Unconscious Mannequin Egos (U.M.E’s)

1217 Relax and Succeed - Girl's LifeWelcome to today’s lesson in awareness and consciousness. Take a good look at the meme above. In creating it, an internet artist juxtaposed a normal reality with what is presented as a girl’s life in the media. It’s not difficult to see the point the artist was making. There’s a tense discrepancy between the one’s shallowness and the other’s depth. The piece feels like the sort of thing Banksy would have done if he was a young female artist.

That tension created by the discrepancy above is what today’s blog is designed to reduce. There are undoubtedly some beautiful works of art in fashion and I applaud people’s right and freedom to wear what they like. But that is a separate issue from discussing how adults come to feel tortured. And when we delve into why, it’s almost always due to their egos, which were themselves often created and fomented by marketers and advertisers who were understandably focused on sales, and not on human development or actualisation.

Ever since brands figured out that they could also sell the idea of being stylish, attractive, smart or even beautiful to men as well as women, the onslaught to change us all became genderless. Slowly, men are seeing their lives similarly invaded by notions of perfection until, maybe in some distant future, we’ll get anywhere near where women were in the 1920’s. Today women are literally bombarded all day long with appeals to their egos and the associated myriad of ways to fail. And of course there just happens to be a cream or top or shampoo that’ll help us bounce back. And that bouncing motion is what they’re counting on.

1217 Relax and Succeed - Boy's LifeCapitalism exists but its aspects don’t have to take control of your life. You can develop a healthy awareness that can insulate you. Next time you’re in a store waiting in line and you can see the magazines, just look at the headlines on the cover and decipher how they are tugging at your ego–how they are suggesting the importance of some ideal? What mechanisms are they using to convey that you or your life is lacking or wrong? Photoshop? A headline? A tip?

If you do this exercise for the rest of this month, you will easily notice that most modern popular magazines are quite literally about how to be a shallow person and base your happiness on your appearance and/or your reputation for being hip; they set impossible standards and create ridiculous expectations, and they encourage both narcissism and the formation of a goading ego. In fact an ego is essentially what they are selling. A Mannequin Ego, where a person gets reduced to being a walking advertisement; a hangar for products.

I love design and I love artful clothing. But you seeing something and feeling that it’s right for you is a much, much different thing than being shoehorned into something “fashionable;” which only means it’s been marketed to the point of being the tyrannical uniform of “cool.” Look around you. That’s why everyone’s dressed so uniformly. They’re literally worried about stepping out of line. No one wants to be that Gary Larson cartoon about the deer with the birthmark.

1217 Relax and Succeed - Gary Larson Deer Birthmark PartialGet conscious. Witness how our egos are products that companies sell to the real us. Start making a conscious connection between that fact and your dissatisfaction with your life. I’m not saying never go shopping. Go. Enjoy. But go consciously. Don’t be buying things because they’re in alignment with what your social media feed told you you’ll get “liked” for. But what you–the real you–feels natural in. That’s the path to more peace of mind.

Watch your newsfeeds. Watch your TV and Web series. Watch your magazines and listen to your radio ads. Get out of your busy thoughts by focusing instead on who originally put those dissatisfied voices in there in the first place.

Start today. Become more conscious and more spiritually connected by seeing through the ego utilized in advertising. Because on the other side of that is a kind of peace, satisfaction and contentment that far surprasses the feelings that any external thing could ever give you.

Now go use your powerful mind to go create a worthwhile day. And keep your eye out for manipulations to your thinking.

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.

Mental Health Assignment One

1068-relax-and-succeed-let-go-of-your-cup-of-yesterdayOne of two things happens. Either you’ve already failed at your traditional New Year’s resolutions and you’re happy to restart, or you’re a person who’s more rigid about your commitments and so it feels weird to start this coming Monday instead of on the 1st. But then, that was secretly my first lesson to you….

Who cares where the planet is in relation to the sun when you decide to make changes? Why is the 1st important? Or why target 365 days? You’re not a planet, you’re a person. Your life happens in moments and you can enact health in any moment of any day. Someone you love may be dying and yet you can still feel grateful that their doctor is so good. So remember: you don’t succeed or fail all at once. Each moment is its own opportunity. Every new moment is a restart in the world of mental health.

