Restarting With Intention

1214 Relax and Succeed - I myself am made entirely of flawsI hope your summer’s were rewarding in many ways. As we come back together to grow and share, I’ve decided to experiment with a new mix of elements for the blog. There still will be my traditional essays, but I’ll also be adding some new approaches and revisiting some old ones in the hopes that they can help facilitate some very practical benefits in all of our lives.

Today we’ll start off by talking about starting off. The whole point of taking control of your life involves being intentional about how you live. So don’t start each day in some hazy, unfocused, directionless way. Many people will begin by speculating about their day based on opinions they’ve formed on previous days. Then, whether they day wanted to surprise them or not, they’ll unconsciously steer their day like every other, blind to any opportunities for change.

The other way to wake up is to know that your mood is in your own control. You can have a calm Captain in both light and heavy seas. So don’t wake up and let chance decide the direction of the day. Remind yourself that your conscious choices will shape your day. You need to remember to be present for those choices.

Relax and Succeed - Try less to be with someoneThe first choice you can make is to actually provide yourself the sort of stimuli that makes it easy for you to feel good. For many, the handiest and surest way to accomplish this is the same way movies do it–with music. So you can find your own song, or you can use the one I’ve posted below. For my part, I chose something with a beat and a sound that I thought could work for readers around the globe, of any age, and leave them feeling just a little pumped up.

The point of this exercise is to demonstrate that to be spiritually responsible and psychologically healthy, we have to have those as conscious objectives and we must always be scanning the world around us for opportunities to move toward the sorts of influences and challenges that create joy and/or help us grow. To do that we need to feel vital and energetic.

I actually had a different song slated for this spot, but on Sunday I heard a singer I’d never heard before and I felt her song was a perfect fit to match my description of what I was looking for. I didn’t want to overdo it, but I wanted a beat and sound that could charge you up in a very mature and sophisticated way.

Her name is Erin Costelo, she’s from Nova Scotia, and this song is rather ironically called Low. It’s pretty groovy. Use it or whatever song helps you feel balanced, capable and enthusiastic about your own life. Learn to start your day like this every day. Make that a habit and you’ll have really helped yourself become more conscious all day long. Have a great week 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 Friday Dose #136

I haven’t done a Friday Dose in a while, but what I teach people has always been in pretty nice alignment with Dr. Gabor Maté. I recall early in his career he was seen as strange or even ridiculous, but I knew that he actually understood addictions and how the mind works far better than most other people.

If you’re a regular reader there is nothing here you wouldn’t have already read in thes Relax and Succeed pages many times before, but it’s a Friday, so sit back and relax for four minutes and have your mind expanded. And then and ask what that expansion means for your life.

You have a natural peaceful self. Don’t waste your life trying to change the part that isn’t the real you.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone.

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 7-5-3 Code

Yesterday I gave you some basic strategies to avoid having your irritations and frustrations evolve into anger. Today I’ll tell you the more challenging part, which is how to recover once you’re upset. Before I set the context, fair warning: you might find parts of this story difficult.

In life in general I do attempt to set myself up to do well under challenging circumstances by basically following the same code a Samurai would use for health. I will admit it’s been tough getting enough sleep in these last few years that have included caring for my parents–but I eat pretty well, I have natural exercise built into my life, and I actively care about myself and the world around me.

As this blog is a testament, I always seek and greatly value having a calm, clear, alert awareness in order to achieve a healthy emotional balance and the highest levels of performance. But I can’t do that all the time and the day I’m going to tell you about was preceded by a week of bad food, too little sleep, and a loss of awareness.

Work was extremely busy and it was a very critical time on a long project. My parents had a stomach flu and didn’t want to eat, and what they wanted to eat came right back out one end of them or the other. At 91 they don’t move fast so I was cleaning up all over the place and yes, it was super gross.

