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.


960 Relax and Succeed - Ikigai The reason to get up in the morningEven though they may not know the concept abstractly, when you listen to people discuss their work complaints they will always focus on where they can feel that their Ikigai has lost balance. The term is composed by compounding two ideas: iki which is to be alive; and kai, which is the worthwhile result of your being, otherwise stated as your reason for being, your motivation, or the meaning to your existence. Your raison d’etre. I’m sure you can feel the pull of that sensation just reading about it.

One way to help define Ikigai in your life is that it will not change in good times or in bad. Someone who loves firefighting will love it as much in the firehall as they will at a fire. A true writer will enjoy the research for their new book as much as they enjoy the writing of it. And almost everyone who works in a refugee camp will face daily tragedy and yet they continue with an enthusiasm and energy rarely seen in the corporate world.

Bruce Lee did it with martial arts, Prince did it with music, Kurosawa did it with film. My father did it with a roofing company. If that last one doesn’t seem to fit as well, that might point to your misunderstandings about its nature.

960 Relax and Succeed - IkigaiTo move around the concept; my father enjoyed earning his pay by doing the same level of work he would do on his own home. In doing so he would create value by making someone else’s home and property more secure and by providing for his own family. He also loved the feeling of great satisfaction that he took from his customer’s satisfaction, and in all the years he ran the company I can recall my father being taken advantage of twice, but I have no recollection at all of an unhappy customer. I also have no recollection of my father ever complaining about his job, he only preferred when it wasn’t raining so he could do it.

There is no shortage of unfulfilled office workers who derive no personal joy or meaning from their work. There is also no shortage of chronically poverty-stricken artists who have trouble finding or transmitting the value in what they do. Even among the “successful,” there are doctors who care and doctors who like expensive cars.

It is important to note, however, that the existence of a Porsche doesn’t translate to an absence of ikigai. Sometimes–but not always–great personal gain can come from the pursuit of our ikigai. But to the individual the gains will be irrelevant. If they were fantastically wealthy they would still pursue their ikigai; if they were not paid at all they would still do it with equal zeal. Wayne Dyer didn’t need money to motivated him, nor does Yo-Yo Ma. Once you are fed and sheltered nothing you can buy can offer more life satisfaction than your ikigai.

960 Relax and Succeed - These are free rangeLook at your life. Where is it out of balance? Because if you look at the stresses in this world they can easily be attributed to the fact that so many people are not balanced in this way. To do unfulfilling work with unappreciative people in a largely meaningless way is to court a type of death. It is one thing to make a beautiful cake that will be consumed only hours later in joy, and another thing altogether to make a cheap plastic toy that won’t survive the birthday party.

Today’s youth can sense the lack of ikigai in their parent’s lives. They feel the tension, the anger, the frustration and the lack of satisfaction. How many children in the world hear their parents discuss their life’s work with passion? What did you hear as a child, and if you have children what do they hear you communicate about your work? What emotional state would they most closely associate with your work?

You have not failed if you have not found your place yet. The journey itself is a honing process. But it is important to keep this concept in mind. Many people would never have taken promotions or jobs or would have never left the children in a day-home, etc. etc. etc. if they had paid more attention to the notion of ikigai.

Be still. Spend some real time meditating on this. You are not finding a mystery, you are realising your true self. You cannot get this wrong any more than you can get your favourite colour wrong. The only thing you can do is to never ask the question, which in a way is like never actually starting to live at all. It’s in you. Find it and release it. We’re waiting for you.

With love, 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.

Tatami Living

Birth. You wake up in a giant room that is so large you cannot see its end in any direction. The ceiling is too high to see and the infinite floor is comprised of simple weaved tatami mats. You’re not sure what direction you’re facing or where you are because your borders are unknown. Where are the walls? Will you live five years? Twenty-three? Forty-six? Seventy-one? 100?

792 Relax and Succeed - A life is but oneYou cannot know if one direction dead ends before another. The concept is too vast for your awareness. The only option is surrender. So what does surrender look like? Surrender is when you forget the room and just look at the next step. Each tatami will connect to many others. Your life is comprised of which ones you choose.

When you are a child you enthusiastically crawl aimlessly and happily across the mats motivated by nothing more than your own sense of self. You live with a sense of wonder about what you don’t know. And you are most often happy.

Eventually you are taught ideas. You learn concepts from other people like right and wrong and so you think you need to start to plan for the future. The very act of planning leads you to believe that such a future will exist. It is assumed there will be no deadly car accidents, no falls into a wheelchair, or divorces or just points where you’re just plain exhausted. You ignore those possibilities and start to think you can outthink the room itself.

792 Relax and Succeed - Remember the entrance doorYou start to believe you can beat this thing. That you can be smart enough, play your cards well enough, choose the right path through the tatami and somehow you’ll be saved from the wall. Maybe it’s being rich or being popular or maybe pious. And that belief leads you to come to expect certain outcomes, and an attachment to outcomes and expectations is not a healthy sign for your advanced spirituality. It is where disappointment is born.

