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.

Gradual Growth

1073-relax-and-succeed-we-can-live-without-religionIsn’t it strange learning something in a non-linear way? I have to do it that way because I’m showing you something that you can’t understand by processing it in the usual way. In fact, that usual way is what causes you all the trouble, so I have to work around it by doing things your logical mind can’t fully understand.

Today’s meditation involves the reason you’ll feel like you have problems and how it often connects to your ideas about time. The brain is decent at storing things, but it’s best dealing with now because in reality that’s the only place you can ever really be or act to change your life. It makes sense that if you have something you want to solve, you need to deal with it around the time that you perceive the problem.

Our focus today is, was that really a problem? Or was it simply a lack of understanding? What is a problem?

Problems are things that we think might cut us off from others. Connection is natural and anything that threatens that is something to be dealt with. So if someone’s mad at you, what does that imply? Your problem is their anger and so you want to explain so you can fix it. Or maybe their problem is that they feel you betrayed them and you want them to understand. Or maybe they want something different than you so you have to explain how they should want what you want.

1073-relax-and-succeed-the-practice-of-forgivenessThink back to three people you’ve been upset with in your lifetime; three people who you now have forgiven despite the fact that they never apologised or maybe even changed. Some little things are fine, but include at least one big thing. Ask yourself what changed between when you were mad and when you let it go? Did they change or did you?

If you look closely, your forgiveness would have come easily once your understanding and empathy increased. Once you either understood the world or yourself better you adjusted your judgments. This is no small thing. This means you can change others by changing yourself.

People are not fixed points in a fixed universe. They look different from every angle, like Earth might from different directions in space. Look at it one way and it’s the Pacific, another and it’s the Himalayas. How you saw others would be like aliens looking at the Himalayas and concluding that the entire planet was a mountain range that reached up over 6,000 meters (20,000 feet). But you need a broader, more well-rounded perspective before you can really say you have even a basic understanding of Earth. The same goes for people.

1073-relax-and-succeed-the-future-is-something-which-everyone-reachesFind your examples. Note your forgiveness and see that it was acceptance. Note how they didn’t change, you did. A change in your perspective changed who they are to you because there is no truth. There is no hallowed ground to stand on. Everything is a perspective. This is about abandoning the desire for certainty to live in the reality of mystery. You think you don’t like mystery, but over time I will prove to you that you really do.

What I do is weird, I know. But if you read the testimonials on my website or talk to people who’ve worked closely with me, they’ll all tell you that they too were lost before they were found. This isn’t linear knowledge, it’s more a congealing of truth. It’s harder to measure, but it’s happening.

Despite the fact that it’s difficult to perceive for you right now, I can guarantee that doing these exercises this week actually changed who you are. Over time those will add up and one day you’ll look in the mirror and you’ll suddenly realise that you’re a different person. And much like understanding others from the distance of time, that’s when you’ll understand what I’m doing now. In the meantime, congratulate yourself on making changes and have a great weekend.

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.

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.

1D

People’s egos will read this quote by the Buddha and they will primarily imagine themselves in the role of the fool who probably already has their answers but they’re just too dumb to be able to see them. Fine, if you’re living with more ego than you want then the last part does define you, therefore it’s irrelevant to getting you where you’re going. That means it’s the first part of the statement you should be focusing on. There’s your lesson from the Buddha.

“Does the spoon taste the soup?” Where does experience happen and to whom? A body can be said to have senses but when you’re anaesthetised at the hospital they put your brain to sleep because that’s where we imagine the dance of experience takes place. The anaesthesia interrupts your thoughts and without those there is no you to have an experience. The idea of you only emerges through the duality of the body and mind, but if these are made One there is no source and no delivery. The act of acceptance isn’t to be yourself and accept or reject some other thing, it’s to lose your sense of self and become One with the experience, making the question largely irrelevant from the new perspective.

996-relax-and-succeed-if-a-tree-falls-in-the-forestThe famous philosophical question about a tree falling in a forest is also a question about duality. It doesn’t have an answer in the classical sense, instead there is an understanding  that manages to flatten the riddle by taking a 1D view over a 2D question.

It might be easier at first to imagine the tree falling and sound waves departing its location and then they strike an eardrum. You can see how sound is dependent on a duality? It is a wave until it strikes a receiver that can turn it into a “particle” of sound. But what if “you” were there but you weren’t using thought to separate yourself from reality? Can you see there could still be the experience within a state of oneness but there would be no separate parts? There wouldn’t be things happening there would just be reality. Before we divided the world with words there were no waves there was only the ocean.

The point isn’t to be smart and figure out a riddle, the point is to stop creating oneself and simply be with reality. You’re supposed to flow, not imagine yourself as a molecule of water asking another molecule of water if they know what a river is. You don’t need to know the river you need to be the river.

996-relax-and-succeed-we-all-know-that-when-we-bringTribes who still live the old ways don’t have separate senses. They don’t hear, feel, see, smell and taste life, they experience it. It is one whole to them and they too are a part of that whole. If life were a giant collage on a church floor you’d be asking about the individual pieces and the native would only see the whole. They couldn’t even discuss it as pieces because that would require a sense of separateness from the experience. They would have to leave reality to become separate enough to name the parts and then discuss their interactions with other separate people-parts. Meanwhile in reality, where everything is one, creation would still be there chugging along in the background.

It’s funny, because it’s really so remarkably simple. Little kids do this every day without ever knowing that the words and ideas that we will teach them will divide reality up enough until they’ll eventually have a separate self that they can approve or disapprove of. And I don’t think you need me to tell you about that. That often belittling self is probably what motivated you to read this in the first place. 🙂

I know Virtual Reality is currently the rage, but contrary to what’s popular I would encourage you to get yourself a 1D view on life, because that view is the one that truly sees all.

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.