Type One and Type Two Fun

1260 Relax and Succeed - By seeking pleasureI heard an astronaut on the radio yesterday. When asked if it was fun to do a spacewalk, he responded that it was Type Two Fun, meaning it’s not the kind of fun that you really feel while you’re doing it. The two are very different, but it’s often easier to look at the day around the fun to help determine whether it’s Type One or Type Two Fun.

Type One Fun days are often a lot easier. That’s stuff like going to the beach, or having a party, or going to a good show. Type Two Fun comes from experiences where our own attention needs to be highly focused and the experience is more demanding, like on a spacewalk, or during a big dance number in a show, or when I race my brother’s race car. It’ll be a fun memory when I think about it later, but at the time I need to stay present to keep a very fast car from hitting a wall.

Type One is fun at the time. Two is rewarding later. Rather than suffer for our whole life by trying to avoid Type Two days, we’re all better to understand that inactivity and a lack of motion or creation will lead to our worst suffering. Meanwhile the pain endured to acquire strength or skill ends up as stored energy that releases Type Two Fun when our own personal genius makes itself known through action.

1260 Relax and Succeed - Dwell in possibilityType One Fun is easy. But yin and yang means that there is no getting around certain kinds of suffering in life. Let me write that again: there is no getting around suffering in life. Not for anyone. Young people die, you can’t fight City Hall, and around the world the weak suffer. What makes existence holy is when we accept this fact and we begin turning an idle sadness about life into an action that converts difficult times into rewarding Type Two Fun. Med school is hard. Saving lives feels awesome.

The only help people ever need with Type One Fun is if they start to dose it with thin pleasure, from things like drug addictions etc. But for the most part Type One Fun is easy to enjoy, just possibly harder to find. Opportunities for Type Two Fun abound. They are plentiful all around us. Every complaint points to a potential Type Two Fun solution. Like with being a doctor, refugee camps are hard places to work. Saving lives there feels awesome.

When we’re urged to do what scares us it’s not the fear that has the value, it’s the discovery. Doing things outside our comfort zone increases the size of our comfort zone, and as that circle expands, its growing perimeter encounters increasingly more opportunities to do the sort of things we tend to look back on with pride and self-satisfaction. That’s credit we know we’re truly due, and it never feels better than when we rightfully give it to ourselves.

1260 Relax and Succeed - For most people their spiritual teacherIf most of us look at our lives, our suffering is caused by our resistance to things that are “hard.” That fact is a demonstration of how we all live in illusory worlds, because if we stopped to meditate on our own lives for just a while, we would suddenly make the genuine connection between our suffering and our avoidance of challenges, versus our joys and our overcoming of them.

You will make choices regarding your path every day. Some will be motivated by fear, others by fun, but for greater clarity we require a greater level of consciousness about those choices. Rather than perpetually seeking Type One Fun and torturing ourselves in that act, we are better to fully grasp the value and profound rewards that go with taking on Type Two Challenges.

Don’t hide from what scares you. Use the yin in your life to make room for the challenges that you can then convert into a wave of Type One Fun. It’s in you to do. Enjoy your day.

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.

Big Mistakes

1244 Relax and Succeed - there is always a simplicityIn life we will vary in our risk-taking. Some people have the sort of childhood that encourages them to be naturally bold, whereas others like things to be safer, with less risk of major downsides. It’s one kind of doctor that wants to deliver babies and another who will do your surgery. There’s some overlap, but they specialize for a reason.

Even if we’re the type of person that is careful about risk, our circumstances can alter our natural setting. Being unusually attracted to a person can lead us to be braver, romantically, than we might ever have been before. There’s entire industries built around offering the poor unlikely though not impossible relief from constant struggle. Even going a long time without a win can really motivate someone to take chances they otherwise wouldn’t.

The trick is, even when we’re reacting in-the-moment and we know our extra effort or courage is coming from a much-desired opportunity, we still must stay aware of how we have shifted our identity and what we have left at risk. That doesn’t mean you never take chances–you have to to live–but it does mean that they’re calculated. This not only helps you succeed, it also helps you fail.

1244 Relax and Succeed - Things are just thingsWhen answering readers questions about time management, I’ve posted before that sometimes a failure to succeed is not even within reach. I myself have very elderly and frail parents that often can’t wait, but I also need to earn a living and attempt to maintain the rest of life, including maintaining friendships, although that last one is often the sacrifice when caring for people who generally can’t be left alone for a long stretch. There is no amount of management that solves that.

