The Positivity Context

Where do you live? Not where geographically. I mean where emotionally. You revisit various situations in your life more out of habit than anything. But if you become more conscious about the tone of your emotional day  you will find one of two things.

899 Relax and Succeed - Don't find faultThe first is that you have an opportunity to make an internal shift. You can drop your expectations or surrender your attachments or shift your mind to the state of others etc. This will stop your wanting and you will have taken action to feel better. This is an extremely useful life skill in situations you must be in but don’t want to be in.

The second involves the situations you chose to be in. You can assume that you don’t have a lot of choice about much of that but that’s where you’ve fallen into the trap of what the Buddha calls the illusion. Even connections like your marriage or your relationship to someone being a parent is more an idea than a thing. You can’t touch brotherhood. It’s a concept. Marriage too. So people will say they aren’t free, but what they mean is they don’t want to get divorced or quit their job or abandon their kids.

It might at first seem heartless to live in a world where everyone knows they’re free. Everyone would be free to leave basically any situation. But then if they stay, everyone’s sure that’s where they really want to be and everyone’s having more fun.

899 Relax and Succeed - We would do ourselves a tremendous favourOf course the price for leaving a situation could be as high as death or as low as nothing, but you are still free. The Nazi’s could not change Viktor Frankl’s thoughts. They could lock up Frankl’s body but not enter his mind. They couldn’t make him think anything, they could only give him incentives to think what they hoped for. What they expected. What they were attached to. You lead an emotional life. You do control your thinking but that doesn’t mean you should necessarily walk into the belly of a lion for no good reason.

Start figuring out where you have fun. You don’t go to your best friend’s because you have to. You go there because it feels safe and supportive and enjoyable. Big surprise it usually feels good there. Meanwhile, awhile back I met a guy who couldn’t stand his boss. He bitched about him all day at work and also when he got home.

I reminded him that if he hated the owner of his store so much that it was ruining eight hours a day, maybe he should consider a different job? But no, some thought-combination of pride and fairness and right and wrong lead him to treat those things like actual barriers that were holding him inside the store when clearly there’s no law against quitting.

899 Relax and Succeed - If you are unhappyHis roommate saw what I meant and pointed out that his happiness was more important than pride or fairness. Happiness you felt, pride and fairness are manufactured in complex thinking. They lead to emotions not feelings. Better not to be emotional about work. But he felt we were being unsupportive by wanting him to be happy so he argued with his roommate illogically because he was really attached to choosing anger and pride regarding the subject of work.

You choose almost everywhere you go. If you can’t stand it somewhere then either Frankl your thinking (if he can do it in a concentration camp you can do it at work), or leave the situation. But to voluntarily stay when you dislike a situation is pretty strange if you want a happy life. Sure, endure some shorter term suffering for the belief in the future value of a place, but at a certain point you’re just digging yourself in deeper.

Where can you change your thoughts and where should you change your choices? Stay conscious for an entire week. Note where you actually are. If staring at your own face in a mirror is something that makes you insecure, then don’t do it. You’re going to be you either way.

Express your freedom. Choose a happier life. It won’t entirely remove pain and suffering, but it will reduce it to the point where you don’t mind feeling it at all.

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.

Resistance to Happiness

865 Relax and Succeed - If you are brave enoughIsn’t it strange? You’ll know a certain course of thought hurts. It’ll be as painful as physical pain. And you likely even caught yourself doing it and yet you didn’t go try to conjure up your Dominant Positive Emotion. So when you didn’t switch to being happier–why did you resist? Or do you not recognize your resistance in the word  “…but…”

The “but” is there because you you have attachments and so that means that you believe some thoughts weigh more than others. There are ones you can toss out easily, like deciding to have the salad instead of the soup at lunch. But the difficult ones are about subjects that you feel matter.

By “matter” I mean you have an attachment you want to maintain. Something that’s considered important is just something you value more than other things precisely because you believe it is more important to your happiness. But people will be terrible at making this calculation in the heat of too much thinking / rationalising. We’ve all seen people return to extremely unhealthy relationships and put up with abusive bosses or continue damaging habits etc.

865 Relax and Succeed - If you still talk about itNothing from outside of you creates your happiness. You must abandon this one idea: that your happiness is delivered to you externally by external experiences. Until you do that you will hand over the responsibility for your own joy to someone else. You’ll expect them to make you happy instead of remembering to do that yourself. It’s a lot easier to have a successful marriage by being a happy partner rather than having a happy partner. As I’ve written before: we feel the love we give, not the love we get.

