Everyday Spirituality

Actually working to understand why ancient quotes can still be useful today is what this blog is all about. It’s not like drive-thru religion where you get a quick dose of spirituality without all the rules, and its not like traditional religion where following all the rules automatically leads to salvation regardless of the other deeds in your life–this is about those other deeds being your church. This is about you being dedicated to being human.

Reading quotes, finding one that vaguely applies to your situation and posting it on social media does not mean you’re pursuing your spirituality, it means your ego likes being seen as being spiritual. You can’t just dress the part, go to yoga and post the quotes; you have to ask yourself challenging questions. Questions like, what does the quote I posted really mean; or how can I take yoga from stretching and flexing into actual personal development?

The answer is meditation, but not the Ohmm meditation that monks do. You want to be like Siddhartha, sitting under the tree pondering why suffering exists. You want to ask yourself questions that don’t appear to have answers. You want to know how one wise guide can tell you to be peaceful by rejecting victory and loss, and yet another tells you that you can’t be balanced until you agree to lose.

The key is to understand desire. Desire requires a result. You’re after something. You have a specific outcome in mind and your life is oriented toward achieving that outcome. The problem with the outcome is that is that it’s theoretical. This is why even the slowest fifty year old is wiser than a someone in their early 20’s thinks they’ve found their answer.

You can’t have the answer because that will change as you become different people through your experiences. We tend to think we’ve found the answer when we find a route to the future that finally makes sense to us, but then we think we’re lost when our old answer doesn’t suit our new selves and we feel trapped or directionless. It’s not the answer that changed, it’s the person asking it.

It’s a constant rejuvenation process. That’s why they call it spiritual practice. But aging is like a church where you’re constantly delivered new real-life parables that need explaining. Why did that person try so hard to date you and then leave you? Why did you think this was your dream job and now you hate it? Why can’t you lose weight the way you want to? What is the definition of the word friend?

Over time we ask countless questions but we look for the answers outside of ourselves. We conclude either we are good and the ex is wrong, or we are faulty and they’re right; the dream job either has the wrong boss, or maybe you do really suck; you’re either mad at your mother for teaching you bad eating habits or you self-hate; and you conclude either that your ex friends are bad people or you conclude you’ve not been good enough. Winning and losing, winning and losing.

Even when you win, now you have to stay on top. That takes effort and you’ll be a different person sometime within the next eight or so years, so maybe that effort won’t seem wise. That’s because winning and losing are funny terms. They almost shouldn’t exist as static ideas. They only mean something in the moment you’re in.

If you listen to interviews with people over 50 years old, almost invariably you’ll hear them discuss their challenges more than their successes. They almost seem bored or uncomfortable with success because by then they’ve realised it’s largely chance. They also know that when you get there it doesn’t look like it did when you embarked on that journey.

After enough disappointing “wins” we start questioning the meaning of winning. If half of North American marriages end in divorce, then those marriages weren’t a dream come true; they devolved into a nightmare. But if you knew that at the time you wouldn’t have chosen it as your path. And yet as you age you realise that your marriage wasn’t wrong, it just didn’t work out long term. You still walk away with a better idea of what kind of person you’re really looking for in the future.

Victory and loss are tied together. If we live without the desire for a victory we cannot lose. We don’t need goals so much as targets. The getting there isn’t the point, it’s about being sanguine for as much as the journey as possible.

Victories and losses are judgments laid over top of events. Remove that static idea and the meaning of those moments can always change, meaning any defeat could become a victory, and any victory a defeat. Everything lives in potential. There’s no need to win now when we know can we live in a way that seeks value from all our interactions, even the ones we attempt to avoid.

peace. s

Discoveries in Gratitude

1100-relax-and-succeed-interrupt-anxiety-with-gratitudeA feeling of want cannot exist without thoughts of being incomplete. You want this relationship, this person, this thing, this job, this money, this respect, this opinion. But opinions are just thoughts. There is no point in even trying to manage someone’s history, or something as ephemeral as someone’s constantly adjusting perspective. Which means no one’s opinion is truly worth you even thinking about. It would change anyway.

