Wishes Redux

143 Relax and Succeed - Sometimes you can't see

Amy hates her curly hair. She wishes she had long, dark, straight hair like Bonnie’s. Bonnie hates how fat her legs are. She wishes she had legs like Caroline’s. Caroline hates her knees. She wishes she could run like her brother Dean. But Dean hates running now. He wishes Evan, his recently deceased friend, was still around to run with him.

Evan didn’t like running with Dean because it made him look even shorter than he already was. He always wished he was really tall, like Fez. But Fez hates his height. He loves Gurpreet, but she loves a well dressed man, and it’s hard to get clothes that fit a guy that tall. But Gurpreet hates her addiction to fashion. It makes her a slave to her job. She wishes she had the freedom of her friend Henry.

Henry’s a self-employed writer, but he hates that because he has no health care plan. He wishes his brother was a dentist so he could get free care like his friend Isaac gets. But Isaac hates having a brother who’s a dentist. His parents are always wishing he would do as well as Jacob. But Jacob is divorced and rich, so he can never trust any of the women he dates. He wishes his life was like Kevin’s. Kevin got married at 18 to his high school sweetheart. But part of Kevin has always wished he’d played the field like his friend Larry.

143 Relax and Succeed - Stop comparing

Larry got a few girls pregnant and it’s ruined his financial life. He wishes he would have inherited a lot money like his friend Mary. But Mary hates her life. Her father was a tough, ruthless businessman, which made him a tough, ruthless father. She wishes she had a Dad like Nathan. But Nathan has never been able to tell his dad that he’s gay. He wishes he had the freedom that his openly gay friend Orlando has. But Orlando hates being gay because sometimes it just feels like everyone hates him for no good reason.

Orlando wishes his life was like his comedienne friend, Patti. She gets to stand in front of an appreciative audience every night. But Patti hates going on stage. She so nervous she’s usually sick to her stomach. She wishes she was like Quan. He can stay calm no matter what. But Quan hates being a comic. Being on the road all the time is what lead to his painkiller addiction. He wishes he was still a healthy young man like Ron.

Ron doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life. He wishes he was like Stephen, where he’s already well on his way to a good pension. But Stephen hates how safe a life he’s lead. He wishes his life was more exciting, like Terry’s. But Terry’s addiction to adventure has cost him a marriage to a woman he loved. But his ex-wife Ursula doesn’t feel loveable at all since she put on all that weight after the divorce.

143 Relax and Succeed - We are all in long-term

Ursula wishes she was skinny like Velma. But Velma hates her bulimia. She wishes she ate healthier, like her friend Wayne. But Wayne hates himself because he lies to his friends about how good his diet is. He wishes he had the humility of Xavier. But Xavier hates that he can’t advocate for himself at work so he never gets a raise. He wishes he was more like Yan, who is paid extremely well. But Yan hates that pay because what goes with it is lots of responsibility. He wishes he had a life like Zara. She’s an artist that works from home, but she also has cancer. And she would give anything to have hair like Amy’s.

Do you get it? Are you enjoying your life, or are you wishing for a better one? Because you can live, or you can wish. Which one do you do? Because that crazy chain of people pretty much represents what every ego does, all day long. Egos always want something other than what they are or have. And there is no way to feel good when you’re in a state of wanting. You need to start appreciating what you already are. That’s how you create a worthwhile life.

Listen to yourself. Stop wanting things you’re not. Start celebrating what you are. It’s not wrong, it’s not silly, and it’s not meaningless. You are uniquely you. You bring things to the universe that which no one else could bring. Literally. Without you the universe is missing something. So stop worrying about what’s missing from you, and start appreciating your own value. Because it’s a lot easier for other people to do that if you do it first.

Respect yourself. Love your own life. And live that love into a beautiful day. 😉

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.

Spiritual Lessons From Sport

Even for non-sports fans, sports offers excellent examples of how people behave when they’re functioning from an enlightened perspective. The lesson I’ll present today surrounds my own city, Edmonton, Canada, and our hockey team, The Edmonton Oilers.

