True Action

1264 Relax and Succeed - The best place to findSome people approach the act of learning to manage their consciousness with fears that it is too difficult for them to do (it isn’t), or they may have have fears that without thoughts about religion or guilt that humans are destined to descend into chaos, but these are very weak and bleak views of ourselves and of humanity, unsupported by history and daily experience.

Certainly humans get a lot wrong, but for better or worse we managed to go from just another ape to being the dominant species on the world with 7.5 eventually to be 11 billion people. Clearly we cared enough to about people to do that, and now that we’re starting to get slightly competent with that we have switched our attention to the other living things that comprise our environment.

Despite our many mistakes, humanity also offers daily examples of compassionate, heroic responses to need, from cleaning oil-slicked seagulls, to entertaining the elderly, to inventing a simple, yet life-saving, medical technology. These aren’t the sort of stories that fill the news and sell lots of security systems or insurance, but they happen every day nevertheless.

1264 Relax and Succeed - The truth is everybody is going to hurt youThat connection to the others around us that leads to heroism is where we’re at when we’re healthiest. But we can’t be in that state if we’re slicing up the world and the people in it into labels, and then sorting them by how we value them at that time. That is one valid representation of the world, but it’s not the only one, but our judgment process delays our action and takes it out of the realm of in-the-moment callings and makes it a thought-based decision.

A hunting animal doesn’t make a decision. It skips straight from awareness to action in a constant whirling flow like a spinning Yin and Yang. A gazelle does no pro and con list as it tries to evade a cheetah. At that point it is so involved in appreciating its own life that it surrenders thought and the animal trusts the secret forces inside itself that are telling it which way to go and when. After that it’s simply chess between it and the cheetah doing the exact same instinctual in-the-moment thing.

We feel impulses. There is a consistency to them. If we’re looking for our calling we should look for what naturally matters. You might be the biggest toughest guy on the block, but if every time you see a special needs kids you go soft and react the instant you see an unmet need, then maybe despite all that tough exterior, you’re a caregiver.

1264 Relax and Succeed - You can sufferEgos will feel guilt about not being home for the kids, or about not wanting to be home for the kids. But trusting ourselves means that we do whichever one we feel is necessary for our fulfilment and we accept the consequences of that choice. Modelling being oneself is also important to children. Freedom isn’t freedom from pain or consequences, it simply allows us to make the kinds of sacrifices we find it more natural to make, despite how significant  or unwise they may appear to others.

Let’s take today and pay attention to our reactions to the world. Where are our impulses and what do they have in common? We’re not looking for the cloying needs of our egos, we’re talking about actions where we can’t recall having decisions attached to them. These are times where we’ve acted as our true selves in an actual present moment.

These moments of reality pepper our days. As uncomfortable as our calling might feel to our ego, we need to ask ourselves what those moments say about who we fundamentally are and therefore where we might find the heart of our calling. Asking that through observation is important because, after all, no one knows the answer to that better than we do.

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.

Feeling Stuck

1250 Relax and Succeed - Tonight I dream tomorrow I doMany people today complain of being incapacitated by their choices and their search for inspiration, meaning and purpose. This discomfort arises not from being lost, but from being confused.

Without expansion and an increase in general understanding and wisdom, we would never grow. So clearly it is normal to start life lost, unsure of who you even want to be, or what you want to do. Even the small percentage of people who have a clear vision early in life will find that vision is time-limited by either fate or our own eventual lack of appreciation for something too common to be otherwise.

How we ‘find ourselves’ is we march forth, confused and uncertain. At the early stages we see some branches of our growth as disjointed from our primary aim, but as we age and wisdom grows we come to accept that the branches are the sources that feed the central truck of life and we find ourselves with fewer regrets.

1250 Relax and Succeed - If your life feels stuckLife we demand that we reinvent ourselves at least once every decade. Maybe it’s from healthy to cancer patient, maybe it’s from a parent of young adults to an empty nester, but whatever it is you will be lost at first as your brain attempts to adapt to its new role. We aren’t failing when we feel that, we’re just walking along blind, following a wall by feel. And where does this wall lead? Forward.

That’s the beautiful thing about life. As long as you’re moving forward you’re moving closer to your goal–even if you believe you’re going in the wrong direction. Because this isn’t about where you go, it’s about how much distance you cover. You can be Stephen Hawking and go to the far reaches of space in your wheelchair, or you can be a mother with four active, wonderful kids; both lives are full and therefore rich.

Free yourself of needing to figure it all out. Just move forward. It allows your mind to go quiet and the added awareness that results will do you far more good than all that thinking ever could have.

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.

Doing the Right Thing

286 Relax and Succeed - Remembering that I'll be dead soon

I finished my degree and ever since I’ve just been spinning my wheels getting nowhere. I don’t even know what I want to do with my life. How am I supposed to pick a career?


