Composing The Song of Our Life

1293 Relax and Succeed - Composing the Song of Our Life

A record label recently ‘signed’ an algorithm to a recording contract. Should the idea of a computer writing some of our music bother us? It’s not hard for something like that to feel strange, or alien or even uncomfortable or unpleasant. But it might not be as weird as it initially seems. And this really does have something to do with how our minds work.

Firstly, this initial record deal is more for mathematical, Brian Eno-like soundscaping than what we’d think of as composed songs. But it’s only a matter of time. After all, notes are mathematical divisions of natural vibrations and instruments simply create their own unique vibrations. When those waves hit our ears it’s our minds that turn them into music.

We don’t have to feel threatened by this new idea. Even if computerized songs get as good as humans, that does not mean humans have to stop writing songs. Human music won’t be suppressed, it will be added to. But learning about this can help us.

Algorithmic music (it even sounds musical), will be just another form of music, much like dividing acoustic and electric performances, or bands from DJ’s, or how we recently added new genres like Blues, the various forms of Jazz, many forms of Rock, R&B, Disco, Grunge and, Hip Hop/Rap.

Each of those types represent groups of patterns that have a rough mathematical border that can overlap other borders for other types, hence country-punk, and jazz-funk etc. I’m hyper conscious of patterns, but the fact that you know the differences between those music types proves that you comprehend this math as well. It’s just that you perceive your results more as a feeling or a reaction or a definition (the name you give the genre).

Note: if an older person has never listened to newer music then their brain won’t have learned that math and they may misidentify two Rock forms –say, Metal and Grunge– as one group, much like a kid in elementary can know odd numbers from even numbers but they have no idea which ones are prime.

So what’s this got to do with our spirituality or psychology? The answer is that explains why we get bored with things after doing them for a long time. A common reaction to music for people in their mid 30’s to 40’s is that they find they suddenly become far less interested in new music. This isn’t to say they’ll never enjoy a new song or that they are not open, but they are representing what it is to be full.

By full I mean that our brains have heard enough songs and enough patterns that by those ages we know those patterns so well that little can sound new to us. Evidence of this is the way that, around those ages, we start thinking of these patterns (in music or movies or shows) as being, like this meets this, or that meets that with a bit of that in it. Rather than new sounding fresh, instead you can hear combinations of known patterns mixing.

1293 Relax and Succeed - Like people some songs are popular

Now that you can see you have this skill, consider that you also divide up humans very much like that. Stereotypes like optimists, pessimists, leaders, shy people, Scottish people, mothers, bankers and firefighters are all groups of patterns on top of other patterns, because our mothers are also sisters, and accountants and baby sitters etc..

Personality types are also a part of those patterns, and when families say things like, “Dad’s being Dad again,” or “Raj, why are you always late?” they are expressing what they perceive as that person’s unique pattern. This is why family caregivers carry so much information about loved ones without even realizing it. They simply sense that something is wrong yet they may not know why, even though they are being kind of mathematical about it.

Since these patterns impact personality types it makes sense that it also informs how we know how our friends or co-workers are likely to meet the various patterns in the world (like songs, or traffic etc.) For instance, at a rest without influence, some people think in patterns that create sadness. Others idly create happiness, and still others worry or plan or create. For every type of person there is a pattern to our thinking, and our current conditions will influence those patterns in real-time.

The problem comes in when people see another pattern and wish it was theirs. This is to misunderstand the nature of the universe’s orchestra. Yes, we can improv portions and any song can change its genre at any time, but it also important to note that none of us is wrong being as we are. We just need to enjoy and capitalize on being whoever that is. Some people will like that pattern of being and others won’t. But that’s not personal. It’s just how the patterns go, just like some people like jazz and some don’t.

People’s appreciation of us is a separate issue, but all lives are like beautiful songs. Indeed, some are sadder, some happier, some angrier, still others confused, or even profound. But just as music contains flats a sharps, there are no truly wrong notes for us to play in life, and we can always change our style if we feel it’s worth it.

Even if we feel off-key, or that our timing is off, rather than turn our thoughts against ourselves we are better to simply learn to stop that critic. Because no matter how weird we or others think we are, in the end, the only way for us to play our special song is for us to ignore all judgment and to simply be natural.

peace. s

PS If you are not in Canada but would like to listen to the podcast linked, the international version if available here: CBC Q Podcast

The Emotional Wobbles

1209 Relax and Succeed - Happy piggy desk wobblerBoing. Maybe you even have one of these wobblers on your desk or dashboard. They remind me of people. When we’re younger we have an idea of our lives that is unperturbed. It’s starts as a straight line. We have a general direction and lots of energy and we see no reason why our crisp clean dreams won’t line up.

But dreams are a form of expectation, and when we’re young we tend to overvalue the happiness that will be derived from the achieving the expectation, which leads to unhealthy attachments. Simultaneously we undervalue our own internal peace. Many of us can remember some early, less mature relationships that we took to be true love, when really those were just some of our first encounters with non-familial love, so they felt a bit intense due to a lack of contrast. We overreact because we don’t have that spectrum of experience to balance things with yet.

Our love is true then in the sense that we see none of the person’s undesirable traits when we look at them, but when we have limited experience it’ll be highly conditional love based on the person meeting our expectations, which were based on our dreams. But they can’t act out our dreams. They have a dream of their own that they expect us to be a part of. And when we both first feel that impact to our egocentric, thought-based dreams, it sends us reeling. Our pendulum naturally swings hard to one side, which in turn generates a near-equal and immediate response and we all fly back in the opposite direction.

