Changing Direction

Winner: 2015’s Blog of the Year #4

A lot of people come to me in their 30’s with the simple question, what the hell is going on with my life? Needless to say it isn’t turning out the way they planned. But rather paradoxically the challenges they are facing stem directly from those plans. You must be very careful when making plans.

689 Relax and Succeed - My entire life can be describedYour life is lived in Nows. You add those together and call that your history, but it’s really just some stuff that happened. And when your life intersected with that stuff your previous life experiences caused you to react to them in the way you did. Then using your memory you take all of that unrelated stuff and you stitch all of those individual experiences together.

You’ll call that tapestry your life, but when it comes to impacting today or your future it’s about as meaningful as the contrails off a plane’s wing. That line in the sky is just what your plane did. At the moment of living your wing met the cold, wet air of the world and an event took place. That event trails off behind you as nothing more than white vapour. But it’s just vapour. Even if you’ve flown in the same direction ever since you took off, at any point a Captain can become conscious and he or she can turn their plane in any direction.

All of these directions are equal. Same with the altitudes. The Dalai Lama’s life is not better than yours because he flies in a different level of understanding. His life is just like yours otherwise—it is made up of his day to day sensations. So there is no specific way to fly across the sky. There’s just where you go. But that’s not what you’re taught.

689 Relax and Succeed - We all have bad daysYou are taught to fly to one of the airports of beauty or one of the airports of education or the airport of a happy family or an airport of fame or financial success. Everyone around you is doing it so you do too. You don’t even see it as an option. Right off the bat the Captain is confused because all of these other planes are just coming off the end of the runway and they’re all headed the same basic directions. And so without ever knowing it your Captain inadvertently surrenders his or her Captaincy and instead becomes a dutiful autopilot follower. Then you’re just doing what you were programmed to. So that’s problem one. You’re not actually setting your own direction.

The next problem is that after you set it you never question it. You just fly along to where you think you’re supposed to be going and so you interpret any storm (a job loss, a divorce, financial ruin) as a problem or something in the way of you reaching your goal. But remember: you were just accidentally convinced by the other planes. There is no goal. You can fly anywhere you like. But instead you’ll get locked onto these targets and you’ll get so angry and, so sad and so insecure about being knocked off what you perceive as your course, that you’ll end up hating the trip. That’s the part where the 30 year-olds call me.

But calling me turns out to not be the failure you might imagine. You imagine that there is something wrong with your plane and that you need to be rescued. But I don’t fly out and repair your plane in the sky. I just talk to you. I ask you where you got your map? Why are you following these directions? And you say, I’m not supposed to follow these? And I tell you, no, that’s what people use when they sell themselves to society–those are just put in there for show. That’s what mass media is. It’s like the fake photos you get when you buy picture frames. You’re just supposed to throw all that out.

689 Relax and Succeed - Regret is longingAfter you’ve called you’ll still debate against me for a few weeks. Because everyone else has also mistaken society’s maps for actual maps you won’t believe me. At least not until you realize that you cannot answer my questions about the meaning behind your previous directions. This surprises and even disturbs you, but you eventually surrender that it really is true—that those charts weren’t the way to go just a way to go and you were always free to go any direction you chose.

So the next question they ask me is, where can I go? That’s the great part. You’ll still carry a lot of momentum from your previous directions and that will influence you for a while, but slowly over time you start to realize that your airplane is 100% flexible. You can point that baby in any direction you like. But then you’ll ask me, which is my direction? And I’ll tell you that you don’t have one; that your problem was that you thought your life was the plane going from here to there on a voyage, when really it’s not about the places we’re going, it’s about the pilot and the pure joy of flying.

So you were never really going anywhere—you just fly this thing until it runs out of fuel—then you’re free to walk the tarmac and find yourself another plane. Don’t panic about the transition. Death for 80% of you means gliding to a gentle stop and just never departing again. If you’re old enough to have learned a bit, even in a dramatic accident you will calmly think to yourself, no way, this is how I go? Weird. Well: here we go. You actually won’t be focused on the plane you’re exiting. You’ll be more excited about boarding the next one.

689 Relax and Succeed - Stay positiveDo you see if you remove an objective that you were previously attached to then things can’t go wrong? Then the air pockets are just low pressure and crosswinds are just winds at an angle to you and lightning is just the weather. But it’s not your weather. And none of it can hurt you by pushing you off course anyway—not if you’re always completely willing to have your course changed. After all, there’s no shortage of great flying to do in any direction.

