Expanding Perspectives

1071-relax-and-succeed-you-choose-your-attitudeIn yesterday’s meditation, how many of you noticed that virtually all of you would have started off only noticing one kind of reality change? Most of you either picked all internal or all external on day one. If you picked a mixture, congratulations. That’s a sign of health. Of course, you would have to do a test like this on a variety of occasions to see if that was your set-point, or just the state of mind you were visiting that day, but in general all new self-awareness is helpful.

If you chose three internal changes on day one then you feel better when you take action in the world. Overall that’s great, except you will feel worse when you can’t take action. You’re the group that doesn’t like waiting. You feel uncomfortable with the unknown. The more consistently you’re in that group the more consistently you’ll avoid not-knowing and your problems will start there.

1071-relax-and-succeed-the-day-you-decide-thatIf you chose three external changes on day one and you haven’t recently suffered from something like PTSD, then that choice is your first indication that your brain can sometimes have a tendency to see itself as against the world.  If the world seems to always be dumping unwanted changes on you, then it’s helpful for you to know that your mind was innocently wired in a way that will lead you feeling victimised. That’s useful information, but it’s not like it prevents you from accomplishing your objective.

Whether through security or insecurity, most of us want to chart our own path. We want control over the variables so we can maximise our performance. For that reason, on day one most of you thought of when you impacted the world. Day two was when when most people started thinking of the forced changes. Those are the ones you didn’t expect or want. A partner left you, you lost a job, you were forced to leave your home, you lost a support system etc.

These are the times your brain was asked to be someone new rather than deciding it wanted to be someone new. And it didn’t like it. While there are degrees of this, sudden external changes are forms of PTSD, which essentially means you have a brain wired for a situation you’re not in.

1071-relax-and-succeed-let-your-pastObviously being in your home with many common things around you and a consistent job can make the PTSD of a lost relationship easier. On the flipside, some soldier in some foreign land without their loved ones for support and few familiar mental touchstones means that the PTSD would be more dramatic and thorough.

We all prefer the enacted changes because when you make a change you’ve been slowly rewiring your brain for some time and your big day is the day you start using that wiring to do something significantly bigger in the outside world (leave your relationship, your job etc.). In short, you’re ready for your change. It’s like the IT department got everyone’s computer ready before the big switch.

The opposite of that is when you suddenly need a whole system of brain wiring that you don’t yet have. That feels unnerving and you feel off balance. It would make sense for you to be more easily frightened and unstable during that time. Do you see the comfort in that? It makes sense that you’re uncomfortable. Already that’s an improved state if discomfort. At least it seems logical.

1071-relax-and-succeed-people-are-capable-at-any-timeIn this week’s meditations, most of you would have started with internal changes. Those are ones you’re proud of. They’re the ones where you felt stronger afterwards. They also feel more like they belong to you because you chose them. That’s an important distinction. You own the ones you choose better than you own the ones that weren’t your choice. We’ll be more focused on the ones you don’t want.

The desire to know and the act of avoiding mystery will often cause more trouble in your life than resisting the original experience. For this reason, in today’s meditation your job is to find two of each. If you find more, great, it all helps. But give your partner a breakdown of at least two choices you made that didn’t go well, and two that were forced on you where you ended up leaving you better off.

Study your own life closely. We want to disconnect the idea that life is better when you know what’s going to happen. Because if we study it long enough, you’ll accept that that simply isn’t true. And that unexpected news is unexpectedly good news.

Do your meditation then relax and have a great day. You took a helpful step forward.

peace. s

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

The Caged Bird

986-relax-and-succeed-when-a-caged-bird-singsThis is one of those quotes that can feel nonsensical at first; as though it means nothing at all. The truth is, it’s a story about the incompatible brain states of happiness and comparison. These sorts of clever sayings can provide a great deal of learning but they are so ubiquitous they are now seen more as declarations than learning tools.

In this case we must ask the question, what transpires? A caged bird sings, other birds gather and the caged bird ends up experiencing longing. Again we ask, why does the caged bird sing? Because it has a song in its heart. It is its nature. And why do the other birds gather? They are attracted by the song. So then why does the singing bird end up feeling tortured?

We as humans outside the cage know the bird’s original nature was outside and in a flock, but if the bird has lived in the cage for so long that it is now that bird’s known and comfortable home then it has no desires for great flights of distance or a sharing of life with a large flock of other birds. It knows its owners and its feeding schedule and how to entertain itself where it is. And yet it does not entirely lose its nature, the bird still sings.