Maybe you decide in your thoughts that you want no debt. Or more money. Maybe a better body. A boyfriend? Nicer boss? Nicer car? It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you forget the tatami you’re on and you start imagining one a long way away. And to get there you follow the instructions of others who have been there or claim to know where it is. Except they too have no idea where they started or what direction they were facing or where their borders were. So while their path may have worked for them you will have to do it originally. You cannot follow their path to get to their destination. Your path is yours and your destination is yours–unless you surrender it to egocentric desire.

It is fine to have a tatami preference and to choose to spend some time there when you find it, but searching for it means missing out on everything else. If your mind is on that destination tatami then it is not on the tatami you are on now. And that’s important because you need the real you to steer that other you so you can discover the tatami you’re looking for. Not find it. Discover it.

792 Relax and Succeed - Meditation nirvana silenceIt’s like a friend who spent half a day mixing paint trying to get the exact colour of orange she was imagining. She saw a fellow artist in the studio had mixed the exact tone. When she asked him how he found it he simply told her, I just kept mixing until I saw something that made me stop.

If you want to be a success in the ego world you know how. I know people whose bookshelves are filled with books on making money. That information is all over the place. Work hard, work smart, invest, be better, or marry rich, cheat, commit a crime–there’s many ways to get material success. But there’s loads of people with that success that killed themselves so that obviously can’t be the answer everyone’s really looking for. Who cares if you walk into the wall in Ralph Lauren if you’re miserable?

The happiest people I know are the ones who are still like children–they have no plan. Many are fantastically successful in the traditional sense too but that was never their aim. That wasn’t where they were trying to get. It was where they ended up after taking the steps they found rewarding. So you can plan to date someone or hope to earn this or that, but the happy people are foregoing planning for living. They simply looked around them and their next move is toward the most appealing tatami. It isn’t a step on the way to somewhere. That tatami is an experience unto itself. It should be chosen for itself.

792 Relax and Succeed - Nature does not hurrySo what’s all this tatami stuff mean in your real life? It means you want to avoid putting your career before your kids because your boss won’t visit you when you’re dying but your kids might (if you step on some loving mats). It means don’t waste singledom by waiting to date. Don’t squander extra meditation and calm-time by calling it waiting. It is just time. All else is a value judgment made using your thoughts.

So you don’t have to calculate which path is best. You don’t have to study and name and classify every tatami. All you have to do is look at the mats immediately in front of you and pick the one that is the easiest to appreciate as being worthwhile.

Forget where the walls are. Forget trying to beat the room. Forget trying to climb or race or achieve. Forget trying to get anywhere specific. It’s the how, not the where. Just be on the tatami you are on and step to the tatami that feels appealing next. All the rest is truly pointless rumination.

Have fun.

peace. s

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

The Friday Dose #57

630 FD Relax and Succeed - The most precious gift

Today’s Dose is a mixed bag, although all of it does relate to our pace of life to some degree. Let’s start at the New York Times, where Mandy Len Catron—a writing teacher at the University of British Columbia—wrote a pre-Valentines piece on falling in love. It’s probably an exercise that a lot of struggling couples would benefit from….

How to Fall in Love with Anyone


Next we’ll go to a—thankfully short—piece 😉 written by Anne Bogart on the nature of being busy and small changes you can make that will have a big impact on your life. It’s a subject I’ve written about many times but today there’s few things worthy of more discussion than trying to slow everyone back down to a speed at which they can actually live:

The Business of Busyness


Next we’ll have a look at what science has to say. I’m sorry to report that it’s confirming what I’ve been writing to you—you’re not actually multitasking and no your arguments of efficiency and effectiveness aren’t working. The pace of modern life is little more than a series of addictions. This will not change unless you make a conscious effort to do so. Delaying that change is tantamount to a slow suicide. You truly don’t need to work as much as you do. You need to see that time-stress as damaging as you would see working with chemicals, or radiation. You would know that limited exposure was wise. But with time you have no such limits—but you should. And if you don’t read this, won’t it just be because you’ll tell yourself that you don’t have the time…?

Why the Modern World is Bad for your Brain


And because that’s all rather intense, let’s finish on the antithesis of a fast-paced life and slow things right down. I have no idea why this has such a beautifully meditative quality, but when I would show it to friends and I would go to shut it off part way, they would always stop me, wanting to see more—which is a bit odd, interestingly enough, although I find I too am in this group that always watches it far longer than I would think I would. I suspect it’s because an aspect of my brain knows it’s intentionally grabbing that calm thought almost as a defence mechanism. Enjoy:


Have yourself a wonderful day. And think about slowing it down a bit, eh? You don’t succeed and then relax. You relax and succeed. 😉

peace. s

The Friday Dose is a collection of cool, interesting and surprising things that are chosen for their potential to distract you away from any painful thought loops that may currently be disrupting your sense of perspective. Save these for when you’re feeling low and you want to change your perspective. They’ll help Enjoy.