The Kid in the Basement

1342 Relax and Succeed - We make more sense than we think we do

I had been doing classes for many years before I got a call from a parent hoping to dislodge one of their children from their home. Now I get them regularly. (It’s okay, the kids end up doing fine.)

These were never unloving calls. Far from kicking the kid out in anger or disappointment, the parent was concerned that they had somehow failed to help the child discover an inspiring life.

On top of that the parents were very naturally starting to feel resentful about being taken advantage of by another adult, and they did not want that feeling to grow with a child they loved.

That really is loving on the part of the parent because the issue is not really their fault. It’s actually no one’s ‘fault,’ it’s just a step in some people’s journey.

No one eats for us, no one sleeps for us, no one spiritually awakens for us, and we are the only ones that can find our calling. Our problem is that we often mistake a ‘dream job’ for ‘a calling.’ The former is about superficial success with largely no effort, but the latter is about how we can mysteriously work our butts off on things that matter to us. (Check out the video of the Japanese toymaker here for an example.)

In truth, ‘our calling’ will evolve throughout life, and even when we believe we are ‘off target,’ the perspective of age exposes that even our mistakes end up being key parts of our journey through life. We make more sense than we think we do.

Even those that feel they know what they want to do and are highly motivated are rarely actually picking a career –although that is more likely in the professions. More often we are only possibly choosing a field of work, because as we learn about any job we will tend to find things out about it that we like and don’t like, and that is likely to change the course of what we do.

Too many people want to start off inspired when it works the other way around –we find inspiration by doing. For that reason, in the end it may be that viewing any job unrealistically is really a blessing. They need to look shiny and exciting for us to pursue them, because they will all be hard in some way –hence the pay. But work is interestingly a spiritual aspect of our lives in a roundabout modern way.

1342 Relax and Succeed - Even bad choices inevitably move us forward

Work is good for us for one simple reason: it’s the verb of us contributing to those around us. In hunter-gatherer times, we shared the food we picked or caught. Today we all have jobs and there’s a big system, but it’s really the same thing, just scaled to almost 8 billion people. Not contributing to that can eat someone up from the inside because it’s unnatural for us.

This represents the most dangerous downside for the person lodged in the figurative basement: the longer they stay there they more they will begin to ruminate on why they are not creating value within their life. And rumination is ego and that soon will turn ugly.

Creating is natural, so denying our drive to contribute places pressure on us to create an excuse. And that excuse –framed as self-talk with our ego– is either that society isn’t worth it, or we aren’t. Neither idea is healthy to dwell on.

Every ‘basement dweller’ I’ve worked with was a person with folded wings. They weren’t broken, sick, incapable or fearful. They were simply so interior –so wrapped up in their own thoughts– that they couldn’t see the world. And if we can’t see the world, we can’t find our way in. Our thoughts can prevent us from spotting our inspiration.

Whether it’s our families, our jobs, or in nature, when we’re clear-headed the world  appears to us like an amazing party, filled with people we are fascinated in. Our problem shouldn’t be finding excitement within us, it should be trying to decide which spectacular thing to pursue.

Kids don’t get jobs and leave basements because they are guilted out, or angered out. Those things eventually lead to being kicked out and that’s a hard route for all parties involved. But people will happily leave their parent’s basements when they see themselves more clearly. Rumination keeps us trapped. Inspiration spreads our wings.

No one eats for us, no one sleeps for us, no one spiritually awakens for us, and we are the only ones that can find our calling.

Once people see themselves and the world without their habitual cloud of thought, they dislike the idea that they would waste their precious, limited time on Earth being static. Wasting their creativity and enthusiasm simply seems wrong to them in a profound way. And as any mature person knows, it doesn’t really matter where any person starts, it’s the starting itself that is the life skill.

I once worked with a secret musician who was living uninspired. By feeling better about herself, she felt more self respect and ended up getting a starter job on a car lot. And despite learning a lot and liking the people, the downsides of that job highly motivated her to work harder on her music.

She still has a straight job that she likes better than the car lot, but music would never would have become a part of her income if she hadn’t first recognized its value by comparing it to something worse. And music is where she met her fiance.

Therein lies the weird beneficial paradox of health. Over time and in looking back, we come to learn that even when we believe we’ve made bad choices, they inevitably take us forward.

peace, s

Temari Passions

1081-relax-and-succeed-who-shaped-your-temari-2
Today is an important meditation. It took shape while I was recently listening to an interview with superstar DJ Steve Aoki, and it implied that the artist himself felt his massive success was largely just an attempt to please his Benihana-founding, National Wrestling Hall of Fame Dad. I love that! No wonder he’s known as the hardest working artist in EDM. And doesn’t that pose an interesting question about our own existence…?

Are you familiar with Temari? They originated in China, but today they’re primarily known as a Japanese toy that mothers make for their kids. You start by bundling up some old kimonos and then shaping them into a ball, although today people often buy rubber or plastic frames. Then you start weaving threads around them. The results can range from simple and straightforward to complex and colourful. They’re good metaphors for us.

(Keep in mind, I’m making all this up. I have no idea what Steve Aoki’s life is really like other than the fact that he dug Kraftwerk too. But for the purposes of this story he’s a metaphor for you, like the temari ball is a metaphor for our internal emptiness, so no offense to Steve. I loved his passion and he sounded genuinely interesting, awesome, happy and healthy.)