Respect is worth little unless it is self-respect. Lots of people have respected others who committed horribly violent acts, but it is difficult to respect oneself when people either worship or fear you because both of those things are sublimation, not cooperation. They aren’t with you, they just don’t want to be against you. With self respect you can be all alone and you can still comfortably stand up for what you believe in.

Money is a proxy. It isn’t anything more than a storage device for the value of your work or maybe your family’s work (and if you own something, then everyone who works for you volunteers to give you a portion of their daily value). But even if you get lots of it, impressing someone with money or things is mistaking sizzle for steak. They aren’t impressed with you, they are impressed with what you can potentially do for them. Stop doing it and you’re back to being worth nothing to them because it was never you in the first place.

1100-relax-and-succeed-people-were-created-to-be-lovedNo matter how cool a job looks there are always downsides. What thing has only one side? You obviously can’t have an upside if there’s no downside. So famous musicians have to battle with who they can trust, or with drug and alcohol issues, or with always being away from home. Big business people spend a lot of their lives with lawyers and accountants. Little jobs have less power and pressure but they also have less control. Whatever you get you give something up. Managers are less likely to be able to use their status to leave early; they’re more likely to leave late.

Things are things. A new outfit doesn’t change who you are to anyone unless you’re very young, and even then…. Doctors can have their stethoscope and white coat ceremony when they enter med school but they know nothing more after they put it on than before. Lots of people are terrible drivers in beautiful cars. And cars get dated, clothes get dated, fads are group-think and they’re subject to constant change.

Which brings us significant people. When you’re living in ego, thinking your way through life; when someone moves away from you don’t see that as having to do with them, you think that’s about you. Your translation is that if they don’t want to be close to you that there’s something wrong with you, when just as many people leave personal relationships because they don’t feel good about themselves.

1100-relax-and-succeed-awareness-is-like-the-sunFinally, if one particular person doesn’t love you, then that does not leave you unloved, whether it’s a romantic relationship or even your own parents. Unloveable? Seriously. There’s over seven billion of us. There are only so many ways to be, so we would surely find millions who knew experiences like ours and who understood and loved us.

Today’s meditation is easy. If you’re working with a partner or partners then set a time to discuss your findings and then you have from now until then to find five things to be genuinely and significantly grateful for that you’ve previously taken for granted. Five things that you’ll share with your partner(s) at your prescribed time.

Remember, these have to be things you haven’t considered before. The idea is to expand your ability to enjoy life by getting you to see it as more expansive than you’ve previously realised. To do this it can only be you pushing out your own envelope, but it’s a pretty nice task to be asked to find things that please you.

1100-relax-and-succeed-thank-youThey’re always there. Find them. Seriously. If you don’t take this simple task seriously then you aren’t taking changing your life seriously–and that’s fine. But don’t avoid changing it and then complain. Either change it or keep it, but if you keep it then finding five things should extra easy. And remember, this is important. These exercises are all much more meaningful than you ego can appreciate. These are how you get to where you want to be.

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.

Understanding Your Raison D’être

1082-relax-and-succeed-we-are-stars-wrapped-in-skinDid you find what and who haunts you yesterday? For some it was easy and for others the specifics of their central truth was difficult to clarify, but almost everyone will have mistaken their gift for a problem.

In theatresports, a form of improv comedy, there is a terrible thing the host can do to a team and it is to leave them in space, with no surfaces for them to push off of to propel themselves. You can’t just put a performer on stage and say slow-motion! or astronaut! or nighttime! because that’s akin to saying be funny.  That is too much to ask of the performer.

You’re a soul. Your identity is the performer. So your identity needs some surfaces to triangulate off of to ensure you are free to go anywhere once you have intention. When we discussed the temari yesterday, we did a meditation designed to get you to find your temari frame; otherwise known as your problem, or… the framework that you push off to get where you’re going.

