Senior Isolation

I had a horrifying realization the other day. It’s one of those things that you should spot right away because it’s right in front of you, but somehow even with all those clues I was maintaining an old and dangerous idea.

778 Relax and Succeed - It's the oldest story in the worldIf you were to ask me how my essentially never-unhappy father could possibly be depressed, I would answer that the only thing I could imagine doing that would be prolonged isolation. He just loves people too much. He loves to talk, he’s a great joker and he’s just a generally super-helpful person. And then it struck me.

There had been a bit of a pattern forming around Dad. I can always feel when one of those realizations is coming–it’s quite distinctive. A few times while I was over doing my daily visit I noticed that Dad wasn’t participating like he usually does. He hadn’t added many jokes lately. Just something was… off.  At first I attributed it to his stroke and then I realized that he looked sad for the first time in my life.

Sadness was so odd–so strange, so baffling–that it really stood out. And then I realized that through body language he’s told us what’s happening. He used to try to participate, but with his hearing aids that’s hard. We can use our brains and ears to hone in on individual speakers in a busy room but people with hearing aids generally can’t.

778 Relax and Succeed - The quietest roomThey aid delivers a different sound pattern to their brain than their ear did, and so they can’t do the filtering with their old wiring. And so my Dad–and I’m sure many others–eventually gave up. So now that he’s not making the effort we didn’t know we needed to change what we were doing. We have left him essentially alone in every room even if he’s with people. And I said, the only thing I can ever imagine making my Dad sad is if he can’t engage with the human beings he’s always loved so much.

The moment I realized that I was driving to my parents to play cards with my Dad. It’s one on one, he can hear me no problem, and he loves beating me at crib–which he often does. Two deals in and there’s my smiling Dad back, making jokes, teasing me, teasing my Mom and seeming younger and less like a stroke victim every hand. My only regret was that I couldn’t plan for it and I only had time for one game. But I’ll be playing against him again tomorrow.

I now know at family gatherings, my Dad hasn’t lost interest. It’s just too difficult. So from now on I’m his crowd-Sherpa. I’m going to lead him through those events so that he knows what’s going on. Even if it’s mostly just him and I–at least we can still have the same fun we always had.

778 Relax and Succeed - Remember that everyone you meetI don’t think older people would decline anywhere near as much if they were engaged with often. Too many institutional seniors homes look like warehouses and not enough like activity centers. We should stick playschools and kennels in the same facility as seniors and get all the love-sharers and fun-havers in one place.

When you see older people on the street remember: there is a lifetime of wisdom there. They’ve felt all the highs you’ve felt and all the lows too. As we age I think we like to think that things get easier but life is pretty consistently steep throughout all ages. A great attitude helps, but you might still have to carry your urine–or your lungs–in a container with you. Getting old is not for the weak. It’s some heavy lifting.

I’ve always been sensitive to seniors, but this situation with my Dad has really raised my awareness. So from this point forward I hope you will join me in trying to acknowledge and engage with more people who are not only younger than me, but older than me too.

We all have a lot to offer each day just by being ourselves. We should take more opportunities to do that. And we should make sure that wheelchairs, distorted voices or even hearing aids never get in the way of us being connected, generous and caring.

Have a wonderful day connected with everyone around you today.

peace. s

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

Other Perspectives #37

Winner: Scott’s Top Other Perspectives of 2014 #1

510 Relax and Succeed Rebuttal - Someday you will find the one

Orand here’s Scott being all harsh and everything again—or you might stay single your whole life. Yep. Sorry. Could happen. And you know what? That could easily be a wonderful, full, rich life filled with love and tenderness. But it still might not include a “permanent” relationship. In fact it’s that very concept that gets so many people in their 30’s and 40’s to throw away their lives while they analyze their existence against some impossible invented standard. Then they end up feeling like they’re failing when really they’re just being human. You’re not supposed to be in a relationship, you want to be in one. Well as this blog has clearly stated many times, wanting creates suffering whereas gratitude creates love. So it’s not the lack of a relationship that’s painful—it’s the fact that you want one. Stop waiting for your life to start after this or that event takes place. There is no destiny. You create it with the verb of your life. You have free will. Create a life. Make choices. Move forward. Live boldly. Do that and you will feel the love that is the basis of our universe, and there is no greater love than that.