When the other birds show up the bird can now recognise his own bars. It can now see a limitation that did not live as a possibility within the bird’s mind before birds existed outside the bars. Now the bird can compare its formerly happy existence to another existence it knows little about other than it includes more birds. That desire for the fresh and new is where the sensation of longing is formed. Previous to that the bird was happy because it had no desires and the same is true for all of us.

986-relax-and-succeed-if-you-think-that-peaceThere is no point in chasing happiness. It is not somewhere else, it is not doing something else and it is not someone else. Happiness is a way of seeing things. You do it all the time but it’s such a clear-headed state that you don’t actually note what you’re doing. If you did you’d see that when you feel great you aren’t using your thoughts to create a you that is separate from something or someone desired, you’re just being-doing. You are a human being in motion. Suffering is when we forgo that to wish instead.

Go inside. Use these quotes to shape your meditations. What are your desires? What is your flock? Were you in a boring but decent marriage until you met someone else? Did you see someone’s renovation and want one of your own? Or how about if your friends roll around in their new car? It is the comparison that creates the desire which leads to the suffering. It’s why the Buddha said, “There is no fear for one whose mind is not filled with desires.”

Think back to when one of your cages was built and ask how and why that happened. What’s been brought to your attention that wasn’t a problem before you knew about it but now it is? Can you see that your life hadn’t changed only your idea of it had? Can you see that the difference in your ideas was that you suddenly felt separate from happiness? Suddenly you felt your happiness was created by something outside of yourself. Study that source of suffering closely and I guarantee you will have begun a very useful meditation.

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.

Wanting More

908 Relax and Succeed - It's only your egoWhen people start to work on themselves spiritually or psychologically it is usually because they want to feel better than they currently do. But wanting inevitably involves a time other than now–a time in which you hope to have your want filled. Therefore it is impossible to be in a state of wanting and to simultaneously also be fully present in the now.

People find this easier to grasp when they think of trying to not want foods that aren’t good for them, or from spending too much, or any other thing they’ve done for years. Those are pretty material, physical things that we can imagine doing and stopping. So we can want a million dollars, but we learn if we can’t have it in this moment then we’re better to stop wanting it because the wanting will create our suffering.

908 Relax and Succeed - Remember that sometimesThe trickier wants to prevent and stop are the ones you don’t see as wants. Things like wanting to be loved, wanting to be understood, wanting to understand, wanting to know what happened, wanting to be somewhere else, wanting to be with someone else, wanting to feel better, wanting spiritual growth–these are the ones that eat away at our lives.

Jealousy, envy, comparison, worry, stress, longing, frustration, anger–these all require wanting. Wanting someone to date you instead of someone else, wanting to have a particular waistline, wanting to know who’s getting laid-off, wanting to have your career progress more quickly, wanting something to stop, wanting something to start, wanting a different history or a different future, wanting to be enlightened–these are all just variations on optional suffering.

Pain is inevitable. Suffering simply arises because of our wanting. Modern life, elements of language and the complexities of large-scale social structures have created environments that can leave us feeling inadequate when really we’re just being asked to be good at too many different things.

908 Relax and Succeed - A secret to happinessWe all know people that are good with their hands or others who are great at calculation, or others who are physically strong or brave. Yet we built a world in which each us us is expected to be good at all of these things. This is what ultimately leads to us turning our thoughts against ourselves in our desire to be a version of complete that was never intended by nature. It imagined us working together, not each of us trying to be everything to everyone.

Understandably, under constant stress to be too many things, we either want changes to other people or changes to ourselves. So rather than flow with life and turn our attention to the many gifts life always brings, instead we time travel, scanning and searching our future and past for any damaged caused or potentially caused by our inadequacies. Too few people see avenues of intense interest. Most are navigating through their fears.

Be free instead. Watch for your wanting today. Note how it’s always there when you’re suffering. Remove the desire, remove the want. They’re only made of thoughts. Refocus them elsewhere. It’s really easy. All you have to do is practice. Will you?

Have a wonderful day 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.

Relationship Issues

Winner: 2015’s Blog of the Year #7

Are you a couple with issues? Not violence or psychological torture, just some serious issues. Do you see the same problems coming up over and over and over? Do you want them settled once and for all? It doesn’t seem unreasonable to want someone to understand and appreciate your view of something and then respond to it does it? So what do you do?

