Restarting With Intention

1214 Relax and Succeed - I myself am made entirely of flawsI hope your summer’s were rewarding in many ways. As we come back together to grow and share, I’ve decided to experiment with a new mix of elements for the blog. There still will be my traditional essays, but I’ll also be adding some new approaches and revisiting some old ones in the hopes that they can help facilitate some very practical benefits in all of our lives.

Today we’ll start off by talking about starting off. The whole point of taking control of your life involves being intentional about how you live. So don’t start each day in some hazy, unfocused, directionless way. Many people will begin by speculating about their day based on opinions they’ve formed on previous days. Then, whether they day wanted to surprise them or not, they’ll unconsciously steer their day like every other, blind to any opportunities for change.

The other way to wake up is to know that your mood is in your own control. You can have a calm Captain in both light and heavy seas. So don’t wake up and let chance decide the direction of the day. Remind yourself that your conscious choices will shape your day. You need to remember to be present for those choices.

Relax and Succeed - Try less to be with someoneThe first choice you can make is to actually provide yourself the sort of stimuli that makes it easy for you to feel good. For many, the handiest and surest way to accomplish this is the same way movies do it–with music. So you can find your own song, or you can use the one I’ve posted below. For my part, I chose something with a beat and a sound that I thought could work for readers around the globe, of any age, and leave them feeling just a little pumped up.

The point of this exercise is to demonstrate that to be spiritually responsible and psychologically healthy, we have to have those as conscious objectives and we must always be scanning the world around us for opportunities to move toward the sorts of influences and challenges that create joy and/or help us grow. To do that we need to feel vital and energetic.

I actually had a different song slated for this spot, but on Sunday I heard a singer I’d never heard before and I felt her song was a perfect fit to match my description of what I was looking for. I didn’t want to overdo it, but I wanted a beat and sound that could charge you up in a very mature and sophisticated way.

Her name is Erin Costelo, she’s from Nova Scotia, and this song is rather ironically called Low. It’s pretty groovy. Use it or whatever song helps you feel balanced, capable and enthusiastic about your own life. Learn to start your day like this every day. Make that a habit and you’ll have really helped yourself become more conscious all day long. Have a great week 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 Ugly Confession

Dear Diary,

You know what hurts so bad? It’s all my fault. I know I said it wouldn’t happen again, but it’s my period and my thoughts got the better of me and I–wait. No. I know I can’t say that. Those are my thoughts, they’re my responsibility. But whatever. I thought them and they hurt so leave me alone!!

(I just want to quickly note here that Welsh boys have beautiful square jaws. I had not noticed this before today, but there are two guys in our chem class and they’re from Wales and they are h-o-t. I digress.)

So, I saw Dave sitting with this girl. This woman. I know I probably shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Yes. My thoughts drove me to do that too. My thoughts. Yes. My responsibility. Okay. So I guess what I’m saying Dear Diary is that I had a choice to go bra shopping with my sister, and I need bras, and instead I drove across town to stalk my own boyfriend.

I am so grateful that diaries do not have eyes to stare at me in shame.What good could come of an emotional girl alone in a car with her worried thoughts? I. Should. Have. Known. But no, I went in. Yes Dear Diary. I went in.

Of course she had the audaciousness to be gorgeous. Just what I needed. For my boyfriend to be having meetings with an accountant who looks like Beyonce. I feel sick. I thought this shit ended when I was a teenager.

For the first time in my life I’m too ashamed to tell you what I did. It’s that bad. It’s U-N-F-O-R-G-I-V-A-B-L-E. It was awful for her, it was awful for him, it was awful for anyone who even saw it happen. And here’s the best part….

It wasn’t a romantic lunch.

That was his boss’s daughter. I called him a two-timing cheat–I told her he beat his dog! Have I lost my mind? Why would I say something like that? I was just so…. MAD. I KNOW I KNOW I KNOW. Mad because of my thinking. I couldn’t have been mad about her. She was trying to help him. And do you know the worst part? She was nice. Super really truly nice. I #*&%ing hate that.