peace. s

00 Relax and Succeed - Other Perspectives Footer

Blinded by Choice

When I divorced seven years ago I expected to be married and having kids within two or three years. I got obsessed with getting remarried but I went on so many bad dates with so many stupid horny guys that I have given up on the idea of being with someone. The challenge now is that I can’t decide what to do with all of this time in my life. Now that I can see all of these non-relationship choices I have I’m overwhelmed by them. I am scared. What if I pick the wrong thing? How do I figure out the right direction for me?

signed,
Blinded by Choice

433 Relax and Succeed - Maybe the journey isn't so much about becomingDear Choice,
(The person who wrote this was very self-conscious about their English and so they asked me to re-write the question, so that’s my phrasing not theirs.)

Okay, so when it comes to your “problem,” I believe this is what the term embarrassment of riches was meant for. I’m very happy to hear that you’ve started to look at what’s there rather than what you perceive as missing. Nothing is ever really missing. We just get attached to certain ideas of permanence and then we act like something is wrong when our ideas don’t align with the ongoing, roiling action-of-being that appears to us as the outside world. In the end nothing is permanent, the only question is, are we present for its transition or some aspect of that transition?

I will not lie: you have every ability to continue returning to that same old bundle of lonely thoughts for the rest of your life if that’s what you choose. You could re-live that identity forever and no one could do anything about your choice of thoughts but you. But you’ve got to ask yourself, why would you choosing those ones? I mean really; that’s worthy of some serious meditation. Because those thoughts hurt. So why choose to think them when they’re so incredibly painful?

433 Relax and Succeed - Find ecstasy within yourselfTo escape this cycle of painful thinking you don’t need a whole new life. You just need to live your current one more consciously. You don’t need some big decision and a grand master-plan for change. You just need to—moment by moment—choose thoughts and experiences that feel good rather than choosing ones that lead you to feel some form of suffering.

All thought-habits are basically addictions so I’m not going to pretend I’m doing anything other than getting you hooked on feeling good, but that’s how we made it here. That’s how mankind and every other animal got the way they are. That’s how the world works. You just move toward what feels good and it all jostles out. It doesn’t need us figuring out some over-arching plan. We just do our bit moment by moment.

Great lives aren’t lives of note. They are lives well lived. If some guy makes all kinds of sacrifices and as a result he wins an Oscar or a Nobel or a Pulitzer or a Tony, you can’t look at him and say, “Oh that guy’s successful. If I would have been as dedicated as him I could have done that.” That may be true. But why would you do that if that’s not what you felt compelled to do?

433 Relax and Succeed - So what if instead of thinking about solving your whole lifeFor all you know that “successful” guy could go home to a marriage that makes him want to club himself to death with his own awards. He could have a debilitating disease. Or a horrible sex life. Or ungrateful children. Or any number of things that would make his life not so impressive to live. It’s not how notable you are that dictates how good your life is. The only measure of a good life is the percentage of moments that were spent at peace or loving, as opposed to how many were spent in torment, or not-loving.

You don’t build a great life by making one that compares well to others. You live a great life by moving boldly and certainly toward your own interests. Don’t waste your precious existence on anything other than discovering all of the wonderful intersections between you and this remarkable world we co-create to live within. And you don’t need a big plan for that.

You just need to be fully in the moment you’re in and choose what feels right for you then. That will still leave you with challenges in life but at least this way you don’t overthink them, and it really is the thinking that’s painful not the living itself so live boldly and have fun.

peace and a big hug. 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.

Post-Divorce Loneliness

I left my husband about ten years ago and after five years of disastrous dating I gave up. I can survive not being married but I’m finding I’m spending a lot of time feeling really lonely. Do you have any good strategies for dealing with loneliness?

signed,
Single and Alone

Dear Single,

I’m sorry to hear you’re not enjoying your single life as much as you might. Let’s do something about that.

