Success by Failure

Each of us will take a direction in life depending on who we see ourselves as. For some people this leads to obscurity, for others it leads to great fame, but fame should not be mistaken for success just because it’s more visible. That’s just their job. People’s personal lives will all share the same sorts of ups and downs, so we shouldn’t either lament that we aren’t famous, nor should we be jealous or envious of those who are.

Just the other night my parents were watching America’s Got Talent, and a young singer noted that to pursue his dream of being a famous singer, he left home and moved to New York and for a few years he slept on couch that smelled like cat for $30 a week. Britney Spears has had jobs since she was about eight years old. Olympians rarely see their friends so they can work out instead. And there’s only so many of us who think the result is worth that effort, just like some people don’t think cooking a fancy meal is worth the effort when they could just fuel up. We’re all different.

1207 Relax and Succeed - Believe in yourselfI remember I’d been working in film and television for about 10 years before the first time I ever heard anyone say that they wanted to “be famous,” rather than note what they would want to be famous for–as in the case above, where what he really wants to be is a singer, not famous. In my experience, the ones that want to be famous never have that cat-sofa dedication and they eventually surrender that idea for something that actually suits them better. In that way their failure is a success.

A very talented film student I taught wanted to be an A-list cinematographer on big budget superhero blockbusters. But after close to 10 years climbing his way up and seeing Hollywood work, he concluded that the reality of the job wasn’t what he wanted and he surrendered that and went to do smaller, but much more meaningful documentaries. And he’s much happier doing it.

Cases like the one noted are often seen as a failure by the person approaching the decision. All they feel is the separation from their previous identity. It feels like they surrendered in a bad or weak way, when it’s actually the smart or strong way. Once that student crested the hump into his new identity, he got to work at his new career and it turned out he loved it the way he’d assumed he would have loved the Hollywood blockbuster job. It wasn’t a fail. It was a discovery. You’ll make them your entire life.

As I’ve noted before, if you want to know where you’re at, imagine your life as a big continuous sine wave that completes each wave about every 7-9 years. At each peak you have slowly rewired your brain to be fully efficient at being that version of you. But of course, once you’ve maximized why continue? Been there done that, as the saying goes. And so it’s not really disappointment that disrupts success, it’s the inklings of our next success.

The sooner we start to embrace that downslope the shorter it gets–although it can never be fully removed, otherwise you can’t have your peaks either. This is why a Buddhist monk on a train once lead me to conclude his encapsulation of life: everything changes. If it’s good, enjoy it–it’ll get worse. And if it’s bad, don’t lament–it’ll get better.

Find where you are on your wave and surf that. It’ll include the pain of those downslopes, but wherever you are, wishing you were an an upslope is the literally the definition of suffering. But if you surrender instead, it’s actually flows pretty nicely.

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.

Training Day

You gotta serve somebody, as Bob Dylan said. That’s what the series The Sopranos is about. Even a championship team in sports only wins the right to have every other team try just a little bit harder against them next time they meet. So in the end, no one really wins, which is why it’s somewhat mindless for so many people to be looking for a life where they don’t lose.

The weird kids get teased by the cool kids, but those outsiders also tease the cool kids for being so predictable. The average kids huddle in the middle, just hoping to be accepted if they keep their head down. But you can’t waffle about who you are. People sense that inauthenticity and they tend to not trust or like it.

Meanwhile, the confident and motivated go off and become Kanye West, Johnny Depp or Mozart. None of them care what you think about them, they’re going to picks the songs or films that they really want to do as artists. Hilary didn’t climb Everest to impress you and me. He and these others were all climbing destinations within themselves. They were responding to their own natural drives rather than using their ego to talk them out of what they felt the urge to do.

Is it possible you’ve misunderstood resistance and they didn’t? What if it isn’t an impediment, or a block or something preventing you from succeeding? What if resistance is only there to strengthen and sharpen your abilities, much like Bruce Lee would use a sparring partner? He had someone fight against him as a form of training for going forward. This is a lesson worth paying attention to.

Rather than seeing difficulties in your life as problems blocking some predetermined success, imagine that your life is more like some video game, where you’re wandering around and the entire point of the game is that it randomly tosses you challenges to overcome as a way of advancing you through itself. How would difficult people appear then?