Understand: you can take your present moment and use it to chart your current course. But keep it current. It’s not some permanent setting. That defeats the purpose of having a whole sky. So set your course and then just focus on the flying. And when you need to change direction because of conditions or when you just want to change it out of some desire you can’t even explain, then go for it. There’s no penalty. No price. No sadness, anger or frustration unless you go think that into your life.

The weather and the winds will have you feeling various things. But if you actively choose to feel them in the moment then they just come and go like any other contrail of experience. It’s when you let them interfere with some course you’re locked onto—that’s when you’re lost. Then you have to sort them out. Then you have to solve them or find a way to get back on course. The other way you simply accept the perfection of wherever your plane it is at any given moment.

689 Relax and Succeed - Nothing is permanentWhere your plane is makes perfect sense. If you added up the uncontrollable forces like the weather and add them to the choices made by you the pilot, we could literally plot a course right to you. That airflow over that rudder in this weather would lead you here. Wherever you are at any given moment always makes perfect sense and yet you always have the ability to change direction.

Your life isn’t falling apart because you’re breaking up or because you got pregnant or didn’t get into university. Those are just the weather and/or your course changing your direction. Don’t sit in the cockpit yelling at the instruments. Get focused on flying. Be quiet and use your thoughts to guide your plane, choice by choice. Better times are always easiest to find when the sky is the darkest. That’s when the light’s the brightest. Just head toward that. Seriously.

You stop failing when you realize there is no failure in life. There is only living and your judgments before and after the fact. But those are history and imagination. Your real life is right here, right now, where the air meets the wing. And that does not happen in any time other than the present. So Be present. Forget striving. Forget destinations. Stop looking at your charts. You’re right where you need to be. There’s nowhere you need to go other than to realize it’s always been you in the cockpit.

Happy flying. 😉

peace. s

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

The Friday Dose #16 – Facing Fears

371 Relax and Succeed - You can choose to live your life

Sometimes someone else taught us or even half-prevented us from having key experiences. And sometimes it’s ourselves. So in this week’s Friday Dose we’ll have some fun. What definitions do you have for yourself that you’re currently living under? How are you limiting your life experience with your thoughts about yourself? What do you think “isn’t you?” What don’t you think you can do that other people routinely do? What thoughts do you have about aspects of life that prevent you from living completely?

It’s time to really look at yourself and ask what your fears are made of. It’s time you stopped surrendering life in your vain pursuit of certainty and safety. The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth. Get out of the rut you’re in. Live deeply. Life is short. Enjoy it:

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It’s the Easter Weekend here in Canada so I thought we might spend a little time with the Easter Bunny. But just because he’s fluffy and brings you chocolate eggs, don’t underestimate the capability of a motivated rabbit. Bunnies might be frightened of predators, but just like any animal, threaten its young and it’s suddenly less concerned with its own welfare and more concerned with the next generation’s welfare. Whether you believe in the Easter Bunny or not, this is one tough, unafraid bunny:

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If it is a long weekend where you are, enjoy. peace. s

The Advantages of Attitude Awareness

121 Relax and Succeed - You can't be both awesomeEveryone’s wondering which way they should go. I would suggest we should be more concerned with how we go than where we go. Because our Attitude will follow us wherever we go. And Attitude is actually a great word for it, because pilots also talk about the Attitude of an airplane. Is the plane pointed toward the sky, or is the plane pointed toward the ground—that’s Attitude. Well, same for you, but your wings are thoughts.

A plane can fly over a storm. It can also fly low enough to smash into a mountainside. But whether the terrain below is warm, and soft, and hospitable, or whether it is jagged, and icy and dangerous, the plane flies over it in the same way. As long as its Attitude is good, then the ugliness of the terrain below it is irrelevant. So it is with life. We should be less concerned with what landscapes we are passing over, and we should be more concerned with maintaining positive control over our Attitude.

If we focus all of our attention on looking down at some ugly spot of reality or possibility, we will obviously lower our Attitude and fly toward it. If we do that long enough we will crash. (That’s what people mean when they talk about the law of attraction.) So we obviously cannot fly based on where we don’t want to go. We must fly based on where we do want to go. In fact, our preferences are our guidance systems. That is why we shouldn’t question ourselves. 121 Relax and Succeed - There is no way to happinessWhen we argue with ourselves we are arguing with nature. We are arguing with the universe. It would be like paying attention to the guages even if they conflicted with what you saw out the plane’s window.

You do not have a path. This is to misunderstand your role. You are a co-creator in the universe. You are an aspect of the big dream. And it is you who gets to fulfil your aspect of the universe’s magnificence, and you do this by being yourself. By actively being yourself. So there is no wrong way to go. Do you see?