So you’ll see when you encounter these things that you’ll pass over the idea of stopping those thoughts. Those are important thoughts you’ll tell yourself. If someone said stop thinking right then you would say “but…” If there’s a “but” in your talking and it’s there to defend more thinking or more talking or more pain that’s actually fine. It just means you’re going to use your imagination and creativity to create pain for yourself rather than enjoyment. You will want rather than appreciate. You have freedom. The universe will let you do that.

You can ask the universe for anything. For your spouse not to leave you, to end your money woes, for your health to turn around–but while you’re busy wanting you will be actively generating your own voluntary suffering. For a better life you don’t need a bunch of external changes, you need one subtle internal change. You need to see that each and every day your experience of that day is psychological and that you don’t have a day, you feel one.

865 Relax and Succeed - There comes a dayThe best way to achieve a lot is to have a positive mental mindset and then be active. You don’t have a lot of control over your day but you do have a lot of control over your thinking. No, you won’t be exercising that control all the time, especially this quickly. But that doesn’t matter because the biggest step you’ll take in this journey is just leaving on the road to study your own thoughts and the patterns in your thinking.

I’ve worked with lots of people who were told they had Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.)–a new disorder that was fairly recently invented. Before that some people just complained a lot about winter. Now there was a pill for it. Someone thought cleverly about ending their money problems and they realized that they could do that by convincing you that your happiness could be restored by a pill and that what made you sick was the location of the Earth relative to the Sun. Something you can do nothing about. That was sure convenient for a drug company.

865 Relax and Succeed - Go 24 hours without complainingSome people had parents who had extremely resistance thoughts about winter and they taught some of their kids to conjure those resistant thoughts too. End of story. The people who tell themselves healthy cuddly cozy stories about the cold like the Norwegians do will always be happier than some person bitching in a street half as cold in Canada. Because it’s not the cold that hurts us–it’s our resistance. Our resistance to what Is. Thinking is resistance. Trust yourself. Stop the thinking. Stop the resistance. Surrender and accept. From there all you have to do is switch from wanting to appreciating and you’re miles ahead.

Take 24 hours–until you read my next post–and use that time to notice your resistance. Note the things you’re resistant about. Try to determine what things you’re valuing in your life in what ways and how that leads to your suffering. Follow these strands of thought and you will see they are tied to nothing. You always are and always have been free. So you can be happy. Because if you’re reading this then you’re definitely on the way to being a soul that lives itself out in freedom.

Now go use the focus of your attention to hoover-in whatever you see to appreciate. That simple act will lead you to a wonderful day. Do that more often than not and you have a wonderful life. Enjoy. 😉

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.

Something Better

860 Relax and Succeed - A pessimist sees difficultySo far you’ve worked on being more grateful, less judgmental and more self-aware of your suffering.  Now you want life to improve because life simply includes too much suffering. But now we’ve found the number one way in which you suffer and you are now more conscious of it. Congratulations. That’s a much bigger achievement than you realize (I told you this would be easy if you did it one step at a time). Don’t forget to stay in touch with that awareness.

Since we’re suffering too much and that’s where we are most often, then we’re set up perfectly. By using this change as an example of making any change you’ll have started with the area of your life where you can make the biggest difference right away.

It is important to remember to see your emotions not as the results of events, but rather as a product of your thinking. You manufacture those feelings intentionally. Maybe not consciously, but it is definitely you telling you to feel that way. Just like if you watch a scary movie you’ll be scared or you’ll read sad book and be sad, if you tell yourself anxious stories about yourself and your life then it should be zero surprise that you’re feeling anxious.

860 Relax and Succeed - Some days you just have toSo there’s your sign it’s time to switch. Wasn’t it nice of the universe to make it feel unpleasant so you would be motivated to change it? Now, instead of peddling your anxious narrative even faster and spinning it wider like Pigpen’s dust-cloud from Peanuts, simply use it as information. It’s like when you feel chilly you put on a sweater or if you’re thirsty you get a drink. If you’re anxious change your narrative.

This can appear difficult at first. But of course, just thinking that it’s hard and that you can’t do it is already an example you have changed your thoughts–I would just encourage you to change to nicer thoughts that will generate a better result. Being disappointed in yourself for feeling disappointed just adds to the disappointment.

