Behind the Scenes

All of my friends are getting married and having kids and they’ve bought houses and have careers and I feel like I’m a big fat giant loser with no future but I can’t figure out how to change that. What should I do?

Stuck and Struggling

Dear Stuck,

The short answer to your question is no, I can’t help you. The good news is that you can. Note that you didn’t write, my friends are having happy enriching relationships with their spouses and children, and they have safe, secure and beautiful places to live while they pursue enriching, rewarding work that leads them to feel worthwhile. You left all the feelings out. You described 375 Relax and Succeed - The reason we strugglecircumstances not lives.

What if I rewrote it to say, My friends have all entered into contracts that have a 50% failure rate and even the ones that don’t fail still have seriously uncomfortable challenges associated with them. They’re also entering into long term commitments with very young and needy people who are very nearly all want and no appreciation, and those commitments leave them exhausted at the end of the day. They also have signed agreements that tie them to onerous institutions which provide terrible service and yet make powerful and uncompromising demands that are made that much more complex if the first contract I noted falls into that 50% fail category. On top of that they spend most of their waking time being told what to do by incompetent people who expect far more than they ever give. I have no idea how they survive it. I could write that because it’s just as likely my version’s just as accurate as yours. It all depends on how you look at it.

I couldn’t count the times I met someone single who pointed to someone else and envied their relationship only for us to later discover the marriage was horrible for one or both parties. Of course kids can bring enormous rewards that are impossible to quantify, but if you think every single set of parents doesn’t have days where they wish they were single and childless then you’re not really thinking about what their day to day life is like. Did you appreciate your 375 Relax and Succeed - Be thankful for what you haveparents when you were a kid? Only the most self-denying poser would claim that they never put their parents through some kind of regular hell as they learned about and discovered the world. That’s just part of the deal.

As for homes, ask anyone who’s owned a house long enough and they’ll explain it’s a money pit that constantly needs your time and attention and it’s largely what keeps you working for that slave master that most people have for a boss. You know the one—the one that thinks your work is more important than your life? Half the super highly-paid executives that hire me fantasize about being a barista for good reason. That’s not a job you can really take home with you. And that’s their fantasy. To be able to stop that job at the end of the day, but thanks to smartphones and uber-connectivity, there is no such thing as private time anymore. You’re expected to answer every ding that travels through the ether.

I’m not saying those things can’t lead to a wonderful and rewarding life. But what you’re doing is like looking at the scenes where James Bond is making out with the hot girl, or driving the hot car, or when he’s at the Monaco casino in a tux eating caviar. Let’s not forget he also gets shot at, beat up, nearly cut in two by a laser or blown to smithereens by a nuclear device. Those are all part of the same story. So your selective editing isn’t telling the whole story. Because if you take away the drama—if you take away the conflict and the overcoming of obstacles, then what you’re left with is the only kind of life that is a failure—and that’s one that’s been left completely unlived.375 Relax and Succeed - If you correct your mind

Forget comparisons. Forget competitions. Forget judgments about where you should be. The true value in life does not come from any of the things you mentioned because I can find you tons of people that don’t have any of those things and they’re still happy. But if you’re basing your happiness on the collection of things outside yourself, then you’re looking for happiness where the media has taught to look for it rather than from where it really comes from.

The only thing that can generate good feelings within you is appreciation. So whether you’re appreciating being married or single, or whether you’re appreciating having kids or having freedom, or appreciating a home or being able to travel, or whether you’re appreciating a job or the act of making a difference, it does not matter. It will be the appreciation that generates the good life, not the stuff or status.

Stop looking for symbols of happiness. Look for actual happiness instead. If you’re not blinded by the other stuff, it’s actually not so hard to see. So go enjoy your day for what it’s worth and forget all of the comparing. It’s that easy.

peace. s

Capitalism Versus Spirituality

Winner: 2015’s Blog of the Year #6

We have a constant ego-based structure in our society that will prohibit our spiritual development until we succeed in shifting our priorities away from personal individual gain and more toward collective well-being. Money was intended to act as a place-holder for labour. We could store someone’s labour in the idea of money, and then they could collect on their previous labour later, when they found something they wanted to have or experience.