1082-relax-and-succeed-people-torture-themselvesSomeone who suffers from a mental illness is missing some surfaces and so their movement is limited and they have the potential to leap completely away. And someone with too many surfaces can be spun into meaninglessness by bouncing around inside them incessantly without ever going anywhere. Regardless of how sides we have, we all need somewhere to start. Even if all we’re going to be is in opposition of it, we need something to be in opposition of.

Without comparison we don’t exist. Existence is co-dependent. We had to be someone. Even if we became enlightened and could be a profound version of nobody, the world will make us someone through comparison. That is how egos work. They compare, value and judge. A man gave up everything but love and became Gandhi, and yet he was killed because someone else thought him evil.

Today’s meditation is to meditate on the relationship between your life and your villain. You’re looking for the links. Do not stop looking until you find one that surprises you. Only then are we somewhere new in your mind. Are you like Steve and did you become someone in opposition to someone, or were you inspired by one parent to wrap while the other built your frame? Or…” These last two days are very important. Make sure you do these meditations earnestly. You’ll be the winner.

1082-relax-and-succeed-we-assume-others-show-loveHow the outside world reacts to you during your life is no good sign of whether or not you’re on the right course. If that were true there’d be no Van Gogh’s. People’s reactions come from their identities which are versions of their egos. The only really good indicator is that divine, pure intelligent part of you that is connected to everything. That’s the feeling that caused you to fall in love inexplicably–but you knew. It’s like recognising your own child the first time you see them–but you knew. Well deep deep down, you know yourself like that because deep deep down you deserve love too.

The challenges you faced when you were young are not the harsh cold edges of the bane of your existence, they are the very framework on which the vine of your brilliance can wrap itself as as it grows and expands and flowers.

The frame is the frame and everyone has one. Comparing to see whose is worse is not the point. Discussing them is not the point. Understanding them is not the point. The wrapping of our frame is the point, because once you’re done wrapping your temari, you’ll be left with something beautiful: you. And that is how  the greatest villains in our lives can secretly become our saviours.

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.

Temari Passions

1081-relax-and-succeed-who-shaped-your-temari-2
Today is an important meditation. It took shape while I was recently listening to an interview with superstar DJ Steve Aoki, and it implied that the artist himself felt his massive success was largely just an attempt to please his Benihana-founding, National Wrestling Hall of Fame Dad. I love that! No wonder he’s known as the hardest working artist in EDM. And doesn’t that pose an interesting question about our own existence…?

Are you familiar with Temari? They originated in China, but today they’re primarily known as a Japanese toy that mothers make for their kids. You start by bundling up some old kimonos and then shaping them into a ball, although today people often buy rubber or plastic frames. Then you start weaving threads around them. The results can range from simple and straightforward to complex and colourful. They’re good metaphors for us.

(Keep in mind, I’m making all this up. I have no idea what Steve Aoki’s life is really like other than the fact that he dug Kraftwerk too. But for the purposes of this story he’s a metaphor for you, like the temari ball is a metaphor for our internal emptiness, so no offense to Steve. I loved his passion and he sounded genuinely interesting, awesome, happy and healthy.)

1081-relax-and-succeed-dear-musicSo let us say that Steve felt that he did not have his father’s love, although almost certainly he has/did all his life. This is an extremely common mistake for people to make. A lot of parents were taught that you’ll steal a child’s motivation if you congratulate them as though they’re done. So let us say that Steve’s perceived emptiness is like a hollow temari frame within him.

Steve sees the outline of father’s love but he is hurt and angry that his father hasn’t dedicated  more of himself to parenting him; to completing him. Left alone, Steve begins to have his own experiences, and like threads of different colours and lengths of time, those experiences begin to weave together within Steve, around the hollow frame.

