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.

Good For You

Good for you. Have you ever stopped to really think about that phrase? Think about when you say it; it’s always when someone’s had something good happen in their life. And the more they had to do with their success the more enthusiastic we are. We’re happy for lottery winners, but we deeply admire those with the talent to create success, and our admiration increases in proportion to how hard they needed to work for it.

Good for you. It’s a double entendre. On one hand it means that whatever has happened is good news for you and that you are to be congratulated. On the other hand it can also note a well-earned victory means that notable successes are drawn from notable efforts. All of that hard work is good for you, so the earned victory not only impresses us, it inspires us.

It is in these moments in which we can feel our interconnectedness. Our happiness for the other person is an experience we have within our consciousness. The other person doesn’t even experience that. They see someone in the act of loving and that in turn inspires them to essentially love our love for them. It’s like a feedback loop of love.

And who is unpopular? An ego. An ego considers only itself, just as an insecure person doesn’t consider themselves enough. You want to balance on humility, where you get to selfishly be you, but you’re developed enough as a soul that you understand that nothing is better for you than what is good for others.

How then should this impact our days? If we know an open channel can generate opportunities for valuable connections, and we know closing ourselves off selfishly creates a feeling of separation and emptiness, then why not watch for the former and ignore the latter?

Most people spend most of their day in their head, talking to themselves. And when I say, “talking to,” what I really mean is attacking, reminding, debasing, criticizing, and fearfully undermining their own sense of self.

Why fill your head with all of those busy negative words when you can treat your consciousness more like a Star Trek tractor-beam? You just lock onto something you know you want and you pull it closer. And closer doesn’t mean in a possessive way, it means in a oneness way. It means you start to feel the same happiness they’re feeling but it’s about something that happened to them, not you. That’s connection. We live for that.

So today, like everyday, you’ll go through life switching between the creation of personal narrative that confirm your egocentric impression of the world, or you’ll engage in a very active silence that seeks to pull in the universe in an act of loving awareness. It’s why on a “good day” almost everything seems sweet or beautiful or wonderful or kind, and on a “bad day” it seems like the world’s filled with jerks.

Don’t try to stop your thinking. Switch the energy you use for thinking into being. Reading is thinking another person’s thoughts. A picture isn’t that different from reading, and an actual face isn’t so different from a photo of a face, so it isn’t a huge leap to move from you thinking your personal painful thoughts, to thinking an author’s thoughts, to studying a portrait, and then on to looking at an actual face. That’s all reality, not your opinion about reality.

Thoughts can get so busy they can lead to us feeling like we’re drowning. Reasons to feel good are laying all over the place and they buoy us up. Your day is filled with moments. Take as many as possible, and fill them with the fruits of your observations rather than waste them on yet another stream of unpleasant, unproductive thoughts.

You only have so much time on this Earth, so stop trying to impress everyone else and start living as though your life is actually yours. Because nothing will impress people more than how loving you’ll be once your egocentric, wanting thoughts are quieted in favour of you engaging in loving appreciation.

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.

Terror and Beauty

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You are so mindful in the moments that arrest that you fill your consciousness with everything; time stops and terror and beauty merge. You lose your definitions, your labels–you even call it indescribable!

It can be the majesty of a big cat chasing a graceful gazelle, it can be the incredible power and beauty of Niagara Falls, the cold isolation of Mount Everest, or even the fragile preciousness of a newborn baby. And if you’re Chad Cowan, you turn that vision for the awesome into your work.

In Chad’s beautiful film Fractal, and in each of these photos by other people, we see individuals who can recognise the harmony between our senses of beauty within terror. They seek the exhilaration that hides behind fear. Apparently the Greek’s name for God was agape. I guess that makes sense. It means awe, and awe contains within it both beauty and terror. Such is the yin and yang of the East

Look at your own life. Is it on the other side of your fears? Are you bold enough to be who you truly are? There is both reward and consequence for being true to yourself, and it is our willingness to accept both that converts our adversity into the excitement of one of life’s big events.

Where are your fears? Follow them. Your life is waiting for you, hidden in their shadow.

Decide something bold about your life within the next 5 minutes. Don’t give yourself time to overthink. Just think of something that’s on the other side of a fear, because you cannot hold the coin unless you’re willing to accept both sides.

