The Most Precious Gift

1254 Relax and Succeed - Togetherness and connectionEveryone feels their time is rushed and that it is increasingly valuable. But time is made of moments, and moments happen in our consciousness–they are where the external fates of the world meet our focus; our attention. Our problem isn’t so much that the wrong things come to us or that we focus on the wrong things. There really are no wrong things when you’re seeing things clearly. Our challenge is that we don’t focus at all.

Thanks to things like smart phones and social media, people live inside a constant stream of distractions, as our minds our actively encouraged to flit from thing to thing, without ever giving anything enough attention for us to ever come to truly understand what we’re taking in. How many times have you walked into a room and forgotten why you went in there? We do this with food, tasks, people. But we must remember; we don’t want to just see or hear, more importantly we want to watch and listen.

The rewards are two-fold in the case of focus, because not only is it a calmer, more natural state than our busy-mindedness, but also the person, place or thing being focused-on starts to take on remarkable dimensions as it or they become a part of a rewarding connection to your soul. This is how people can become the very best kind of lichenologists, fashion designers and parents.

1254 Relax and Succeed - The most precious giftOur real life isn’t an app or notification, it’s the events, places and people that we interact with each moment. The way we get distracted in our minds is much like we do on our phone or computer. You’re doing this or that and then your phone or computer beeps and you’re off to look at whatever it told you to. In your mind you’re in a moment talking to your spouse, or child or a co-worker and then suddenly you start talking to yourself about what’s happening and that’s your mind wandering.

When you let your mind wander like that you literally stop recognising an important truth about the other person, be they a loved one or a stranger. The moment you do that you become an ego who will see the world as a set of labels that only exist in relation to you:

Your fussy child isn’t possibly sick or otherwise uncomfortable if they’re seen as simply preventing you from getting where you’re going. Or that other person appears more attractive if you compare your spouse as simply an ego-list of the things you don’t like. Similarly, that person at work has let you down, they aren’t struggling as they go through the experience of losing someone dear to them. These are all ways that we disconnect form others, the world around us and ultimately ourselves.

1254 Relax and Succeed - The bird in a forest can perchIf you’re talking to yourself you are dividing your attention between two egocentric you’s and they are the source of your problems and your suffering. The real you is the being thinking those other two you’s into existence. That you is already deep and wise and steady and open. Your ego you is selfish; smart in some ways, dumb in others; you’re rarely calm and centered because you have so many wants and desires; and you get offended and bothered by things easily, meaning you’re not really being open.

The wise you lets things be. While it can wander too, your healthy soul notices thoughts that disturb your personal Star Wars-like force. It can feel you creating resistance by having a value-based conversation with itself, and through those thoughts you create  conflicting wants and desires. The separation between your separate you and those separate things (relationships, cars, jobs, status etc.) is the gap through which all of your suffering seeps. If only you’d realise you don’t need anything so that you’d come home to yourself more often.

Wisdom isn’t hard, it isn’t out of reach. Nor is calm, or compassionate, or loving or connected. These are all natural states when we quiet our busy egos. When we’re there we are our best selves, without judgment, without desires, and profoundly satisfied with our lives as they are. Take today and focus. Write it on a bunch of post it notes you’ll bump into, or ask a friend to text you randomly. It’s worth practicing, because deep down you’re literally learning to be yourself by doing so.

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.

Feeling Stuck

1250 Relax and Succeed - Tonight I dream tomorrow I doMany people today complain of being incapacitated by their choices and their search for inspiration, meaning and purpose. This discomfort arises not from being lost, but from being confused.

Without expansion and an increase in general understanding and wisdom, we would never grow. So clearly it is normal to start life lost, unsure of who you even want to be, or what you want to do. Even the small percentage of people who have a clear vision early in life will find that vision is time-limited by either fate or our own eventual lack of appreciation for something too common to be otherwise.

How we ‘find ourselves’ is we march forth, confused and uncertain. At the early stages we see some branches of our growth as disjointed from our primary aim, but as we age and wisdom grows we come to accept that the branches are the sources that feed the central truck of life and we find ourselves with fewer regrets.