752 Relax and Succeed - To find signs we are lovedI actually have super-good news for you. As I’ve been able to demonstrate with lots of other couples, this problem can in fact disappear in no time flat. But they can also reappear just as quickly and easily. The fortunate part is–that’s all up to you.

Think of your consciousness as a jar of water. When it’s clear you can see in every direction clearly. But every single jar on this Earth has a bit of sediment at the bottom left over from its creation–from its childhood. These are things that interfere with the clear functioning of our consciousness.

The inevitable occurrence of challenging circumstances will jostle our little jar and cause some of that busy thinking to float up into our consciousness. But we must remain calm and understand it belongs there as an aspect of the jar and it will naturally settle again if left alone.

If we battle against these reactions, if we want and desire and otherwise agitate our consciousness in an attempt to shake it out of us, we only serve to further decrease our clarity and further block our view of the outside world. At the same time, to the outside world we only look darker, more chaotic and less inviting.

752 Relax and Succeed - PatienceA relationship is two jars sitting touching each other. When things are good and calm it’s easy for each jar to capture the light travelling through the other jar. This is the light of the very universe itself and we see it filtered through a person we love clearly. Our vision of that light is at the heart of our feelings of love.

If we develop an egocentric personal sense of events around us then we begin to think that our partner’s sediment is our sediment. We then begin to shake ourselves in order to shake them in the vain hope that this new-to-us sediment will go away. We start to think the agitated sediment shouldn’t be there, rather than the truth; which is that we must accept that it is there and understand our role in agitating it into something we now have to deal with, just as our partner must contend with the messy details of our childhood.

In relationships the sediment gets called a problem. And rather than accepting what is, we all want to fix the problem. But there is no fix for the sediment there is only acceptance. Because every time you try and make it go away you’ll only serve to agitate it further. It’s like trying to pat down water waves to make them go away. It just makes them worse.

752 Relax and Succeed - Spending today complianingThe best example I know of this is when a couple argues over something that happened the previous day. Okay, so it’s already happened. You can’t go back in time and unmake it happen. But people will often wake up the next morning, see the sediment from the previous day lying there inert, and instead of leaving it alone they’ll shake the other jar, activate the sediment and then blame the partner! There is nothing to fix. Nothing to sort out. Nothing to be understood. It’s crazy. It would have just laid and done zero damage if the person wouldn’t have shaken it.

There are no actual problems in relationships. There are only current agitations of thought created by the desire to live within a different reality. But until that thought-based cloudy thinking settles, our own light and the light of our partner will be obscured. The more we shake it to be different the darker everything will get.

Accept that your partner has sediments just like you do, and accept that those get agitated occasionally by life. That’s not something being wrong, that’s being alive. You don’t fix that. You calmly know that by doing nothing things will naturally settle and that the light you see in your partner will always return. Because after all, that light isn’t actually them. When it’s unconditional love what you’re seeing is the undisturbed light that’s at the heart of the very universe itself.

Have a wonderful day.

peace. s

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

Blind Ambition

You say that we shouldn’t want anything but then what would motivate me to do anything? Why would I go to work if I didn’t want things? How exactly am I supposed to put together the life I want if I don’t go out and get those things? I want to be as spiritually healthy as the next person but what’s the point if I have to live a life that’s ugly and cheap and unsatisfying? Can’t I have my cake and eat it too?

signed,
Wanting Answers

Dear Wanting,

You sound like the daughter of a Tiger Mom. And if turns out you actually are—which is pretty likely—then take comfort in knowing that your journey is a common one. There is a well-worn path so you don’t have to feel like you have to accomplish some amazing spiritual feat to understand things in a profound way. You 235 Relax and Succeed - Life is shortjust have to take one step at a time. As you climb the hill of understanding you will gain perspective that will cause many previously mysterious things to suddenly make perfect sense.

I love your question so much I want to tackle each part of it separately. Let’s start with “Why would I go to work if I didn’t want things?” Yeah, why do you go to work? Have you ever questioned that? Why do you need a job to exist? Why do you need to work for someone? Think about it. That’s a relatively new idea. That got invented because we envied kings and queens and we wanted stuff like they had. And so a whole system got built up around our egotistical need to try and elevate ourselves by reflecting and collecting our society’s status symbols. And so you feel like your life is building to a point where you can anoint yourself as successful, but I’m telling you you were born successful but you have been convinced to tell yourself a word-based story about how you need to earn your value.