In life, whatever you feel you’ll be inclined to feel more of–including happiness, contentment, satisfaction etc. Any emotion can be changed so it’s worthwhile to meditate to obtain healthy thinking habits. That’s all your suffering is–a habit. I know that sounds like it trivializes it, but that’s good news. Overcoming trivial things is much easier than formidable things. And that makes me happy because I’ll feel better when you feel better.

860 Relax and Succeed - Being positive in a negative situationToday we have fun. Today you have to choose the positive emotion you find it easiest to feel. Not the one you like the most–the one you find it easiest to experience–the one you feel most often. Maybe you’re quick to laugh, maybe you find it easy to feel compassion. Maybe it’s love, or maybe you feel good when you do nice things for others. Whatever it is, get to know that too. You know the fattest pipe in your brain for negativity–it’s even more important to know your most efficient and well-maintained route to something better.

Do these exercises seriously every week and you will change. Know yourself. Get on Youtube and find videos that relate to the positive emotion you believe is your easiest. Watch them and ensure that this is a fast and effective way to elevate your consciousness.

Life can be death by a thousand cuts, or it can be life by a thousand tiny rescues. Find those things it’s easy to think good things about. Everyone has them. Once you have yours we’ll start tomorrow on how to get from the most common negative one to the most common positive one.

Enjoy your day.

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.

A New Beginning

843 Relax and Succeed - Being in a hurryAre you ready? We’re all going to make the slow-motion resolution. We’re going to undertake a weekly series of easy, enjoyable practices and meditations that will increase our peace and awareness and from that place other changes will start happening naturally.

These exercises will be designed to be manageable for your life and for the most part they’ll also be fun. Mondays I’ll set out the meditation. Tuesdays and Wednesdays I’ll offer a relatively short discussions to expand on the original idea and Thursdays will be reserved for any announcements. (I need to drop a writing day to create more time to work on the books that are being edited.) On Friday’s I’ll still put together a Dose but it will change slightly in structure.

To start this week’s meditation tomorrow you’ll only need three things. A notebook and something to write with that isn’t a keyboard. A pencil or pen–it has to be tactile. Then figure out when your quiet time is. It is much preferable that this process is done first thing when you wake up, while your mind is still clear and you can intentionally establish it’s awarenesses for that day. It’s why almost every successful writer I know–especially those with small kids–starts at either 5am or 6am.

843 Relax and Succeed - If you know meAs you achieve more peace you’ll sleep better, have more energy and you’ll naturally eat better. So get your book and pen, find your time and tomorrow we’ll start. This will be a gentle easy year-long process so if you have friends that also want to make big changes then this is the time. Share this with them and they can start with the rest of us.

Once that you see that most of what’s holding you back is your use of your consciousness you’ll simply and easily make the shift toward a better quality state of mind. It isn’t hard when you know how to do it and learning to do it isn’t hard either. It just takes practice. As you start to shift you’ll also positively impact most of the people who deal with you every day and if you have mammals as pets they’ll pick up the difference too.

This is all about mental health, spiritual development and the maximizing of our potential. You all have an amazing amount to offer this world. I’m thrilled to think what the world will look like when we’re all pointing our fantastic energies toward making our lives and the world much better.

843 Relax and Succeed - Our deepest fearFeel as you may about Kanye West but I agree with him when he urges people strongly that, rather than tell him he shouldn’t feel special despite the fact that his life demonstrates he is, we should do as he strongly suggests and feel great about ourselves too and as a result we’ll start finding bigger dreams to bring to life.

You don’t start off broken with some obligation to fix yourself. You’re here to grow. Do not attack who you have been. That person did the best they knew with what they knew. But take this year to find peace and inspiration. Do these meditations. Then be bold: say yes to invitations until you find people and activities that feel good to be around. And then trust your feelings and pursue them. It won’t remove all the pain from your life–every life has pain. But as long as the rewards are far greater it just doesn’t matter. You can have a wonderful life. Let’s go get it.

