Easy on Yourself

When people ask me to define the psychological/spiritual advantage my accident gave me in just a sentence, I’ll often say that I saw things for what they were and that I didn’t mistake words for things. This is entirely accurate, but to be truly helpful it’s time I gave that statement a bit more detail.

647 Relax and Succeed - The most dangerous risk of allWhen you’re like me and you can see through words here’s the kinds of strange things you notice: people will tell you that they love progress and new things but you’ll note that they’ve just been brainwashed because in many cases the new thing is much, much worse for the person than the old thing was. The two best examples we have are so huge, and we spent so much money on them, that they clearly demonstrate our willingness to actually trade more for less if we’re told it’s an improvement.

Rolling Stone magazine did an entire issue surrounding the quality of MP3 recordings. Producers don’t like MP3’s because they hold less information than CD’s which limits their creative freedom in way it previous wasn’t, so music marketers sold the idea that this recording wouldn’t skip when you jogged or in your car, even though too few people jog and there were even fewer at the time, and I never remember anyone listing CD skipping as a major car issue. Besides, music is about listening to art. Why would we care more about convenience than the art itself? That’s like we’re doing with our food, where we’re starting to care less about it being tasty and nutritious in favour of it being fast and mobile, practically given to us in toothpaste tubes that we can quickly inject into ourselves as we rush from our 647 Relax and Succeed - Normal is getting dressedfirst job to our second or third. (You may notice that’s why the wrap is replacing the sandwich.)

Next, people used to press between seven and ten buttons on a phone to be in a position to actually hear the other person. We could hear their tone, their mood, and I never remember a couple coming to me because they were looking at ending their marriage over a phone call that went bad. But texting? I cannot tell you the number of times that the couple in front of me is there because of a 140 character facebook status, tweet or especially a text. So now we hit hundreds of keys and young kids are getting repetitive stress injuries all so that we can communicate in a slower, far less effective way. Sure, texts can be useful. But most people have replaced basic conversations with them and way more often than not the communication was either meaningless or it could have been done more quickly with a call and some voices.

Another major area I saw this related to my age. Just as I was growing up the fitness craze started. When I was a kid the only adults that went to gyms were professional body builders and boxers. No one else. But then automation started to take over, more people were driving, fewer were walking, food was beginning to be processed, so it was loaded with fat and sugar and people started to suddenly put on a lot of weight. So what my brain noticed was that all 647 Relax and Succeed - We buy shit we don't needof these people had worked to pay for conveniences that that in the end only incurred more time and more expense because now they had to get a gym membership. This weird insanity continued to the point where I saw a fitness club in my city where you could sit in the lobby and literally watch people ride up the escalator to the gym where they would go in, change and then pay money to climb fake stairs!

Our bodies were built over a long time to do specific things just like any animal. And if you start changing those things you will change the animal. So people are sold iNDEPENDENCE and in turn they get loneliness where they sit alone in front a screen looking at life rather than what they used to do, which is take the energy they used to have for joy and they would go out with their friends. But by 30-35 years old most people aren’t seeing their friends that much, but they’ll be likely to be working very long hours to pay for all of their conveniences.

This is all insanity. Your life isn’t better because your phone is better, or because your car is faster, or because your TV is bigger. You don’t enjoy the championship game 30% more 647 Relax and Succeed - Slavery has many different formsbecause your screen is 30% bigger. Sorry, the guy listening to the game on a radio is maxing out his excitement so there’s no beating 100%.

We’ve all been sold a bill of goods. We’ve been convinced to do things that, if we look at them closely, we realize have no real benefit to us. We’re working for weeks to get enough after-tax dollars to be able to buy the car model with Navigation because we have FOMO, even though we barely ever drive to anywhere we haven’t been before and even if we are, someone else can tell us how to get there just like before. So we work all of these extra hours to get this shiny bauble when in fact we would have drew more joy from some free time talking with a good friend.

We have to start doing far better accounting of our joy. Because we will quickly learn that the reason people go camping to quiet, remote, undeveloped places on their weekends is because it’s slower and it doesn’t include all of those conveniences. We want simplicity, quiet, and companionship. The healthiest people you know are the ones who eat like 100 years ago, who work their bodies like 100 years ago, and who have positive social relations not tons of likes.

647 Relax and Succeed - Imagine there is a bank accountYour life won’t improve if you just put your head down and watch the ads and do as you’re told. It really is crazy for you to spend your life stressed because you bought some expensive thing to impress people and now you own it, but it owns your joy. You have to start being slower and more judicious with your money. Because you give up a lot of life for that power to spend, so spend it wisely. Spend it on things that bring joy and goodness to your life, rather than things that—if you really stopped to think about it—really don’t make much sense. So stop hiring another kid to cut your lawn or shovel your walks when you’re in your basement working out. Because if you can’t see that’s crazy, then you’re very deep inside the illusion that the Buddha was warning you about.

