Interpretations

This blog is about taking the common quotes people see and then extrapolating them into useful practices that can affect your life today. To that end, today I leave you to do that very thing for yourself.

Your healthy realisation will come when you figure out how both of these quotes can be true at the same time. And you’ll know how dedicated you are to your spiritual development by how different you feel about finding your own meaning versus having me find some of it for you.

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.

Being Aware of Yourself

You are two things at once. You are your spiritual self, which is free and brilliant and unlimited, and that self travels around within your biological self, which is also free and potentially brilliant but it does have some limitations, including the fact that your brain is built as a pattern-matching, repetitive system that essentially uses cues to tell itself a story about what is happening around it.

793 Relax and Succeed - If you carry the bricks from your pastWithout mindfulness that pattern-matching behaviour will lead to an unconscious life. You won’t be choosing your existence so much as your existence will be directing you–like someone who was bit by a dog when they were young can end up being afraid of dogs for the rest of their life. Imagine how important that becomes when you start applying it to personal intimate romantic relationships.

One incident hardly condemns all dogs or people, but if a person isn’t careful and there are no intervening, countervailing experiences, they will use those unpleasant experiences to cage their spirit even more than the limitations of their body. Your body could be around a dog–or a beautiful brunette–it’s your worried thoughts that can’t.

The trick is to notice these extremely subtle patterns in life. Yes there’s the obvious stuff like; if you leave the house every day with your wallet and one day you leave without it your brain does signal you that something is off-pattern. That’s what you’re feeling when you say, I’ve got this feeling I forgot something. You’re exactly right.

793 Relax and Succeed - Do not give your pastThe harder patterns are ones like–how often you look at your phone? And what’s the pattern behind what you’re doing immediately before that, that reminds you to check it? Is it a notification that allows you to escape from harder work, or do you hit a timer in your head and you need a fix?

Do you only phone your friends when you’re sad or angry? Does your stomach tense up when you’re stressing? Do you automatically get up in a bad mood if it’s windy? Or on the way to your parents? Do you say things to your children out of habit rather than reacting to them originally, in the present moment? Do you always choose one or two genres of music, or does the same street always make you think of the same person?

The contexts that surround these patterns act as our cues. We should know our cues. You should intimately be aware of what upsets you and those closest to you. Even better, you should know what relaxes you and makes you happy. We need that pattern-match part of our brain to survive, but we don’t want it fencing us off from experience when it serves no useful purpose.

Get to know yourself much more intimately. Dedicate an entire hour to looking very, very closely at your own face. You know how you can write down or look at a word for so long that the letters start to lose their meaning? You’ve burned out the part of your brain that patterns those letters into that word, so as that energy flares out it hits all the jumbled angles on those letters.

793 Relax and Succeed - face it you are lovelyWell the same effect happens with your face. You know it as you. But when you stare at it long enough, there’s this sudden moment when you see not what you see–but what a stranger might see. The nice part about it is that it will happen for sure, and that you will realize you’re more interesting and beautiful than you thought.

Get to know your thinking. Do you have thought habits in the morning? When you drive home? Every workday do you literally go to the window to see if your neighbour parked in that way he always does that makes you mad? The crazy unaware person isn’t the neighbour who parks strangely, it’s the guy who chooses to consistently piss himself off as one of his daily rituals. Free yourself with awareness of who you really are.

What are your patterns? The more you find the more you will find because your brain is good at patterns, remember? It’ll get easier and easier to spot them. Trust me, they are all over the place and layered much much thicker than you can imagine. You’ll find times in the week where you are absolutely guaranteed to be upset between 7:12 and 7:32pm every Wednesday. If it’s that predictable surely there’s a work-around. But you have to be aware.