I want to state that very clearly once more to make sure you’re going into this in a healthy, productive way: the people who are happier, more productive and more connected than you all still have death, disease, accidents, heartbreak, betrayals and trouble to deal with. Seriously. You don’t improve your life by making those things go away.

1068-relax-and-succeed-dont-carry-your-mistakes-aroundYou need to take today and really dispel the idea that you can truly “succeed.” If a champion athlete hasn’t won their first championship yet, are they succeeding or failing at the gym? Or, if they never won a championship but they met their partner at an athletic event, was that succeeding or failing? Did you really want the trophy more than the spouse?

Also, anticipate that it would be very weird if you won 100% of the time. That would be so boring you wouldn’t even do that. Otherwise, why aren’t all of your games against people you know you could beat? Without challenge life has no flavour. We’re not here just to burn calories. We’re here to live, and that means overcoming challenges and growing in capability as a result.

Anticipate days where you’ll struggle. Accept them as valid stones to step on as you cross the water. It’s true, they’re slipperier and more likely to cause to go in, but there’s also no way to move around the lake of life without stepping on some. And you get better as you go. Again, everyone deals with those, even the people whose lives you think are fantastic. They just don’t take a fact and then make it worse with a bunch of fearful thinking.

1068-relax-and-succeed-your-past-mistakesSo what do you do with the fearful thinking? Well that’s the thing, if it’s fearful generally your words are running away with your psyche in your head. You need to employ some detachment. Understand that your thoughts will lead to brain chemistry that will match your thoughts. The trick is, they’ll also appear to you to match the situation, so that’s where you’ll get confused.

That brain chemistry and your emotional reaction are not coming from the world and they are not happening to you. (Read that again.) Your emotions are from your thinking and they are generated by you. Most people leap to thinking that should mean that if they’re your thoughts that you should be able to change them whenever they want. Except those thoughts aren’t yours in the way you currently believe they are, but that’s too much to explain now. You’ll just know that when you’re thinking dies down enough so don’t worry about it. That will happen naturally.

1068-relax-and-succeed-success-is-buried-on-the-other-sideSo here’s your assignment: all you need to do today is to find two or three short biographies of people you admire; people you consider successful. And then read through them and note how nicely all of the really hard, painful parts are written about. “After overcoming that challenge so-and-so poured their heart into their new album…” Oh wait, you mean that rock star had to go through the pain of a divorce to write those great songs? Find their pain. Make them more like you, because you’re more like them than you realise.

Do it. Find the bios. Read them on Wikipedia or in an article. Just take some down time that you would have used to shop or surf the internet and instead do this and start your route to better health. Do the work to dispel the quiet lie you’ve always told yourself. The people you want to be don’t have better lives than you, they just have more control over their thinking. That is a do-able task for all of us, so you can relax until Monday. We’ll start there and we’ll get you where you’re going one moment at a time. Have a wonderful weekend.

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.

Titanic Realities

1050-relax-and-succeed-a-ship-in-port-is-safeYou keep trying to improve your life by making adjustments to the outside, but that’s a bit like trying to fix the Titanic by softening the iceberg rather than just getting the current Captain to pay more attention and steer around it. Likewise, if you manage your life from the outside your results can sink you.

Precisely because you get some good feelings from some things you like, it appears to confirm what you’ve heard so you’ve never looked to see if you get good feelings from things you don’t like. Everyone tells you that the things you like are better than the things you don’t like so it all makes sense except for the part where you’re not happy enough.

Part of the problem is that you’re looking for happy instead of satisfied. Happy sounds like it should be better doesn’t it? If we put life on a ladder, happy would be higher up than satisfied, wouldn’t it? But that’s thing; we’re not on a ladder. This isn’t a one-directional space. Yes, you must move forward relative to yourself, but not relative to the universe. Forward for you can be wandering all over the place for the universe. And likewise, satisfied for you can turn out to be what you expected happy to be.

1050-relax-and-succeed-whatever-the-present-moment-containsThe way this works is that satisfaction done in this way is complete satisfaction. Rather than being satisfied with my entire life I can be satisfied with everything about the moment I am in. I can have left tragedy and be moving toward disaster, but if I am satisfied in between then no one can ever take that away from me. That time will have been lived and I will have been profoundly satisfied. The idea is to win as many of those little time-squares as you can.