I was doing a lot of extra cleaning and wiping and fluid checking (during which I was washing up incessantly to try to avoid catching it too because that would even be worse). Since I generally cook for them and I wasn’t joining them in their dry toast, I wasn’t eating either. I was always often finishing so late that it prevented me from getting enough important work done and that made me think too much. It was a recipe for disaster.

A while ago we had to shift Dad to an adult diaper. It’s just a minor one, mostly for the 10% of the time where he quits peeing just a moment after he puts himself back into his shorts. In those cases you can say, “Dad you should change,” and after he finally hears you he’ll do it fine on his own.

But this day included the flu. I’d just sat down after cleaning up vomit in three different parts of the house when he very notably jumped up off the sofa and then shuffled faster than I’d seen him go since his last stroke. Look, this is where I’m just going to be candid. Dad’s got a liquified stomach, 91 year old legs trying to get him to a toilet 40 feet away, and along the way his only defense is a 91 year old asshole. It’s just not as snug as it was when he was younger, and it’s okay if you laugh.

Sure enough he couldn’t keep it together and whatever happened before I got the door opened I’m not sure, but to put it bluntly there was a lot of poo–including on Dad, the wall, the bathtub, everywhere. It smelled worse than anything I’d ever encountered in my life. I worked to hide my gagging from him.

This is where I felt myself start a rise. My mistake was, I wasn’t fully aware of my father’s vulnerable state or it easily would have moved me to active compassion. No, I made the experience about me, and so rather than being present with him I started thinking about how long it was going to take me to clean everything up.

Dad had his diaper back up and so I gave him a bag to put it in and I asked him to put on a new one. I got to cleaning the bathroom all while thinking about the uncompleted important work sitting on my desk. The smell was brutal, and now my stomach was starting to rumble too.

About halfway through cleaning the bathroom (I’ll save you the horrible details), I stopped thinking about me for a moment and that helped me realise that Dad can’t balance, and so he sits when he changes his pants. I looked at the mess and thought to myself, Dad went in there to change a dirty diaper…!

I leapt up, raced to his bedroom and sure enough, he’d stood up to pull off the old one. It was overfull and didn’t keep it’s contents together, so his ass is still covered in poo. And just as I came in–just after he drops the dirty diaper half on the floor and half into the bag I gave him–he does what’s logical to his Dementia-influenced mind and yes, he sat down on the bed to put on a new diaper. I tried to stop him but it was too late. It was awful. I snapped at him. “Great Dad. Now I’ve got to wash the bedding too!” It did not feel good to say.

I ordered (ordered!?) him back into the bathroom because I had to get him cleaned up before I finished cleaning the bathroom, floor and bed. I had already calmed myself down quite a bit by the time I was helping him get cleaned off. It was an extremely intimate moment for both of us. This wasn’t a baby who doesn’t understand what you’re doing for them. We’re both adults and it was the first time he’d needed that level of help in the bathroom. I could see the shame in his eyes–something I never saw before in my life. My heart immediately broke.

As I stopped thinking about me and started getting present with him and his vulnerability, my rectitude flooded back and I used courage to move past my own shame. I placed my hand warmly on my Dad’s naked back. I looked him in the eyes, and with open honesty and sincerity I said, “I’m sorry for getting upset Dad. You’re more important than my schedule. You’re my Dad and I love you. That was my fault. I’m sorry. I’m learning how to do all this Dementia stuff too. I’ll do better next time.” He liked that.

That helped me shift my own emotional tone even further, and the kindness and respect that I attempt to always to cultivate returned. As I wiped him off and he relaxed into his new reality, I looked him in the eye and we connected in a way we never have in all my life. He was saying thank you with his eyes in a very tender and loving way, and as I rubbed his back I warmly and lovingly responded, “You’re doing great Dad. You’re just sick that’s all. We’ll get through this together. I’m with you through this no matter what. You’ve been a great Dad. I love you and I’m here for you.”

He’ll forget it all happened in twenty minutes. But our experience was real. He started to offer an apology but I told him that it wasn’t necessary. He was sick and I was caring for him and I had not done my duty. My parents had been there for all of my gross kid-parts, I was not going to shy away from them when it was their turn to need the same care. He could count on me. And boy, could I see the comfort that last part gave him.

