Conditional vs Unconditional Love

What’s the difference between a partner looking at you with conditional versus unconditional love? It’s all the difference in the world. It’s the difference between someone who wants to guide you to look like something that will adorn them, versus someone who thinks you are gorgeous the way you already are. You don’t want someone who thinks you look great because you’re all decked out for some important event. You want someone who thinks 638 Relax and Succeed - You can't really rely on how you lookyou’re the most gorgeous thing on the planet because you’re the mother of their beloved children—that whole new people that were created by your intense attraction to one another. It’s a totally different thing and you can look like anything and be from anywhere and have unconditional love happen to you.

Below are two examples. The first is common and was easy for me to create. The second is concocted from an amalgamation of things that either happened to couples I know or they’re things that couples have told me about in their process with me. But everything in each example is actually something that I’ve either witnessed or it’s something that someone told me they’ve experienced or done. So if you’re in the first group and want to be in the second, know that there are people walking all around you who have achieved that status, and if you stop looking at all of the people that conform to advertising standards you’ll end up seeing a lot of the people who have found true, unconditional love.

Conditional Love

He looked carefully at each of the ladies there and yes, there were some extremely impressive figures moving about the room but in comparing them he felt his fiance was indeed the most beautiful there that night. She was waiting on the other side of the theatre lobby for him 638 Relax and Succeed - Never chase lovewhen their eyes met. When he looked at her his eyes snaked up her body, starting at her shiny super-high spiked heels, on past the long straight and narrow legs that her diet and daily jogging had helped to maintain.

He motioned for her to twirl in the dress he’d chosen for her and she did, and that twirl showed off that ass she worked so hard on every day. Her stomach was perfectly anorexia-flat and yet gave way to large, perfectly placed, absolutely identical breasts that cooperated perfectly to create substantial cleavage that she further used makeup to enhance. She wore the very large and prominent diamond he gave her on her left hand, the matching earrings dangled from her delicate ears like neon signs pointing at his wealth. She was relived about the earrings. He had always told her the story about how he had broken up with his first girlfriend because of the weird shape of her ears. He used to tease her all time time about them but she never wore hairstyles that covered them, which embarrassed him. His fiance was another story. Her ears were perfect little Disney Princess ears, drawn as a perfect set by the universe. Her voice was 638 Relax and Succeed - Real love beginsbeautiful, her jawline sharp and very sexy.

Her father was a wealthy dentist and every single tooth was a perfectly shaped electric-white chiclet. She smiled, knowing he approved of her extremely provocative dress. He liked to show her off and that made him feel good. Her high cheekbones and perfectly shaped, symmetrical eyes looked back at him, pleased that he liked how she looked. She’d just changed her hair to style he’d asked her to switch to and it made her happy that it turned out the way he wanted. For his part, he took her all in and felt as though every other man in the room must be incredibly jealous of him for having such a Playboy-bunny girlfriend. He walked up to her, pushed a bit of hair off her face, smiled and he lead her back into the darkness of the theatre.

Unconditional Love

They were on opposite sides of the theatre lobby. She was waiting in a line to get them wine and he was in another to get her something to eat. The moment their eyes met the whole 638 Relax and Succeed - One big universeroom disappeared for him. That always happened as he fell into her beauty. Her smile lit up a room, and she had such a warm and gentle spirit that she made everyone around her comfortable. Whenever he looked at her he could see the faces of their beloved children, each who had emerged not out of a plan, but directly out of love. She was the only woman he had ever slept with where he felt his love was so intense, so massive, that his orgasms would need to create an entirely new human being just to contain the amount of love he felt.

Despite her colourful and artful attire, on her finger was a plain old rubber O-ring—a match for the engagement ring she had given him one day when she spontaneously proposed to him in the aisle of a hardware store. Every time he looked at her smile his heart leaped. His eyes welled with tears as he tried to contain how much he loved her. How her skin seemed to glow from within, and how it was oddly magnetic. He couldn’t stop himself from touching it. When they made love he wiggled and worked to position himself as though his goal was to get as many molecules as possible of him to touch as many molecules as possible of her. He wanted to be near her cells. He wanted to embrace her so deeply that the border between them would melt and waver in that beautiful way that always 638 Relax and Succeed - The greatest complimenttook her breath away. He loved how in bed he could snuggle behind her and reach around and his hand would fit perfectly around the wrinkly roll of post-pregnancy skin on her belly. He loved how it allowed for even more molecules of him to touch even more molecules of her.

He loved how she smelled, how she tasted and it was as though Mozart has written a lullaby based on her breathing. She enchanted him. She had taught him so much and she had always brought out the best in him. Just her smile alone would have him basking in how fortunate he felt to be with her. And whenever he was, it was as though there was no one else in the room. And every woman in the room who saw him looking at her thought to herself, “if only a man looked at me like that…” And as everyone headed back into the theatre for the start of the second act, instead he turned to her and said, “The play’s fantastic I know. But would you mind if we skipped the second act? I’d really rather just be with you.” And together they walked out of the theatre and off into the darkness, together, with the hopes and wishes of every other woman there trailing off behind them.