Consider every moment like a quadrant on your voyage through life. Each quadrant contains your thoughts and actions. If the box presents a problem like an iceberg then you can enjoy the action of finding the solution, or you can resist finding a solution by thinking about the problem. One will feel good one will feel bad. The bad one tells itself that it should already feel better and it goes about what it’s doing. The good one is grateful it knows how to be better now and it makes changes.

Doing all of this is a lot easier if you stop reconsidering every moment in your past and stop worrying about every potential moment in your future. If you do that you have no mind left to find the solution in the current moment. You can’t be so worried about the schedule of the passengers that you start ignoring the icebergs.

1050-relax-and-succeed-i-am-not-afraid-of-stormsNote that above I say “find the solution” and not “fix your problem.” You’re only fixing it if it wasn’t supposed to be there in the first place and no one ever made that deal with you. If anything we made the opposite deal. This is the North Atlantic. Everyone has to steer past icebergs. No one’s boat is that good.

Abandon your expectations for this day. Look into yourself for your hopes and your beliefs and your wants and know that those guarantee you nothing. Everything changes, it’s only a matter of when; and were you appreciating it before it did change? Because if you were in the act of appreciating then that felt good, and if you accepted that feeling could go away then you would immediately shift to rewarding thoughts about its presence. Gratitude for gratitude. It works every time.

Rewarding thoughts can include things like being grateful that you know how to create the solution that is required in the new moment. And if you don’t know the solution, then you get to use the subsequent moments to learn and expand yourself so that you might then have a solution within you for the future. Either way you’re winning.

1050-relax-and-succeed-ships-dont-sink-because-of-the-waterIt just depends on what you’re focused on; your happiness that you’re able to help, your happiness that you have the ability to learn it and then help, or your happiness about having an appreciation for the fact that it does no good to flog a dead horse, so you’re happy to move on to something else worth appreciating. It’s not like the universe is stingy with those unless you get picky about the one you want.

Do not expect, do not become attached, manage your reactions to change instead. It won’t be classically good or classically bad in a health state of mind. It can be happy to be working on a solution or direction change with gratitude; or it can be painfully wishing for what you expected and got attached to. One hurts, one feels good. Your choice. Either way, you create the reality you live in.

Find today’s attachments. They’re inside you. Find ways to manage them now so that when they come up you have an actual strategy you believe in to execute, because those feelings originate inside of you, meaning you have total control over them. Trying to fix the external world, on the other hand, is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Forget the outside. Become your own Captain. Take control of the inside. You have places to go.

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 Value of Caring

What is the value of death? Of funerals? Is there a way to experience these tragic events and draw strength, resiliency, connection, love?

951 Relax and Succeed - Stop and take a momentI was at the funeral of an out-law family member this week. He learned as a relatively young man that he had been dealt a difficult hand which would prevent him from leading a full and involved life. This reduction in his capacity for involvement was always a very painful experience for his family. Everyone always wished more for his future.

Deaths like this can be tricky. I’m sure many came to the funeral concerned about how it might feel. There were certainly people that could have tilted the entire experience toward something really depressing–something that circled and focused on all that was missed. But that wasn’t what happened. In fact, the exact opposite happened. It was one of the most inspiring funerals I had ever attended.

Eulogies are difficult to write at the best of times and this was to be a celebration of a life unlived. The difficult job, given to the eldest, was taken with grace. When many would have hidden behind quotes and scriptures and platitudes, instead she dove into the heart of it and there she found her gold. It was her words that opened everyone’s eyes and hearts.

951 Relax and Succeed - Do small things with great loveThe value of a funeral is in what the life can teach the rest of us. That’s how their spirit is passed on; when we inform our lives by the lessons provided by theirs. In that way we literally make them a part of ourselves. And yet some lives do such a bad job of lining up with society that the presumption is that they are failures and that they have nothing to offer. All the check-boxes are ticked off and no one gives it any real thought. It’s just a shame.

But then a sister takes a deep hard loving look and she’s surprised by what she sees. She’s further surprised that she’s surprised because as she sits with the knowledge she realises that some part of her always knew it–just like everyone in that room subconsciously knew it: the deceased was never seen to be suffering. Yes he experienced pain but he never dwelled there. The person everyone perceived as having a sad life had actually always been happy.

It’s a strange thing for everyone to miss isn’t it? No one actually missed it, but no one at the time every gave it the value it deserved; we were all too focused on what was missing. Everyone else was focused on what was missing his life. He didn’t mind because he never noticed; he was too focused on caring about all of our lives.

