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.

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.

Fully Being

Winner: 2016’s Blog of the Year #7

Depression is when you feel a long way away from your greatest self. Feeling great is when you feel in strong alignment with experience and sensation. The rewarding feelings happen when you are so busy taking in the world and offering your nature within it that you simply have no leftover life energy to put into thinking an ego-identity into existence.

911 Relax and Succeed - Follow your blissWe are not musicians in this metaphor. There is no gap between player and playing. Rather than thinking you’re struggling with broken strings or no instrument at all; we are all like musical chords floating through space, the quality of our tuning always depending on what parts of the universe we’re exposed to at that time.

It’s important to remember that the musical scales are born out of cultures just like our thinking is. That’s why music from some parts of the world will sometimes appear off-key to you. It’s not, it’s just your frame of reference; as though you’re looking to divide an inch down into quarter-inches but you only have a ruler with millimetres and centimetres. Nothing’s wrong, you just can’t divide reality up to match someone else’s perception. This is why things like understanding tend to help cultures relate and why the more people know a culture the more they’ll be comfortable with it.

Despite all of this there are some humans who can travel far and wide and like Buddhas they are understood everywhere they go. It’s as though their language is universal. They can relate to any scale you play. They are open, and playful and they are both meeting and leading you simultaneously because for them there is no you and them, there is only being. What people see as impressive is really simply someone Fully Being.

911 Relax and Succeed - You look ridiculousTwo excellent examples of this were David Bowie and Prince. I’ve written about them both before because their fame and lengthy success was directly tied to a special kind of spiritual success. Their drive to do what they did was them carefully listening to and acting upon that inner voice that we all have. It does not mean they avoided failures or challenges or hassles. But it does mean they lived fully, adding a great deal to the book of humanity.

If they thought up an outfit they made it or had it made. If they thought of a dance move they performed it in front of huge audiences. If they thought of a new song they presumed it had value and they pursued and developed it with the zeal of a palaeontologist, removing everything unnecessary until they were left with only the truth of the universe.

If they felt out of tune they sought out collaborators like themselves–people open and free who would meet them in that strange place outside society’s current thoughts. And any human can see that they are fully and thoroughly engaged in what they’re doing. Despite having enormous fame, that fame was always a result of their passions rather than being generated by going off track due to things like ego.

911 Relax and Succeed - Let yourself beThe strange thing is that you know people who do this very close to your life. Maybe they parent with the zeal, enthusiasm and heart of Prince. Maybe they do their job as well as Bowie did his. Maybe they’re a fantastic friend that seems both more helpful and less needy than any others. Maybe you feel that way about math, or architecture, or cement, or carpentry, or cooking, or even learning something bizarre and minor. Maybe you travel with that light in you. And it never matters how many people harmonise at any given time–it’s only about how pure that connection is.

You have dance moves you save for when you’re alone. Your singing voice is loudest when you’re in the car by yourself. You have ideas you’re too scared to share. You have aspects of yourself you keep hidden. You have fears about judgment. And so rather than living with the zeal of your heroes, instead you are like a religious person who worships someone else’s journey rather than taking your own.

You deny the divine qualities in yourself. You’re life isn’t unsatisfying because of failures or a lack of ability, you’re life is unsatisfying because you aren’t living yourself out large. You’re living in corrals and fences of words and ideas and because you believe in them you are hemmed in, constrained, confined and committed to stay in line.

911 Relax and Succeed - If you limit your choicesIt’s important to remember those fences are made of thought. Bowie ignored them. Prince ignored them. And you can too. They walked right through them and toward their real life. Yes, they got famous and we all know them. But what we recognise in them is our own greatest self, and so if we’re to pay homage to these inspiring souls, then the best way to do it would be to immediately become bold about your own life.

Forget the need to align yourself with others or society. You can still do that after you’re fully realised. But society will always make room when it recognises greatness, whether that person is a famous musician or just a kid who says they want to be an astronaut. So start asking yourself about your actual dreams. And once you remember them, forget your ego’s concerns about judgment and you’ll stop creating a fearful, tired, unsatisfied you and that will leave you free to live your life in full.

You don’t have to be on stage and famous to lead an inspired and exciting life. Whether you’re writing a letter, collecting stamps or raising your kid, you simply need to trust yourself and act on what you truly know. Are you ready? Let’s go.

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 #86

790 FD Relax and Succeed - The eye sees only what the mindThis week the Dose is all about how you see things. We’ve got instructions on changing your perspective, we share a new look at an old world, we see how art can expose our sense of perception and we’ll end with an ad-man talking about perceived value. We’ll start off first with WikiHow’s instructions on changing your mind:

WikiHow on Changing your Perspective

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Next we’ll take a look at the world through a variety of perspectives that you may never before have considered. It’s pretty fascinating stuff:

Strange Maps of the World by Buzzfeed

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Next we’ll check out a short of video of a sculpture that I can only assume was done by the filmmaker, Gary Bruno Schmid. It really shows you that your perspective can change reality quite a bit:

And for those who are dedicated to the idea of exploring their perspectives and how they might be manipulated, I offer you this TED Talk by sociologist-ad-man Rory Sutherland:

We are swimming in a sea of ideas with a varying perspective. There’s just too much up for grabs for you to be able to have any certainty about what to do so you might as well relax, be yourself and become active in life and see where that leads. You are the genius of your own life. Don’t be penned in by limiting thoughts.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is a writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.00 Relax and Succeed - Friday Dose Footer

