A Balance of Needs

1268 Relax and Succeed - Mindfulness is the aware.jpgMaybe it’s a few friends of yours. Maybe it’s you and you know it. Maybe it’s you and you aren’t aware of it; but we’re all somewhere on the self and other spectrum. Regardless of how various individual people define us, we can all appreciate that some people will be more selfish than others, just as we know some will give beyond their capacity to give.

Notably, either extreme appears pathetic from the middle. To be fair, the people on the extreme ends also don’t often have many good opinions about the people in the middle, and notably; they’re often viewed as the least-informed about life.

The most balanced people rarely experience their balanced nature because they have so little variation to compare it to, and so the experiences they do have tend to be filed under shocking, unpleasant or maybe bad simply because they’re so comparatively big. In that way life kind of works the way a lemon does, where it shocks you when you’re a baby, but lots of experiences with something means that today you can convert that lemony tartness into refreshing enjoyment.

1268 Relax and Succeed - There seem to be two kinds of searchersMost of you will know these varying spiritual states as political distinctions. People seen as over-generous and foolish by one side are seen as compassionate and generous by the other. Likewise, the ones viewed as selfish and careless are seen by their own side as focused and successful. Each of these opinions and every single one in between are all largely valid, which helps us realise the truly meaningless nature of opinions, because what we’re really talking about is the many ways people are.

There’s no correct place to be on this spectrum. You’re not healthier near the middle and sicker on the extremes, although those can be byproducts of being in those positions. Everyone on that spectrum suffers, just for different reasons. The two far ends of the spectrum find each other’s pure existence to be painful. In between people argue about what the priorities in life should be and how they should be accounted for. And in the very middle a bunch of people are pretty good at intellectually appreciating all the various positions taken, but they’re all a little lifeless due to a lack of extreme experiences.

This idea can be disappointing to a spiritual seeker because it indicates that a common theme is true; you are already home. The reason this idea gets confused is that we see our spirit as a thing, on its way somewhere, when it would be better to think of ourselves as a principle in motion. So it’s like we’re the principle of gravity and the body we live in is doing the falling that we call living. Yes, your nature is to pull toward the center–to fall–which also explains why the center can be confusing and disorienting to those born too close to it, making their subsequent lives feel shallow and often unlived.

1268 Relax and Succeed - It is not outer awarenessCan you accept that your nature is to move toward balance and that is the pull of life you feel each day? And can you simultaneously accept that your nature includes the idea that where you’re headed isn’t better than where you are, it’s just a different balance point with different challenges? The point isn’t to get anywhere, it’s to go; to live; to be. External outcomes ultimately don’t matter. It’s what Shakespeare meant with that “To be or not to be,” stuff.

Are there different types of prices for experiencing the various positions on this spectrum? Indeed there are. But pain is pain. It’s the part of life that allows you to contrast your joy, so there is no point in avoiding it. There are enlightened beings living all over the spectrum. The trick isn’t where you are, it’s how aware you are.

Wake up. Know yourself. And know that others are themselves too. And then work toward a less judgmental world where, more and more, you simply let them, and yourself, fully be.

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.

Other Perspectives #96

If all that you did this week was read all five blogs and do the small exercises in each one, you most certainly moved yourself closer to the most important goal we all face; understanding. The journey is taken in small steps. Becoming conscious isn’t difficult, but it does require us to very intentionally focus our attention on that development.

1221 OP Relax and Succeed - Do not interruptWith absolutely no offense intended toward whoever created the original meme, I would suggest you do precisely the opposite; hence my “X”. I can think of fewer easier, faster ways to develop a quiet mind than to raise your awareness of invading thoughts.

Today, see your mind as a vessel that you will fill with the world around you. Don’t listen as yourself; listen to your world not out of habit but out of keen awareness. Don’t see it the same way either; don’t treat rooms like visual funnels. Look at familiar spaces in strange or unusual ways and the world will occupy your mind. Try new foods, pay attention to your sense of touch. Fill the vessel of your mind with the outside world. Use this to drown out your own internal egotistical thoughts about self.

Fill your mind with the world around you and drown out your internal conversations. That’s all you have to do to grow spiritually and to gain psychological control. Strangely, both things are far more practical and ordinary than we tend to believe. And they aren’t even difficult to reach. Which in a way proves that these dramas are ones we’ve chosen. Because even if we’re offered a way out, most of us choose to stay on the roller coaster anyway.

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.

Scarred Childhoods and Adult Relationships

If we learn not to overthink we can often do it with smaller, less important stuff, but we struggle with what we call the big stuff. Of course little and big stuff just refers to stuff your life trained you to think of a little versus the stuff your life taught you to think a lot.

In reality we’re all really works of art, so let us say that God or the universe created your base stone and now your parents are walking along a gorgeous cliff of fantastic marble. They see a piece they love and so they have a big chunk cut out of it, and they load it onto a land barge.

