Symbolic Living

1261 Relax and Succeed - Today is a great dayPresence isn’t a difficult or complex thing to achieve and yet most of us live entirely symbolic lives. We’re not with the world, we just pass symbols about the world back and forth. We say and do things like think and talk about how terrible a news story is, and yet we don’t really stop to think about how terrible the news story really is for the individual human beings involved.

This isn’t to say we’re bad people, we’re simply unaware. We know inside we’re fundamentally good, which is why our ‘bad’ behaviour bothers us and our good behaviour is a source of pride. But today life is so busy–so filled with symbolic work–that we’ve lost touch with a deeper, richer reality. Our mind glances off things, or skims over them, but we don’t slow down to stop except in the most extreme circumstances.

Today is Thanksgiving in the US. The name is pretty self-explanatory and yet every year on Canadian Thanksgiving it’s easy to hear people passing platitudes around about being grateful, and yet the fact that they even are platitudes is a demonstration that they are other people’s analytical expressions of meaning and not our own. We generally don’t even think about most things deeply enough to even come up with our own expressions to describe them.

If you want to know how to live an unaware, emotionally wrought life of tortuous ups and downs then know that’s what it looks like; when people wish each other Happy Thanksgiving, talk about being grateful, say their platitudes, and then mindlessly go right back to their usual awareness level/personality where it’s easy to watch those very same people spending the entire day enacting their their normal, unconscious, ungrateful personality.

1261 Relax and Succeed - Thank youNo matter where you live, don’t make gratitude a symbolic word, make it a call to action. Instead of riding to work thinking about that person you’re mad at, or that thing you feel guilty over, or that thing you regret and or are worried about, and replace those with some easy meditation; what in our lives are we each taking for granted? What fruit is laying around our lives bruised and uneaten simply because we never gave it its proper exalted place on the table, in our personal cornucopia?

We must prevent ourselves from long bouts of self-centered rumination about ‘our lives’ and we should instead meditate from the perspective of a guest–a witness–to our own lives. In doing so, by taking life less personally, it’s easier to comprehend our impact within a greater whole and to see our causal relationships with others. From there it’s easier to appreciate who has brought what into our lives.

Pay more attention to your thoughts. Watch yourself and how you jostle symbols in egocentric self-conversations about how you want things. See that as the noise that it is, and invest your energy in digging more deeply into where the riches in your life are really coming from. Do that and you’ll be grateful for even the worst parents in the world, because even if they are terrible, just conception and birth are the two biggest gifts we will ever get–it is through those that we get any chance at all to have any kind of life, and life itself is the grandest of adventures.

Wake up. Stay aware. Be grateful. It’s that easy. Here’s to all of us.

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.

Wisdom in Action

People often ask, which students do best? I explain that the ones that don’t try –but that love the learning and listen well–are best. And who continues to do best? Easy: those most dedicated to their practice. This appears to be the most mundane and obvious part of being healthy, and yet it’s the number one place people lose touch with it.

It’s important to remember that you talk to egos all day long. They try and pull you into ego-world constantly, discussing problems or gossiping or commiserating. You need to defend yourself with meditations that get you back on course. People don’t learn this stuff and float away like Yoda. It’s called a practice for a reason.

Possibly the best student I’ve ever had for dedication to practice is a woman was always very successful at loving people but her anxieties had prevented her from fully realizing all of her personal and professional opportunities. I really liked the woman I met, and the one I know now pretty routinely brings great happiness to me because she’ll post things on social media that are great lessons for all of her friends.

Below are two sample messages from many she’s written like this over the last few years. I often wonder if the people who are always impressed with her resiliency ever notice that about half of her happy and positive social media posts are about things most people would view as “going wrong.” Here’s two great ways to take action in your own life so that others can contribute to your peace and happiness. But always remember, no one will take that action if they don’t see you taking it first:

So normally kindness comes easily to me, it’s second nature, but today it’s something I’m having to do very consciously, especially because although I’m comfortable letting myself be in a low emotional space today I am aware that it has nothing to do with the people I am interacting with.

So today I am finding it more difficult than usual to be my pleasant self with customers, but alas it is part of my job being in customer service to do my best to provide pleasant interactions. That being said I was being especially kind to someone today, in a very small way, but no one looking on would know I struggled with simply extending my kindness today.