Awareness is key. You don’t need to be smarter or better, you just need more awareness. That will open up the doors to everything you are searching for. Don’t forget to have fun while you’re doing it. Now go get to know this person you call yourself. And you will know all that you need to know to make the most of your life. Enjoy.

peace. s

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

The Friday Dose #1

As my regular readers know I’ve slightly changed my format this year for Monday through Thursday. Fridays I had historically always posted a video, a re-blog, an article or an audio clip. I had originally planned to continue that plan this year as well—and I will, in a way. What changed it was that as I sat down to write the first one of this year I had something 283 Relax and Succeed - Change the way you look at thingshappen that’s never happened in all the time I’ve written this blog—I got stuck. I wrote three different versions but I didn’t like any of them. And I did not feel like writing a fourth. Luckily I teach this stuff so I knew exactly what to do.

Rather than engage in frustrated thoughts where I worried about how late I’d have to work, or about how I should have done this or that differently, instead I got up and went and did dishes. I called up my best friend and stuck my hands in the warm water. In my relaxation and before she could even answer the phone, I realized something. I realized that I had another challenge that I had left un-thought-of because I currently had no solution. Now, in the quiet of my mind—where it was not distracted by any noisy frustrated thinking—these two issues found each other and they co-resolved. My friend and I agreed to talk later and I came back into my office to write this.

I have a lot of readers who come each day to the blog but they neither Follow it, nor do they belong to any social media like facebook, twitter, pinterest or tumblr. But they have expressed interest in what I think about things and, by extension, what things I think about. So their only regret about preferring as much electronic privacy as they have is that they miss out on the other posts I do on facebook that are not a part of the blog. These include links to articles, additional audio and video recordings, or even photos. I got asked to email these each month but that’s simply too prohibitive once there’s a certain number of people, but I think you can see where this is going anyway.

A lot of my friends tell me they count on me for a lot of the really cool and interesting stuff I find on the web. This year Fridays will be when I will post that week’s collection of any material I’ve found that relates to our pursuits here. The nice thing about this switch is that it makes the postings searchable, which is remarkably not possible on facebook.283 Relax and Succeed - There is one thing one has to have

So what will I include on Fridays? Well, I’ll design them to feel a bit like special discoveries. It will be a case where you never know what exactly you might find, but I’ll endeavour to ensure that you always feel it was worth it to have come. It might be an article on Buddhism or psychology. Or it might be a demonstration of love or an interview with someone who’s done something amazing. It might be some fascinating scientific detail or a medical discovery. It could be a beautiful song, a philosophical stand-up comic, or just a baby or a dog being really really funny. But they will all be things that will be chosen to stretch, challenge and create enjoyment and growth for your mind. They will always relate to what I’m doing here at Relax and Succeed. This new regular instalment will be called: The Friday Dose. I call it that because it’ll always be a dose of something tasty and good for you. Welcome to the First Edition.

We’ll begin with this beautiful story about love and loss, as a music star Fiona Apple demonstrates wonderful courage in what was surely a torrent of complaints, pressure and anger. I’m sure there was discussions of legalities, ethics and conscience, but by demonstrating the values of actual True Love, Fiona demonstrates a healthy kind of selfishness that the world could use more of:

Fiona Apple Cancels Tour

And I’ll also share this empowering piece on Matthieu Ricard, the Buddhist Monk whose brain scans demonstrated that he is the happiest man ever tested:

The Happiest Man on Earth

And if you like that, you might also want to check out this wonderfully engaging video of him:

The Habits of Happiness

Please feel free to email me any links you might find to relevant things, and always feel welcome to email me any feedback or requests you have relating to the blog or my social media.

Thank you for your time and attention. I trust you’ll find the postings as rewarding as I did. Enjoy.

peace. s

The Friday Dose is a collection of cool, interesting and surprising things that are chosen for their potential to distract you away from any painful thought loops that may currently be disrupting your sense of perspective. Save these for when you’re feeling low and you want to change your perspective. They’ll help Enjoy. And please let me know if you bump into any broken links. Thanks!

No Mistake About It

Winner: 2013’s Blog of the Year: #2

My accident had caused me to think differently, but the first time I recognized that was when I first noticed how people reacted to being wrong. It made Grade One surreal. Everyone saw wrong as a mistake or a problem or otherwise something that you do not want to do. That truly baffled me because it’s an indefensibly crazy idea.