1209 Relax and Succeed - Things that matterBecause your dreams of your future depend on this person loving you, you are prepared to reach too far to bend yourself into your dream. But the more you demand, the more the person insists on being themselves and the more they move away from you, and the push and pull between your ego and spirit have you penduluming back and forth for a while before you calm down. (As an example, think of how teens and parents push against each other’s wills.)

What you really want in your life is love, but if you mistake the person for the love then you can end up wobbling strongly off your center in your attempt to connect to them, when in fact you’re actually reaching for a finger instead of noticing that it’s pointing at the moon. You eventually surrender your dream as you realise you’ve miscast it. As you wobble your way out of those thoughts your emotional swings are consistently less dramatic until life gets almost too still and too boring.

Over time we get sanguine about the impacts. As each hit comes and does the same thing, and as we see ourselves react, it’s not like our life is rocked less; it’s more that we accept the extreme motion as a natural result of the intensity of the original event. Rather than making it worse by hurrying to calm it, we learn to just ride it more like a seasoned circus performer whose act is to gracefully balance. They can do that because they stop focusing on the external motion and they focus instead on maintaining their internal center of balance.

1209 Relax and Succeed - Focus on the goal not the obstacles

With any event, the less you focus on the impact and the faster you focus on the way out, the better. But this means letting go of our attachments and even after we’ve grown in wisdom, that’s not a painless process. But then again, we need some sources of sorrow too, don’t we? Otherwise we’d lose all of the beautiful relevant art as well as all of the empathetic experiences we share and connect through.

Allow yourself to swing from side to side when you’ve taken a hit. But don’t make that emotional sway your identity. You’re still the thinker of those thoughts, you’re not the thoughts themselves. You still get to choose your thoughts and your attitude about life. They’ll just get interrupted by emotional extremes while your wobbles are extreme. But once you feel them, use that as a signal to reset and calm your internal voices.

Over time, and by nature, the swings always reduce in intensity as you learn to let your internal arguments go. And by the time you’re life is too still, a part of you will be secretly conspiring to get some drama back. Because deep down our spirit likes that drama. You can tell because, when you stop to think about it, most of our wobbles actually originate with us.

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.

Mood Orbs

The ego world is made up of physical objects and narratives about people, places and things, including concepts like time or obligation or fairness. The ego world looks like a physical place, with it’s focus on a clock and an expectation list. There are places and time, and people who love us should arrive at a place on time–for instance.

Alternatively, the real world is made of experiences that are generally either happy, sad, fearful or angry. These fundamental ways of being include every type of experience related to them, so happy also means loving, connected, laughing, even horny. And it’s opposite, sad, can range from bored to lonely, to depressed etc.

In the real world, rather than a place and a clock and a checklist for happiness, there is only a container, and some orbs of experience. Rather than a clock counting time, the container holds experiences. So “time” isn’t some numbers, that’s what an ego calls the act of us simply grabbing whatever experience we feel like choosing and putting it in our experience clocktainerSo how’s this all work practically? Let’s say we’re in a hot car and our ego is waiting for our spouse for a long time. Our ego will use that time to spin a narrative and hidden in that narrative will be orbs of experience. If the narrative is negative, so too will be the orbs. If we emotionally feel disappointed, or frustrated or disrespected, then we used our time to tell ourselves narrative stories where our ego-characters justify emotions like disappointment, frustration or disrespect.

Telling that story is what our spirit is doing rather than living. It’s enacting an ego by using self-talk to consult the clock and the memorized checklist, and to then blame our spouse for our ‘time being wasted.’ When they get back to the car we’re likely to argue about their disrespect towards us. So the thinking leads to a fight.

Of course it’s possible for physical meat-me to transcend all of that ego. Instead of filling time up with narratives I can do the opposite of resistant thinking and I can accept instead. This means we stop looking for what we expect–which is our spouse to come out of the house on time even though we know full well they never do. Instead we can anticipate a positive outcome of some sort, and then immediately look for our opportunities to fill our clocktainers of life with something pleasant.

This means each of us has heaven and hell within us. In hell we are trapped by thought patterns we’ve been taught to think in (we mimic one of our major caregivers), and that leaves us emotionally helpless, like a flag on the pole of our history, waving in the winds of other people’s choices. In heaven we have freedom. We are not stuck in the ground, and rather than blowing in the winds of other’s choices we can make my own choices about how to view things, and in doing so we can create the sort of stability that gets us through tough times.

That’s our choice in life. We can wait in a car for a time and we can experience the negative orbs of emotions that we find on our unmet checklist, or we can turn on the car stereo and we can experience the beautiful orbs of joy that are contained within the music. One is a story filled with sad and angry experiences to load into our clocktainer, and the other are songs we love that are filled with whichever experiences fill us with life.

Think of it: our ego can’t handle someone being a bit late, and yet our spirit can love even the saddest song. Do you see our invincibility if we live in spirit and not ego? Even sad things become treasured, whereas in ego even your spouse’s arrival isn’t good news.

Don’t live in ego with time and events and places and people and things. Live in spirit, where there is freedom and a fullness that makes even the worst parts of life very much worth living.

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.