Thens and Whens

The definition of Stultified is “to cause to lose enthusiasm and initiative, especially as a result of tedious or restrictive routine.” Sound familiar? You have an instinct for how life should feel and let’s face it, because egos seek security over experience, a lot of folks feel like their lives are small dashes of fun amidst a sea of monotony, responsibility and anxiousness. And who can blame them. Who wants to think that’s all there is?

But here’s the deal: think or live. The world is not terrible, you aren’t inadequate, your life does not lack potential. So why are so many people thinking those three things? Habit, supported by the fact that every other ego around you is doing it too, which makes it appear sane when it’s actually the key form of mental disruption for people.

People want answers but there aren’t any; you are an answer. Your life is an answer. And you write that answer as you live and that is a part of the perfection of how this all works. That’s once again why Kierkegaard went on about how you live forward but understand backward. So everyone can simply be, and life would be the jostle we experience together. But we can’t do that because most of you avoid jostling.

You don’t like being uncomfortable. You don’t like it if someone doesn’t like you, and you don’t like to fail. But achieving comes from trying and trying is another word for failing, so now what do you do? Success is on the other side of failure. Do you go for it anyway? Or do you live in the past or present, constantly thinking, always trying to figure out who you were supposed to be, calculating what’s wrong now, and then figuring out how bad your future is likely to be?

Seriously? No way. You have way too much potential for that. You stop the fearful thoughts by carefully considering what’s actually happening, which then leads to the eventual realisation that the only suffering you’d be open to was from your own thinking. Fortunately, you control that, so essentially you’re free of everyone except yourself. And even if you do attack yourself, it’ll be harder to take yourself seriously when you’ve truly considered how meaningless your fearful thinking is to the world.

Rather than living your life afraid that the world is too big for little you, live knowing that life is a powerful imperative within you. Standing in its way is sure to be painful. You were meant to be. As the naturalist David Attenborough said about plate-sized lichens, surviving for hundreds and thousands of years, “They simply exist, testifying to the moving fact that life even at it simplest level occurs, apparently, just for its own sake.” If you’re going to feel an urge to live anyway, why be a lichen? Why not live and enjoy a bunch of it?

I recently saw a quote: “The worst kind of sad is not being able to explain why.” Look, either you found out you have cancer or you didn’t. Someone died or they didn’t. Let’s not pretend that sadness just shows up like some kind of invisible cloud. It’s brain chemistry that’s fired by what’s in your consciousness. If something didn’t recently happen, then the reason you’re sad is why anyone would be sad: you’re taking your nows to think about depressing thens or whens. It hurts because it’s not your path. You were meant to be not think.

The pain just increases as you avoid life and think more. It is your nature, your destiny and your future to fill your lifetime. The universe simply wants some things to be and the internal arguments you replay in your head mean nothing in the face of it creating your life. Instead of talking to yourself, it’s time you climbed on board your own life and then ride it to wherever you really feel like going. Even if the route is hard.

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 Space To Be You

You know what you need? Nothing. That’s what you need. You need gaps, you need space. You need room to simply be. But you can’t do that because you’re either too busy being busy, or you’re busy being something other than yourself. You’re either too busy thinking other people’s thoughts or you’re too busy thinking about yourself. You’re anxious or worried or angry or depressed, and yet your nature is not. There are zero depressed babies.

The worst thing you can do to a baby is take it away from human contact. That’s why being depressed hurts so much when we’re older too. It cuts us off from the natural camaraderie that is part of a healthy human life. If you’re spending a lot of time alone and you’re hurt or angry, then keep in mind that it’s pretty normal for any human to feel that way if you’re in any way deprived of human engagement.

Temporarily wanting to be alone after taking an emotional hit is fine, but the reason that being isolated eventually always hurts is because the pain is signalling us that our time alone is over and we’re now being prodded by our healthy self to end the source of the suffering: the isolation.

The problem is, people will often mistake the pain of the isolation for the pain for the original experience. Fortunately, that’s just a small mistake our mind makes. Once we’ve trained it to watch for those things it can handle telling the two apart quite easily. But you can’t do that if you think all of your suffering comes from the outside world. The pain, okay. But the suffering you need to accept as your responsibility before you can be free of its agonies.

Let’s say you got cut off from your social group in some harsh and thorough way. Because we’re creatures that do better in the company of other creatures, it makes sense that you would find that experience painful. So go be alone for a while. But then when the aloneness doesn’t feel better–when it doesn’t feel like solitude and space and quiet–then you’ll start to suffer in that aloneness, and that’s your sign.

