The Bucket List

1238 Relax and Succeed - It is pleasant to have been to a placeMuch like the film The Princess Bride, I’ve haven’t yet ran into any people who disliked The Bucket List after seeing it. As with anything I’m sure they’re out there, but most people of all ages find that it has a stellar cast, a excellent script that is both funny and touching, and the final production all comes together quite tightly. It’s a very moving but highly enjoyable experience if you haven’t experienced its rewards yet.

While studios vy for our attention with giant, effects-filled extravaganzas, it’s always been humorous to me that these simple stories, generated by boring, elderly people, are the ones that sneak up on us and become beloved. It is fitting that The Bucket List is deceptive about its value, because it’s a great lesson regarding a common human mistake.

The film features Morgan Freeman as a very plain but dedicated family man who works as a mechanic, but who reads about the world with the hope of one day seeing its wonders. In contrast, his hospital roommate is played by Jack Nicholson, the extremely wealthy man who owns the hospital they’re in, and who can go anywhere and do anything, but his life is otherwise empty. Where one man’s life has depth, the other’s is shallow.

1238 Relax and Succeed - We must let go of the life we have plannedJack Nicholson is living the life we all believe we want. He has wealth, power, and the beautiful companions he surrounds himself with are easy to come by. But he’s dealing with a potentially fatal disease regardless, and all of his control of the hospital cannot help. Meanwhile Freeman feels like he’s dying with his dreams left inside of him, unlived. Nicholson has money, Freeman has dreams, and so despite the laments of Freeman’s wife and family, the two men set off together to tick off the items on their respective bucket lists.

Freeman’s wife is shocked he would leave his family considering his condition and potentially short time, but Freeman cannot escape the fact that he feels unfulfilled; that his life has been too small. In contrast, Nicholson appears totally fulfilled, but as the film progresses and the two men are away from home longer and longer, Nicholson begins to question the value of his life, as does Freeman. Where the rich man sees little, the poor man begins to recognise his wealth.

This is the nature of getting lost. It’s necessary in order to be found. People haven’t ruined their lives when they feel incomplete at 35 years old. They are on their way, first away from the relative peace and security of innocence, and eventually to boomerang our way back to what matters. We appreciate life when we are young and very old, but in the middle we’ll often get caught thinking too much and trying to achieve. The film lets us play out our dreams to their logical end, whereas we usually stop at the objects of our desires.

1238 Relax and Succeed - Fall in loveMoney, travel, achievement nor power can hope to bring us the peace, connection and value that comes from our relationships with those around us. As the old saying goes, they don’t put luggage racks on hearses. We all only have so much time. Sure, there’s things we want. But how many of us would trade the value already in our lives to get it?

Take some time today to really check in with your values. If you had six months to live and someone offered you the chance to jet off with no complications, no worries, and no financial strain, to experience all of your material greatest dreams, would you trade what you already have? Would you sacrifice that precious time by being away? For anything at all?

Too often we do as the Morgan Freeman character does; we live rich and full lives wishing for a rich and full life. Take the time. Look for what matters. And if we find it, we should be grateful that we began to realise that value long before our final departure.

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.

Mountains of Motivation

1237 Relax and Succeed - Success did not give meOur egos have a desire for predictability precisely because they are created by the fixed ways of thinking that we have been subconsciously taught. Any impediment to our original direction is always seen in direct relation to that direction. It might create glee because we compare it favourably to our expectations, or it may create suffering via our unmet expectations.

The funny part about that process is that we have no clue what would really be good for us. Examples of this include things like; a person is dating person A, and then they happily see the appearance of person B as a positive diversion from their wedding plans from person A. The problem is that everyone thinks their marriage will be in the successful 50%, but despite the good feelings in that moment, marrying person B could very easily turn out to be a decision the person would be inclined to regret.

If we can’t know what is ultimately right for us, it seems fair to ask where should we go? But the reason that question seems more complicated than it really is that the common and correct answer is always met with a but….

1237 Relax and Succeed - Decide who you want to become

Those that do pursue their answer by pursuing their passions will then have people say they’re crazy or irresponsible. This applies as much to someone wanting to be a musician as it does to business genius who would rather raise children, or a great athlete he wants to be a carpenter. A job’s status or income does not make being married to someone financially secure and negative better than someone financially limping, but who’s very enjoyable or exciting to be around.

We shouldn’t assume that any emotion is negative, it’s how it’s used in a current context that demonstrates its value. The adrenaline rush of war can lead a former soldier to express rage in inappropriate contexts, but that same adrenaline addiction is what pushed a large group of war veterans to face the repeated attempts necessary to successfully scale Mount Everest. Again, it all depends on how our chemistry is applied.

Some might say that those men would have been better to be home and caring for their families and there’s a very good case to be made for that. Yet, if long term experience in war has tuned a person’s biology towards violence and extreme emotions, isn’t it reasonable that their reaction would not be the same as ours? And for the same reasons, namely our personal life experiences? Some of us will be healthiest knitting. Others will need to jump from airplanes. We should accept these differences.

