Scott’s Favourite Questions of 2014 #2

718 SFQ14 Relax and Succeed - The first 40 years

This blog got on my top 3 list for the very simple reason that several dear friends of mine in their 30’s found it profoundly informative when it came to contextualizing the challenges they were facing in life. Relationships, careers, our families—these are all things that our growing maturity views in completely new ways. Thanks to that new perspective we come to need drastically new ideas about how to live. I certainly hope many of you find it as liberating as many others have. It’s a holiday here, so I would like to close by wishing my fellow Canadians a warm and happy Canada Day! Enjoy everyone!

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Scott’s Top
Questions of 2014 #2

peace. s

Prepare to Die

This may not be easy to read. It certainly won’t be to write. But because I intend to cause it to exist for my own growth I will be fine with the fact that it will be difficult. I’ll be blunt: if any of you met my parents you would realize that while they are very active and relatively alert, they are simultaneously also candidates to die at any moment. They are far past the national 464 Relax and Succeed - The soul is born oldaverage for age, and while my wonderful mother teaches exercise three times a week, and my father is extremely active with his gardening and walking every neighbour’s dog for miles around, they are also old enough that a brain or a heart could simply reach its natural conclusion at any moment.

Death is of course an integral part of nature. The very earth that plants and trees grow upon is in fact made up of previous plants and trees, now deceased. This is the natural cycle. Scientifically they say it’s likely that each of us carries about 500,000 atoms of Shakespeare in us. Now atoms are inconceivably tiny, but that’s pretty cool when you think about all of the people and places that you have formerly been. You are literally little ever-changing bits of the universe that come together to be you for a short while in the universe’s infinite history. And of course my parents are too.

I was recently quite sick for what was fortunately a short but intense period. I sought comfort in my parent’s home—a place I historically associate with being cared for. The plan for that day was for me to help Mom, and instead it was her nursing me—bringing me ginger ale and dry toast. I’ll admit, I liked it. It may be the last time I ever get mothered like that in my life so I really paid attention and drank it in.

Of course it’s no surprise to me that my parents could die. Intellectually this is obvious. But knowing something intellectually and knowing it well enough to live it are two different things. Otherwise smokers would quit because they understood smoking was bad for them, or people would leave abusive relationships because they would know they could do better. Well that day my awareness of my parent’s temporary-ness became sharp and clear and seeing it that clearly instantly changed my life priorities.

464 Relax and Succeed - The more you are motivated by loveThey say you cease to be a child when you first realize that you will die. And to at least some degree you become a different sort of adult when you can actually appreciate the fact that your own death could happen at any time. Suddenly your time on Earth isn’t about what you can achieve or get or own—it’s simply a question about what sort of experiences you’re going to have between now and when your opportunity for experiences ceases. By seeing my parent’s frailty in such clarity, I realized that the most profound and meaningful way to live is by making the appropriate preparations to die.

Are my parents cataloguing their belongings or trying to collect more? No. Are they trying to impress you with their personality or achievements? No. Is there some big future event that they are building toward? No. My parents live Moment to Moment, really without ego. They’ve been embarrassed enough times in their lives that they’re virtually unembarrassable. They’ve felt every emotion so many times that they’re familiar enough with all of them that even big things have a casualness to them. In the most beautiful way, they don’t argue much with the world anymore. The world has proven its superiority enough times that they are humble enough to surf the waves they are given, rather than forgo surfing in favour of begging for better waves.

I don’t want my lose my parents. I love them dearly and I know when they’re gone I’ll think of a million questions I didn’t ask. I’m glad I took a Christmas years back to set up some video cameras and record my nieces asking them a million questions I had prepared: Who 464 Relax and Succeed - As we express our gratitudewas your first love? How did you meet? What was your worst subject in school? What did you dream of being when you were young? How much did you get paid at your first real job? (For my Dad it was 17.5 cents per hour!) Etc. etc. etc. So that’s all interesting to know. But that’s what my parents did. Who they are is how they feel to me. And so rather than trying to know them through information, that day on the sofa I decided that what I should do instead is simply be with them in an open and loving state.