You cannot go wrong. The way you go is the way to go. And the way you get there peacefully is by paying less attention to the weather outside the plane, and more attention on how you as a conscious pilot are setting your Attitude within it. That’s how Mother Theresa not only survived, but thrived working in a slum all of her life.

So don’t spend your life avoiding what you don’t want. Life’s too short for that. You want to spend it by pursuing what you do want. You will have to fly over some ugly terrain to get to all of the places you’ll want to see, but again, that’s irrelevant if you’re focused on maintaining a positive, healthy Attitude.

121 Relax and Succeed - Listen to the compass of your heartAccept that there is no such thing as ready, and there is no such thing as your path or the right thing to do. There is only what you do. You represent the little part of the universe that is you. This is how you contribute. You enact yourself. You become. You make the universe bigger by simply being yourself fully.

And your journey will include times where you will abandon control, or when your flying will be near-suicidal. We all do that. The plane-of-life doesn’t come with instructions. But with a bit of luck—and maybe some help from this blog—you can ensure that you’re being vigilant and aware of the choices you’re making regarding the angle of your attitude. And that, in the end, is really all you need.

Have a great trip!

peace. s

Fly Like an Eagle

Winner: 2013’s Blog of the Year

You’re sitting there trying to figure out which road to take. Are you this, or are you that? Should you be in school or at a job? And what job? Working for who? And who should you be in a relationship with? Or should you be in a relationship at all? Should you choose this city or that one? This car or that one? Should you have skipped this party to be at that other one? Should you have said this or that? Blah blah blah goes your head.

79 Relax and Succeed - Your wings already existShoulda coulda woulda. If your aunt was a man she would be your uncle. Why are you even thinking/talking-to-yourself about what-ifs? Your speculation is meaningless. Stop using your thoughts to want to be somewhere or someone else. Stop using your internal conversations to discuss a different history with yourself. Can’t you see that your life is sitting still while you have those incessant internal conversations?

There are no wrong choices, there are only the choices you make. Be Present where you are because no amount of planning will give you a safe and secure path through life. You being safe and secure is not the point. You being alive is the point.

Your life is not a set of events. Read that again: your life is not a series of events. Your life is a stream of experiences. Stop trying to manage the events and start trying to manage the experiences. Because two people can be at the same event and have vastly different experiences. The difference between them is not where they were or what was happening outside of them, the difference was what they chose to focus their attention on within themselves.

That choice—the choice of what you invite into your awareness—is what forms your life experience. So stop thinking about how you wish you could fly, and start re-imagining yourself as someone who already can, because the only thing keeping you grounded is your belief that you can’t fly.

79a Relax and Succeed - Wake up and be awesomeYou’ll see me post Tony DeMello talks on the page occasionally. Tony was a Jesuit Priest, but more importantly he was an enlightened psychologist and a hilarious guy. He used to tell a story about you. I’ll paraphrase it from memory, but it’s in his excellent book Awareness, and I would highly recommend reading it. Tony was an excellent guru.

Someone once took an egg from an eagle’s nest and placed it under a barnyard hen. A chicken sat on the egg and eventually it hatched. All his life the little eagle grew up with chickens, and he did as the chickens around him did. He walked around pecking at the ground for worms and insects, clucking and cackling, and like them he occasionally fluttered his wings for a short hop through the air.

Years passed and the eagle grew very old. One day he was pecking away with all of the chickens in the yard and a large shadow passed overhead. The barnyard eagle looked up in awe at a magnificent, giant golden eagle. It hovered effortlessly over the farmyard, held aloft by only a small breeze. The little bird asked his chicken-friend, “Who is that?!”

The other chicken looked up to see the eagle floating majestically, high above them. “That is the eagle. He is the king of the sky. He has the freedom to fly wherever he chooses.”

79 Relax and Succeed - I believe in myselfHe’s magnificent,” said the eagle. “I so wish I could fly like he does.”

Yes, that would be nice,” replied the chicken. “But the eagle belongs to the sky. And we are chickens, and chickens belong on the ground.”

And so the eagle looked back down to the dirt in the barnyard, where he began scratching and picking at the dry ground again. And in the end the eagle never did fly. Instead he lived and died just like all of the other barnyard chickens. Because that is what he thought he was.

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You are not a chicken. You are an eagle. So stop looking downward in some panicked effort to find more or better seeds than your neighbour. Forget competing with the chickens of ego. Stop using the weight of your own judgmental thinking to hold your spirit down. Instead, use the wings of your imagination to lift you to heights you previously did not know belonged to you. You’ll not only have a much greater perspective, but your freedom will be an inspiration to all of the other chickens.

There is no right or wrong way to fly. There are no good or bad paths through the sky. There is only flying. Now go be an eagle.

peace. s

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