951 Relax and Succeed - For everything you have missedI remember going to the funeral of an extremely wealthy man who I had grown very close to and the saddest part about it was that I didn’t hear anyone talking about him the way he told me he wished they would. He wanted to be seen as being a person who people liked because he personally left them feeling better than he found them. Put another way, the billionaire wished he could have given people the feeling that the man with the “sad” life got to give. So in the end whose life was rich?

The billionaire was a good man and his life meant a lot to me due to the many poignant conversations we had about life, but even he said that the lesson of his life was to avoid the choices he made because they were external and hollow. He wanted people to remember him as someone nice. He wanted himself remembered the way we’ll all remember Ray: as a guy who was always smiling and was always genuinely interested in how you were. And when you stop to really think about it, it’s just amazing what that’s worth.

Rest in Peace Ray.

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 Quiet Mind

 

944 Relax and Succeed - We are all explorersThe doorway to understanding about who you are and what you should do is not locked. The “lock’s” really a puzzle and when you can see it’s only an illusion you’ll just open the door and enter. Until then you’ll try to think your way into this wise action but that won’t work. You cannot think about, you must know.

When snow falls in a schoolyard there could be a playground full of kids but all of them will react in their own unique way and none of them will question if that way is right or not they will simply be their actions in the present moment.

Some will notice all the flakes have six sides and they’ll wonder why and they’ll become a physicist. Another kid notices that the freezing feeling also feels like burning and they become interested in the brain and nervous system. Another kid isn’t dressed warm enough and she wished she knew it was going to be cold and so she becomes a weather forecaster. Another kid ignores the snow and notices what the teacher’s doing and that kid maybe becomes a teacher. This is how we naturally become who we really are.

944 Relax and Succeed - The most important thing in life

The clarity you seek emerges when you quiet your internal conversations. Certain pursuits will naturally occur to you in much the way that you’d itch a scratch. That’s the real you speaking so avoid listening to the voices you egocentrically create within your imagination. Open the door of your perception. In that quiet space you’ll find the confident you. That’s the one who still remembers who you really are.

Give the real you a hug. You guys belong together but that relationship demands more silence. I hope you’ll create some. A quiet mind is a healthy mind.

Love ya. Have a great week.

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.

Made to Order

Winner: 2016’s Blog of the Year #5

Despite how parts of it are sold, society is a cooperation not a competition. Traffic, infrastructure, schools, corporate structures, the internet; these are all things that were designed to help us cooperate.

903 Relax and Succeed -Calvin and Hobbes
The Story Behind This Cartoon

Our societal cooperation works best when each of us intentionally aligns our deepest self with the larger goal. So for some big startup company to succeed it needs someone who wants to lock themselves away alone to do some deep, complex thinking. But it also needs bold, talkative, likeable salespeople who’re good at managing grey areas, and those salespeople all have to be different to appeal to different clients. Then the organisation will also need accounting and legal staff that then turns grey areas into black and white. Etc. etc.

It is called an organisation because it is the coordination of all of these very disparate and even conflicting skill sets. So the saleswoman intentionally generates grey area to achieve a sale only for accounting to have to slice all the grey into neat little boxes. One person’s work literally creates the other person’s work. Nothing’s wrong there, it’s just the nature of an organisation.

The challenge occurs when a catch-all idea tries to encapsulate all of these complex relationships. We see this most often in schools, where it used to be presumed that some students were strong in some subjects and not in others. Now if you’re a good student you’re not allowed to be a human with natural skill set. Now a good student gets good grades in everything.

903 Relax and Succeed - Action without visionStudents are no longer their experiences, now they are just the memories in their brain. In turn their brain is seen as a computer to be programmed, and the notion is that the same process applies to programming math skills as reading skills when that is simply not the case.

Some kids look out their bedroom window and see the stars move each night and they wonder about those movements and they get good at math because they are innately interested in becoming a cosmologist. Some can’t sit still in class and they become world-renowned ballerina, Karen Kain. Some aren’t good at math but they’re good at understanding complex physical relationships, as was the case with the physicist, Albert Einstein.

Those are not people who succeeded because they got good grades and fit into the boxes at school really neatly. These are people who had just the right conditions to become fully themselves, even when that self conflicted with some pattern that society found convenient. Yes, we want to see ourselves as a part of larger society, but we don’t want salespeople to start acting like accountants any more than we want accountants to act like salespeople.

