The Art of Believing

Intuitively you know it, but it’s rare even among writers for a human being to break language down enough to realise how ephemeral it really is. It always surprises me that it can accomplish anything at all it’s such a faulty, misunderstood communication system. Half the time it’s like broken Morse Code where 25% of the dots and dashes are missing plus both parties got different versions of the codebook from their parents and culture.

Writers and scientists and a few weird researchers like me are the ones who look at communication crazy-closely. We slow it down, watch it unfold, and in doing so we can see why people say they’ll do things they never intended to do, or why a spouse doesn’t relax when their partner curtly tells them that they’re “fine.” Yeah, their tone sounds a bit pleasant, but….

These are all communications indeed, but the words used will often combine with the tone and circumstances and history to create entirely different meanings, and often that meaning will even be intentionally imprecise. The people we know well don’t really do this any better than anyone else but over time we do get to know each other’s codebooks a little, so friends have more success than strangers, but still….

None of this should surprise us. If you listen for it today you’ll realise that often times people are speaking precisely because they don’t want to communicate accurately. “We’re looking into it,” if it’s said to a boss, can just as easily mean, “We’re trying to figure out how to tell about you this without getting fired.”

Of course parents know this process all too well. Many times the year’s backpack gets tossed out the following year because the kids actually lied about cleaning all their old lunches out of them before putting them away for the summer. Imagine that. A kid lying to their parents. It’s almost as though they’re trying to hide something…. And look at that. I’ve ended three sentences now with ellipses (…) Even I’m implying things I’m not saying.

Isn’t it weird that you roll around in these lies and misdirections every day and you don’t even really acknowledge it? There’s nothing you can do about it, so it’s not like it’s worth worrying about, but you could benefit enormously by keeping in mind that it’s always happening. It is not crazy to walk away from any exchange thinking to yourself, “Okay, I think I understand what they meant.” That way, if it turns out you didn’t–no problem. You didn’t have the expectation that you had.

We all need to believe something to function but it’s important that we not mistake our interpretations of the world for the world itself. There’s no way to talk about the world itself because no one sees the world, everyone justs sees their perspective on it. It’s like we’ve all gathered around the base of Mount Everest. Everyone has a different view; everyone can see something others cannot, and they can’t see things that some others can. In that scenario it’s just crazy to want to be the person who sees through everyone’s eyes. No one has that view unless you want to call that the God-view.

Your view of things, your view of ideas, your view of other people, and your view of yourself will not align with others views. If you look at your life you’ll see a ton of it gets wasted in your efforts to reconcile these views. You invest a lot energy trying to get people to see things from your perspective when that’s rarely necessary and it never really works anyway. You’d be far better off to just let things be, including misunderstandings, and particularly including misunderstandings about you.

This is why you trusting yourself and your naturally cooperative heart is so important. All of the other information that you have could be faulty. And everyone’s using different information anyway, so what’s the point in reconciling just this or that one? You can let all of that balancing and correcting and sorting out and fixing to other egos and you can live a spiritual life instead.

Be okay with being misunderstood. Be okay with misunderstanding. Be okay with truths. Be okay with lies. Understand that these all make sense from their individual perspectives, and that you can never hope to grasp all of the complexities. You are better to let go and flow instead.

Don’t compare events to what you thought would happen based on discussions, just accept them as they are and move on to the next moment. That is what it is to truly understand communication. That is how you use your understanding of it to free yourself to live a fulfilling life. Accept but don’t believe. Live in the mystery. It really works. I really mean it.

Have a wonderful week everyone.

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.

Peace of Mind

We have a lot of questions we want answered and yet there’s no one we ask more than ourselves. We wonder why we cannot generate an answer, but the asking is ironically what is preventing the reception; because we think our answer is an idea and not an action we keep looking for a word-based solution to a living of life problem.

All of that self-talk can sound like it’s doing something, but it’s not. There’s no such thing as crazy, there’s just how much you talk to yourself and how much weight you give your own voice in your own head. Go too far down that rabbit hole and you can get lost, and yet the way out is always available. It’s this moment. This very moment.

But we cannot find our answer by talking to ourselves about our need for an answer. We simply need to act. All of the self-talk is being lost. Quiet impulse, mysteriously motivated, without second-guessing, is what you seek. But you cannot have it until you will get intimate with now, and the voices in your head are the form of your resistance.

Surrender. We associate it with defeat. Indeed. A defeat of the ego. We want that answer. We want the key to unlocking a happy life. But in the end that is our problem. We are searching for key that isn’t there, to open a lock that isn’t there. We have no problems. They are all made by our thinking. We have always been free. You don’t need anything once you can see who you really are.

