Optimistic Nihilism

1272 Relax and Succeed - What is reality to youA lot of my students come to me with an issue or a problem. In most cases, their attraction to solving that issue will cause them to see most of the lessons through that lens. But every now and then I get a more philosophical student, who comes with a problem but quickly finds themselves, like me, fascinating by these very ideas themselves.

I recently worked with a gentleman who was having challenges activating his own life due to an honest sense of nihilism. The simple fact was, he had legitimately noticed a fact about reality but he didn’t see how it was possible to do much with that discovery and so it had trapped him rather than freed him. I recently ran into the video below and thought it was quite a good technical explanation of most of the process he did before he came to me, and it also includes a lot of what we focused on after we were working together.

It’s not all here of course, or I’d have just shown him this video, and even having done it personally, that doesn’t mean all of his problems are solved of course. It simply means that he no longer things they’re a problem to be fixed, but rather that they form the landscape he’s negotiating as he lives his life. In the end, it’s going to rain. The only question is; will that keep you from living your life, or are you prepared to get wet sometimes in your pursuit of meaningful experiences?

Are you prepared to be responsible for your own life? If you are, you are freed to have

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.

Thens and Whens

The definition of stultified is “to cause to lose enthusiasm and initiative, especially as a result of tedious or restrictive routine.” Sound familiar?

We all have an instinct for how life should feel and let’s face it, because egos seek security over experience, a lot of folks feel like their lives are small dashes of fun amidst a sea of monotony, responsibility and anxiousness. And who can blame them? Who wants to think that’s all there is?

But here’s the deal: think or live. The world is not completely terrible, we aren’t completely inadequate, our life does not completely lack potential. So why are so many people thinking those three things?

The answer is habit, supported by the fact that every other ego around us is doing it too, which makes it appear sane when it’s actually the key form of mental disruption for people today.

People want answers but there aren’t any; we are an answer. Our life is an answer. And we write that answer as we live and that is a part of the perfection of how this all works. That’s once again why Kierkegaard went on about how you live forward but understand backward.

Everyone can just be, and life would then become the simple, collective jostles we experience as we move through life together. But we can’t do that because too many of us avoid the jostling. We have resistance.

We don’t like being uncomfortable. We don’t like it if someone doesn’t like us, and we don’t like to fail. But achieving comes from trying and trying is another word for failing, so now what do we do?

Success is on the other side of failure. Do we go for it anyway? Or do we live in the past or present, constantly thinking; always trying to figure out who we were supposed to be? Calculating what’s wrong now, and then figuring out how bad our future is likely to be?

Seriously? No way. We all have way too much potential for that.

First, we stop the fearful thoughts by carefully considering what’s actually happening. That leads to the eventual realization that often the only suffering brought on by failure is that which is produced by our own thinking.

Fortunately, we control that. We’re free of everyone except ourselves. And even if we do attack ourselves, it is always harder to take that criticism seriously once we’ve truly considered how meaningless our transient fearful thinking is to the world.

Rather than living our life afraid that the world is too big for little us, we should live knowing that life is a powerful imperative within us. Standing in its way is sure to be painful. We were meant to be.

As the naturalist David Attenborough said about plate-sized lichens, surviving for hundreds and thousands of years, “They simply exist, testifying to the moving fact that life, even at it simplest level, occurs –apparently– just for its own sake.” If you’re going to feel an urge to live anyway, why be a lichen? Why not live and enjoy a bunch of it?

I recently saw a quote: “The worst kind of sad is not being able to explain why.” But either we found out we have cancer or we didn’t. Someone died or they didn’t. We feel lonely or we don’t. Let’s not pretend that sadness just shows up like some kind of invisible cloud. It’s brain chemistry that’s fired by what’s in our consciousness. There’s freedom in that.

If something didn’t recently happen, then the reason we’re sad is why anyone would be sad: we’re taking our Now to think about depressing thens or whens. It hurts because those aren’t our path. We went this way. The rest is just thinking.

The pain just increases as we avoid life and think more. It is our nature, our destiny and our future to fill our lifetime.