1250 Relax and Succeed - If your life feels stuckLife we demand that we reinvent ourselves at least once every decade. Maybe it’s from healthy to cancer patient, maybe it’s from a parent of young adults to an empty nester, but whatever it is you will be lost at first as your brain attempts to adapt to its new role. We aren’t failing when we feel that, we’re just walking along blind, following a wall by feel. And where does this wall lead? Forward.

That’s the beautiful thing about life. As long as you’re moving forward you’re moving closer to your goal–even if you believe you’re going in the wrong direction. Because this isn’t about where you go, it’s about how much distance you cover. You can be Stephen Hawking and go to the far reaches of space in your wheelchair, or you can be a mother with four active, wonderful kids; both lives are full and therefore rich.

Free yourself of needing to figure it all out. Just move forward. It allows your mind to go quiet and the added awareness that results will do you far more good than all that thinking ever could have.

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.

A Focus on Awakening

1223 Relax and Succeed - FocusIf 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.

The video below is 5 minutes and 16 seconds long, with the spoken sections being something less than 5 minutes long. The video itself is of Alan Watts and it regards the fear of death and the idea of mortality. It’s a useful talk in that people fear death so much that they end up avoiding life, rather than diving deeply into life because one has fully pondered upon and accepted death.

Just as important as the subject of the talk is your ability to actually focus your attention for a mere 5 minutes. When you click “play” simply try to hear each and every word said by Watts. If your mind wanders, snap it back as quickly as possible. If your focus is good, you’ll have no trouble hearing every syllable. But if your mind wanders frequently, then working on that single skill will do more for your enjoyment of life than almost anything else. Because a truly rewarding life is always intentional on the part of the person living it.

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 Stream of Time

What does Henry David Thoreau mean? Is this silly? Opaque? Meaningless? Profound? It’s actually all of those things, and you’ll turn it into whatever it becomes. Clearly people post it as a quote because it means something, so it’s not silly or meaningless, but it can also be so obscure that its nature can conceal its profundity.

Anyone who looks at it and thinks about it long enough knows that you are only ever alive now. You lived 10 years ago, but you’re not alive there now, you’re here, in the present. So any thoughts about your past or about your future are all thoughts, and they are all thought now, about then or later. You can think about other times as a present-time activity. So you can use now to revisit then if you like. The problem is that you do it a lot when you don’t like it, but that can stop.

Sometimes you’re just casting. You’re not after anything, you’re just reminiscing. That’s the best kind of fishing. The kind where it’s just as good even if there’s no fish, or no keepers. And if you’re that casual about your life, then if you pull in something that you think is ugly or unwanted, you can just catch and release–you can just let that collection of thoughts go.

Other times you’re casting looking for pretty specific fish. These are the old hollows you return to in your mind, over and over, in a bid to finally land that big fish and end your fishing. But you fail to notice the irony of fishing to end fishing. You don’t erase unpleasant experiences from your psyche, you just don’t load them into active memory. You don’t fish for what you don’t want to catch.

Understand, your body is alive in the present, but you’re usually not with it in the present, you’re time travelling forward or backward using your thoughts. So your experiences of fear or anxiety or sadness or loss, these are all thoughts about other times, and yet because they are emotionally imprinted, you see them as your life.

You have to take where you go and what you fish for more seriously. Far too many people just fish for whatever their parents fished for, without much thought of whether or not that’s actually the best route to an enjoyable fishing trip. We should use our feelings to grade our thoughts, and if they’re leading us to feel lower or worse, then we should stop thinking them.

You have no big huge miraculous thing to do. You already live within an enlightened state, you just want to be more conscious of it. To do that you only need to stop yourself from fishing in your yesterdays or tomorrows, and instead focus on being on the river now, today. Because that is where you life is lived and that is where your balance is kept. The present literally is a gift. Come alive within it.

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.

MoK: The Rarest Kindness

By this point we will all have contributed a lot of positivity to the world through our actions in the March of Kindness. Congratulations. Collectively we’ve done a lot. Now it’s time we remembered to include ourselves in that process.

Just as everyone around us benefits equally from kindness, we do too, and in this often fast-paced world too many of us are either so focused on what we’re doing, or we’re too focused on caring for others, to have the time or energy left to care for ourselves.

The greatest kindness anyone can pay to anyone is simply to be present. These are those times when the person feels seen or heard or understood or that a strong connection exists. But most of us have a much better sense of when that’s happening with other people than with ourselves.