So there I was, without you, on the weekend, with Dave. I can’t write to you, I can’t get these feelings out, and I am just avoiding too much eye contact with Dave because I have no idea what to say. What do you say after something like that? What do you say to your own girlfriend when by 22 she has totally destroyed your career and your life?

I know. You would think he would want to dump me in the street. But do you know what he did? He told me he’d never seen me this quiet before. And so he sat down with me and he asked if it was about what happened with Tina (her). I told him I was afraid if we started talking that he would break up with me. That seemed to really hurt him knowing that and he hugged me.

He told me I was horrible. He reminded me of times I was horrible before. And he told me he didn’t want to live with me doing things like that for the rest of his life–BUT… he also thinks I’m the most beautiful thing in the world and he wants to be with me forever!!!!!!!

CAN YOU BE-LIEVE THAT!????????He said he loves me. Not just good me. And he knows loving bad me is harder. but he loves all of me anyway!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!. He loves all of me, including the horrible parts. He loves my horrible parts because their they’re mine!!!! Can you believe that?????

If there was ever a man to learn to control my own thoughts with it’s this one. If he can love me like that then I want to love him like that back. Can you imagine how that would feel!!!!????

I have to stop speculating and live in the now. I just don’t want to wake up one day and he’s with someone else–Okay. Oops!!! There’s the future right there. Sorry. I guess I’ll just keep this in mind and do it moment by moment.

Do you think that one day I could forgive myself and love myself the way he loves me? Dave’s self-love doesn’t feel egotistical it feels like respect. Maybe I should start there. Tomorrow I’m going to treat myself with respect. And I guess not having to be perfect means I can at least relax into being me. I just wish “me” hadn’t ruined Beyonce’s dress like that. I’m so sorry Dave. I’ll think less and love more. I promise.

peace-out. Dave’s <3 Love <3

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.

MoK: The Songspinner

You took on a challenge. You volunteered for the March of Kindness. Rather than just wanting the world to be kinder you lead the way and you were kinder by example. Undoubtedly along the way you even encouraged someone who didn’t even know what the March of Kindness was and yet you would have influenced them to do something positive. You should feel good about that.

On the final day of the march we’re going to focus on the kindness that is you. You can do nice things, and you can take action you wouldn’t normally take, but if we really want to impact the world we must appreciate that our general disposition is like a chemical we add to the mix of daily reality. We can be caustic or inert, we can flow we can fizzle, but if we’re looking closely we can see that our frame of mind–our mood–helps set the tone for others around us. Today is about you recognising that power.

Yes, you are important. No matter who you thought you were, you are like a radio station that has the ability to play music people dance to or you can play music that brings tears to people’s eyes. Which songs you play are up to you. But just as others experience your frame of mind as a part of their landscape, it is also part of yours. Recognising the value of you being in a positive frame of mind is largely what motivates people to stay there. It’s simply a nicer place to be.

Today you want to choose a good mood. You want to see your frame of mind as coming from your intentions, not the fluke of the events in your day. The one thing you do have control over is your own mind. You may not be used to taking control, but there’s no one thinking those thoughts but you. You started them, you can stop them.

If we look with the wonder of a child we see that the world is filled with glorious beauty. And if we look at the world and see all that we don’t approve of, then the world appears ugly and our enthusiasm for life drops. Today is about you fully owning the fact that your little radio station does impact the listeners in your station’s range. The people who interact with you will be impacted, the only question is how.

Start to see that you are the DJ spinning the tunes. Remember that if you feel a sad ballad within you that’s because you played one. And if you feel something that makes you feel like dancing, then that too is you. Start owning that radio station and start impacting your world by being more conscious regarding your choice of songs. Don’t want things to be different, play different songs and make the world different.