The universe simply wants some things to be and the internal arguments we replay in our heads mean nothing in the face of it creating our lives. Instead of talking to ourselves about ourselves, it’s time we climbed on board our own life. And let’s ride it to wherever we really feel like going. Even if the route is challenging.

peace. s

Psychological Storms

If we want a healthier society each individual must develop an understanding that responsibility is empowerment. Rather than blaming other people or our parents or the past or one of life’s many supposed “disorders,” we must recognise that reality is an internal subjective experience not an external objective one. Things aren’t happening to you, you are happening to them.

This isn’t to say there isn’t real pain in the world; of course there is. But people would be fine with pain if they didn’t have all of the suffering. Accepting pain requires that we experience the relevant pain from a place of understanding of how the universe works. And by understanding how the universe works we thereby avoid unnecessary suffering as a choice.

Physical pain can be seen as “real” (although even that deserves its own discussion), and even some psychological pain is natural. That happens when we experience what ends up being known as post-traumatic stress; meaning you have brain wiring that isn’t helpful to a new situation you’re left in. This would include things like the death of a parent, the loss of a limb or key ability, or even a sudden or drastic shift in your living circumstances due to disaster, war or even divorce or immigration to a foreign culture. That’s a lot of brain parts now having to deal with a lot of new things all at the same time. That taxes our brain and that’s what gets called painful stress.

1014-relax-and-succeed-when-there-is-no-enemy-withinLater you can be in the new circumstances, but now that your brain has caught up you’re less stressed and less in pain–which is when the suffering can start. This is when you know how things work but you don’t like it. Meaning; you don’t approve of the universe. But the universe is the universe and you are you, so your approval is tiny against that force. You cannot direct it, you can only flow with it or push against it. Resistant thoughts generate suffering.

Your psychological resistance comes in various forms. You take some aspect of the universe and you create stress and pressure by leaning your psychology up against reality. These actions are known by names like: complaints; worry; anger; jealousy; envy; resentment; and yes, even disorders and depression. These are all forms of resistance and that is why they’re painful.

Sometimes we resist nature, like when we have complaints about the weather or time or other people’s behaviour. Just because there was a forecast or a plan or a definition of right and wrong doesn’t mean that’s how the world will go, it’s just a loose agreement on a theoretical future. Any resistance to it not happening the way we expected will generate suffering for the person doing the resisting.

1014-relax-and-succeed-if-you-imagine-a-worst-case-scenarioIn a jealous couple one party is resisting the freedom their partner invariably has, while the other is resisting their own freedom. One person thinks about their lack of control of the universe, leading the other to then think of their resulting lack of control of themselves. Someone who complains a lot will have a lot of expectations. They’ll have an invisible personal script for the world and they’ll be upset any time others–or even nature–won’t read or act off of that scripted idea. So then it doesn’t rain, it rains on your wedding.

People who envy use their thoughts to wish they had things they don’t, or to wish others who have them, didn’t. People trapped in grief refuse to accept their new circumstances and so they wander around endlessly within a world of suffering narratives built from their hopes or wishes. S.A.D. people want summer instead of winter so they convert that into thoughts about hating winter and then they blame the weather outside their head for the self-imposed weather inside their head.

People who want the world and themselves to be very different than they are will think so long and so hard about so many things they want to be different that the’ll end up in a horrible pit of depression. Meanwhile their capable self will still be there waiting to live rather than think.

1014-relax-and-succeed-do-not-use-your-imaginationWe all cling to our excuses to live small. The world can feel like a vast ocean we’re sure to drown in if we let go of whatever tiny ego-preserver we’re clinging to as we bob up and down. But we must remember, we’re not foreign to the universe. We are a part of it. So rather than being like a land-based human struggling on the surface of a deep dark sea, remember your origins; your home and your nature began in the water. Rather than resisting it and clinging to its egotistical surface, you can remember that your soul never loses the ability to swim gracefully in its depths.

