger
Nothing makes us wiser and more capable than learning to tell the difference between bait and nourishment.

No one really wins an argument. Achievements are always short-lived. Comfort breeds complacency. Ease makes us dull. Control crushes value. Money can’t buy happiness, status is fleeting and dangerous, and attachment destroys love. We can’t want more. We must seek better or our lives are an endless loop of consumption of people, things and places.

We shouldn’t get hooked and swallowed up by a two-dimensional world that limits our heights. Rather than forever seeking more–as though some gap in ourselves will be filled by achievement–we must all turn our eyes away from the collection of life and toward simply sharing in its remarkable abundance and beauty, because we sure don’t need much when the life we’re leading is rich.

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.

 

Close Your Identity and Open Your Consciousness

1234 Relax and Succeed - I'm drowning in a sea

People tend to suffer because they believe in a fixed identity. They believe deep down they are someone–the person they imagine–and they try to tune themselves to that internal ideal. Other people will certainly disagree as to our assessments of ourselves just as we would disagree with their assessments of themselves. We often disapprove of ourselves too, because most of us are about as hard on ourselves as we are on our enemies.

Seeing one’s developing self as an enemy that must be destroyed is largely why people are in so much pain. How can any of us enjoy the experience of our life if our experience takes place in our consciousness, and our consciousness is occupied with attacking our illusory, thought-based selves? It’s like our consciousness’s internal puppet show where one hand is hero, the ideal us; while the other hand is the villain, constantly and painfully measuring the distance between our ideal and our pathetic self.

It is possible to have an ideal for a target and yet not live a life of internally disappointed measurement. Rather than destroying ourselves we must kill that idea of measurement. It’s not part of the natural world so it cannot survive without our attention.

1233 Relax and Succeed - If you're using your thoughtsOnce we ignore our own thinking long enough we start to feel how ephemeral and meaningless thoughts are relative to action. Once we have that, we develop a better sense of time, where we realise we cannot possibly change things from the past, and so thinking about painful mistakes in the present makes little sense. If the thought stings then the experience has done its job and we have learned. We don’t need to add beating ourselves up with our word-based thoughts. By feeling badly we’ve proven that’s not the direction we’re naturally inclined to go.

We must also recognize that our thoughts are not our own, they were cultivated by our society. We’re encouraged to think certain things about ourselves and discouraged about thinking other things. Our entire egocentric life is made of those silent rules. It’s why you feel self-conscious when there’s a stain in your shirt even though everyone’s spilled food on themselves in their lifetime. The problem really isn’t you, it’s that culture of measurement; of judgment.

This can really impact us when issues become particularly emotional. Because we will all self-reinforce our identities; the more time we spend with people who share a set of beliefs that we share, the more certain and extreme those beliefs will become in the absence of respected disagreement. Most of the major problems now seen around the world are linked to this idea.

1233 Relax and Succeed - Commander Locke to Morpheus

While most of the world is pretty flexible and could live happily under many different systems in many different societies, some feel more threatened and are therefore more defensive, and that leads to anger. This effect can be see from ISIS to the Westboro Baptist Church to the KKK to the do-gooder mobs that destroy the lives of people who make big or small mistakes that violate–or appear to have violated–the social ideal; like the attacks on celebrities, or those on people over their food choices, or even through well-intentioned political correctness.

Let’s take a half hour of our lunch today and review our own lives. How many different points of view do we listen to? Are we in a feedback loop, where our microphone is too close to our speaker? Are the opinions that form our world just loops of ideas that go out of our microphone to be amplified by those who already agree with our ideas? Because that just makes us shout even louder into our microphone and the whole thing just gets louder and louder until it’s a frenzy. Those get built one person at a time, they can only be taken apart by each individual becoming conscious of their previously unconscious involvement.

If all of our friends live like us, share a lot of our beliefs and perspectives, and rarely disagree with our views, it’s almost certain we live in an ego feedback loop that will generate lots of suffering for each member because we will begin to mistake each other for the world itself. Conversely, healthy people are attracted to new ideas that challenge how they see the world. It’s a sign of the confidence they have in their true self. They remain open to the idea that they are big enough to be able to flex toward any idea that makes good sense to their being, because they rightfully see themselves as worthwhile aspects of the universe.

Let get out of our bubbles. Expand our minds. Any fear is a trick. It’s only misinterpreted excitement. We should go lovingly toward what challenges us. Especially including the people we assume we disagree with, because even if we don’t ever become friends with them, we will have both have learned more about both finding and making valuable friends.

