The Stagnation of Thought

If you’re inactive you’re looping. You have two modes of movement through this universe. If you understood the difference between them you would find you would be much more successful at avoiding suffering; particularly anxiousness, worry and fear.

Non-word-based thought is quite valuable. A technician doesn’t look at an engine and think of the parts in words–they’re thinking of it as a function within a system. They’re like detectives looking for the answer within the flow of movement. They’re looking for clues that would provide evidence for the theory they’re testing in their minds–without words.

That kind of flowing thought is where your wisdom is. That’s how kids can learn to talk so fast. A kid can be five and know 3 languages really well; not because they’re so smart, but because they listen so well. The listening–the awareness–is the skill. The talking only facilitates some interactions, but not as many as we believe. Usually our conversations are crippled by our identities, which are undone by too much internal thinking.

The damage comes when you turn those thoughts into clubs to bash yourself with, or you turn them into loops that you tie yourself up with. Depressed people have very sad loops. They may have them for good reasons, but what they’re feeling isn’t the experience, it’s the strangle of the looping. An angry person does tight fast loops around something and then snaps. And anxious or inactive people loop around ideas so slowly (out of fear, or lack of interest), that effectively no progress is made. Those are crazy, crippling forms of over-thinking.

Think to create an idea. And yeah, develop a really good pre-production plan and set yourself up for success. But once you have your script and your plan, it’s time to shoot your film. Any thought-looping here has nothing to do with creating life, it’s only about creating fears and anxiousness.

Those of you who do it know what I’m talking about. You get excited about an idea and then you talk yourself out of it. Then you start thinking the thoughts that un-inspire and you do that until you get angry with yourself, after which you use your anger to tell your ego to shut up and then finally you get a burst of movement forward. The problem kicks in again though, just as soon as you start talking to yourself again.

People let their fears stop them because they think creation takes genius, not boldness. Here’s how easy you can leave your mark in the universe: In film we have a term for shooting without sound, so on the clapperboard they’ll write MOS. Almost everyone who starts in film will immediately ask, “Why is ‘without sound’ written as ‘MOS?'” And the answer is that a lot of the early cinematographers came from photography, and Germany was a leading nation for photography. So when a German cinematographer called out instructions to the crew, he would say, “Vee are going to jhoot ziss mit out sound.”

It exists. MOS. Millions of people know the term and use it regularly. It’s creation was a creative act. So where did it come from that it deserved to last this long? It came from one person’s bold creative act to add something to the universe.

Some senior German filmmaker said “mit out sound,” and some person with courage, risked offending the cinematographer, risked having people angry with them, maybe even risked getting fired, and they to added some humour to the universe anyway. They risked their job and people being just a little upset, and they wrote it anyway.

Obviously it was popular and spread, and now most Germans are quite proud to know their artistic culture has left this mark in the world. And that was invented by some guy just trying to create a life by making a small joke with his co-workers. And yet how many of you stop yourselves from doing likewise pretty routinely?

How many of you will be the first to put your hand up to volunteer?  Do you see how fears hold your life back? And do you see how things can echo if you live life with courage? Families end up being created by someone having the simple courage to ask someone to dance.

Your creation could be a relationship that you get the courage to start if you stop talking yourself out of your worthiness. Or you could create a child, or a friendship or a career or business. You can create an enjoyable conversation (because why create an unenjoyable one?). You could create a piece of art, you can expand by learning, or even building a spreadsheet. Life happens as a verb. Verb your life. Because the worst fate is isn’t failing or having people laugh at you. The worst fate possible is to leave your life unlived. So start living yours right this moment.

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 Friday Dose #116: Present Moments

At any given time there are many very wise people walking this earth. These are people who have stumbled, worked, studied, practised and in my case lucked into seeing an underlying truth that impacts us all. These people are all guides, offering direction to us all.

Dan Millman is one of those gurus and his book, The Way of the Peaceful Warrior (and the film that was made from it) are yet another telling of the same tale told in these blog pages. People often tilt towards nonfiction when they want to accomplish something and yet the stories in “fiction” are often truer than any other kind that are told. If you haven’t seen the film I would consider it.