When we sense conflict with others we feel an automatic impulse to repair it because in the end, the deepest part of us knows we need each other. This brings the other person or people into focus our awareness and our impulse is to act. Unfortunately, when we have conflict within ourselves we attempt to resolve the conflict by trying to “improve” rather than by making a stronger connection.

You know that improvement feeling. That’s those times where you talk to yourself critically and talk about what you should have done or should do. You spend a painfully large percentage of your life doing that and it’s all for naught. You don’t get better by “improving” yourself, you expand by being present with the world and acting on your nature. When you help others is a great example of that. So today it’s time to shine that same light upon ourselves.

Your act today in the March of Kindness is very simple. Immediately after reading this (or as soon as you have at least 10 full minutes to focus on it), take about five to ten deep breaths. Fill your lungs. Oxygenate your mind and body. Give it part of the fuel that will power your perception.

First, look at your life. Not in that critical, judgmental way you usually do, but look at yourself like you would view a friend or relative you love a great deal. Now imagine someone loving you the same way you love that friend. Imagine that friend just got back from a year away and they’d been in a monastery or something–you couldn’t talk.

Now imagine that they’ve just heard about what’s been going–and I mean literally do this, not brush your way through it quickly like it’s silly. Caring for yourself is not silly. Remember, this friend just heard about your life and they love you. This person that loves you comes back from the monastery all peaceful and caring. They don’t have a lot of money available and they understand you have some real responsibilities, but they know and love you. What act of kindness do they suggest?

Maybe it’s simple–they take you out for your favourite meal. Maybe it’s that they convince you to skip the gym to see a beloved childhood movie. Maybe it’s extra sleep. Maybe they take you for a walk and they discuss with you all of your good times, all of your achievements, all the times you felt proud of yourself. Wouldn’t that be different from all of that self-criticism!

Or here’s a a couple rare ones: Say no to someone when you usually wouldn’t. Or here’s the most challenging one of all. They help you with something. But you’re thinking, Scott, there’s no actual friend. This is me and me. I get it. What I mean is that you find something you need help with and you actually ask for the help you never ask for. Now there’s a rare one.

That’s it. Easy. Be a present open, aware and loving friend to you. But you have to take this seriously. Do you get it? This one’s very important. You can’t shortcut it, cheat it, downplay it or dismiss it–this friend loves you and they’re wise. Take what they suggest you do and then do it. You’re worth that. I’m absolutely certain of it. Do it. I love you.

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.

Touching Awareness

1096-relax-and-succeed-getting-in-touch-with-your-true-selfYour meditations this week have surrounded different senses, yet each exercise is developing your general sense of awareness. As you leave the busy thoughts in your head behind, life slows down and experiences become deeper. Today we shift that from being limited to your nose our mouth; today we’ll get your whole body involved.

It is easy to forget how complex the world is until we begin to spend time in it instead of our thinking. Not only do things have a texture to our fingers, but they also have a hardness or softness, a smoothness or a roughness, there are angles and temperature and weight. There is the weight of our body on our legs and hips as we press into the floor or our chair. These are all examples of your daily body experiencing feelings that you aren’t actively processing into your personal experience (because you’re too busy talking to yourself).

People find it difficult to block out their own talking head unless they replace that activity with something else. If your brain isn’t busy doing something specific it will wander and create dramas. It is important that your actions are specific and active or, in other words, your actions in life–even including sitting still–should be done so with intention.

1096-relax-and-succeed-touch-has-a-memoryToday you won’t just get another coffee; today you’re going to go through a list of as many adjectives to describe the cup as possible; it’s cold, smooth, heavy, it lists to one side, and it’s heavier than the one you use at home. You feel its weight change as you fill it. You feel the heat transferring around the cup. You feel the subtle strain it places on your upper arm.

If you’re working with a partner, choose some object that you’ll both have access to in your own lives, then compare your touch-based analysis of that object. Maybe you use coffee cups, maybe you use your left shoe, or a product or a tool. Even rolling a plain office chair on a carpet will create all kinds of vibrations etc.

The point again isn’t what you find, it’s that you find it. It’s that you’re telling your mind that tuning itself to the outside world will be helpful. It’s often as helpful as it is to a mountain or rock climber, but when you take away immediate danger people tend to think there’s no danger at all. That’s how people get fired or dumped.