Start off with the idea that you do know what you should do and you’ll do it right up until you know you should do something else. Trust yourself. Then see any detours or challenges related to your goals as having been intentionally placed there by your trainers.

It’s as if you have a superior from James Bond and they start off your day saying, “Okay Jennifer, as you move through your day we’ve inserted several irritating and challenging interactions for you to help train your responses. Over time we’ll get your impervious to these sorts of things so that you can reserve your energy for what counts, so watch for them.”

If that was how it was set up you’d be totally okay with meeting irritating people. And why? Because you’d always be telling yourself, this person isn’t really like this, they’re just acting this way as a part of my training. So the very same irritating or troublesome behaviour would suddenly be okay because it had been rewritten in meaning within your consciousness. Nothing in the outside world changed, just your idea about it. Do you see now how the world is an illusion made of your thoughts?

An enlightened person is just someone who cannot shake the knowledge that this whole thing is going perfectly and that we’re all helpful players in each other’s games. That means everyone you meet is perfectly helping your execute your life and you’re helping them execute theirs. It’s all very peaceful when you just let it unfold without expectation or regret.

Stop pushing against life. That uncomfortable sensation is within your consciousness, it does not exist in the world without you creating it for yourself with your thoughts. Just allow things to be, even if they’re not ideal or even close to the way you’d want them. Be more accepting. Let more thoughts pass through you undiscussed or encountered. That is what it is to be free of suffering by accepting that there will always be suffering.

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.

Cooperative Opposition

The reason you worry about you and your life and I don’t, is because you think you’re a Jennifer or a Sam or a Julie, and I see the you that you are before your parents named you. You were still a being then. You were awake and aware. But you had no identity. You hadn’t been taught to be anyone yet, so you were simply present. So I’ll talk to Sara about Sara’s life, and I’ll engage in its dramas, but it’ll all feel a lit like TV to me. Like even if we get it wrong it’s only on a stage.

After the real you was born into your body, slowly people told you who you were. You were Kelsey, or a girl, or smart, or finicky. And you believed them, so you started watching the world less generally and more specifically. You weren’t going to be satisfied with any path now. Now you wanted your path.

Meanwhile, who’s learning all this? Who learned to be you? Where did the being go that was there before the name and definitions went on? Are you your name? The sum of your thoughts? Are you your brain; an accident of biology? A byproduct of electrical signals moving through cells? Or is that just more story you told yourself?

How would you know one way or the other anyway? Who would you ask? And how can you be sure they’re not misleading you or that they’re even real? You can’t. So what’s left? What do you do? It’s a reasonable question, but you’re asking the wrong person. I don’t mean by asking me, I mean the person that needs to exist before you could do something.

Doing is ego. Being is reality. As egos do, they are someone, somewhere and they accomplish or fail to accomplish something. All those some’s are definitions. Beings happen. They aren’t limited by definitions. They just are, so their being and their doing are unified. The thinker and the thoughts are unified. This is what it is to be in flow.

How this works in practice is that if you’re talking to someone there’s two reasons ways in which you can disagree with them. The first is when your ego feels uncomfortable being isolated from the other person. Your being knows you’re still linked, but your ego feels you need to reunify you, so you try to get them to agree with you, or it’s like they’re questioning your very existence. The problem is, their ego feels the same way. Hence arguments that can escalate and if not faced with clarity, will devolve into grudges. You can’t be clear-headed and have a grudge.

The other way is to not be opposed to them, but to be doing something entirely independently from them that includes them. So what your being is doing is that it’s exploring the universe and this other being is cooperating with you like two tentacles on one octopus, as I like to say.

When you hold a soup bowl in front of you, your hands work in opposition to accomplish a joint task that benefits both of you. So it is with debating spirits. They’re not against each other, they’re leveraging each other for the sake of mutual exploring. This is how both science and co-writing music should work.

You’re not attached to your idea, so the argument doesn’t get into personal ego-based personality, but you do act as a representative of a perspective. The other person represents another idea. And together you give each other a leg up until you both find a mutual way out of the cave they’re trapped in together. Viewed from a healthy perspective, a conflict done well can help expose more of the universe to us. Every time you were proven wrong your ego might have shrank, but your world got bigger.