You put art on your walls, you spend time with friends and you watch various media. How much of it is done with eye toward expanding the happiness in your life? Would you hang a painting that makes your place look hip or because it made you happy? Do you listen to music that uplifts and motivates you or music that regurgitates your most emotional thought-filled moments? And do you watch movies filled with violence and victimisation or do you use that art-form to try to grow through art?

This film comes with some excellent, relevant recommendations. You can add mine to the list.

You always have choices. Remember that you can make them from a perspective of happiness. Have a great weekend everyone.

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 Movie We’re Making

In film your shooting ratio is how much footage you shoot relative to how much of it you end up using in your finished production. Back when we shot on film and had to worry about hairs etc. getting into things during film-loading, and there was no way to see what you had just shot, we still shot a small fraction of what people currently do. What does this have to do with your mental health? I’m getting to that.

829 Relax and Succeed - Have much and be confused

Today a 25 year old can literally have a 30 to 1 or even 150 to 1 ratio, while people in their 50’s will often have ratios closer to 1.4 to 1 or 2.8 to 1 etc.. An actor’s director like Clint Eastwood doesn’t like to wear out his cast, so now that he can see what he just shot he’ll often only shoot a single take and he’ll do that for 30 to 40 percent of the film.

This is a good metaphor for minds today. Bombarded with much shorter edits in the media their minds get trained on, add many more distractions and responsibilities, not to mention and overall busier lives everyone’s leading, with many more schedule activities, texts etc. etc, many young people today are understandably taught to hyperthink, leaving them to be tortured by their own whirling thoughts. There’s so many decisions in a day now; so many things outside of us and our control that demand our attention, that it’s as though the Editor that works in our memory is overloaded with footage and it’s getting hard to tell the useful stuff from the stuff we’re better to leave on the editing room floor.

So how do we feel better? We slow things down. We don’t give our Memory Editor a deluge of stuff–especially if it’s negative–because it wears us out. Even funny scenes get tiring if you have too many of them. So in the real world of mental health we’re not so much looking for fun scenes as much as we are looking for absorbing ones. As long as you’re thoroughly involved you won’t even notice the time passing regardless of the scene content. You just need to be present and in the Now.

829 Relax and Succeed - Reasons my wife is cryingAnother way to help out is to take control over your Director of Photography regarding what you’re going to commit to film. For the filmmaker the film isn’t so much in the showing of the film as it is the making of it. So your day is what you shoot. And the lens is like your attention. Where you focus it will tell you what kind of shot you’re going to get. If you shoot sad scenes expect a sad experience. Likewise for happy ones etc. etc. etc.

In daily life everyone around you is performing improv so life is less like a movie and more like “Reality” TV. The reality TV that currently gets watched focuses its lens on tension, conflict and challenge. That’s what appeals to the most common part of all of us. But again, you have been the viewer but this is about breaking the wall and inviting you behind the screen, where you can Direct.

If you focus on conflict-laden scenes then that’s what your day will be made up of and that’s what you’ll have to review in the editing room at night. But if you focus your attention on what you’re grateful for, then that’s what you get to spend your night with. And if you want those nights to be peaceful then don’t overshoot footage during the day. Don’t comment on things that don’t benefit from your opinion. Don’t judge yourself or others. Have a quiet mind. Have a low shooting percentage.

Remember, Clint Eastwood can have a seemingly risky though Zen-like shooting ratio and yet the proof is in his record: he’s Directed five different actors to Academy Award wins and he himself has been nominated for a dozen and won five. And he’s known for liking his Set quiet…

829 Relax and Succeed - The bird in a forestClint will still film both joy and sadness, pleasure and pain, gain and loss. Again, the profound living is less so in the content and more so in the depth of our appreciation of that content. Even in the sad scenes we can authentically feel that Clint loves his work, he loves the people he works with and he loves his stories–and it all shows in his incredible track record. Your life can be the same.

Don’t shoot too much, shoot a high percentage of footage that is enjoyable to experience whether that’s someone jumping out of a plane, getting a new puppy or enjoying a great conversation. And if you’ve gone out and shot a bunch of depressing footage then don’t be surprised if you and your editor end up depressed. And that’s not good because it makes shooting the next day harder, and you’re going to be more likely to develop a habit of shooting the crap instead of the beauty.