People get lost because they’re looking for their path, when their path is wherever they are. Their path isn’t a destiny, it’s a fulfilment. You don’t find your way you make your way. No one left you breadcrumbs leading a room filled with treasure. The path is your treasure, and your freedom shapes its value. It’s possible to use your freedom to do nothing, or worse be self destructive. But even that is strangely part of your freedom.

If we stop all of the questions all that remains is living. This verb, this action, this motion through life is life. You have to give up that you’re going somewhere. In fact, you’ll have no idea which way to truly go until you give up all of your ideas about where you should be. Outcomes are not your job. You handle the moment. Your mind’s attachment to an outcome is the only thing preventing you from being in the moment.

Take today. Surrender. Forget trying to figure it all out. Just take a day off. Give up. Let go. Surrender all the self-talk and go peaceful. It’s not hard, it’s tricky. The more you do it the better you get at it. Start now. Go. Quiet. Inside.

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.

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

Duelling Realities

What does this quote mean? That’s how this blog got started. It was born when I realised that there were useful lessons contained in discussing what quotes mean from the state of mind you’re seeking.

In the case of the one above, the part we like is where it says, there comes the peace in which all sorrows end. That’s our motivation to want to understand the quote; because we’re in pain and we want to know how to stop it. So that part defines the problem. The rest defines the solution.

When you move amidst the world of sense. This defines what state of mind you’ll need to be in for your sorrows to end. The quote is simply stating that you want to be fully alive in the present rather than having a post-now ego identity that has opinions about what’s happening. The latter is thought-based, the former is sense-based.

So if we want to avoid our sorrows we must live in a world of sense and not thought. But how do we do that? The quote kindly tells us how when it defines the opposite of the world of sense: free from attachment and aversion alike. So the quote is telling you how you use your egotistical judgmental thoughts to create a barrier between you and the grandeur of reality, and you do this by having opinions that you feel personally about.

To feel personally about something is to have an ego. You think a thing has value or it is it has none. You want something or you don’t want it. You think this is meaningful and that is not. You you you. Look at all the ego in there. But what does the quote suggest we do?

And you live in the wisdom of the Self. It says if we avoid thinking about what we want or don’t want, or like or don’t like, or accept or don’t accept, then we are free to live by our senses alone, which is to live in the wisdom of the Self. Note: Self was capitalised. It’s because your little ego-self is what has opinions and judgments about things. Your big, capable, amazing Self isn’t personal.

Your identity vanishes when you ignore the judgmental thoughts that you use to divide the world up into symbols. Your ego-reality is made of your opinions. Without the barrier of separateness created by thought, you feel connected to everything. Everywhere is home. Every person is lovable.

So an ego deep in the throes of falling in romantic love can without shame post this Rumi quote because they feel so excited by their personal approval of what’s happening. That level of complete acceptance means it feels as though this new person has brought the entire world to their feet. Yet, in a spiritual sense, the Rumi quote means exactly the same thing as the one that starts this post. Both are telling us to be judicious with our attention; our focus; the contents of our consciousness. To focus on one love is to lose the rest.

We can’t think out of training or habit, we must be alive in the world. And to do that we need to ignore all of our personal thoughts about what we want and don’t want. We can still have those thoughts. We just should ignore them immediately after thinking them. That leaves us in the world of sense, where things simply are, rather than being judged as right or wrong or good or bad. And that is how end your sorrows and find your peace. You simply trade your dividing thoughts for the connectedness of silence.

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.

Witness the Present

1097-relax-and-succeed-itis-our-spirit-that-seesYour eyes have so many things they could focus on that it’s actually funny that we think we see at all. I could put a video camera on your head and film every direction your eyes looked, then I could look at the video and discuss literally thousands of things that you couldn’t–because you never saw them. And remember, this is things you looked right at. So maybe you shouldn’t get so angry at referees….

Why can I see so much more than you? Because you have selective senses. You tend to tune down your sense of taste, smell or touch, but while your eyes are fully on, unlike the camera, your mind filters all you see into what you see.

Imagine a large gathering of people. You’re meeting a friend there and they are somewhere random, inside that big group. You would walk up and start looking for their jacket, or maybe their hair. So every person before you suddenly just becomes their hair or their jacket.

1097-relax-and-succeed-give-your-attention-to-the-experienceUnlike me looking at the video later, you can’t tell me what every single person’s eyeglasses looked like or even if they had any. Nor can you tell me if they had a date. Or how old they roughly are. That’s because you were busy looking for hair or a particular jacket. You weren’t seeing; you were looking.