*

638 Relax and Succeed - Find someone who knows that you're not perfectWhat kind of relationship does your partner want? What kind of relationship do you foster with your words and behaviour? You can pose for the world with an ego-based relationship, or you can dive deeply into the world of unconditional love. It’s really only a matter of which search you enact with the way you live your life.

For your sake I hope you get to feel the intense approval and acceptance that goes with unconditional love. It is a wonderful environment in which to thrive. At the very least I hope you will join me in creating for yourself a life in which your qualities are being acknowledged regularly, even if that’s the unconditional self-love that we should all be giving ourselves. Be kind to you and you will model the behaviour for others. If we all lower our ego-expectations it becomes much easier to see that there is a large number of people with whom we can meaningfully connect. Here’s to you creating more of those sorts of connections in your life.

With love, s

The March Kindness Challenge

I know there’s normally an Other Perspectives on Monday but it’s the start of a month and while I kicked this off on the weekend, I wanted to give it an official start on the 631 Relax and Succeed - Yesterday I was cleverfirst workday of the month. Welcome to Relax and Succeed‘s March Kindness Challenge.

The readers that turn my work into verbs always do best. They’re not philosophically bantering ideas around, they’re looking for routes through the confusion. And so they very practically do what I suggest and then they write to me about the wonderful benefits that accrue when we make happiness a priority, and when we really do try to see that life is lived inside out, not outside in.

So what’s our verb for March? We have to stop trying to Succeed and we have to start Relaxing. We have to see the victory not as winning the game, but playing it at all. We must learn that our internal experience is the only life we’ll ever know, and so we’re far better off to be tuning that. And by tuning into kindness we guarantee ourselves a day filled with joy.

So: I know it’s a habit that will be hard to break at first. But that’s why we’re doing it. To make that barrier lower and lower until it’s not there at all. So 31 days (and if you start today, only 29!). 31 measly days. No negative comments about your appearance, your schedule, your children or parents, your spouse or lack of one, your job, boss or co-workers, your social life, your friends, other drivers, the weather, your health, your 631 Relax and Succeed - Sorry for the inconveniencehabits, your past…. none of it. No using words in your imagination to tell yourself a story about how disappointing any of those things are.

Yes, you’ll screw up. Yes your habits will—especially at the start—wreak havoc on your plans for positivism. You’ll catch yourself half an hour into a rant. But that does not mean you have failed that means you have succeeded. Because you noticed. This is not something you’ve historically paid attention to—and that’s entirely my point. Because if you did pay attention to it your life would instantly and easily be much better. Because what a surprise—when you actually prioritize happiness it turns out it’s not that hard to get.

So to make it easier to not slip back into bad habits,  instead you should be invested in paying more attention than ever to the good things in life. Focus on what’s in your consciousness. You want fewer criticisms, judgments, or complaints. Those are just crappy ways of asking for something when it would be better to just ask. Criticisms, judgments and complaints suck for you to think. They’re not nice-feeling thoughts for the thinker. But being openly aware feels good right away. And if you direct it with the 631 Relax and Succeed - People from a planet without flowersintention of noticing all that is beautiful about the world you will quickly come to see that a lot of this great big world is absolutely awesome and if you don’t believe me then you haven’t been paying enough attention.

Start noticing the daily kindnesses in this world. Start paying a lot of attention to how good people are to each other. Why would we have built a world where there’s a saying to good to be true but not one that’s too bad to be true? I’m happier than all of you and I’m likely dumber and poorer and more isolated, and for the last several weeks I’ve been in intense pain, but still I’m happier than virtually all of you. Why? Because I love being in pain and I love being over-booked because my friends need me? No, because that reminds me that I’m hardly ever in pain and that I have a lot of great friends that inspire me to help them with their goodness. The choice is mine how I see that. But I have to get serious about changing the way that I make that choice. It has to become conscious if I want it to work. I can’t go into a restaurant and blindly pick any meal/experience off the menu and expect to like it. I at least have to advocate enough for my own life that I’ll show enough involvement to actually look at the menu of thought choices and choose something that I think I at least have a hope of enjoying.

631 Relax and Succeed - The March Kindness ChallengeOkay, send this to your friends and get them on board too. Print off the March Kindness Challenge photo and put it up at work, or on your fridge or at your school. And do this seriously. Make your happiness something you actually prioritize. So if you hear a friend running someone else or their life or themselves down—stop them. Remind them that you think they’re amazing and that’s why you’re their friend, and that when they insult themselves they’re also insulting your good taste. Stop gossiping and start talking about how great everyone is. Start talking about the best thing you’ve seen someone do instead of the dumbest thing.

This isn’t rocket science. Think a nice thought, get a nice feeling. But that doesn’t happen by accident. And it doesn’t happen by coming here and reading this blog or taking my classes or meeting with me. I don’t change people they change themselves. Can I guide them? Yes I can and have and it works. But so will the March Kindness Challenge. Just do it.

No more critical, angry, sad, worried or judgmental thoughts about your life or the people and things in it. Instead, for March you’re going to sincerely dedicate yourself to being even kinder, more generous, and more patient and compassionate than you have been. Less time judging what you don’t like and more time noticing what you do like. Share your appreciations. Tell people you think they handled a situation well. Tell them you think they look great or that you’ve always liked their voice. Tell them. You love when you hear it so say it too. Say nice things to everyone.