364 Relax and Succeed - The worst lonelinessFirstly, what do you mean by “gave up?” Do you imagine there are hard borders around such an activity? I mean, you can say you’ve given up, but if some awesome man crosses your path tomorrow and shows serious interest, I suspect this “gave up” stuff would be out the window. It might be more that you mean you’re backing away from trying to make that happen and what’s that’s left you with is your own company—which you find unsatisfying, ergo the loneliness.

So until you’re dead, you’re at least theoretically in the dating market. But that’s besides the point because your life isn’t made better by being with someone. If that was the case then you would have stayed or gotten back together with your husband. Your problem isn’t a relationship or no relationship, your issue is that you don’t enjoy your own company. I suspect other people will enjoy it more when you do too, so let’s focus on that.

Surely there are times where you feel like being alone. Everyone likes some time to themselves every now and then. So what is the difference between quality time alone and loneliness? Why does alone-time feel nourishing and positive sometimes, and empty and separated at others? It’s not the status of your relationship life—it’s the quality of your thinking.

If you’re busy using your thoughts to want to be with someone then your time alone will clash with that desire or wish or expectation and the chasm between that want and your present situation is where all of your good feelings disappear. But if you accept and appreciate your time to yourself—if you embrace it—then you will definitely generate positive feelings.

Remember, your happiness is not dependant on the outside world. Your happiness is entirely connected to your ability to appreciate. No one can stop you from appreciating except you. And even then, you have to tell yourself a provably false story to make that happen. You have to forgo all of the things that you could be happy about in order to facilitate you forcing your attention 364 Relax and Succeed - you cannot be lonelyonto what you want, which is company, or companionship, or even just an excuse to not-think wanting thoughts. But again, you don’t need to be distracted away from thinking about your alone-ness. You can just choose not to think those narratives into existence.

Learn to listen for them. There will be stories you’re telling yourself when you’re alone. Maybe you’ll think you’re a loser, or that you should be with someone by now, or how you wish that your day was different than it is. It doesn’t really matter what sad story you tell yourself, the point is that it is sad. Think sad thoughts, get sad feelings. Think angry thoughts, get angry feelings. Think lonely thoughts and get feelings of loneliness.

Learn your narratives. Listen to how self-centered and needy they are. Then shift them onto something better. The very unpleasantness of the feeling is the signalling system that tells you to change those thoughts. So use that to your advantage. You don’t feel the sad feeling and then tell yourself a story about how that feeling is okay because you’re alone and not with a man. If you get a sad feeling that’s a notification from your psychology that you’re using your thoughts to want rather than appreciate.

So don’t turn being alone into a big deal. Don’t pile thoughts on to thoughts—just breathe out and let it go. If you stop wanting things to be different, then what shows up is a kind of success that’s innate. It doesn’t need you to accomplish or be anything or with anybody. So rather than thinking about your alone-time as lonely, start thinking about it as something you chose. Live it as though you picked it. Because that attitude and approach is the only thing that can turn the acute pain of loneliness into the profound peace that is simply Being. And every single one of us was born to do that.

Breathe out. Embrace this moment without conditions. Go quiet inside. Simply Be, and joy will come to you whether you are alone or together.

peace. s

Scott’s Favourite Blog of 2013

267 Relax and Succeed - Can you rememberI find it challenging to listen to people running themselves down because all I see is beauty and amazingness. This blog post was originally written in response to me having listened to a student one day. We were just starting the process and she felt alone and unworthy and lost. And so I reminded her that there are no such things. These are merely stories well tell ourselves. We simply are where we are and we’re doing what we’re doing. All that judgment is just fluff in our consciousness. All I did was help her to quiet that internal narrator and in the ensuing silence she felt naturalwhich is to say: fantastic.