If you’re suffering you’ll have started to overthink and, if you’re not careful, soon you’ll mistake the emotional results of your thinking for the emotional pain of the inciting event from the past. You’ll blame the outside world for something you’re doing to yourself. You’ll develop all kinds of rationalisation stories that explain why your pain is someone else’s fault. But it won’t be. It will be you. And your freedom is hidden in that fact.

If you put yourself there you can get yourself out. If something painful’s happened, take some time and collect yourself but then rejoin life. But if you’re just wallowing in suffering every day then I’m sorry, but that’s you. You can tell yourself all the stories you like, with all of the sad events and evil characters you can think of, but it will not change the fact that you are powerful. You are free to think what you choose, and you’re free to end your suffering the moment you decide to focus of your consciousness on things that inspire you.

Being alone isn’t lonely if that’s where you feel you should be. Being with people isn’t busy or complicated if you’re quiet inside. No place or activity is right or wrong, it is simply either in or out of harmony with who you are being in any given moment. Allow yourself some sadness. But don’t regard your own thinking as though you have problems when you’re only problem is all of that thinking. After all, learning to tell our thinking from a direct experience is a key part of being healthy.

Save yourself. Whether you’re alone or in a crowd, create more space. Create more openness in each day, and more acceptance of yourself and your life. You are expansive and capable. Listen to your own guidance and then trust it.

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.

Emotional Rescue

937 Relax and Succeed - A bird doesn't singPretty much everyone knows if just a few people would change then things would be so much better. The only problem is everyone has a different list of who should change and how. And even if we all did change we’d inevitably end up changing into someone that still other people didn’t approve of. So what do you we do?

Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop. Rather than sadly and idly wanting the world to be better we can accept it is less than perfect but believe it’s worth saving anyway. What would you do to add to or improve the world? Instead of engaging in the act of wishing it was better, or in thinking about the distance between where we are now and a workable solution, what if instead we focused your energy and attention on the first step of that solution?

The reason this makes us feel better is not because we’re now suddenly “good people” making the world a “better place.” It makes us feel better because we’ve engaged in living life as an active verb and not a half-conscious verb obscured by confusing layers of thought and second guessing. Everyone’s tired of all that thinking anyway. It hurts. It’s time to live.

937 Relax and Succeed - We either make ourselves happyTo live as an activity and not an idea you must be prepared to be where and when you are. Most people aren’t. They suffer by imagining better times and then they wonder why they’re not then. Again, the thought-distance between these two ideas is where the thought-based suffering occurs. Suffering is not pain. Suffering is voluntary. To be healthy is to simply engage in reality without the judgment that leads to suffering.

Why does helping others feel good? Because there’s a psychological element to what I impart in my work but there’s also a spiritual one. From the outside they can sometimes appear to be in paradox but in that spiritual realm–the realist one to our true selves–we are all not only connected; we are one. That being the case, and as many prophets have pointed out, caring for another truly is caring for oneself.

People want to contribute. They feel that spirit within them flickering, begging for more fuel to stoke its fire. But people hide away and wait to feel better, not understanding that they need the fuel. Far from locking themselves away, people feeling low on energy should understand that the low sensation comes from negative thinking and depressed inactivity.

The human spirit should run contrary to the urges created by self-defeating thinking and instead we should use it’s painful feedback to prompt us to rejoin with the world and share in the great deal of love and support that exists in it every single day.

937 Relax and Succeed - We make a livingWe all can make a huge difference just by being more patient, more tolerant, more conscientious, more polite, more compassionate and friendlier. Smiles, favours, giving someone the benefit of a doubt, helping someone with a mistake instead of chastising them; these are the many ways in which you can add to the karma of a day.

Get involved with the world. It doesn’t need your commentary or opinion it needs your spirit and your efforts. There’s a reason that the poorest people give the most; it’s because they understand what it’s like to truly struggle. But they also often test as happier and that’s because their shared efforts create a strong sense of community. Through helping others we’re reminded that we have more than enough.

Get out there. Before the end of the week find some way to contribute to your community in some small or large way. But find it. And it has to be a real commitment. You have to join with the world to feel its strength within you. Give it your most enthusiastic efforts and it will respond with joys and rewards beyond your dreams.

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.

