Recognizing Choice

Today’s the day. You’ve encouraged positivity within yourself by intending to have a good day, you’ve increased your daily awareness of how you process your days and now it’s time to start making intentional changes within the moment you’re in.

862 Relax and Succeed - And I simply decided to be happyThe process is very simple: you use your increased awareness to keep a better monitor on the quality of your thinking. As you begin to feel emotions you use your new awareness to avoid blaming the outside world for those feelings and instead you look inside yourself. Is your reaction suitable to the situation or are your feelings coming more from your resistance to what is happening? These can appear to be similar things but they are in fact quite different.

For instance, being anxious while you’re being interviewed for a job isn’t that strange. Especially if you have very little recent experience being interviewed. It feels unnatural and yet you’re there for something important–you’d rather not escape. You can accept those feelings as somewhat normal and they won’t overtake you. The people interviewing you might not even notice any anxiousness.

The act of acceptance is essentially you ceasing any resistant self-talk in favour of opening up and listening to and experiencing that moment. But focus on an idea–spin it in your head as resistance to what you want to happen and you will increase your dose of the very chemistry you find troublesome and before you know it you’ll be reeling out of control–strangely all by choice.

862 Relax and Succeed - If it can be solvedYou know your most common negative emotion. We’re just trying to catch you a few times in that state and then at least know there’s an escape hatch. You don’t even have to open that hatch or jump through it–just being aware of your suffering as optional is a huge step forward. Realizing that even if you can’t change it, you’re starting to believe you can. And as Henry Ford said, “Think you can, think you can’t, you’re right either way.”

Just be watching it you’ll slow things down. It’ll seem easier to stick something into the spinning spokes of the narrative when you’re more aware of it happening. You’re already aware of an easy better choice–your Dominant Positive Emotion. Trust me, you’re wise. You used to do this as a kid, before you learned concepts like pride and betrayal and truth and honesty and loyalty. They’re all nice ideas. It’s just important to remember that they’re ideas and once they’re in context they’ll always be up against other ideals. That’s why we’re better to not have expectations about the world delivering itself to us in just the right way to ensure our emotions never get jarred or that we’re never uncomfortable. There’s billions of us, that just won’t work.

862 Relax and Succeed - There is an expiry date on blamingOkay? So you accept some emotions as suitable, and others you look to shift out of by finding something–anything–that triggers your Dominant Positive Emotion. A video. A memory of a favourite moment. Be like a kid and just find something you really want to do.

You can do this. You already do. You’re just not conscious of it. Once you’re conscious of it you’ll start changing all on your own. A lot of you will even make a switch today or in the next few days. From there it’s just a practice. One day at a time one moment at a time. No chastising yourself for opportunities missed–that’s the past. You can’t be present and intentional and then live in the past.

You’ve got this. This is the beginning of a new way of living. And trust me, you’re farther along the path than it’s possible for you to realize at this stage. But trust me, over time you’ll notice yourself having reactions to events that seem new and calmer and more capable, because that’s who you really are: the greatest source of wisdom in your life there is.

In the next phase we’ll discuss the various ways you can move your psychology to ensure that making this switch becomes second nature.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations around the world.

Other Perspectives #80

This seems like a no-brainer, right? This is what everyone’s saying: be happy. Happiness is becoming the new rich. But that doesn’t do us much good if we’re still pursuing it egotistically. We can’t want peace and happiness because it’ll make other people think we’re successful. Those things are useless without freedom and that means doing whatever feels natural for us in any given moment–and sometimes that moment might prefer us to cry or get angry or otherwise feel the sting of dissatisfaction. What good is enlightenment if I can’t profoundly experience the death of my sister completely? What good is enlightenment if it cuts me off from the very pain that teaches me to value those who are still alive? If we’re free and relaxed do we end up happier? Yes, that’s how it works. But you can’t pursue that with the goal of more happiness because that’s a want and wants are egotistical. But if you fall in love with the process of being a human being instead, then you can move through each emotion without getting stuck. Because if you believe the emotion you’re experiencing is somehow “wrong” then you can’t relax until that wrong feeling is gone when in truth, if you truly understand, even the most terrible moments in life seem as fitting as the most joyous.

peace. s

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

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Fear Itself

The other day I found myself in a conversation with a 25 year old man who I feel confident you would describe as “normal.” Raised as a child, went to school, now in the workforce. Pays rent, has a licence, and a relationship. A news story about cellphone addictions sparked a conversation about phone use. What struck me in that conversation didn’t really have anything to do with his claims about whether or not he was addicted. It was how he described not having his phone.

469 Relax and Succeed - Fear is the energy that contractsThose who read me often will know I sometimes refer to shunting. My accident causes me to notice these odd patterns and when I’ve seen one enough times to be confident it’s a pattern, it becomes conscious to me for the first time as a realization that feels like it’s clicked into place. I do get sensations prior to that too, but they’re more vague. Like the inklings a writer feels as a story gradually congeals. But the shunt is when I know. And when that kid talked about not having his phone, I remembered a shunt I had one day over a decade ago.