The worst thing we can do is regret that we may not be able to avoid failure in some significant way. Either you’ll run out of time, resources or enthusiasm before you’re done or not. Understanding those limits allows us to act quickly, and with as much wisdom as possible, if things tumble out in unpleasant ways. This is inevitable in any life, so we can’t live seeking to avoid it, we must learn to surf the bad waves as well as the good ones.

The hardest part for people is their attachments. If we believe we need some object or amount or victory before we can feel good about our lives, we’ve lost control. But if we feel our duty is to say balanced and minimize damage, then we’re just doing what we’ve always done–we’re managing our life with the most balance possible.

1244 Relax and Succeed - The reason most people give upIf staying on your surfboard requires you to throw away some valuable weight, spending time assessing the loss will only delay your reaction and generate more pain. Conclude, accept, act and then move forward with grace and dignity. Ultimately there is no other way and resistance only creates more pain and delays things further.  It’s not like your priorities will dissipate just because you have. No matter how bad the work day was, your children or your parents or your other responsibilities don’t cease to exist. In fact, they’re a gift. Because when you can’t do much to improve your own life, a really great reaction is to try to improve someone else’s.

Don’t dwell on big mistakes, even if you worked hard to plan or work around them. Don’t get caught up in ideas of fairness or the volume of your effort, those are all irrelevant at some point. Take solace in the fact that the effort will still have helped strengthen you, even if the effort itself failed. Knowing how to face hardship is ultimately more valuable than any other life skill, and even there, you can fully exercise your character and values.

Everyone experiences hard times. If you’ve put in a good effort and tried your best, as the Dalai Lama notes, there is no basis for any regret. We can take a moment for the painful acceptance to sweep over us but, once it has, our duties are usually self-evident and there is little else to do but to change paths and begin walking anew. By that point, the only thing that will make it particularly painful will be your own voice, in your own head, discussing what-ifs. Those can be compelling, but they are also created by and for you. So you’re free to create them. But all your ego will do is keep you from the clarity you require from success. Even in the din, a quiet mind will stay closer to wisdom.

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.

Sailing Through Life

The little boy settled onto the blanket, next to his father. They were on a steep rocky headland and they had a beautiful view of the entire ocean before them. The wind flicked a blond wisp into the boy’s eyes and he pushed it away. “Do you see her?”

“Not yet Simon. She’s still off over the horizon.”

“What’s a ‘horizon?'”

His father points out over the water. “You see it on the sea, and you can see it out in the country too when it’s really flat, or you’re really high up; and you can see it in life too.” He points out toward the ocean. “Auntie started sailing from another continent–another giant island like the one we live on–but we can’t see it because the world is curved. And if you were on one side of a giant ball you wouldn’t be able to see the other side would you Simon?”

“If I had a see-through ball I could.”

His father smiles. “That’s very clever. Yes. If it was see-through you could. But otherwise you couldn’t. And the Earth isn’t see-through, it’s covered in rock and water; so the line where we can’t see anymore, that line is the horizon and we can’t see your auntie until she comes over that line.”

Simon seems confused. “Then how does she know where to go?”

“Well, that’s a good question. She has a good boat, she’s well trained, she has courage and determination, and after that all she needs is a direction and her knowledge. That’s all life is. We’re never really sure where we’ll end up or how exactly we’ll get there. It’s just ability and effort. The rest is like the ocean. So put the best equipment you can put together, the best training you can find, and then add courage and a real desire to do it, and then apply yourself. That’s a good way to approach every part of life.”

This sounds like good news to Simon. He looks up at his father expectantly. “If she has that will she win?”

“Oh, that’s difficult to say. She’s the best sailor of all of us. She’s been winning regattas since we were kids but, like I said, sailing’s a bit like life Simon. You can be the best sailor in the world and still get wrecked on the rocks, and you can be terrible and end up fumbling your way through in record time.”

Simon’s brow furrows. “That’s not fair.”

“Yes. That would make sense. Fair’s an idea we get in our heads, but the ocean doesn’t have a head, so it can’t think fairness into existence. So my sister–your aunt–has to use her head to outsmart the sea. And maybe if she’s smart and lucky with the wind and the waves, maybe she’ll win. But we’ll be proud of her no matter what. It’s no easy thing crossing an ocean alone.”

“But you said someone terrible could win.”

