Talking Ourselves Down

1251 Relax and Succeed - Toughness is no match for insecurityNEWSFLASH: It does not matter how strong you are, how smart you are, nor how educated you’ve become, nor how skilled. Those are all great thing, but all of them can quickly become worthless by being easily undone by a simple internal narrative of insecurity. Whether it’s a sport, an art, in business, or with others in our social lives, nothing will do more damage to us than our own egos and their neverending pursuit of whatever our current definition of perfection is.

We’ll go to the gym, we’ll invest energy in things we’re fascinated by, we’ll spend a lot of time learning about that subject either formally or informally, and we’ll practice it. The reason we’ll happily put in a huge effort in will be because we see value there. We don’t get clear-headed and generally peaceful by wanting to stop our suffering, we get clear-headed by valuing the peace we trust we can create.

There are kids who see practicing an instrument as torture while others see it as an escape. Our behaviours often point quite clearly to our real interests, and when we’re pursuing those our pure zeal leads to us to fill our consciousness with excitement about the thing instead of rolling it’s usually unconscious narratives. There is a great lesson in that fact.

1251 Relax and Succeed - It is easy to shield our bodiesThe voices in our heads are debates by for and with ourselves. It’s a strange thing to do when we get right down to it. It’s natural in that no one tells us not to fall into the trap of too much self-talk after we learn to talk, but by the time anyone’s forty they start to grasp that the unhealthy people overthink and the healthy ones seem inordinately calm.

Both groups will still have their big emotional highs and lows, but while one group is whipped around like a flag in the wind for however long the wind is blowing, the other group quickly shifts back to letting things flow around them, unimpeded by personal thoughts. It’s like our consciousness is actually a fast-moving river, and thinking about something too much is like dumping rocks into the water and making the water choppier and rougher. Just looking at a busy-minded person is like being able to see how busy the incessantly burbling thoughts are inside their head.

We must ask ourselves, when and why do we undertake this strange behaviour? What’s our own most common narrative of insecurity? Are we too short? Too weak? Do we need more money? More time? Do we use our narratives to hate others rather than advance ourselves? Do we see the world as against us? Do we tell yourself ourselves we’re unlucky, or doomed or stupid, or lazy or worthless?

1251 Relax and Succeed - Are you being nice to yourself

We can tell ourselves all of those things and they will act as actual barriers to our achieving all we can. Our other option is to actually learn to get conscious about what internal actions actually lead to our satisfaction.

If we do get conscious we’ll see that our pain comes from our thinking, and when we love our own life it’s because we’re too excited by it to take the time to build any self-limiting narratives. It doesn’t matter how much we go to the gym or read or practice something if our mind hasn’t found a way to embrace whatever it is we need to do. You must fall in love with wherever you are. This general caring about our life is what is often referred to as taking pride in our work, or being respectful or having the commitment to succeed.

We don’t have to work to reach this form of clarity. We don’t add to ourselves to find this peace. We take away our ego, our narratives, our insecurity, and we replace it with a peaceful mindfulness capable of drawing in information at a remarkable rate. Remember, we all learned to talk and walk before we were even three. That’s how smart we can be. But to be that brilliant we must consciously avoid using the words we’ve already learned, to undo the very confidence that enabled us to the learn all the words in the first place.

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 Enlightened Life

I really like your blog but it always makes me wonder what your life is like compared to mine. Do you still have goals? Are you still learning new things or is all of that over for you?

signed,
Wondering

Dear Wondering,

I am incredibly ordinary. So don’t waste your life thinking comparisons into existence. Can you imagine two cave men sitting together, pre-language? They couldn’t do any such wondering because they wouldn’t have the ability to have that conversation with themselves because they didn’t have any words. That’s a good way to seeing Be-ing. It’s when we’re quiet inside. It’s when we’re not judging or striving or wanting. The emptiness that’s left is what contains the universe.

381 Relax and Succeed - Zen is not some kind of excitementYou don’t collect facts and then process it into a coherent version of the universe. Your consciousness is like a vase. And the most important part of the vase is the empty part inside. So don’t fill it with words. Let it flood itself by being immersed in the universe. Don’t process events—that requires and demands a you. But if you simply are, if you simply be, only then can the world be known to you. So don’t try to become like me, don’t try to be any specific way, just let yourself relax into the quiet and the real you will melt into your surroundings in a very wonderful and special way. That’s why you like dramatic sunsets. They shut you up inside. The sunset isn’t amazing because it’s an amazing sunset, the sunset’s amazing because you’re quiet and you can actually experience it.