1237 Relax and Succeed - Life is simply a series

Rather doing what some might, and joining therapy and make the slow biological switch back to different tendencies, does it not make a kind of sense that those former WWI soldiers might choose instead to invest their honestly earned intense temperament in something meaningful to who they were at that time? That they would follow the guidance of their experiences just as we follow ours? After all, there are many young people who should be grateful that a profoundly unprepared or poorly suited parent acted as they did. Desertion can be an extremely loving act.

Other than hurting others–which healthy people feel a natural inclination to avoid–people should feel free to pursue whatever emotions and motivations make sense to them, regardless of whether or not others from other perspectives deem it boring or insane. We all need to find the right context, and we may appear off balance to others, but if our soul feels good about it the results will do remarkable things; like like turn middle-aged angst into a soulful career, or an angry anti-establishment rebellion into something like The Beatles, or maybe even Nirvana.

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.

Surrendering Into Your Path

Life Reality Quotes Reality Quotes About Life | Quote AddictsYou’re busy trying to maintain or improve your life. Maybe you’re physically busy but a lack of time to plan means that you never get to arrange the moves that would save you. Or maybe you have too much time to plan and you procrastinate through over-consideration; you literally think yourself into non-action. Either way, it doesn’t seem like you’re moving forward. Or are you?

Goals provide can provide direction, but if the goal is too specific it can act as an unrealistic and therefore painful expectation. Your wants will be tied to your goals. And those wants will be painful if you assume your route to where you’re going is the straightest, most logical one. Sometimes it’ll be a crazy set of circumstances that lead you where you’re going without you even realising it.

Other times you’ll get the thing you aimed for and then wonder why you wanted it. Pretty much everyone who pursued a relationship (work or professional) that they left voluntarily will understand that feeling. It feels like you went the wrong way. But what exactly is wrong if there’s only so many feelings you can have? It’s not like any one route changes those. Those are about how you live, not where or with whom.

1231 Relax and Succeed - Our prayers should be for blessingJust as their are agonised people in every situation, there are also very contented people living in almost every circumstance you can imagine, including suffering from illness and living in poverty. The fact that that is true doesn’t have to prevent us from being motivated to easing suffering, but it does point to the fact that the externals of our lives are not what dictates a good or bad life experience. You can’t make decisions about your life that build a perfect life.

If you look more closely at, and meditate seriously upon your life, there’s no evidence whatsoever that you actually know which way your life should go. There’s been plenty of times you fought for something you didn’t ultimately want. There’s been times where you cast things aside that you later realised were extremely important to you. You do this all the time, every day, with big and little things. You just have to start being more conscious.

Within the next 24 hours, talk with a friend or even an acquaintance,. Help each other find the strongest example you can find of a time where you totally fought against some idea only to realise later that it was a profound gift. Then find a time where you were completely dismissive of something that had great value.

1231 Relax and Succeed - Forget trying to find your pathDon’t do this to beat yourself up as though you made a mistake though. Do this and truly contemplate that the thoughts you’re having today are just that; thoughts. They are now judgments about then. They are not reality, reality changes as you change. Even the past.

Study your the connection between your thoughts and your emotional experience of reality. Being conscious of that function is the only route to anything that could even remotely be called, “the good life.” It isn’t how it is. It’s how you’re taking it. Resist less, flow more.

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.

Hiding From Life

You’re sitting there terrified. You’re a little ball, crushed down by your own cruel judgments. You peek out at life, brushing against it here and there and feeling electrified, knowing it’s so much better than the little space you live in. But you don’t have the courage to venture out. You just feel too weak and too unprepared and too broken. You think many thoughts.

You know what’s weird? Successful people can’t figure that out. They are completely baffled by that. They are as confused by you as you are. You see, you see you as you, but they don’t. Successful people see people as people.

If you’re presenting as a weak person you would assume Einstein was Einstein and you were you so you’d never even try to be him, and yet a successful person would just think Einstein had a brain and he used it to study a subject, which is why there’s tons of students today that know more than even Einstein did. He may have been first to that subject, but that just made it all easier for the rest of us. Now there’s teachers. He had to teach himself. So give him creativity, but his brain couldn’t do more than yours, it just did more than yours.

So why should you care? Well, first off, you’re in agony. I’ve yet to meet the person who wouldn’t like a bigger more exciting life, no matter how small or big their life was. The only challenge for people who think small is their extremely low tolerance for routine psychology. Almost anything is too much. So rather than learn to turn down the volume on their own TV, the insanely shy person just never watches anything and is neither entertained nor informed. They literally miss out on life itself.

