Old Laughs – Redux

219 Relax and Succeed - Always laugh when you can
I have been fortunate enough to have a lot of laughs in my lifetime. Thanks to my accident I’d realised by five that the only reason to be alive was to enjoy it. That made funny people very important to me and I sought them out at every turn. I thought my childhood best friend was funny. I thought the Icelandic friend I went to elementary school with was funny. The chubby guy I played floor hockey with was hilarious. The guy that lived upstairs from me at my old apartment is funny. My current favourite neighbour is funny. My dad is funny. Laughs are important.

What’s the point Scott?

(sorry.)

Okay, so despite a life with all those and many more funny friends, and despite great comedians and comedies, and despite every other funny thing that’s happened to me, one of the funniest moments of my life came from the strangest source—the person wasn’t even trying to be funny. Now don’t see this as some big setup. You won’t find it funny at all. You would have had to have heard it, and even then you would still have to note the subtle shift in the voices before you’d think it was funny.

My work often has me up very late and when I am,I often listen to CBC One’s overnight programming, which includes broadcasts from across Canada and around the world. They’re all excellent shows and I thoroughly enjoy them. One of the shows features a host I find particularly good. He’s funny, smart, widely studied, and dare I say even profoundly compassionate when the interview calls for it (he did one of the best I’ve ever heard). But the night in question was not his shining moment.

219 Relax and Succeed - If it doesn't make you happy
He was interviewing the first man to fly a solar aircraft a significant distance (maybe it was across America?). The host asked a lot of smart questions and then he seemed to pause as though he may have lost where he was in his notes. He threw out a rather abrupt question, “Is the aircraft a propeller kind, or a jet?” and I absolutely exploded with laughter.

I know to some people this may seem like a legitimate question because they have no idea how radio or jets work, but I know how they work, well enough that, to me , it was as though the host had said, “What fuel does your engine run on, forks or rabbits?” The fact that it was still after editing indicates he needed those question for the interview. We’ve all been trapped by our own mistakes like that. I cannot fully explain why, but this question would for some very cool reasons, be one of the top five funniest things I’d ever heard in my life. But here’s the thing….

The reason I’m writing this is that the same host is doing his show as I write this. And he happened to be interviewing someone who reminded me of that pilot. Think of that word: Re-minded. As in, “put back into my mind.” The moment I shot some ATP electricity through that particular circuit of my brain again, I loaded some charge into my memory of the previous experience. As soon as I thought of it, the absurdity (that’s what makes us laugh) of the statement hit me the very same way it did the first time, and I once again exploded in laughter just like I do every time I think of him saying that.

Do you get it? It’s just as funny as a memory. Or just as sad. Or just as scary. You’re where you’re thoughts are. Your mood is dictated by what you think. You were in a mood when you started reading this. But as you read it you thought about what I asked you, or encouraged you, or wrote you into thinking. So you felt what I lead you to feel. That’s the fundamental journey artists take their audiences on as their work: translations of experience.

219 Relax and Succeed - I am still determined
If your experience with my words was interrupted by your own thoughts, you would have felt other emotions that would depend on the nature of the interruption. Some might have made you excited and happy, and other interruptions can be irritating and troublesome. But the point is, the experience of your life will be the judgments you make, so you have to get serious about making those judgments conscious. You have to be responsible with your thinking.

Trust me, this is the best trade-off you’ll ever make. Just don’t be an Ego. Monitor your thinking. Choose the direction of your thoughts. Don’t live out of blind habit. Because you can laugh anytime you want. You just have to fully invest yourself in thinking about something funny.

This isn’t something you learn. It’s something you practice. Practice laughing by going to places where you are likely to laugh. Practice switching from other states of mind into a funny head-space whenever you can. The more you do it, the better you’ll get at it. Eventually you’ll be able to turn former fights into exchanges of sarcastic wit layered with a dose of humility. But it will always be a genuinely spiritual practice.