From the air the water can look really scary and mysterious and foreboding. It can appear it’s too much to handle. There’s horizons when you’re on the surface and they can seem like they’re a long ways away. But if you stop all of the surface thoughts and instead just let the world go quiet as you dunk your head into reality, you’ll see the horizons disappear and they convert instead into a never-ending, always-changing ocean of three-dimensional opportunity that’s in front of you no matter which direction you go.

Rather than being trapped on one plane of reality (yours), swim in all of reality and you will suddenly be free. On the surface storms may still rage, but beneath all of that you will feel them more as gentle undulations, because from a deeper perspective all of that windy, rainy, and even thunderous thinking doesn’t really have all that much to do with you.

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.

A Healthy Perspective

You can live or you can think. You can be or you can do. These are vastly different states. Everyone spends time in both, with little kids starting off in the super healthy camp and then we slowly coax them away from that and into the world of thought. Once you’re in that world you’ll have to meditate your way out.

992-relax-and-succeed-to-dare-is-to-lose-ones-footingThe fact that you’re naturally in from birth, plus the idea that we want to return to that later, is what gives our egos the idea that we’re lost when we’re outside of that healthy perspective. But there can’t be a found without a lost, so these two concepts are interdependent. It’s like the inside and outside of a cup. They exist only in conjunction with each other. To fill oneself with life one needs both parts. Someone who was born enlightened and died enlightened with no ego in between would have no knowledge of the idea of either enlightenment or ego. Explaining that would be like explaining water and ice to a fish.

Both of states exist within the world of consciousness. When you think of consciousness it might be better to think of it as a universal place. If you think of the ideas of the universe or unified field theory, or oneness or even God, then you’re getting close to the idea of consciousness. That’s the stage everything is taking place on, both for ego and enlightenment. But you can’t fall off that, it doesn’t even have an up and a down. So why not go for it?

When you were learning to walk you failed more than you moved. You tilted and toppled and fumbled and fell. And still you kept happily marching forward, adding your small bits of progress together until you could run. You couldn’t talk yet so you couldn’t build an ego to punish yourself with, so you learned to walk and talk shockingly fast for such complex tasks. Then you start over-thinking and you end up struggling with something much easier, like algebra or grammar.

992-relax-and-succeed-having-an-ego-is-likeYour ego did the struggling with your “tough subjects,” and by tough I mean the ones you told yourself you couldn’t do. Those fears of failure then prevented you from fully engaging the way you did with walking and talking. When you were learning to talk you were willing to loudly babble away incoherently in public, but by the time you’re older you’re afraid of “looking bad” (whatever that is), and so you don’t try. You won’t wobble, you won’t fall and you don’t grow. Worst, you don’t live deeply, you exist to ruminate shallowly.

People have survived amazing things and then gone on to more amazingness. Polio patients later won medals in the Olympics. Refugees have gone on to become world famous leaders. The bankrupt have gone on to create jobs. Each of us has these feats in us, but few enact them. Instead we think and think and think and that itself is an illness. It is dis-ease in its most basic form. You are unsettled in the universe, whereas when you were learning to walk there wasn’t even a you let alone a universe.

Let go. There’s nowhere to fall. Babe Ruth was also a strike-out king. Picasso painted more mistakes than famous works of art. Those who succeed aren’t any better than you. They just found their thing and they wobbled and tripped and fell their way into being the activity rather than doing the thing. Lose that idea of right and wrong, success and failure and start thinking in terms of quality of experience. Because that sensation is what your life is actually made of.

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 Friday Dose #79

Today we’ll focus on existence and our various ways of appreciating it. We’ll start with the physical, advance to the social/personal and we’ll end on the spiritual. Starting us off is former neuroscientist Greg Dunn who left medicine to paint the neurons he was seeing in the microscope every day. They demonstrate how truly beautiful you are inside.

Greg Dunn Paints Your Brain


Next we’ll leap to a podcast from the CBC One radio program, Tapestry where subjects like meaning and spirituality are discussed. This interview with New York Times columnist and author David Brooks features ideas discussed in his new book, The Road to Character.