They brace it with timbers and they slowly drag it down the mountain to where you will become you. In this metaphor the chipping of your stone is like birth and infancy. You won’t remember it, but it’ll leave marks on your stone nevertheless and your mother will sure remember dragging you down that hill.

Next you’re in Michelangelo’s studio, where the raw potential of your stone begins to be shaped into the vision your parents imagined. They’re the ones that shape the early you, and in doing so they offer you fantastic opportunities while simultaneously camouflaging other potential versions of you. These include genetic memories that create physical issues from birth are like cracks that emerged during travel from the cliffs to the studio. They will impact what the stone can become, but not how much it can be valued.

Regardless of who we are, over time the Michelangelos of life will use friction to shape us, at first knocking off big chunks defined as male or female or black or white or athletic or brainy, and later as more refined choices, like electrical engineer or watercolour painter or pediatric nurse, or eventually as you’re known for being challenging, or soft, or wise.

As we age we begin to realize that the Michelangelo’s in our lives not only carve and shape us intentionally, but they also grind into our stone unconsciously as a side effect of their personal working style. Some areas will be rubbed so long and hard that over time they score the base stone so deeply that it cannot be hidden. This of course isn’t a fault in the stone, it’s a just a byproduct of being shaped by just a few artists near the start of life. Plus those artists will usually have been trained in the same family of artists, so they’ll all tend to grind the same spots out of the same habit.

As you age so too do the Michelangelos around you. They go from using hammers and chisels to just the chisels, and eventually they reduce to scraping, before later moving onto sanding and finally polishing. Each stage will refine us, and as we grow wiser we get wiser about only giving access to better artists,. Every stone has scars, but the wisest artists know how to make the most of them.

Everyone had parents. Everyone had someone–or a lack of someone–raise them, and those forces were the strongest in your life and they left the most indelible marks. Sometimes those lead to beautiful arcs in our life, and others just disrupted areas that would have otherwise gone smoothly. But there is no point in lamenting those scars any more than we lament the base that the sculpture must sit on. Far from being problems, these are just the essential elements of having been in the studio at all. No sculpture is created without them.

When we’re in a relationship and something really bothers us, it is literally caught in our groove. And it’s not our essential stone that’s reacting to it, it’s how we were impacted by childhood. So you can work your whole life searching for the best artists and yet like a bad tattoo, they can only do so much because they have no choice but to work with the unconscious choices that the early, less experienced artists left behind.

Your job in life is not to try to orient your sculpture so that no one sees your scars, nor are you supposed to wear yourself out trying to remove or hide the marks that others have left on them. Instead you are simply supposed to realise that every sculpture has them as a natural part of their creation.

Keep in mind, you can’t blame those early artists for screwing up, because later in life you suddenly realise that you too have been an artist, and through your blind ignorance to the fact that your actions were shaping others, you too will have accidentally scored some people’s stone. And it is understanding that –that inevitable chaining causal reality– that when understood, allows us to shift from being psychologically better, to finally achieving a sense we could call peace. That way it all makes more sense.

The world isn’t broken. People don’t need fixing. People simply need to stop believing that the world’s job is to create perfect sculptures. Instead we must accept that life is a verb. It’s not a statue, it’s the sculpting. And since we all need and are sculptors, and since we all will improve throughout life, suddenly what were failures become more like beautiful attempts at loving and artful creation, much the way childhood fingerpainting may not be good even though it’s gorgeous.

Thanks to our early life, if we look carefully we’ll find we often attract people that seem to have deep scars in their marble precisely where we’ve been trained to look for them. If your Dad yelled a lot, then you stand a good chance of marrying someone familiar like that (or the exact opposite). At that point you have two choices.

You can forever lament that they ended up with the same damage one of your sculptors had, or can note that they are looking right at your scars too. A lack of acceptance can mean you’re the worst possible people for each other, but an act of acceptance can make them the best possible person for you. Because one way you’re just staring at each other’s damage but ,at the same time, if you both focused on getting good at it, who’d possibly be better at overlooking at a fault than someone who spent their life around it?

Don’t lament that art needs sculptors, nor that sculptors get better by creating art. Simply focus your energy on not scarring anyone else more than than is necessary and then ignore what scars you can. Because every time we grind unproductively into into another person’s pain, we only serve to make the scar fresher and deeper.

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.

Appreciating Contrast

1104-relax-and-succeed-the-bad-newsWhat is a day made of? Because it’s a lot more than 24 hours. If it’s your last day of your vacation it can rocket by, and yet if you’re waiting for an ambulance with a loved one, minutes can feel like hours. Time is pretty flexible within our consciousness.

The two examples of above demonstrate that time is dictated by experience. Experiences we don’t want feel long and experiences we do want slip by quickly. So days are made of  your desire for, or resistance to, experiences. Since want is a habit of ego we’re better not to have any expectations, but obviously there are some experiences that are easier to feel better about than others.