Flights of Passion

Winner: 2016’s Blog of the Year #9

929 Relax and Succeed - We aren't here to be perfectMany adult relationships won’t crash and burn with something like cheating or collapse under the weight of losing a child. Most will die a slow dull death and for that reason they are the ones that feel the most salvageable. Despite that possibility there is usually some external catalyst required for that to happen because otherwise the issue is difficult to overcome.

Imagine people are airplanes and the people inside are the potential experiences that everyone is born with. Flying is living. There is nowhere specific to go, so the closest thing you can do to “winning” is to land with all of your passengers / potentialities having already disembarked because they were fully realised. In short: you lived.

Okay, so everyone’s an airplane and when we’re flying high we have tons of perspective and we can appreciate tons of choice in terms of our direction. When we’re low-consciousness, we’re weaving through mountains of thought that half block-out the sky. It feels perilous and scary and we get angry and absent-minded in our efforts and yet the “mountains” are ultimately ephemeral; made only of our own thought and existing only within our own consciousness.

929 Relax and Succeed - Make your life worth lovingA relationship is when two planes choose to fly together. You happen to be on a similar course, you like how they fly and how their plane’s design works, and your passengers love waving to each other so you radio over and ask them if they’d like to join you on a permanent flight. Maybe you even make it official in front of all of the other pilots at some ceremony where you sign each other’s Flight Logs or something.

Obviously your planes fly differently so they’ll be impacted differently by weather, but in general the flying is good and you both enjoy the flow of your travels. This goes on for years until something happens. Maybe it’s an addiction, maybe you work too much, or you’re always angry or depressed, but somehow one or both of you goes into a downward spin. You’re no longer going anywhere, you’re only thinking about how much you hate the spinning.

The most their partner can do is radio instructions to them because the healthy partner does not actually have their hands on the unhealthy partner’s controls. Instead they naturally begin circling from as close as they can get without doing the same tight dangerous spin. They radio the tower for wisdom but it’s reconfirmed that there is nothing that can be done other than the pilot changing course. Any direction will do, but the plane needs to straighten itself out and only the pilot can do it.

929 Relax and Succeed - Don't let your struggle become your identityIn the best case scenarios the person realises that they are just spinning on thoughts about past regrets, or thoughts about future anxieties. They realise that there is no “correct direction.” They just need a direction. What was hurting wasn’t the danger in the future or the pain of mistakes made in the past, it was the spinning itself; it was the asking of the unanswerable question. At a certain point there are no more answers sought because in the end it is accepted that all that can be done is to fly and so the person does.

But in some cases the person spins too long. And while their partner has done a lazy circle for literally years in the hopes that their companion will pull out of it, eventually their passengers get restless. How much fuel do they have? There’s a lot of life to experience and they can’t live any of it flying in circles for literally years. Because one plane’s going down does that mean both should? The pilot feels that pressure and the passengers note that there’s been little to no sign that anything will change. Eventually the only question is: when will the pilot listen to the passengers, not if. And therein lies the problem.

Once that plane finally does depart (as incredibly reluctant as it will be to go), there will be an immediate sense of relief on the part of the passengers and crew. After all, they’ve just been doing a wider version of that same spin. They do not want to go down in the middle of a deep ocean having not seen much of anything in literally years. Ironically, their departure can sometimes be what triggers a genuine recovery in the partner. By focusing on that change the unhealthy pilot’s mind gets out of its loop and focuses as suddenly the partner gives chase.

929 Relax and Succeed - We travel not to escape lifeThe problem is that they’re usually a long way behind. It makes sense that they would radio their beloved other pilot and ask them to circle for a while until they catch up, but at the same time they can appreciate the difficulty in that. Now that they are finally in motion the notion of travelling backwards or circling more is particularly unappealing. Often even an intense love for their partner cannot overcome it. Too much recent time has been spent on down and backwards. Their souls are literally starved for forwards and upwards.

These are crushing circumstances. No one wants what comes to pass. These are the worst and most poetic days we will face in life. There are no winners in a scenario like that spin. People can pull out of those dives and they can draw a strong and passionate direction from the emptiness of their previous life so those experiences are never losses. They are however extremely painful. The most we can come to is an understanding that the passengers in all the other planes have the same will to live that ours do.

How long a partner should circle is the big debate. Some say marriage vows say you circle until your plane goes down. Some people say you leave right away. Others dedicate years, decades and lifetimes. There is no right answer. Others may judge but, they’re not in your plane, they don’t know your fuel situation and they don’t have your passengers. So all anyone can do is use all of their plane-flying skills and instincts and do what they genuinely feel is best. There just isn’t a better flight plan than that.