Start now. Think of an enjoyable time. Fully get into it. Remember what each of your senses was focused on. Go into that Moment, feel it, and translate it to us into our current reality by feeling today what you felt then too—the two moments forever linked in time through a filament of joy.

Such is the nature of happiness.

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.

Limited by Time

I know at the start of this year I said no Thursday blogs but, as longtime readers know, I often make changes mid-year. This year those changes include returning the Thursday blogs but I’ll also be adding in some shorter, more highly focused single quote posts I believe you’ll find useful.

947 Relax and Succeed - Do one thing at a timeAnother thing I said at the start of this year is that I promised to write to you about time but I’ve been continually surprised at how complex it has been to study. I’ll do my best to describe to you what I’ve learned thus far because it can save you a lot of heartache. Also, as abstract and philosophical as this may sound, I would encourage you to take a literal meaning from this: this isn’t about learning about time, this is about how to live in that magical moment called Now.

Based on my observations it’s as natural for you to plot events on a timeline as it is for me not to. Of course I’ve heard the countless arguments for why I’m crazy. People point at a calendar and a clock and say, well obviously there’s time. They’ll tell me that they were at their friend’s for dinner two weeks ago and how could they do that if there wasn’t any time? Answering back with physics or some quasi-spirituality meets with very low levels of acceptance.

Let’s take that dinner at the person’s friend’s. Does it make sense that in this moment the person is remembering another moment? We are remembering the moment in which a Now became a memory. So we are replaying an old Now in the current Now. But the other now is two weeks ago someone will say. I realise that is a compelling narrative that’s believed by nearly everyone you know but that doesn’t make it right. That isn’t another time. You’re replaying a memory and you’re doing it Now. It has literally has always been Now.

947 Relax and Succeed - Don't take now so seriously

Now is before anything. Now is so pure that no matter what you’re doing while you’re Now you won’t even notice the time passing. That’s because you’re so profoundly involved with the present moment that you aren’t layering an egotistical personal narrative just slightly behind the rise of the event. In essence things happen and then we tell ourselves a story involving classification and judgment about whether we liked or disliked what unfolded.

How this effectively works is, say for instance I’m in a business meeting with another producer and they’re the leader on a film. By entering what James Carse calls the field of play I agree to function within the laws and ethics of business and to bring my best self to realising the quality of the work. If I have a passionate disagreement with the lead producer I make my case clearly, I give them an opportunity to shift emotionally, and if not then I make the case one last time. If they don’t accept it then I accept their role as the leader of the project then it’s over for me.

By “over” I mean I don’t think about it any more, I won’t hold resentments and I’ll drop that moment to be focused on whatever Now I’m currently in. So if the other producer and I had sharp words while working through the idea I wouldn’t see that as a problem they have to fix in some future Now. I wouldn’t feel they owe me an apology because I wouldn’t have thought about it at all other than while it was happening. I would have just liked how it had such passion back then.

947 Relax and Succeed - Nothing is permanentIf I’m working with people it’s because I believe they share my belief that the best business model is a good quality product and sometimes passionate debate is how you find it. I can handle someone’s passions splashing onto me personally because by the next time I meet them I’m in that Now and I react to them in many ways like I’m meeting them the first time. People change and I’m always prepared to see that change instead of my thought-form of who they were in a previous time.

Like you I will be aware of an event happening but I lose it pretty quickly because I don’t keep it alive by remembering it in subsequent Nows. In fact, since I had my accident I don’t think I’ve ever actually had a firm grasp on time now that I’ve studied it more. If it weren’t for school times, work times and the schedules of the people I lived with, I would have gotten totally time lost–as I did recently when I was working on some films and on my book. Hopefully I can turn my journey to understand time better into something that you can use to ease some of your fears and regrets.

I’ve learned I’m going to have to comprehend time in some artificial way in order to get along with the modern world but that’s just so I can enter the world’s fields of play. I cannot live there like you do because it’s so easy to see from here that that is where most of your pain arises. So I will continue to find ways to make time more conscious, but I doubt would ever even want to see time as anything more than a collective dream because that’s what it truly is.