246 Relax and Succeed - Advertising has us chasingEventually ideas like interest and fees came to exist and everything was disturbed because now it was possible to get the money without the labour. This evolved over time and eventually raced out of control. Because our ego has so many wants —and because advertising exists for the sole purpose of inflaming those wants– we have a culture that now urges people to place their personal wants ahead of the health of the tribe overall. This is a form of egoic disease that has the potential to be our ultimate downfall.

You cannot exist without others. No matter how many iDevices you own, no matter how many advertising slogans tell you that you’re important or special, no matter how much money you have you simply cannot live without other people. Can you grow or inspect or even prepare your own food? Can you generate electricity or fix your own machines? Can you clean your own water, or can you educate yourself, or perform an operation on yourself?

All of these things require cooperation and yet capitalism has told the lie that we benefit most from competition when modern science shows that cooperation is what we’re wired for. I’ll go along with the competitive advantage that to a degree. Boys running across a field might run quicker if they’re racing each other, but they don’t need an artificial, external imaginary reward like money or status for that to happen. They’ll do it naturally until we corrupt that with me-over-them thinking.

246 Relax and Succeed - Seven dangers to human virtueThe Tarahumara Indians are featured in the brilliant book Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall. They have zero violence in their culture, their diets are remarkably impressive, and they are the absolute best runners in the world. You can completely remove them from their experience—you can put them in cold weather, way above sea level, running in conditions that are entirely unfamiliar and yet they will still beat the best professional runners in the world quite easily. And how do they train? They don’t. They run for fun.

The Tarahumara run because they like it. And with that as their motivation: when they have “races,” they don’t recognize a winner. They’re like kids. Children are happy because happiness is the pursuit not the achievement. Adults in our cultures are unhappy because they have surrendered joy so instead they can work to close the gap regarding inequities in beauty, wealth, power and status. The Tarahumara prove that you can be an adult and still keep your priorities straight.

Why is Capitalism so insidious? Because it creates a falseness between us. Do you think it’s a coincidence it’s hard to find the contact us link on most commercial websites? Do you think they forgot to include a convenient number for you to call, or that they didn’t know to hire enough people to answer the phone?

246 Relax and Succeed - Your work is going to fillDo you think it’s an accident that a website screen frustratingly jumps around in an effort to encourage you into clicking an ad you actually have no interest in? Do you think those things like insurance on your purchase etc. got into your on-line shopping cart by accident? Do you think they want you to read their terms of use, or is it like your insurance forms and credit card agreements—where someone has put real effort into making it intentionally and intimidatingly long and confusing?

These are people’s jobs today! Their job is to irritate, trick, confuse and lie to their fellow man! Capitalism was supposed to be about making things better but the stock market and concepts like status have turned that into people wanting your money or they’ll make your life worse. Just one word: telemarketing. Is it any wonder everyone’s stressed? And then we all get on the roads at 5pm and drive home with all of these other people who’ve also been forced to do awful stressful things because someone was trying to trick their money away from them.

(Surprising Examples of How You’re Tricked Every Day)

Likewise, our personal interactions are sullied. In 90% of cases the clerk at the computer store will not love his job, so he will not recommend the best part to you he’ll recommend a workable part for which he is paid the biggest bonus. $4.99 is a lie—the thing is five dollars. Interest is money invented out of thin air and it has no relevant labour connected to it. And thanks to the stock market wanting 15% growth every year, a company can be seen to be failing even though it has experienced a 10% rise in profit. That’s simply silly.

