Old Laughs – Redux

219 Relax and Succeed - Always laugh when you can
I have been fortunate enough to have a lot of laughs in my lifetime. Thanks to my accident I’d realised by five that the only reason to be alive was to enjoy it. That made funny people very important to me and I sought them out at every turn. I thought my childhood best friend was funny. I thought the Icelandic friend I went to elementary school with was funny. The chubby guy I played floor hockey with was hilarious. The guy that lived upstairs from me at my old apartment is funny. My current favourite neighbour is funny. My dad is funny. Laughs are important.

What’s the point Scott?

(sorry.)

Okay, so despite a life with all those and many more funny friends, and despite great comedians and comedies, and despite every other funny thing that’s happened to me, one of the funniest moments of my life came from the strangest source—the person wasn’t even trying to be funny. Now don’t see this as some big setup. You won’t find it funny at all. You would have had to have heard it, and even then you would still have to note the subtle shift in the voices before you’d think it was funny.

My work often has me up very late and when I am,I often listen to CBC One’s overnight programming, which includes broadcasts from across Canada and around the world. They’re all excellent shows and I thoroughly enjoy them. One of the shows features a host I find particularly good. He’s funny, smart, widely studied, and dare I say even profoundly compassionate when the interview calls for it (he did one of the best I’ve ever heard). But the night in question was not his shining moment.

219 Relax and Succeed - If it doesn't make you happy
He was interviewing the first man to fly a solar aircraft a significant distance (maybe it was across America?). The host asked a lot of smart questions and then he seemed to pause as though he may have lost where he was in his notes. He threw out a rather abrupt question, “Is the aircraft a propeller kind, or a jet?” and I absolutely exploded with laughter.

I know to some people this may seem like a legitimate question because they have no idea how radio or jets work, but I know how they work, well enough that, to me , it was as though the host had said, “What fuel does your engine run on, forks or rabbits?” The fact that it was still after editing indicates he needed those question for the interview. We’ve all been trapped by our own mistakes like that. I cannot fully explain why, but this question would for some very cool reasons, be one of the top five funniest things I’d ever heard in my life. But here’s the thing….

The reason I’m writing this is that the same host is doing his show as I write this. And he happened to be interviewing someone who reminded me of that pilot. Think of that word: Re-minded. As in, “put back into my mind.” The moment I shot some ATP electricity through that particular circuit of my brain again, I loaded some charge into my memory of the previous experience. As soon as I thought of it, the absurdity (that’s what makes us laugh) of the statement hit me the very same way it did the first time, and I once again exploded in laughter just like I do every time I think of him saying that.

Do you get it? It’s just as funny as a memory. Or just as sad. Or just as scary. You’re where you’re thoughts are. Your mood is dictated by what you think. You were in a mood when you started reading this. But as you read it you thought about what I asked you, or encouraged you, or wrote you into thinking. So you felt what I lead you to feel. That’s the fundamental journey artists take their audiences on as their work: translations of experience.

219 Relax and Succeed - I am still determined
If your experience with my words was interrupted by your own thoughts, you would have felt other emotions that would depend on the nature of the interruption. Some might have made you excited and happy, and other interruptions can be irritating and troublesome. But the point is, the experience of your life will be the judgments you make, so you have to get serious about making those judgments conscious. You have to be responsible with your thinking.

Trust me, this is the best trade-off you’ll ever make. Just don’t be an Ego. Monitor your thinking. Choose the direction of your thoughts. Don’t live out of blind habit. Because you can laugh anytime you want. You just have to fully invest yourself in thinking about something funny.

This isn’t something you learn. It’s something you practice. Practice laughing by going to places where you are likely to laugh. Practice switching from other states of mind into a funny head-space whenever you can. The more you do it, the better you’ll get at it. Eventually you’ll be able to turn former fights into exchanges of sarcastic wit layered with a dose of humility. But it will always be a genuinely spiritual practice.

Start now. Think of an enjoyable time. Fully get into it. Remember what each of your senses was focused on. Go into that Moment, feel it, and translate it to us into our current reality by feeling today what you felt then too—the two moments forever linked in time through a filament of joy.

Such is the nature of happiness.

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.

Let More Be

1189 Relax and Succeed - One person's craziness

Every year it seems, people are increasingly focused on their differences and very little heed is being paid to our overwhelming similarities. What’s curious about those differences is that they’re all theoretical. If you look beyond your personal beliefs to the greater truth that forms all realities they’re all equally uncertain.