“Well, that’s true, but it’s less likely. Especially in this race. But the world isn’t fair, it’s just made up of a bunch of systems. The way water and wind work, have systems. So if auntie can be smarter and use those systems to her advantage, she increases her chances of success. But if she’s lazy and unprepared and she runs into lots of things she has to guess about, then she’s less likely to be right about her answer and she’s less likely to win. So you can’t guarantee anything. But the reason your Mom and I want you to be a good student of life is because that makes you more capable, like auntie, and that increases your odds of winning races and being free. You just have to always remember that any of us can get smashed on the rocks too, so don’t be hard on yourself if that happens too. That happens to everyone.”

Simon backs away from the cliff a bit. “I don’t want to hit the rocks.”

His father looks at him but steps toward the cliff and points out at the ocean. “Oh, no one wants to hit rocks Simon. But people are tiny and look how big the sea is. Sometimes a person’s best still isn’t enough. But that’s okay too. That way we know how much we can survive. Once, your auntie wrecked in blue water and she had to sit on the hull for a day before she was rescued.”

“Was she scared?”

“Maybe sometimes. But she’s smart too, so she would have used her brain for figuring out smart things. I don’t think she would have wanted to give much time to fear. She survived that, and that helped her feel stronger, and that’s why she took on this race five years ago. She felt like she could handle it, and her first year she was in the top ten boats.”

Simon seems proud of his own connection to her. “Maybe auntie will take me sailing.”

“Well Simon, people tend to like it when you’re interested in the things they’re interested in. So I suspect she’ll take you. Maybe I could even come and help.”

“Okay. But you have to listen carefully. Because we live not on the ocean so you drive mostly. Auntie has trophies and stuff for boats. So we will be safer if you listen to her careful, okay?”

“Sure Simon. I promise I’ll be careful so that we can relax and have fun.”

“I can’t wait to sail!” he literally shakes with excitement.

“Good. That’s the feelings that gets you through the storms and that’s the same one that makes any day a good day.”

Simon smiles.

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.

Success by Failure

Each of us will take a direction in life depending on who we see ourselves as. For some people this leads to obscurity, for others it leads to great fame, but fame should not be mistaken for success just because it’s more visible. That’s just their job. People’s personal lives will all share the same sorts of ups and downs, so we shouldn’t either lament that we aren’t famous, nor should we be jealous or envious of those who are.

Just the other night my parents were watching America’s Got Talent, and a young singer noted that to pursue his dream of being a famous singer, he left home and moved to New York and for a few years he slept on couch that smelled like cat for $30 a week. Britney Spears has had jobs since she was about eight years old. Olympians rarely see their friends so they can work out instead. And there’s only so many of us who think the result is worth that effort, just like some people don’t think cooking a fancy meal is worth the effort when they could just fuel up. We’re all different.

1207 Relax and Succeed - Believe in yourselfI remember I’d been working in film and television for about 10 years before the first time I ever heard anyone say that they wanted to “be famous,” rather than note what they would want to be famous for–as in the case above, where what he really wants to be is a singer, not famous. In my experience, the ones that want to be famous never have that cat-sofa dedication and they eventually surrender that idea for something that actually suits them better. In that way their failure is a success.

A very talented film student I taught wanted to be an A-list cinematographer on big budget superhero blockbusters. But after close to 10 years climbing his way up and seeing Hollywood work, he concluded that the reality of the job wasn’t what he wanted and he surrendered that and went to do smaller, but much more meaningful documentaries. And he’s much happier doing it.

Cases like the one noted are often seen as a failure by the person approaching the decision. All they feel is the separation from their previous identity. It feels like they surrendered in a bad or weak way, when it’s actually the smart or strong way. Once that student crested the hump into his new identity, he got to work at his new career and it turned out he loved it the way he’d assumed he would have loved the Hollywood blockbuster job. It wasn’t a fail. It was a discovery. You’ll make them your entire life.

As I’ve noted before, if you want to know where you’re at, imagine your life as a big continuous sine wave that completes each wave about every 7-9 years. At each peak you have slowly rewired your brain to be fully efficient at being that version of you. But of course, once you’ve maximized why continue? Been there done that, as the saying goes. And so it’s not really disappointment that disrupts success, it’s the inklings of our next success.

The sooner we start to embrace that downslope the shorter it gets–although it can never be fully removed, otherwise you can’t have your peaks either. This is why a Buddhist monk on a train once lead me to conclude his encapsulation of life: everything changes. If it’s good, enjoy it–it’ll get worse. And if it’s bad, don’t lament–it’ll get better.