246 Relax and Succeed - It is not enough to be busySo how do the Powers That Be suggest that 15% is achieved? By charging you 15% more, or by making your soup can 15% smaller, or by paying the farmers 15% less, or by adding in 15% more filler that isn’t good for you. It’s a losing game and that’s guaranteed by the rules. Growth (or winning) in a capitalistic market is created by providing less for more. Period.

As we age we become jaded by the falseness of life. We realize that many people we do business with are willing to use this system to get the money without the labour. Repairmen charging for work that isn’t done, food companies silently inserting less healthy ingredients and accountants looking the other way because something is profitable even though it is clearly not something we would have done to anyone we cared about. If you’re approving dumping effluent into a river because it saves money then you are profoundly removed from your spiritual nature because that is not something you would do without the egocentric attraction of money or success.

We usually recognize the falseness of the material, capitalistic world once we first face the notion that our time here is limited. People always say time is money, but they forget that money is also time. And if you’re busy making more money then you are missing out on the time you could otherwise be spending with those you love. And once you recognize that time is limited your ego begins to fall away and you begin to re-prioritize the world the way a healthy child would. You’ll pause to care for the suffering—your compassion will not be mitigated by any calculations of who gains or who loses. You’ll value joy and laughter and caring. And you’ll realize that the rest really is just stuff.

246 Relax and Succeed - What do you think is the secretCapitalism isn’t antithetical to spirituality. But it’s currently running contrary to it because it hinges on us forever wanting more. That constant pull on our society steals energy from the open, supportive loving that we would otherwise do. What do we do in emergencies? Do we ask the Tsunami/ Volcano/ Flood/ Hurricane/ victims if they have cash or do we send them what they need? Do we worry about who’s paying for a search and rescue team or do we act on our natural impulse? Do we think people with more money deserve better health or would we like to see any loved-one, no matter how wealthy, get the health care they need to stay happy and available to contribute to the lives of their loved ones?

Star Trek didn’t show people elevating themselves through their wealth or their clothing. That’s not how we fantasize our future. We fantasize that we’re past all of that. That we’ve risen above it. Okay, well what’s above trying to get things from each other? How about trying to give things to each other? After all, you didn’t see Captain Kirk sending a bill after he’d rescued another planet.

Yes, there is more wealth in the world. But there remains a lot of preventable suffering, we have deteriorating ecological conditions and we’re still willing to sell objects of death as a way of paying for the high life. We don’t even live like we believe what we claim to believe. So if you want the world to be a better place consider asking what you can give instead of what you can get. Let your life be your prayer.

246 Relax and Succeed - Ego EcoI was once in a little store on Salt Spring Island and I heard a lady ask how much a hand-made hat was. The owner asked what the woman thought it was worth and the woman said $25. The store owner agreed to the price and the lady left happy with not only the hat but also with the authenticity exhibited in the purchase itself. After she left and I asked the owner what she would have been happy with, she told me $15. And she didn’t even have to compete for the other $10 because the other lady obviously thought it was worth it.

Both women felt they had been given a gift. Now that’s a win-win. And yet, despite you believing me about what living this way has the potential to do, you still feel resistance—don’t you? You still want your stuff and you’ve got narratives to justify why. That’s okay. You’re hardly alone. Just remember: that is ego. You don’t have to rush out and kill it. But whenever you can, watch it. As you come to realize that it is the bane of your existence it’s power over you will slowly dissolve.

Go live as though you’re an integral part of the world you want to see created. Because it is your actions and the actions of those around you that will cause that to happen. Forget ego. Forget ownership. Forget wealth. Forget status. Instead, look at your life closely. For if you do that reflection honestly you will easily recognize that your most rewarding joys throughout your life have not come from what you got, but rather from what you gave.

peace. s

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

The Imaginary Bully

172 Relax and Succeed - The quicker we all realizeI’m a big fan of radio documentaries and magazine shows and one of my favourites is a show on CBC Radio One called Spark . They discuss how technology changes our personal experience, human interactions, and how those impact our direction as a society. A while back they were discussing a new trend which saw companies suing their own employees for what they or their friends post on social media, like facebook or twitter.