I can’t stop what’s happening. But I can use it to help me define priorities. And so for now, rather than buying birthday or Mother’s or Father’s Day cards, I am instead using my ability as a writer to communicate to my parents what they truly mean to me. Because in my practice the one thing I see consistently is that parents are very hard on themselves and they always notice their kid’s struggles rather than their successes. And so I want my parents to know with certainty, in detail, before they leave this beautiful planet, that they did a fantastic job as parents and as people and I couldn’t be prouder to call them Mom and Dad. And the best and only thing I can do before they die, is love them as much as I can while they are here. And that is precisely what I intend to do.

peace. s

The Friday Dose #15 – Timeless Beauty

This week’s Friday Dose is all about the kinds of beauty that the media can’t sell you anything for. If people—particularly women—are comfortable with their bodies and selves, then they don’t really need anything from outside of themselves to feel good. They don’t need creams or enhancers or concealers or Spanx or worst—to hide.

365 Relax and Succeed - This is a body hate free zoneBeauty” and “fake” essentially have the same meaning when it comes to women’s appearances. I’ve written about it many times (e.g. Being Beautiful, Cruel People etc.). If a company can’t sell you anything then they need to convince you that you’re wrong the way you already are. That is entirely their job. Advertisers make you think you need products because they teach you there’s an ideal you should be striving for. You know what ideal you should be realizing? The real you. Unadorned, unadulterated, unaltered, unpurchased you. Your beauty does not come from a tube or pill or surgery. Your beauty is innately an aspect of your very being.

We’ll start with photographer Jade Beall who rather accidentally discovered that there were a lot of women longing to see themselves represented more honestly. Now, thanks to social networking, all of us are potential publishers, so it’s not just the people selling something that can spread images. I like that these were popular and if these images were in the media more, women wouldn’t be so stressed about completely acceptable, normal and yes beautiful changes to themselves:

Honouring the Post-Baby Body

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Next we’ll knock down another media barrier. Our perspectives change drastically as we age, which is why many of the insults that young people hurl at older people just bounce off without effect. We know they simply don’t have enough perspective to know what they’re talking about. Sorry kids, but for the most part the media’s completely brainwashed you into liking what they want you to like, and about the best you can do is try to do the opposite, but even that is a form of imitation. Even an anti-social person is letting society decide who they are. The 365 Relax and Succeed - There is nothing more rarevery best part about ageing is the gain of wisdom and experience that allows us to see through all of that salesmanship. There will certainly be innocents who will find something like this unacceptable or even funny. But if they’re lucky enough to live long enough, they too will come to recognize the short-sightedness of their vision:

10 Sexy Grandmas

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And finally we’ll end on a discussion about ageing. This radio documentary asks people of different ages what it’s like to be those ages and how their perspectives have changed. They’re wonderfully honest and frank and the result is a journey of self discovery for the listener. I was amazed at how many of these ideas I had never really thought much about and yet when I heard them I immediately knew them to be true. Download the podcast, listen to it online… it doesn’t matter. But if you’re in the right head-space, it’s a fascinating look at something that will happen to all of us. It certainly nothing to be afraid of. The world just gets cooler and more interesting to me every day. Enjoy:

Ideas: Aging By The Book

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Have yourself a wonderful weekend. Celebrate yourself. You’re worth it.

peace. s

The Stages of Life

Every now and then I remind you. This is a journey. There is no where you are going. What is important is the going itself. When you start off there isn’t even a you. As a baby you can’t even find yourself in the mirror. Everything is transient. Everything disappears and reappears up until you develop the idea of permanence. Then you know people still exist when they leave a room. You learn to expect.

215 Relax and Succeed - Whose thoughts will you thinkNext you develop some autonomy. You get that you can manipulate the world so you start to do it. You start reaching for things, and pushing things, and pulling things and generally driving your parents crazy pulling stuff off of other stuff. And then you usually put it in your mouth.

Eventually you figure out the concept of ownership. The idea that you can have something because someone else does not have it. That subtly forms the idea of a separate you, which eventually allows you to finally be able to recognize yourself in that mirror. And with that, in baby steps, your ego begins to form.

Once you know enough words, and especially once you get that all of these things are divided and separated by names, you start to learn the names and in doing so you create even further separation between you and the universe.

As you grow you have some autonomy, but a great deal of life is still in the control of your parents. And while you may not like it, it’s not until you’re in your teens that you begin to consider the idea of testing even that limit. And you do that by just picking the opposite of whatever your parents chose. You think that’s being free, but they in a way dictated that choice to you too by it being an opposite. But that’s where we all start. And then experience shows us why most adults live the way they do.

