Trusting Love

 

1315 Relax and Succeed - Adults can choose where they goWhy do so many young women have a lack of faith in the love of their partners? There are many reasons for that, but almost all women do face at least one common enemy.

Due to many of the thought-shaping forces in society being quite blunt and broad, many of us end up impacted by the same social memes, advertising techniques, fashions, trends, tropes and clichés. We all share many constructs in society, and in fact society itself is a construct. But it would be good if it could be a helpful one.

Of course these forces all hit us slightly differently, but the ones that are designed as marketing and propaganda will have been built to capitalize on insecurities that many of us share. For this reason we can see patterns of behaviour in various marketing demographics, and one of the groups in which these effects are easiest to see, is in girls and young women aged 14-30.

Women overall take a beating in the marketing and advertising world. They are subjected to messages about being too fat, not curvy enough, their hair’s all wrong, their skin and breath are bad, they have a poor diet and they’re not sexy enough. Let’s see, what do we have there? A too, a not, a wrong, a bad, a poor, and a not enough. How’s a girl to survive?

The worst places an insecure self-view can take us is into unhealthy relationships where we are too focused on pleasing the other person and not enough on nurturing what’s healthy for us –which would hopefully include the behaviour of our romantic partners. That sort of inferior sense can cause people to stay in relationships they would be better to leave.

The worst places an insecure self-view can take us is into unhealthy relationships where we are too focused on pleasing the other person and not on nurturing what’s healthy for us —

Almost as bad, those same forces can mean that even people who find healthy relationships can have trouble accepting the idea that they truly deserve love. I have a former student who is a classic example of this.

She says she’s shy but really she’s just a little bit, and just when she meets someone. But then almost everyone is a little bit, they just hide it in different ways. She’s also very smart and she thinks thoughtfully about things, so she’s very interesting to talk to.

I can’t say if you’d think she was pretty or the ‘right’ weight, because those are subjective personal opinions. All I can say is that she seems pretty to me and her weight seems right in every way but one: she doesn’t like it.

If you saw her most people would find her thin, yet she’s noted she goes through phases of worrying about her weight. This absolutely breaks my heart. We are talking about an amazing person here. She could really go anywhere with her future, she’s trying to be as wise as a person can be about living.

She also has a mother that, like all mothers and daughters, she has struggles with sometimes. But that’s also the same mother that brought her to me a few years ago when she was worried about her, so clearly she cares, even if they have some trouble connecting at this stage in their lives. That is hardly uncommon.

In addition to the backstop of her own background and capability, she also has only praise for her boyfriend, and her descriptions of him are the sort that genuinely make me happy. He treats her well, and with respect.

She’s not a showpiece or a doormat. He admires her but he is confused by her insecurities. He doesn’t understand how she can be so smart and not calculate that she must be impressive just by looking at the evidence in her life. And he would have a point.

Obviously he’s dating her because he thinks out of all of the women he could pursue, she is the most amazing. Guys are not known for aiming for second best. We’ll either go for first or torture ourselves waiting for the courage to try. Bottom line, if he’s with her it’s because he wants to be.

1315 Relax and Succeed - Even if we find love will we accept

Now don’t get me wrong, even if she has some understandable insecurities, they still have a wonderful relationship. She’s stunningly helpful to him –I doubt he can know how fortunate he is having so little to compare to at his age.

If she’s extremely emotional and inclined to be unreasonable, she actually lets him know that she can’t discuss the issue until later because she knows she’ll be unreasonable. To many people, that’s a dream girl right there.

Of course, once she calms down, 90% of the time they have nothing to discuss, which might explain why the relationship is much more appreciation than drama. What I like most about it is they usually seem to either discuss interesting ideas or have fun. They are young and have much to learn like all of us, but it sounds like a really good match –if only she could accept that she deserves it.

So here we have a pretty, slim, smart, strong, wise young woman with support coming in different ways from both family and her boyfriend and circle of friends, plus she’s very mature about how she approaches both her career and her relationships, yet when she feels weak she feels all too, and not, and wrong, and bad, and poor, and lacking, and just not sexy enough.

She has every indication that she is incredible, leaving the only reason she feels that way is largely because of advertising and marketing campaigns that swirl around people’s heads and that get traded between young ladies like dark whirling Pig Pen-like tornadoes of thought. Their social media can be horrifying.