631 Relax and Succeed - People tend to think thatThis really can make a huge difference. In a blog called Mission: Better World #1 I figured out that if just North Americans alone gave one more compliment per day than they do, that we would increase the total number of world compliments by 131 billion every year. And that’s just one small place. Imagine if the whole world was kind most of the day!?

Make a difference first to yourself and then to those around you. But get on board. Put up Post-It notes to remind you. Get your friends on board. Copy the March Kindness Challenge photo or go to the Relax and Succeed facebook page and share the challenge out of the Social Change photo album. Get as many people on board as you can. But stay on it yourself and you will change yourself. And, as Gandhi said, by changing yourself you will have changed the world as well.

I look forward to seeing your smile out there in the great big beautiful world. Until then, you have yourself the very best March ever. I love you.

peace. s

PS Don’t forget to share this!

Life Lessons

If you read me regularly you know I often point out that an enjoyable life comes from the simple act of appreciation, and yet so few people ever bother to really turn that into a daily verb. They’ll say they want a better life and that they want to be more spiritual, but then they’ll promptly use all their free time to compare themselves with people they perceive as even more fortunate, but they won’t do it with the many billions more who are less fortunate. Why pursue wanting thoughts instead of appreciative thoughts when the former hurt and the 628 Relax and Succeed - The more I understand the mindlatter feel wonderful? That’s a question you really should be asking yourself.

I live in Alberta. This is a place that, for the time being, a nineteen year old kid can make $120,000 a year as a welder and he’ll still complain about it. And because everyone knows so many people like that, people where I live don’t realize that they are among the richest people on Earth. When I recently asked several locals how much they thought you needed to earn to be in the top 1% of global earners, I got guesses like 20 million and low guesses were about 2 million. The real answer (on that day) was $56,400. Most of the people I talked to were double that number and you could see their minds try to adjust their place in the world to this sliver of people at the top. Suddenly they realized that what they thought the world was—that was just the top 1%. They thought they were struggling and so they imagined themselves at somewhere in the bottom half of worldwide earners. They thought they were in the bottom half when they were actually in the top 1%. Do you see how your thinking can steal your joy?

I want you to take a moment to actually appreciate where you really are. It’s my hero’s birthday today (the day I’m writing this). My Dad already had grey hair when I was born, so we have a fascinating spread between us. He was born before the Great Depression on a rural farm in Scotland. He was the youngest of eight children and he was born before the 628 Relax and Succeed - No we don't always get what we wantavailability of antibiotics so he was lucky to have survived Scarlet Fever as a kid. He’s a clever guy but he only had the chance to go to grade eight, and by seventeen years old he was lying about his age so that he could follow his brothers and sisters into service in World War II.

Before the war Dad was pushing a plow behind a horse, and then he helped to cut the wheat with a scythe and they stacked it by pitch fork. Eight kids starts to make sense doesn’t it? Had I been a farmer in my era, I would do all of that “work” with one machine, in my sleep, while a movie was on in the cab of my self-driving GPS-controlled combine. To say life is easier doesn’t even get close to capturing the level of difference. And that’s my Dad and I’m right on the Gen X border. That’s one generation to me. Just a bit ahead of him and there’s no cars, electricity or even running water.

Take a moment to think about that. What my Dad would take a day of super hard work to do I could probably do quite casually in under 10 seconds. I worked alongside my Dad for a long time. My dad could work hard. And he might have only had grade eight but give him two thimbles, some twine and a fish hook and he’ll build you a part that will get your car to the next town for the real repairs. My friends and I couldn’t build a house, fix a car, repair an electrical motor, hunt an animal, clean a fish, do enough math and bookkeeping—by hand—to run a small business, and we certainly couldn’t deliver a baby cow. Our dads were either in the war or they lost their dad in the war—whether that father came home or not. No vaccines, 628 Relax and Succeed - Some people feel the rainpenicillin was barely invented, they all lost siblings to bombs and bullets and various diseases that we no longer fear. That was normal.

Parents expected to lose a kid along the way. Just think about that. Today that would be headline news and possibly cause the parent to stop living their life. Back then it would have been seen as unfortunate but it couldn’t stop you. You still had another seven or more kids to look after back when a washing machine looked like a single piece of corrugated metal. Can you imagine having today’s attitudes about housework when washing clothes meant grinding eight kids clothes against a rough surface for several hours in water that was heated in a kettle hung over a wood stove that you cut the wood for? Think about that next time you spin the dial for an extra rinse. I do and I still appreciate my washing machine every single time I use it.

It was just through proximity not wisdom that I knew how tough our parents were. The first white person to climb Mount Everest only died in 2008 and he did that climb in leather and wool. Life got much easier during my lifetime and it’s no younger person’s fault that they 628 Relax and Succeed - Life is a series of thousandsdon’t immediately consider how challenging something might have been even shortly before they were born. People had higher levels of acceptance and appreciation because it was easy to see how much tougher it had recently been.