Your mind isn’t in some location. It looks through your eyes and hears through your ears and touches with your fingers, but you are just a visitor in your body. You’re an avatar that is slowly realising that it is not itself, but rather the product of another unknown being that you act on behalf of.

The point isn’t to know who that other being is because that is unknowable. The point is to be grateful for being and then be. Your avatar can trip and fall, but the real you is always safe at home. So there’s no point in fighting with, or feeling uncomfortable around what are apparently opposing avatars. Just always remember that the being inside your avatar is the same one that’s in everyone else’s avatar, and that being is simply treating all of us like the arms of itself, as it works together to create a unified expansion of all of 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.

None of You

What do all of these quotes have in common? No matter who you are, you will be judged. Even if you get every step just right people will hate you, because they don’t see the you that you see, they see a different you. All of them see their own you relative to their own them. As I noted yesterday, your friends largely agree on essentially who you are–but so do your enemies.

So if you’re going to be judged that harshly even for doing a fantastic job at life (that is one of the ways to attract the most criticism, by the way), then what are you supposed to do? Yet if you stop to think about it: if it’s an absolute you’ll get judged either way regardless, then you might as well just be yourself. But who’s that???

That’s the tricky part. You have been told who to be for so long that it’s really hard for you to remember who you were at three years old, before you had an ego. You yak at yourself so much that you can’t even hear 99% of it and yet everything you say to yourself can only be programmed ideas jammed into whatever form the languages you know will permit. Your spirit lives your actual life, your ego labels it and discusses it.

Most of what your ego discusses is your performance compared to others. Maybe all others, maybe only one other, but there’s a real or theoretical person that you want to beat or be. You’re striving. You’re incomplete without this victory. You need to prove yourself to yourself. That’s ego. A spirit isn’t guessing. It knows.

If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of spirit just think of it as the thinker versus the thoughts. The former is your spirit and it conjures the latter, your ego, by creating it from words. People with missing identities are merely people who forgot who they were supposed to be, so they were an identity-less person. What an opportunity!

You have to respect how much conformity has been trained into you. Even you call certain people weird when really they’re just choosing a rarer or more harshly judged route through life, but it might be realer than your existence. Einstein looked pretty weird, remember?

1137 Relax and Succeed - The value of identityEinstein’s mind was so busy on the stuff he thought about that he would apparently sometimes absentmindedly give lectures in his wife’s pink bedroom slippers. If he wasn’t Einstein and you saw that you’d think he was weird. Surely students in non math or physics-related faculties did when they saw him on a campus.

But Einstein wasn’t trying to be impressive, or beat any other physicist in a competition. There was just this problem he wanted to solve…. He didn’t even get great at mathematics before he tackled it. He had no credentials. He just sat and imagined things. How dare he! Imagine that: can you believe the gall of that patent clerk to think that his imagination had a value….?!

Most people get criticised into shape. They act like a robot that was programmed by the people around them. Rather than sitting in their spouse’s slippers trying to figure out something important out, they perform a well-dressed, well-behaved character in the hopes of being liked. It’s just too small.

1137 Relax and Succeed - Get rid of the selfThey work jobs they dislike for money they need to look impressive or complete to others. They raise their kids according to their fears about other parent’s judgments. They spend their time in places their society says has value even if they totally feel unnatural there. Most people are egos living in fear rather than spirits living with possibility.

Free your Self from your yakking self. Stop listening to the words and start watching for your natural impulses. They’re still there. But you’ll need to actually listen to them before they’ll start speaking loud enough to drown out the crazy voices of ego.

Start now. Stay alert. Quell your voices. You only need to focus on the ego. If you shut that up, your spirit will show up all on its own. It’s always been there, it’s just been waiting for your ego to stop trying to be liked so that you can be your Self instead.

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: Sharing Kindness

There are a lot of ways for a person to communicate their connection to us. We’ve used things like patience and tolerance and compassion and appreciation, and today we’ll take on sharing.

It’s easy to forget that sharing is a form of connection. It often happens spontaneously, making it a good example of how effective our intuitions can be at guiding our lives. If no one’s using guilt as coercion, most people will share because it would feel strange not to. That wrong feeling inside of us is a divining rod for your spiritual future. It literally tells you who you are.