Be free. Spend less on things and more on creating time. Ask yourself, does this create more time or less time? Because it might save an hour, but if you had to work an extra two to buy it, you’re actually an hour down. Remember: use after-tax dollars, not pre-tax dollars when figuring out what something costs your life. Because that’s the real measure, and it almost instantly makes many more things look much more expensive because that’s what they really are.

Here’s to your freedom. Here’s to more joy, more time with people you care about, and a more fulfilling life. Because no one was on their death bed asking someone to collect all of their stuff. No one is saying, just one last tweet, just one last selfie. No, they want to hold hands and look into the eyes of the people they loved. If they had more time it would be for that, not another social media post. So remember that while you’re walking around every day. Because if your attention is one place, it’s not some place else. And right now other people decide where your attention is more than you do and it’s time you changed that. Here’s to freedom and time. That’s real wealth.

Have yourself an awesome day!

peace. s

Life Lessons

If you read me regularly you know I often point out that an enjoyable life comes from the simple act of appreciation, and yet so few people ever bother to really turn that into a daily verb. They’ll say they want a better life and that they want to be more spiritual, but then they’ll promptly use all their free time to compare themselves with people they perceive as even more fortunate, but they won’t do it with the many billions more who are less fortunate. Why pursue wanting thoughts instead of appreciative thoughts when the former hurt and the 628 Relax and Succeed - The more I understand the mindlatter feel wonderful? That’s a question you really should be asking yourself.

I live in Alberta. This is a place that, for the time being, a nineteen year old kid can make $120,000 a year as a welder and he’ll still complain about it. And because everyone knows so many people like that, people where I live don’t realize that they are among the richest people on Earth. When I recently asked several locals how much they thought you needed to earn to be in the top 1% of global earners, I got guesses like 20 million and low guesses were about 2 million. The real answer (on that day) was $56,400. Most of the people I talked to were double that number and you could see their minds try to adjust their place in the world to this sliver of people at the top. Suddenly they realized that what they thought the world was—that was just the top 1%. They thought they were struggling and so they imagined themselves at somewhere in the bottom half of worldwide earners. They thought they were in the bottom half when they were actually in the top 1%. Do you see how your thinking can steal your joy?

I want you to take a moment to actually appreciate where you really are. It’s my hero’s birthday today (the day I’m writing this). My Dad already had grey hair when I was born, so we have a fascinating spread between us. He was born before the Great Depression on a rural farm in Scotland. He was the youngest of eight children and he was born before the 628 Relax and Succeed - No we don't always get what we wantavailability of antibiotics so he was lucky to have survived Scarlet Fever as a kid. He’s a clever guy but he only had the chance to go to grade eight, and by seventeen years old he was lying about his age so that he could follow his brothers and sisters into service in World War II.

Before the war Dad was pushing a plow behind a horse, and then he helped to cut the wheat with a scythe and they stacked it by pitch fork. Eight kids starts to make sense doesn’t it? Had I been a farmer in my era, I would do all of that “work” with one machine, in my sleep, while a movie was on in the cab of my self-driving GPS-controlled combine. To say life is easier doesn’t even get close to capturing the level of difference. And that’s my Dad and I’m right on the Gen X border. That’s one generation to me. Just a bit ahead of him and there’s no cars, electricity or even running water.

Take a moment to think about that. What my Dad would take a day of super hard work to do I could probably do quite casually in under 10 seconds. I worked alongside my Dad for a long time. My dad could work hard. And he might have only had grade eight but give him two thimbles, some twine and a fish hook and he’ll build you a part that will get your car to the next town for the real repairs. My friends and I couldn’t build a house, fix a car, repair an electrical motor, hunt an animal, clean a fish, do enough math and bookkeeping—by hand—to run a small business, and we certainly couldn’t deliver a baby cow. Our dads were either in the war or they lost their dad in the war—whether that father came home or not. No vaccines, 628 Relax and Succeed - Some people feel the rainpenicillin was barely invented, they all lost siblings to bombs and bullets and various diseases that we no longer fear. That was normal.

Parents expected to lose a kid along the way. Just think about that. Today that would be headline news and possibly cause the parent to stop living their life. Back then it would have been seen as unfortunate but it couldn’t stop you. You still had another seven or more kids to look after back when a washing machine looked like a single piece of corrugated metal. Can you imagine having today’s attitudes about housework when washing clothes meant grinding eight kids clothes against a rough surface for several hours in water that was heated in a kettle hung over a wood stove that you cut the wood for? Think about that next time you spin the dial for an extra rinse. I do and I still appreciate my washing machine every single time I use it.