The context is that Edmonton got an NHL team at the end of the 70’s and within only five years that team began a run of 5 Stanley Cups. Frankly, it created very high expectations that have since proven quite painful. With one almost accidental exception, the team has floundered at the bottom of the entire league for twenty years.

The contrast between the two team histories had made Edmonton hockey fans a somber bunch. There wasn’t much to rally good thoughts around. Recently, into the vacuum created by seasons of finishing last, came a once-a-generation elite draft pick and a brilliant new coach and GM and the nicest arena in sports. Suddenly the team has gone from vastly underachieving to significantly overachieving.

An important part of the lesson is that normal is defined by whatever you’ve gotten used to. For a generation of Oilers fans losing was normal, so winning stood out like a sore thumb. It was sure easier to enjoy. If your team is dominant–as Edmonton was in the 80’s–then you couldn’t help but half-expect to win. And that is a recipe for disaster.

When you expect wins and they don’t come it’s painful. Likewise, expecting losses and getting wins feels especially good. Fortunately, that phenom player really is as good as they said he was, and so are the coach and GM, so in short order orange jerseys and t-shirts were selling like crazy to very, very happy fans who were suddenly forming more of an actual identity around the team, (now that the team finally had one).

Here’s another important part of the lesson: most people started off the year excited by the fact that we might make the playoffs for the first time in eleven years. And then boom. We beat the really good team we’re up against and we’re in the second round of the playoffs. It was Oilermania in Edmonton. Suddenly this previous source of anger and frustration and sadness has people feeling awesome, and how awesome depended entirely on all of that anger and frustration and sadness.

At public screenings of the game total strangers embraced after goals. They are now a family of fans. For good luck, there is now a First Nations drum circle done by Oiler fans prior to every game. I have witnessed people I know to have racist feelings about Natives, showing support for the Native drum circle. Stop and think about what’s happening in that person’s mind.

A guy has a very dim view of First Nations Canadians. This is innocently because of the part of the province he grew up in and some early programming from his parents, plus some unfortunate early experiences. So he’s always felt entirely justified. If he sees one of these guys as a Native then he’ll take a dim view of the very same person he will embrace if the guy’s beating a drum at an Oiler game! Think about that. The Native guy has multiple identities within the mind of the racist fan. And that racist opinion is so thin that it can be burst by an orange jersey. This is real bridge-building between cultures.

Even non-hockey fans got into these playoffs. They weren’t joining in the love of hockey. They were joining in on that wave of positive civic feelings. And why not? Why not make choices that help you feel connected and good? That’s how healthy, connected people do it. Once everyone was in a healthy state of mind, when the team finally lost something very interesting happened.

People think they’re not being successfully spiritual if they don’t dispel their expectations. It’s true, that’s a path to the path. But as I always say, you can’t have path without not-path, so that “wrong part” is actually equally important to your spirituality, hence yin and yang and the acceptance of suffering that the Eastern philosophies suggest. So yes, dispel your expectations, but don’t think you’re “outside” of spirituality if you have them. As long as you accept the teeter totter you’re on, you do get to trade your expectations for intense experiences.

In the end what happened was that everyone would have been happy if the team just made the playoffs at all, so this year everyone felt that the team had exceeded expectations. They were able to trade those exceeded expectations for very little pain when the team finally did lose in the third period of game seven of round two.

Yes, many fans were disappointed in that seventh game, many said so when interviewed. But to a person, they also said that it had been a wonderful year, they were proud of their team, proud to be a part of the fanbase, they’d made many friends and they lived in excited anticipation of next year. That is wonderful! They became voluntarily part of a family. They fell in love with the team and each other, and they’re hopeful. And for this year, they are literally happy about losing.

Of course, all of this will set up our expectations, so if we don’t make the playoffs next year people will be especially disappointed. I won’t have that expectation, just anticipation. So I’ll avoid the roller coaster. But I might join it for the playoffs, voluntarily. Why? Because it’s fun. And because, when it comes to true spirituality, even when you’re out you’re in. This is the yin and yang of life that we all must accept before we can live in peace. Here’s hoping this lesson helps you understand how that state of mind works. Have a great weekend 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.