I cannot tell you how much I respect healthy, professional care workers who do these same things, with the same levels of compassion,  all for people who are entirely unknown to them. I now know how they’re able to do those very tough jobs; it’s because, just like everything else in life, if you’re willing to push past some really challenging feelings, you’ll end up experiencing important and meaningful things that too many people miss out on.

As gross and as challenging as it was, I now wouldn’t trade that day for anything. I wouldn’t trade the moment that Dad and I shared for anything. And I was happy to wash those sheets. Yes, I would be late getting work done and people were going to be upset. But my Dad was okay, and I’d been the person I most like to be; comforting. When I finally laid my head down on my pillow I went to sleep feeling like it had been a really good day.

You too can turn your worst days into your best. But it requires an awareness of the present moment and the ability to change your emotional tone by adjusting the focus of your mind. Practice both now. No matter who you are you’ll need it. And when you do, you’ll understand even more why it’s so important. Because if people behave according to their deepest feelings, loving someone in the trenches bonds a relationship together like nothing else.

peace. s

PS And if you’re wondering–yes–just as they were getting better I did actually catch the flu myself. 🙂

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 #135: Koselig, Gezellig and Hygge

1048-fd1-relax-and-succeed-koseligKoselig, Gezellig and Hygge? Remember them? To someone from outside Norway, Holland or Denmark these might seem like characters from The Lord of the Rings, but in fact these are ways to have your mindset positively impact your attitude. To boost winter happiness you could click on each of those links and have a quick read of one each morning from tomorrow to Monday.

Just the other day a place near me was literally the coldest place on Earth, at -33 degrees Celsius (-27F). Here, the average winter temperature is -11C (-12F), and we’ll usually get a snap below -25C for about a week a year. Negative people will often literally take the worst nighttime low they can find and they’ll add three extra months to it and then describe that as winter. Positive people would note that last winter ended in March and it was above zero right up until a week ago, so we might not be growing apples right now but we’re still doing extremely well.

Everyone adjusts to the weather where they live so cold is a different temperature every place. But we still have a choice of how we personally adjust to that external shift. Many continue to go outdoors in the winter due to an appreciation of nature that has a mental, physical and spiritual value that doesn’t change when it’s cold, it just manifests differently.

1048-fd2-relax-and-succeed-hyggeFor these people the outdoors becomes more of an excursion or adventure, and indoors is for recovery and gathering. Winter is for venturing out and then getting cozy for some cuddling and snuggling and nuzzling, whether it’s with a fire and a great book, your pet, some friends or family, or a quiet candlelit night sitting listening to audio, or maybe even another trip outside to see the Northern Lights if you’re able to.

If you think the weather decides your mood then you’re right. But if you think it doesn’t have to decide it, you’re right too. If you truly understand how things work then you’ll know you can be involved enough in your experiences that you can ensure that winter changes your attitude in a positive way yet again.

Have a wonderful day everyone. No matter what it looks like outside. Because if you’re going to let the weather turn your mood ugly then you are likely dooming and volunteering yourself to many days of unhappiness that are entirely unnecessary as is demonstrated by others who chose something different. Chose wisely.

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.

Holding Onto Peace

1042-relax-and-succeed-the-world-is-full-of-magic-thingsRemember I told you earlier this week about my friend going through the enlightenment process? As expected, he’s had to circle in after a few days for a debrief. He’s starting to understand that he really has changed; that the glow he felt that night isn’t going away. He’s worried he’ll forget, and yet he can feel that fear isn’t really founded on anything. He can already see his fearful thoughts arising and they seem harmless.

Why this is confusing to him is that he’s currently aware enough that his ego can tell him something but now he hears it from this new clear-headed perspective. He knows those are just thoughts. So he feels in his nature compelled to be afraid because that’s what his ego did with anything worthwhile; it worried he would lose it. He had some significant confidence suddenly removed from him at a young age, so it makes sense that he has a fear of repeating those feelings.