This is not to say we would all be sparked to share at the same time, for the same reasons, but each of us would feel that impulse at some point. Ignoring it will be disruptive to our relationship with the other person, and denying it would not feel good to us. This is where guilt can be a unifying, healthy force. If we don’t act on those feelings when they come to us organically, (as a result of the situation and not a demand), then we have sacrificed our sense of self. That never feels good.

Likewise, sharing out of contrived guilt also does not feel good. It feels like a connection being strained, not one being strengthened. Sharing must be sincere for it to be constructive, just as denying a sincere impulse to share will be destructive. I’m sure you could think back right now and find a couple examples of each situation in your memory.

Maybe you share their workload, maybe it’s your lunch. Maybe you take some blame on their behalf, maybe you sit with them to help share their pain. Maybe you just share some kind words with a stranger, or some time with a lonely senior. What you share isn’t as important as the sharing itself.

When sharing is done in that spontaneous way, you are in a way respecting your own internal motivations and those literally define the real you. Whether you tolerate them or test them, your limits are things you experience, they are not fences made of words. You feel it when you violate what you believe is right.

Today you want to live with open awareness. You want to simply open up to the world and let it happen around you, but your personal radar will be watching for a certain reading–you’re looking for a particular type of connection. You’ll feel it as a spiritual impulse. But normally, and by habit, you would normally strain the impulse through your personal psychology, and this is where ego can infect our spirit.

If the act of sharing requires a certain boldness, but you see yourself as shy, you’ll be tempted to stop yourself–but don’t. That’s exactly the kind of internal barrier we want to ignore. That form of egocentric self-protection is what keeps you from experiencing the glory of your personal relationships.

You are expansive. You don’t need protection, you have much to offer. Today is about offering it. Go find your opportunity. Have your connection to others be at the forefront of your mind. The impulses that arise from that state of confidence and connection can be trusted to be the very best parts of ourselves. It’s time to exercise them.

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: Redirecting Negativity

The March of Kindness is about making the world a kinder, safer, more loving space in which to thrive as a human being. We can do this by adding goodness to the world, but we can also accomplish this goal be removing negativity and replacing it with something more constructive.

We’re all too often willing to participate in gossip when we personally agree with it or view it as just idle conversation with friends or co-workers, but it’s far from idle. What people say about each other becomes their identity to a listener. And that can have extremely serious consequences.

If someone didn’t like someone else in high school and they end up getting a job at their company, the new person can be destroyed before they’ve even started because everyone’s been cued to only watch for pattern-matches to what they were previously told. We all say the odd dumb thing, but if people are on the lookout for that then suddenly the odd silly statement can turn into a person becoming dumb rather than just the statement, when in fact the person might be perfect for their job.

We’ve all been victims of it and it’s not like it improves as we age. Who hasn’t had a bitter ex spread lies about them? And the workplace can be just as vicious as the schoolyard. The way to identify gossip isn’t by whether you agree with it, it’s whether or not it’s negative.

If someone is commenting on or judging someone in any negative way then it’s gossip. Period. Unless you’re the person’s manager or teacher your personal opinion has no relevance to anyone but you, and even in the cases of managers and professors, the reasoning should be based on their alignment with the work, not with your personal feelings. A student or worker can be someone you’d never be friends with but that shouldn’t impact how you evaluate their work.

As the saying goes, loose lips sink ships. It’s not like gossip is a minor force in the world. It literally changes lives. It ruins companies and institutions, undermines science, and it can easily destroy lives. People have committed murder, suicide, vandalism and other horrible acts all based on gossip.

Talking is thinking out loud. Taking negatively about someone else is not healthy for the person doing the talking. It’s a sign of being locked into an ego-based, judgmental and superior perspective. The world is the world. It looks different to everyone. You’re not supposed to be going around poisoning other people’s views with yours. Your view is yours. Our personal opinions were never meant to be applied to the broader world. At our healthiest we should function from a position of principle, not opinion.

Today’s act in our March of Kindness is simply to spend the day actively listening for gossip. At work, at school, even at home and out. If someone offers a negative assessment of someone else, then our job is remind the people listening that there are other views. If they identify something they don’t like about the person, identify something you respect about them.

If someone says, Mindy’s always telling people what to do, you could add: We’re all different, and I don’t share her style of doing things, but I have noticed that what she wants people to do isn’t about her or anything selfish, her comments are usually focused on more or better work getting done. At minimum her heart’s in the right place.

