Painful Subjects

1158 Relax and Succeed - If there is no struggleShe tried to act like there was nothing wrong, but her mother could tell she had been crying. She found her in her room, sitting on her bed. She sat next to her and put her arm around her shoulder. They were quiet for a while.

“Why are they so mean to me?”

Her mother kissed her head. She took a while to speak, composing herself first. “Some people just like teasing. But most people just want to feel secure. They want to feel like they belong. It’s human nature. But if there’s an inside, then there has to be an outside.”

“And I’m on the outside.”

Her mom smiles at her misunderstanding and pulls her closer. “Oh no, dear. There is no actual inside or outside, it’s all in people’s heads. They just think they belong or don’t belong or others do or don’t. They want to be in so they needed an out and people pick on difference. But everyone’s lines in everyone’s heads–they’re all different and they change everyday anyway.”

“They hate me because I’m fat.”

Her mother furrows her brow. What’s going on? She moves to face her daughter. They look at each other a long moment. “How did you make the leap that they hate you? Dani, them creating an inside and outside–that’s not emotional. It has nothing to do with how they feel about you. They’re trying to fix an alone feeling they have. When they tease you, that’s about them, not you.”

“But they called me fat and they were all pointing at me and laughing.”

“It just felt to them like they were succeeding in being more in the in group because if you’re crying then you looked ever further out. You looked ‘more different.'”

Her daughter looks at her mother witheringly. “Mother. ‘More different?’ What are you a Valley Girl or something?”

“Ha!”

“Ha what?”

“See? You just did it. You created an outside.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“A) You made fun of my mistake, which could be viewed as mean. And B) You attributed it to a definable group: Valley Girls. See? You do it too. And you don’t hate anyone. Outsides and insides. I was outsides the rules of grammar and so now you felt you had permission to tease me.”

“Mother. I really don’t think there’s an organisation out there protecting Valley Girls.”

Her mother smiles. The energy in her daugher is changing. “Fair enough, but you still made my point. Did you mean anything against Valley Girls; or where you truly against me when you corrected me?”

Her eyes roll. “Of course not.”

“But you still did it. And if I was feeling insecure it might have hurt me. Maybe I’d talk less because I’d be worrieder–“

“YOU DID THAT ON PURPOSE!”

“Okay. I did. Maybe I’d talk less because I would worry more about being judged.”

“And what’s the advantage to doing it your way? Why shouldn’t I care?”

Her mother laughs. “Uhh…. you’re not in pain? You accept that what’s going on in someone else’s consciousness doesn’t impact yours? That you just go enjoy your life anyway, just like you hope the Valley Girls do? If you responded super positively, maybe you’d start teaching English, or start an organisation to protect Valley Girls.”

“I bet the little camouflage bikini uniform would look great on me.”

“I think they give you a sexy little hat too.” Her mother laughs and hugs her. “Honey, I want you to remember one thing: you left school and kept thinking about this. Painful subjects are called ‘painful subjects’ because they hurt. So you have to watch, because when we’re sad or depressed our brain will sometimes tilt toward them. So you have to be really conscious about being happy sweetheart. There’s a lot of great things about this world. You’ll experience plenty. But you have to watch for them. So don’t let what’s happening in someone else’s brain distract you from that. Fair?”

She’s obviously right, but what kid wants to take advice? “I’ll think about it.”

“Okay fine. You meditate then. I’m sure you’ll see the wisdom in it too, just like the Buddha. I love you. I’ll leave you to your meditation oh Great One. OOOHHHHHMMM” Her mother bows.

Her daughter waves her off like Cleopatra. “Be off with you then.”

Her mother closes her daughter’s door. Her daughter’s stronger thanks to an unpleasant experience. That’s as good as it goes. Mission accomplished. Her mother smiles and heads back to her 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.

Sticks and Stones

1047-relax-and-succeed-stabbed-in-the-backIs it a parent? Another kid at school? And if it’s one at school it’s usually at least three. A young boy will punch you straight in the face and it hurts, but the girls will sneak around behind you and try and turn everyone against you, and that totally undermines your place in the world in this horrible way that you can’t do anything about.

A boy can get stronger, study a martial art, but there’s no way for a girl to improve herself out of being called names that have little to nothing to actually do with her. Opinions live inside other people’s minds and we hear them through their voices. Neither of these things are in our control so there is only one other answer.

If you surrender the idea of fighting against it that doesn’t mean that you’re accepting it. It means the exact opposite. Because you don’t stop fighting it because it’s beating you, because if it was beating you and it didn’t stop eventually you’d die, and no one’s ever died from people having an opinion about them.