It was tiny little her against an army of highly paid psychologists and advertising specialists. It is that haze of external sales pitches that has brainwashed her to the point where it prevents her from seeing who I see, who her friends see, and who her boyfriend sees. A totally 100% acceptable person. Just like everyone reading this.

We did make a lot of headway in that she continues to be remarkably helpful to her relationship and she’s now found ways to finish school despite facing some bullying, and show now has at least part of her post-school life sorted out in a way that excites her.

Like everyone, she will still have life struggles, but by learning more about how she participates in her own creation of her reality she has already freed herself from constraints that many adults still strongly feel held back by.

All that said, her realizations won’t be complete until she reaches one key point. She currently cannot fully appreciate the reasons why her boyfriend loves her, or why her friends love her, or why I admire her as a person, and why her mother sees her as loaded with potential. There’s too many marketing ideas poisoning those facts.

It is a process, but one she has begun in earnest. If she didn’t, he would be forever trapped having to build her up when he would rather just enjoy his time with a woman that he already sees as complete.

Sure, finishing school, fostering a healthy relationship and finding a career path are no small things to accomplish. But it is important that she continue to watch for examples that help to prove to herself that she truly deserves the love she gets, and that her boyfriend really does think she’s perfect just the way she is.

It is a process, but one she has begun in earnest. If she didn’t, he would be forever trapped having to build her up when he would rather just enjoy his time with a woman that he already sees as complete. That would eventually wear him out, so she’s on the right path and so far it’s going well.

By the time we were officially done she actually already was where she wanted to be. She’s a great person who’s finished school, has a job she’s happy about, and she has a supportive and loving boyfriend. All she has to do now is make that final leap to believing that she’s really worthy of everyone’s love. That’s where everyone is waiting for her.

Of course, the same goes for everyone reading this. An amazing collection of natural forces needed to occur for each person to exist as an individual. The universe wanted us to be yet so many of us question our value.

We should waste no time questioning the universe. Instead, we should join my student in accepting ourselves so that we too can get on to the business of offering our courage, compassion and love to all those we share this world with.

Other people loving us does not have its full effect unless we feel worthy. Only thoughts keep us from that naturally receptive state. We do not need to build ourselves up to be good enough for the love we get, we simply must lower the thought barrier we have between us and our knowledge that we, along with everyone everywhere, is born  worthy of love we receive.

peace, s

 

Our Potential is Limited by Insecure Thinking

1295 Relax and Succeed - When you feel fantastic

Once we gain the ability to see people unconditionally, it becomes painful experiencing someone turn in on themselves. Humility is attractive, but self-criticism based on insecurity is like watching someone slice their own soul open. If only people realized how incredible they are.

When we feel fantastic and when we feel awful, it is the same us generating both of those identities. We have to stop and really think about that.

We can’t let our sense of our selves or the quality of our days be left to chance. Yet, that’s what most people do without ever realizing they have an option. If we don’t become aware that we can conjure large parts of our lives with our intentions, we will view the world largely out of habit.

The danger in habitual thinking is that it means that if we are unhappy we will stay that way. People who think they’re going to have a bad day are going to be able to find one lurking within every day for sure because nothing is ever perfect. But the same goes for bad days. None are perfectly bad.

The variable quality of our lives is influenced, but how it feels will ultimately depend most on how hard we’re inclined look for evidence of things that inspire us, versus those that don’t.

This awareness of our ability to choose not only inoculates us against long term suffering, but it also promises the potential of an exalted life. Just like a sad or angry life, a wonder and love-filled life also exists in potential for almost everyone. But it is we who must consciously enact that life.

1295 Relax and Succeed - Real success is feeling good

We should be wary if we feel the urge to hide from our own lives. We are not failures, we are human. And each of us is the only person out of billions assigned to live our particular life. Every role is part of the larger whole, so if we consider our successes and our failures as part of a larger duty to the universe, then even our mistakes become important, impersonal contributions to the universal flow of yin and yang.

The world transfers energy between positive and negative sources. We shouldn’t panic if we occasionally and accidentally find ourselves the agents of the universe’s need to also express negativity. If we don’t like a feeling there’s little need to add guilt. We’re already motivated to change by how bad it feels.