An extremely competent and intelligent woman I worked with was describing where her children were allowed to play—which was essentially within her eyesight. I was actually quite startled to learn that, and I could make no sense of why, so I asked. She seemed just as startled by my need to ask. To her it was obvious—and I do think most of the people listening with us agreed with her, not me. The kids needed to be within eyesight in case something bad happens. That’s what the kid said about his phone. I don’t need to use it. I just like to have it with me in case something bad happens.

Again, as is often the case, I’m the odd man out. I need to ask, why would we assume something bad would happen? Her argument that day was good: because if I’m wrong and things aren’t okay, then a child could end up dead. I would agree with that. The stakes are very high. Going both directions I would argue. Because to live in fear of every bad thing that might happen is to not live at all. And we have to stop and truly reassess how likely some of our fears are. Because the media feeds off fears, and the agencies that protect kids remind us of our fears as a part of 469 Relax and Succeed - The brave may not livetheir campaigns and fundraisers—there’s a lot of people that have fear as a part of their employment. We can’t mistake that for kids being in actual danger. 

A kid getting grabbed by a feuding spouse—sure, tons of times. But actual kidnappings of kids make international news. They’re that rare. And we’re talking over hundreds of millions of people. We’re quite literally below lightning strike numbers. Do you avoid going to movies or out to play because you’re afraid of lightning? Then why is everyone hiding their kids away like every second neighbour is dangerous when it’s far more likely that your neighbour would risk themselves to rescue your child?

You watch too much TV. You listen to too many fearful messages through advertising. They tell you which diseases to be afraid of, which smells from which parts of the body you should fear, they warn you not to be unfashionable and you don’t want to be caught listening to the wrong music or you’ll be teased. Almost every decision is dictated by what you don’t want to see happen rather than what you do want to see happen. They’re all defensive decisions made in case something goes wrong. This is crazy.

The world is an amazing super fantabulous place and you can hike through the jungles and get bit by a spider and you can be unnerved by natives or frightened by a snake. You can climb a mountain and parachute down. You can swim with large schools of mammals and fish. You can 469 Relax and Succeed - Your comfort zonewatch bears fish. You can learn to dance, or how to play an instrument. You can read books and travel to places in your imagination. We can interract with humanity. Because despite your entirely irrational fears about them, they are AWESOME and very much worth getting to know.

I never cease to find everyone I meet to be amazing and interesting in their own way. But I’m not looking out at life worried about what bad things might happen. Secret’s out: some of those are gonna happen whether you watch or not. But the really great stuff? That you only get a few times by luck. But if you’re watching—if you’re keeping your eye out for cool, rewarding, exciting stuff, then you’ll find a lot of it. More than you’ll ever be able to process in one lifetime. Which is why you’ll choose to come back, and to live another life with just as many bumps and grinds as this one. Because the really wise being inside you knows it’s worth it every time.

This is a life you have. It’s a fantastic opportunity every single day. It’s really not that hard to make it amazing. You just have to start with a little courage. Here’s a ((hug)) to start you off. Now go gettem’. 😉

peace. s

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?


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 Barriers of Belief

234 Relax and Succeed - The are no seven wonders
You have a bunch of lines in your head and they prevent you from appreciating how amazing the act of being truly is. Ideas like responsibilities, rules, status, obligations, and problems prevent us from engaging with the incredible world around us. Because we are so busy in our heads, we are tone deaf to the music that exists everywhere.

Children’s brains are wide open. There is zero judgment at the start. Slowly, preferences are constructed via experience. They establish ideas like permanence, possession, and expectation. This is why kids will often calm with a parent after fussing for even the nicest stranger.

Over time kids are taught a set of beliefs either directly or through subconscious exposure. This includes everything from the languages we know, to 10’s based math, to the concepts of north, legal, correct and border. People then then apply those thought-judgments to all kinds of situations and in doing so they then cut themselves off from potential responses that they feel are outside their identity; outside their belief system.

This all means that people’s egocentric reactions are dictated by their identity, which is nothing more than a rigid sculpture created by whatever remains after everything that is outside the belief system gets removed. You don’t build a healthy identity by avoiding what you’re not. You become all that you are by advancing the things that are important to you.

If you do anything that’s physically or intellectually stimulating and enriching and yet requires real effort, then make that your work. Move not between the barriers of certainty and predictability and instead move toward heart, passion and love. Either love what you do, or love those you do it with. The rest is slavery.

Meditate on your beliefs. What ideas do you have that limit you? When you listen to the radio and a news story comes on and you react to it, who is reacting? What is it you care about and where did that sensitivity come from? Know yourself. Be aware of your limiting ideas so that you can dismiss those borders as you reach them. Open up your eyes, your ears, your hands, your nose and your mouth to the universe. Sing, dance, laugh, cuddle, play, make love.