215 Relax and Succeed - If you don't watchOf course this morphs into when you really start to drive your parents crazy. In most places, between 18-21 you will be considered an adult. And your knowledge of that legal definition will begin to create issues by about 13 or 14, because you’re in a hurry to get there because it gives you more control. Of course, at that age it never occurs to you that your parents are guiding you with the wisdom of the experience of having already been your age, so you’ll be like the rest of us and maybe 1% of you will be wise enough to actually realize that it makes sense that they might know better than you.

So you’ll build your consequence-calculating frontal cortex during this period by simply making a lot of really bad, uninformed and painful choices. And so expect to hear some “I told you so’s” and know that even when they’re mad about something, what your parents are really mad at is that you made them watch you suffer and that’s hard for them.

Now you’re in your early 20’s and you feel like you’re an adult. Of course, you haven’t really and truly learned that most of things you know aren’t really things—they’re ideas you’ve been taught as a part of capitalism. When you’re young you think people get better jobs because they were smarter or worked harder, but then you learn about nepotism and sex and lies and bonus structures that see people paid better to fail than to succeed and you begin to realize the whole thing is much more smoke-and-mirrors than you ever really realized.

215 Relax and Succeed - Half of lifeThat guy at the computer store wasn’t recommending the best part for your computer—he was recommending the one he got the biggest bonus for selling. And on top of that, at that age you’re also still judging things from a what-I-want superficial perspective, so from about 13 until about 26, peer pressure and a desire to be admired will mean that your friends have more control over what you do than you will.

By late 20’s early 30’s you’re starting to realize that your parents weren’t boring, they had responsibilities. Maybe you have a mortgage now or a baby. And you realize that this stuff doesn’t go away. This stuff sticks with you for decades. Now you now can’t leave your crappy job and suddenly your spouse’s income has become critical to your lifestyle’s survival, so now it’s challenging to end even a bad relationship.

Your 30’s and 40’s are as close to running-the-world as you’re going to get. You’ll be in management positions where you’ll still be making uninformed, youthful choices because you’ll still think your career, business and financial goals are what’s important. And by focusing on those things or being with someone who does, you’ll likely become part of burgeoning divorce rate as you assume there must be a better life with other people. So you start again.

215 Relax and Succeed - The older I getThis is where many people begin their Renaissance, except they tend to choose things based on opposites. So in trying to find happiness, they just choose the opposite of what seemed to generate the sadness. Of course, this is just another form of ego-choosing, so it leads to the same unfortunate ends, which in turn leaves you facing the idea that maybe the real problem is you. And by that I don’t mean the spiritual you, I mean the egoic you.

In your 40’s and 50’s your parents or your friend’s parents will all be ageing to the point where your mortality becomes more visible. You’ll begin to realize you have limited time, and that you will be them soon. You realize that you will not achieve your “A” life-plan, or a very few of you will realize that you did—but regardless, there were enormous downsides you didn’t calculate to any life-plan you managed to achieve. And with all of this “failing,” if you’re healthy, you’ll start to look less at the materially successful people and you’ll begin to focus on those people you know who have achieved happiness instead.

In your 50’s and 60’s most of us will face our first chronic illnesses. Pains, aches and sufferings that will never go away. We must be good at resignation and acceptance for this to go well, so it’s good to practice letting go before you get there. This is also where most people’s true spirituality starts. This where they begin to seriously abandon the ego because it is increasingly seen as the source of all of your mental suffering.

215 Relax and Succeed - They are the chosenIf you’re lucky enough to get into your 70’s, 80’s or 90’s you may have chosen to surrender to your lack of control. So you will be surfing more than managing, and that will make you one of the happy and light-hearted people in the old folks home. You’ll be brave and bold and artistic and healthy. You won’t care what other people think at all. But if you went the other way, deeper into ego, then your ideas will have gotten firmer and firmer the more you thought them. That means more and more people will be wrong, and You will die bitter and angry because you never did let go of your crazy expectation that the world was supposed to do what you wanted it to.

This is your journey. We can take some steps sooner or later, but it is a natural progression like a sprout becomes a stalk becomes a flower. Each stage depends on the one before it, so there is no skipping. There is only getting lost and being found. And it is a lifetime of that. So the only defense is to let go and accept that lost and found, in the end, take place in the same universe that has always been your home from the very start. You never couldn’t belong, you never could be anything but divine. So in your peaceful moments, function from the knowledge that every step you take is really just taking you back to where you already are.

Now go enjoy your journey. Like a movie, it’s possible to even enjoy the scary or sad parts if you just keep in mind that one scene does not a movie make. So don’t panic because you’re in one of the tough transitions. That’s what you’ll experience if you’re moving forward.

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.