Everyday Spirituality

Actually working to understand why ancient quotes can still be useful today is what this blog is all about. It’s not like drive-thru religion where you get a quick dose of spirituality without all the rules, and its not like traditional religion where following all the rules automatically leads to salvation regardless of the other deeds in your life–this is about those other deeds being your church. This is about you being dedicated to being human.

Reading quotes, finding one that vaguely applies to your situation and posting it on social media does not mean you’re pursuing your spirituality, it means your ego likes being seen as being spiritual. You can’t just dress the part, go to yoga and post the quotes; you have to ask yourself challenging questions. Questions like, what does the quote I posted really mean; or how can I take yoga from stretching and flexing into actual personal development?

The answer is meditation, but not the Ohmm meditation that monks do. You want to be like Siddhartha, sitting under the tree pondering why suffering exists. You want to ask yourself questions that don’t appear to have answers. You want to know how one wise guide can tell you to be peaceful by rejecting victory and loss, and yet another tells you that you can’t be balanced until you agree to lose.

The key is to understand desire. Desire requires a result. You’re after something. You have a specific outcome in mind and your life is oriented toward achieving that outcome. The problem with the outcome is that is that it’s theoretical. This is why even the slowest fifty year old is wiser than a someone in their early 20’s thinks they’ve found their answer.

You can’t have the answer because that will change as you become different people through your experiences. We tend to think we’ve found the answer when we find a route to the future that finally makes sense to us, but then we think we’re lost when our old answer doesn’t suit our new selves and we feel trapped or directionless. It’s not the answer that changed, it’s the person asking it.

It’s a constant rejuvenation process. That’s why they call it spiritual practice. But aging is like a church where you’re constantly delivered new real-life parables that need explaining. Why did that person try so hard to date you and then leave you? Why did you think this was your dream job and now you hate it? Why can’t you lose weight the way you want to? What is the definition of the word friend?

Over time we ask countless questions but we look for the answers outside of ourselves. We conclude either we are good and the ex is wrong, or we are faulty and they’re right; the dream job either has the wrong boss, or maybe you do really suck; you’re either mad at your mother for teaching you bad eating habits or you self-hate; and you conclude either that your ex friends are bad people or you conclude you’ve not been good enough. Winning and losing, winning and losing.

Even when you win, now you have to stay on top. That takes effort and you’ll be a different person sometime within the next eight or so years, so maybe that effort won’t seem wise. That’s because winning and losing are funny terms. They almost shouldn’t exist as static ideas. They only mean something in the moment you’re in.

If you listen to interviews with people over 50 years old, almost invariably you’ll hear them discuss their challenges more than their successes. They almost seem bored or uncomfortable with success because by then they’ve realised it’s largely chance. They also know that when you get there it doesn’t look like it did when you embarked on that journey.

After enough disappointing “wins” we start questioning the meaning of winning. If half of North American marriages end in divorce, then those marriages weren’t a dream come true; they devolved into a nightmare. But if you knew that at the time you wouldn’t have chosen it as your path. And yet as you age you realise that your marriage wasn’t wrong, it just didn’t work out long term. You still walk away with a better idea of what kind of person you’re really looking for in the future.

Victory and loss are tied together. If we live without the desire for a victory we cannot lose. We don’t need goals so much as targets. The getting there isn’t the point, it’s about being sanguine for as much as the journey as possible.

Victories and losses are judgments laid over top of events. Remove that static idea and the meaning of those moments can always change, meaning any defeat could become a victory, and any victory a defeat. Everything lives in potential. There’s no need to win now when we know can we live in a way that seeks value from all our interactions, even the ones we attempt to avoid.

peace. s

Parental Limitations

Our mind could have any habits or choose to recall any part of its past, but our very sense of identity means that we get up every morning and load the same software-us into the hardware-us. That brain could be bold instead of shy. It would just have to do one instead of the other. But we generally don’t. We generally surrender that freedom and instead we play out the role we’ve unconsciously written for ourselves. That’s what our ego’s for—it recites who we are to us. If we’re not constantly reminded about our limitations who knows what we might try?

677 Relax and Succeed - A teacher is never a giver of truthI was fortunate enough to have two parents that didn’t really set limits for me. They were stricter than most of my friends parents in most ways, but much more relaxed and open in the most important way. I was expected to live up to commitments and carry my own share of the family chores and pass in school etc. etc., and rather than an allowance I had to pay room and board, but I was not pushed toward any sports or any grades or any post-secondary or employment choices. My parents spent more time asking me who I was as opposed to telling me who to become. That’s huge. That, in my experience, was the biggest fundamental difference in how I was raised. Now, when I asked Mom about this tremendous wisdom, she simply said,“Oh we learned from your [much older] brothers that you can’t really tell a kid what to do.” So they focused on principles and let me find my own way and that has lead to a fantastic life that I’m very happy to have lived.