234 Relax and Succeed - Wise men hear and see

We spend half our life trying to build a successful identity. If we’re awake, what we learn from those life experiences is that we should spend the second-half of life shedding that identity. With fewer opinions come fewer conflicts. With fewer beliefs comes increased freedom.

If you function knowing that the world is already perfect in its unfolding then there is nothing to fix or accomplish. We are here to explore and uncover the mysteries of the universe and creation. So the next time you’re outside in the summertime, kneel down and watch some bugs. You might just find that the healthy open child is still alive inside you, and that all you had to do was slow down enough to see again.

The fences and borders you’re crossing are only brought alive by you thinking them into existence. Do not be limited by your beliefs. Do not look for the right team, or idea, or party, or concept. Shed all of that for love. Trust love. The Greeks had a lot of different words for all of the different manifestations of it. Move toward any of those and you can be assured that you are in fact, being healthy. And that is the only kind of success that’s really worth believing in.

Have a wonderful day.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

The Nature of Responsibility

185 Relax and Succeed - The universe is infinityMy Dad and I used to take our dogs to visit people in a long term care facility where 90% of the occupants were older than 85. If you talk to enough dying people you learn some cool things.

First off, about 3% of the people approached death with an almost enthusiastic interest in the experience. Those people had lived full and interesting lives and they were ready for something new. The rest lamented that they had spent their lives invested in nonsense and they just couldn’t believe they’d been so blind to that fact. So let’s open your eyes so you don’t end up being one of them.

When you’re a baby, a toddler and then a youngster, you do what interests or pleases you. That’s it. Nothing else. You don’t have any other motivations. Other than acting on your primordial instincts–like feeling hungry or tired, or having the desire to cry out when you’re in intense pain–you simply do what only you would choose to do. But slowly you gave that freedom away to become part of society and to think other people’s thoughts. That’s why you should go back to using your feelings to choose. Because you only are alive in the moment anyway. So when it comes to choosing, you really should be quite selfish about your own joy.

185 Relax and Succeed - Too many people are living in a prison

That’s why, as a kid, you’re naturally enlightened. You trust yourself. Your ego isn’t telling you to be impressive, so when you paint you just choose what you want in that moment, and you apply it in the way you do in the that moment. And the patterns in those verbs—those choices—are what makes an individual an individual.

The ability to make those choices unselfconsciously is what makes an individual enlightened. Following rules, rituals and customs is what happens if we live too unconsciously. We literally hand over our ability to make basic, logical decisions, to a committee of people we’ll never meet or know.

Slowly over time though, you begin to build a weird framework of thought around you and you begin to climb around on it because everyone around you is climbing around on it. You’ll learn about ownership, and purchasing, and money, and credit, and taxes, and laws, and work, and financial pressure, and politeness, and obligation. And these thought-ideas will increasingly dominate; acting as thought-barriers to you pursuing the natural interests that made your childhood so fascinating to you, and so productive in terms of what you learned (vocabulary, grammar, balance, etc. etc.)

185 Relax and Succeed - Let your weird light shineSome of these thought barriers can be remarkably silly, like fashion. Most of us try to fit in by wearing “fashionable” clothes in public, and yet Einstein absently but routinely wore his wife’s pink bathroom slippers in public because he cared so little about what others thought, and so much about the idea he was studying.

By dedicating all of that time to his own imagination instead of to thoughts about other people’s judgments of his clothes, Einstein discovered the Theory of Relativity even though he had been told by various “authorities” to think of himself as a poor mathematician, unqualified to be a high school physics teacher. Fortunately he didn’t pursue their ideas about him, he pursued the ideas that occurred to him. He valued his interests over their judgments. It’s is a form a mental health.

Yes, as James Carse described it, within this giant infinite game we must play several smaller finite games like capitalism and earning a living. But we don’t have to become slaves to these ideas. We can’t begin to think that our wealth or status is more important than our enjoyment of our very limited time here. You and I are blips. The universe is vast. So vast we can’t even hope to know how big it is. And it is forever. Eternity. All time.

185 Relax and Succeed - Never get so busy

There are tons of people who don’t even know who The Beatles are, so don’t think that what you do in your life is going to live forever. No one in the future is going to be sitting in the Hakan Loob Library on the galactic capital of Darius Kasperitis, reading some critical chapter about you in the universal best-seller The History of Earth.

Your life is wonderfully tiny and insignificant. And yet you are simultaneously fundamentally necessary to all that is. Because it includes you, you are therefore integral to the existence of it. You are insanely important in your meaningful insignificance.

So relax. You’re already where you were trying to get. So just have fun. Stop striving. Simply Be. Because the people I met who were dying all wondered why they’d spent so much time worrying about things that wouldn’t really matter to anyone anyway, when they could have been visiting with a friend who made them laugh.

Trust me, when you’re laying there dying some day, you won’t be sorry about not getting to see next season’s jeans. You’re going to be sorry that you’ll soon laugh your last laugh.

Go call a funny friend. Hugs. 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.