Enjoy your day.

big hug, 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.

Other Perspectives #92

821 OP Relax and Succeed - It's not abotu forcing happinessPeople talk as though their psychology is separate from themselves. Like it’s another person they have to deal with. They resign themselves to the fact that they have this or that identity and then absolutely everything gets reflected off that. So if they think they have reasons to be sad then they’ll list the reasons and the listing of it will make them sad. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Sure, being sad can be a long term habit that lasts a lifetime. But each and every time those are are still just judgment calls. Your friends wouldn’t agree with those assessments of you. But until we choose to stop seeing the world as though our judgments about it are actually facts, we will always be captive to them. You can enjoy life any time you choose to appreciate anything genuinely and that goes for any person whether they are happy or depressed. Happiness does not need to be forced it’s a natural state.  And sadness can’t “win.” Sadness is something you do. Sometimes it is perfectly appropriate. Maturing is knowing when to allow it and when to shift it. Don’t be in a hurry. As long as you’re aware of it, over time you’ll figure out when you should change it and when you should leave it alone. When in doubt, be appreciative. And have a great week.

peace, s

Scott McPherson is a writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.

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Resistance to Change

774 Relax and Succeed - Perhaps our eyes need to be washedWhen I meet a new student I can pretty quickly tell if they’ll learn what I’m teaching them now or later. I get why the later group wants it to be later. When you already feel overwhelmed who wants someone suggesting that what you need is more responsibility? I get that it’s entirely counter-intuitive. But as with many things we eventually come to understand, the truth is hidden in the apparent paradox.

I know that feeling of profound sadness. Everyone does. No one gets out of life without a healthy dose of all of the feelings. And that sadness–it’s darkness is so heavy. It suffocates your spirit. You simply cannot imagine anyone reaching you there. It is horribly lonely and it steals your spirit to live. People that commit suicide aren’t angry, they’re tired. The suffering just seems so uniform and relentless that there seems to be no point in continuing. And so it makes sense that you might initially hate me for saying you should do more.

I know that anyone who’s feeling down does not want to be there and that you would have tried every sensible thing you could imagine to get yourself out. I have faith in you. At the same time, I know from experience that the answer is more tricky than difficult. The example I often use is learning to multiply numbers. To say it’s hard isn’t accurate, but learning it requires a leap of understanding much like this does.

774 Relax and Succeed - Believe that life is worth livingSo I’m not really asking you to work harder by taking more responsibility, I’m asking you to take it easier by assuming more responsibility. If you will accept only one idea–if you will accept only one responsibility–you will be free of almost all of the others. But before you take it you can’t see why the others would vanish so you resist the change. Even though what you’re doing is leading to sadness you will continue down that path rather than take on weight you don’t think your spirit can handle. Fair enough.

But when you’re ready all you need to do is this one thing, in an albeit pretty profound way: you need to accept the idea of suffering in your life. I know, weird isn’t it? Your suffering disappears if you accept suffering. If you’ll just own when you feel crappy–if you’ll just let that be–then you can shift your way out into better feelings. But if you take the better-feeling time and dedicate it to wishing and hoping that you never had nor never will suffer, then you suffer almost all the time.

Do you see the duality of it? By accepting suffering you give happiness something to contrast against. You can’t find the happiness when there’s no contrast. So if you consistently stay in a state of wanting-to-be-happier then you’re essentially blocking happiness. If you resist suffering then you are inviting more of it by thinking about wanting it gone. As always, appreciation feels good, wanting feels bad.

774 Relax and Succeed - While experiencing happinessThe simple fact is that everyone has been knocked down repeatedly in life. You’ll idolize some music star but ignore the single line in their interview about having “surrendered 10 years to a drug addiction.” 10 years! 3500 agonized days described just like that. Or we treat a Hollywood divorce like it’s somehow less crazily painful than anyone else’s divorce. But we skip past all those dirty details and we note all the good stuff that happened before and after. So why not do the same thing with your own life?

You can’t like being alive all the time or you wouldn’t even know what enjoyment was. So suffering is a mandatory portion of the yin and yang construction of the universe and you literally need it as much as you need happiness. And yet when it comes you send it away as though it doesn’t belong in your life. But it does, so it returns and knocks again and asks you to accept it. But you reject it and reject it and your entire life ends up invested in dealing with nothing but suffering.

Surrender. Allow. Lots of days won’t feel easy to enjoy but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be appreciated. Appreciation is separate from enjoyment. You may not enjoy your workout but you appreciate it helps you enjoy more of the rest of your life. You may not enjoy the company of your mother but without her absolutely none of your life would have ever happened.