I was disturbed by the distance in her consciousness between her actual Being and her sense of herself. So when we got off the phone I immediately sat down to write this. And as soon as I was done I knew that it was—in my own view—the best piece of writing I’ve ever done on what is a very slippery subject for any kind of language. I believe the metaphors here are clear and concise and that virtually anyone would benefit from meditating on the ideas it contains. It was a pleasure writing it and I certainly hope you find it a pleasure to read. I know I’m very pleased to offer it to you as my personal favourite for Best Blog of the Year. Enjoy.

The Soul Kitchen

Do you feel guilty? Do you have regrets? Do you wish you could have done better? Do you wish you were different?

74 Relax and Succeed - The mind that perceives LimitationsLook at how disrespectful you are. The massive, roiling, infinite soup of the Universe assembles you from trillions of cells, made from trillions of atoms, made of trillions of Higgs Boson’s—or whatever metaphor you want to use—and you use the voice you were given to say back to the Universe, “Sorry, but this is weak work. You created a ‘faulty’ person that should change before it’s allowed to exist in peace. I’m sorry, but I cannot be happy with this sad state of affairs.”

Well now, aren’t you bold.

Imagine you are in God’s / Nature’s / the Universe’s kitchen—the place where the Universe comes into Being. Imagine that All-That-Is, is in fact a large pot of soup on God’s stove. This soup contains all that ever was and all that ever will be. Everything that exists in the space-time of the soup is always just reconstituted soup, just as the atoms that make up you are in fact bits of old stars and galaxies. You aren’t so much “You” as you are a collection of other bits that are currently cooperating to Be you. And when you die your personal thoughts will subside and the bits that are “you” will return back to the Universe to be reconstituted yet again, like ink returning to an inkwell, ready for a new story to be written.

Can you see in this analogy that it’s sort of silly for a little piece of the soup to suggest that it doesn’t belong or that it doesn’t fit in? What does it think “it” is? Does it think the cook can be wrong? This soup will be made for all of eternity. What exactly would define wrong in that sense? How can soup that’s all made of one ingredient have parts of itself suggesting that other parts of itself are wrong? You’re hilarious with your thoughts of separateness.

T267 Relax and Succeed - Love is the bridgehere was a terrific guru named Sydney Banks who passed away a few years ago. Syd was a wonderful man and like most true Guru’s he had his own unique way of imparting the universe to others. The Buddha talked about illusion, Lao Tzu talked about the Flow of Tao, Jesus talked about a lack of judgment, Abraham-Hicks talks about Belonging, Eckhart Tolle talks about Now, I talk about reality, and Sydney Banks talked about Mind, Thought, and Consciousness. Using this last metaphor, let’s look again at our soup.

Mind would be the soup itself. Everything is made of Mind. All that ever Is begins with Mind. And we could define our Consciousness as the ability to freeze soup. Consciousness can freeze the soup into anything. It’s not frozen soup itself—it’s the actual ability to freeze reality. It’s the act of freezing.

So it can freeze Soup into soft curvy shapes or it can shape Soup in to sharp angular ones, but the act of freezing doesn’t differentiate or judge—it simply freezes into existence whichever Thoughts you choose to think in your Now. Thought is what chooses the shape you freeze yourself into. Read that again: you take the open, infinite possibility of the Mind-soup, and you use the ability of your consciousness to freeze parts of the soup into whatever you “think” is you. So there isn’t so much a “You” as there is a part of the soup that’s currently frozen this way or that way, and it’s frozen that way by your thinking.

I’ve traveled a lot around the world and don’t take many photos, but when I look back at old photos I do have, I’ll often see “myself” frozen into a shape that I no longer am. Younger versions of myself entertained different thoughts about the world. The me of today would have a shape that would conflict with the me of yesterday. But the conflicts are irrelevant because it’s all Soup. What’s important is the fact that I used my consistent ability to freeze-think myself into existence and over the years I’ve chosen different shapes. Those shapes were who I said I “was.”

267 Relax and Succeed - I am not what happened to meDo you see how cute my identity is? This soup will be cooked for eternity. Eternity. Does it seem sensible that our little frozen part of the soup should imagine that it’s somehow wrong or faulty or otherwise undeserving of being a part of the soup? And which version of me gets to be the ultimate judge of the other versions of me?