I’m really looking forward to this. Happy start to your year everyone.

peace. s

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

Other Perspectives #92

821 OP Relax and Succeed - It's not abotu forcing happinessPeople talk as though their psychology is separate from themselves. Like it’s another person they have to deal with. They resign themselves to the fact that they have this or that identity and then absolutely everything gets reflected off that. So if they think they have reasons to be sad then they’ll list the reasons and the listing of it will make them sad. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Sure, being sad can be a long term habit that lasts a lifetime. But each and every time those are are still just judgment calls. Your friends wouldn’t agree with those assessments of you. But until we choose to stop seeing the world as though our judgments about it are actually facts, we will always be captive to them. You can enjoy life any time you choose to appreciate anything genuinely and that goes for any person whether they are happy or depressed. Happiness does not need to be forced it’s a natural state.  And sadness can’t “win.” Sadness is something you do. Sometimes it is perfectly appropriate. Maturing is knowing when to allow it and when to shift it. Don’t be in a hurry. As long as you’re aware of it, over time you’ll figure out when you should change it and when you should leave it alone. When in doubt, be appreciative. And have a great week.

peace, s

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

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An Attitude of Gratitude

It’s Thanksgiving today in Canada and so I present you this fresh edit on the notion of gratitude. Have a wonderful day everyone. I am grateful to have you to write for. Much love.

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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Humans Racing

Everyone’s looking for relief. People used to want to find themselves or get enlightened. Today those things are merely byproducts of just finding some much-needed relief. We just need a break. For the pressure to be off. To get a moment of peace. Sheesh.

754 Relax and Succeed - Life moves pretty fastBut the world just keeps coming. The older you get the more you can relate to street people. Giving up can often look pretty appealing to an overworked Mom or Dad caring for both children and aging parents. Highly paid executives look at barista’s and think they have a great job because it doesn’t go home with them. But the barista can’t pay the executive sized prices in today’s world so he has peace of mind at work, but when he goes home he’s stressed about money plus he has no social life.

So we desperately seek. We look for solace. For comfort. For quiet. For peace. For acceptance–despite the fact that we’ve ducked out of the pressure and are sitting still. It’s not uncommon for my student/clients to come to me guiltily, as though taking time away from their overload of responsibilities to look after themselves is somehow treasonous to the human race. But they come anyway because they just can’t stand a life that just seems like a stream of obligations with almost no room for the person at the heart of it all.

You’re not wrong. Hyper consumerism has turned every moment of the day into a sales opportunity. Your phone used to be for your friends to call but even before cell phones we had all stopped because answering them because we were screening for telemarketers. Ads are on every surface asking us to do this or noting how we’re deficient in that. Your phone essentially removes your privacy because yes you can choose to not answer it, but there’ll be a price for that.

754 Relax and Succeed - The cells in your bodyAnd we just keep thinking and thinking and thinking–what is the way out of this? But in a weird way, we’re only adding to the problem with all of that. Think of thoughts as cells. They can divide and multiply to create amazing new ideas and experiences. But they can also be used to attack ourselves, others, or the state of the world in some way. But if we do that we are letting the cells multiply without control because if it was in control, why would we choose such overwhelmingly negative subjects to think about? So if we’re on long negative periods then we are allowing our thoughts to eventually lower themselves to low ground. There they mix with other negative thoughts and they start bouncing off each other and before you know it the negativity has grown.

That much thinking is like cells that are out of control. This is that spinning, frenzied, anxious thinking that you have to be anywhere but where you are. That much thinking is like cancer. It takes perfectly good space in your body and refills it with something damaging. In one case it’s out-of-control cells and in the other it’s out-of-control thoughts, but either way the effect is eventually the same–the repetitive action starts to have a debilitating effect on the person doing the thinking.

754 Relax and Succeed - The mind is its own placeI remember about 15 years or so ago there was the beginning of a bunch of studies that surprised many in the medical community when it showed that it wasn’t sick people that got depressed, but rather depressed people that got sick. It opened up a whole new area of research that has lead to the increasing popularity of positive intervention therapies, which have in turn proven to be much more effective than those used previously.

You don’t make the problems of the world go away by thinking about them. You don’t make your personal problems go away by thinking about them. Think when it’s fun and useful. But you really should maintain a general idea during the day of what you’re using your thoughts for. Because if it’s for reasoning something where reason applies, great. But if it’s just churning negativity on issues where you have no control then at least control what you do control–the direction of your thoughts.