As Steve develops the ball develops. As the weaves get denser some friends suggest he’s just suppressing the hollowness. Some question what he’s weaved. But others catch his attention by calling his weaves beautiful. This startles Steve. This cannot be. Steve is us, and no one thinks their lives are beautiful. They’re okay, but rarely do you find a person would call their life beautiful. (Okay, I do, but I told you this was a story.)

1081-relax-and-succeed-life-is-what-happened-to-youAs Steve weaves through his life he pays more attention. He notices that the frame has shaped what he created, but it also supported his creation and, more importantly, it hasn’t really limited it. In fact, the frame gave his chaotic ball of experiences some direction; some shape and some meaning. Some threads were bright and colourful and some dull or ugly, but all of them had combined to be the art of Steve’s life. It turned out that Steve’s reason for being was Steve’s own life!

Okay, so today’s meditation is a big one: what’s your frame? What are you trying to solve? Who do you want to say what? What do you want explained? What’s supposed to happen, or whatever else? What are you busying trying to accomplish while you’re actually actively weaving your own life? Who left you with your frame and what shape is it?

There is no way to divorce or move away from your frame. You just need to stop paying attention to the hollow and realise that it was never supposed to be full. You weren’t supposed to get rid of the sand, you were supposed to make a pearl. Find out what frame you have and who built it and then love that person. Because the passions in your life are in fact built around that misunderstood love.

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.

Emoji Emotions

You’d think with a picture there could be no confusion, right? An emoji is an emoji, right? Uh, no. Just like words are symbols an emoji is a symbol and despite what people think, these are not language-free methods of communications because culture forms from language and vice versa, so the variations in language also describe the variations in people.

1049-relax-and-succeed-cherry-blossom-emojiIn the first group of emoji’s to exist, the creators included the cherry blossom emoji that still exists, albeit in a much fancier form. I have a lot of readers in Boston. If one sister sent another sister a cherry blossom, someone from Boston would think one sister sent the other flowers at work. Awww.

If say, a Japanese boy sees his younger sister get a message from his older sister that included a cherry blossom; and because in Japan it represents the fragility of beauty and short life, he might take the context they’re all in and conclude that their older sister has just learned that their father’s cancer is indeed terminal.

1049-relax-and-succeed-how-something-appearsIf a Chinese schoolmate saw one of the two Chinese sisters she hangs around with and sister-one sent sister-two a cherry blossom, then the schoolmate may rightfully conclude from this symbol of female empowerment, freedom and sexuality that their friend did lose her virginity that weekend.

Not every Chinese or Japanese person would even do those things, and some non-Asians would if they lived there for long enough. Societies are big things filled with many small things.

From awww to death to sex?! Using one simple picture?! So, no; emojis are not universal communication systems. The only thing in the universe like that is love. Everything else is a lie in the big spiritual sense. It’s all an illusion created by our interpretations of things like light, which might be formed into an emoji that might lead us to feel happy, sad or excited, but all of that would have been created with love. Everything else is language. Everything.

1049-relax-and-succeed-we-dont-have-to-agreeThe most interesting parts of any culture is not the food, dances and clothing, it’s the way they see. It’s the vision that the food, dances and clothing came from. Some divide the world into male and female, some have words that are built around geography, others have words built around vegetation, or navigation. We’re all different.

We’re all interpretation machines. Giving us the same input we’ll all still come up with our own versions of the truth. And that larger truth, is the important truth to seek. There is no objectivity. Surrender. Begin accepting others realities as being as valid as your own and your life will improve.

Oh and don’t forget; all of this all applies to other people’s views of them and theirs of you too. 😉

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.

Releasing Motivation

1039-relax-and-succeed-you-have-been-criticisingThe reason artists are often called “crazy” is that the two states of creativity and insanity are really degrees of the same thing; few people talk to themselves more than artists need to, and more talking to yourself than that starts to get dangerously close to being lost in thought, otherwise known as “crazy.”