Tapestry with author David Brooks


And finally we’ll close with the first Western guru of Eastern ideas, the inimitable Alan Watts as he discusses the notion of existence:

Next time you’re in a line up or otherwise “wasting time,” think about putting some energy into contemplating the very basis for your existence. As weird as it sounds it really does pay off. Have a wonderful weekend everyone.

peace. s

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

00 Relax and Succeed - Friday Dose Footer

The Meaning of Life

379 Relax and Succeed - It is time to clear our minds



Dear Everyone,

Can you see that every question I am asked here is about the Management of your Existence? That you’re asking me how to get your ego from this struggle to that little oasis of peace? That like a traveller on a trail you want to know how far the next rest stop is—how long it will take to get there, and what the most effective and efficient route is? But you’re all insane. You’re all trapped in a cloud of thought. You’re all asleep, and it is time to wake you up.

379 Relax and Succeed - To study the wayI have spent much of my life quite confused by human beings. With precious few exceptions you all have looked entirely crazy to me, and I’ve been fully aware that many people believe the same of me. I am aware that I look crazy when I sell a successful business at a young age to attempt a long-shot career in an unlikely industry that seems to have no connection to the rest of my life. That I take strange trips to unusual places and while I’m there I invest myself in seemingly meaningless activities. That like a child I am mesmerized by nearly nothing, and that I don’t care at all about nurturing your opinion of me.

Anyone who knows me well and is honest will know it is routine for people who’ve known me 10 years or 10 minutes to conclude that there is something strange about me and about my life. That whether people judge me generously or harshly there is this nagging sensation that there is something different guiding my life. That moments fall from me like water and that despite all of the opinions about my life, that I live mine in a oddly deep—and some might even say beautiful— way. That I can love even in the face of hate. That I can be free.

But I am nothing. That is my gift. I am merely a key. And today I offer myself to you. I offer to open a door. I offer to wake you up. I don’t offer you a pleasant existence, I offer you everything. There is an answer. Your dream of something better is founded in a universal truth that is so strong, so powerful and so meaningful that it can penetrate down into the recesses of even the darkest, coldest, most judgmental ego. How long you stay alone is up to you. How long you suffer is your choice.

379 Relax and Succeed - Love is the master keyThe door is open. You only need to walk through the entrance and your life will be transformed. We won’t fix your problems, you will join with God. You will realize the universe within yourself. You will feel the stardust from which you are made. You are never outside of this truth. You are never separate or lost or lacking. You merely use your thinking to tell yourself that story. So today I am shaking you awake. Today you stop becoming. Today you have the opportunity to realize that you are one with everything.

I have lead a privileged life. I awoke to a nurse at five years old as she worriedly clasped the crucifix around her neck and, without knowing it, she set me free: “They said you was dead. Where was you?” That was when I lost the rest of you. That was when I returned to a childlike view and rejoined with everything. That is when I reconnected with the truth. Because I knew that I could die, I lived. But because you are afraid of death, you cannot. It is time to stop clinging. It is time to stop holding on to cherished beliefs. It is time to be free.

You cannot see another perspective and so you cannot comprehend other views, other judgments, other ways of shutting out the glory of existence with beliefs. And so I lived not knowing that while I was alive, others were merely existing. I remember so clearly in elementary school a teacher presuming a fear of death. I remember being startled beyond belief. Was she insane? Why would she say something so ridiculous? A fear of death? Who would waste their glorious time Being to instead tell themselves a story about time, about ending, about limits? It’s all so incredibly small.

379 Relax and Succeed - The real questionI have travelled. I have met with glorious spirits on trains on buses on footpaths. I’ve floated with them on ferries, and jostled with them in lineups for subways. I have met them in boardrooms and hostels and on airplanes, and at schools and funerals and hospitals. I have dove to the bottom of oceans and held wine bottles from another century. I have seen skulls and femurs and flood and war. I have held babies and comforted the dying. I have raced cars and flown planes and played instruments and sang. I have been happy and angry and sad and alone. And throughout it all I have been home. I have never been lost in that way and neither have you. There is no outside. There is no separateness. There is only Being.