A few minutes after this interaction another customer came to pay and commented to me how beautiful she thought it was what I did, which again was really a very simple kindness that we should extend to everyone but was difficult for me today. She told me how she really appreciated seeing me make someone’s day, at which point I very obviously broke into tears and thanked her for letting me know that, as today I was struggling and her simply pointing out that she had noticed had inadvertently made my day!

See how she let that other woman help her feel better? We need to be open to that. So many times people will offer us ways to be happier and we won’t take them. But of course, the more she does it the better she gets:

Talk about a morning full of ninja brain training! Was scurrying around trying to get out the door for work. As I’m locking the door I rest my big bin full of wire wrapping supplies on the deck railing. Mentally told myself to be careful. Locked the door, turn around to grab the bin and instead knock it off.

Bin takes a big fall smashes to pieces, craft stuff goes everywhere. I unlock the door to go inside and grab a bag to put everything into and quickly lock the door and shut it behind me so I can leave as soon as I collect all of my fallen stuff. Have everything collected and I’m ready to go. Wait. Wait. Where are my keys. Oh that’s right, I used them to unlock the door and then hurriedly locked and walked out without grabbing my keys.

Spend the next while breaking into my own house to the extreme amusement of my dogs as I climb through the window, close the window, grab my keys, and finally get on my way to work! Let myself have a few moments of frustration and anger and then because I’ve learnt how to use my thoughts for the better I let it go and decided, hey this was the perfect opportunity to work on my consciousness and my patience!

And somehow through all that I made it to work on time! However I am now offering FREE HUGS all day from 10-9 at Bonnie Doon while I’m at work because I know I could use a hug and maybe you could to!? So come get your free hug, I’ll even throw in a smile!

See that? She was in need, so what did she offer? Generosity. Now that’s wisdom in action. And these are all things we can all do. So let’s be like her and do them, shall we? After all, it is our life.

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.

Wishes Redux

143 Relax and Succeed - Sometimes you can't see

Amy hates her curly hair. She wishes she had long, dark, straight hair like Bonnie’s. Bonnie hates how fat her legs are. She wishes she had legs like Caroline’s. Caroline hates her knees. She wishes she could run like her brother Dean. But Dean hates running now. He wishes Evan, his recently deceased friend, was still around to run with him.

Evan didn’t like running with Dean because it made him look even shorter than he already was. He always wished he was really tall, like Fez. But Fez hates his height. He loves Gurpreet, but she loves a well dressed man, and it’s hard to get clothes that fit a guy that tall. But Gurpreet hates her addiction to fashion. It makes her a slave to her job. She wishes she had the freedom of her friend Henry.

Henry’s a self-employed writer, but he hates that because he has no health care plan. He wishes his brother was a dentist so he could get free care like his friend Isaac gets. But Isaac hates having a brother who’s a dentist. His parents are always wishing he would do as well as Jacob. But Jacob is divorced and rich, so he can never trust any of the women he dates. He wishes his life was like Kevin’s. Kevin got married at 18 to his high school sweetheart. But part of Kevin has always wished he’d played the field like his friend Larry.

143 Relax and Succeed - Stop comparing

Larry got a few girls pregnant and it’s ruined his financial life. He wishes he would have inherited a lot money like his friend Mary. But Mary hates her life. Her father was a tough, ruthless businessman, which made him a tough, ruthless father. She wishes she had a Dad like Nathan. But Nathan has never been able to tell his dad that he’s gay. He wishes he had the freedom that his openly gay friend Orlando has. But Orlando hates being gay because sometimes it just feels like everyone hates him for no good reason.

Orlando wishes his life was like his comedienne friend, Patti. She gets to stand in front of an appreciative audience every night. But Patti hates going on stage. She so nervous she’s usually sick to her stomach. She wishes she was like Quan. He can stay calm no matter what. But Quan hates being a comic. Being on the road all the time is what lead to his painkiller addiction. He wishes he was still a healthy young man like Ron.

Ron doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life. He wishes he was like Stephen, where he’s already well on his way to a good pension. But Stephen hates how safe a life he’s lead. He wishes his life was more exciting, like Terry’s. But Terry’s addiction to adventure has cost him a marriage to a woman he loved. But his ex-wife Ursula doesn’t feel loveable at all since she put on all that weight after the divorce.