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.

The Caged Bird

986-relax-and-succeed-when-a-caged-bird-singsThis is one of those quotes that can feel nonsensical at first; as though it means nothing at all. The truth is, it’s a story about the incompatible brain states of happiness and comparison. These sorts of clever sayings can provide a great deal of learning but they are so ubiquitous they are now seen more as declarations than learning tools.

In this case we must ask the question, what transpires? A caged bird sings, other birds gather and the caged bird ends up experiencing longing. Again we ask, why does the caged bird sing? Because it has a song in its heart. It is its nature. And why do the other birds gather? They are attracted by the song. So then why does the singing bird end up feeling tortured?

We as humans outside the cage know the bird’s original nature was outside and in a flock, but if the bird has lived in the cage for so long that it is now that bird’s known and comfortable home then it has no desires for great flights of distance or a sharing of life with a large flock of other birds. It knows its owners and its feeding schedule and how to entertain itself where it is. And yet it does not entirely lose its nature, the bird still sings.

When the other birds show up the bird can now recognise his own bars. It can now see a limitation that did not live as a possibility within the bird’s mind before birds existed outside the bars. Now the bird can compare its formerly happy existence to another existence it knows little about other than it includes more birds. That desire for the fresh and new is where the sensation of longing is formed. Previous to that the bird was happy because it had no desires and the same is true for all of us.

986-relax-and-succeed-if-you-think-that-peaceThere is no point in chasing happiness. It is not somewhere else, it is not doing something else and it is not someone else. Happiness is a way of seeing things. You do it all the time but it’s such a clear-headed state that you don’t actually note what you’re doing. If you did you’d see that when you feel great you aren’t using your thoughts to create a you that is separate from something or someone desired, you’re just being-doing. You are a human being in motion. Suffering is when we forgo that to wish instead.

Go inside. Use these quotes to shape your meditations. What are your desires? What is your flock? Were you in a boring but decent marriage until you met someone else? Did you see someone’s renovation and want one of your own? Or how about if your friends roll around in their new car? It is the comparison that creates the desire which leads to the suffering. It’s why the Buddha said, “There is no fear for one whose mind is not filled with desires.”

Think back to when one of your cages was built and ask how and why that happened. What’s been brought to your attention that wasn’t a problem before you knew about it but now it is? Can you see that your life hadn’t changed only your idea of it had? Can you see that the difference in your ideas was that you suddenly felt separate from happiness? Suddenly you felt your happiness was created by something outside of yourself. Study that source of suffering closely and I guarantee you will have begun a very useful meditation.

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.

Special Notice

715 Relax and Succeed -Keep goingToday there would normally be a Friday Dose here, but this week we’re doing something a little different. More than a little different. Today is a big day for me. I’ve got a special surprise for you too, but let’s save that for the end. I have to tell you a few things first.

Several people wrote to me at the end of 2014 asking me why my listing of your favourite blogs didn’t also include my favourites of 2014, which I had historically done. The reason was; I was saving them for now.

The two weeks when most Canadian kids get out of school is historically the blog’s slowest period. During that time I’ll be implementing some changes to the website and blog to improve both its performance and content. While I’m doing that, you’ll be treated to what I personally feel are the strongest and deepest examples of my work.

715 Relax and Succeed - Nature does not hurryBecause I did a six month period where I answered reader’s questions, I will divide the two weeks up into the section with my favourite traditional blogs, as well as a week of my favourites from the question and answer section of the year.

Because you’re all used to me leaving you with some form of powerful mental distractions on Fridays, I am still leaving the following video below. I’ve posted it before but it was included with several others and many of you felt it deserved its own day. Many of your described as the kick in the pants you really needed.

This is one of the harshest approaches to happiness I’ve seen, but the bottom line is that what it says is true, and many of you found it worked. So for those of you who would benefit from such a spiritual kick, I offer you this:

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Now have yourself an awesome couple of weeks reading what I feel is my very best work. Thanks everyone!

peace and love to all, scott