Like everyone else, you’ve changed your mind about a subject or two in your life. Maybe you’ll even admit to executing a few of life’s inevitable flip-flops too. Maybe you thought Person A was your friend, then you thought they weren’t, and then they were again. It’s not like Person A was flip-flopping who they were. You were just changing the opinion you colour them with.

The fact is Raj or Sirah or Dennis or Clare or Sydney or Dylan sound like a group of friends when really that’s just a collection of words. Because who are those people? Not only will they each change at their own rates and for their own reasons throughout their lives, but likewise, so will their opinions of each other. So who is what, when?

1189 Relax and Succeed - Reality is negotiable“Society” is nothing more than the averaging of everyone’s assembled–yet still individual–views. We draw a Venn Diagram with seven billion circles and we find the layers of overlap and we call that “normal.” Whether it’s about people or things or ideas, we all come to accept ideas at different times.

Some people believe things as soon as they like them. Others need tons of proof. Others need high quality scientific proof. Others will only believe people they like, and they’ll never believe anything coming from someone they don’t like. Others doubt everything. We’re all on this spectrum somewhere.

This means the rules and ideas and concepts that shape and guide our society are like a collective amoeba, organically working its way along as we all pursue things that are in alignment with our current capabilities and our individual natures. This is the subtle person by person way that a society’s fundamental perspective can appear to suddenly shift, when really all that happened is that the slow ebb eventually tipped your personal scale.So collectively, first we believed there were Kings and Queens who killed you if they didn’t approve of you. Then only wealthy land-owning men could vote, and you could be destroyed if they didn’t approve of you. Then only men could vote, and you could be destroyed if they didn’t approve of you. And then women could vote, and thankfully there’s no one left for them to prove their strength to because at least all of us humans all equal.

The strange thing about “differences” is that you could still find people today who still believe only landowners should be allowed to vote. There’s people that still think only men should. And some think children and eventually animals should be able to. We are all alive on the same planet at the same time. So all of these views co-exist. Is that really something to get upset about? Doesn’t that just make sense? How else could it be?

So, if we’re all changeable, and none of us knows what we might believe in the future, then surely some of the views that we’re hearing today are actually correct and we will eventually change our mind. Maybe it’s about a musician or maybe it’s about a spouse, but that means big argument or small, you may just be arguing for a view you won’t have later.

Just think back. I’m sure you can find some painful examples of where you held a belief you no longer do. Everyone has loads of those. When I was a kid my neighbour used to want to be a fire truck. I doubt he does now. More recently, for a while, another neighbour thought they wanted to be married. But like I suspect the fire truck kid did, she ended up changing her mind about that. (I sure hope she also remembered to change her “divorce is failure” belief while she was at it.)

Who knows what you’ll believe a year from now? Why not just breathe out? Why not just let other views co-exist with yours like books in a library? You don’t have to read them, but if the cover ever does catch your interest, you can thank the people around you for placing that book in your library of potential beliefs. And if you never pick that book up. That’s fine too. You’ll leave plenty lying around that other people won’t read either.

The world appreciates the efforts of your good heart but there’s no need to suffer to save it. Yes, there are things for you to care about. But mistaking caring for worrying is like mistaking the efforts of love for the efforts of resistance. As Mother Teresa said, skip the anti-war rallies. Go to the ones for peace. So it is with life. Don’t resist it so much. Let more go. Be more fluid and flexible. Let things be. And in so doing, be free.

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.

Your Life Story

There’s debates about who said it or who said it first, but somewhere sometime someone said that every writer has to write a million words of shit before they’ll write anything any good. The number itself is largely a metaphor for the fact that in everything in life, we get good by doing. And the more we do (either in intensity or duration or both), the more skilled we get at that thing.

Just as in life, every writer wants to be good because they know the tools. They know the alphabet, so they have their hammer; and they’ve read sentences–which is like watching a house being built–so that’s where they start. But it’s absurd to think they’ll be as good of a carpenter on that first job as they’ll be in 25 years.

That logic applies to anything. The conscious person who learns with intensity learns more than someone with less intensity, and someone conscious who puts in more time also learns more than someone who puts in less time or who uses less consciousness. This is is true of writing, cooking, raising kids, teaching, or–yes–living.