There were no homes for older people so a lot of families had grandparents living with them so you heard stories. And people still visited farms where you went back in time a bit. You’d see outhouses and kerosene lamps still being used every day. But now I know tons of young people whose grandparents are in a special home they visit for an hour every few months. They have never been to a farm and their parents both have desk jobs on computers and so to them their parents life doesn’t look a lot different than theirs. Not very many kids today get to see what I did when I looked at my Dad. By 17 my Dad was in WWII, and both my parents families lost members in the war and to the war. What an insult it would have been to say to my dad that my safe, easy car-riding life was too hard.

People squander their own happiness. They use their ability to think to want—to compare themselves to others even more fortunate. So the 1%er ends up spending half their day using their thoughts to envy someone in the .0001%??? Does that sound wise to you? Or could all the suffering you’re complaining about be coming from that?

628 Relax and Succeed - Gratitude changes everythingMeditation is consideration. Siddhartha sat under a tree asking himself where suffering comes from and 49 days later he’s the first Buddha. You can do likewise, but instead of using your thinking to negatively compare yourself, instead use it to appreciate how fortune you are. Because if I’m having trouble completely quieting my thinking for whatever reason, I’ll just shift to leading my thoughts toward considering what my day would have looked like for my parents, or even more extremely, for my grandmother. Hitching a horse, riding to town, blah blah. But one minute in I realize my “bad, slow day” is actually accomplishing more in a half hour than my grandmother could have even hoped to do all day, and I would have been safer, warmer, and far more comfortable. And that awareness makes me grateful, and if you’re feeling grateful then you’re okay. It’s as easy as that.

You have a lot to be grateful for. So go create yourself a great day by investing your consciousness in things that are easy to appreciate. Trust me. They’re always there.

peace. s

The Comforts of Home

You’re pretty hard on yourself. You imagine everyone is watching your life like a personal performance and you want to make sure they’re all taken care of. You want to keep them entertained and happy. You want them to like you. In these clawing, depleting motions you crawl away from your own being so that you can put on a performance for them.

623 Relax and Succeed - I can't tell you the key to successWho’s them? Wow. There’s your parents. Siblings if you have them. Then enemies. Schoolmates and facebook friends. There’s even the them that is suggested to you by advertising. They lead you to believe that everyone’s just watching you for mistakes. Well I can tell you they aren’t. Because people like me don’t care about your mistakes and the remaining 97% of people aren’t looking at you because their ego is making them do the same thing you are! They’re sitting in their life thinking worried thoughts about what you think of them.

People think I’m kidding, but even school bullies are just being proactive about their fears. Rather than figure out how to face a challenge they try to intimidate everyone to the point that no one ever challenges them. It’s easy to win battles you never have to fight. Likewise, girls with fragile spirits will tease others to protect themselves.

People’s background motivations are easier to spot than you might think. But to be aware in that way you do have to have a quiet mind. You cannot be busy building narratives about your opinions or views of what’s going on. You can’t even be with them in a dress that is green because even that is too much of your opinion dividing up the whole. Just be open and aware with no expectations. Have faith in your ability to understand. Because that is the only way to spot the person beneath the performance.

Seriously. You can always go back to living the old way if this doesn’t work. But just take one day and dedicate it to this one shift: instead of talking about how you look bad or how you wished you looked differently, focus on others. As you watch them walk by the food court or whatever, just try to look at them and imagine what they beat themselves up for in the mirror every morning.

623 Relax and Succeed - When we cultivate true love of selfIs it their looks? The balding head or expanding belly? Is it their shoes? Or that 5 year old blouse? Or maybe it’s their dark roots, or what they’re ordering for lunch. Maybe it’s their kids, or that they can’t quit smoking. Maybe they feel trapped in a job where they don’t feel respected, or that they haven’t felt beautiful or loved in years. There’s a lot of things written on people’s faces that are worthy of compassion if you’d only stop assuming that everything is about you. Because every expression you have ever seen is a product of that person’s thoughts about their life and therefore their “reality.” And rarely does it have anything to do with you. And all too rarely does it feel any better than yours.

Spend some time meditating on why you do virtually everything you do. Really meditate on the reasoning behind every action of your life. You might be surprised at how often you come to the conclusion that your own actions were only undertaken because you hadn’t inspected them closely for value. Because way too much of your life is dedicated to building or maintaining an image, and not enough is being invested in living a real life.

Stop dancing for us. Stop being who you think will be acceptable to us. Sure there will be people that will judge the real you as well. But there’s people judging you now, but you don’t get the joy of fulfilling your role as the real you. You don’t owe us anything. But the world would be better if your life was joyful. So stop worrying about what anyone else is thinking and instead open your awareness and simply take in the many reasons to be joyful. Because that state of mind is ultimately your home.

peace. s

Prioritizing Happiness

You spend a lot of time managing the your time, your money and your possessions. The roads are bad, so you’d better leave early for work or you’ll get in trouble, you need to get on line and transfer the money for those bills due today, and you have to call to make that appointment to get your car in for service. Fair enough. Modern life has many aspects that 612 Relax and Succeed - Sure sign of spiritual grownneed managing. But how much time do you spend on your happiness? How much time to you dedicate to managing that?