As with many parents mine each took on different roles. Mom was the one who taught me to follow rules and Dad taught me to question who made the rules and their value. Mom taught me to be polite, Dad taught me to respect others. Mom taught me to vote, my Dad taught me to care for others just as much as for myself or those I loved. Mom made sure I lived up to my commitments regardless of my personal resistance and Dad made sure that I understood that apologies helped people feel better. Mom wanted me to be responsible. Dad wanted me to have fun. Mom wanted me to be a good citizen and Dad wanted me to be a good friend.

677 Relax and Succeed - The rules for being amazingI routinely get all aspects of this wrong but I nevertheless know that I’m always genuinely pointed in a loving, caring direction and so I live without regrets or a sense of judgment. I respect others so much that they are welcome to not like me. If I’m going to be a specific way it only makes sense that I won’t mesh with some people. Meccano can’t be Lego. My parents acceptance of whatever I did as long as it was respectful means that I feel good as long as I am respecting other’s perspectives as much as my own. I may not always agree, but I’m free to have my views and I have no conflict with them having theirs. People are welcome to have their conflicts with me but I do not have any with them. It’s very peaceful.

People could easily look at my life and see that I could have used the skills from my accident in a different way. They can see that I could have done more of this or that, made more money, been more famous or had more status or whatever. But in this weird subtle way, the way I was raised didn’t lead to any of those desires. But it did create a real value around the idea of freedom, respect and openness. I like that I never hold grudges, never hate people, and that I find it easy to forgive. I can’t imagine what money or fame could get me that would equal the value of just thinking enough of others and of myself that I essentially have no real quarrel with anyone. It’s a nice, simple, clean way to live.

We can teach kids how to manage money and understand how loans work and we can teach them to change the flapper in their own toilet or the oil in their car. But if we don’t teach them to value their own life enough to enjoy it then we have spent all of our time paving perfect roads that ultimately lead nowhere. Life is not a destination. There is no particular perch from where it can be lived in total happiness. But at least if happiness is a priority then the child builds a life around what brings them joy rather than what brings them externals. A nice car is only there to bring joy anyway, so why not skip the expensive middle man and go straight to the joy? But that’s not even on the menu unless someone has separated the idea of the car and the joy. One is to get the other, it is not the other itself.

677 Relax and Succeed - My philosophy isIf you want the best way to teach a person to value joy, value it yourself. Laugh more, do more things that are frivolous but joy-filled. Stop teaching kids how to protect themselves from bad things without telling them how to go and get good things. You need both for a successful life. What you don’t need is a cookie-cutter pre-conceived idea of who your children are. Let them be known to you and support the life they choose for themselves just as you wish the people around you would have been fully supportive in whatever you chose. I had that in life. It feels fantastic to have that support. It breeds a lot of confidence and that’s also where a lot of happiness resides.

Don’t worry so much about loading your kid up with every possible skill. They’ll get hurt terribly just like you did. Everyone does. But that’s okay as long as they know what to do between disasters. As long as they wring some joy out of those in-between times they’ll be fine. That’s a lot of life. Most people die without ever having even started to live. So just love and respect your kids and teach them to value their own enjoyment of life and a lot of the rest will just sort itself out. The best thing you can possibly do is be the best version of yourself that you can. Enjoy your own life. The rest is osmosis.

peace. s

Time Travelling

I was moving between two writing projects and I needed some sorbet for my brain. For some reason I had a curious craving for mathematics. I was combing my library for a couple of books when I stumbled upon one I remembered buying when I first lived in Australia. My girlfriend and I had a formidable library there, but we left it all behind and only took a few meaningful 501 Relax and Succeed - Life is a sequence of momentsbooks when we moved back to Canada, and Gary Zukav’s The Dancing Wu Li Masters was one of the ones I took. Seeing it again triggered a distinct memory of something a previous me once thought.

I clearly recalled using a eucalyptus leaf for a bookmark at the beach one day. And I remember finding it still in the book when I was packing to move back to Canada. And I remembered putting it back in there and thinking to myself, maybe some day I’ll open that book and see that leaf and I’ll remember putting it in there. Bam.

That’s wild, eh? I was a kid. Not a single cell of the current me—or the me before that—was even around for that previous me. I ate a bunch of apples and potatoes and carrots and salmon and I lost some hair and shed a few layers of skin, and I flushed away various aspects of me etc. etc. to the point where the guy that put that leaf in the book was literally a different person from the guy that found the leaf in the book. And I mean that totally seriously.