Today your final steps in the March of Kindness are about recognising yourself as a constant source of reality. You can’t expect to always do it but, as often as possible, if you intentionally play happy, lively songs, then you can expect a life that is happier and has more life in it. Crying has it’s place. But we’re better to spend more of our life dancing.

Today, you be the music. And never forget, long after the March of Kindness is over, you will carry with you each and every day the ability to impact your world and the lives of the people around you. That’s not just a responsibility, that’s also empowerment. Wield your power wisely and enjoy your day and your life. Thank you for joining me for this year’s march.

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 #135: Koselig, Gezellig and Hygge

1048-fd1-relax-and-succeed-koseligKoselig, Gezellig and Hygge? Remember them? To someone from outside Norway, Holland or Denmark these might seem like characters from The Lord of the Rings, but in fact these are ways to have your mindset positively impact your attitude. To boost winter happiness you could click on each of those links and have a quick read of one each morning from tomorrow to Monday.

Just the other day a place near me was literally the coldest place on Earth, at -33 degrees Celsius (-27F). Here, the average winter temperature is -11C (-12F), and we’ll usually get a snap below -25C for about a week a year. Negative people will often literally take the worst nighttime low they can find and they’ll add three extra months to it and then describe that as winter. Positive people would note that last winter ended in March and it was above zero right up until a week ago, so we might not be growing apples right now but we’re still doing extremely well.

Everyone adjusts to the weather where they live so cold is a different temperature every place. But we still have a choice of how we personally adjust to that external shift. Many continue to go outdoors in the winter due to an appreciation of nature that has a mental, physical and spiritual value that doesn’t change when it’s cold, it just manifests differently.

1048-fd2-relax-and-succeed-hyggeFor these people the outdoors becomes more of an excursion or adventure, and indoors is for recovery and gathering. Winter is for venturing out and then getting cozy for some cuddling and snuggling and nuzzling, whether it’s with a fire and a great book, your pet, some friends or family, or a quiet candlelit night sitting listening to audio, or maybe even another trip outside to see the Northern Lights if you’re able to.

If you think the weather decides your mood then you’re right. But if you think it doesn’t have to decide it, you’re right too. If you truly understand how things work then you’ll know you can be involved enough in your experiences that you can ensure that winter changes your attitude in a positive way yet again.

Have a wonderful day everyone. No matter what it looks like outside. Because if you’re going to let the weather turn your mood ugly then you are likely dooming and volunteering yourself to many days of unhappiness that are entirely unnecessary as is demonstrated by others who chose something different. Chose wisely.

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.

Foul Moods

945 Relax and Succeed - Was it a bad dayYou can use whatever theories or concepts or excuses you like but in the end the feelings you experience do not come from external things. You are not some victim of your day. You’re not a victim at all. You can tell yourself you are but what you really are is a participant. And in this game anything can happen, including crappy stuff to you and me.

The problem is that people want to be happy when it’s healthier to be pointed toward happiness. First off, happiness is only a tiny portion of life to focus on so it’s a bit boring; plus it’s difficult to enjoy one’s life based on happiness when all worthwhile successes are necessarily preceded by challenges and the failure naturally associated with learning. Such is the Yin and Yang of life.

If the route to happiness is necessarily through pain and struggle then we’re doomed before we start. But what if we didn’t want to be happy? What if instead we were just oriented toward happiness? Then even when we are at our darkest, happiness is still in view and therefore possible. And moving toward it feels good because we’re continually feeling better than we previously did. After all, good feelings can only exist as a contrast to not-good ones.

945 Relax and Succeed - A mood isn't weather

Your day does not enter your life like a storm and stay. Days are days. The issue is you start making yourself the star of the day. When the photocopier breaks that’s not a part of all of your co-worker’s days, it’s yet another hassle for you to live through. Our ego puts itself in the middle and then thinks the world was supposed to go the way it thought it would. The unpleasant feelings we get come from comparing what we got to what we wanted.

If you don’t feel good it’s because you are entertaining thoughts that lead you to suffer. Yes there might really be unfortunate things happening but it’s impossible to make those go away by fantasising about other ways things could have been. Once something has passed it cannot be changed and can only be accepted.