A lot of people will tick off the box for I have a spiritual life because they do things like argue against positive social media postings about specific religions, or maybe they’re more open minded, but they still won’t know much more than what they don’t believe. They’ll post philosophical quotes that have meaning to their ego-life during a time of crisis or recovery, but very few people continue to seek answers when they’re not in a state of despair. The idea isn’t that we whip out enlightenment when we need it. It must be a way of life. A way of more profoundly enjoying good times as well as a form of solace for when we’re traversing difficult terrain.

Strangely enough, good spiritual practice looks a lot like an optimist who’s objective is to wring as much enjoyment out of each day as possible. Like some painter on a giant canvass of life, we all crawl through our lives, painting whatever feelings we’re having at the time. And while many people paint ugly worries or regrets about how poorly they think they’re finished painting will be, a healthy person simply focuses on the brush stroke they’re on. And sure enough, if enough of those individual strokes are made with love and appreciation, it turns out that also results in the most beautiful paintings. But those are for the guests at your funeral. It’s the act of painting that is your life, so make sure you’re choosing paints you like the colours of, and use brushes that are comfortable, and then follow your heart because why one Earth would you ever assume that it wouldn’t be a good idea to do so?

612 Relax and Succeed - The greatest discovery of my generationIt is the nature of painting that we should all hit times where we are given pause, and at those times we may look back and be startled to see how much ground we’ve covered and how much our painting has developed. And inspired by that progress, we’re often ready again to put our heads into the present moment and continue to create an enjoyable life one brush stroke at a time. Because what counts isn’t the noun-painting, it’s the verb-painting.

Stop worrying about what other people think of your art. It’s a waste of time because they’re doing exactly the same thing you’re doing. They’re worried about what you think of their painting. That’s what egos do. They compare. Your spirit though… your spirit just wants to paint because it knows there is no going wrong because there is no judge of canvasses. There is only the paint, the canvass, you, and the opportunity to create a life. Don’t waste it painting ugly strokes. The choice is always yours. Avoid want. Paint with appreciation and you are guaranteed a beautiful result.

Now go make your life into a work of art. There’s nothing stopping you. 😉

peace. s

FOMO

It’s a relatively new acronym. We didn’t need an acronym before because this fear was so rare. You might experience it a couple or few times a year, whereas now you can experience it many times in an hour. Most social networking has inadvertently become primarily about activating that fear: the fear of missing out.

100 years ago you might have felt this if you had to leave for university knowing that your brother was coming back from the war, or that the horse and carriage that you were riding on couldn’t hope to make it home in time for your sister’s birth. But today you can experience this feeling minute by minute just by watching social media. You can be told about all of the amazing places you aren’t seeing, or the amazing meals you’ll never cook. You’ll see the exercise results you’ll never achieve, you’ll see the parties and events 594 Relax and Succeed - We waste so many daysand concerts you didn’t go to, the clothes you can’t afford—you’ll see all the choices you didn’t/couldn’t/wouldn’t make.

The point is, you’ll be able to compare. It’s like internet dating: it’s easy to think of a relationship as disposable if you know there are websites with literal lists of other potential choices. But of course Barry Schwartz has studied choice (Barry Schwartz: The Paradox of Choice) and what we learned was that more choice simply translates to more chances for you to be wrong and disappointed. So despite what retailers tell you, more choice does not make you happier it makes you sadder. And the same goes for choices regarding what to do with your most precious commodity, time. Too much choice can freeze us with confusion. Brains aren’t wired up to be able to track the myriad of choices and decisions that need to be made each and every day in today’s world.

So how does this translate to life? Here’s how a lot of 1st world people’s lives go today: starting around lunch or after work, people start watching the various emails and newsfeeds on their phones to help them decide what to choose to do that night or on the weekend. Of course, they might have already committed to an event two weeks ago via social networking, but the very nature of social networking means that even if something is scheduled, you’ll still compare it to what options have shown up since you made the “commitment.” The problem is that these choices just keep scrolling by much like our life will if we’re not careful. Because what a lot of people are telling me today is that they’ll get home and waffle between choices until it’s somewhere between 9:00 and 11:00pm and then they feel it’s too late to start 594 Relax and Succeed - Exist to be happyanything and so they end up doing nothing. Ironically social networking has inadvertently made everyone far less social.

Of course what you’re seeing on social networking isn’t what’s actually going on. Because most people aren’t really telling you what’s really going on. There’s no more ego-based world that social networking. Most people are just struggling to post lives that look as impressive as their friends’ appear to be. And so all unflattering but honest photos are untagged and any remaining photos will all be from what you perceive as your good side so we essentially get to see the same photo over and over and over. Plus any unflattering remarks or statements are deleted or edited or blocked. All weakness is hidden unless we actually want people to feel sorry for us, in which case the feeds will be subconscious solicitations for sympathy masquerading as love. But that’s the last resort, so most of what we’re seeing are social lies that are attempting to position people for Andy Warhol’s famous 15 minutes of fame, albeit often only within our own social circle.

