The Joy of Stable Instability

The world is a flowing, changing place and you keep looking for stability and certainty and victory. I’m sorry, but you can’t have any of those things unless you accept unpredictability, uncertainty and loss. What would one be without the other? How could you describe light if you couldn’t use dark– its opposite–as the main way to describe it?

You have this want, this desire to know. That’s how education and false ideas like right and wrong lead you astray with their illogical silliness. Yet all we really do is believe. And if the belief lasts for a very long time–even right from when it began until forever–we call it scientific. But eventually we’ll find a universe where even those truths won’t hold, and then it’ll be a qualified truth. There will be places where it’s not true. So that’s the real world. It’s uncertain. Can you understand that you’ll feel more stable if you accept its uncertainty?

A friend of mine is trying canoeing for the first time this weekend. She wondered if she should bring her dogs out for her first paddle since they’ll be going on a longer trip with her shortly. As a canoeist, I recommended just getting used to the boat first, and then introduce the unpredictability of the dogs. Otherwise, that’s adding a lot of skills at once.

She’s better to learn to feel stable even with the boat’s instability before she adds things that will decrease its stability even further. After all, it is long and narrow with a curved bottom on a slippery surface. And so it is with life. We’re better to have good balance before the boat starts rocking.

Today, it’s like everyone’s standing in a canoe, attempting to get their balance and avoiding life until they get it–only they learn their boat will sink before that will ever happen, and that’s when it dawns on them that the could have always gone for it, fallen in, and then climbed back in! It’s that simple; all every spiritual seeker wants to do is actually live with that attitude before they learn they’re going to die (BTW: you’re going to die).

What exactly are you worried about? Do the judgments other people have in their heads actually impact your life? Do they have some kind of super-villain ray-beam I’m not aware of? Can they, from a distance, control what chemicals your hypothalamus pumps out? Let’s see, tons of people thought tons of highly achieving people couldn’t achieve their goal, so, ahhh, nope. It turns out that it does not matter how hard someone laughs at you, you can still always climb back into a canoe. Do it enough times and people will respect your attitude no matter how many times you fall in.

Everyone’s misunderstood what winning is. Everyone wants ego wins. They want people to think highly of them. Hey, that’s a nice thing don’t get me wrong. But not if you have to trade your life for it. Healthy people are fine with not being liked. It makes sense to them. There’s people they don’t like either. Who wants to be forced to like someone? Real winning is when you enjoy your life. Then people know your presence is authentic. If you’re with them, they can know it’s because there’s nowhere else that you think is more worthwhile in this moment.

You’re exhausting me just watching you all strive like you’re weak and don’t belong. It’s crazy. You’re amazing and beautiful, but not to everyone. Maybe your tribe is even tiny. Who cares? There’s seven billion of us. Even tiny is big at that scale. How many people do you need to love you anyway? Isn’t a bunch enough? If you’re authentically yourself you’ll definitely find at least a bunch.

Be free. Stop apologising for yourself. Stop thinking you’re too weak or too small to handle the consequences of bigger actions. You don’t get ready for a job and then get the job, you get the job and then learn the job on the job. Learning to be different versions of you is just like that. So stop trying to know and start relaxing into some mystery. You’d be amazed at how relaxing and beautiful it can be.

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.

A Healthy Perspective

You can live or you can think. You can be or you can do. These are vastly different states. Everyone spends time in both, with little kids starting off in the super healthy camp and then we slowly coax them away from that and into the world of thought. Once you’re in that world you’ll have to meditate your way out.

992-relax-and-succeed-to-dare-is-to-lose-ones-footingThe fact that you’re naturally in from birth, plus the idea that we want to return to that later, is what gives our egos the idea that we’re lost when we’re outside of that healthy perspective. But there can’t be a found without a lost, so these two concepts are interdependent. It’s like the inside and outside of a cup. They exist only in conjunction with each other. To fill oneself with life one needs both parts. Someone who was born enlightened and died enlightened with no ego in between would have no knowledge of the idea of either enlightenment or ego. Explaining that would be like explaining water and ice to a fish.

Both of states exist within the world of consciousness. When you think of consciousness it might be better to think of it as a universal place. If you think of the ideas of the universe or unified field theory, or oneness or even God, then you’re getting close to the idea of consciousness. That’s the stage everything is taking place on, both for ego and enlightenment. But you can’t fall off that, it doesn’t even have an up and a down. So why not go for it?

When you were learning to walk you failed more than you moved. You tilted and toppled and fumbled and fell. And still you kept happily marching forward, adding your small bits of progress together until you could run. You couldn’t talk yet so you couldn’t build an ego to punish yourself with, so you learned to walk and talk shockingly fast for such complex tasks. Then you start over-thinking and you end up struggling with something much easier, like algebra or grammar.