The Friday Dose #55

620 Relax and Succeed - Use what talentsI’m pretty excited about today’s Dose. This should leave you feeling a lot more passionate about living in a way that truly suits your nature. So how about if we take about 20-30 minutes for some very enjoyable activity and literally come up with a plan to change the world? Okay, let’s start with—where are we now? Even though the crime rate has gone down steadily for about 40 years, all we see on the news is people treating each other terribly. Fraud’s, thefts, violence, murder and even rape. We all see enough of that. Instead, let’s use the best version of ourselves as a starting point. The problem with modern culture is that everyone is forced by their work to be disingenuous. Accountants will proudly state, “I can take a two million dollar profit and make it a four million dollar loss and still meet all the generally accepted rules of accounting.” Fancy words for lie. $4.99 is a lie. It’s five bucks. At a dealership it’s always so hard to get the price of the car! No one’s cooperating. Everything’s faking like these are genuine relationships, with first names and handshakes or even hugs, but this is no tribe that’s grown up together and would die for each other. In our system it’s literally structured based on the fact that each person is motivated fairly strictly by their own needs. So like a telephone, we lie through the numbers or words and other people pretend to listen to us for an entirely artificial conversation. So has anyone fixed that problem yet? This guy’s off to a pretty good start. 🙂

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Okay that was pretty cool. Do you see how already that felt so much better than the duplicitous version where the person or business pretends to be helpful? But that’s all a magician’s trick where it’s just to get you looking the other way so they can pad a charge somewhere. I know people try to stay in that healthy, respectful zone, but our social structures sort of force us into those roles as though we’re in a play and our role is the bad guy. Okay, so how do we become our own director? How do we take a healthy form of control so that we can use that energy in a focused way. Well this guy here has an absolutely beautiful encapsulation of what I do. I will still engage with certain things, but because I want to, not because I can’t control myself. This is brilliant. I really think this is going to add up to something, so think about sharing this page of videos. I really do want to change the world. Okay, so let’s here this young genius:

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Nice! Okay, so now we’re under control so we don’t have to be so hard on ourselves. Now what? Well, if we’re not engaging in much negativity then we’ll have a whack of energy to apply to other things, so how about we think about shaking that cage that makes us act in ways that we don’t feel good about? We have to remember that it’s not really a cage. It’s in our minds. All of these controls are only in our minds. Here’s a pretty inspirational video on breaking out. And I love that this is how farmers and artists and craftsmen live:

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Now that we’ve decided to dismantle what we had in order to build something better, what do we want to build? What are our aims? Well, we all would like to find a way to be in a physical and psychological place where it’s possible for us to really and truly love ourselves and our life. So let’s stop all the problems in the world. Gandhi is a pretty impressive role model, and we all know he said be the change you want to see in the world. Well some people are already modelling that behaviour.

I have some soul-close friends I’ve travelled the world with who attend Burning Man semi-regularly. We’re all planning a big trip with a large group of friends soon, but we need a lot of lead time because we really want to do something smart and spectacular. Because Burning Man isn’t like anything else. Burning Man is the future. And best of all, we can truly be our own uninhibited selves. Imagine if you actually felt so awesome acting in public the same way you only do when you’re dancing in front of your own mirror to your favourite song! True freedom. And you feel great about it because everyone around you is doing it too. And that combination of collective spiritual freedom of the soul is actually the culture of Burning Man.

Your joy and creativity in realizing your true self is what that culture is all about. So let’s change the energy for a minute and I’ll provide a list of videos that collectively will give you a good sense of why the festival is so unique and famous for how it feels. Here’s an overview so that all the super cool stuff will make sense. In many ways it really is the most important part. It’s the framework for the plan to save the world:

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Here’s a video that gives you and idea of what the festival actually looks like. And remember, this 60,000 person city rises up out of nowhere for one week and when everyone leaves you’d never know they were there. The art projects, the fantastic vehicles and the amazing costumes all flow into the culture and spirit and the whole place sort of feels like a church during a wedding—it’s just got such great energy. Consider joining us. We want the city to expand until it includes the entire world.

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And finally here’s a TED talk delivered by a seven year old about her experience at Burning Man. It’s from a seven year old, but at that age she does a fantastic job of capturing the key reasons why people love Burning Man. They also got a lot of great shots of some of the amazing things her and her dad saw. Here’s her talk and pictures:

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So are you with me? Let’s all start by not taking those bombs from people. It’ll take a while to remember to do it, but if you practice you’ll have it down in no time. And it leaves you with way more energy and enthusiasm. So think about how you would revolutionize your life. Even if you never go, actually plan a trip. Maybe even come up with some creative project. The whole point of Burning Man is that you start to actually wholeheartedly participate in your own life.

There’s so many great photographers at Burning Man, and I know I’ve mentioned him a few times before, but a favourite of mine is Trey Ratcliff. No one can sell anything from Burning Man, but Trey has a lot of other amazing work you’re very likely to find spectacular. Enjoy the site. They’re all as good as this but they vary widely so check it out:

TREY RATCLIFF

620 Relax and Succeed - Trey Ratcliff - The Dock in the Desert-X3

I’ll leave you with a link to a great collection of TED Talks about the various aspects of Burning Man. There’s also a great collection of documentaries on YouTube featuring various perspectives on the festival. As you look at them, do not think of those as ideas isolated out in the desert like a sanctuary. Instead take them into your world and breathe life into them with your own being. That would be very Burning Man. 😉

peace. s

PS 😉

Matthew Schoening

THE BURNING MAN GALLERY

peace. s

The Friday Dose is a collection of cool, interesting and surprising things that are chosen for their potential to distract you away from any painful thought loops that may currently be disrupting your sense of perspective. Save these for when you’re feeling low and you want to change your perspective. They’ll help Enjoy. And please let me know if you bump into any broken links. Thanks!