Later, with the ability to freeze time, I can become like a unidirectional God who can see everything–but only from the extremely limited perspective of one point of among billions in the spherical 360 degrees that surround the subject.

My having to freeze time to see all that means that while I was using my now to look at that part of the past, you’d be seeing something happening in the actual present. So you can have now or you can have more, but you can’t have both. Your mind very necessarily needs to filter most of those details so that you can even be a person. The opposite is something like Autism, where filtering is a challenge.

1097-relax-and-succeed-the-present-moment-is-the-only-momentWhat do you see? Amazingly, if you’re in a thinking state of ego you’ll see what your mind is talking about, not what’s there. Remember, you have billions of choices and yet if you’re grumpy all you’ll notice is more things you don’t like. Likewise with things you do like. Your mind sees, not your eyes. Keep your mind clean. Keep it quiet. Let it be present.

In an enlightened state, you can still only have an essentially human perspective. But without the filters of thought you move through the world not through expectation, but rather through noticing. Things occur to you. This is seeing with wisdom. In that state of mind you notice very valuable and pertinent things. Half the time you won’t even know why, but if there were no mysteries for you still to solve what would be the point of living?

In today’s meditation your job is to see, rather than look. Rather than talking to your classmate or coworker or family member as those labels, see them in the present moment. Notice something about them that you have never ever noticed before. If you’re into fashion don’t choose fashion, and likewise for anything else; no optometrists looking at glasses or dentists looking at teeth etc,.

1097-relax-and-succeed-realize-deeply-that-the-presentNotice they have no earlobes, or that their haircut is like another friend’s, or that their eyes are two different colours, or that they’re standing with their weight all on one leg. If you’re in a room, look at the logos for each company carefully for the trademark symbol. See what the pattern is on the actual stitching for the carpet. Take a look at every single icon on your computer desktop.

You’ll likely be terrible at this. You’ll nail it a few times and then forget to truly be present for long chunks of time, and then you’ll realise it and shift back–but that’s okay. During the day, if you’re earnest, you should get better and better. End the day by going into your own bathroom and stare at yourself in the mirror and literally don’t look away until you see something that surprises you. That might take 20 minutes. You’re worth it.

Your mind filters your world. The definition of you is created by the persectives created by those filters. You can’t get past the filters and have a human experience, but you can remember that they’re not reality. And that’s what creates the peace within you. Because you can’t know if anything’s truly good or bad if you’re the only person filtering that particular sliver of reality. Everyone else’s slivers count too. So you can relax your judgments and just be. And that’s perfect, because that state is called peace of mind. Congratulations.

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.

Real Peace Is Not What You Think

1022-relax-and-succeed-i-am-not-what-you-think-i-amYesterday we discussed Decision Fatigue and how it is wearing a lot of people out today, but a lot of people are misunderstanding what their peace has to look like. Making lots of decisions about your life is stressful, yet responding to needs of those we love often has a strange, compelling effortlessness which is representative of the psychological and spiritual peace you’re looking for.

One of the best examples of this is infant parenting. People can find parts of it nerve-wracking as they try to figure out what the right thing to do, but even that is just us dithering between ego choices rather than quieting our mind and calmly trusting our instincts like we’re forced to do in an emergency. It’s also why people working in refugee camps are often calmer and enjoying life more than successful people with nice office jobs. What to do is often so clear, important and obvious that there is no need for but-if thinking.

This is why stay-at-home moms will often have a strange transition as their kids reach more independent ages. Even by 2 or 3 years old they have enough ability to communicate that we begin treating them more like adults and we start heaping expectations on them, which of course they can either satisfy or not satisfy, but that’s where the over-thinking of the mother starts because it theoretically could go differently….

1022 Relax and Succeed - Forget trying to find your path

Strange huh? When the responsibility is shared with the child because they can communicate now things can go well or go poorly because blame is possible. The child can have listened or not have listened, so in a way they can now misbehave for the first time ever. They now have enough control over themselves that the mother can regain her sense of expectation, which in turn spawns a sense of depression.

What happens to all of us in these cases is that we mis-ascribe the source of the pain. The mother will think she’s just lost two years of her life and never thought much about herself. A fireman will wish there weren’t so many candles at Christmas that start fires, or the surgeon will imagine how the surgery might have gone if they’d only known about…. It is the revisiting of these choices that is stressful not the choices themselves, because at the time of making them they often weren’t choices they were simple reactions to life-threatening events. No time to over-think.