Stay conscious. Life isn’t that hard once we learn to keep a closer eye on the choices we make all day long. Make this a day of even just slightly more conscious, slightly better choices. Do that each day and you’ll be amazed where you end up.

peace. s

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

Other Perspectives #78

746 OP Relax and Succeed - Never let anyone take away your happinessNever is a big word. Like all of us you’ll accidentally allow at least a few people to get attached to your happiness when you’re young. But that’ll hurt so you’ll learn that’s a dangerous thing to do. If you do lose track of your happiness you’ll want to make sure you’re maintaining an awareness that you gave the happiness away as opposed to someone took it. No one actually has the power to take away anyone else’s happiness so this isn’t a challenge or a warning. It’s more a reminder: do not be attached, be attracted. You’ll definitely need being sad or angry or worried so you can even recognize being happy, but don’t let other’s behaviour dictate whether or not you’re happy. They always have the freedom to leave but you always have the option of what to think about that.

peace. s

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Review: Inside Out

Many friends have seen this movie—and several (particularly those who have studied with me or who are similarly minded) were very interested in what I thought as both a screenwriter and as a teacher of the Principles of Human Experience. Fortunately my brother and I were racing the car at the Nationals this weekend and while we were there a good friend told me she wanted to see the movie again and so we decided right then to go together.

734 Relax and Succeed - Inside outShe had loved her first viewing and noticed a lot more contributing details on the second viewing. I was very impressed with how well it was put together and I found the symbolism and message to be quite good, especially considering the limitations of the medium.

Keep in mind: there is no such thing as a good or bad movie. There are ones you like and ones you don’t. So no one is wrong if they didn’t enjoy this film. But from a professional screenwriting perspective it’s very tightly and effectively structured, its characters are consistent and are weaved with such skill by writers Pete Docter and Reonaldo Del Carmen that they serve the plot quite naturally. As we were leaving the theatre several people remarked that it seemed to be over very quickly and we felt the same way despite it being a traditional length—that’s always a good sign.

I loved a lot of the details, like how the memory storage banks held moments rather than stretches of time. I also liked they were organized like a brain structure, and how the ladders up them looked like DNA. There were so many contributing elements, including even more abstract things like the particular types of memories that children both lose and abandon and why. I also liked how it addressed how our current emotions will impact and colour our recollection of past events.

734 Relax and Succeed - Somtimes the thingMaybe even more impressive was each character’s demonstration of a dominant trait—a primary filter or emotion through which the world first passes before being optioned to other possible reactions. This is our default reaction to the world. In the daughter it was Joy, the mother Sadness and the father Anger and these would be how a large percentage of children perceive western childhoods: Dad’s seem busy and mad all the time because of mistakes we’ve made, and Mom’s appear to never want to play and they’re always disappointed we didn’t do something or other exactly the way they wanted.

Another nice touch was the use of the individual characters played in multiple heads. There were many looks for each emotion but the daughter’s Sadness looked just like her mother’s, while her Fear and Anger looked just like her father’s—illustrating the point that we inherit our traits and personalities from the dominant traits of our parents and/or the people that raise us. And, if saw correctly, especially clever was the fact that in any head where you saw Anger you also saw his partner Fear.

Mild spoiler alert—I may give away some later plot details that will give away the ending here, so if you haven’t seen it you may want to save the rest for afterwards.

My favourite aspect was the transition at the climax, when Joy comes to understand and then employ the value of Sadness. That is when the audience—and thankfully many children—are presented with the idea that sadness has value and should not be dismissed from life, and Joy’s role helps to nicely reflect the experience and growth happening within the audience member.

735 Relax and Succeed - Let it BeIn the denouement it was quite fitting that the film set up the notion that it’s not a tragedy when we change our core beliefs. That is the growth I often talk about in this blog as happening every 7-9 years, and of course Joy is I believe nine years old in the film. It is when we fundamentally shift how we see the world and how we understand it and our place in it.

Over the years we establish and fortify a new set of beliefs more appropriate to who we currently are. And again in 7-9 years we’ll tear down those core beliefs and build another set refined by new experiences. It is very healthy for people to see that process as natural. We shouldn’t get angry when things get tumultuous. We should get excited.

This film probably won’t blow kids away in theatres. But I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if it becomes an important part of future realizations for decades to come. Just as Wall-E informed a generation about the external environment, Inside Out is informing a generation about a healthy internal environment.

I found this to be an excellent film on virtually every level and I highly recommend seeing it. It’s funny that parents worry when their kids become artists. And yet artists are who despotic leaders lock up first, because they’re also the people who change the world in subtle ways. Like the ways in which this film will change the stigma around being sad and how it will instill that our emotions are within our control. That’s important stuff.

Five thumbs up.

peace. s