His weird challenge now is that he hears these voices that he used to always do battle with, except now the big, real part of him is no longer believing the story of weakness so rather than being the battle we’re thinking, we’re more detached. We’re more a witness to it.

1042-relax-and-succeed-the-mind-that-perceivesSo now my friend can see how his ego used to conjure pain for himself and he can see himself trying to do that same thing about losing his wisdom. But whenever he tries to go to the habitual fear he can no longer maintain his belief in that fear. He knows now it comes from thought. Reacting to it seems silly now. He’s just worried he might start reacting like he used to.

I actually told him he most certainly would. Being enlightened doesn’t get him all yin and no yang, it makes him accept the yang and yin as two sides to one valuable coin, rather than opposites. The difference now is he’s seen the full circle. Now, if he’s desiring all good things then he knows that’s ridiculous and rather than being lost in jealousy or envy or some other egotistical pursuit, he just looks at himself like some innocent kid wanting something impossible. Now he sees those actions the same way I do. They no longer make sense.

He can take his thoughts seriously for a while now. He can get lost in ego for chunks of time. But you can’t forget things you know. You know your name, you know how to multiply numbers and you know who your dog is. Those aren’t things you can forget. Well he can’t forget this either. He’s seen the universe at too fundamental a level. When he looks at anyone now, they all just look like people who are strangely acting as though other people see their internal thoughts.

1042-relax-and-succeed-whenever-anything-negative-happensHe can see everyone trying to reconcile everyone else to their perspective, yet he can also see that each perspective is a separate reality describing a different manifestation of their own thoughts, very much as if two LSD patients compared their trips. That’s essentially what egos do when they try to reconcile realities. It looks that weird when you’re healthy.

Once you’ve seen the truth you still have to practice it to have it alive in your life. But that’s not work, that’s less work that living through ego, but the awareness is a kind of effort at the start. Eventually it becomes more natural to be that peaceful.

Right now my friend feels like he’s on the greatest, happiest holiday ever, and when his ego does show up it just panics that he might not get to stay. I told him that’s part of his journey. But he actually understood me when I explained that now he’ll like problems because he’ll know they’re not real and all he’ll do with them is take them apart like puzzles. And that alone is infinitely less painful than trying to treat them like they’re an objective reality.

My friend is done. He’s learned that big lesson. He has the key to the big secret now. From here on in it’s just how much he uses that key. But just like he didn’t lose it from when he was a baby, he can’t ever really lose it now either. His struggles are now games. It’s just so good it’ll take him a while to believe that the universe really is that generous and beautiful. It’s important for you to remember dear reader, the one thing you do share with my friend and I, is that you live together with us in that generous universe. Your only job after that, is to appreciate that fact as much as we do. Why not start today? What’s good about right now?

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.

Shinrin-Yoku

967 Relax and Succeed - The earth has music for those who listenThere is a much easier way to deal with life than the ups and downs of the roller coaster that most people voluntarily climb onto every day. Everyone today has big problems and they’re looking for big sweeping solutions. The habit has become to seek some grand catharsis, or to see a doctor for an answer-all pill, or to come to someone like me in the hopes of suddenly finding clarity or enlightenment, as though it’s a quick cure and not a way to practice living.

It’s as though we collect rocks from every negative experience and we put them in our pockets and over time they weigh us down. We keep looking for someone outside of us to assume responsibility for all of our rocks when our low-consciousness finally notices that they’re really weighing us down. Enough rocks can really slow your progress. Then things can get really heavy and you can eventually find it difficult to even move, and if still nothing is done there can be physical consequences.

Another less-drastic option is to maintain your being and your life. That is to say, rather than battling disorder and disease you can instead nourish and nurture health. Whereas the battles tend to be ugly and have victims, the maintenance of health is often very enjoyable and rewarding. So you can collect rocks and then look for someone to dump a pile of them on, or you can go for a walk every day and drop a few out as you go, by yourself. That’s called empowerment.