1047-relax-and-succeed-do-not-make-your-enemys-thoughtsIf they lynch them that’s one thing and we all have to take action quickly, but if all they do is use their voices; trust me, those can’t hurt you at all unless you choose to believe them and think them too. Besides, there’s very few people who will be around your life permanently and they certainly won’t be that type. What they say will matter for a tiny period of your existence. Tiny.

How’s a voice hurt you? How’s someone telling a joke hurt you? How’s someone using a slur on you do damage to you? Even if fifty people listened and did nothing, that won’t mean they agree with what was shouted, that will only mean they’re too cowardly to do anything about it. The more you ignore it and the more dignified and unperturbed you behave, the less interesting it is to try to knock you off balance when you’re so obviously well-balanced, and the more impressive you look to all of the cowardly people. But you don’t do that by performing like it doesn’t matter; you do it by understanding that you literally cannot be hurt by words.

1047-relax-and-succeed-famous-failuresWe’re starting to live in a world where people cannot accept differing opinions. The truth is, everyone has there areas in life where they shine, and other areas where they are less capable. That is entirely normal, and just like you will have times where you have to move around the inabilities of others, they will have to do that with you sometimes too. But everyone has those so you get yours too. People can go ahead and not like it, but as they mature they’ll realise that people like you will still be a large percentage of the population so they will also realise their opinions are only in their head and no matter how loud they are they do not make things true.

People can say whatever they want, until you repeat it to yourself and actually ask yourself if it might be true, it is not true for you. Truth exists in people singularly. It isn’t a group concept. The closest thing we have to that is science and science has no opinion about your personality.

If you start thinking other’s thoughts then that’s the beginning of your thinking starting to make that idea true, because whether it’s true or not won’t impact whether or not you can believe it. There’s no difference between your beliefs and what you think is true. So do not make your enemy’s thoughts about you your thoughts about you.

1047-relax-and-succeed-find-a-group-of-peopleSomeone can turn the entire school against you and you can still have a fantastic life. The kid who thinks that controlling anything in childhood would ever actually matter is just lost in their own false belief of importance. They go to the bathroom too. Their relationships will end too. Life ebbs and flows throughout it’s length, so every human being spends times up and times down. Who goes first doesn’t mean a thing.

Believe in your strengths, spend time with those who see and appreciate them. The others have opinions about you just as you have yours about them. Since those never last, they just don’t matter anyway. Develop your strengths. Start now. Because while other kids are bullying you and making their future more difficult by quietly turning others against them, you can take that time to ensure that you’re becoming more capable, thereby setting up a confident, successful future for yourself.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

Ikigai

960 Relax and Succeed - Ikigai The reason to get up in the morningEven though they may not know the concept abstractly, when you listen to people discuss their work complaints they will always focus on where they can feel that their Ikigai has lost balance. The term is composed by compounding two ideas: iki which is to be alive; and kai, which is the worthwhile result of your being, otherwise stated as your reason for being, your motivation, or the meaning to your existence. Your raison d’etre. I’m sure you can feel the pull of that sensation just reading about it.

One way to help define Ikigai in your life is that it will not change in good times or in bad. Someone who loves firefighting will love it as much in the firehall as they will at a fire. A true writer will enjoy the research for their new book as much as they enjoy the writing of it. And almost everyone who works in a refugee camp will face daily tragedy and yet they continue with an enthusiasm and energy rarely seen in the corporate world.

Bruce Lee did it with martial arts, Prince did it with music, Kurosawa did it with film. My father did it with a roofing company. If that last one doesn’t seem to fit as well, that might point to your misunderstandings about its nature.

960 Relax and Succeed - IkigaiTo move around the concept; my father enjoyed earning his pay by doing the same level of work he would do on his own home. In doing so he would create value by making someone else’s home and property more secure and by providing for his own family. He also loved the feeling of great satisfaction that he took from his customer’s satisfaction, and in all the years he ran the company I can recall my father being taken advantage of twice, but I have no recollection at all of an unhappy customer. I also have no recollection of my father ever complaining about his job, he only preferred when it wasn’t raining so he could do it.

There is no shortage of unfulfilled office workers who derive no personal joy or meaning from their work. There is also no shortage of chronically poverty-stricken artists who have trouble finding or transmitting the value in what they do. Even among the “successful,” there are doctors who care and doctors who like expensive cars.

It is important to note, however, that the existence of a Porsche doesn’t translate to an absence of ikigai. Sometimes–but not always–great personal gain can come from the pursuit of our ikigai. But to the individual the gains will be irrelevant. If they were fantastically wealthy they would still pursue their ikigai; if they were not paid at all they would still do it with equal zeal. Wayne Dyer didn’t need money to motivated him, nor does Yo-Yo Ma. Once you are fed and sheltered nothing you can buy can offer more life satisfaction than your ikigai.