903 Relax and Succeed - Notable college dropouts

Real drive, real success and real happiness do not come from good grades, good pay and people approving of you. You’ll get all the approval you need from yourself if you’re realising your inner motivations and then working hard to achieve them. Because that doesn’t even feel like work–it just feels like the steps you need to take to get you where you’re going.

Yes, we all need to do reasonably well in school because those basic skills do end up way more important than any kid realises up until they’re about 25 years old. But we shouldn’t panic if someone struggles in a subject or their grades are average. College is no guarantee of a good life, but knowing how to realise yourself through diligent work is. If something matters enough to someone they’ll work incredibly hard at it whether that’s in a college or outside of it.

Do not treat kids like pegs to fit into holes. They are all individuals and as much as a hassle it might be for a parent or teacher to have Karen Kain and Steve Jobs in the same class, it’s important to remember that the school is a construct not a natural occurrence. Meaning we should be less invested in things like grades and more focused on seeing if the kids themselves feel like they are expanding.

Too many of our pressures on kids have to do with conforming and getting into line. Yes, teach kids to be good, solid cooperative citizens. But not at the price of choking off their spirit, because if that’s intact it will drive their intellect to create not only great things, but also a great life.

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.

Get Out of Your Head

If you’re really struggling with altering your thinking try setting it up more in the first place. Make a list if you have to. Instead of thinking thoughts about your own wants and desires try spending the day by thinking about someone else instead of yourself. As soon as you finish thinking about Sara start thinking about Ali. Just leave you out of it for a day.

866 Relax and Succeed - Happiness is coming homeNo comparing them to you. No judging their actions. You want to get into their head. What do they have to think about from their perspective? Really consider who they are and what motivates them–they’re dreams, fears history, circumstances… and then look at their life to see evidence of those thought patterns. Seeing it in someone else will help you see it in yourself.

You can even do this with your dog. Have you even noticed it has different barks for different things? And if you know that, do you know the barks themselves? Likely not. But if you stop and meditate on it a moment you realize that even babies develop separate cries for their priorities–hunger, external discomfort, internal discomfort, pain and joy and love. Well your dog’s the same way. It’ll have a set of barks for everything important to it: food / water, outside / inside, fear / concern, excitement / happiness. So the dog’s been clear all along. It’s up to you to shut down your own thinking and start communicating better.

Another time you’ll think too much is when people are talking to you. Stop thinking about your distractions from–or your opinions about–everything they say. Just stay quiet. Listen carefully for subtle differences in their voice. Make sure you get the eye colour of everyone you speak with today. Become more aware. You think it’s small but this is it. More awareness equals more opportunities for joy and learning.

Imagine what your spouse might be having to think about at that moment. Imagine some of the strangest and most difficult parts of your teacher or boss’s life. Learn something new about someone you’ve known for a long time. You can even do it with relative strangers. What’s it like to be on crutches, or at a funeral or late? It doesn’t matter how you get there, but as soon as you’re thinking about someone else you’re also preventing yourself from creating an ego that will then suffer.

866 Relax and Succeed - Knowing is not enoughIf you don’t think you into existence you won’t be there. That’s why amnesiacs are like that–they can’t find their own thoughts to think. So their awareness is still there but their opinions are not. They don’t know who they like or don’t like, nor what foods are their favourites and they’ll even fall in love again with a spouse they’ve already divorced. It shows how powerful an opinion can be if we take it too seriously.

Your “problems” emerge from your thinking. Try to cut back on your thinking. At the very least, every day make a gentle shift towards interrupting one painful thought and replacing it with one more loving thought. Even catch just one. Your mind will get better and better at the catching and increasingly your daily mindful awareness will evaporate most of your ego’s “problems.”

Remember: today you don’t think about you. Put some post it notes up if you have to. But today isn’t about you, it’s about others. So don’t spend any time spinning thoughts about your life. If you’re going to think at all take some time to think like someone you often judge. And if you do it seriously, expect to feel humbled and open and wise and… better.

Increase your perspective. Me, I, You, Them, Us, They… are all myths. Avoid those words in your vocabulary both internal and external and you will be healthier and happier regardless of your external circumstances. Now go have a great day.

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.