The point is to avoid creating negative space within our own consciousness by taking action or changing the course of our thinking. At the same time, we must do this while still accepting that negative feelings are an integral part of life. They too make life worth living. The wisdom comes through experience in managing the balance.

Real success is feeling good about being who we are, struggles included. When we can bestow that kind of unconditional love upon ourselves, we are given the capacity to perpetually heal. When we can bestow unconditional love on others, we develop the power to inspire those with whom we share our lives.

peace. s

Waking Up Our Kids

1292 Relax and Succeed - Over-thinking steals livesIt’s common for people to wish they’d learned to control their thinking when they were younger. What’s effortless to learn for largely egoless kids is a bit harder when we’re older, that’s fair. More importantly, for a kid, a lot of suffering can be avoided or abbreviated if we know how to manage our emotions earlier in life.

Phones and computers and automation give many of us a false sense of control. But when we are faced with situations that are overwhelming, increasingly people are finding they are incapable of managing that very normal aspect of life. Lessons on managing our feelings needs to start young –younger than we might think.

Every parent should at least consider waking their kid up in a way that helps them truly understand how the world and our minds merge to create our reality. Rather than just telling them to get up and being perfunctory about getting them physically ready, if possible, we should consider taking a moment to get them psychologically ready too.

Kids generally assume that whatever their parents are doing is what’s happening in every house. Normal is whatever our parents do routinely. So if they wake up and they witness us taking a moment to set an intention for a good day, and if we casually expect that they should do likewise, those things quickly instill that healthy ritual as a normal part of waking up.

A parent can present the idea like it’s a big moment –like when a kid doesn’t have to wear diapers anymore– or, if the kid’s older, it can be said much like you might tell them that they have to remember to grab their skates for hockey practice.

It’s either exciting or pedestrian, depending on how much child-like wonder your kid is still functioning with. I’ll use a young kid in the example. In my admittedly highly idealized example, it starts as easily as:

“Tomorrow when we get up we’ll get you started on setting your intentions,”

“What’s that?” the kid may say in some form or other.

“Well, without an intention people’s feelings are kind of like flags or balloons. They just float in the direction the wind is blowing. And you know how people have good moods and bad ones?” The kid nods. “Well, other people’s moods and our own thoughts are the ‘wind’ everyone has in their day.”

“The wind?”

“Yeah, it’s like a wind of thinking. Sometimes it blows us along and makes things better, like when people cheer for us or when we’re thinking lucky thoughts. But sometimes it blows hard right at us, like when a lot of people are picking on us, or if we’re mad, or sad. Some days there’s no wind, but most days there’s at least a breeze. So it’s important to start the day with an intention to not get blown off course.”

“What happens when we’re blown off course?”

“Well, we’re just individuals. We’re very strong and we have lots of control, but sometimes we’re hungry, or over-tired, or sometimes we’re just surrounded by too much sadness or anger. But we don’t want to stay angry or sad –or even get angry or sad if we can avoid it, right?”

“I don’t want to be sad.”

“I don’t want you to be sad either, but we have sad feelings because sad is a part of life. Without sad we lose a lot of love songs, and love songs are beautiful. As we get older we start to understand what to do with sadness –because we can use it to find more happiness if we do it right. But some sadness is just built into life. The way to avoid being too sad for too long is to set an intention to have a good day. That way you avoid the avoidable sadness.”

“You mean we can not feel sad? How?”

1292 Relax and Succeed - Stop thinking and end your problems

“Sometimes you ‘can not feel sad.’ Other times it’s the right feeling for what’s happening, like when we were sad at when we had to take Pepper to the vet to go to sleep.”

“I miss Pepper.”

Cuddles the child. “I do too honey. Thinking about Pepper can be a nice kind of sad though, right? That’s the kind of sad it’s okay to feel. Missing Pepper is because we loved her.”

“There’s good sad and bad sad?”

“Yeah. Good sad is the sad we want to feel. But sometimes you don’t want to feel sad, or we’re tired of feeling the kind of sad we liked and now we want to feel better. When we feel that feeling we have to shift our attention to different things.”

“… what kind of things?”

“Well, if we don’t want to be sad then we can’t think our own sad thoughts because they’re sad. And we don’t want to think other people’s negative thoughts –stuff like insults– either, because that hurts too. Auntie Sara sometimes makes herself sad because she thinks she should look different. But we love Sara exactly the way she is, don’t we.”