I have had the great pleasure of knowing some remarkable human beings. Many have been famous or fabulously Earth-shatteringly wealthy. I have met people who have been to the bottom of the deepest mines and others who have seen our planet from space. I have said yes many times. And yet there was one thing I had no knowledge of. I did not know existence. I did not know the plodding responsibility of managing an existence. That is what 99.9% of lives are. The Management of Existence.

Roughly seven years ago someone did something that impacted my life far more than they could ever have known. This action was dark and ugly and mean and cruel and it’s entire reason for being was to bring about suffering. Like a gift in the ugliest wrapping paper ever, it offered me the chance to experience the Management of Existence. It taught me how to suffer in the way that egos suffer. It was a theft, and it literally stole my life and replaced it with379 Relax and Succeed - Serendipity finding something good existence. And like a frog who does not leap from water that is slowly brought to a boil, I lost perspective and my life became a memory and not a verb. And the responsibilities and the obligations and the requirements of existence blinded me to the absence of life.

Now I don’t want to pretend that I suffered like many of you have—so many lives on this Earth are so much worse than mine. I never lost complete connection with the knowledge that came as a result of trying to answer that nurse’s question when I was five. But I came to know suffering well enough. So without knowing it I was experiencing a course in a spiritual university—I was learning how to appreciate who I had previously been. And the juxtaposition of life to existence was what brought the former into such clear focus. Because on this past weekend something happened to bracket that existence. Something happened that reminded me of life. Something woke me back up. And I could not be more grateful. Because now I know what to say to you. Now I know what existence is. And now I know how to open the door to your life.

Life is not a set of events. Life is a flow of experience. Events are placed in time, and they are relative. So when I designed and built the beautiful home I live within, my dear brother questioned my choices. I had painted my walls green. He lovingly tried to talk me out of it. “You should paint them white,” he said. “It’ll make it easier to sell.” Sell?! I was still awake then, so I knew he was bonkers-crazy. Sell? I hadn’t even moved in yet! Why was I going to make choices for some other person who would own my house in some distant time? So while my brother worried about my financial existence, I lamented his inability to appreciate his actual life. My house wasn’t a place with a value. It is and always will be a flowing movement of experiences.

379 Relax and Succeed - Can words describe the fragranceHave you heard of the Shackleton whisky? Over 100 years ago Ernest Shackleton embarked on an adventure to reach the South Pole. And among his supplies he carried bottles of scotch. Not just any scotch. Scotch that was before the world was impacted by ego. The water and grains in those bottles had never experienced the quiet rain of radioactivity that fell after each of more than 2000 nuclear tests and two offensive attacks. It had been distilled by a connoisseur who regarded the flavour of good scotch with the reverence of a priest. And the man who shares his passion today is equally religious. To an ego such a person seems crazy, but to someone clear-headed it’s easy to see that these men have glimpsed the glory of God and they are swept up by their desire to share that experience. They are true artists, and their canvass is your palate.

Whether someone designs a car, or points a telescope at the sky, or if they build a computer or a construct a math formula or blend whiskey, true artists are attempting to expose to others the remarkable, amazing truths that inform their actions. They aren’t trying to impress you with their achievements. They are attempting to share the glory of the universe with you. And so long ago such a priest placed a message in a bottle and he, with the unwitting help of Shackleton (and another modern connoisseur), sent it travelling through time to today.

He wasn’t interested in pre-nuclear water or labelling success. Like the composer of an instrumental song, he was merely attempting to join with you in a place—a spiritual location. He was attempting to convey an experience. And just as a song can be written by Mozart and played today, my friends and I were able to share in a taste experience with brave, 379 Relax and Succeed - Not only are we in the universeadventurous men from another century. Can you see it? We may have been separated by more than 10,000 miles and 100 years, but our experiences were common. Our experiences were shared.

With tremendous thanks to the gentlemen I was with, I put that glass to my lips and I tasted the glory of God and in doing so I woke up. I woke up to realize what being asleep was. Thanks to the juxtaposition of my suffering existence, and the authenticity of the spirits in that bottle, I was awakened and reminded of what my life had been prior to me being tricked into existence. And in doing so I instantly knew that I now had the final piece of a puzzle that I was unaware was even being built. I could now see the whole picture. As well-intentioned as my efforts have been, they have been partially blinded by my lack of appreciation for the subtleties of existence vs. being alive.