992-relax-and-succeed-having-an-ego-is-likeYour ego did the struggling with your “tough subjects,” and by tough I mean the ones you told yourself you couldn’t do. Those fears of failure then prevented you from fully engaging the way you did with walking and talking. When you were learning to talk you were willing to loudly babble away incoherently in public, but by the time you’re older you’re afraid of “looking bad” (whatever that is), and so you don’t try. You won’t wobble, you won’t fall and you don’t grow. Worst, you don’t live deeply, you exist to ruminate shallowly.

People have survived amazing things and then gone on to more amazingness. Polio patients later won medals in the Olympics. Refugees have gone on to become world famous leaders. The bankrupt have gone on to create jobs. Each of us has these feats in us, but few enact them. Instead we think and think and think and that itself is an illness. It is dis-ease in its most basic form. You are unsettled in the universe, whereas when you were learning to walk there wasn’t even a you let alone a universe.

Let go. There’s nowhere to fall. Babe Ruth was also a strike-out king. Picasso painted more mistakes than famous works of art. Those who succeed aren’t any better than you. They just found their thing and they wobbled and tripped and fell their way into being the activity rather than doing the thing. Lose that idea of right and wrong, success and failure and start thinking in terms of quality of experience. Because that sensation is what your life is actually made of.

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.

Owning Happiness

962 Relax and Succeed - Trying to be happyLife is living. It’s a verb. An action. A motion that appears to move us through time. Possessions are inert. They are inactive. They are still. They are not life. Where it gets confusing is that adults will invest living into working, and then using their thoughts they will apply the value of the relevant work to the actual possession. So an expensive thing is worth something.

The problem is, parents live with kids and kids don’t do that addition of value until they start working. In a way this is one of the most important designations of adulthood that a person will experience. It’s why kids are often seen to be unappreciative. They don’t mean to be. They just can’t do the math yet.

How this difference in perspective leads to suffering is quite simple: a parent or parents works hard at their job(s), they contribute to their society through their taxes so that they have roads to drive on, airports and ports, food inspection, police, ambulance and fire services, public universities etc. etc., and in most countries, free hospitals and medical care as well. Part of what’s left goes towards necessities: food, shelter etc,–and then there’s the stuff we notice.

962 Relax and Succeed - I want to rememberIt’s easy to forget that we helped build a road, it’s a little easier to remember that we’ve paid our mortgage but we really remember buying that new car, or our nice new clothes or our new electronics. Those are the things that most commonly have our work-soul invested in them. These are the things that are choices. These are often given the most value via our thoughts.

Because kids don’t have any way of comprehending this relationship they live in an entirely separate reality from their parents. They can know their parents work and that they get pay that gets spent on things, but those are all abstract ideas until you’re actually at work, getting paid, and having to buy stuff. So to kids life is life and to their parents life has often been translated into their possessions.

Having a reality that is too possession-focused means that breakage, damage and devaluation become reasons to suffer. Someone broke a vase so you’re angry; someone left a mess in the kitchen and made it look less beautiful than in magazines so you’re frustrated; the car is damaged in a minor accident that could have been much worse and you’re scared about the costs.

962 Relax and Succeed - Good moms have sticky floorsIt is a reasonable stumble into ego for us to suddenly think a flurry of frustrated thoughts when something we have valued has its value reduced or lost. But that fact is why it’s so important to not immediately react whenever possible. Let the chemical storm pass, breathe and then respond from a larger context: is this something you’ll still be mad at a day from now? A week? A year?

Find the living in your life. As much as possible invest in the living; in the motion. By thinking less and being more you will find the world will help expose just what possessions will truly bring you the most value as well as how to understand that value in a larger context. More importantly, that internal quietness will also clearly expose the connections with others that truly give life its greatest value.

Have a wonderful day 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 Friend Test

930 Relax and Succeed - You are the average of the five peopleIf you’re looking for a litmus test to see how well you’re doing at life one of the best ones you have available would be to look at who you spend your time with. And I don’t mean their title, like your boyfriend, or your sister or your coach, I mean what they’re like in the world.

Do they cheat, manipulate for advantage, withhold important information, intentionally mislead others, do a lot of drugs, commit crimes, be violent, or be generally unkind or selfish? Then that is who they are. We are what we do. And so the meeting point between the characters of your closest companions will shape your new normal. Stay there long enough and that’s who you’ll become.

For this reason one of the healthiest things we can do is nurture our relationships with positive, healthy people. You still always want to feel like you could be happy on your own if that was the case, but in general the people you see the most often should be influencing your life toward growth, expansion and discovery.

930 Relax and Succeed - The people we surround ourselves withLife is this series of choices that feel like they’re about one thing when we make them. Later we often find out we were choosing more than we thought. You thought you chose your friends but in fact they were largely your friends because that’s who you went to school with. Proximity did most of it. Families move and kids make new friends. School ends, work starts and before you know it you mostly have a new set of friends. They’re far more incidental than we usually realize. Those few that travel with us throughout our life are the ones that are our deepest and truest friends.

So the deep and true friends are indicators of who you fundamentally are. The qualities that they have that attract you are indicators of your most defining values. Your more incidental friends are the indicators of how you’re behaving, not who you are. So if everyone leaves work to do drugs or go get drunk then that will create a different life than people who go to the gym or take classes.