774 Relax and Succeed - When you complain you make yourself a victimThe only line you want to draw isn’t between happiness and sadness. That effort just leads to a lot of sadness. No, the only line you want is between worthy of your time or not worth of your time. So feeding yourself is work but it keeps you alive so it’s worthy of your time. We don’t need more happiness we need less meaninglessness.

Way too much of what you do each day is truly and profoundly meaningless. Get rid of ego-based, churning actions like doing things out of obligation, or not asking for help, or even just complaining etc. etc. Forget achievements and being impressive or even liked. Just focus on the value in each moment. It’s much easier than trying to straddle your past and your future simultaneously.

Yes, you will suffer. If you’re suffering now you’re in the perfect position to spot appreciation. The person in the darkest room finds the pinhole of light first. But you can’t see it and complain it’s too small. You have to focus on it and study it, and as you grow closer it will expand to take up much more of your view until all you can see is mostly the light, leaving the darkness to recede to the point where it is only seen as one thing: the frame for all of your happiness.

May peace be with you.

Love, s

Scott McPherson is a writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.

Herding Cats

Teaching people to be mindful is a bit like herding cats. They’re too smart and too curious to ever really control, but you can nudge them over when they get too far out of line. In fact, that’s what these blogs are for. My actual students are the ones who benefit the most because they’re drawing more out of these posts than most people would. But fundamentally they are using these posts to nudge themselves back on track. Staying in a healthy zone does get to be a habit thankfully, but you still have to maintain an awareness because slipping out of that state of mind is inevitable for without the opposite we could not know our health.

559 Relax and Succeed - The beautiful thingMy students will tend to fall into groups in terms of how they come to know what it is I’m imparting, but they all share certain patterns to their understanding. One of the key ones is their first significant period of time out of their health. Say I’m doing a group course that’s eight weeks long. By week four people are usually starting to notice a difference and by week eight virtually all of them have a decent grip on what they have to do to continue feeling better. From that p0int there will be a few who simply don’t put in the most basic effort and naturally if you don’t actually make the changes, things cannot change. A much larger group earnestly tries to turn what they’ve learned into a verb. They remember the things they discovered and they use them and build on them and they are rewarded with increasingly beautiful lives.

Most commonly, a student will have about a three or four month run of feeling increasingly awesome and then something will trip them up. They’ll usually panic and call me, worried they’ve lost everything they learned. But of course you can’t unlearn things. They know it, they’re just forgetting it’s a verb and not a noun. They didn’t become conscious when they took my course, they learned how to be conscious. It is up to them to actually do that and usually just a quick reminder gets them back on course. Until…

Usually about a year to a year and a half later I’ll touch base. This is often when even successful people have slipped into the habit of thinking about the right thing to do rather than actually doing it. So they’ll tell themselves it’s important to stay conscious when what they should be doing is actually being conscious. Golf offers a good analogy: when referring to the importance of keeping one’s eye on the ball, it’s like the difference between having the lenses of your eyes pointed at the ball while you’re thinking about keeping your eye on the ball rather than simply actually mindfully looking at it.

559 Relax and Succeed - Good Days and Bad Days GraphBecause they got healthier during the course, people often feel like they’ve failed when they get upset. That’s when I remind them that an unpleasant experience is a phase of being healthy, not sick. Again, I remind them that there is no in if there is no outside. We have to spend time there in an egocentric state of mind or the healthy state of mind cannot be recognized. The objective is simply to spend the least amount of time out of your health as possible.

Fortunately you have emotions. They’re very handy. They act as a signaling system regarding your thinking. Much like pain in your elbow tells you not to play tennis, agonized thoughts urge you to change the course of your thinking. Eventually people subtly remember how to get back in, and from there they just steadily bounce back and forth, spending less and less time out and more and more time in. Life circumstances may go up or down, but that is irrelevant to the wise person who understands what reality is made of.

You are not lost if you are out—that is an aspect of being in, just as heads on a coin is an aspect of tails on a coin. You need one to have the other. So don’t panic during times of lower consciousness. Just use your available consciousness to find the best thought you can and climb your way out from there. It’s really not that hard but people make it hard because they think it should be. But it’s always the same motion. Stop wanting, start appreciating. Repeat that action for as much of your life as you can and you will be a wise and successful person.

Have the best kind of day your current awareness will allow.

With love, s