Do you think a famous, talented architect builds a gorgeous house as a way of anointing himself as successful? Do you think a real painter paints to make you like it? Do you think a songwriter is trying to sell songs, or are they trying to tell a sort of truth? True creation is an authentic act. It does not seek to impress or further the agenda of its creator. It exists naturally, without external motivation. It is manifestation, not request. It is the releasing of creativity rather than the ownership of beauty.

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If you want a truly enviable life then live an authentic one. Don’t go to stores and collect all the things you’ve been told to collect by music, and TV and the web and your friends and everyone except you (yes I know you have a story you tell yourself where it really is you!). Be original by being yourself. Move in directions not because they reflect well on you, move in directions that naturally inspire you. Don’t collect things, experience things. Because you can tell yourself a story about your impressive life, or you can go out and actually live a deep and profound one. But you can’t do both.

So think about where you’re investing your psychological energy. Because it just may be that there are some common myths that you may have unwittingly bought into. Free yourself from those and rather than becoming someone impressive know that you already are someone impressive.

peace. s

Married Sex

I’m not sure if you will want to blog about this so I’ll completely understand if I don’t see this question posted but I really would like an answer to this question and so far no one has come up with anything very appealing. My husband is really terrible in bed. He completely sucks. Pretty much every time we do it he acts like we both had some amazing time but when we’re doing it he barely even seems to recognize the fact that I’m there with anything other than my body and even then only parts of that! I’m 38 years old and I’m terrified I’m going to die without ever having another orgasm with a man. I’ve tried dressing up, role playing, I’ve asked him questions, I’ve really done everything I can think of. Please tell me you can help me. I really want that orgasm.

signed,
Horny

Dear Horny,

Allow me to apologize for my gender. This is an extremely common issue and I’ve been hired more than a few times to explain to a husband or boyfriend that their wife or girlfriend really isn’t kidding—they really are bad in bed. But try not to take his behaviour too personally. The average man can be very nurturing but in general they would be less-so than the average woman. As a result, when infant parenting gets to be its toughest it will most-often be the female who steps in to resolve things. This ability comes largely from another ability343 Relax and Succeed - You should be kissed and often—which is a deeper sense of empathy.

What makes a sexual partner good in a mature relationship is their ability to connect. Can they read the signals you naturally give off? Or are they even paying attention? Because in most cases most men simply won’t sexually evolve much past adolescence. When we’re young we’re flooded with hormones. We’re entirely focused on actually rubbing our throbbing members against anything reasonable. And we’re so focused on what we’re experiencing that there’s never even a thought that maybe the girl would like to feel like that too.

Hey, I’m a very metro-sexual, open, sensitive artist who loves to touch, but even I started like that in puberty. And that felt like an uncontrollable explosion in my loins. I was suddenly interested in every woman who walked by. Like Portnoy in Philip Roth famous book, I remember suddenly realizing that every single woman who walked past me had a vagina. And at that point, with that early teen mindset, I wanted to be with as many of those vaginas as p0ssible. It seemed like the world’s greatest buffet. But of course it isn’t. Because 99.9% of those girls wouldn’t let just any guy near their vagina.

So we learn slowly. Experience by experience. But based on some casual research it seems that the vast majority of men reserve their focus for the hunting part, not the eating part. They’re great at strategizing how to get the girl into bed, but there is no discussion or thought put into what to do once they’re there 343 Relax and Succeed - Sometimes people don't want to hear the truthexcept for whatever his favourite positions or things-to-do are. The men generally won’t even inquire as to what might be desired or even needed by the woman. Like 98% of people, they’re too insecure to ask. Like most egos doing most things, they think they should know the answer not learn the answer.

Guys. Seriously. Come on. Yeah, your wife maybe had some kids and doesn’t look like an impossibly airbrushed teen pop star, but even the pop star can’t look Like that. And your wife certainly isn’t someone you should use to get off while you think of the pop star—it’s not like you’re Brad Pitt either. But you see her vagina like a target and home in. But she has a mind too. And it feels good when you lightly touch her legs, or face. Or brush her hair. She’s a living breathing human being with all sorts of sensitive naughty bits that like to be touched just as much as yours do. Try having sex thinking about her instead of you.