Take your choice. Spend the rest of today and tonight feeling like it’s already true, and then tomorrow morning–begin. Enact that choice as though you do it every day without even thinking about it. Because it never really was fake it to make it; it should always have been, making it is always preceded by faking it.

Your life is waiting for you. Go get 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.

Discoveries in Gratitude

1100-relax-and-succeed-interrupt-anxiety-with-gratitudeA feeling of want cannot exist without thoughts of being incomplete. You want this relationship, this person, this thing, this job, this money, this respect, this opinion. But opinions are just thoughts. There is no point in even trying to manage someone’s history, or something as ephemeral as someone’s constantly adjusting perspective. Which means no one’s opinion is truly worth you even thinking about. It would change anyway.

Respect is worth little unless it is self-respect. Lots of people have respected others who committed horribly violent acts, but it is difficult to respect oneself when people either worship or fear you because both of those things are sublimation, not cooperation. They aren’t with you, they just don’t want to be against you. With self respect you can be all alone and you can still comfortably stand up for what you believe in.

Money is a proxy. It isn’t anything more than a storage device for the value of your work or maybe your family’s work (and if you own something, then everyone who works for you volunteers to give you a portion of their daily value). But even if you get lots of it, impressing someone with money or things is mistaking sizzle for steak. They aren’t impressed with you, they are impressed with what you can potentially do for them. Stop doing it and you’re back to being worth nothing to them because it was never you in the first place.

1100-relax-and-succeed-people-were-created-to-be-lovedNo matter how cool a job looks there are always downsides. What thing has only one side? You obviously can’t have an upside if there’s no downside. So famous musicians have to battle with who they can trust, or with drug and alcohol issues, or with always being away from home. Big business people spend a lot of their lives with lawyers and accountants. Little jobs have less power and pressure but they also have less control. Whatever you get you give something up. Managers are less likely to be able to use their status to leave early; they’re more likely to leave late.

Things are things. A new outfit doesn’t change who you are to anyone unless you’re very young, and even then…. Doctors can have their stethoscope and white coat ceremony when they enter med school but they know nothing more after they put it on than before. Lots of people are terrible drivers in beautiful cars. And cars get dated, clothes get dated, fads are group-think and they’re subject to constant change.

Which brings us significant people. When you’re living in ego, thinking your way through life; when someone moves away from you don’t see that as having to do with them, you think that’s about you. Your translation is that if they don’t want to be close to you that there’s something wrong with you, when just as many people leave personal relationships because they don’t feel good about themselves.

1100-relax-and-succeed-awareness-is-like-the-sunFinally, if one particular person doesn’t love you, then that does not leave you unloved, whether it’s a romantic relationship or even your own parents. Unloveable? Seriously. There’s over seven billion of us. There are only so many ways to be, so we would surely find millions who knew experiences like ours and who understood and loved us.

Today’s meditation is easy. If you’re working with a partner or partners then set a time to discuss your findings and then you have from now until then to find five things to be genuinely and significantly grateful for that you’ve previously taken for granted. Five things that you’ll share with your partner(s) at your prescribed time.

Remember, these have to be things you haven’t considered before. The idea is to expand your ability to enjoy life by getting you to see it as more expansive than you’ve previously realised. To do this it can only be you pushing out your own envelope, but it’s a pretty nice task to be asked to find things that please you.

1100-relax-and-succeed-thank-youThey’re always there. Find them. Seriously. If you don’t take this simple task seriously then you aren’t taking changing your life seriously–and that’s fine. But don’t avoid changing it and then complain. Either change it or keep it, but if you keep it then finding five things should extra easy. And remember, this is important. These exercises are all much more meaningful than you ego can appreciate. These are how you get to where you want to be.

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.

Self Harm

1091-relax-and-succeed-the-mind-is-responsible-for-the-feelingsThis week we’ve discussed spiritual and psychological violence. You’ve worked on altering your external discussions to remove that sort of violence from what you say; you’ve worked on your internal discussions regarding how you judge others; and today you’ll work on the most damaging version: attacks on yourself.

The concepts of cutting or self-sabotage can be difficult for happy people to understand. But it is possible to use internal violence against ourselves so effectively that we also begin to believe we deserve physical pain as well. We start to use the pain to divert our attention away from the even-more-painful thinking. The point isn’t to stop the cutting, it’s to stop the thinking.