Start today. Focus your attention on the film you want to make, not on the one you’re afraid you might make. And the healthiest choice after shooting is to do like a lot of big cinematographers and never see the finished film. That’s the healthiest of all because then you know for sure that you didn’t make your film for anyone else but yourself, and that was entirely the point. Because replaying our own films is just memory-based ego. But the making of our films is our lives. So it is worthwhile to be mindful of the movie we are always making.

peace. s

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

The Movie of Your Life

My background is in film and television and in that world there’s a large group of people whose only job is to influence your brain in ways you can perceive but that you’re not consciously aware of. And I’m going to amaze you by showing you proof of what you haven’t noticed.

773 Relax and Succeed - So I guess we areYour mind is such a subtle thing. It’s difficult for you to accept but your version of reality is little more than a collage of your thoughts and beliefs. The influences on you are many and they are both intentional and unintentional. But in this blog I’ll prove that all day long your mind is doing far more interpreting than you realize.

A good example of how things outside of your awareness influence you; note that a talented motion picture Sound Editor can suddenly have all of the birds go quiet in an outdoor scene at the exact same moment that the lead actor says the screenwriter’s key Oh oh…” line in the film. You get a sense of dread. You think the actress is brilliant.

The actress is brilliant. But she is helpless without the line being written well, the score subconsciously defining the right mood via music, the lighting setting a tone, and the sudden absence of the birds–which triggers an ancient response in us that something is wrong, because that’s when the birds historically all suddenly went quiet. And that affects you far more than you realize.

773 Relax and Succeed - We stopped checking for monstersBut you won’t notice that any more than anyone noticed that the Wardrobe person took a character who was harsh and wore sharp, hard-edged clothes and how as the character softened so did their clothes. Smith in The Matrix looks like The Man because represents The Man. The Production Designer and Colourist will literally set tones for a project–it goes on an on. That’s a big part of what makes a TV series look like a series.

It’s also unlikely that you never noticed that the Director of Photography made the hero look good by lighting her from above, referring to daytime–when we feel safe. And that the same DOP made us not like the villain by lighting him from below, as though it is nighttime and we’re huddled around a fire listening carefully to the darkness that leaves too much room for our imagination.

Another great example is aspect ratios. You don’t even know you know about aspect ratios. But you know all kinds of things about them based purely on on the patterns you’ve seen. If one aspect ratio is always associated with certain things, then when you see it your brain begins to presume those other things must also be present. The video near the end will explain it very well.

773 Relax and Succeed - You see highlight reelsEvery talented and skilled film professional is working to move the story forward through their own artform. If they’re good and they know what they’re doing then they are intentionally manipulating wiring that you already have in your brain for interpreting the world. That matrix of beliefs is why the world appears to you as it does. And that extends beyond movies and TV shows and into your everyday life. It’s only a matter of–what did you get taught to edit into your own life movie?

To use a couple different metaphors to help make the point; it’s like your life feels like you’re cruising through an ocean with a fishing line and bait in the water, but you keep catching a fish you don’t like because it likes that bait. So you think the world tastes bad when really it’s the bait you’re using.

The same if you’re locked in a dark house with a flashlight. The house is like the universe and the flashlight is like your attention. The rest of the world/house doesn’t matter because you only process what you’re attention is on. So if you constantly shine it on things that scare you, don’t blame the house. The house is not scary. You just have a habit of focusing your attention on scary things. The house was filled with other stuff. Someone taught you to pick scary things. Or sad things. Or upsetting things. Or… enjoyable things.

Watch this video and realize how much you’re influenced by people who know more about your brain than you do. And then think about their agenda. These people just want to take you on an emotionally satisfying journey. There’s other people with less generous agendas, and there are many ways in which the world mesmerizes you with beliefs that you are convinced to turn into “actual things” in your imagination.

Your only defense is to know it happens, and to know that it means you never can be super sure you ever really know what’s going on. For all we know we could’ve been in a coma for the last 15 years and we’ve imagined this entire life from a hospital bed. So if the entire thing is that flexible you can see there’s no real way to know exactly what to do, so you can just relax. Treat the place less like a testing ground and more like a playground. Have some fun.

