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.

Following Your Calling

1245 Relax and Succeed - The things you are passionate aboutWhen a dictionary describes a calling they say something along the lines of, “a strong urge toward a particular way of life or career; a vocation.” Despite this definition most people get confused about how to recognise their calling or path because they too-often see it as strictly work-related, which confuses the perception process.

Yes, it’s good if you have a vocation; something you’re particularly well suited to, or something that you enjoy doing. But your calling doesn’t know borders like work and social. Your calling always impacts you because it’s a kind of compulsion.

It’s rarely the kind of thing you can explain to another person using words. It’s too subtle to be hacked up into individual pieces. That said, I’ll do my best to describe how you can find yours, and the value in trusting it.

1245 Relax and Succeed - If you don't follow your heart

When people feel like they have made a bad decision they know it because they tell themselves so in their thoughts, and the amount they do that will impact how much they feel the suffering. But people with a calling don’t ever ask whether something’s enjoyable or perfect or even as-described. They simply do it because there’s no other choice. It’s the same reason people don’t like being called hero after doing something heroic. They know full well that they had no choice–they were called to act. To not act would be more painful than to act.

You can see this in jobs and relationships. Once the pain of the job outweighs the value, the person can leave quite easily. But before that there’s a lot of ego-weighing going on. With a calling there’s no weighing because it’s irrelevant. It’s like telling someone who wants to be an Olympian that it’ll mean working-out all the time. Obstacles have no effect except to invigorate a response.

For the driven athlete it’s still a price, but it’s not a problem because it is a step on a journey they feel called to take. It doesn’t even mean they’ll make the whole journey. They could get the flu during the Olympics and ruin their chance at a medal. But they did not ruin their chance at enjoying life through having followed their calling. The Olympics last two weeks. The preparation often takes more than a decade1245 Relax and Succeed - It is only couragePart of the pain of leaving professional organized sports is that athletes must take on a singular approach to life when previously their dedication lead them to make themselves subservient to the needs of the team. Notice that: they permit their freedom of choice to be taken away in service to their calling. They feel they need to do it as a part of who and what they are.

It’s the same reason a leader feels comfortable making a decision for a hundred thousand employees. If that’s their calling, then they feel comfortable just like the athlete. It does not mean they’ll win the Olympics or an election or keep their CEO job, but they’ll be fully invested when they try. So will the guy who surrendered into his calling to become something that others wouldn’t see value in. It doesn’t have to be notable to be your calling.

Many people think it’s crazy that I’d work so hard to build such a beautiful home only to sacrifice it so that I can care for my parents. People say “put them in a home,” but that’s not what they want and I love them, and so I offered because I felt called to do it. The fact that it isolates me and is often boring, and that it prevents me from working as much as I’d like; in the end none of that personal “pain” matters. The price is irrelevant. I feel called. To not do it I would have to not be me. I always listen to this pull even when others think it’s crazy. That’s freedom.

1245 Relax and Succeed - Some beautiful paths
Path

Don’t ask yourself what the perfect job or person or life for you is. Ask instead what do you want to do even when it’s hard? What would you do if you won the lottery or if you had to squeeze it in between three other jobs?

When you’re looking for your calling you’re not looking for joy or ease or wealth or fun. You’re looking for inspiration, effort and reward. You’re looking for something you’d make sacrifices for. For some that’s trading gridlocked traffic for the freedom of being a courier with no boss hanging over their head. For others it’s surrendering a successful life to care for a loved one. In the end it’s the same thing.

Stop looking for appealing things and start looking for things you’d pay a price for, whether that’s in the realm of a job, relationship or even a hobby. The appealing parts of life are for your ego, but the rewards in our lives don’t come from that basic attraction, the rewards come from the kind of devotion that exacts a price.

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 Friday Dose #134: Your Mind Your Body

1043-fd-relax-and-succeed-90-of-your-bodyYou could do the experiment without risk anyway, but most of you have waited until science caught up before you would even consider that maybe your mind could impact your body. You are starting to accept that our attitude about healing could actually impact our physical healing, etc. How you think you feel has a lot to do with how you actually feel. This is a large part of a shaman’s power.

I’ve put them in previous Friday Dose’s: people whose behaviour defies science. Some stop themselves from freezing, others generate large amounts of heat, some demonstrate bizarre strength or unusual healing. Physical feats are done regularly today that were believed impossible only a few years ago. There’s a hospital in France that doesn’t use anaesthetic for operations; it’s all hypnosis; it’s all in the mind.

Placebos are likewise. There’s no company pouring money into research and who knows, maybe even some money preventing it. Even our health is a threat to someone’s market if they make money off us being sick. But that doesn’t mean placebos don’t point to a general impact your mind can make on your body. You’re a giant system. Start living like that’s what you are and you will begin discovering strengths within yourself that begin in your imagination.

Dr. Michael Tétreault Discusses The Placebo Effect

You’re stronger than you currently think. It’s time you accepted the idea that you too can be a peaceful, powerful person. Tune your mind. It’s yours and it’s remarkable.

Have a great weekend everyone.

peace. s

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

Releasing Motivation

1039-relax-and-succeed-you-have-been-criticisingThe reason artists are often called “crazy” is that the two states of creativity and insanity are really degrees of the same thing; few people talk to themselves more than artists need to, and more talking to yourself than that starts to get dangerously close to being lost in thought, otherwise known as “crazy.”

Most people have a boss with deadlines and job descriptions they have to fulfil so they can’t see how much that format is making them work, because even entrepreneurs know it’s much harder when there’s no external deadline imposed. But at least an entrepreneur has a client they’re servicing, but the reason they find marketing the hardest part is the same reason art’s difficult; there’s not only no boss, there’s no customer and the job is pure open space. As an artist you can’t even go to work until you decide how big your canvass should be.