Living is a skill. So yeah, physically and mentally you eventually deteriorate, so maybe your life-work gets a bit sloppy near the end, but by then everyone’s forgiving you. But otherwise you just get better and better at living life every year you live it, and the more conscious you are the more your learn. That’s all well and good. The problem comes in when you want the wisdom before you’ve even had the experiences that teach it.

Your expectations of yourself and your life start off pretty wacky. Because you can edit your writing you think you can edit life. And because of that you’ll go through these periods where you’ll feel like you’re totally failing because you’ll be nowhere near your targets and you can’t fix your past. But it’s not your life that’s the problem, or your ability to edit; it’s your expectation that you would know things before you learned them. You do that all the time and yet it’s truly crazy.

Graceful living requires only one thing: live the moment you’re in fully and presently. That means being in it and aware of it, rather than thinking about what-ifs or regrets. Things going in challenging ways aren’t failures, that’s just the texture of the surface you’re climbing. And when you reach the summit of your own peak–your own death–you’ll have a better understanding that you weren’t supposed to climb the highest mountain or the hardest–you were just supposed to climb. Which mountain you started on never really mattered.

You will know more tomorrow than today, and today you know more than you knew yesterday. If you go back and rethink and rethink over and over, re-editing all of your life’s work, you’ll never get much writing done and you won’t get much living lived.

Trust that as the writer writes, the writer improves. Forget the early pages. They’re both written and read. Because that’s the other important thing; other people will only glance at your book just as you’ll only glance at theirs. You might read deeply into maybe half a dozen books in your life. Because it turns out these weren’t being written to be read, the were written for the writing’s sake.

Stop worrying about your mistakes and just write–just live. You were never supposed to be perfect. You were just supposed to be here. That in and of itself, is perfect.

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.

Ego Awareness

1026-relax-and-succeed-the-goal-of-meditationMost people want to make changes but they’re too busy being who they think they are. They never stop to actually figure out who their ego is and how they might more easily identify it when it shows up. It’s important to remember; an ego must be summoned. Your natural state is peace. Your thinking-in-words state is your ego. So how do we find that little trouble-maker?

One of the easiest ways to catch your ego is to simply listen to yourself. And I don’t mean the sounds. If you had to ascribe a tone to your conversations and your responses, would it be negative or positive? Do you take what someone said and polish it up to look nicer, or do you take it and make it worse?

Get to know yourself. Most people you know would know your ego more than the real you. Without you being aware of it your ego is the angle that ideas will bounce off of you and the people who know you call that your personality.

1026-relax-and-succeed-the-darkness-that-surrounds-usDon’t think these little differences in how you talk and interact are unimportant. Keep in mind that those are direct reflections of your brain’s wiring. So as trivial as it might seem, there’s almost nothing more important than, if someone says, Nice day isn’t it? Do you say something negative or positive?

Let’s look at some possible answers to that question, but first let’s keep in mind that I live in one of the world’s northernmost cities and we have had one of our warmest years ever. Last winter was very short on low temperatures, and rather than warm weather extending from May to September, this year it’s gone from March to November. That’s five extra months of warm temperatures. But that doesn’t help someone if they have a negative perspective.

In my experiment I’ve been saying Nice day, isn’t it? for a few weeks and here’s a collection of the responses I got. Many of you are likely one of these or close to one of these.

Negative Responses to the question, Nice day isn’t it?

[No answer. Sullen expression]
Yeah, I guess it’s not bad.
It’s about time.
It won’t last.
Maybe for some people.
Yeah, but whatever it gives us now it’ll take it away worse, later.
Just wait a few weeks.
Not warm enough for me.

Anyone can have a challenging day where their patience is short and some negativity shows up. Sometimes people are dealing with very overwhelming circumstances so they’ll be more inclined to the negative but, all that said, there is no more important time to watch for the best things than when things are at their worst.

Take your little stab at negativity occasionally. We all do, because if there’s a path you’re seeking then there must be a not-path too. But you don’t want to stay on that path any longer than you have to, and the only way off that path is through raising your awareness and leading yourself out with a more optimistic perspective. The people above are experiencing one of the warmest years ever and yet they can still find ways for that to not be good enough. This is why expectations and comparisons kill happiness.