Think about this some more. That frozen bit of you-ness is just the Soup of Mind, frozen by Freedom of Consciousness into the Identity and Experience of Thought. So the little ice-you that is made of soup is floating in the soup it’s made of and what it’s doing as it floats is it is telling stories to itself about its separateness—its aloneness; its desire to be reunited with The Soup. And it does this all while Being soup itself.

You have never been separate. You have never been alone. You have never been wrong or undeserving. You have merely thought all of those things. But when you stop your busy personal thinking what do you think happens? Do you cease to exist? Or do all of the parts of soup that came together to Be you simply melt back into the soup? That melting is in fact the act of connection. It is a meditation.

You are Enlightened every time you lose track of time. You do that because you are simply Being Soup rather than thinking yourself into a state of seeming separateness. In the end it doesn’t matter what shapes the soup is frozen into—it doesn’t matter if it’s frozen into peace, or into war, into marriage or divorce, into success or failure it’s all The Soup. It includes all Yin and Yang. But the important part is that The Soup is always The Soup. So stop trying to change it and just start tasting it instead. Because there was never anything wrong with the soup and so there can never be anything truly wrong with you.

Enjoy your day. You can’t go wrong.

I love you. s

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

Brothers and Sisters

259 Relax and Succeed - I see you
I’m fortunate enough to often find myself involved in a lot of fascinating conversations. I’m a bit Eastern European when I meet people—my conversation cuts to deeper issues almost immediately. It might surprise you how quickly and easily the average person can slip into a deeply philosophical state, and all with a virtual stranger.

In my case I suspect this is facilitated in large part by my sheer openness. I’m pretty okay with being vulnerable and I’m not big into value-based comparison or judgment, so I’m very accepting of pretty much anything and anyone and I think people can sense that. This openness recently paid interesting dividends when I had the opportunity to meet a man who was almost the exact opposite of me and yet at the very same time he was almost exactly the same.

He was married with children and he had emigrated from his home town half a world away, to my home town, Edmonton. I’m single with no kids, have been and lived all over the place and yet I live blocks from where I was born. He works in a highly technical field and I’m fundamentally an artist. And yet despite all of those differences, deep down he and I both knew we were the same.

259 Relax and Succeed - It is not a question

Think of yourself as a costume. The real you puts on an identity; a set of customs and clothes, a memory of a history, beliefs and values and other memorized knowledge. You zip this costume on and you say that character’s lines and you live that person’s life (unless you have amnesia). And yet the whole time you’re really just a spirit in a suit—a finger on the hand of God performing a play on God’s own stage. And God is energy and it simply Is and we are all vital aspects of that great isness.

We are one. And yet our egos perceive the world as though there are bunch of separate sheets of paper that have been stamped with a logo. The ego notices that the symbols are different, but what this gentleman and I noticed was that it was always the same God/Universe that did the stamping. Stamp it Canadian or stamp it Russian or stamp it Vietnamese, God did all the stamping. Stamp it rich or stamp it poor, God did all the stamping. And stamp it Christian or stamp it Muslim or stamp it Buddhist or stamp it by any other—God did the stamping. These differences are costumes. They are just ideas we think. If we were raised as babies to believe in something else, we would have done that just as innocently.

What this man and I shared was a clear understanding that everyone is an aspect of the same infinite entity. Call it God or call it The Universe or call it Higgs-Boson—it really doesn’t matter what you label it. Everyone is made of that substance or action or however you want to describe it, and the “it” is a verb. As D.T. Suzuki said, it is better to think of the soul as a principle. It’s something that is applied. It’s a motion. A verb in action. It is something that happens. And so for one aspect of this happening to hate another aspect of the very same happening just seems silly. It’s like your thumb hating your index finger. That’s how hate looks to those who can see past the costumes.