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 Four Ways To Choose an Occupation

1232 Relax and Succeed - My philosophy isDid you choose your work, or did your work choose you? People often approach selecting their occupation in one of four ways:

  1. Early life experiences can lead people to choose an occupation by thinking about what might bring either status or the money that people try to use to buy status. Really these are efforts to belong and they are why many aren’t happy with their work. It’s not really done for them, it’s done for others, and so they often don’t work out and people end up in the sorts of unintentional jobs that no one plans to be in. These jobs can sometimes feature excitement or proximity to status or money, or prestige, or respect. These are the main motivations that most of us use, and yes, these are linked to our unhealthy egos and our desire to prove ourselves.
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  2. Early life experiences can point people toward seeking and planning for security and dependability in their work. These are those often dull jobs that many wonder why others do them, and yet they have a plodding regularity with a continuous team that can form a healthy rhythm. But they’ll get stifling if there isn’t excitement elsewhere in life. This is like my oldest brother, who was born right after WWII, and so it’s no surprise he would seek something secure and so he worked for the government, in a union, in a trade. Secure, secure, secure.
    1232 Relax and Succeed - You will never be admired
  3. Many people were not raised to plan much of their life, so they largely go with the flow, having the momentum and direction of their professional life dictated by their initial work experiences. If we’re not driven, this is the easiest least ego driven route, and it we’re paying attention, we’ll still find our way. My second oldest brother just loved cars, so he worked at a gas station where he pumped gas for a car salesman who gave him a job, which lead to a management job, and eventually him owning his own car dealerships and sponsoring his own race car. A lot of it was entirely accidental, but because he always tipped towards his nature it ended up fine.
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  4. The people everyone wants to be are the driven ones simply because the choice itself is so easy. Maybe they’re famous too, like an athlete or artist, but whether it’s that or they toil in obscurity, they’re obsessed, or passionate or even single minded. They don’t care about the price, they care about this other thing outside themselves; finding that scientific answer, creating that song, telling that story, engineering that amazing thing. These are often the most expensive lives, but they’re also often thrilling. This is like me going into film–storytelling really. As a matured I found that the form of storytelling wasn’t as important as the medium, but the desire to connect with others through stories has always had a strong pull in me, almost like I’m responding to me own person Force.

Group One is created by the human ego. It has the most thinking involved and is therefor the most agonizing. Just be yourself. If security makes you comfortable, then make other areas of your life exciting. The brother I have that lives the safe life has also travelled around the world and seen some of its most profound and exciting sites.

Or just pick anything and wait for your interest to reveal itself, as my brother with the car dealerships did. He was just following his interest in cars and now he has a very nice life.

And if you have a passion, then you’ll know because you’ll be paying the prices to pursue it, however crazy they look to others. Maybe that’s being in movies, or maybe that’s leaving everything behind for the sea.

It’s called an occupation. Don’t think about how other people will think about. You’re being occupied by it, not them. So make sure, however it looks to others, that it suits who you feel you really are.

Above is a very meditative video–it’s even in 4k if you’re looking at this on a good enough screen. It might help explain why seamen take what other people assume is often a boring or even dangerous job. It isn’t hard to see that it’s the sort of thing that could really attract a soul seeking peace. See if you can use it to slow your mind down. Breathe deeply. Enjoy.

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.

Lowering Your Standards

1229 Relax and Succeed - The difficulties of lifeTeams talk about demanding the best from their athletes. Companies talk about excellence and enthusiasm from their employees. Spouses want the partnership they agreed to in their wedding vows. Parents want the sort of children that don’t get into trouble. All of those things are achievable. Just not all the time.

First off, the world is three quarters of the way to its 10 billion person maximum, so the rest of us would wonder why any one person would think that it should be their standards we’re all living up to. Of course that person will argue that it’s not their standard, it’s society’s, and they’ll use their friends as examples. Except their friends are their friends because they share similar standards. It’s what everyone knows is right…? Right…?

Two things: What gets defined as the right thing to do will depend on a lot of things, most certainly where a person’s from and how they reacted to their upbringing. Secondly, how anyone behaves will always depend on how they feel at that moment.

1229 Relax and Succeed - Try being nice to the next personEveryone has their worst days. 365 days a year, a 75 year life, that’s 27,375 days. At least 30 of those are going to be horribly agonizing, and about another 1,000 will be pretty awful too. That’s not bad in a full lifetime. Despite some long stretches of sad, that’s still way way more happiness than sadness.

The problem starts when things are out of balance–when we’re doing either really badly or we’re doing overly well. Those states lead us to start over-thinking the reasons for each, which means our ego is given almost constant existence. As a result of us thinking too much, our own standards get rigidly imposed on the world. But expecting others to operate at our tightest standards during their toughest times–that’s simply unrealistic. Get two people in that same self-righteous state at the same time and that’s where the worst conflicts happen.

It makes no sense to expect the best from people if we know we all have really bad times where our behaviour is definitely not good. We should fully anticipate that way may meet people during our day that are in the midst of one of their 1,000 worst days. That isn’t a day to add our standards to their list of things to think about. That’s our day to improve the world with our grace; to create the sort of emotional space for that person that we wish existed when we’re in that vulnerable state.

1229 Relax and Succeed - The world would quickly improve ifPeople will be amazing beautiful generous beings without us needing to punish or entice them towards that. We don’t have to worry about making people better, but we can make it easy for them to be at their best. So today, let’s all take the most difficult person we meet, let’s set it as our goal to improve that person’s life at least a little through our behaviour.

Even if they fail to see it, let’s let our actions help enact the very greatest parts of ourselves. That way we most certainly benefit, and whether the person we helped or offered patience to notices or not, they will have too. So think about having a friend or co-worker join you in this endeavour, because these are the simple daily changes that, done en masse, change the world.

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.