Most people have a boss with deadlines and job descriptions they have to fulfil so they can’t see how much that format is making them work, because even entrepreneurs know it’s much harder when there’s no external deadline imposed. But at least an entrepreneur has a client they’re servicing, but the reason they find marketing the hardest part is the same reason art’s difficult; there’s not only no boss, there’s no customer and the job is pure open space. As an artist you can’t even go to work until you decide how big your canvass should be.

Athletes might bemoan their hours spent training, but most artists would trade them that feeling for the agony of finding it difficult to create. I get a lot of mock hate-comments from artist friends who can’t figure out how I can do other writing and these pages every day by 7am. When your thoughts hold you back creating is very very hard indeed. I remember that sense well.

1039-relax-and-succeed-dont-think-about-making-artIt’s terrifying to start a piece of art because you have a lot of notable things to think about. You have big, public ways to fail. If you’re an author you’re probably comparing yourself to literally the very best people in the world. If you’re a painter you’re worried about $2,500 in paint and canvass you have to invest before you can even try to sell it. If you dance you’re worried about injuries and being a musician on the road has all sorts of potential pitfalls. It can easily make you crazy if you do too much thinking and too little creating.

We’re all such harsh critics. We could still have our opinions and yet talk to people with the approach we’d use with them a kid, where we’d have fewer expectations and where we’d want to be more encouraging. But as adults we make it painful to show personal things. We offer our negative opinion; our corrections. And even if they’ve paid us for that opinion, it still hurts them to hear voices of nonacceptance. And so creating art is hard. The climb is high and the fall feels long.

What’s important for the artist or any other person to remember is that these distances we’ve climbed and these heights we fall from all exist only within our imaginations. You’re not linear. You didn’t advance and then fall back; you expanded and then expanded again. The courage to create work is hard enough; the courage to show it publicly is even more precarious. These are victories not failures. These are what every great artist experiences. It is simply the act of moving past our fears and into an act of creation.

1039-relax-and-succeed-act-without-doingWe tend to think that when things are painful we must be doing something wrong but we only feel that way because there’s a cult of feeling good when in truth you wouldn’t even be able to sense feeling good without feeling bad to compare it to. So we must embrace feeling unsettled and wounded too, lest the art of our lives be shallow and hollow.

Artists spend very little time actually physically creating their art. What they do is spend time doing is observing life and then capturing poignant, worthwhile moments of it in art so that we too can benefit from their keen observations. Maybe they see something funny, maybe it’s what lead them to no longer be racist, it doesn’t matter; their only job is to place it in the world for us to find in the format we personally understand things in, whether that’s dance or painting or any other form.

Artists would benefit if they treated their art more like work, but before they can do that they must have enough respect for themselves that they actually feel genuinely motivated to live up to their own deadlines. If an artist is excited about what’s next then it makes sense that they’ll be excited to complete the project they’re working on, and that’s what gets the deadlines met; not a boss, not a date on a calendar–a genuine desire to finish so that more can be created. That’s a lesson the rest of the work-world can learn from successful artists.

Find what matters about your work even if that ends up being your co-workers having better days so they go home to their kids happier. As long as you feel genuinely motivated to create that positivity by doing what you’re doing, then the doing of it won’t feel much like work because it won’t be. It’ll be your life. It’s time you started actively living more of it. I’ll be better for 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 Fear of Work

There’s an idea afoot that there is some kind of disconnect between spirituality and hard work. It makes sense that younger people are seeking a way to work less and/or more meaningfully than their parent’s generation, but the fact remains that there are people of all ages that are avoiding the struggles that create expansion, increased strength and resiliency.

975 Relax and Succeed - As you work to spiritual advanceIt’s one thing for a person not to have kids because they don’t find themselves with common desires for children, but it’s another altogether for them to not want them because they’ll cramp their style, or be painful to give birth to, or because they require a lot of work. The idea that profound self-actualisation only happens when you focus on yourself is a myth created by misinterpretations of spiritual ideas. In fact the very desire for enlightenment has now become just another selfish personal goal.