Social networking can be very useful and I’m happy to use it effectively to achieve positive ends. But if I didn’t have to be on it I wouldn’t. Not because I’m against it, but because I would have so much living to get done that I wouldn’t have the time. You see this with people that live in the mountains. They often can’t get cell phone access and so their kids grow up largely without phones being their primary source of information. The world is their source of information and entertainment and enjoyment. So when they are exposed to technology it all just seems like lame approximations of life rather than life itself. To a kid from the mountains most city kids look like the people in the pods in the movie The Matrix. They’re not really alive, they’ve just been convinced they are by what they’re seeing. The truly interesting people are actually out doing interesting, exciting and expansive things in the real world not the virtual one. They don’t share and forward videos of lions doing cool things. They get on a plane, fly to 594 Relax and Succeed - Plunge boldly into the thickAfrica and they go see some actual lions. And half the time they don’t take a camera with them to prove to you their ego’s winning. It’s quite a difference from a life spent scrolling on a phone.

Don’t sit at home watching your options/life scroll by in some news feed. Don’t sit in a coffee shop looking at your phone or you won’t see the attractive, appealing person who’s trying to get your attention. And remember that life was meant to be lived. It’s not a show. It’s not a performance. You’re not supposed to be lauded for your wardrobe or hair or cinematography—your life is not a production. You are simply supposed to live. But to do that, you have to stop spending so much time watching life looking for the best thing possible, and instead get out into the world and just simply do the best thing available in the moment you’re in. That leads to an awesome life. So just make life a verb and the rest will be fine.

Now of course all of this is deeply ironic because you are likely reading this via some news feed on your phone or computer. But again, nothing is good or bad, it’s merely how we use something and then what are the consequences? So make your use of technology more conscious. Actually ask yourself if you’re using it like an addict uses substances to avoid dealing with life, or if you’re really using it to improve yourself or to make active, conscious and life-affirming decisions about what to actually do with this incredibly brief experience we have with life itself. Because as anyone on their death bed will tell you, time is the most valuable thing you have and so how you spend it should always be at the forefront of your mind.

Don’t waffle over choice. Choose and make that choice a verb. Whatever else you might do in that same time is irrelevant as long as you enjoy or get some reward from what you did choose to do. And that is always possible and it’s entirely up to you.

Thank you for your time. Have yourself a wonderful day.

peace. s

Spiritual Priorities

What are your priorities? Not the ones you automatically tell people as part of your ego’s pose in the world. What does your life indicate your priorities are? Where are your actions in life and to what end? Do you spend your day actually trying to get happier, or are you mostly focused on affording what you either have or want?

593 Relax and Succeed - If we do not feel gratefulRecently the New York Times did a piece on John Osburg, the author of Anxious Wealth: Money and Morality Among China’s New Rich. It’s an interesting article in which Osburg is asked about how the wealthiest Han Chinese respond to their success and he notes that, “…there’s no question tastes are evolving, albeit somewhat slowly. Now that every Shanxi coal baron’s mistress can afford Louis Vuitton, in order to differentiate themselves, other new rich are moving on to other pursuits and tastes.”

That trend isn’t exclusively Chinese of course. When I was head of creative at the network in the 1990’s we did a two-part movie-of-the-week with Richard Chamberlain called The Lost Daughter. It was about the Order of the Solar Temple cult, which included many extremely wealthy families from Europe, North America and Australia. Much like the Chinese noted above, these people were very successful in the materialistic world, but once you can buy all the things you’ve dreamed of, how do you distinguish yourself?

So why do people want to be distinguished? Why do they want us to admire them? Because much like victims employ sympathy, admiration is a shallow refection of love, which what they want but don’t feel they can get without achievements. And so in their desperate attempt to find greater meaning, wealthy, educated people were encouraged to not only commit mass suicide, but to murder their own family members as well. Can you see how this unhealthy lust for love can manifest? Because remember, those murders were viewed by the parents as acts of love.

593 Relax and Succeed - Carrot and stickNone of that is much different than a victim sacrificing their enjoyment of their own short time on Earth to instead focus on garnering sympathy. Not loving someone is seen as reasonable, but not giving someone sympathy is seen as cruel and the people who use sympathy subconsciously know this. And so they tell their sad story and they get their imitation of love.

Now if their attempts to find value in themselves is what leads them to healthy spirituality then that’s great. If some crazy-rich Lamborghini-driving 29 year old Han ends up discovering true enlightenment by hanging around Monks for status, then the route up the mountain isn’t what matters—it’s the view once you’re up there.

So do you see that you can save yourself from trying to achieve material success in your own life? Can you see that you’re just on some kind of weird treadmill-ladder where no matter how long you climb you still get off at the same height? So you might as well jump off now. Think of how developed you’d be if you invested the same time on your spiritual development as you do in making, saving and spending money. When you think about it, that’s the vast majority of your waking day.

What I like about all of this is that it’s media-friendly. These stories will travel well. And these are stories of the richest people in the world who are placing their spiritual development above their material success. Material success is simply not enough anymore. Not in an age where someone like Ambani can build a billion-dollar 400,000 square foot (37,000 square meter) 27 story house for a family of six. Once you get to that kind of ridiculous excess you literally start to look crazy instead of successful and so people realize that they need to find something that people can genuinely respect. And in the end, when push really comes to shove, the only thing people will ever wholeheartedly respect is if you unconditionally love them.