To answer your question more specifically, yes I love to learn more than almost any other activity. But I don’t do it to expand or improve or impress. I do it because it’s fun for me. Some people love sports, some love to dance, some value stamp collecting or riding horses, and I like to learn. I literally love the feeling of new synaptic connections forming. I am addicted to the chemistry for learning in much the way an alcoholic or drug addict is addicted to a substance, or in the same way an angry or sad person is addicted to their favourite neurochemicals. I am intoxicated by learning and so I’m always looking for new information to intake. Likewise a sad person is always scanning the world for misfortune to focus on, and an angry person is looking for lost opportunities to bitch about. You get what you ask for—I just happen to ask for novelty. Once I know something it seems less interesting to me. I much prefer the unknown to the known.

As for goals—I do have them, although I’m not attached to them as outcomes. They’re the direction I’m heading, but like someone who’s driving from LA to New York, I’m mostly interested in looking at the stuff in between. If you were to describe me in a word, fascinated might be a good choice. The universe just never ceases to amaze me. We’re all in a big giant381 Relax and Succeed - As you work to spiritually advance play and the world is our stage and our characters fall in love and get into fights, and thrill ourselves and anger ourselves and we are alive.

That is what living is: to feel. And I feel the world very deeply. Including sadness and concern and frustration. The difference is that I don’t fight those feelings. I welcome them as I would in any play I went to see. I wouldn’t stand up in the middle of a performance and say to the character, “Hey there, don’t feel blue fellow. Things are gonna turn around in the second act, you’ll see!” Because I understand that if I let it happen then the writer and actors portraying sadness aren’t necessarily giving me a bad feeling, it’s just a specific feeling. I spend time with it and come to know it. It is an aspect of me and it feels a particular way. Remember: tickling can feel both good and bad. How we feel about something is how it is to us. So it’s good to get comfortable with all feelings.

Yes, get comfortable with suffering. You’d be surprised at how little you suffer when you’re actually open to suffering. Stuff just moves through you very nicely. Grumpiness is like a rain, but after you eat a cookie and raise your blood sugar and feel better, it feels that much better because of the juxtaposition to the rain. So I don’t mind the grumpy part because I know it sets up the happiness. After a tough day, good days feel even better. It’s like watching your team lose for the entire game and then suddenly pull out a surprise victory in overtime. It’s that much better because you’d suffered first. None of this is rocket science. It’s super simple. Do things you like and live with the consequences. It’s easy.

If you can quiet your mind you won’t need to fill your life with music anymore. You’ll be able to sit for extended periods in silence. And that will have special beauty due to its juxtaposition to the usual impermeable soundscape. You’ll never feel lonely, but you’ll also be very present with anyone you do connect with. You’ll switch words around like they and you, and your words for time will start to wander. And you won’t fix it because you’re comfortable losing a vocabulary for time. Time feels like a jail. You won’t be interested in trapping things with any sort of value judgments like worth, and you won’t care about concepts like ownership or even time stamps like when. None of those things will be meaningful when you live with All.

By not recognizing time’s “passing” I am free, and that freedom is worth a lot to me. To me all people all things all places and all times are one thing with many faces, so it just seems silly to engage in any extended negative feelings. It’s like getting worked up in a dream. Who cares? 381 Relax and Succeed - I looked in templesThe whole thing is taking place in your consciousness. Why break up an argument between two characters you are dreaming into existence?

Your life is what’s taking place in your consciousness. By living there and being aware you get to have all sorts of novel experiences. You’ll be free from hate. And loving everyone is easy and awesome. You see good things happen to people that hate you and you think, “Hey, good for them!” and you totally mean it. Unless an acute shortage of food and/or sleep is involved, there’s not really any dark thoughts to think of after you go quiet inside. And even if food exhaustion kicked in, I would still be aware enough to know that’s what it was and that I shouldn’t take any of my reactions seriously.

