The Art of Believing

Intuitively you know it, but it’s rare even among writers for a human being to break language down enough to realise how ephemeral it really is. It always surprises me that it can accomplish anything at all it’s such a faulty, misunderstood communication system. Half the time it’s like broken Morse Code where 25% of the dots and dashes are missing plus both parties got different versions of the codebook from their parents and culture.

Writers and scientists and a few weird researchers like me are the ones who look at communication crazy-closely. We slow it down, watch it unfold, and in doing so we can see why people say they’ll do things they never intended to do, or why a spouse doesn’t relax when their partner curtly tells them that they’re “fine.” Yeah, their tone sounds a bit pleasant, but….

These are all communications indeed, but the words used will often combine with the tone and circumstances and history to create entirely different meanings, and often that meaning will even be intentionally imprecise. The people we know well don’t really do this any better than anyone else but over time we do get to know each other’s codebooks a little, so friends have more success than strangers, but still….

None of this should surprise us. If you listen for it today you’ll realise that often times people are speaking precisely because they don’t want to communicate accurately. “We’re looking into it,” if it’s said to a boss, can just as easily mean, “We’re trying to figure out how to tell about you this without getting fired.”

Of course parents know this process all too well. Many times the year’s backpack gets tossed out the following year because the kids actually lied about cleaning all their old lunches out of them before putting them away for the summer. Imagine that. A kid lying to their parents. It’s almost as though they’re trying to hide something…. And look at that. I’ve ended three sentences now with ellipses (…) Even I’m implying things I’m not saying.

Isn’t it weird that you roll around in these lies and misdirections every day and you don’t even really acknowledge it? There’s nothing you can do about it, so it’s not like it’s worth worrying about, but you could benefit enormously by keeping in mind that it’s always happening. It is not crazy to walk away from any exchange thinking to yourself, “Okay, I think I understand what they meant.” That way, if it turns out you didn’t–no problem. You didn’t have the expectation that you had.

We all need to believe something to function but it’s important that we not mistake our interpretations of the world for the world itself. There’s no way to talk about the world itself because no one sees the world, everyone justs sees their perspective on it. It’s like we’ve all gathered around the base of Mount Everest. Everyone has a different view; everyone can see something others cannot, and they can’t see things that some others can. In that scenario it’s just crazy to want to be the person who sees through everyone’s eyes. No one has that view unless you want to call that the God-view.

Your view of things, your view of ideas, your view of other people, and your view of yourself will not align with others views. If you look at your life you’ll see a ton of it gets wasted in your efforts to reconcile these views. You invest a lot energy trying to get people to see things from your perspective when that’s rarely necessary and it never really works anyway. You’d be far better off to just let things be, including misunderstandings, and particularly including misunderstandings about you.

This is why you trusting yourself and your naturally cooperative heart is so important. All of the other information that you have could be faulty. And everyone’s using different information anyway, so what’s the point in reconciling just this or that one? You can let all of that balancing and correcting and sorting out and fixing to other egos and you can live a spiritual life instead.

Be okay with being misunderstood. Be okay with misunderstanding. Be okay with truths. Be okay with lies. Understand that these all make sense from their individual perspectives, and that you can never hope to grasp all of the complexities. You are better to let go and flow instead.

Don’t compare events to what you thought would happen based on discussions, just accept them as they are and move on to the next moment. That is what it is to truly understand communication. That is how you use your understanding of it to free yourself to live a fulfilling life. Accept but don’t believe. Live in the mystery. It really works. I really mean it.

Have a wonderful week everyone.

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.

The Four Noble Truths

1015-relax-and-succeed-the-buddhaUnderstanding the secret behind a clear, rewarding life is not a matter of intelligence, it’s a leap into a paradox. Enlightenment is the action behind a rewarding life. It is a motion through experience. Even repeated actions are each given moment by moment attention. It is to simply be aware of experience without the creation of nor attachment to an experiencer.

A student once asked me why she saw several different versions of The Four Noble Truths. Since this blog is all about clarifying popular quotes it seemed a fitting basis for a blog and so I’m answering her question here.

The phrase, Suffering is universal, and the phrase, Life means suffering essentially say the same thing. If you want life you must also take suffering. They’re a package deal. But the noble truths should not be seen independently. They are almost more a riddle than a checklist of rules.