593 Relax and Succeed - RevolutionIf it continues like this we’ll either destroy the world or we’ll come to the realization that ever-increasing wealth isn’t the answer to happiness, satisfaction and ultimate success and it may very well be the super-wealthy that signal this change. If they start being honest, humble and public about how disappointing their lives are, then that may be the signal for the next big change, which is not a political revolution, an industrial revolution, nor a technical revolution—it’s a spiritual revolution. Not a revolution of religion. One of compassion. Of prioritizing the happiness and security of people rather than focusing on economies. We can invest in ourselves instead of in the stock market. In the end the investment in yourself pays far better dividends.

Look at your life honestly. How much of it is spent shopping or working? How much of it is about money and how much of it is about happiness and life and meaning? Because far too many people wait until they’re seriously ill or dying before ever considering these questions and that’s unfortunate. Because most people who do consider them end up realizing that they’re not actually living the life they truly want and they begin to make changes. Don’t be brainwashed by your society. Don’t have silly, meaningless priorities because that’s what some business needs. Live your life by being present in it. It doesn’t matter what you wear or drive or where you live. What matters is, do you feel connected to other people and do you find it easy to give love? If you have those two things then you have everything that anyone ever truly wanted or needed.

peace. s

The Friday Dose #46

557 Relax and Succeed - The greatest work that kindness does

Do you remember what the Friday Dose is for? Remember: every Friday I’m posting things that are designed to delight and distract you and occasionally inform you. Save them up for when you’re mentally struggling—for when you need to prove to yourself that you can change the course of your thoughts. Then come here, check out a few entries and get your mind on to something different and then don’t choose to go back to your original thought stream. Remember, either there is a solution you can take action on, or there is nothing you can do. Either take the action or stop thinking about it. Today I have a mixed bag for you. We’ll start off with an excellent Business Insider article on lasting relationships:

Lasting Relationships Rely on Two Traits

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Next we’ll shift to a video on photography. Now you don’t have to be interested in photography to benefit from Mike Brown’s talk. What he’s saying applies to anything you do in life—especially if it’s creative, but it applies as much to child-rearing and sports. It’s worth your five minutes:

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And finally we’ll end on some music. Regular readers will know that occasionally I like to showcase musical or dramatic talent and I do hope that you enjoy this song as much as I have. I encourage you to support this Joshua Hyslop’s music career so that he can afford to continue to write and record and perform many more beautiful songs. Enjoy:

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Joshua Hyslop Homepage

Have yourself a wonderful weekend everyone.

peace. s

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The Friday Dose is a collection of cool, interesting and surprising things that are chosen for their potential to distract you away from any painful thought loops that may currently be disrupting your sense of perspective. Focus on these and change your mind. Enjoy.

An Attitude of Gratitude

It’s funny where gifts can come from sometimes. A friend of mine has had a few pretty challenging years—you know, big stuff. Serious health concerns, bigger than average job stresses, all while she’s had to deal with some big family issues like death and dementia. Life is like a card game and right how she’s in the midst of a run of less-than-easy hands to play. And then she got her gift.

555 Relax and Succeed - Life is full of give and takeThe strange part was, the guy who gave her the gift has next to nothing himself. He was on TV. He was there to try and raise money to be sent to people like him, but instead he gave her a gift. She was trying to get caught up on some overdue paperwork and to get her kitchen cleaned and in her head she was adding up all of the balls she was juggling. The more she entertained the thoughts of how busy she was, the more things she remembered. By the time she noticed the guy on the TV she was getting pretty low about her situation. And then she saw his.

Of course, if the guy’s on a program like that then he’s a representative of that huge section of the world’s population that is just happy to have made it from one day to the next. This guy was a 12 hour a day rickshaw driver with no health care, a government hostile to his existence, no financial security net of any kind, and he had to provide for numerous children who he loved very much. Those were the facts of his life but he still beamed with gratitude. His walls may have been made of whatever was available and his meals might be meagre, but he remained grateful that his family was together and that he had any shelter at all.

My friend’s initial reaction was guilt—she had so much compared to this guy and yet she was sitting there complaining. But the guilt quickly turned to questions. Why was this guy so happy when he had so little? She watched him talk about his life a little longer. It turned out it’s because he wasn’t paying any attention at all to what was missing or what would make life easier. He only accounted for his good fortune. Yes, the hands with bad cards were there—but to him that was just life. He focused on when he won. In the end this poor have-nothing guy gave my upper middle class friend a huge gift. It was like he uncovered all of the things in her life that she had been taking for granted.

555 Relax and Succeed - If you were on your death bedIt’s a cliche, so people always brush past it too quickly, but it’s worth your time: how exactly are you more fortunate than someone in a third world country? This can seem like a chore to calculate until you do like my friend did and realize that it’s not mythical—you do have a lot to be thankful for, and your life is better when you’re consciously aware of it. Having a full belly or a healthy family or the support of good friends—these are all gigantic things when they are missing.

The act of taking something or somebody for granted is easy for all of us to do. It simply means that we have ceased to think about the benefit we receive—it is presumed. It’s not that the value isn’t there—it’s just that you’ve stopped counting it. You’ve stopped adding it up.