Say you’re an executive for some big corporation. Well don’t take your pants off at your buddy’s stag, because if someone posts a photo of it and a customer gets offended, the corporation you work for might sue you for hurting their reputation. Or lose a major customer by posting a tweet about how terrible this or that city is, and then have your employer sue you for the loss of business and/or its impact on their stock price. There was a lawyer on the show and she was suggesting that this is concept is reasonable because the company has a right to protect its value.

So… let me get this straight: Human Beings shouldn’t have fun and enjoy their lives because that might lower the value of the company they work for? Okay. I’ll entertain that idea. But let’s look closely at that.

172 Relax and Succeed - The only differenceSo first off, let’s define our terms. A “company” is a person in law, and yet of course this person does not actually exist. It is a legal construct—a basic agreement between people, much like money or the economy. A company is literally a thought we all agree to just like money is a delusion we all share that slips of paper can store the value of our work.

Money is just paper—and rarely even that these days. In fact, of all the money in the world, only about 10% of it is tangible, physical money. Most of it is just numbers in computers and on ledgers. But there’s no such thing as a number either. You can’t go into the desert and dig me up a Number Six. The value of money comes from the thinking we attach to the symbol, be it a piece of paper or numbers on a screen. Money is an idea.

That’s how billions and billions of dollars just vanishes from the economy relatively frequently. Money is an idea, just like time, temperature , justice and democracy are.  This also goes for the abstract idea of a company itself. Even though Walmart is a person-in-law, there is no actual thing that is Walmart.

If everyone on Earth dies and aliens land here, they cannot find Walmart. They can find buildings with the word Walmart written on them, and they can find contracts that say likewise, but the entity that is Walmart could not be found without people around to think it into existence each new moment. And even then, it wouldn’t exist for the aliens until they learned to think similar thoughts.

172 Relax and Succeed - One of the symptoms

Okay, so we have a company that is an idea, fighting to win profits which are represented by money, which is also an idea. So essentially, the woman in the radio piece was suggesting that living, breathing, life-experiencing Human Beings should subjugate their own personal freedom and essentially become slaves to those thought-based companies?! And they should do all of that to maintain the fictional value of a that fictional company/person in law, and yet all of those fictions were created by the slaves that are now subjugated to it!? Wow. We have met the enemy and he is us.

The casualness that the lawyer used in suggesting the validity of that idea was creepy. It’s not the blind corporate line that’s strange; it’s that she didn’t even notice that she had just put the needs of a fake human ahead of the needs of real ones.

If these are our priorities we should not hope for a better world. Seriously. How would that be possible if we’re more interested in maintaining our fictions than in feeding actual starving children? Would 30,000 kids be dying every day of simple treatable diseases if they lived in Germany, or Japan, or Australia? It is an odd thing that we would rather see our economy grow rather than let real human beings eat, or that companies stop people from dancing on tables with lamp shades on their heads.

We are volunteering for self-imposed slavery, where our master is an ethereal idea that we ourselves created. In so many ways it is unbelievable. It’s so, so, so crazy and yet almost everyone believes that world of symbols is real, which means belief in it appears to be sane. That’s why it’s hard for people get healthy. They keep getting advice from unconscious people who act like their illusions are real.

Meanwhile, the people who can see how ephemeral it all is appear to be the crazy ones. But better to be healthy than thought so. So what you? Are you really going to do this? Are you personally not going to grasp reality until you die? Are you going to move these invisible entities around and not actually live? Because living is a verb, it’s not the movement of symbols in our heads or in computer memory.

If you work too much, you won’t know that your spouse is more important than you job until you lose your spouse. Then how unimportant your job always was becomes clear, and you realize that you were just forced to think about your job more often, and that made it feel more important than needs at home. So stay conscious. Do not walk like a robot through a maze. Raise your awareness and work outside the box. Because you are the only person who really knows where you’re going anyway.

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.