Because I move moment to moment and don’t create narrative opinions about what I witness outside of me, I don’t need to forgive people because moments after it’s happened I’m not even there because I’m experiencing something fascinating in the present moment. So it’s like I re-meet them the next time I see them. Gossip feels as crazy as it does meaningless, and as the Buddha says, “Being angry at someone is like throwing a hot coal—you are the one who gets burned.” I don’t entertain ugly thoughts for very selfish reasons. They don’t feel good to think.

You don’t want my life but you do want to live your own. You want to be the aspect of the universe that you create. So stop conforming and trying. Stop wanting to be in this or that group, or to be seen this or that way. Be yourself instead. You’re the only one that’s qualified and without you one of life’s jewels is missing. Now go enjoy yourself and your day. You were fine the moment you were born.

peace. s

The Moment of Peace

It’s a very simple question: do you love your partner? Even if you are in the midst of a fight, do you deep deep down honestly believe that in the future you will once again look at them longingly and lovingly? Because if the answer to that is yes—which it almost always is—then you need to get yourself a better understanding of Time. Because if you do that, then you remove a ton of grief from 9 Relax and Succeed - The Past has no poweralmost any relationship. If we assume you’re confident that your spouse is a good person and you would rather go through life with them more than anyone else, then you can learn to end most of your arguments almost as quickly as they start. Let’s say for instance your husband made you angry by flirting with a girl at a party the night before. How do you fix that?

Firstly, you meditate on times where you have “misbehaved” in whatever way. In doing so you will realize you weren’t thinking about violating the sanctity of your husband’s trust when you snuck that bottle of wine. You just wanted to get drunk because you felt weak and you needed to lean on something. Selfish maybe, but it’s not an attack on his trust. So now let’s get inside your husband’s head. Let’s say he’s actually putting on weight so he’s feeling unattractive and insecure. So the flirting isn’t really about anything other than building his ego back up. He’s leaning on the girl’s compliments just like you did with the wine.

So let us say that it was true that he was never actually seriously interested in the woman. But because he wasn’t consciously aware that he was living out his reaction to insecurity, the flirting would have all been genuinely invisible to him . That was his reality at the time. So let us say that he loves you, he’s genuinely sorry he upset you, and the entire thing really and truly doesn’t mean anything threatening to your relationship. If this is what you know to be true, then there is no need for further thought other than: are the joys of my husband worth more than the suffering I did one night at a party?”

Hopefully if you married the guy he can at least put the odd dark marble in the jar. You’re going to need that latitude yourself, remember. And that’s assuming you don’t end up in a situation that’s much more challenging for him, like you ending up in a wheelchair. If you believe he would stick with you through that, or if you’re even a little grateful that he puts up with your crap, then you can surely put a party behind you.

9 Relax and Succeed - We can never obtain peaceBut what happens in real life? A lot of the time the spouse will be angry for weeks, months and even years. Is this because the partner flirted? Hardly. If that was the case then everyone would take that long to get over it. It lasts as long as the person chooses to think about it. The pain and irritation are not from the original event as ill-advised as it may have been. The painful emotions are Present Moment biochemical re-creations of the event via Thought. If you tell yourself the same story don’t be surprised that your brain assembles the same biochemistry. A lot of people don’t need mood medication, they need to take more responsibility for their own thinking.

You either believe in your partner or you don’t. If you don’t, then arrange to end it. If you do, then stop blabbing about what he or she did an hour ago, a week ago, a month ago, or a year ago. Because that is your life ticking by. And then the issue isn’t what they did to the relationship then, it’s that you keep doing it by replaying the event Now. Because you’re not at a party Now. You’re wherever you are, and you’re there with your spouse who you love. So why do you need to think about other times? Why can’t you think about the love? Who could stop you?

If you know you actually love your partner deeply, then abandon your old angry narrative and replace it with thoughts about what you admire about your partner. You will instantly get the chemistry that goes with appreciation and that will feel so good it will actually help cement your desire to flick that switch more often in the future.

If you and your partner are enjoying a day or evening, do not crawl back to days gone by to collect cans of paint to pour on yourselves today. Keep your Now clear and open and much love will rush into the space. Abandon the battle. Accept and go quiet. Love is there.

peace. s