1096-relax-and-succeed-the-body-remembersIf you’re in a relationship, when was the last time you extensively touched your partner in a way that wasn’t sexual? A husband stunned by his divorce once told me that he couldn’t remember the last time he’d said I love you to his wife (hearing), he couldn’t remember the last time he took her out for dinner (tasting), he couldn’t remember the last time he’d bought her flowers (smell) and he remembered he used to massage her shoulders after work but he had no idea when he stopped (touch). I explained to him that because he didn’t know those things then we also had no idea of when he actually discarded his wife from his sensual life. He got the point.

You can not care about doing these meditations. No one is making you do these exercises. This is actual spiritual psychology school. If you don’t even want to participate that’s entirely allowed. But to not participate is also to generally not participate in life; to live without awareness. And that generally goes about as well as anything you do randomly. Add some intention however….

Notice I don’t note a correction. That’s because there’s nothing wrong with you. Once your awareness is up then you have the ability to move to whoever you’re capable of being next. But until then you are trapped by not even knowing fully who or what you are right now.

Today’s meditation is simple. Just feel the world. As much of it as possible, with as many parts of yourself as possible. Because if you want to stop all of those voices there’s no other way except to leave your head and get back into the actual world. That’s where you started life and that’s where you’ll end it. You may as well get familiar with 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.

The Sillage of Life Itself

1095-relax-and-succeed-you-are-the-templeHow was your focus on yesterday’s meditation on taste? Hopefully some of your discoveries surprised you. That would indicate you’ve seen something in a deeper way than previously. Today we’ll be doing the same thing with scents, although in this case it’s important to remember that your sense of smell is closely linked to your memory.

We evolved as humans, so your most valuable asset when eating would be determining the safety of your food. Remember, to early life and mankind; which smells were safe and which were dangerous were as important as a pilot today remembering how to fly an airplane. Get it wrong and people die. You come from a long line of successful smellers.

With few exceptions most of you won’t track things anymore by scent. We have food inspectors for that. You watch TV and have a phone and a computer. You watch screens. In the last few decades you have shifted a great deal. Now your sight is what takes up the vast majority of your mind’s focus.

1095-relax-and-succeed-the-mind-is-like-an-icebergYour job today is to turn the world into a scentscape. Rather than focus on visual directions, follow the flow of a current of air on which a scent of cinnamon buns travels. Trace perfumes and colognes. Who is wearing what? Maybe you even get a chance to smell some flowers or chocolate or perfume or cologne today….

Use your mind to define the scents. Can you pin down what it is before you can see it? What can you learn from a scent? Treat it as though it has secret information hidden in it because it does. It is possible to smell carefully.

What you’re searching for is a memory link as your awareness focuses on scent all day. Without sniffing anything dangerous, start smelling packs of paper at work, smell the food wafting by from nearby tables at lunch, smell people, don’t just see them. Smell flowers, and plants and the air around you.

Assign everything a scent quality other than nothing. You have to find at least one word for each situation you’re awake in. Oh and by the way, you’ll be terrible at this at the start. That’s how little you do it. But it’s not like the scents aren’t there. They just haven’t gotten your attention in a very long time.

1095-relax-and-succeed-sillage-the-scent-that-lingersMove through your day with this one added awareness operating and you will have literally exercised the size of your consciousness. It feels weird and clumsy and inefficient at first, but like weightlifting or studying, you get better at the things you practice. Just do it and your mind will develop. With few exceptions; you can tell a peppery wine from a fruity one with only your nose.

You’ll still execute your day. You’ll still get your jobs done. But make sure to set up timely reminders to yourself to stay aware. Maybe stick a post-it note to your coffee cup or computer screen. But do it. What you smell isn’t as important as that you smell. Becoming conscious of the world takes practice. Most people have only been focusing on their internal egocentric conversations for many years. We all miss a huge percentage of what’s going on.

In today’s meditation you smell your way through your day, counting how many times your memory is spontaneously triggered to remember some unrelated event. If you’re working with a partner then compare your numbers. Who noticed more things? To care about who wins is to still be in ego. What counts is the awareness. There are no losers in this meditation.

Enjoy your day. Add dimension to it. Do the meditation. Expand yourself.

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.