Or if someone says, Did you hear that Jennifer’s dating Chris? What an idiot. You could respond, Well, we all like different kinds of people. Do we really want everyone judging who we love? I’m just glad they’re both happy. The idea is to take a negative and insert a positive. Double value if you normally would have agreed and joined in!

Don’t help sink someone else’s ship. Get your oar in the water and let’s make the world better by sharing more about what’s good about the world and less about what we don’t like about it. After all, mental health is really little more than having a rationally optimistic view of the world and the people in it. So let’s make gossip the enemy rather than people.

Have a great day 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.

MoK: The Powerful You

Surprise!

I know; I haven’t done posts on Saturdays in a few years but I owe you one from Friday. I appreciate your patience. First my parents were very ill with a stomach flu and then as soon as I got them through the worst of it I ended up catching it too. Once nice thing about being sick is that you really appreciate your everyday health a lot more, and that sense of grace helped me create, at least in my opinion, a particularly helpful post for you today.

When we’re struggling it’s natural for us to look for help. Our brain gets a lot of its base ideas from childhood, but that’s generally when our needs are necessarily met by others. As we age we progressively learn that we are much more capable than we imagine, and then as we decline near the end of life we return to a more childlike state of neediness.

Since very few infants read my blog, nor a huge amount of seniors, I tend to focus on the tough bits; the bits in the middle where we’re trying to discover our strengths and resiliencies. This is when a conflict arises between how you have seen the world versus how you will need to see before you can move forward. We all know this moments–these epiphanies–they’re those a-ha! moments where we suddenly realise we’ve been making a big, simple mistake.

Mistake is the right word because it’s not like you were making your life difficult on purpose. The mistake is generally thinking that there’s something wrong with us versus understanding that something is wrong with our perspective. Wanting to feel better is a perspective. Importantly, it’s a perspective that presumes that we need help.

Sure, sometimes we really do need help. Little kids want to do things themselves but often can’t, and seniors are often late in realising they need help. But those realities are very different from thinking we need help. Stephen Hawking obviously needs a lot of actual help, but he never would have become who he is by assuming he couldn’t do things. That’s easy for anyone to do. Even the most powerful, wealthy and beautiful people in the world face all the same human struggles and pains you do, they’re just better at hiding them.

Importantly, thinking we need help requires us to presume a state of weakness. We are reaching up. But what if this is where our mistake is? What if we’re assuming our childlike identity when it’s not the right tool for the job? And if an old identity isn’t going to help, and our current identity is experiencing struggle, then what’s required is a new identity.

As counter-intuitive as it seems at first, the answer to our wanting feelings is not for us to get what we want. That just reinforces the weak identity as being who we actually are, when what we need is to choose who to be. Wanting something implies first that there is a separate “me” and that there’s something missing, when neither is true. That’s just the subject-object nature of the conversations you have with yourself.

The way to feel better is to stop that conversation, and the way to do that is to stop making the assumption that your feelings are a result of the world rather than the result of your own thinking. So instead of listing our wants and needs to ourselves and others, we’re better to shift to not thinking about ourselves and instead focusing on the needs of others.

Even if you’re in a down state, you still have fantastic resources. Even your painful experiences are helpful to those going through those things right now. So even at your weakest you have a great deal to give. We can see this with babies. They’re 100% needy, and yet they get loved like crazy just for being. You’re actually still like that.

So this weekend, no matter what we feel our current state is, our assignment in the March of Kindness will be to feel stronger by finding a way to be generous. The important aspect of this is that you cannot generate generous feelings in the weak part of your mind.

By focusing on others you cease to create the troublesome, needy you and instead your mind is focused on the outside world. By taking generous action, you reinforce to yourself that you also contain strong identity, and strong identities tend not to review their problems, they’re too busy reviewing the strengths they have available.

Get out there today and be generous. Share yourself with others and feel more connected, worthwhile and powerful in the process. You can do a lot of little things or one big thing, but by doing either you add much more positivity to the world, you model healthy behaviour to others, and you prove to yourself that you are a multi-dimensional being with many forms. And if you’re aware of that truth, then no matter what state you’re in you know the answer isn’t to change the world, it’s to change 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.