This is where you’re missing how reality works and that’s why you suffer. So don’t just dismiss this as something complicated or silly or confusing. Yeah, if it was easy everyone would be enlightened. But it’s not hard either. It’s just that almost no one seriously tries. So just think about it. I am literally not the same person as the man who put the leaf into the book in the first place. I have much different beliefs, we have completely different cells in our bodies, and I have had experiences that he has not had. And yet we can interact through time with a connection as delicate as a thin, dry leaf.

501 Relax and Succeed - When you make a choiceI know what I believed back then. My experiences were much more limited so I could still believe untenable things. As I moved through life and had more and more experiences and as I heard about other people’s experiences, I came to realize that many of my views were effectively impossible. My mind opened as I understood more about different situations. And as my cells died and new ones were born, so too did ideas die and new ones arose. There is no place to measure from or to, but ultimately I became, over time, a completely new person who knows and understands the former me without actually being him.

You are constantly changing in a variety of ways. Never feel like your life cannot be reinvented. New ideas can create new opportunities which can invigorate any lifetime. So keep in mind that you will be several versions of yourself in your lifetime. But unless you choose to make those people consciously, that choice will always be by chance. Rather than creating it, you’ll simply recognize it after it happens. So the real question is, how soon will you start making that choice consciously? Because the sooner you do that the sooner you will own your life. And only then will it begin to vibrate with a deep and profound resonance that goes with having found your own path. Enjoy.

peace. s

The End of Becoming

So you want to conclude your journey. You want to be done, complete, finished. You want to graduate, and Become Aware. You want to Be Enlightened; to merge as one with the Light in everlasting Godly heaven forever and ever.Relax and Succeed - The Stopping of becoming - FG Cloud 4 - framed

No you don’t.

That would be boring. Do you see kids at Halloween asking to be a white light that beams love and Oneness? I mean okay, you sort of are that, but that’s not what this is all about. You’re not in some course where you graduate and Become Enlightened. Enlightenment is a verb, and as Yoda told Luke, if you’re trying then you can’t get there. Because trying implies a tryer, and the moment you have distinctions between things—the moment there’s a You and an Outside world—you are out of the State of Enlightenment.

In an emergency a hero isn’t thinking, “Oh I will save this other person’s life.” They are simply being in the moment and they are responding to the universe authentically. So if a guy doing CPR can be in an Enlightened State, then that’s way more interesting than being a boring white light. That’s a nice home to come from, but the adventure of a lifetime is out on the road. You might as well have fun. There’s no winning or losing at life. To Be or Not To Be. That is the only question.

2 Relax and Succeed - For my part I know nothingThere is no way for you to spend any real time Being that white light because there is no way for any aspect of the Universe to Know the whole Universe. There is no God-Perspective for you to attain. You’re not trying to achieve some magical life, you’re supposed to realize that the one you’re already living is magical.

You have enormous possibilities for fun and excitement but you keep thinking in the same old patterns. This is the person I chose to date, this is the job I chose to earn a living, this is the living I believe I need to earn to live “my” life. Real success isn’t getting anything, it isn’t achieving anything, it isn’t owning anything, conquering anything and it isn’t loving anyone specific. Success is when you understand how reality is created and through that understanding you are able to love everyone and everything you encounter as an experience.

So let’s talk about loving. Sometimes loving is hard. When someone’s dying love can be painful. When you have to show tough love with an addict it can be very hard for both people and it can lead to our most painful decisions. And you can truly love a movie or a song even though it has some really, really sad parts in it. So to love your life—to enjoy your life—you don’t need to be happy all the time nor would you want to be happy all of the time. You just need to enjoy the ride. Like Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players.”

2 Relax and Succeed - In the end what matters mostYou’re not supposed to be okay all of the time. Imagine watching that play. Booooorrrrrriiiiing. Instead, you’re supposed to be okay with not being okay. That’s what that Buddha dude meant when he said that the acceptance of suffering is the end of all suffering. If you just consider it part of life then you accept it (Accept: another big Buddhist word). It’s like the weather—some people choose to complain about it, some people don’t. Some people live with some troublesome weather, others live with the same weather but they add bitching to it. The weather you must accept. The bitching is a judgmental illusion you chose to superimpose over the weather in the confines of your own mind.

As we go forward I’ll be giving you very specific instructions on how to accept and forgive and I can be very specific about how you can easily have all the confidence you want. I won’t have to be hazy or nebulous or ambiguous about how to get there because it’s very easy and very obvious once someone who can actually do it points it out to you. I’ve done this for a lot of people now and there is no reason I won’t do it for you. This isn’t hard. This is your nature.

I hope you’ll join us for some of the journey.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is a writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.