Let’s face it, most of you haven’t even considered the idea that your wife fakes every orgasm just to get you to stop. Men often cheat out of desire, women more often out of desperation. How would you as a guy feel if I told you you would never in your lifetime have another orgasm with a woman? For most of you that would be removing something significant from your life. Okay, well if that’s true, then adding it to hers will be just as important. It will have an extremely positive effect. But for that to happen you have to get out of your childish, selfish bubble and actually interact with your partner. Ask questions. Pay attention to the answers. Because to choose to do nothing is to do choose to do something. And there is always a consequence to every choice. So choose your consequences wisely.

343 Relax and Succeed - A good traveler has no fixed plansObviously you’re not my clients and I don’t know enough to provide any truly personalized guidance, but when it comes to helping you, I can say the one thing that men seem to universally respond to is competition. I did a piece earlier this month on the swinging lifestyle. Those women tend to not have this problem because the men are fully aware that they are in a competitive environment. They see their wives being satisfied by someone else and it spurs them into action (not literally—the spurs I mean). So I’m not in favour of threats or ultimatums but your partner should, in some form or other, raise their awareness that “married” is a title not a state of being. You still have your vagina.

If you have been faking it tell him that. Let him sit with it a bit and then see if he’ll participate in a discussion regarding how things might improve for both of you. Don’t blame. Don’t dwell in the past. Build a bright future by making choices appropriate to who you are now. But don’t think that just because someone’s a certain age that they’ll have ever really thought about how to make sex satisfying for their partner. Because most only know what works for them. But their sex will improve if yours improves. So don’t blame, argue or complain. Instead try clarity, sincerity and connection. Because that’s where the connections are formed that turn good sex into great sex.

peace. s

Guessing vs. Feeling

87 Relax and Succeed - Remember that sometimes not gettingThere is no relationship between what you want and what will be good for you. Some of you have worked your ass off just to get into a class you can’t stand being in. Some of you worked very hard for the promotion that lead you to an abusive boss. Some of you went through tons of pain and anguish just to date someone whose behaviour later destroyed your sense of trust. And sometimes you suffered a lot so you could kick—what later turned out to be—some really valuable people out of your life.

I know a guy who surrendered a job he loved for a $15,000 per year promotion into a job he can’t stand. He would give anything to be able to go back to his old job. I know a woman who left a very good but boring man and moved across the country to date a man that later abused her. I know a woman who worked hard to get into law school just so she could meet the school-mate that got her hooked on cocaine. All of these people thought these intentions were good ideas.

The truth is, you have no idea what direction is good for you. Stop trying to guess your way to a good life using your thoughts and start using your feelings to divine yourself a path through life. Both will still include pain, but if you go the way your thoughts tell you to go then you will constantly be using your thoughts to compare your actual experience to what you thought your experience would be. And in that comparison you will add suffering to your pain.

87a Relax and Succeed - Be open to whatever comes nextIf you feel a natural pull toward something and you hear thoughts arguing against it, then quell the thoughts (they are yours) and follow that feeling. If you feel a natural pull away from something but you talk yourself back into it; you would have been better following the feeling. Because that feeling is a very real thing. Much more real than your speculative thinking.

What makes you think you can guess all of the variables that will impact your experience? It’s because you see your experience as a narrow attachment not a broad experience. So you get attached to the $15,000 dollars and you forget you work with your friends. Or you get attached to the idea of a better relationship and so you surrender a good one you already have. Or you think you’re signing up for law school when really you’re signing up for an expensive long-term addiction.

Your life is always multi-faceted whether you recognize that or not. You often met your best friends through jobs or schools you have routinely described as bad experiences. Some of your greatest work experiences came out of what looked like terrible assignments. And people have fallen in love at parties that someone had to drag them to.

87 Relax and Succeed - The most decisive actionsNo matter where you are and no matter what you’re doing: look for what a situation offers you even if that offer has nothing to do with why you got into the situation in the first place. That way your eyes will still be open wide enough even at a job you hate, because that then you’ll still be able to recognize it when you meet someone you will come to love.

You never know where the fountains of joy and great experience will be hidden in your life. So don’t try to choose a path that guarantees them. Instead, know that there are no guarantees other than the fact that the people who find the most positive experiences in life are the same people who look for them.

Enjoy your day not by choosing good things, but by finding the good things in what you choose.

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.