I’ve said it many times: enlightenment is not a state it is an action. It is a verb, a motion, a way of being. What it doesn’t involve is self-reflection because in that state there is no self. You are simply doing/acting/being. So an enlightened person is not sitting idle in the lotus position having someone else attend to their daily needs, the truly enlightened person will be that happy, self-less person who generally needs very little and gets great satisfaction from bringing happiness, peace and comfort to others.

It is an entirely market-created ego-based idea that you get up at 10:00am, have a leisurely gourmet coffee before going to morning Yoga, then an organic lunch of tofu and beansprouts, and then finally sitting at your home-office desk at 1:00pm before checking social media for an hour, and then be distracted by notifications and texts and other interruptions “all day” before leaving at 4:00pm for a jog, the gym and a healthy dinner with red wine and cool friends at a jazz bar before pottery class that night. That’s an ad for coffee or Yoga or the gym, not enlightenment.

975 Relax and Succeed - Suffering is due entirely to clingingThere’s some who have wealthy enough external resources that they can live that life of leisure noted above but those are my addicted, lost and suicidal clients. The ones that have those resources and aren’t in trouble are the ones that act more like the group in service. They’re working hard, expanding themselves and they’re finding ways to contribute to those around them.

Then there’s many many many more who absolutely cannot afford to live that life of leisure but they try for too long and just end up buried in stressful debt because there’s little reason to think anyone was saved by some stroke of genius. Einstein read a lot about mathematics and he sat in that chair for a very very long time before he came up with E=MC2. You can’t look at a YouTube millionaire today and have that as a plan to support your spiritual growth because that success on YouTube will almost always demand that you appeal to ego a huge percentage of the time.

The real question is, how selfless were you today? Did you go through your day expanding your mind and body through work of some meaningful kind? Did you work hard and accomplish something? Did you gain a new skill? Did you help your fellow man? Do you act for charities, do you contribute, or are you just a protester?

975 Relax and Succeed - The art of being happyThere is nothing unspiritual or anti-enlightenment about getting up at 6:00am to work as a garbage man, or social worker or a lawyer or anything else. There is nothing unspiritual about raising kids and dealing with their mayhem and complications. It’s no coincidence that people who voluntarily choose a more difficult path end up with more capabilities, confidence and calm.

If you’re investing yourself in what has been sold as the spiritual life then it’s you that has sold out. The real enlightened people are working in refugee camps, they’re stay-at-home moms and tradesmen doing a hard day. If they write they write every day like it’s work. What you put in is what you get out. There’s nothing unspiritual about that and there is no path without suffering. So if you’re hiding from life you can stop and go live. Because it’s not a peaceful path that creates more peace, it’s a selfless path that creates connection and connection creates peace.

Look at your life. How much of it is aspirational dreaming and how much of it is motion forward? Because there’s a lot of stressful sitting still going on today and knowing the lotus position won’t help that. Enlightenment is a verb. Find your verb today. You can still wear your tights and you can still be a vegetarian, you just won’t get the reward without the sacrifice. So rather than avoiding hard work try running towards it, because it’s along the way that you’ll stumble into the peace that you’re currently searching so hard for.

peace. s

PS This was the least-read blog ever and bizarrely so. That fact prompted a popular response the next day. If you did agree to read this one then you probably stand to benefit less from the following one, but regardless they do work well as a pair.

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.

Conscious Communication

966 Relax and Succeed - Don't promise when you're happyThis quote offers good advice for whenever you are conscious and can prevent these things from happening. But that’s only half of it. If you don’t do these things in each and every moment that doesn’t doom you. It just helps if take how you’re feeling into account when you look at the world. The glasses you wear will colour everything.

A useful counterpoint to this quote is the idea that the rest of us should all stay aware of the fact that not everyone will be able to do this all the time. Even the wisest people will spend some time in ego. A friend recently noted that staying balanced can be likened to walking. As we step forward in life our left foot ego might stray a bit into the past, and our right foot ego might stray a bit into the future, but your aim is try to keep your head pretty much centred on the path.