It was just through proximity not wisdom that I knew how tough our parents were. The first white person to climb Mount Everest only died in 2008 and he did that climb in leather and wool. Life got much easier during my lifetime and it’s no younger person’s fault that they 628 Relax and Succeed - Life is a series of thousandsdon’t immediately consider how challenging something might have been even shortly before they were born. People had higher levels of acceptance and appreciation because it was easy to see how much tougher it had recently been.

There were no homes for older people so a lot of families had grandparents living with them so you heard stories. And people still visited farms where you went back in time a bit. You’d see outhouses and kerosene lamps still being used every day. But now I know tons of young people whose grandparents are in a special home they visit for an hour every few months. They have never been to a farm and their parents both have desk jobs on computers and so to them their parents life doesn’t look a lot different than theirs. Not very many kids today get to see what I did when I looked at my Dad. By 17 my Dad was in WWII, and both my parents families lost members in the war and to the war. What an insult it would have been to say to my dad that my safe, easy car-riding life was too hard.

People squander their own happiness. They use their ability to think to want—to compare themselves to others even more fortunate. So the 1%er ends up spending half their day using their thoughts to envy someone in the .0001%??? Does that sound wise to you? Or could all the suffering you’re complaining about be coming from that?

628 Relax and Succeed - Gratitude changes everythingMeditation is consideration. Siddhartha sat under a tree asking himself where suffering comes from and 49 days later he’s the first Buddha. You can do likewise, but instead of using your thinking to negatively compare yourself, instead use it to appreciate how fortune you are. Because if I’m having trouble completely quieting my thinking for whatever reason, I’ll just shift to leading my thoughts toward considering what my day would have looked like for my parents, or even more extremely, for my grandmother. Hitching a horse, riding to town, blah blah. But one minute in I realize my “bad, slow day” is actually accomplishing more in a half hour than my grandmother could have even hoped to do all day, and I would have been safer, warmer, and far more comfortable. And that awareness makes me grateful, and if you’re feeling grateful then you’re okay. It’s as easy as that.

You have a lot to be grateful for. So go create yourself a great day by investing your consciousness in things that are easy to appreciate. Trust me. They’re always there.

peace. s

Capitalism Versus Spirituality

Winner: 2015’s Blog of the Year #6

We have a constant ego-based structure in our society that will prohibit our spiritual development until we succeed in shifting our priorities away from personal individual gain and more toward collective well-being. Money was intended to act as a place-holder for labour. We could store someone’s labour in the idea of money, and then they could collect on their previous labour later, when they found something they wanted to have or experience.

246 Relax and Succeed - Advertising has us chasingEventually ideas like interest and fees came to exist and everything was disturbed because now it was possible to get the money without the labour. This evolved over time and eventually raced out of control. Because our ego has so many wants —and because advertising exists for the sole purpose of inflaming those wants– we have a culture that now urges people to place their personal wants ahead of the health of the tribe overall. This is a form of egoic disease that has the potential to be our ultimate downfall.

You cannot exist without others. No matter how many iDevices you own, no matter how many advertising slogans tell you that you’re important or special, no matter how much money you have you simply cannot live without other people. Can you grow or inspect or even prepare your own food? Can you generate electricity or fix your own machines? Can you clean your own water, or can you educate yourself, or perform an operation on yourself?

All of these things require cooperation and yet capitalism has told the lie that we benefit most from competition when modern science shows that cooperation is what we’re wired for. I’ll go along with the competitive advantage that to a degree. Boys running across a field might run quicker if they’re racing each other, but they don’t need an artificial, external imaginary reward like money or status for that to happen. They’ll do it naturally until we corrupt that with me-over-them thinking.

246 Relax and Succeed - Seven dangers to human virtueThe Tarahumara Indians are featured in the brilliant book Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall. They have zero violence in their culture, their diets are remarkably impressive, and they are the absolute best runners in the world. You can completely remove them from their experience—you can put them in cold weather, way above sea level, running in conditions that are entirely unfamiliar and yet they will still beat the best professional runners in the world quite easily. And how do they train? They don’t. They run for fun.

The Tarahumara run because they like it. And with that as their motivation: when they have “races,” they don’t recognize a winner. They’re like kids. Children are happy because happiness is the pursuit not the achievement. Adults in our cultures are unhappy because they have surrendered joy so instead they can work to close the gap regarding inequities in beauty, wealth, power and status. The Tarahumara prove that you can be an adult and still keep your priorities straight.

Why is Capitalism so insidious? Because it creates a falseness between us. Do you think it’s a coincidence it’s hard to find the contact us link on most commercial websites? Do you think they forgot to include a convenient number for you to call, or that they didn’t know to hire enough people to answer the phone?

246 Relax and Succeed - Your work is going to fillDo you think it’s an accident that a website screen frustratingly jumps around in an effort to encourage you into clicking an ad you actually have no interest in? Do you think those things like insurance on your purchase etc. got into your on-line shopping cart by accident? Do you think they want you to read their terms of use, or is it like your insurance forms and credit card agreements—where someone has put real effort into making it intentionally and intimidatingly long and confusing?