The illusion that there is something wrong with us is created through comparison. If your parents were verbally hard on you then they would have taught you to be hard on yourself within your thoughts and there will always be a comparison. If we’re not careful we can start to think the training for our thoughts is actually who we are, but just because someone judges you as something doesn’t mean that’s what you are, it just means that’s their style of judgment.

1091-relax-and-succeed-dont-let-your-struggleThe trick is, you can’t get back into a healthy mode by trying or changing or effort because it’s all an illusion. Everyone is naturally psychologically and spiritually healthy, but we can be convinced–and then we can continue to convince ourselves–that somehow we are not worthy unless we do this or that thing.

As strange as it seems to the person who’s made a habit of doing it, there’s nothing wrong with them other than they’re currently engaged in painful thinking. That’s why they still have friends and family that love them and are often confused. None of it makes sense unless you’re the person thinking the thoughts. They still see the same old lovable, potential-filled you.

When you look in mirror you don’t see you, you see a jumble of judgments about you. When you consider who you are, you don’t look at yourself very thoroughly; you’re more likely to cherry pick out all of your biggest challenges. But if you didn’t have those challenges you’d be perfect and that would be boring. You’re here to move around all that, not overcome it. Mountain climbers don’t chisel the mountain out of existence, nor do they want to stay on top. Their life’s joy is just trying a life of different routes.

1091-relax-and-succeed-i-am-made-and-remade-continuallyToday’s meditation is to compete with yourself or your partner to catch yourself internally using the words I and you, because that’s the two words you’ll often use when you talk to yourself. (e.g. If I don’t get this paper written I’ll fail this class; come on Sara, you can do it.) Keep in mind you do this all day every day so there will be lots of opportunities for you to catch yourself.

Just like you did yesterday with another person, today you do that with yourself. You listen to that criticism and then you find a way to rephrase it to yourself in more positive, encouraging terms. This can feel silly and meaningless, but that’s because you think your big problems need big solutions, but really you don’t have big problems, you just have an overabundance of  counterproductive thinking.

Don’t stop altering your external conversations; keep shifting those to be more positive as well. For every interior criticism you have about someone or something, rewrite it to be most positive. And today add interior and exterior criticisms of yourself. You’ll feel like you’re getting away with something or you’re letting yourself off easy, but in reality it’s that easy. Don’t add another layer of argument about that. Just do it.

Your reality is not made from things it’s made from ideas. The ideas that are real in your world are the ones you believe. Start believing in a stronger, more lovable version of yourself, because despite your very real concerns, that’s the real you. Believing anything else will continue to be a painful denial of that much larger spiritual reality. Bottom line, the universe doesn’t make mistakes and the universe made you. Anything else is just thinking.

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.

You Will Be Good

1080-relax-and-succeed-use-your-smile-to-change-this-worldYou might have noticed a bit of order in what I’m doing. As you attempted yesterday’s meditation you would have struggled with the circular thoughts I discussed in Mental Spin Class. These meditations all play into each other over time but I can’t explain half of them because there’s no words for the concepts. These exist in the gaps in between and beyond our current definitions but, even if I could, I would rather not be the guy to further divide up the world with more labels.

For most of you one of three things happened yesterday. You didn’t dedicate yourself to the exercise; you did and you were successful at catching lots of thoughts but they likely demonstrated how negative your ego is; or you did do the meditation but it was super hard to catch yourself thinking.

1080-relax-and-succeed-when-you-see-something-beautifulEven if you caught yourself thinking a lot, it still would have been a tiny percentage of what you actually thought. You swam in your own thoughts all day much like a fish swims in a lake. Those thoughts are generally narratives in which you are judging yourself or some person or some aspect of the world. Either that or you’re asking questions that will allow you to judge something (e.g. I’m getting old. Why did you do that? How long until the flight arrives?).

Today you’re going to do the same exercise except this is where your score from yesterday comes in. You’re going to be intentional today. Today you’re going to try to make sure your plus-total is big and healthy. Make your minus-score small, because it represents you being less healthy. Rather than the peace to be quiet, you’ll find it easier to give yourself reasons to be positive so let’s start there. (You’ve already accomplished more than you’re able to realise.)