Dear Paralyzed,

You don’t. It picks you. Either that or you become a slave to something.

We all have bits of life that don’t seem to have anything to do with work. For some people it’s the way they would organize their dad’s garage at ten years old, without being asked to. Or the way some people help in the kitchen and think it’s fun. That’s what we should look for in a career.

Every job has crappy parts that they pay us to do, ideally most of our job doesn’t have to  feel like work. There are people collecting garbage who enjoy having no boss looking over their shoulder all day and they know they’re job and they can just focus on getting it done. There are no jobs that exist outside of these motivations, just people in jobs that don’t match their natural motivations.

How we know this thing is that it’s the thing we’d work our ass off to do even if we won the lottery. Do that thing and you’ll have loads of energy, you’ll naturally get really good at it, and it’ll never seem to take too much unpleasant effort. The effort will always seem easy when we choose the right things. But our thoughts can often tell us that simple things shouldn’t satisfy us when they often do.

Canadian pianist Oscar Peterson was featured in over 200 recordings, he won 8 Grammy Awards and he is widely considered to be one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time. One of the things that he was best known for was his speed and precision. And yet both things were skills he possessed completely by accident. They just happened to line up with what he found compelling to do.

286 Relax and Succeed - Sometimes it falls upon a generation

First off, Peterson may well have been a trumpet player except that his childhood Tuberculosis pointed the way to the piano. That is turning bad into good. But the real manifestation of his interest was that he was always naturally dedicated and very good about practising. That was his skill. What came after made him famous because he had that skill.

There was this one particular recording that Oscar was amazed by. No matter how hard he tried he couldn’t seem to figure out how to play it, and yet he was driving to figure out how even though there was no money or fame involved. But with that mystery came freedom. He was free to simply be himself in action.

In that naturally motivated action he tried everything he could think of —and eventually he did figure out how to do it. But he didn’t realize what a feat it truly was until over a decade later when he finally learned that the recording he was struggling to imitate alone, had actually had two piano players on it.

By focusing on his drive and not being stopped by his current limits, Peterson freed himself up to think about possibilities. His innocence about the recording meant he could not tell him stories in which what he was accomplishing it was impossible.  He couldn’t say to himself, “But that’s two people, you can’t do that.”

By not perceiving that limitation he did what it previously took two people to do. There’s no such thing as a genius. There are just people that do not see limits and they continue to ask questions and try things long after others have given up.

We were not meant to use the brilliant capabilities of our mind only to use it to calculate perceived or trained limitations into ourselves. We can forget beliefs about what isn’t possible. It’s time to see life another way. It’s time to see our possibilities.

We are all capable of much more than we currently realize. But that’s just it —we must realize that.

It’s also important to note that we don’t come to some sort of conclusion and then boom, we’re all calm and peaceful and spiritually finished. The realizing is a verb. That was all of Oscar’s failures. It’s how we live our life.

Many times, Oscar Peterson practised for reasons even he wouldn’t even be able to explain. He just wants to know. And by doing so, he expanded the entire universe by proving that the impossible is, once again, possible. If we want to find our thing like that, no matter how strange it might first seem, we should pick the thing that doesn’t feel like work. But often we won’t, because we’ll be worried about what others will think of us.

286 Relax and Succeed - Clouds gone the mountains appearWho knows where our real interests will take us if our minds are quieter. Maybe it’s about how to raise kids, or influence co-workers, or improve some tool or process. We’re naturally creative. But we have to stop trying to be good at everything and we have to start focusing on being ourselves.

It doesn’t matter what other people think of our interests whether they involve English Literature, Star Trek, or spiders. We don’t have to explain ourselves to anyone, we only need to be able to take care of the bottom two layers of Maslow’s Pyramid; food and shelter.

This is nice because it means the only thing we have to do is quiet our minds so that we can hear ourselves. Sometimes what we think will feel crazy to others, but that’s what originality does.

I know some parents who thought the idea of their son was wasting his time with toys long after he was a kid. Now that kid makes over $60,000 a year buying and selling toys on E-Bay. E-Bay didn’t even exist when the kid was born. How could he prepare or train for that? He couldn’t.

You have a degree, hopefully in a field that genuinely interests you. Now just follow your heart. You don’t want to be successful. You want to be gratified.

And remember, Peterson failed at learning that piano piece for a long time. But he kept playing not because he wanted to impress us. He did it because that’s who he was. And even if he wouldn’t have figured it out, he was still being himself by trying. Because in the reality we experience, there is no success or fail. There is only the living of our life, and for that to be rewarding we should trust ourselves to know our own direction when we see it. We will change paths many times in life anyway.

Good luck with your career.

peace. s