What you think of as a bad day is really just a day where you’re placing a particularly negative lens over everything you see. Stop calling that a mood and using it as an excuse to punish others and yourself. Free yourself from that thought prison and understand that you can at any time begin watching the world around you for positive things. The more you do it the better you get at it until you eventually–and often easily–find yourself with a completely different and wonderful life.

Have yourselves 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 organisations locally and around the world.

The Positivity Context

Where do you live? Not where geographically. I mean where emotionally. You revisit various situations in your life more out of habit than anything. But if you become more conscious about the tone of your emotional day  you will find one of two things.

899 Relax and Succeed - Don't find faultThe first is that you have an opportunity to make an internal shift. You can drop your expectations or surrender your attachments or shift your mind to the state of others etc. This will stop your wanting and you will have taken action to feel better. This is an extremely useful life skill in situations you must be in but don’t want to be in.

The second involves the situations you chose to be in. You can assume that you don’t have a lot of choice about much of that but that’s where you’ve fallen into the trap of what the Buddha calls the illusion. Even connections like your marriage or your relationship to someone being a parent is more an idea than a thing. You can’t touch brotherhood. It’s a concept. Marriage too. So people will say they aren’t free, but what they mean is they don’t want to get divorced or quit their job or abandon their kids.

It might at first seem heartless to live in a world where everyone knows they’re free. Everyone would be free to leave basically any situation. But then if they stay, everyone’s sure that’s where they really want to be and everyone’s having more fun.

899 Relax and Succeed - We would do ourselves a tremendous favourOf course the price for leaving a situation could be as high as death or as low as nothing, but you are still free. The Nazi’s could not change Viktor Frankl’s thoughts. They could lock up Frankl’s body but not enter his mind. They couldn’t make him think anything, they could only give him incentives to think what they hoped for. What they expected. What they were attached to. You lead an emotional life. You do control your thinking but that doesn’t mean you should necessarily walk into the belly of a lion for no good reason.

Start figuring out where you have fun. You don’t go to your best friend’s because you have to. You go there because it feels safe and supportive and enjoyable. Big surprise it usually feels good there. Meanwhile, awhile back I met a guy who couldn’t stand his boss. He bitched about him all day at work and also when he got home.

I reminded him that if he hated the owner of his store so much that it was ruining eight hours a day, maybe he should consider a different job? But no, some thought-combination of pride and fairness and right and wrong lead him to treat those things like actual barriers that were holding him inside the store when clearly there’s no law against quitting.

899 Relax and Succeed - If you are unhappyHis roommate saw what I meant and pointed out that his happiness was more important than pride or fairness. Happiness you felt, pride and fairness are manufactured in complex thinking. They lead to emotions not feelings. Better not to be emotional about work. But he felt we were being unsupportive by wanting him to be happy so he argued with his roommate illogically because he was really attached to choosing anger and pride regarding the subject of work.

You choose almost everywhere you go. If you can’t stand it somewhere then either Frankl your thinking (if he can do it in a concentration camp you can do it at work), or leave the situation. But to voluntarily stay when you dislike a situation is pretty strange if you want a happy life. Sure, endure some shorter term suffering for the belief in the future value of a place, but at a certain point you’re just digging yourself in deeper.

Where can you change your thoughts and where should you change your choices? Stay conscious for an entire week. Note where you actually are. If staring at your own face in a mirror is something that makes you insecure, then don’t do it. You’re going to be you either way.

Express your freedom. Choose a happier life. It won’t entirely remove pain and suffering, but it will reduce it to the point where you don’t mind feeling it at all.

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 Movie We’re Making

In film your shooting ratio is how much footage you shoot relative to how much of it you end up using in your finished production. Back when we shot on film and had to worry about hairs etc. getting into things during film-loading, and there was no way to see what you had just shot, we still shot a small fraction of what people currently do. What does this have to do with your mental health? I’m getting to that.