1080-relax-and-succeed-there-are-those-who-give-with-joyThis is all about you getting yourself into the frame of mind that will permit you to make the sorts of shifts you’ve wanted to make. You’ve been dedicated before, but you were trying to do it intellectually and that won’t work. Plus you’ve likely been confused by an increasing number of people who try to sound like me or others like me, and yet I can tell that many of the people attempting to teach this stuff don’t really know what it is I’m imparting here. So be kind to yourself (and to them).

Melt your personal, individual thoughts into general awareness. Rather than placing something in it, simply pay attention to your attention. It’s like a vacuum that sucks up experiences. If you fill it with enough poisonous thoughts they will definitely seep out into your own life and negatively impact you. Likewise, filling it with appreciation will only make it your life run better.

Be intentionally positive. Give yourself credit. Compliment people and then give yourself credit for contributing to their day and get two points-in-one. Breathe in nice things and exhale negative things. Breathe in the future and exhale the past. Do that and you will be good.

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.

The Psychological Workout

1075-relax-and-succeed-the-moment-you-accept-whatSome of you found and chose some really good examples for yesterday’s meditation. When you’re with a driver who gets angry when they’re cut off, you can accomplish a lot just by calmly noting that you often wonder if those drivers are possibly having a very bizarre kind of day.

Learning you’re pregnant or that you have cancer or that someone has just died is clearly shocking. It’s such a reasonable explanation for a minor driving mistake that it will eventually worm its way in, even if they are unlikely to calm down immediately on that first occasion. The best part is, being cut off happens often enough that it’ll give the person plenty of practice calming down.

Isn’t it funny how now being cut off feels better now; less like an offence and more like a psychological exercise? When you learn to get calmer through your experiences in calming, that signals to you that it’s possible to see the world from a growth-conscious perspective. That means you live inside a mental gym every single day. Life is either you improving or you’re relaxing. Isn’t that great? You win either way.

1075-relax-and-succeed-if-we-cannot-be-happyYesterday you helped someone else interject a thought into their loop about some subject. Some of you humanised bosses, some helped a child see their parent more reasonably, some of you helped a sibling take a different perspective on one of your parents. Well if those things were good for them then we can expect that the same exercise will be good for you.

You don’t need to be taught how to get along with people you define as warm, funny, supportive or friendly, you need help with the ones that are negative, sarcastic, spiteful or difficult. So who’s your workout partner then? Because this is an inevitable step in your growth. If you conquer staying in a good state of mind with this person then you can do it with any person like them.

There are people that love the very same people that you find difficult. Likewise, some people fight a lot with your closest friends. The problem clearly isn’t the people then, it’s the perspective. We assume our perspective is the truth. It is, but only to us. And only for as long as we believe it. Santa Claus was real until someone told you otherwise. The people you dislike are Santa Claus. It’s time to take their costume off and see who’s underneath.

1075-relax-and-succeed-kindness-is-in-our-powerPick your vexatious person. It might be helpful for you to choose someone with a bad habit or behaviour you find irritating. Do not pick the person you’re in the midst of a divorce or something intense with. Start with the lighter weights and work your way up.

I know your ego-reality causes you to believe that it’s the truth that they’re irritating, and I know you can find people whose reality is near enough to yours that they will confirm your illusion as real, but again; that vexatious person has best friends. The reason you find them irritating is that you think irritated thoughts when you listen to them, while that other person hears great value in what they say.

Your job today is: choose that person and then pick that quality that sets you off. Why do their friends like them? Meditate on that. Not only while you’re with them, while you’re not as well. Talk to your meditation partner about each other’s choices. Rather than do like yesterday and interject a new idea into someone else’s thought-stream, create a compassionate thought and apply it to your own thought-stream.

1075-relax-and-succeed-when-we-learn-to-deal-directlyDon’t expect yourself to accept this immediately. Even if you build a great intervening thought to add to your reality mix, you’ll still often follow it immediately with a “Yeah but…” after which you’ll switch back to your common reaction. But that’s fine. This is a practice because it’s a process. You need to do this repeatedly to be good at it. But again, do it here and you can apply that ability with anyone who behaves in the same way.

Define the person and the quality they have that irritates you. Every time you see them for the next two weeks your job is to kick into your meditation the moment they trigger it with the behaviour. You can even steel yourself for it before you get there.

Within two weeks you want to be left feeling significantly less bothered. In the meantime your job is to lift the weight of that thought until it’s effortless. Because it is that ability that defines the capacity of our spiritual and psychological strength.

Have a wonderful day 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.