1081-relax-and-succeed-dear-musicSo let us say that Steve felt that he did not have his father’s love, although almost certainly he has/did all his life. This is an extremely common mistake for people to make. A lot of parents were taught that you’ll steal a child’s motivation if you congratulate them as though they’re done. So let us say that Steve’s perceived emptiness is like a hollow temari frame within him.

Steve sees the outline of father’s love but he is hurt and angry that his father hasn’t dedicated  more of himself to parenting him; to completing him. Left alone, Steve begins to have his own experiences, and like threads of different colours and lengths of time, those experiences begin to weave together within Steve, around the hollow frame.

As Steve develops the ball develops. As the weaves get denser some friends suggest he’s just suppressing the hollowness. Some question what he’s weaved. But others catch his attention by calling his weaves beautiful. This startles Steve. This cannot be. Steve is us, and no one thinks their lives are beautiful. They’re okay, but rarely do you find a person would call their life beautiful. (Okay, I do, but I told you this was a story.)

1081-relax-and-succeed-life-is-what-happened-to-youAs Steve weaves through his life he pays more attention. He notices that the frame has shaped what he created, but it also supported his creation and, more importantly, it hasn’t really limited it. In fact, the frame gave his chaotic ball of experiences some direction; some shape and some meaning. Some threads were bright and colourful and some dull or ugly, but all of them had combined to be the art of Steve’s life. It turned out that Steve’s reason for being was Steve’s own life!

Okay, so today’s meditation is a big one: what’s your frame? What are you trying to solve? Who do you want to say what? What do you want explained? What’s supposed to happen, or whatever else? What are you busying trying to accomplish while you’re actually actively weaving your own life? Who left you with your frame and what shape is it?

There is no way to divorce or move away from your frame. You just need to stop paying attention to the hollow and realise that it was never supposed to be full. You weren’t supposed to get rid of the sand, you were supposed to make a pearl. Find out what frame you have and who built it and then love that person. Because the passions in your life are in fact built around that misunderstood love.

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.

Releasing Motivation

1039-relax-and-succeed-you-have-been-criticisingThe reason artists are often called “crazy” is that the two states of creativity and insanity are really degrees of the same thing; few people talk to themselves more than artists need to, and more talking to yourself than that starts to get dangerously close to being lost in thought, otherwise known as “crazy.”

Most people have a boss with deadlines and job descriptions they have to fulfil so they can’t see how much that format is making them work, because even entrepreneurs know it’s much harder when there’s no external deadline imposed. But at least an entrepreneur has a client they’re servicing, but the reason they find marketing the hardest part is the same reason art’s difficult; there’s not only no boss, there’s no customer and the job is pure open space. As an artist you can’t even go to work until you decide how big your canvass should be.

Athletes might bemoan their hours spent training, but most artists would trade them that feeling for the agony of finding it difficult to create. I get a lot of mock hate-comments from artist friends who can’t figure out how I can do other writing and these pages every day by 7am. When your thoughts hold you back creating is very very hard indeed. I remember that sense well.

1039-relax-and-succeed-dont-think-about-making-artIt’s terrifying to start a piece of art because you have a lot of notable things to think about. You have big, public ways to fail. If you’re an author you’re probably comparing yourself to literally the very best people in the world. If you’re a painter you’re worried about $2,500 in paint and canvass you have to invest before you can even try to sell it. If you dance you’re worried about injuries and being a musician on the road has all sorts of potential pitfalls. It can easily make you crazy if you do too much thinking and too little creating.

We’re all such harsh critics. We could still have our opinions and yet talk to people with the approach we’d use with them a kid, where we’d have fewer expectations and where we’d want to be more encouraging. But as adults we make it painful to show personal things. We offer our negative opinion; our corrections. And even if they’ve paid us for that opinion, it still hurts them to hear voices of nonacceptance. And so creating art is hard. The climb is high and the fall feels long.

What’s important for the artist or any other person to remember is that these distances we’ve climbed and these heights we fall from all exist only within our imaginations. You’re not linear. You didn’t advance and then fall back; you expanded and then expanded again. The courage to create work is hard enough; the courage to show it publicly is even more precarious. These are victories not failures. These are what every great artist experiences. It is simply the act of moving past our fears and into an act of creation.

1039-relax-and-succeed-act-without-doingWe tend to think that when things are painful we must be doing something wrong but we only feel that way because there’s a cult of feeling good when in truth you wouldn’t even be able to sense feeling good without feeling bad to compare it to. So we must embrace feeling unsettled and wounded too, lest the art of our lives be shallow and hollow.

Artists spend very little time actually physically creating their art. What they do is spend time doing is observing life and then capturing poignant, worthwhile moments of it in art so that we too can benefit from their keen observations. Maybe they see something funny, maybe it’s what lead them to no longer be racist, it doesn’t matter; their only job is to place it in the world for us to find in the format we personally understand things in, whether that’s dance or painting or any other form.

Artists would benefit if they treated their art more like work, but before they can do that they must have enough respect for themselves that they actually feel genuinely motivated to live up to their own deadlines. If an artist is excited about what’s next then it makes sense that they’ll be excited to complete the project they’re working on, and that’s what gets the deadlines met; not a boss, not a date on a calendar–a genuine desire to finish so that more can be created. That’s a lesson the rest of the work-world can learn from successful artists.

Find what matters about your work even if that ends up being your co-workers having better days so they go home to their kids happier. As long as you feel genuinely motivated to create that positivity by doing what you’re doing, then the doing of it won’t feel much like work because it won’t be. It’ll be your life. It’s time you started actively living more of it. I’ll be better for 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.