Find where you are on your wave and surf that. It’ll include the pain of those downslopes, but wherever you are, wishing you were an an upslope is the literally the definition of suffering. But if you surrender instead, it’s actually flows pretty nicely.

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 Fear of Work

There’s an idea afoot that there is some kind of disconnect between spirituality and hard work. It makes sense that younger people are seeking a way to work less and/or more meaningfully than their parent’s generation, but the fact remains that there are people of all ages that are avoiding the struggles that create expansion, increased strength and resiliency.

975 Relax and Succeed - As you work to spiritual advanceIt’s one thing for a person not to have kids because they don’t find themselves with common desires for children, but it’s another altogether for them to not want them because they’ll cramp their style, or be painful to give birth to, or because they require a lot of work. The idea that profound self-actualisation only happens when you focus on yourself is a myth created by misinterpretations of spiritual ideas. In fact the very desire for enlightenment has now become just another selfish personal goal.

I’ve said it many times: enlightenment is not a state it is an action. It is a verb, a motion, a way of being. What it doesn’t involve is self-reflection because in that state there is no self. You are simply doing/acting/being. So an enlightened person is not sitting idle in the lotus position having someone else attend to their daily needs, the truly enlightened person will be that happy, self-less person who generally needs very little and gets great satisfaction from bringing happiness, peace and comfort to others.

It is an entirely market-created ego-based idea that you get up at 10:00am, have a leisurely gourmet coffee before going to morning Yoga, then an organic lunch of tofu and beansprouts, and then finally sitting at your home-office desk at 1:00pm before checking social media for an hour, and then be distracted by notifications and texts and other interruptions “all day” before leaving at 4:00pm for a jog, the gym and a healthy dinner with red wine and cool friends at a jazz bar before pottery class that night. That’s an ad for coffee or Yoga or the gym, not enlightenment.

975 Relax and Succeed - Suffering is due entirely to clingingThere’s some who have wealthy enough external resources that they can live that life of leisure noted above but those are my addicted, lost and suicidal clients. The ones that have those resources and aren’t in trouble are the ones that act more like the group in service. They’re working hard, expanding themselves and they’re finding ways to contribute to those around them.

Then there’s many many many more who absolutely cannot afford to live that life of leisure but they try for too long and just end up buried in stressful debt because there’s little reason to think anyone was saved by some stroke of genius. Einstein read a lot about mathematics and he sat in that chair for a very very long time before he came up with E=MC2. You can’t look at a YouTube millionaire today and have that as a plan to support your spiritual growth because that success on YouTube will almost always demand that you appeal to ego a huge percentage of the time.

The real question is, how selfless were you today? Did you go through your day expanding your mind and body through work of some meaningful kind? Did you work hard and accomplish something? Did you gain a new skill? Did you help your fellow man? Do you act for charities, do you contribute, or are you just a protester?

975 Relax and Succeed - The art of being happyThere is nothing unspiritual or anti-enlightenment about getting up at 6:00am to work as a garbage man, or social worker or a lawyer or anything else. There is nothing unspiritual about raising kids and dealing with their mayhem and complications. It’s no coincidence that people who voluntarily choose a more difficult path end up with more capabilities, confidence and calm.

If you’re investing yourself in what has been sold as the spiritual life then it’s you that has sold out. The real enlightened people are working in refugee camps, they’re stay-at-home moms and tradesmen doing a hard day. If they write they write every day like it’s work. What you put in is what you get out. There’s nothing unspiritual about that and there is no path without suffering. So if you’re hiding from life you can stop and go live. Because it’s not a peaceful path that creates more peace, it’s a selfless path that creates connection and connection creates peace.

Look at your life. How much of it is aspirational dreaming and how much of it is motion forward? Because there’s a lot of stressful sitting still going on today and knowing the lotus position won’t help that. Enlightenment is a verb. Find your verb today. You can still wear your tights and you can still be a vegetarian, you just won’t get the reward without the sacrifice. So rather than avoiding hard work try running towards it, because it’s along the way that you’ll stumble into the peace that you’re currently searching so hard for.

peace. s

PS This was the least-read blog ever and bizarrely so. That fact prompted a popular response the next day. If you did agree to read this one then you probably stand to benefit less from the following one, but regardless they do work well as a pair.

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.