It’s a natural progression that we would move from gratitude to complacency and back again—one needs the other to exist. But we are still better to spend as much time in a state of gratitude as possible. Because if we live like that, then it’s possible for a super-poor guy to give my rich Canadian friend a valuable gift.

555 Relax and Succeed - The things you take for grantedSpend less time today thinking about your own plights. No matter how difficult things are, do your best to consider the challenges of the people around you. The insults they would face, the physical challenges, hunger, the constraints of poverty, or even just being cold, or sleeping without a mattress let alone a roof….

The odds are if you’re reading this then you’re probably better off than at least half the planet if not 98% of it. So rather than tell yourself and others about the 10% of your life that genuinely does suck, focus more on the 90% that doesn’t. And do that selfishly. Because sitting there at her kitchen table my friend’s life hadn’t changed one bit from an hour earlier. But still that third world guy managed to help her feel like one of the richest people ever. And you can feel that way too.

Make today a day where you earnestly pursue gratitude as an objective in your life. Make it a priority. Make that a habit and you will absolutely have changed your life. Now go create a great day with your choice of what you focus on. Because that’s the only place great days ever really came from anyway.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is a writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.

How To Be Sad

Here’s how lucky I am: even on the rare occasion that I actually feel low, I still get to be grateful, which in turn makes low not-so-low. Because a lot of my students are seeking a strange uniform sort of happiness they tend to feel relieved when they learn that I’m more like them than they might imagine. So me feeling bad helps them feel better, which in turn makes ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????me feel better—which is why I never stay there for long. I would guesstimate that I would have about two or three notably sad periods a year. I’m sad more often that that, but I’m talking about the times where I’m sad and I wish I wasn’t. They never even last a full day—usually about 4-5 hours, and they’re generally brought about by extreme conditions like extended periods of little sleep, poor diet and maybe pain.

I’m currently waiting for dental surgery, my schedule’s been intense, and that busy-ness has lead to me losing about 4-5 kilos (10 lbs) over the last couple of weeks. Those things combined to lead me to sad thoughts, which I entertained for about an hour before I noticed them. I was about to switch out when I realized that it was a rare occasion and that it could be quite useful for my writing—hence this. It’s not often I get to write to you when I’m feeling low so this is a great opportunity. The only trick is, that realization makes me grateful, and that’s already starting to take me out of this state of mind, so I’d better be quick.

When I’m feeling the way I usually do, I see other people’s lives from their perspective. The writer in me instantly imagines—if I wrote that character, what kind of reaction would they logically have? This is why I’m compassionate when someone’s suffering, and also why the world looks so wonderful to me. Many exciting and incredible and fortunate things happen to people all day long, so if that’s what you’re focused on, you’re connected to those people and to those positive experiences.

On the other hand, when I’m feeling like I have been the last hour, I instead look at other people’s lives and I think of me. So rather than focus on their good fortune, I focus on how I did not experience that good fortune or that I’m not currently experiencing it. The creation of an 541 Relax and Succeed - When I am buried“I” to have suffered is contained in that narrative. I build me by telling myself a story about how I am lacking this or that. In short, I create a me and that me can only exist in a context of wanting. (I’d read those last two sentences again and make sure you understand them.)

Hey, this is going pretty good. I wouldn’t have thought of putting it like this if I wasn’t feeling low. See? By engaging with my low-ness openly (as opposed to defining it as undesirable), I don’t make it real-er by self-talking it into reality by opposing it. Instead it’s just another part of life. And in other parts of my life I don’t have this strange belief that I can’t change from this emotion to that one. I can recognize my freedom if I’m picking sandwiches. But I lose sight of it when I’m making choices that I perceive are more important to my happiness.

Is this making sense? Because I’m quite pleased with this explanation of a very abstract concept. Sadness is comparative. You create a you and then you define a want and in the crux between those two ideas is your suffering. That’s the fabric from which you weave your narratives of disappointment and loss and regret and jealousy and and and. And you get the neurochemistry that goes with that thinking and that’s why you feel the way you do. Fortunately it goes the same going the opposite direction.

541 Relax and Succeed - On particularly rough daysJust do what I’m doing. It might feel easier to me because I’ve been doing it so long, but you’re entirely capable of this. Spend less time allowing your mind to discuss you and more time focusing on the good fortune that others around you are experiencing. Trust me, there’s plenty of good things going on in this world. If you’re focused on those you will feel incredible.

Happiness is no big deal. Neither is sadness. Don’t be overwhelmed. It’s a moment by moment choice to think this or think that. And if you find yourself in a negative loop, don’t panic. Just watch the loop and get to know it and witness how you’re actually creating a you to suffer through your comparisons of that you to others. You’ll wish you were married, or that you had kids—or that you weren’t married and that you didn’t have kids. You’ll wish you were born into a rich family or that you weren’t so shy, or that you were smarter or that you had bigger boobs. You’ll compare. And it’ll hurt. So instead, pay attention. The world around you is bountiful, exciting, inviting and worthwhile. But it’s always doing its thing. It’s you that has to stop focusing on your internal egocentric narratives and instead be in this world at this time to have these experiences. Do that and you will love your life.

And now I have to stop because I’m not the least bit sad anymore. Love you guys. Take care. And thanks. 😉

peace. s