143 Relax and Succeed - We are all in long-term

Ursula wishes she was skinny like Velma. But Velma hates her bulimia. She wishes she ate healthier, like her friend Wayne. But Wayne hates himself because he lies to his friends about how good his diet is. He wishes he had the humility of Xavier. But Xavier hates that he can’t advocate for himself at work so he never gets a raise. He wishes he was more like Yan, who is paid extremely well. But Yan hates that pay because what goes with it is lots of responsibility. He wishes he had a life like Zara. She’s an artist that works from home, but she also has cancer. And she would give anything to have hair like Amy’s.

Do you get it? Are you enjoying your life, or are you wishing for a better one? Because you can live, or you can wish. Which one do you do? Because that crazy chain of people pretty much represents what every ego does, all day long. Egos always want something other than what they are or have. And there is no way to feel good when you’re in a state of wanting. You need to start appreciating what you already are. That’s how you create a worthwhile life.

Listen to yourself. Stop wanting things you’re not. Start celebrating what you are. It’s not wrong, it’s not silly, and it’s not meaningless. You are uniquely you. You bring things to the universe that which no one else could bring. Literally. Without you the universe is missing something. So stop worrying about what’s missing from you, and start appreciating your own value. Because it’s a lot easier for other people to do that if you do it first.

Respect yourself. Love your own life. And live that love into a beautiful day. 😉

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.

The Space To Be You

You know what you need? Nothing. That’s what you need. You need gaps, you need space. You need room to simply be. But you can’t do that because you’re either too busy being busy, or you’re busy being something other than yourself. You’re either too busy thinking other people’s thoughts or you’re too busy thinking about yourself. You’re anxious or worried or angry or depressed, and yet your nature is not. There are zero depressed babies.

The worst thing you can do to a baby is take it away from human contact. That’s why being depressed hurts so much when we’re older too. It cuts us off from the natural camaraderie that is part of a healthy human life. If you’re spending a lot of time alone and you’re hurt or angry, then keep in mind that it’s pretty normal for any human to feel that way if you’re in any way deprived of human engagement.

Temporarily wanting to be alone after taking an emotional hit is fine, but the reason that being isolated eventually always hurts is because the pain is signalling us that our time alone is over and we’re now being prodded by our healthy self to end the source of the suffering: the isolation.

The problem is, people will often mistake the pain of the isolation for the pain for the original experience. Fortunately, that’s just a small mistake our mind makes. Once we’ve trained it to watch for those things it can handle telling the two apart quite easily. But you can’t do that if you think all of your suffering comes from the outside world. The pain, okay. But the suffering you need to accept as your responsibility before you can be free of its agonies.

Let’s say you got cut off from your social group in some harsh and thorough way. Because we’re creatures that do better in the company of other creatures, it makes sense that you would find that experience painful. So go be alone for a while. But then when the aloneness doesn’t feel better–when it doesn’t feel like solitude and space and quiet–then you’ll start to suffer in that aloneness, and that’s your sign.

If you’re suffering you’ll have started to overthink and, if you’re not careful, soon you’ll mistake the emotional results of your thinking for the emotional pain of the inciting event from the past. You’ll blame the outside world for something you’re doing to yourself. You’ll develop all kinds of rationalisation stories that explain why your pain is someone else’s fault. But it won’t be. It will be you. And your freedom is hidden in that fact.

If you put yourself there you can get yourself out. If something painful’s happened, take some time and collect yourself but then rejoin life. But if you’re just wallowing in suffering every day then I’m sorry, but that’s you. You can tell yourself all the stories you like, with all of the sad events and evil characters you can think of, but it will not change the fact that you are powerful. You are free to think what you choose, and you’re free to end your suffering the moment you decide to focus of your consciousness on things that inspire you.

Being alone isn’t lonely if that’s where you feel you should be. Being with people isn’t busy or complicated if you’re quiet inside. No place or activity is right or wrong, it is simply either in or out of harmony with who you are being in any given moment. Allow yourself some sadness. But don’t regard your own thinking as though you have problems when you’re only problem is all of that thinking. After all, learning to tell our thinking from a direct experience is a key part of being healthy.

Save yourself. Whether you’re alone or in a crowd, create more space. Create more openness in each day, and more acceptance of yourself and your life. You are expansive and capable. Listen to your own guidance and then trust 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.