1015-relax-and-succeed-four-noble-truthsClearly we don’t have to reconcile the two when they both say, The origin of suffering is attachment, but we do have to define attachment. This doesn’t just mean attachments to things, people, or places, it also includes ideas. Like for instance, you will suffer if you’re attached to the idea of becoming detached. (Now there’s a tricky one.)

Again the two versions agree in their third stanza: The cessation of suffering is attainable. Now it gets interesting. Note that the first truth said that there was no way around suffering and yet here it says you can cease it. Logically, that means that you have to take it during your lifetime but you can learn to stop it for periods of time. You can exert limits on suffering, you just can’t make it vanish or you also wouldn’t know happiness. By accepting some suffering you avoid most suffering, but without the contrast joy will disappear.

Now to speak to the biggest difference–or apparent biggest difference–because I would argue these two statements are different phrasings of the same thing; Path to cessation of suffering is detachment means detached from an outcome. You can only be enlightened if you don’t want to be enlightened. You cannot have any attachment to an external outcome and achieve an enlightened state. That only happens when you have no personal feelings or desires, just pure experience.

1015-relax-and-succeed-the-four-noble-truthsThe alternate version is, Gradual self-improvement is the path to the cessation of suffering. This too is saying there is no identity nor any state of enlightenment there is only the act of becoming enlightened. You can’t have the goal of enlightenment and then know that as an individual you achieved it, you can only enact enlightenment through focusing on learning how to cease suffering. Again, it’s not a state, it’s an action. You just move around the spokes of the four truths. The road home is home.

Learning to manage your suffering will make you more ephemeral, flexible and free. Conversely, not wanting to suffer is to bring suffering directly to the smallest, weakest version of you there is. Learn how to suffer wisely. Much of this entire site is dedicated to helping you do that. Make it a priority in your life. There’s nothing else you could do that would make as much difference in how much you enjoy your life.

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.

Separate Realities

It wasn’t until my massive insight while living in Budapest that I realized the rest of you were taking your thoughts seriously. That answered a lot of questions about why people did what they did. But it also presented some new questions like; is there a way to bridge those realities?

743 Relax and Succeed - Life is a single tatamiThe simple answer is: yes. you can bridge them with any genuine connection. The Greeks had a lot of words for love because it could arrive as romance or it could arrive as a friend’s wisdom (which is separate from people’s advice). Or love could come in the form of brotherly support, motherly care, a stranger’s compassion, a partner’s tolerance, a sexual connection with a lover, or the meaning in a work of art—these are all forms of love.

Whether it’s sexual and we’re literally inside each other, or whether it’s over space and time and we are connected to an artist via a work of art, we are connected. At that point we do not see difference. We perceive that they are experiencing the same thing as us. We are sharing an experience.

The universe has fractured into definitions. Our subject and object view of the world keeps creating greater and greater sub-definitions. We find more out in space and more in the sub-atomic world. We find new diseases and species. We discover past discoveries have been wrong and we split them into new categories. We file and sort and define and order and value. So when we look at people it’s easy to sort them, file them and then react to that instead of to the person we actually see in front of us.

Don’t make your spirituality something separate from your day. Don’t make the management of your psychology something you only do when you’re suffering. Become conscious instead. It feels wonderful and it allows you to steer past so many obstacles that you would otherwise collide with. But to do that you have to surrender labelling the world for being present within it.743 Relax and Succeed - Pain is psychological

We know love as a feeling. We can quiet our thoughts when we’re enthralled in love. Well we can do the same thing with peace or with silence or with the present moment. They are also things that can so fully occupy our being that we don’t have room to construct a personal identity to have personal thoughts. We are simply having an experience. There’s no one having it. It’s just an experience experienced.

As you move through your day try to genuinely connect with the people you engage with. Don’t talk to them as a role or an identity or from a role or identity. See them in that moment as though you were told they were going to surprise you somehow today. Watch for the surprise. Be awake. It will change you.

It’s hopefully for 70-100 years. Accept that this play we’re all performing in requires us all to have separate roles—separate ways of seeing the world. Life is the interaction of those views. Things aren’t going wrong when we tangle with others for better or worse. The tangling is what it is to be alive. And when you accept that and make friends with where you are and the moment you’re in, you’re life changes dramatically.

Endeavour to be conscious. It’s not hard and it’s easily worth it. You’ll have more energy, clarity, emotional control and you’ll end up happier in the end. And you are easily worth that and more.

Have an awesome day.

peace. s