191 Relax and Succeed - Self-education isYour brain processes/creates the world in such a way that you notice patterns in things. That’s how you know how the world works. So if your mom buys five cans of soup at the store, before too long you’ve figured out that you don’t need to look back in the cupboard for another soup if you’ve already eaten all five. By making that mistake when you were little, you learned that five is five is five and gone is gone and done is done. These are concepts that your brain had to learn to absorb and then apply elsewhere.

The point in the soup story is that you needed to be wrong. You had to try something that wouldn’t work before you could begin to understand the reasoning behind what did work. For you to recognize a pattern you have to identify its rough edges by failing. As William Blake said, “You never know what is enough unless you know what it is more than enough.”

Failing is why you lost your helium balloon as a kid. Kids always lose them because they are making the mistake that the balloon will fall down and not up. Because they’ve practiced that gravity idea, remember? They dropped stuff from their highchair all the time. Intentionally. Just to watch it fall. And in doing so they built the idea of gravity. And it looks like it’s always in operation—until a kid sees either a hot air or helium balloon, or a plane or helicopter, and of course these are all things that amaze kids. These things break the law of gravity and that’s one of the most certain ones we feel we have.

191 Relax and Succeed - Ever make mistakesThroughout life you collect that reasoning and the laws and principles that emerge in life (like gravity or grammar or customs etc.), and then you live your life according to them. But none of those neural networks could exist without you using Socratic Method. Your brain must guess and test itself through the world, and the wrong answers are more important than the right ones because they will eventually be what exposes why the right answer does work. And then that principle can get applied to other situations. So much like the best batters are also the people who strike out the most, being smart is like being willing to be wrong the most. Remember, when you’re born your brain doesn’t grow outward like branches on a tree. Rather the entire thing glows with possibility and by learning you shut ideas off—you remove possibilities. Yes you can add new concepts too, but in the end your beliefs/identity are less like a tree and more like a sculpture.

There is no shame in being wrong. As Jonathan Swift said, it’s a way of saying your smarter today than you were yesterday. How can you be upset about finding out you’ve been wrong? Finding out you’ve been wrong is the end of being wrong. Why would you be upset that the ignorant part is over? You should celebrate that. You just had a eureka moment. You’re bigger now. You understand more. You’re more capable.

Your vocabulary doesn’t expand if you don’t look up the words you don’t know. If you can’t admit you don’t understand it, then you can’t take the steps to correct your misunderstanding. So people who don’t like to be wrong are the same people who learn the least. You know those people; they’ve had the same job for 20 years, but really they haven’t grown—they’ve just re-lived the same year 20 times with no growth-from-wrongness occurring.

191 Relax and Succeed - When I let goLeap towards your mistakes. Revel in being wrong. Rejoice at learning that you were incorrect. This is an expansion of you. This is what makes you better at being you. Failed relationships increasingly point to what we truly want in a partnership and from ourselves. Getting fired points out either bad bosses or missing skills. Being turned down for one thing creates an opportunity for another.

Your divorce wasn’t a failure. It was you testing the world to see what you truly want. And maybe that was a healthy marriage for who you were at one time. But life changes. People grow. Sometimes together sometimes apart. So as experience teaches you that, you don’t think you made the wrong decision getting married 20 years earlier. Realize instead that you’ve had 20 years of growth from two people and that it would almost be surprising if they were still wanting all of the same things in life.

Your life isn’t a collection of successes and failures. It’s a set of tests that had results, and the results informed which directions you chose in life. That’s all anyone is doing. And even if they’ve been super successful at negotiating the work world, that doesn’t mean they’ll have been good at the marriage world, or the kid-raising world. So stop comparing yourself. And stop beating yourself up for the mistakes that are an inevitable part of your growth. Your realizations that you’ve made a “mistake” are merely you recognizing that your tests of life have lead you to become someone who is both bigger and better.

peace. s

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