960 Relax and Succeed - These are free rangeLook at your life. Where is it out of balance? Because if you look at the stresses in this world they can easily be attributed to the fact that so many people are not balanced in this way. To do unfulfilling work with unappreciative people in a largely meaningless way is to court a type of death. It is one thing to make a beautiful cake that will be consumed only hours later in joy, and another thing altogether to make a cheap plastic toy that won’t survive the birthday party.

Today’s youth can sense the lack of ikigai in their parent’s lives. They feel the tension, the anger, the frustration and the lack of satisfaction. How many children in the world hear their parents discuss their life’s work with passion? What did you hear as a child, and if you have children what do they hear you communicate about your work? What emotional state would they most closely associate with your work?

You have not failed if you have not found your place yet. The journey itself is a honing process. But it is important to keep this concept in mind. Many people would never have taken promotions or jobs or would have never left the children in a day-home, etc. etc. etc. if they had paid more attention to the notion of ikigai.

Be still. Spend some real time meditating on this. You are not finding a mystery, you are realising your true self. You cannot get this wrong any more than you can get your favourite colour wrong. The only thing you can do is to never ask the question, which in a way is like never actually starting to live at all. It’s in you. Find it and release it. We’re waiting for you.

With love, 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.

Spinning Uncertainty

921 Relax and Succeed - I will not die an unlived lifeA crippling activity has invaded human life. The two fundamental ways of being have been increasing in contrast. The first way involves a boldness that presupposes much of the world is what we make of it. The second way involves endless loops of thoughts but very little activity; calculation after calculation is made in an attempt to avoid any downsides or suffering. This is what it is to surrender our life to ego.

Why is avoiding mistakes so important? What is so expensive about them that people would literally defer life itself if we calculate even a single downside? The downsides are all connected to ego, not the being that thinks the ego into existence. Your spirit doesn’t care what you earn, it just seeks enough to be satisfied because it is rewarded by growth not money. Your reputation will suffer no matter what you do because your enemies will lie about you incessantly. And your day-to-day status is largely irrelevant to a task at hand. So if none of these things amount to much, why are people spending so much of their lives trying to avoid them?

There are people in this world who are aggressively living their life in the understanding that it truly is a limited opportunity. They aren’t worried about your judgments about them. They’re not selfish bullies pushing their way to the front because the healthiest people are also well aware of their connection to others. But if you hesitate to seize an opportunity they will not feel badly about snatching it up. It isn’t their job to give your life to you and they know it.

921 Relax and Succeed - Be decisiveThese “successful” people enjoy their own lives. Yes they have challenges like everyone, but they live largely on their own terms. They trust themselves. They believe their dreams are worthwhile and that they are capable of achieving them. And maybe most importantly they believe they are permitted to fail. They won’t feel bad when something goes wrong, they’ll just collect the lesson and continue on. No spinning for the successful. Spinning is the act of an ego. While the spirit does the ego talks.

Today far more people spin than ever before. It’s an illness. Everyone’s just sitting around using their thoughts to create dis-ease. They spin on relationships. They spin on jobs. They spin on major decisions. They spin on minor decisions. They spin on almost every decision. And if we asked them how their life was spent upon their death, the vast majority of it would have been spent contemplating life rather than living it.

This can play out in the most subtle ways. For instance, I was recently at the grocery store. It was early evening and the store was packed with people sorting out the week’s meals. Every line was super long. I only had a basket and so I joined the express line. Right as I joined it a clerk who knows me from the store strode up and mentioned that he would be opening the next till and he asked me to join him.

921 Relax and Succeed - Why complicate lifeAs I moved over I got the attention of the two people who were ahead of me in line and I pointed out the opportunity and offered it to them. The harried woman at the front and the angry man behind her both immediately recognized what was happening and both were clearly frustrated that the “new line” had started behind them. Recognizing their frustration I again offered them the front of the new line. Both rejected it for no good reason–clearly their till was held up on a price check.

The rest of us went through very quickly and by the time I walked out four people had been through my till and the harried woman and angry man were both still waiting to put their stuff on their conveyor belt. They both looked very unhappy. Extremely unhappy. Maybe they were unhappy with the cashier, but she obviously needs the price for things she’s ringing in so blaming her made no sense. And I got the hairy eyeball too, but as you might imagine I didn’t feel bad at all. I had offered.