Do take your feelings into account when you’re presenting something, but also take the other person’s feelings into account when you’re listening to them. People often don’t mean what they say but their words will still usually capture how they feel about something. It’s best not to take that personally because they’re reacting to how they see things, not how you see them. No one owes you pleasant emotional responses, you can only encourage them or discourage them.

966 Relax and Succeed - I don't forgive people because I'm weakHappy people will tend to underestimate the challenges that might be associated with a task. Don’t be surprised. Angry people who’ve been deserted in the past will often push others away as a test. Again, no surprise. If someone’s profoundly sad then their assessment of their situation may not recognise all of their opportunities. And why would they at that time? These are all examples of ways where our state of mind colours our perspective and they can all happen in normal, healthy people. If anything, everyone’s expectations are way too high.

Do your best to take your own feelings into account when you speak but, since there’s one of you and lots of everyone else, it helps a lot more if you can also listen to everyone else speak and take their state of mind into account too. Then their words seem less personal and about you. Rather than managing what they say you’re responding to how they said it. You stop seeing the words as just about the literal content and you start seeing the conversation as a shared experience that both you and the other person are independently having. This is where men and women often really get stuck because men are inclined to see conversation as data whereas women often see it as an emotional exchange.

If you can live with this awareness you can create a safe environment for your fellow human beings to feel their natural feelings. My best friend can be mad at her mother, she’ll call me and she can literally ask me if I’ll stand in for her mom and get some hell; or maybe she’ll ask me to join her in being angry about her Mom; or sometimes she just wants to be grumpy for a while. Whatever it is; no problem. I love her. She does the same from me. So her and I literally state it to each other if necessary: Here’s how you can help me. This emotion won’t last. Please be with me or share it with me until it passes.

966 Relax and Succeed - What is loveAs soon as someone gives you permission or the right or even better–the freedom to feel your human feelings, you feel safe. And if the feelings are negative you don’t feel as much of an urge to continue pedalling them with your thoughts. In effect the other person has already said, “if your behaviour can’t be good right now I’m okay with that for a while because I care about you. I can last through some angry language if that’s what will help you feel better.” It’s hard to stay in a dark place when someone is that openly loving.

My friend and I can never stay in a negative state for very long. We just lose all our negative energy. You can have this happen in your home too. Stop focusing on everyone living up to their word and being precise about their commitments and instead use communication to manage the energy in the room. If someone’s pinging then everyone else absorb. If someone’s in distress be fully present. There’s always a helpful response even if it’s concerned silence. The question is, in real time, will you ignore the words so that you can actually hear the meaning?

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.

peace. s

Ikigai

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.

Big Decisions: The Sequel

922 Relax and Succeed - Life is only a reflectionApparently a lot of you are facing some big decisions and you want the weight of them gone. Enough people have called or written to challenge the ideas presented by Alan Watts in the video from last week’s Friday Dose that I’ll use this week’s Dose day to offer a response. This will attempt to clarify why our decisions about how we live life aren’t as important as the decisions we make about how to look at the choices we’ve made or are making.

Every example I was given presented a very high-stakes dramatic version of a choice that would seem to define something as definitely good or bad. The differences in their chosen narratives pointed to the central fears each person would have. These hinged on either an “unjust” death or the removal of someone from people’s lives, or someone “betraying” someone else’s love in a central relationship like those between siblings, spouses, lovers, best friends or parents and children.

Simply because it’s easier to write about, I’ll use an example of someone dying because of a drunk driver. As many people posited: surely we could say that the killer made a bad decision to drive.

922 Relax and Succeed - We thought it wasIndeed it will feel appropriate to go through Kubler-Ross’s five stages of death immediately thereafter. There’s nothing “wrong” with that; that is merely the experience of a life. Like a roller coaster, its highs depend on its lows until eventually things start to level more as our momentum runs out. So that pain is enlightened pain. That’s why it’s so profound. You’re being with it in that moment fully. Those experiences are always bigger.