If you didn’t sense time most of your troubles would go away and you would be very pleased to live a life that would have neither grudges nor pressure. You would still drive some people nuts by not subscribing to their dream but at least you’d have still put far more into the world than you’d have taken out. And I can tell you from experience, that’s a very enjoyable way to live.

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.

Which Stress is Yours?

There are two types of stress. One is brought on by a set of conditions and the other is brought on by a set of thoughts. One is obligatory, one is voluntary. The first is quite natural but the second is a construct. In fact the second version didn’t even exist until language had progressed far enough to develop abstract terms like and time and achieve and complete. As much as it might seem like it, those are not things they are ideas. And when the Buddha refers to the illusion it’s those ideas he was referring to.

688 Relax and Succeed - The world is so constructedThanks to some lottery-win kind of incredible luck (coupled with a lot of really hard work) my entire life will drastically change this week. For a large chunk of time I have been under a great deal of time stress. The demands of my life mean I simply haven’t been able to afford more than four hours sleep each day, virtually every meal has been rushed, and if those two things were happening you can easily guess that I also haven’t been getting regenerative time with friends or family either. Laughing and relaxing are worth a lot. These things all constitute what we’ll call external physical stresses and they can carry quite an accumulative impact.

What I wasn’t doing was adding psychological stress on to my physical stress. That is to say, I accepted my workload and schedule as a fait accompli. It was simply going to happen. so I didn’t carry out my long day having any kind of argument with myself about the fairness, reasonableness or danger of it. I could have, but I just took the step in front of me. Sometimes that step was to plan for 50 steps ahead, but after the plan was created I was back to the step I was on.

688 Relax and Succeed - Stop focusing on how stressed you areOf course I would stray off that path relatively regularly, especially when I was particularly tired or hungry. But my emotions—the bad ones, the ones I don’t like—would occur and I would immediately check in as to their source. Of course the chemistry I feel is the chemistry I’ve asked for with my thinking. If I’m sitting thinking worried or anxious or angry or sad thoughts about my situation then I am dumping the chemistry out for different flavours of stress. So if I’ve asked for them I shouldn’t be surprised that I got them.

The sensation—the emotions I didn’t like—was what signalled me to go quiet and accept my physical stress. Psychological Stress is always self-created and voluntary. That’s not to say it isn’t useful to experience at times, but overall it’s quiet debilitating to people and it’s generally best to avoid it.

Believe in yourself. Don’t argue with your hills. Look forward to how your greatness will conquer them. Sense your own victory as though it has already happened and then just carry out the motions. Any suffering is only thinking.

Now go have yourself a wonderful day.

peace. s

The Master and The Priest

One day a Priest knocks upon a Great Master’s door. When the door opens, the Priest bows. “Master, I have heard from many that you are the greatest teacher of all. I come today to ask if you will please take me as your student. I promise to be very diligent.”

476 Relax and Succeed - Breathe in the futureThe Master sizes the priest up a bit before responding. “I am about to leave for the next village. Walk with me there and I will decide when we arrive.” And with that the Master walks out the door with the Priest scrambling after him.

They walk for several miles in total silence before coming upon a river with a washed-out bridge. A young girl with a basket full of mangoes is standing at the shore, worried. She sees the two men. “Hello! Can you help me? The bridge is washed out and the water is too deep for me to cross. My family will be worrying about me. Can you help me please?”

The Priest begins to explain that they are compassionate, but their Monastic Order cannot touch women, and so they are prevented from being able to help—and that’s about when the Master scoops the young woman and her basket up into his arms and he starts wading across the rushing water. The Priest is mortified. He gives chase.

476 Relax and Succeed - Yesterday I was cleverOn the other side of the river the Master simply sets the woman and her basket down, he bows to her, and continues on his way. The Priest is flabbergasted. He looks back and forth from the woman to the receding Master, and then back again and again before he finally gives chase.