So the Mom ends up feeling depressed that she didn’t to have a bath or read a book in the last two years and yet she will often look back on those very years as some of the best of her life. Why? Because she was largely selfless during them. And what is it to have no ego? It is to be selfless; it’s literally to avoid using the mind to create a self than can then think wanting-for-itself thoughts. She didn’t mind not having a life of her own because she had no time to stop and think about it.

1022-relax-and-succeed-there-is-tremendous-happinessSo don’t think you need a quiet hardwood room with tatami mats on the floor, don’t think you need a book or a glass of wine, don’t think you need to be bent into some particular shape; peace can be wherever you go and in whatever you do, but the secret is to make friends with the present moment. It’s not to second-guess what happened, it is a time to be and not to do.

You don’t need emergencies to winnow down your thoughts, you can stop yourself from building them in the first place. Work on focusing your mind rather than creating wanting thoughts and you will find yourself in the same peaceful state of mind shared by a meditating Monk, an athlete in the midst of their best performance, an artist at the height of their creativity, and a parent who is fully mindful of the needs of their child rather than on wants of their own.

Remove your personal thoughts that would compare, judge or want and you are instantly free. The only question is, will you look at your life and actually see that you were at your best when you were forced to trust yourself rather than think, and then having confirmed that; will you be vigilant and practice your mindfulness today?

peace. s

PS This is a companion piece to the post Decision Fatigue.

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.

Wiser Than You Think

970 Relax and Succeed - Walking I am listening in a deeper wayYou’re not on your own you know. Not only would more people help you than you realise (if only you’d ask), but you also have the benefit of all of our ancestors. For millions of years each being has marched in a slightly different direction that gained them unique knowledge and you are no different.

A lot of people remember that we’re 99.9% the same as a Chimp or Bonobo but, as I’ve noted in the past, we’re about 50% the same as a banana! And within us is stored historical information. Wisdom, guidance, instinct. Instincts are just abilities that we have had for so long that we actually feel them without thinking at all. When it comes to basic instincts we’re all born as Bruce Lee.

The difference between people who are comfortable or uncomfortable is simply ego: if they’re using their ability to create words to build an ego then they are focused on that and not on accessing all of their wisdom though nature. They want to find knowledge through the symbolism of words but that’s other people’s wisdom. You’ve got your own wisdom, but you have to quiet that uncertain voice and act instead. You won’t always be right but at least you’ll be in service to your own life a lot more than you are now.

Even if you don’t feel separated from your wisdom right now just remember that it’s always there whether you notice it or not. When it’s there it feels like comfort more than confidence. Other people would just it as confident but when there’s no voice between you and your greater self then you feel that as an internal sense of contentedness.

As an example, we’ve been approaching, greeting and getting to know others ever since nature got mobile and yet a shy person can interrupt all of that wisdom by simply wondering to themselves what the right thing to do might be. Even a banana has a seed and can make another banana and yet despite all of that knowledge a modern new Mom isn’t excited to bring life into the world like she would be in the jungle or the high north. In the city the woman thinks she won’t know what to do and she’s afraid of the pain as though she’s the first person to ever experience it. She does not trust herself that the biggest aspects of her being has been there before.

We all do this all day long. We think uncertain thoughts and we mistake that layer of thought as intelligence and planning when that’s just what we’ve been brainwashed to think it is. In turn that means that when things go wrong we don’t think we over-thought it or that our plan was futile with so many unknown variables–no, when things go wrong you’ll think you didn’t think it through enough.

970 Relax and Succeed - Don't believe everything you thinkThought is a disease. The only reason it has any validity is because we all keep referencing the same symbols as though they are things. The Gross Domestic Product of a nation or your productivity numbers at work are not your life, they are measurements of a few of the results that stem from you living. But those are only in exist in relation to themselves. If your productivity at work is 4.8 but you have no idea what anyone else’s is, then you’re just working however hard you’re working that day. You need to compare scores before you can describe yourself as successful whereas with direct, non-thought-based living you live the success. It’s what you do.

If you’re feeling lost or unwise you’re just putting a lot of thinking between you and your wisdom. Over time and no matter what, pure living will help you hone this skill. As you age you will increasingly see through the smoke and mirrors that make up modern life. What will bother you won’t be that you were tricked–it’ll be all the living you surrendered for a mirage. There is no way to get the time back.

Forget worry. There’s no prize for being timid. You snooze you lose. Life is there for any who choose to live it fearlessly but that effort requires you to act. If you do that without reservation you will have access to the collective knowledge of the billions that live within you. That still might not be enough if you’re adding to our collective wisdom by forging new territory, but it’s still a lot better than sitting all alone talking to yourself.

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.