These are people’s jobs today! Their job is to irritate, trick, confuse and lie to their fellow man! Capitalism was supposed to be about making things better but the stock market and concepts like status have turned that into people wanting your money or they’ll make your life worse. Just one word: telemarketing. Is it any wonder everyone’s stressed? And then we all get on the roads at 5pm and drive home with all of these other people who’ve also been forced to do awful stressful things because someone was trying to trick their money away from them.

(Surprising Examples of How You’re Tricked Every Day)

Likewise, our personal interactions are sullied. In 90% of cases the clerk at the computer store will not love his job, so he will not recommend the best part to you he’ll recommend a workable part for which he is paid the biggest bonus. $4.99 is a lie—the thing is five dollars. Interest is money invented out of thin air and it has no relevant labour connected to it. And thanks to the stock market wanting 15% growth every year, a company can be seen to be failing even though it has experienced a 10% rise in profit. That’s simply silly.

246 Relax and Succeed - It is not enough to be busySo how do the Powers That Be suggest that 15% is achieved? By charging you 15% more, or by making your soup can 15% smaller, or by paying the farmers 15% less, or by adding in 15% more filler that isn’t good for you. It’s a losing game and that’s guaranteed by the rules. Growth (or winning) in a capitalistic market is created by providing less for more. Period.

As we age we become jaded by the falseness of life. We realize that many people we do business with are willing to use this system to get the money without the labour. Repairmen charging for work that isn’t done, food companies silently inserting less healthy ingredients and accountants looking the other way because something is profitable even though it is clearly not something we would have done to anyone we cared about. If you’re approving dumping effluent into a river because it saves money then you are profoundly removed from your spiritual nature because that is not something you would do without the egocentric attraction of money or success.

We usually recognize the falseness of the material, capitalistic world once we first face the notion that our time here is limited. People always say time is money, but they forget that money is also time. And if you’re busy making more money then you are missing out on the time you could otherwise be spending with those you love. And once you recognize that time is limited your ego begins to fall away and you begin to re-prioritize the world the way a healthy child would. You’ll pause to care for the suffering—your compassion will not be mitigated by any calculations of who gains or who loses. You’ll value joy and laughter and caring. And you’ll realize that the rest really is just stuff.

246 Relax and Succeed - What do you think is the secretCapitalism isn’t antithetical to spirituality. But it’s currently running contrary to it because it hinges on us forever wanting more. That constant pull on our society steals energy from the open, supportive loving that we would otherwise do. What do we do in emergencies? Do we ask the Tsunami/ Volcano/ Flood/ Hurricane/ victims if they have cash or do we send them what they need? Do we worry about who’s paying for a search and rescue team or do we act on our natural impulse? Do we think people with more money deserve better health or would we like to see any loved-one, no matter how wealthy, get the health care they need to stay happy and available to contribute to the lives of their loved ones?

Star Trek didn’t show people elevating themselves through their wealth or their clothing. That’s not how we fantasize our future. We fantasize that we’re past all of that. That we’ve risen above it. Okay, well what’s above trying to get things from each other? How about trying to give things to each other? After all, you didn’t see Captain Kirk sending a bill after he’d rescued another planet.

Yes, there is more wealth in the world. But there remains a lot of preventable suffering, we have deteriorating ecological conditions and we’re still willing to sell objects of death as a way of paying for the high life. We don’t even live like we believe what we claim to believe. So if you want the world to be a better place consider asking what you can give instead of what you can get. Let your life be your prayer.

246 Relax and Succeed - Ego EcoI was once in a little store on Salt Spring Island and I heard a lady ask how much a hand-made hat was. The owner asked what the woman thought it was worth and the woman said $25. The store owner agreed to the price and the lady left happy with not only the hat but also with the authenticity exhibited in the purchase itself. After she left and I asked the owner what she would have been happy with, she told me $15. And she didn’t even have to compete for the other $10 because the other lady obviously thought it was worth it.

Both women felt they had been given a gift. Now that’s a win-win. And yet, despite you believing me about what living this way has the potential to do, you still feel resistance—don’t you? You still want your stuff and you’ve got narratives to justify why. That’s okay. You’re hardly alone. Just remember: that is ego. You don’t have to rush out and kill it. But whenever you can, watch it. As you come to realize that it is the bane of your existence it’s power over you will slowly dissolve.

Go live as though you’re an integral part of the world you want to see created. Because it is your actions and the actions of those around you that will cause that to happen. Forget ego. Forget ownership. Forget wealth. Forget status. Instead, look at your life closely. For if you do that reflection honestly you will easily recognize that your most rewarding joys throughout your life have not come from what you got, but rather from what you gave.

peace. s

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