259 Relax and Succeed - I offer you peace

This awareness of our similarities all came out in about a 20 minute conversation. The other thing that came out is that both this man and I share the view that we can sense a tidal shift in the zeitgeist of our culture. Yes there are still wails of Consumerism and the big machine continues to grind along oblivious, but he and I both sense that people are tired. That they don’t want more they want peace. Yes, some are angry and fed-up. But most are exhausted from the arguing and opinions and battles and resentments and guilty feelings. People want to be embraced. They want to smile and laugh and then rest afterwards.

So maybe it’s time you gave some real thought to peeling off your costume, getting vulnerable with another person and really connecting. Because it’s a wonderful feeling. It really feels as though everyone you meet is your brother or your sister. Everyone is family. You love and you are loved. And the closeness feels good.

So even though this man and I were both wearing our respective costumes, we were able to signal to each other that we recognized our connection when we shared a smile. The connection was confirmed by sharing the secret handshake—which is a hug. And just to be sure, we gave each other the secret phrase: I care about you and what happens in your life.

Remember that just as this man and I experienced our connection, you too can do this any day, with anyone. Be open. Be vulnerable. And yet be confident in who and what you are—mistakes and all. Be comfortable with your youness. And in being so, don’t be afraid to have deep conversations and connections with anyone. After all, they’re all family. 😉

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 River of Life

Your ego is racing around trying to figure out how to fit in. It is striving and pleasing and explaining and convincing and arguing and otherwise struggling to be accepted. Meanwhile your spirit sits passively by, watching you chasing drama like you’re in a play. The real you is unperturbed by thoughts of non-belonging; it knows that a character in a dream fighting with another character in a dream is not something to be fixed, it is something to be understood.

115 Relax and Succeed - People may love youImagine a river filled with ice cubes. Differences between people are like the cubes jostling together as they make their way down that river. Yes they make a lot of noise and some might even fracture or break apart, but in the end does that really matter when the ice is made from the same thing as all the other ice? And that also means your cube is made of the same thing as the river itself.

Some cube-lives will melt much sooner than others because their path naturally takes them into the heat of the sun. Others will be kept cold and hard by their surroundings and they will not melt until the river meets the sea. But even then, all the cubes will always be made of water and they will always return to the sea. So why so much drama over the jostling on the way down?

Can you see that you are battling in a vain attempt to stop the flow of life? Saying I don’t want to be jostled by other ice cubes is to say I do not want to exist. Living is the act of being jostled by the flow of the river and the other cubes within it. You’re not supposed to escape it. You’re supposed to accept it. Because in the end, it’s all just water anyway. In the end, the river is is really the the motion of the cubes. People are other cubes, the slope is time and the length is life. When you relax into that it’s a fun ride. Even the scary parts.

115 Relax and Succeed - We are all onePeople criticizing you or teasing you or even hating you is nothing more than the click clack of cubes in the river. It shouldn’t surprise you that the currents and eddies of the larger river would naturally cause individual cubes to regularly meet each other sharply as they travel in opposing directions. But do we really think the river is doing something wrong when that happens? Should the river change its entire flow for the sake of one particular ice cube? Or are the cubes just doing what they would do given the forces acting upon them? And what’s it all really doesn’t matter because again: it’s all water in different states anyway.

Your consciousness will occasionally be low and you will feel the cold harshness of being an ice cube. The hard edges of your beliefs will clash with the hard edges of other people’s beliefs and life will feel cold and hard. Despite that sensation, the river is still the river and the flow is still moving steadily forward and you are always okay–none of these cubes are really any different than any of the others you’ve faced and all of the cubes will eventually melt back into the river to eventually evaporate and reincarnate as a rain or snow or fog and then do it all over again. So why worry or battle or fight or argue your way through it when it ends the same way regardless? It’s a smoother more rewarding ride if you simply go with the flow.

Other people’s views of you are created by the happen-stance angles of your interaction. They do not need to be fixed or repaired or cleared up or prevented or stopped. They are truly meaningless in the grand scheme of things. Accept that you will feel these impacts when they happen. They will cease to matter as long as you stay conscious of the fact that what you are experiencing is not actually your life. What you are experiencing is simply the flow of the river itself. Enjoy.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations around the world.