What We Do With Our Lives

1357 Relax and Succeed - Right now I'm stuck somewhere between

The meme above conveys a popular agony. People feel their lives are unsettled when past events have lead them to undesirable present events which make the prediction of future events difficult or foreboding. In a state of ego, it’s possible to spend our entire lives spinning in place, doing little more than that very speculation.

The problem with using our consciousness in that way is that people mistake their speculative thoughts for them actually having a ‘bad life.’ Life not going as we planned much of the time is no basis to judge a life by, we share the world with nearly 8 billion other people who also influence our days.

We are boats, not the ocean. If our hope is to choose destinations and then assume the winds will carry us there is to take a fairly self-centered approach to the ‘weather.’ The winds carry many sailboats so we can’t all have favourable winds all of the time. The storm that rips our sails also creates work for sail-makers.

The question is, when the winds of fortune are not blowing for us, are we better to invest our time in growing in some way, or in making our vessel even stronger, or on simply resting? Or are we going to spend it below deck, with no real view, just charts, and then talk to ourselves or whoever else will listen just so we can complain or lament the winds that did or are not blowing?

Everyone has to really stop and think about that quote above. We’ve all done that. We’ve all been there, wishing it was different. Okay, the present may be painful, but it’s not a life-fail. Those ruminations and speculations are simply what we’re doing and what we get is a painful feeling while we are doing them.

The answer to the meme isn’t to offer the person and entirely new and impossibly perfect life without struggle, it’s to answer the question honestly. “You are actually sitting, while you type out regrets about the past and future when you could otherwise be doing other living, that felt other ways, but rumination and speculation are what you chose.”

1357 Relax and Succeed - Failure is an option

The pain is not in the events themselves, it is our assessment of them. Sometimes our unwanted events are other people’s most desired events. The world is the way it is. It is filled with bounty and beauty but no one needs anyone’s help appreciating that. Our tests and the beauty of our own spiritual strength emerge from the other times, where our story takes an ugly turn.

These are the very real times when we are genuinely unloved by those we love, or we don’t get the jobs we needed but were truly qualified for, or when we don’t get picked by the team and our dream dies, or when the way we are or what we do makes really makes friendships difficult.

Even if all of that goes well, we can still end up pursuing an entirely admirable course in life only to realize it does not lead where we had wanted to go and it’s too late to double back. These are all painfully routine feelings, even for those living ‘the good life.’ But the fact that they are ‘routine’ is a clue to where our peace can be found.

These are all realities that no spiritual practice can entirely dispel. To desire their removal is understandable prior to greater understanding, but once we do understand we appreciate that the problem was not what we desired, those genuinely are great things. Our problem is that we desire, because spiritual practice is about dispelling desire.

If they are unhealthy, what do we trade for dispelling our desires and the ruminations they inspire? We get the very real and present drama of living. In a novel or film we can enjoy a dramatic journey filled with conflict or emotional danger because we have no desire to ‘perfect’ the protagonist’s story. We’re reading it for the drama —for the ending to be unexpected.

It is possible to do the same thing with our own life. We can see our lives less as something to perfect and instead something to marvel at. And the marvelling happens naturally, just as soon as we turn off all of the speculating. That leaves space for the rest of the universe to find some room in our consciousness. And that is when we can actually feel peacefully at One with the world as it is.

peace. s

Are You Alive or Do You Exist?

100 Relax and Succeed - Wherever your heart isPeople are constantly pointing out the fact that I’ve had an extremely interesting life, and it’s true. I’ve been to cool places, I’ve done fun and exciting things, and I’ve known some remarkable people. But this isn’t because I’m luckier or smarter than anyone else—it’s because I don’t spend much time creating fear.

What stops you from doing the things you want to do? Why won’t you go on an adventurous trip? Because you use your thoughts to discuss all of the things that could go wrong, or you speculate about the opportunities you might miss if you’re away, whereas I wonder what adventures I might have.

Why don’t you do some bold and exciting thing, like ask out a stranger in a strange situation, or date someone when it makes no obvious sense? Because you tell yourself stories about why the relationship potentially couldn’t work, whereas I moved to Europe after only two dates to actually find out. And it didn’t work as a long term relationship, but life still worked out. I threw her a very special birthday party, went on some beautiful trips, we both made fantastic friends, and of course I dated a remarkable woman, in a remarkable city. Win win win.

100 Relax and Succeed - Nothing will be attemptedWhy haven’t you met your heroes? Well, you’ve probably never really tried to meet them. When I wanted to be a screenwriter, I just started contacting famous, successful screenwriters and I ended up meeting and even becoming friends with lots of them. But I didn’t sit around listing all of the reasons that those meetings and friendships couldn’t happen—I focused on all of the ways that it might happen and some of those worked out just fine. Who cares about the ones that didn’t? Do I plant a garden and focus all of my attention on the seeds that didn’t sprout, or the ones that did?

Life is there for the taking, but people can choose the treadmill. They can go do the same thing every day and not enjoy much of life at all. Most people live that way; with jobs they find uninspiring, time with people based on obligation rather than joy, and duties rather than pursuits.

It’s like a straight jacket. Everyone’s performing for each other, trying to be a good citizen. Conforming, prepared, safe. Everyone’s so loaded with fears of what they’ll lose that they don’t even try to get anything anymore. They just collect stuff, but they’ve given up on collecting life. They’re buying things but you’re not saying yes to experiences.

100 Relax and Succeed - The only way that we can liveWhy would you be shy if an actor pulled you up on stage at a show? What would you have to lose? Do you see the two worlds? One person gets pulled up and they tell themselves a story about what they have to lose. They’ll think about their dignity, their reputation, their appearance. But those things only exist in your head. The exciting life happens when you just dive in and say yes to the experience.

When you see an opportunity to help out, or make people laugh, or to meaningfully connect, then take it. What difference would it make if it went “bad” or if everyone laughed? How would that hurt? Why would that be something to avoid?

Stop being halted by precipices in your mind. Stop thinking you can fall off heights that only exist in your head. You’re not supposed to mannequin your way through life in a way that looks good to the rest of us. You’re supposed to take this stage and perform something that excites you. There is no audience. There is just your stage, amidst all of the other stages. No one’s really watching you, they’re too busy doing what they’re doing to have the time to really watch what you’re doing.

This is a show by you and for you. Your life is not being graded. You can’t “win” at life by avoiding “failures.” Because there are no successes or failures, there are only experiences. So by trying to avoid failures, you steal experiences from yourself. You are forgoing your life out of concern that you may not spend it wisely; or, put another way, you’re so worried you’ll misspend it that you’re going to die with all of your life-money still in the bank.

Is life going perfectly? Do you love every minute of it? Then forget doing what’s safe or smart. Start doing what’s tempting or exciting. Because I’m constantly doing things that other people say are crazy or unwise or dangerous or pointless, and yet I’m also the person who’s constantly doing fascinating things with fascinating people, and I love my own life. And I don’t love it because you think it’s impressive that I’ve done all of these interesting things. I love it because I was fascinated while I did all of those interesting things.

Go grab life. You feel its pull all the time, but you use words to talk yourself out of living it. Go quiet inside instead, and just follow the pull. Because that sensation is the feeling of your life asking you to live it.


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.