It’s not good enough. It’s not deep enough, profound enough or worthwhile enough. I am grabbing you by the lapels and I am screaming at you to wake up. Your life is not some desert that’s populated by the odd flower or sunset or mountaintop. Your life is a wonder each and every moment. But you cannot appreciate that if you are blinded by thoughts about Managing your Existence. It’s time to wake up. It’s time to stop thinking. It is time to Be. It is time you tasted life.

Stop thinking about defending against disaster. Stop trying to stave off death. Live instead. Accept the suffering of life as the Shackleton adventurers did, and in doing so drink deeply from reality. Because far from being locked away by the responsibilities of your existence, you are free to dive into the reality of appreciation. And I look forward to meeting you there. Because I love you.


Are You Spiritually Responsible?

96 Relax and Succeed - Flow with whatever may happenThere are so many forces in your life focused on what’s “wrong” about you, that much of your very being is spent trying to become the person you believe will deserve a good life. But no one deserves a good life. Some people create one, some people don’t, and children’s hospitals, war zones and famines are filled with people who didn’t even get a real chance at much of a life. So the point isn’t to build a good life. It’s to live one if given the chance.

You will not become someone who never gets angry. You won’t become someone who never worries. You will not always remember to be grateful, you will sometimes be dishonest, and other times you will be extraordinarily cruel. Because without anger there is no calm, without worry there is no peace, without ingratitude there is no gratitude, without lies there is no honesty, and without cruelty there is no kindness. This is the Yin and Yang of life.

Your job is not to be a good and deserving human being. Your job is to be your part of the universe. There’s no rules, no judgment, no prize. It’s just an opportunity. Your life is a chance, a blank canvass, unwritten pages. The point isn’t to live in some way that’s been predetermined to be good—that’s just following orders. Nazis did that. The true way, is all about feel.

96 Relax and Succeed - Start where you areYou don’t want to live in a state of love because it’s good for other people. You don’t want to live in a state of love because some religion or leader told you to. You want to live in a state of love as much as possible because that represents the most enjoyable life for you.

You are responsible for your portion of the universe. You must be selfish about doing what is necessary for a good life. And the good life is largely a happy life. That does not mean that if you are good you will be happy—it means that if you are happy you will be good. So you must be more selfish about your happiness, and less critical of when you’re unhappy.

You don’t have to go the rest of your life without losing your temper. The Dalai Lama loses his temper. You haven’t failed in your spirituality if you yell at your kids. That’s just the world happening. You were never supposed to find some magical way to always sail calm seas. You were only supposed to notice that the calmer seas are often easier to enjoy. But the calm ones are also absent of wind, so you don’t get very far. So it is with life. The nice feelings are nice, but they don’t take us much distance. The less pleasant feelings are where we gain the most, but we also don’t want to live just collecting skills and never applying them.

96 Relax and Succeed - Reiki PrinciplesJust live the moment you’re in. Don’t worry about what Rebecca or Francois or Gurveer or your mom or your boss think of your behaviour. Choose love because it feels better for you. And when you don’t choose it, that’s fine. Just start choosing it again as soon as you’re able. Because no one’s judging but, at the same time, the best way to have a good life is to intentionally do the things that cause one to exist. And the best bet there is always love. Love others, love yourself too.

Remember: no beating yourself up for when you’re not happy. That’s just more unhappiness. Just make your choices regarding the moment you’re in. Don’t waste this moment thinking about moments passed, or moments not-yet-arrived. You cannot act in the past or future. The present is your only opportunity. And you cannot fail in the present. You will only choose your future. But you can’t fail there either, because by then your future is your present.

Understanding the nature of the present moment is the key to the most peaceful and loving sort of existence. Only focus on what you do there. Because the present moment is the only place where you can join the rest of us in creating a beautiful life. I look forward to seeing you there.

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.