829 Relax and Succeed - Have much and be confused

Today a 25 year old can literally have a 30 to 1 or even 150 to 1 ratio, while people in their 50’s will often have ratios closer to 1.4 to 1 or 2.8 to 1 etc.. An actor’s director like Clint Eastwood doesn’t like to wear out his cast, so now that he can see what he just shot he’ll often only shoot a single take and he’ll do that for 30 to 40 percent of the film.

This is a good metaphor for minds today. Bombarded with much shorter edits in the media their minds get trained on, add many more distractions and responsibilities, not to mention and overall busier lives everyone’s leading, with many more schedule activities, texts etc. etc, many young people today are understandably taught to hyperthink, leaving them to be tortured by their own whirling thoughts. There’s so many decisions in a day now; so many things outside of us and our control that demand our attention, that it’s as though the Editor that works in our memory is overloaded with footage and it’s getting hard to tell the useful stuff from the stuff we’re better to leave on the editing room floor.

So how do we feel better? We slow things down. We don’t give our Memory Editor a deluge of stuff–especially if it’s negative–because it wears us out. Even funny scenes get tiring if you have too many of them. So in the real world of mental health we’re not so much looking for fun scenes as much as we are looking for absorbing ones. As long as you’re thoroughly involved you won’t even notice the time passing regardless of the scene content. You just need to be present and in the Now.

829 Relax and Succeed - Reasons my wife is cryingAnother way to help out is to take control over your Director of Photography regarding what you’re going to commit to film. For the filmmaker the film isn’t so much in the showing of the film as it is the making of it. So your day is what you shoot. And the lens is like your attention. Where you focus it will tell you what kind of shot you’re going to get. If you shoot sad scenes expect a sad experience. Likewise for happy ones etc. etc. etc.

In daily life everyone around you is performing improv so life is less like a movie and more like “Reality” TV. The reality TV that currently gets watched focuses its lens on tension, conflict and challenge. That’s what appeals to the most common part of all of us. But again, you have been the viewer but this is about breaking the wall and inviting you behind the screen, where you can Direct.

If you focus on conflict-laden scenes then that’s what your day will be made up of and that’s what you’ll have to review in the editing room at night. But if you focus your attention on what you’re grateful for, then that’s what you get to spend your night with. And if you want those nights to be peaceful then don’t overshoot footage during the day. Don’t comment on things that don’t benefit from your opinion. Don’t judge yourself or others. Have a quiet mind. Have a low shooting percentage.

Remember, Clint Eastwood can have a seemingly risky though Zen-like shooting ratio and yet the proof is in his record: he’s Directed five different actors to Academy Award wins and he himself has been nominated for a dozen and won five. And he’s known for liking his Set quiet…

829 Relax and Succeed - The bird in a forestClint will still film both joy and sadness, pleasure and pain, gain and loss. Again, the profound living is less so in the content and more so in the depth of our appreciation of that content. Even in the sad scenes we can authentically feel that Clint loves his work, he loves the people he works with and he loves his stories–and it all shows in his incredible track record. Your life can be the same.

Don’t shoot too much, shoot a high percentage of footage that is enjoyable to experience whether that’s someone jumping out of a plane, getting a new puppy or enjoying a great conversation. And if you’ve gone out and shot a bunch of depressing footage then don’t be surprised if you and your editor end up depressed. And that’s not good because it makes shooting the next day harder, and you’re going to be more likely to develop a habit of shooting the crap instead of the beauty.

Start today. Focus your attention on the film you want to make, not on the one you’re afraid you might make. And the healthiest choice after shooting is to do like a lot of big cinematographers and never see the finished film. That’s the healthiest of all because then you know for sure that you didn’t make your film for anyone else but yourself, and that was entirely the point. Because replaying our own films is just memory-based ego. But the making of our films is our lives. So it is worthwhile to be mindful of the movie we are always making.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is a writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.