If they couldn’t even represent their lives better than that by 50-60 years of age then me being polite would make little difference. They both clearly wanted to jump ahead in line (who wouldn’t?). They were both clearly upset with their cashier and the four us who beat them through the till. But do you think I cared? Why would I? I was polite. And the people behind me had no issue with me offering them the chance. It was the people who saw the chance and somehow talked themselves out of something they naturally wanted that were responsible. They wanted to be seen as patient and good.

921 Relax and Succeed - If you want to be happyYes, take others into account. Be good to others as a way of being good to yourself. But life is a verb and it will be what you make of it. Don’t surrender your days to meek deferrals of life itself. If she took me up on the offer the woman would have gone faster, been grateful to me and the other four people who were now letting her into our line, and she would have walked out feeling happy and lucky. Instead she balked at the offer of help in an egotistical attempt to look noble or proper or polite. What she got for that was wasting her time, misplaced frustration at the cashier and those of us in the other line, and then she left the store tense and upset and she took that home to whoever she was going to see.

Life is made a zillion little daily solutions. If you’re not taking others into account then the world will soon teach you that your strategy lacks a future. But if you take others too much into account–to the point where you automatically place others needs above yours–then you’re no longer living a human life and you’re merely a slave to convention and obligation. Life is bigger than that.

Set yourself free. Stop all the spinning thoughts. See the world as kind and generous and inclusive and you will happily take chances like the one I gave those people. But if you see it as difficult and scary and socially expensive, then you can literally be alive without living.

You’re not pushy or selfish if you simply represent your own life with some confidence. And you don’t need to go get the confidence. Those two people were confident in what they wanted, they just weren’t confident they deserved it. And to me, their lack of belief in their own value was the worst thing that happened in that line that day. Don’t be meek. Life is short. Live yours.

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.

Big Decisions

918 Relax and Succeed - The awakened sagesI will need a lot more deep meditation before I can distill everything I am learning about time, but one thing I can state is that I’m slowly starting to have a deeper understanding why so many of you struggle with the idea of having to make big decisions.

If you live on a timeline where you can move toward or away from events then that is fatalism. If you’re locked in and nothing you can do will change anything then you’re predestined for a certain life. But you’re not a fatalist because you’ll also place possibility on that timeline, which means looking backwards you’ll see a single line of where you have been, but looking forward you see an infinite number of potential lines and in some cases where they go is wildly different.

By wildly different I mean having a kid or not, living in this country or that one, marrying this person or that. I don’t mean that one direction is adventure and joy and the other is pain and suffering–the path won’t have as much impact on your feelings as your state of mind, and that’s kind of my point. When I say wildly different I mean what’s different is the narrative that unfolds during your life.

918 Relax and Succeed - If you are depressedSo a big decision is when your most preferred routes through a situation represent massively different outcomes to you, with the outcomes being defined as the labels you’re left with. So in one case you’re married to this person and in another you’re married to that person and as time moves forward you feel pressure increase to make a choice before time causes the choice to vanish (people getting too old to have kids, marrying someone before someone else does, etc.).

These decisions matter a lot to you because you see those label distinctions as being indicators of the right decision. And by right I mean that later in life you assess that the decision lead to lots of labels that you value at the time of your judgment regarding the decision’s “success.” So if you left a bad relationship just in time to have a kid with someone, then that kid being a source of joy will be seen as being the result of the decision to leave the previous relationship. So the child and parenthood will be seen as a positive outcome resulting from the decision to leave the old relationship. I get your logic in that. It makes sense. But only in an ego-world.

Imagine the exact same decision but the new love ends up injured, then addicted to painkillers and that leads to challenges raising the child who later becomes a drug addict and a whole helluva lot of trouble. That could totally happen. And then you’d be sitting there in your rented apartment with an eviction notice because your stoned kid damaged the place again. You would determine that the choice to leave the previous relationship many years ago was the wrong decision and that it was what lead you to where you are–even though you know if your partner never got that injury none of the other issues would have unfolded.

918 Relax and Succeed - Life is like a cameraSo was the decision really wrong because it lead to the troublesome kid? Or was it just a choice that lead to a zillion other choices which combined with the choices of a zillion other people and things that all lead you to where you are? Because otherwise you’re highlighting events in time rather arbitrarily, like someone randomly choosing stars from an infinite sky and then forming just those chosen ones into a constellation that they then call their life.

My point is, on a later date they could just as easily look up and choose different stars and get a different picture of their life. It would all depend on the mood of the astronomer at the moment they were asked to judge their life. So to me trying to sail toward some specific constellation is to try and choose castles in the sky to live in. It can’t really be done.

