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

.

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

.

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

.

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:

.

.

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

Other Perspectives #19

402 Relax and Succeed Rebuttal - Sticks and stones

.

Ummm. Good news. This suffering can come to an immediate end in every moment in which you remember this: words are not ghosts nor can they leave scars. They are memories and no one else but you chooses which memories you retrieve to replay to yourself. So if someone says something that impacts your belief system in a way that hurts you; if you don’t think about it, it literally won’t bother you at all. That’s why Confucius said, “To be wronged is nothing unless you continue to remember it.” Boom. You’re free.

peace. s

Note: Everyone who posts or shares a quote does so with the very best of intentions. That said, I have created the series of Other Perspectives blog posts in an effort to prevent some of these ideas from entering into people’s consciousness unchallenged. These quotes range from silly to dangerous and—while I intend no offense to their creators—I do use these rebuttals to help define and delineate the larger message I’m attempting to convey in my own work. I do hope you find them helpful in your pursuit of both psychological and spiritual health.

The Friday Dose #20 – Perception is Everything

395 Relax and Succeed - If all you did was just look

In this week’s Friday Dose we take a look at how much for granted you take your filtering of the universe. We’ll start with a recent study on memory. Living in the now is to live in the present moment. Because kids are good at this, they can’t remember their childhoods. They wrote over those files and replaced them with who they came to believe they are and after that we operate almost as though we are nothing more than habitual thought robots. Don’t worry about holding on to anything. Live fully and presently in the Present Moment and your life will be as fulfilling as any:

Scientific American – A Study on Memory

.

We all tend to make a lot of assumptions in this world. Assumptions we don’t even recognize because we’ve never really stopped to ask ourselves what we mean when we say half the things we say. Because if you really stop to reconsider a few of those assumptions you begin to realize the world is a much more nuanced and fascinating place than you may have given it credit for. Here’s a good example, in that it’s a blind man telling you what you’re missing out on:

.

.

And you thought you knew what beautiful meant, but here’s some people who’ve seen beauty in a way you cannot. They can appreciate an aspect of the universe in a way that is inaccessible to you. It’s simpler. It’s less judgmental. It’s more profound. This is how the blind see beauty. This is really worth your time:

.


.

Have a beautiful day.

peace. s

The Peaceful Life of Yin and Yang

Acceptance of the Yin and Yang of life is where peace lives. We can’t just intellectually understand that there must be black to be white, there must be up to be down, and there must be happy to be sad. We have to live knowing that’s the Truth.

75 Relax and Succeed - Sometimes it takes sadnessYour problem isn’t what’s happening. It’s that you want something. You’re attached to an outcome. You want an experience different than the one you’re having.

The act of wanting; the act of not accepting something is to create arguments for yourself in your head about how things should be different than they are. In short: you think thoughts about other outcomes and then you compare them to what did happen, and you tell yourself a story that the universe disappointed you, when what you really mean is that you didn’t get what you wanted. But that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong. Because there is no way for the Universe to keep everyone happy.

Obviously the first time we run into two thirsty people and one drinking fountain, we know that the world is guaranteed to present situations in which not everyone can win. In fact we often cannot get what we want. So what are our options?

Well, option one is to tell ourselves egocentric stories about what we’d rather have. But those stories are angry, disappointed, hurt, spiteful etc. etc. etc. And you feel what you think, so the stories will make us feel angry, disappointed, hurt and spiteful etc. and that doesn’t seem like a wise or healthy option. And if we indulge in it too often, it’ll eat us away from the inside. It’s why a lot of New Yorker’s don’t like the remembrance “celebrations” around 9/11. The healthiest among them want to leave that behind them now so they can move on to more enjoyable feelings that are less likely to divide humanity.

75a Relax and Succeed - Life is a shipwreckOption two would be to ignore argument mode and head for intake mode instead. Rather than using our brains to argue about what is, we could instead find a way to appreciate what is. That doesn’t mean a situation is something you would seek to repeat, but if your only option is to endure then you might as well add some appreciation to the mix. At least that makes everything taste better.

Even if you make the egocentric choice, there’s no need to panic. Whether you get angry or relax, you never cease to be a spiritual being having a human experience. The only difference is, is the human conscious of the creation of the experience, or do they actually think they are the thoughts? But either way, no thoughts are superior to others. They simply have consequences, and some of those consequences we enjoy and others we do not. The only advantage to being awakened is that then we can choose more joy. It does not guarantee that we do not suffer. It just means that we won’t suffer any more than we have to.

Wake up. Accept actual suffering to the point that when it arrives, you can work around it as easily as you can work around rain. Just put on a raincoat and continue as usual. You were never going to win the argument in your head anyway. You would need a new history.

Do your utmost to create a wonderful day. And if it’s not a wonderful day, then do your best to shrug it off with the knowledge and acceptance that of course sometimes it rains. We all experience pain. So you don’t have to argue your way to sunshine. You just have to keep your eye very actively watching for joy’s inevitable return.

Here are some of Alan Watts thoughts on Suffering:

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.