Athletes might bemoan their hours spent training, but most artists would trade them that feeling for the agony of finding it difficult to create. I get a lot of mock hate-comments from artist friends who can’t figure out how I can do other writing and these pages every day by 7am. When your thoughts hold you back creating is very very hard indeed. I remember that sense well.

1039-relax-and-succeed-dont-think-about-making-artIt’s terrifying to start a piece of art because you have a lot of notable things to think about. You have big, public ways to fail. If you’re an author you’re probably comparing yourself to literally the very best people in the world. If you’re a painter you’re worried about $2,500 in paint and canvass you have to invest before you can even try to sell it. If you dance you’re worried about injuries and being a musician on the road has all sorts of potential pitfalls. It can easily make you crazy if you do too much thinking and too little creating.

We’re all such harsh critics. We could still have our opinions and yet talk to people with the approach we’d use with them a kid, where we’d have fewer expectations and where we’d want to be more encouraging. But as adults we make it painful to show personal things. We offer our negative opinion; our corrections. And even if they’ve paid us for that opinion, it still hurts them to hear voices of nonacceptance. And so creating art is hard. The climb is high and the fall feels long.

What’s important for the artist or any other person to remember is that these distances we’ve climbed and these heights we fall from all exist only within our imaginations. You’re not linear. You didn’t advance and then fall back; you expanded and then expanded again. The courage to create work is hard enough; the courage to show it publicly is even more precarious. These are victories not failures. These are what every great artist experiences. It is simply the act of moving past our fears and into an act of creation.

1039-relax-and-succeed-act-without-doingWe tend to think that when things are painful we must be doing something wrong but we only feel that way because there’s a cult of feeling good when in truth you wouldn’t even be able to sense feeling good without feeling bad to compare it to. So we must embrace feeling unsettled and wounded too, lest the art of our lives be shallow and hollow.

Artists spend very little time actually physically creating their art. What they do is spend time doing is observing life and then capturing poignant, worthwhile moments of it in art so that we too can benefit from their keen observations. Maybe they see something funny, maybe it’s what lead them to no longer be racist, it doesn’t matter; their only job is to place it in the world for us to find in the format we personally understand things in, whether that’s dance or painting or any other form.

Artists would benefit if they treated their art more like work, but before they can do that they must have enough respect for themselves that they actually feel genuinely motivated to live up to their own deadlines. If an artist is excited about what’s next then it makes sense that they’ll be excited to complete the project they’re working on, and that’s what gets the deadlines met; not a boss, not a date on a calendar–a genuine desire to finish so that more can be created. That’s a lesson the rest of the work-world can learn from successful artists.

Find what matters about your work even if that ends up being your co-workers having better days so they go home to their kids happier. As long as you feel genuinely motivated to create that positivity by doing what you’re doing, then the doing of it won’t feel much like work because it won’t be. It’ll be your life. It’s time you started actively living more of it. I’ll be better for everyone.

peace. s

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

A Healthy Perspective

You can live or you can think. You can be or you can do. These are vastly different states. Everyone spends time in both, with little kids starting off in the super healthy camp and then we slowly coax them away from that and into the world of thought. Once you’re in that world you’ll have to meditate your way out.

992-relax-and-succeed-to-dare-is-to-lose-ones-footingThe fact that you’re naturally in from birth, plus the idea that we want to return to that later, is what gives our egos the idea that we’re lost when we’re outside of that healthy perspective. But there can’t be a found without a lost, so these two concepts are interdependent. It’s like the inside and outside of a cup. They exist only in conjunction with each other. To fill oneself with life one needs both parts. Someone who was born enlightened and died enlightened with no ego in between would have no knowledge of the idea of either enlightenment or ego. Explaining that would be like explaining water and ice to a fish.

Both of states exist within the world of consciousness. When you think of consciousness it might be better to think of it as a universal place. If you think of the ideas of the universe or unified field theory, or oneness or even God, then you’re getting close to the idea of consciousness. That’s the stage everything is taking place on, both for ego and enlightenment. But you can’t fall off that, it doesn’t even have an up and a down. So why not go for it?

When you were learning to walk you failed more than you moved. You tilted and toppled and fumbled and fell. And still you kept happily marching forward, adding your small bits of progress together until you could run. You couldn’t talk yet so you couldn’t build an ego to punish yourself with, so you learned to walk and talk shockingly fast for such complex tasks. Then you start over-thinking and you end up struggling with something much easier, like algebra or grammar.

992-relax-and-succeed-having-an-ego-is-likeYour ego did the struggling with your “tough subjects,” and by tough I mean the ones you told yourself you couldn’t do. Those fears of failure then prevented you from fully engaging the way you did with walking and talking. When you were learning to talk you were willing to loudly babble away incoherently in public, but by the time you’re older you’re afraid of “looking bad” (whatever that is), and so you don’t try. You won’t wobble, you won’t fall and you don’t grow. Worst, you don’t live deeply, you exist to ruminate shallowly.

People have survived amazing things and then gone on to more amazingness. Polio patients later won medals in the Olympics. Refugees have gone on to become world famous leaders. The bankrupt have gone on to create jobs. Each of us has these feats in us, but few enact them. Instead we think and think and think and that itself is an illness. It is dis-ease in its most basic form. You are unsettled in the universe, whereas when you were learning to walk there wasn’t even a you let alone a universe.

Let go. There’s nowhere to fall. Babe Ruth was also a strike-out king. Picasso painted more mistakes than famous works of art. Those who succeed aren’t any better than you. They just found their thing and they wobbled and tripped and fell their way into being the activity rather than doing the thing. Lose that idea of right and wrong, success and failure and start thinking in terms of quality of experience. Because that sensation is what your life is actually made of.

peace. s

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