You cannot choose tomorrow’s happiness today. Life has no guarantees. No matter what you decide your life will depend far more on who you are in any given moment than it will on what choices you made in some past moment. Sure, you might have a kid or not have a kid and that can seem huge, but in the end even the wonder of a child is just like any other experience in life–it’ll still be variously enjoyable and challenging.

918 Relax and Succeed - You either get the benefit you were expectingWhether I’m finding life rewarding or challenging, those two states are determined by my agreement with or resistance to what is going on in the present moment. That being the case, I choose to focus more on my moment-to-moment reactions to what’s happening now than on any long term planning for success. Otherwise there’s just too many factors that I don’t control. This is what it is to surrender into existence.

Our desire to avoid suffering leads to a hopeless desire to plan our way around it. The acceptance that there is no clear and perfect path takes that pressure away. Time becomes less compressed and the labels lose their value. What you are left with is the beautiful simplicity of the present moment.

The question is, with the world looking as it is and with people’s lives feeling like they do, what convinced us that decisions made in the moment are somehow less likely to lead to rewards than when we plan? If people look closely at the people around them I think they might find the opposite is more likely to be true. The planner’s lives are filled with successes and failures and a great deal of dramatics. The in-the-moment people never have failures, they’re always either simply enjoying themselves or they’re growing. And if you’re okay with that, that can feel like winning either way.

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.

Confident Humility

If we lack confidence we cannot be humble. Humility requires us to own both what we can do and what we cannot do. This is the fulcrum that lies between the extremes of over-confident egotism and crippling insecurity—between bold pride and shameful hiding. So the world was 657 Relax and Succeed - By being yourselfnever asking you to be perfect. But it does want you to contribute and you have much more to contribute than you currently imagine.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a street person tortured by an addiction, a worker in a company where you feel tortured by the meaninglessness of your work, if you’re an artist tortured by a creative block or an athlete who is in a torturous slump because you can’t find your groove—each of these states emerges because we have impaired ourselves. As we encounter normal hurdles and challenges and statistically anomalies it is easy to forget that absolutely everyone encounters these times in their life.

Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in jail, the Dalai Lama had to flee his own country and behind every business and sports success there are countless failures that those people pushed their way through to get to where you chose to notice them. But do not doubt that they too have had their hard times. Times where they felt they could not go on. And during those times we will all be inclined to start using limiting, self-defining language that talks more about what we can’t do that what we can do. And the problem with that is you will be limited by the size of your self-image instead of growing into your much larger natural self. This is a moment by moment action, so it is time you learned to quell the language that 657 Relax and Succeed - One side will make you largershrinks you and live in a way that expands you in a rewarding way. Because the world needs you. You have much to offer. And the world wants it now.

Yes good marriages and space launches and rock concerts and cool jobs seem awesome and worthwhile, but in the end those people’s lives are more like yours than you can imagine. The people who are deemed “successes” in life aren’t smarter than you. At most they’ll prevent self-limiting internal conversations that would undermine their confidence. But they’ll still have their doubts their failures and their giant regrets. Accept those as some of the stones you must step on to cross the river of life. Because to not step on them is to not live at all.

Be kinder to yourself. Invest more time thinking about the daily impact you have. Because on your death bed you won’t be thinking about Michael Jackson or your favourite car or your smartest purchase. You’ll be thinking about the millions of little graces that people showed to you in your life. And it’s often when we’re down and out that those moments happen, so we should always be ready for positive input regardless of our circumstances.

657 Relax and Succeed - You are the finestBe certain: you are a good and meaningful person and the harder parts of your life have only served to increase your sensitivities. Our challenging experiences provide us with a greater ability to respond to situations proactively and with genuine and meaningful empathy. You have strengths that others do not have. And your limiting thinking is exactly that—just thinking. So why is the real you being held back by ropes made of thinking that only exist inside the head of the real you? That’s you. Don’t you get it? Don’t do that to yourself. And don’t stop beating yourself up because it’s bad for you. Stop doing it because it prevents the greatness in you from emerging and the rest of us could really make good use of that greatness. So no more trying not-to-be-bad. Be great instead.

Remember: humility isn’t shyness or hiding your skills. It includes offering yourself, your labour, your mind and your resources toward life—toward moving life forward. Not just yours. But life in general, because the barriers between things only exist in our minds. And so by serving others we serve ourselves. We need only get in touch with the fact that we all have so much to give.

peace. s

Other Perspectives #62

656 OP Relax and Succeed - The best teachers

Seeing as it’s a holiday in Canada, today’s Other Perspectives #62 is a re-blog of an Other Perspectives from long ago. Fortunately, the nature of wisdom is that the information never gets old so I’m confident it will have the same usefulness today that it had on the day it was written. Have a wonderful day everyone!