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

Shadow Personalities

What you perceive of as people’s individual personalities are actually just shadows cast by your own thinking. This may seem ridiculous but it happens in much the same way that a cinematographer can make a character look angelic or sinister to you depending on where he or she places the light. The angle of the light represents the perspectives of our beliefs. A character or person can change drastically based on our beliefs. Just think of how that angle changes between falling in love and breaking up! But what changed? Them, or the direction of the light?

687 Relax and Succeed - In this lifeYou spend a lot of your life trying to manage people’s perceptions of you but that is futile and wasteful in all kinds of ways. First off, you have no idea what their perceptions are. Even if they say so you still don’t know. The prettiest girl in school can give you the sort of make-up and hair advice that subtly suggests to you that you are ugly, but she’s more likely to do that if she actually thinks you’re the prettiest girl in school. And even if she thought that something or someone was ugly, who’s to say she won’t change that opinion? We do our whole lives. So why try to manage the entries in some weird historical Etch-a-Sketch book that’s always being shaken clean? Why not live instead?

You don’t see others and they don’t see you. Not figuratively, literally. Because there is no you to see. Because everyone has their own idea of value and so everyone perceives you in their own unique way based on their knowledge and life experience. So since everyone has their own idea of you—their own angle of light—then they’re all seeing something slightly different. And there’s no way to reconcile that. Since there is no one who would even be able to perceive any strange, general Objective Reality above that, we can just relax into the idea that all that really matters is our Subjective Reality. We don’t have to manage all of those people because the universe won’t let us. We only have to manage our own thoughts. Because it’s from those that we shape the beliefs that in turn shape both ourselves and others.

687 Relax and Succeed - I have already lostYou have to see people in some way. So your views are fine to have as long as you don’t take them too seriously—that you remember they are just your views. The cinematographer doesn’t want to start treating the actor like he’s the character. And this applies to others opinions about you as well. Do some views carry consequences in your life? Yes, but that doesn’t change the fact that you have no control over their perspective. Your ability to influence anyone’s view of you is crippled by the fact that you don’t even know where to start. You cannot think from their perspective and so you have no idea what their view of you is.

Despite this reality everyone spends most of their lives trying to manage these perceptions. They get angry or sad or bitter about their perceptions of other people’s perceptions about them. To surrender all of that is to be free of your ego’s need to prove itself. To be valuable. To be worthy. And it turns out that all you have to do is stop talking to yourself under the presumption that anything’s wrong with you or anyone else. Do that and suddenly you don’t need all of the self-discussions about, what do I do to become acceptable? or how do I get that person to do what I want so I can deem them acceptable? Instead you’re fine with people and things the way they are. You just have peace.

Find the angles you light people from. Had a bad experience with betrayal? Then you’ll probably cast a suspicious light on others. Had an angry, reproachful father? Then you’ll be inclined to look at things and people fearfully. Or was your mother carefree almost to the point of neglect? Then you’ll either need that same kind of freedom or you’ll crave order but, either way, unless you become very conscious, your experiences with your mother will have shaped where you place the light on yourself and others. That’s why so many people vote just like their parents. They’ve only ever seen issues lit in one fundamental way.

687 Relax and Succeed - What is loveForget all of that head-talking. Forget gossip. Forget the words that you use to place the lights that will shape your vision. Stop wanting your spouse or co-workers to be different people. Accept by going quiet. Let their light be natural. It’ll still have an angle relative to you, but you’ll have saved yourself all the effort of re-lighting it yourself with your psyche. Because the less your ego is involved the more you open the light up and the better you can see. But no matter who you are no one sees everything. There is always mystery. There is always shadow. The secret is to stop asking. Relax knowing that the mystery is where your future is. And it’s not a future you’re not supposed to figure out, you’re just supposed to live it.

Now go have yourself an awesome day.

peace. s