So on the day of the accident or shortly thereafter, if you felt compelled to label the decision to drink and drive you would say it was a bad one. But that compulsion is not a necessity. You didn’t have to label it and push against it. You could also accept it and be at peace because you understand the Buddhist concept of causality.

Zillions of things had to conspire for that accident to happen, so to blame it on the recent ones is an incomplete look at reality. If the Dad never beat the kid he would never have started drinking and the accident wouldn’t have happened. Otherwise it’s like saying the last goal in a one goal game is the “winning goal.” You needed all of them.

922 Relax and Succeed - Rather than spend eonsOnce everyone is dead there will be no one to remember the accident or maintain the “wrongness” about it. Will it still be wrong? This is what they mean when they say, “when a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?” Without being able to impact an individual’s expectations no conflict in life can exist. Like a wave is both trough and crest equally, “issues” exist for people wherever their expectations are impacted by reality.

So let us imagine that the brother of the victim was having a difficult life himself with alcohol. Racked with anger he used the death as motivation to change and he dedicates his life to curing alcoholics. But in that time he learned that drinkers aren’t drinkers, they’re someone with something in their past that they think too much about and they use the alcohol as a kind of sedative. It works temporarily until the depressive qualities kick in. He drank for the same reasons his brother did, and he ends up feeling sympathy for people like his brother’s killer.

And say the person who was killed had a family too. If we ask his wife, yes it hurt terribly at the time and she hated the driver of the car but, the truth is, after time passed she did meet another man and both she and her children had a better companion in their life. It was a horrible way to find one and thoughts about that make her feel guilty, but there’s no denying it improved her life overall. Maybe because of his accident they had to leave where they lived and emigrate for work and the kids have much safer, brighter futures now. Is the father’s death a bad thing then if his children miss him on special occasions or when they’re otherwise prompted to recall him in their memory?

922 Relax and Succeed - Do not let the behavior of othersDue to his drinking the victim’s parents feel the children are better off with his wife and new husband and since they are old and the children are their only legacy, they die happy that their lineage will go on. Plus, maybe even with enough life experience they come to realize how many times they personally were in a position to kill someone but didn’t more by fluke than plan–we all do this a lot as kids and almost everyone I know except me has driven drunk before. In that fact you can see the role of causality.

So the question becomes, if the person is missing but the total of happiness for all the people connected to him rose as a direct result, then is it a good or bad event? And when would you decide this judgment of good or bad and how long would it last? Because their life conditions could change again and the very same incident could lead to back to great bitterness. It’s up to the person doing the judgment of the event, which is Watt’s general point in the video below.

Our view of the past is constantly being rewritten based on what we believe on the day we recall it. If the person is in a good mood and grateful for their life, then they will be blackly grateful for the death. If they’re getting their car fixed because a drunk hit it, then they’ll be thinking that all drunks should just be shot. This is akin to the “sound of one hand clapping.” Without opposition to something there is no noise, no “emotional content.” Flow flows, conflict with flow claps.

922 Relax and Succeed - Let it beIt’s not that a decision can’t be called good or bad the moment it’s made, but that’s like taking a photo of a river and saying it’s a photo of the river rather than of one small section that this particular bit of water happened to be passing at this particular time. The water is you, the world around you is the shore. In short, life is made of facts and their context. Change the context and the fact gets changed too.

So this is what it is to flow: you endeavour to live in each moment without stopping to judge it. You move fluidly from experiencing this feeling to that feeling without every doubling back to reassess or reevaluate events. And if you do you realize the entire exercise is taking place not in the world but in your consciousness and that makes it both real and strangely harmless.

This is a very weird and persistent part of the illusion of reality. I hope this helped clarify more what Watt’s point was. Have a great weekend 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.