Expansion is natural. Growth is inevitable. To even slow it down is so painful that people will usually need substances to numb the pain created by their resistance to be creative in the world. Unhealthy people are always hidden away, either wounded or doing things they’d prefer others didn’t see. Healthy people smile, they’re lives are full and they’re active. A lived life looks like it’s being lived.

930 Relax and Succeed - Make your lifeA lot of people slip onto a treadmill and their life becomes a steady uninspiring pattern. No one they know does much and they don’t either. There’s little new and rarely something to get genuinely excited about. Life does not have to be that way. There are people living it with zest and zeal. Not every minute of every day, but a lot of the time. They are moving toward life. They are taking chances, accepting challenges and pursuing their dreams. Where they end up doesn’t matter because it’s the going that matters, not where we go.

Look around your life. Ask yourself what it says about how you’re living. Ask if that’s how you want to be living and if it’s not, begin looking for things to change that will shift you more off balance; something that will require you to act to succeed. That is expansion: solving problems, creating things and friendships and experiencing moments of genuine joy. These things don’t happen by accident, they happen by intention. Take today, assess and then act with intention. Life has much to offer.

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.

Inspiration, Enthusiasm and Motivation

812 Relax and Succeed - I love being meInspiration. It has “in spirit” right in it. The root word behind enthusiasm means possessed by God. It’s a motivation; a stimulus to action. If these things aren’t in your life they should be. A friend and I made an entire feature film motivated by a desire to discuss the strange behaviour of many of our friends who went to jobs every single day that they hated.

I know bored people. Unmotivated people. Uninspired artists. Unenthusiastic participants and passionless parents.  But the truth is their spirits are simply not in motion. Every human being is a creation machine. Every day we build a life. You’re not just moving around some flesh and blood. Your existence is far more like the work of a novelist. You life is a story you create. People who have a lot of good days do so because they choose to. They’re intentional about it.

I’ve got other blog posts for people who are sad, this is for those of you who are just not in motion. You’re existing not living. You probably don’t even have to change jobs. But you do have get invested in your own life. You have to find ways to make your work matter.

812 Relax and Succeed - If you are happyMaybe you’re a security guard at a mall. You don’t make a lot of money, you can move a bit up the ladder, but really the value you’ll create in your life won’t be ego value it’ll be quality of life. Maybe you’ll always do your best to smile and make people feel welcome. Maybe you share your lunch and give dignity to some homeless person. Maybe you buy a little old lady coffee every day and let her waste your break telling her about her grandkids because you can tell it really matters. And you’re right–it does.

You have to find things that matter like that in your life. You need reasons. You need the sort of reason that easily gets you out of bed because you’re happy to live your own life. It’s a lot easier than you’re imagining. You think you have to go hike the Annapurna Trail or scuba dive through a famous wreck, or cross the Sahara on a camel or something, but all you have to do come alive within your own daily life.

You have no idea how fantastic an ordinary day is when your mind is filled with wonder. Have you looked at little kids faces? How exciting everything is? They jump up and down at sounds and colours and puppies. Every new person they meet might be their new friend. Learn from that. Have more wonder. Create more things, relationships and ideas without fear of reactions. Do it the way a great scientist finds something. He or she isn’t trying to get a million dollars from Sweden for a Nobel, the scientist is trying to solve the riddle. That’s their motivation.

812 Relax and Succeed - Be so happyIf you have kids I mean… just think about it. You created a human. You have to really stop and think sometimes. That was some cells inside you or your wife. And now it’s playing hockey or getting B- in math. Math? Those cells you tipped over like dominoes number one and two–those lead to something that can do math?!?! Seriously parents. They are only every age for one day. The next day, poof. Invest in that. That’s amazing.

Even if you don’t have kids. Maybe you’re a collector. A conversationalist. A buff. Maybe you have a job like law or politics where you can have an inspirational impact on others. Maybe you’re a great friend, or you run every day and you absolutely love it. Adding love to the world counts. It doesn’t matter what you do or where. What matters is that you do it, that you do it genuinely, and that you do it one moment at a time. Everything after that is just surfing the wave you get.

Come alive in your own life. Shake off your low expectations of it. Start to think like you did when you were five. What did you want to be then? What about that life appealed to you? Because it probably still does. So what’s its new form? Should you take skiing back up? Go back to school? Record your music? Actually start having heart to hearts with your kid? It doesn’t matter as long as you’re adding to the universe by being original. By taking original, authentic action that means something to you.

There are people who ventured out of the cave looking for new vistas. Some–more timid–stayed back and protected things. Too many people are acting like we need too much protecting. What we really need is more living. More alive-ness. Come on people.

Put on some music in the morning and dance as you get dressed. Listen to the comedy channel on your satellite radio. Add your laughter to the world. Or cook a great meal, go talk about that movie you saw, figure out a better process at work. As long as you’re expanding the universe you’re good.

Don’t leave your life unlived. That is the only thing it is possible to truly regret. Everything else is simply living.

peace, s

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