Last year while working with an organisation that promoted both nature and wellness, I was surprised to learn they had never encountered the Japanese idea of shinrin-yoku. It literally means forest bathing. As I’ve noted in posts for years now, walks are not idle efforts. Careful scientific study has externally proven what anyone who spends time in nature knows internally: nature has an impact on us.

These impacts include things like pheromones given off by trees, the soothing quality of the sounds of running water, and even the general quality of the air because of course plants and trees are really the cleaning system for our atmosphere. Our exposure to nature also provides opportunities for unexpected experiences with other people and animals, which can be much richer experiences than just sightings.

When was the last time your bare feet touched the Earth off your own property or not on some beach? How often do you walk barefoot around the nature in your own neighbourhood? Kids used to climb dozens of trees and develop all sorts of useful spatial awareness skills but now there are many kids who have never even been allowed to attempt such a connection.

Touching a tree, smelling a flower, skipping stones on water, seeing the sunlight dapple in through the leaves; these are all very old very human experiences. To trap ourselves in a world of right angles, where everything is labeled and processed and pre-set is to live in an inhuman world. Comfort is not nature. Nature addresses both the outsides and the insides of us.

967 Relax and Succeed - Daily tip wanderI have been unable to walk through my nearby beloved ravine for about a week now. It’s rare that I’m so busy that I can’t create time for doing nothing but walking and breathing. I often do sessions walking through it and for good reason. If you don’t think nature has much value to your psychological and spiritual goals, I can assure you that anyone who spends a lot of time in nature will clearly indicate its value if it’s removed from their life. They will immediately start to feel weighed down by small amounts of stones that you’d never even notice in your busy world.

Go for a walk. Skip some of your own stones across a pond. Commune with a duck. Hug a tree. Wade in a creek. Because bringing a smartphone and looking for Pokemons is fine, but being distracted in nature is to miss the point. Your life is all about efficiency and sense and value but how does that look like it’s working for everyone?

People have never been more stressed. Meanwhile, if you pay attention to the mountain climbers, the naturalists, the hikers and the campers in your life they will all share a uniquely healthy spirit. That isn’t them being more successful than you as a person; that’s them being more connected to the world as an aspect of their own nature. You can do that too.

Forget concepts and roles and responsibilities. Join us. Join the universe. Find your own nature. And make sure you toss a few stones out every single day.

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 Friday Dose #119: The New Brain

963 FD Relax and Succeed - A beautiful lifeIn general people inside and outside of the sciences will tend to overestimate what is known versus what it is still unknown. It makes sense that brain researchers would feel they were studying a relatively well-known organ and yet earlier this year an entirely new, large and significant brain structure was discovered. Earlier this month they found out what it’s for.

Obviously if you’re social you will be in contact with more germs. So if you’re going to be near a lot of bacteria and viruses then it’s logical that your body would want you to have greater protection. It’s just that previously no one knew about the relationship between how you feel and how your immune system will work.

If you’re alone all the time there is little reason for you to need a robust immune system, much like someone who never lifts anything will have little reason to build up a robust set of muscles. Likewise, if you’re near people and you’re immune system is depressed, then it makes sense that your brain would encourage emotions that would make you less social. I’ve noted it in previous blogs, but until the last decade or so almost no one realised that being sad would lead to being sick. Now we know those observations were well-founded: being sad usually means being isolated and it’s likely the isolation that will lead to the health issues.

There is still much to be learned. Are your moods dictated more by your health or is your health dictated more by your moods? What we do know is they’re interconnected, so in the meantime the best thing you can go by is your own direct experience in life. Unless you’re somehow prevented from participating in your society, it’s a good sign if you’re mixing with others a lot, because now we know with even greater certainty that you will literally build the body that suits the life you live.

Decide who you want to be and the universe will do its best to cooperate with that. It all starts with you. 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.