Pay more attention. See conversations as balls lobbed over a net toward you; every statement is a new ball. The question is, do you predominantly shoot those back toward the other person’s backhand, or their forehand? Do you make it easy to play, or do you make it harder? Do you take responsibility for your interpretation of reality or do try to pawn it off on others as though it’s their fault, or that somehow they were luckier than you, rather than they were more positive than you?

Positive approaches generate lots of support and assistance. Negative approaches attract anger and blame. Gee, I wonder which one leads to a better life?

Get conscious. Wake up. Don’t answer people out of habit and don’t initiate contact out of habit. Be aware. Choose your words carefully for they are the brushstrokes that form your painting of the world. If a person is always the victim of something, then that is what they are using this lifetime to become: a victim.

A person can do that their whole life if they choose to. Many more people have wasted lives than lived them. You’re the one who lives with those choices. But those can go both ways, because after anyone responds to me negatively, I still usually meet the next person with a positive attitude and it’s amazing what wonderful people are brought into your life though that simple act.

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.

The Horns of a Dilemma

1020-relax-and-succeed-this-wayIn every life people will reach big moments where they have to choose between two very different opportunities that are mutually exclusive. It could look like a great new job in your old field versus an entry-level job in an industry you’ve always want to work in, or maybe you have to decide between a job opportunity and love. Maybe it’s between having a baby or not. There’s lots of ways we can be stuck trying to decide the undecideable.

To decide comes from French and before that, Latin, and it essentially means to cut off. So you have reached a point in a path of life where one path necessarily cuts you off from another. It’s either this or that but never both. We think what is painful is our inability to see far enough down the path to know which one works out better, but just that thought means we believe that a decision today will determine the rewards in our life later, when that’s just not true.

The notion of a path to success and a path to failure misunderstand what it is to succeed and what it is to fail. Your life is a set of experiences, not a set of gradings by you or anyone else. No one can tell an elementary school teacher who loves their job that they should have chosen something more valuable, because they are the one enjoying their job. That joy is a feeling they experience, it isn’t a theoretical gain in people’s imagination. Being called successful isn’t the same as feeling a real connection to your own life.

1020-relax-and-succeed-if-you-cannot-do-great-thingsYou being important happens in other people’s heads, your daily joy is in your head. How others–or even a changing you with your fluctuating priorities–view your life choices from a distance isn’t as important as how much you enjoy those choices in the individual moments you’re in. So it’s not the path that’s good or bad, it’s your walking of it.

There’s a lot of people trying to improve their life through better life-choices at key moments rather than trying to improve it moment by moment. Even terrible marriages that are better abandoned will still have a lot of fun and joy in them, that’s why they happened in the first place. So a “failed” marriage can have been largely good, but that bad part might still be serious enough that the person may still have to leave the relationship. But that doesn’t erase the parts of it that were or are good, it just makes the payment worth more than the benefit. So you leave, but not because the other path was bad, but rather because it was unwalkable, which is like having no choice at all.

The agony we feel at these times of choosing is based on our thought-based bouncing between two very nebulous, ambiguous ideas. The truth is, each path will contain it’s own unknown opportunities for suffering and it’s own unknown opportunities for joy; we won’t know what those are until we live those moments, which is why the style of our walking is more important than the choice of our path.

1020-relax-and-succeed-hold-onWhat will make any path bad is constant comparison to any road not taken. Our imagination regarding what would have happened is just an uninformed guess. Whatever we think we know, we’d have to be there to be sure. People tend not to advertise the downsides of their choices lest they look bad to others, so we never really know what a life feels like until we live it. But if that’s the case, then there’s no point in torturing ourselves over a dilemma. We’d literally be better to flip a coin, choose, and then dive back into the world’s individual moments with our eye pointed toward joy, because looking for it is how it’s found. It’s not the path you’re on, it’s the perspective you take while you’re on it.

What path are you on that you’d like to be off? What’s making the current path bad? Is it really bad, or are you just trapped in a state of wanting when deep down you’re not even really sure what you’d get if you got what you want? Because no matter what path you’re on, nothing will make it feel worse than wanting to be on another path.

Be where you are. Live consciously. Maybe the job or spouse or choice you’ve made really is a great choice. Maybe you just haven’t realised that because you’ve been too busy wanting something else instead. Either way, you never really have to worry about going the wrong direction because your life happens in your consciousness where there are no paths, there is only presence or want, and you are always in control of which of those two states you’re in.

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.