The world is an extremely flexible place. Your perspective is much more fluid and arbitrary and open to change than you ever thought possible. This does not make the world more frivolous. It gives it more potential. Because once we become aware of how much our thoughts change our perspective on what we see the less those thoughts affect us. And the peace that remains is what absolutely everyone is ultimately seeking. And that’s a movie we’d all like starring in.

Now go edit yourself an awesome day.

peace. s

P.S. The screenwriters who wrote the Joker’s line were Jonathan and Christopher Nolan, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower was written by Stephen Chbosky.

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

The Authentic Life

I spent most of my adult life working in film and television, so using acting as a metaphor for life is very natural. In this case I’ll be using different types of actors as examples of how to live in a state of ego versus a state of being. I realize both “ego” and “being” might seem like nebulous terms, but hopefully this metaphor will resolve that in a way that is helpful to you.

The ego actor is a performer. He needs the audience’s approval. For him rehearsal is waiting, the ego actor is alive only in front of others. Acceptance, support and 597 Relax and Succeed - Truly healthy peopleapplause are very important to the process. This actor may be very, very talented through careful and dedicated study, but there will still be an important difference between them and the true artist.

I’ve known a lot of actors and like in most jobs, a small percentage were truly stellar. And not surprisingly, those actors were all very similar. They weren’t just super-talented, extremely authentic performers, but they also treat crews extremely well, and they’re generous with other cast members (whereas the ego actor wants to steal scenes). They’re in my experience generally loving, smart, supportive parents and I would rank them among some of the most compassionate and aware people I’ve met.

When I teach film I’ll often point my students to my friend Shaun as an excellent example of a true artist. I’ve used him before when talking about authenticity because his life demonstrates to students the most artful, skilled and sensitive approach to acting they could hope to have. Every time I’ve worked with him he is all about the work. He has so much personal character he would recommend his character come across worse if he felt it helped the production. He’s a team-player that comes up with excellent ideas and he makes everyone around him better.

597 Relax and Succeed - Be yourselfSo how does he actually do that? It’s because he’s completely about the performance itself. There is no Shaun in there. Shaun’s needs and agendas are gone and the production and the character’s needs prevail completely. This singular and powerful focus strips away all of his busy personal thinking in favour of him using every useful input to contribute to his being of the character. He’s not striving to be impressive, or seen as talented, or even just to be accepted, but all of that and more happens anyway because his performances are so wonderfully authentic.

So while the ego actor is trying to win over an audience the true actor is trying to most authentically realize a character and story and then whatever happens happens. Except one to his brother, Van Gogh didn’t sell a painting in his life. So why didn’t he change styles? Because he wasn’t painting for us. He wasn’t painting to sell. He was painting to explore. To delve. To know. And as Shaun’s strong career demonstrates, audiences can sense that focus on the work itself. They find the generosity of the performance to be magnetic. Meanwhile the clown has changed clothes and faces so many times no one can figure out who he is to see if they might possible like that person without all of his makeup and costuming on.

No matter what your job is, don’t perform through your life. It’s what egos do and we’ll all do it sometimes, but if you’re vigilant you can easily ensure you don’t do it often or for long. Then eventually it’ll just be your nature to be more natural.

597 Relax and Succeed -  There are people in your lifeSo don’t put on clown makeup and try to make people laugh. Don’t trip and fall for applause and don’t repaint yourself to be who the audience wants you to be. Don’t try to fit into what people want. Be more like the creative archaeologist. Uncover a brilliant example of what you’re doing and take your pleasure from the experience itself rather than from people’s approval. We’ll all love that.

Real artists don’t just make art. Some are lawyers and doctors and concrete workers and teachers. You can do anything authentically. And that’s always better. When the agenda is to achieve good ends for others we’re all okay. We get into trouble when we’re not focused on good ends but rather on struggling to ensure we’re acceptable to others. One is exhausting and the other is enriching.

Be an authentic actor in your life. Be true to yourself, trust that you’re always ending up in the perfect place and then don’t ruminate on the alternatives. You don’t need sequels or re-takes. You just need to leave your ego behind so that you can be fully and completely present for your all-too-brief time here on the stage of life.

Have yourself a wonderful, artful day.

peace s