Watching a gut-wrenching film can be painful, but it can also bring us closer to people in the long run. On the other hand, as soon as we see an old friend for the first time in a long time we feel fantastic. Of course, neither would feel like anything unless each had the other to contrast itself against. This is the nature of oneness–the yin and yang of being.

1104-relax-and-succeed-i-must-also-have-a-dark-sideAs you’ve heard me say before, this means there is not good things or bad things, but rather things you enjoy and things that help you appreciate enjoyment. So walking normally has no value unless you’ve been unable to do so for some time. Time with loved ones becomes more precious after the loss of a loved one, etc.

Both things are required for existence, but one’s very easy for you and the other creates value, but you wont read this blog to figure out how to enjoy nice things; you’ll spend most of the year reading this blog trying to figure out how to see the value in the more difficult experiences.

If both are necessary, why is one easy and the other more difficult: because one you’ve dreamed of, and the other was either unconsidered or it was a nightmare. One felt in alignment with who you believe you are and the other feels out of alignment with that. To become our greatest selves, we must expand to the point of still feeling in alignment even when we’re experiencing things we do not naturally enjoy.

Your physical reactions to the chemistry you feel as your emotions are your experiences. What chemistry you get depends a lot on how your spirit approaches those variances. You see some people bothered a great deal by relatively small things, and yet you see others who can stay calm during remarkably tempestuous periods. One of these people would be lost in ego, and the other will have developed spiritual awareness.

1104-relax-and-succeed-we-could-never-learnToday’s meditation focuses on recognising this difference. Your job today is easy. Find three examples in your life that demonstrate this difference but using the same events. That is to say, find one experience that you did like that you no longer do, and then find two that you disliked that now you’re grateful for. And once you’ve defined what they are, really spend some actual time revisiting how you felt at the time in each of them. Directly contrast those two different feelings about the same event.

Remember those good feelings, and remember when you applied new thoughts to them and they evolved into things you’d consider negative. And then think about those painful or difficult things, and then really spend time considering that those same events now feel genuinely valuable. That’s it. It’s an easy one but again, these add up. If you’ve done these every week, you will have expanded yourself.

Meditate on past experience. Recognise the changeability of events, and witness your consciousness making that flex. That isn’t the world, that’s you. Own that difference. Find it, and learn enough about it that you truly start to get an understanding that the difference between then and now is simply your approach to whatever it is. Because that is your great power in this universe, but you cannot flex it until you can better understand it, so use today to increase your understanding. And don’t forget to enjoy your day while you do it.

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.

Accounting For Taste

1094-relax-and-succeed-nothing-happens-just-because-we-are-awarePart of why people think too much is that they’re too idle. You can be, or think about being, but you can’t do both. Whereas healthy people invest themselves in the actions, others use more thinking to try to stop their thinking but, you don’t stop thinking; you replace it with activity. The activity of being alive.

The problem is that most people don’t even know what life activity even looks like. Even the idea of basic listening, or patience, or openness is too-often seen as unproductive; as though all of the value is in how much someone does, not how well they do it. But if we’re only doing then that means those tasks are for other people, but even if they’re for other people we should still be alive while we do them.

You can repeat an action and still be alive while doing it. You can still do something generous and do it for you. But to do so you must slow down your thinking and deepen your focus. Once you do this, you’ll see the world slow down and it will make more sense because you will be taking in more information.

1094-relax-and-succeed-life-is-a-seriesA good way to do this is through your senses. We’ll start today with your sense of taste. You’ll have to stay aware to remember to do it when you eat or drink, but otherwise your job in today’s meditation is wonderfully simple: simply taste anything you consume.

Seems weird doesn’t it? Lots of people can think, I already taste everything I eat, but that’s actually pretty unlikely. Most people are so busy using their mind to create internal dramas that they rarely just focus on the taste experience.

This meditation is two-fold in that it helps you maintain a level of awareness throughout the day so that you can catch yourself eating or drinking, and then once that experience starts you can work on adjusting your focus down to that one sense. The idea is that your brain is doing nothing but tasting the food. No commenting, no desires, no words, just taste whatever it is and be fully aware of all aspects of that flavour.

1094-relax-and-succeed-rather-than-being-your-thoughtsIt seems easy but it does require a constant low-level awareness on what you’re doing so that you’ll be more alert. But the real gold is if you can really find yourself noticing a substantial difference in eating or drinking. It shouldn’t feel like fuel even if it is. It’s not just something you do on the way to something else, it’s literally an action that keeps you alive. Invest more in it. Besides, a lot of the food you eat is presumably really good.

Pay attention to everything you eat or drink until bedtime. Tomorrow, either make a mental note in the morning of the day-before’s favourite taste experience, or share your top moments of awareness with your meditation partner. It’s a nice meditation to do. You not only gain in awareness, but it makes lunch taste a lot better. Enjoy.

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.