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 New Ism

910 Relax and Succeed - Out beyond ideasA lot of people have a lot of ideas about how other people could be making the world better. One of the keys ways to improve it would be to simply get rid of all of those other people. The real trick is how you go about making them go away.

There are a lot of people who would strongly disapprove of racism or sexism or ageism that would very publicly and aggressively practice what I would call prioritism. These differences arise when people do not share priorities, as is the case when some people value natural resource jobs and others prioritize the environment, with most people ultimately being in a fluctuating bell curve in the middle.

Protecting community assets is what government and regulation were built for. So there is no need for hatred or fights, people are better to focus their energy on the systems that exist and use those to change regulations (or even governments) if they have concerns. There literally is no problem if you’re busy working on a solution that just doesn’t exist in time yet, but holding angry or worried feelings in our hearts is not good for us any more than if we were hating a race or religion. It’s our heart that carries the hate.

910 Relax and Succeed - When you talk you areToo many people are seeing the world in a very simplistic, binary way because the media presents it to us in short soundbites and then only discusses those as though they represent all of the actual interpretations. Their very job is to create conflict where there isn’t any, so we cannot use the media as a basis for us to experience outrage on a personal basis. That’s an expensive and toxic emotion to experience so it should only be undertaken when there is an upside to the person paying the price.

Opening our minds means we must avoid slotting people into categories. Not because you can’t use other categories to defend your categories, but because categories only exist in the ego-world. You want to start connecting with people in that other world–that uncategorized, undefined open space where all people are equal and there is no separation between the individual members of a group or even between them and the thing being done. This is what any good band will do when they’re feeling on. They’re connected.

If you find a lot of they, them, me, you, and I in your speech or self-talk then you know you’re not connected and you’re invested in binary thinking. People need to be defined for those temrs to make sense, but what’s best is to forget the definition of the person and focus respectfully on their statement, action or creation. Drop me and them thinking. Just deal with the issue. It’s a good place to be clinical. Let your motivations to work on the solution be emotional, but let the work itself be as rational as it is positive.

910 Relax and Succeed - Raise your wordsThere are a lot of beautiful, very well-intentioned people who invest enormous amounts of time in very negative and combative approaches, all in an attempt to force solutions on the world. Since that naturally creates resistance, just diverting that energy to more positive approaches will absolutely be felt by all of us. Do not invest in fighting. Look for opportunities to build bridges and create greater understanding. That is your route to a  better world.

Positive actions will lead to a positive situations. Take your opportunities to remove energy from negative thinking and turn it instead into positive action. Both you and the world will be better for it. So go make friends with someone on the other side and get them to teach you about why they’re on that other side. It will do you both more good to talk than to shout.

Enjoy your 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.

Taxing Our System

Everyone’s stressed. Everyone’s taxed. Everyone’s tired. Fuses are short, tempers are hot and despite how logical all of our anger and frustration is, consequences remain. It makes sense that people will be pushed past physical limits by things like pain, a lack of sleep, a bad diet or other particularly long-term stresses. So as a society we must learn to accommodate flashes of various emotions that are entirely natural for people to experience. At the same time we don’t want to coddle people who are literally addicted to anger as their natural response to not getting what they want. That’s onerous for others to deal with and that’s not good for harmony in the tribe. And as challenging as aspects of the 436 Relax and Succeed - Nothing in the world can bother you as muchtribe are, you simply cannot live a rewarding life without a tribe.

Just the other day I saw a guy losing his temper near my house. They’re rebuilding a lot of the roads and sidewalks near where my parents and I live, and I also live near several churches. I recently saw a guy railing in anger while his wife patiently listened to him for over half an hour about how the city shouldn’t have done this and it should have done that. Of course this guy has zero appreciation for the complexities of actually planning anything like that, and of course these are private companies and not “the city,” and even then, we’re only talking about a one day inconvenience to him. And for that he put his wife through a minimum of a half hour of hell. Volunteering to do that is crazy. And listening to it when you know it’s crazy is what love does. Because I could tell by the look on her face that she totally knew his diatribe was his and his alone. It had nothing to do with the city. The city did not insist that he ruin his day with his wife.