Why’s this matter? Because nothing matters. You’re not going anywhere. No one’s judging you. Heaven is an inkpot, you are a splash in that inkpot, and hell is forgetting that you’re always on your way to returning to heaven and rejoining everything and everyone that ever was. This is seriously far more like one long crazy dream than you’ve ever thought. In fact, it’s almost more honest to see your dreaming self as the real you, and your waking self as the asleep one. That’s how ego works. It wakes up in a world made of thinking and spends its life trying to escape.

So life is kind of like an escape room. It’s not like you’re really trapped, you’re getting out for sure, eventually, even if you do nothing. But why have the arc of your inkdrop sit in a room terrified? Literally, what are you avoiding other than happiness and joy? You’ve got worry and pain and agony in there with you. Why not break out? You just end up in a new room anyway. Figure out how to be 30 years old and they’ll lock you into the 40’s room. But it’s fun getting out.

Look, we have this hospital in Edmonton called The Stollery Children’s Hospital. It’s pretty obvious it’s filled with both tragic and heroic stories. But one thing I can assure you, is that some mother sitting bedside with her ten year old, with a child that may only live for another week–that mother knows the value of you sitting still.

That mother would give anything for her little girl to have the years you’re getting. You couldn’t blame her for finding it painful that you’d waste them hiding and not living, and yet your inclination is to hear that and beat yourself up even more. Do you see how you do it to yourself and that you’re actually free? Do you see how you forgo life to think those thoughts?

Life’s the biggest opportunity anyone get, and you got it and sick kids didn’t. That would be like me asking everyone to push me around on a wheelchair when I’m fine. It’s disrespectful to ourselves, others, and to the universe itself. Feeling that sense of ongoing respect for life itself is good for us. Life is the most fortunate opportunity anyone gets.

Give up on hiding. You’re only inviting agony and your space shrinks over time. Besides, it’s fun out here. You don’t watch an entire afternoon of kids playing and then focus on one skinned knee. That will obviously lead to unhappiness.

Think about what you’d do this week if you knew by next week you’d be in some North Korean prison, locked up in solitary for the rest of your life. Suddenly the few days you have left would be all the time you’d have to go all of those important places and eat all of those foods and listen to all of that music and see all of those important people and say all those important things you want to say. So say them. Far from dangerous, your vulnerability is what will create the connection you’re seeking.

Call me or someone else if you need to. It’s okay. You’ll be fine. Lots of us love you. But you have to come out so they can find you.

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 Value of Pain


It shows up at times where we’re thinking of others. That’s why we don’t notice its value. When we use our experiences with pain, it will be in some kind of compassionate act. To heal them is to heal ourselves when we feel that level of empathy. That is when we see another’s pain as our own. That is when we feel a sense of oneness with another person.

Let us immediately distinguish pain from suffering. Suffering is psychological and it leads to psychological pain, which is only just now becoming important for people to distinguish from physical pain. As I noted in yesterday’s post, relative to our cellular structure language is a very new creation. As a result, our body keeps reacting under the assumption that we’re in physical danger, when really we’re just worried about what someone will think of us on social media. Clearly those things should not been seen as equally important or meaningful.

While the same chemicals can get triggered, with physical pain it can take a long while to heal, whereas sincere efforts at understanding the structures of psychological suffering can quickly reduce it almost completely, and over time people can soon learn how to deeply love their own lives. But we gain access to loving it by trading away our psychological suffering in exchange for acceptance of the certainty that we will experience both physical and non-optional psychological pain.

Physical we’re already ready to accept, and to what degree we accept it is generally referred to as our pain threshold. But buying office supplies for our new job, signing our married name, imagining our life as someone different–these are all either hopeful or wildly hopeful fantasies. We’ll all do them sometimes, but that doesn’t make it wise. It just makes ego human.

There is no need nor benefit for us to spend a lot of time leaping into a made-up future to concoct expectations. We can just stay in the now, where we can actually take action to impact our future, and in doing so we become less likely to avoid causing ourselves future psychologically pain.

Non-optional psychological pain is when our circumstances have changed so suddenly and so drastically that we literally have brain wiring that just isn’t set up to manage it. It’s impossible to be someone and not take on a world view, but if you’re a soldier and you get your legs blown off, then you’re suddenly someone who needs a revised identity. Same for someone who goes broke, has a divorce, loses a job or through the death of a loved one.

The depth of our love with our loved ones relates to the level of pain we’ll experience when they die and our brain can no longer interact with them in the present. That’s why it still tries, often until death. I haven’t lost a parent yet, but I know a lot of people who still ask their deceased parents for advice all the time. They’re just wired into too much other stuff. Their beauty is that they’re literally hard to forget.

By living through very painful experiences, we become valuable to anyone else experiencing those things, and in a ways that could not be known by people who had never actually been in the same position. This is the basis of empathy: our own psychological and physical pain. And when we’ll feel its value is when we bestow our empathy on anyone whose pain we truly share. Having surrendered ourselves into a state of oneness, healing them is to heal ourselves. And that is the value of our pain.

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.