Running up to the Master the Priest breathlessly asks, “Master! You touched that woman! I have been told you are a Great Master and yet you touched that woman when it is against the rules of our order! I need you to explain this to me Master.” But the Master just keeps on walking.

The Priest is really steaming on the subject. After about a mile or two he pipes back up. “Master. I must insist. Our order has a rule. I witnessed you break that rule. I saw you carry that woman. That was wrong. Please explain this to me or I will begin to wonder if I have found the right teacher.” The Master has no reaction whatsoever. He just keeps walking.

By five miles from the river the Priest is apoplectic. “Master! This is impossible! I refuse to take one more step behind you until you explain to me why it was okay for you to carry that woman across the river!?”

476 Relax and Succeed - Do not dwell in the pastThe Master finally stops walking.

He slowly turns to face the Priest. “Indeed. I did carry her across the river. But tell me: in the end, which of us carried her further?”

Remember, there is only now. Everything else is you selectively replaying or speculatively imagining other times. You are where your thoughts are. So the next time you’re mad at someone, remember that it’s you that’s choosing to think about them. It’s not like they’re inside your head squeezing your brain. You decide what emotions you get by choosing your thoughts. Don’t live in the past. Don’t live in the future. Live now with all of your consciousness and you will be amazed at how beautiful the most ordinary-looking life can be.

Let things go. Be in peace. Big hugs. Love 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 Friday Dose #29

The Friday Dose is a collection of cool, interesting and surprising things that are chosen for their potential to distract you away from any painful thought loops that may currently be disrupting your sense of perspective. Enjoy.

449 Relax and Succeed - Are you living your life

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Today’s dose is a mixed bag that has the potential to have something for everyone. We can start with the incredible photography of Trey Ratcliff. I’m a big fan of this guy—I love how he uses light. You see, this is a good example of how to be in the world. It’s easy to look at a photo and say, I like that, but it’s something else altogether to come to know yourself by asking yourself a following question—why do I like that? That is what introspection is and it’s a form of meditation. To continue to ask yourself the why underneath the why. In fact, all you would have to do to become enlightened is simply follow that simple course: continue to ask why until you comprehend the concept of (Buddhist) Causality and therefore you “understand.” It’s actually much easier and much more fun that people expect. It’s why I enjoy the sessions I do so much. They’re filled with, “Oh wow! That’s a fascinating way to see that.” Trey Ratcliff proves that he can walk past something you do and he sees something you don’t. And that’s amazing, because Trey’s blind in one eye. It just goes to show how much vision is worth in your life. 

The Incredible Photography of Trey Ratcliff

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Next is the fascinating story of Henry Molaison, who in 1953 was subjected to an experimental “psychosurgical” procedure designed to cure him of his epilepsy. Instead Henry woke up to find out that he had lost the ability to form new memories. Despite having a history prior to the operation, Henry had no immediate past. Every single time he met Suzanne Corkin was the first time, despite the fact that she was the researcher who studied him for over 45 years. And while his story is considered a tragedy, that valuation judgment is made from the perspective that anything that is not common is therefore wrong. But of course Henry was the ultimate Buddhist. He was forever living in the Now. What the “tragedyists” fail to notice is that Henry was famous for three things. No memory, being remarkably good-natured, and being consistently happy. We could all learn a little something from Henry. Here’s a terrific audio documentary on Henry and his amazing life:

The Unforgettable Life of Henry Molaison

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And we’ll end on a short film by the Higton Brothers. Facebook is a fairly recent invention and yet it has entirely reshaped the public social sphere around ego. Life has become a competition rather than just an experience. It doesn’t matter if you like your life, it matters more if others like your life. And yet much like verbal and written communication, it leaves a lot of room for intentionally misleading truths. Comparison is the act of ego. As you move through life it is critical to always keep in mind that what you perceive is almost certainly not what is actually there:

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Now go use your power of choice and your ability to aim your thinking and create yourself an awesome day and weekend. All the best to all of you.

peace. s