It’s important to remember that your anger will get worse the more you use it. Like any part of the body, your mind gets better at recreating emotions if you create them pretty regularly. So the more you get angry, the better you get at being angry. It’s why Olympians and Jeopardy contestants both train the way they do.

Now, as to the why you’re getting angry—this we can dissect. We can prove that your criticisms are one-sided and unreasonable. As soon as you accept the truth in that, then it will be your truth too and so will end that conflict within you. Now I’m actually fine with you expressing a flash of frustration—and if your mind turns that into a burst of colourful language, no problem we can all handle it. Sticks and stones. Where it’s too much is when it starts fuelling itself. Meaning, you aren’t venting off some chemistry from an immediate reaction—instead you’re fuelling your own personal internal dialogue and this now has nothing to do with the original event other than the subject matter is the same. Your angry replaying of it is entirely voluntary.

436 Relax and Succeed - If you feel badWhat this effectively means is, the man was not angry about the sidewalks and roads. He was angry about his thoughts about the sidewalks and roads. You know how I know this? Because I’ve got entirely different thoughts about the very same situation. And I know how the brain works. So I can appreciate that the addictive quality to knowledge—that is; the belief that things will continue to follow the same patterns they historically have—makes sense for so many things that we do subconsciously. Even things as difficult as driving, which we rarely think about consciously. But it can be very dangerous to desire patterns when it comes to our emotions because, as you can see, when that man’s mind wanted things the same and the nature of the world did not comply, his brain smashed into that reality—that Isness—and his reaction was to incite the chemistry for anger, which his wife then had to deal with. We want to change that by changing our narratives, and then go on to use our elevated consciousness to eventually dispel our narratives altogether.

So why don’t I get angry about the same thing? Because I don’t tell myself the story that guy told himself. Because I didn’t expect things to stay the same. I know they’re changing. All the time, every moment of every day. I get that it’s difficult to avoid inconveniencing people when you’re doing something as major as paving their street. This guy wanted them to only do half the streets and sidewalks and then come back another time to do the other half. But breaking up the work—even if it’s done back-to-back, is going to be way, way more expensive. And pretty much every city council in history gets blasted if they announce even a 3% tax hike. Well if we want them to work around our daily needs to that degree then that’s going to cost a lot of money and I have this sense that a tax increase would just be one more thing that poor guy’s wife would have to hear all about.

There’s nothing wrong with the world my friends, we just think we’re more important than the world does. We’re all integral—that’s for sure. But none of us is critical to the ongoing survival of civilization. The world is doing some big things for large numbers of people. Sometimes small numbers of people need to move out of the way to accomplish a greater good. So yeah, we can look at things and think “these idiots. They’ve made it so hard to move around,” as though that’s what they were doing—trying to make it hard for us. Or we can see it the way I do, which is either no opinion at all, or maybe something like “wow this will be great. When they’re done we’ll have brand new sidewalks and roads!” I’m not lying to myself. What I’m saying is true. But it’s also enjoyable to think. And that’s what we all need to do. We need to approach things selfishly. We need to notice things in ways that feel better for us.

436 Relax and Succeed - Your complaints about life are meaninglessHere’s a way of thinking about it: You can smash your expectations into reality, or you can be like Bruce Lee recommends and be like water. Because water can flow and water can crash. But it does not win through resistance, just persistence. So if for instance the change to the roads and sidewalks is a rock in your flow, then you don’t freeze up in anger and trap yourself. Instead you have your initial shock wave of chemistry that goes with recognizing the situation—the splash—and then let those thoughts go and flow around the issue and get your mind onto the next moment where you can choose thoughts that feel better. It really is that easy. Stop thinking things should be different. Accept how they are and move into the next moment with that flexible reality being the context which you are operating from. It’s not, I want the sidewalks a different way, it’s: now that they’ve done this, what’s my best bet?

Anger is created within us by whatever narrative we choose to engage in. If we become conscious of our thinking we will go there far less often and we will be highly motivated by how good it feels to succeed at redirecting our previously angry thoughts. It’s quite the achievement both psychologically and spiritually. If I can do it anyone can do it. It’s just changes in habits of thought. It’s tricky, but it’s not hard. I wish you every good fortune with your meditations. And my best to your spouses. 😉

peace. s