“I love Sara… Why does Sara want to be different?”

“Well, wanting is made of thinking. So Sara is thinking about looking different than she does and she likes the person in her thoughts better.”

“So she doesn’t like her real self?!”

“Sometimes. Yeah.”

This genuinely dismays the child. “Why? Then why doesn’t she stop thinking that?”

“I guess she forgot to. Maybe because she didn’t have the habit of setting her intention for the day.”

“How do I do that?”

“It’s when we decide how we’re going to use our focus for a day. All day long we all each decide what we think about. Nobody else thinks for us. So if you’re thinking about Pepper and it’s making you sad but you like that kind of sad, you can keep focusing on your thoughts on Pepper. But if you’re too sad and you want to stop, instead of thinking about Pepper you have to think about something or someone that makes you happy, like the time we went horseback riding, or when you went on the airplane.”

“I can think about that?”

“You can think about anything you choose.”

“That will make me happier?”

“Yup –if you choose thoughts that make you happy.”

“Can it be a rabbit?”

Every parent knows this kind of stifled laugh when kids introduce an idea from nowhere. “Yeah, sure it can be a rabbit. It can be anything that makes you happy.”

1292 Relax and Succeed - If we don't like something

“How?”

“You and your ‘how’s.’ Okay. Well, when think about nicer or happier things our brain stops making chemicals that make us feel sad, and it starts making ones that feel better. Sad feelings, happy ones, when we’re mad, or laughing –all of our feelings come from inside us, from our thinking.”

“Inside of us?” The kid goes cross-eyed trying to get a look past their forehead to their brain.

“We kind of ask for our feelings. But when we’re young we only know how to do that when it’s easy, like when we get to do something fun. But when we’re old enough, it’s time to start learning the important part. That’s where we learn to to stop being too sad even when a sad wind is blowing.”

“How do I stop being sad when I don’t want to anymore?”

“Just the way I said –you just change to think about something nicer –that you feel better about.”

“That’s all?”

“Yup. It’s pretty easy. But the voices in our heads can get tricky. They try to tell us we don’t want to be happier when really we know we do, but our thoughts get confused by the chemicals.”

“The sad chemicals?”

“Any of them can confuse us. Wait until you’re older and fall in love. The first time doing that is really confusing. But like everything, we get better at things the more we do them. That’s why it’s important to start practicing when we’re young.”

“I don’t want to be sad like Sara. Sara’s beautiful.”

“Awww honey. Yeah, she is. I don’t want her to think that either. Or for you to think like that about yourself. But doing that is easier if we set an intention. So when we wake up, before we completely get up we have to remember to stop for a few moments. That’s when we do our little meditation.”

“A medit… a m… a what?”

“A meditation. That’s when we take some time to remind ourselves that our thoughts create how we feel each day. And then we remind ourselves that we want to feel good that day. That way, if we forget during the day –and everyone does sometimes– then the intention from the morning reminds us of what to do. If we don’t like our feelings we have to change our thinking. Do you think you’re ready to start trying that?”

If it’s a matter of ready, most kids will jump at the chance to prove more capability and freedom.

“Okay. I’m going to do mine out loud so you have an example, but you can make up your own. What’s important is that it reminds you of your power. No one can change our thoughts but us. Okay, are you ready?”

By now the kid is fascinated to hear what magic spell comes next. And it’s about as close to a real one as we need. Eyes closed, the intention begins.

“Today if I lose my way and I get lost in my thoughts, I will use this intention to remind me that I want to make the most of my day, and so I do not want to dwell on sad, or angry, or guilty, or mean thoughts about myself, my life or any other person or thing.

“Instead of choosing to feel badly I will choose to feel better as soon as my intention reminds me to focus on something better. I thank my intention for helping me keep my thinking in control and thank you for making this little monkey here,” snuggles the child, “so that I always have such a beautiful little monkey to think about to help me when I’m sad.”

“You think about me when you’re sad?”

“I do. When I think of you it makes me happy.”

“When I think of me that makes me happy too.”

“That’s a whole other conversation about identity and ego my little Confucius. Let’s save that talk for a few years.”

“Okay. Can we get a rabbit?”

peace. s

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!