Wabi-Sabi Awareness

When people want to learn how to be they’ll often (and entirely without irony) ask me, what should I do? Well there’s the obstacle right there; you can’t do anything. You can’t enter a state of being by doing. Being shows up precisely when you stop doing.

The reason our egos are willing to perform and not enact our true selves is because we’re looking to a fill a want. We think something’s missing so we’re trying to make ourselves and our lives acceptable to those around us. We want some acknowledgement and applause for our performance. But in the real world we are love, living within love, interacting only with other love. So we don’t need anything. Our wants are merely egotistical ideas in our heads.

In looking after my parents there are many helpful things I can do for them. To them I’m doing something for them, but when I’m healthiest and it’s going best I’m simply being in love with them. If I act from a place of love then my actions are a part of my being, and only then can the products of my active love actually generate real value between us.

This is important when caring for people who need help. Often their interactions with us can be very limited so you truly have to be able to immerse yourself in the simplicity of your relationship. Parents of babies, those caring for the severely disabled, and those looking after very elderly but beloved parents are all examples of people that gain great value from unifying themselves with that connection.

The essential simplicity in that type of care is what exposes its value to the person performing it. Essentially hopeless, these people needs are demanding and they can often limit rewards; the child is very challenging and ungrateful, the disabled person will not improve with better care, and the beloved parent will get worse and die. There is nothing we can do about those things, and so understanding a child or person or parent’s imperfection and impermanence is what leads to acceptance and appreciation.

Wabi-Sabi is a Japanese term that’s difficult to turn into English, but it refers to a form of simple beauty that emerges in part from an acceptance of the ever-changing, disordered impermanence of life. So think of a kid on a farm with big dreams of hitting it big in the city. When then they come back home spiritually worn out from adulting, they actually feel the slow pace of life. And it is that new appreciation that allows them to experience their beloved but imperfect parents and siblings in a more profound way.

The feeling of Wabi-Sabi usually refers to those calm but imperfect gardens with the raked stones that you know from popular culture. For a farm person from the west, they get that feeling when they sit having a coffee looking out at the old barn where they used to have to do chores and where they hid as children from their parents.

With enough time and enough memories, as dilapidated and imperfect as it is, the barn gains a certain rustic beauty to it that it would not have were it not for the time needed for all of those memories to grow, and the fact that it may not even be there to contemplate by the next visit. Better to take it in. Better to be with it now.

If I do a bunch of things to help my parents stay alive then I am clinging. But if I am present and accepting of everyone’s imperfection and impermanence, then I can fully be with them. Babies will grow. The disabled will not improve. The aged will die. These are all things to grieve at times but, for the most part, if we can see them from the perspective of Wabi-Sabi then we are engaging with the most beautiful and essential aspects about them.

Do not lament imperfect things and do not cling to certainty. Because after all, it is the very bitter-sweetness at the basis of our feelings of Wabi-Sabi that are what makes the barn worthwhile, the garden beautiful, the baby precious, the disabled person valued, and the parent appreciated.

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.

Wiser Than You Think

970 Relax and Succeed - Walking I am listening in a deeper wayYou’re not on your own you know. Not only would more people help you than you realise (if only you’d ask), but you also have the benefit of all of our ancestors. For millions of years each being has marched in a slightly different direction that gained them unique knowledge and you are no different.

A lot of people remember that we’re 99.9% the same as a Chimp or Bonobo but, as I’ve noted in the past, we’re about 50% the same as a banana! And within us is stored historical information. Wisdom, guidance, instinct. Instincts are just abilities that we have had for so long that we actually feel them without thinking at all. When it comes to basic instincts we’re all born as Bruce Lee.

The difference between people who are comfortable or uncomfortable is simply ego: if they’re using their ability to create words to build an ego then they are focused on that and not on accessing all of their wisdom though nature. They want to find knowledge through the symbolism of words but that’s other people’s wisdom. You’ve got your own wisdom, but you have to quiet that uncertain voice and act instead. You won’t always be right but at least you’ll be in service to your own life a lot more than you are now.

Even if you don’t feel separated from your wisdom right now just remember that it’s always there whether you notice it or not. When it’s there it feels like comfort more than confidence. Other people would just it as confident but when there’s no voice between you and your greater self then you feel that as an internal sense of contentedness.

As an example, we’ve been approaching, greeting and getting to know others ever since nature got mobile and yet a shy person can interrupt all of that wisdom by simply wondering to themselves what the right thing to do might be. Even a banana has a seed and can make another banana and yet despite all of that knowledge a modern new Mom isn’t excited to bring life into the world like she would be in the jungle or the high north. In the city the woman thinks she won’t know what to do and she’s afraid of the pain as though she’s the first person to ever experience it. She does not trust herself that the biggest aspects of her being has been there before.

We all do this all day long. We think uncertain thoughts and we mistake that layer of thought as intelligence and planning when that’s just what we’ve been brainwashed to think it is. In turn that means that when things go wrong we don’t think we over-thought it or that our plan was futile with so many unknown variables–no, when things go wrong you’ll think you didn’t think it through enough.

970 Relax and Succeed - Don't believe everything you thinkThought is a disease. The only reason it has any validity is because we all keep referencing the same symbols as though they are things. The Gross Domestic Product of a nation or your productivity numbers at work are not your life, they are measurements of a few of the results that stem from you living. But those are only in exist in relation to themselves. If your productivity at work is 4.8 but you have no idea what anyone else’s is, then you’re just working however hard you’re working that day. You need to compare scores before you can describe yourself as successful whereas with direct, non-thought-based living you live the success. It’s what you do.

If you’re feeling lost or unwise you’re just putting a lot of thinking between you and your wisdom. Over time and no matter what, pure living will help you hone this skill. As you age you will increasingly see through the smoke and mirrors that make up modern life. What will bother you won’t be that you were tricked–it’ll be all the living you surrendered for a mirage. There is no way to get the time back.

Forget worry. There’s no prize for being timid. You snooze you lose. Life is there for any who choose to live it fearlessly but that effort requires you to act. If you do that without reservation you will have access to the collective knowledge of the billions that live within you. That still might not be enough if you’re adding to our collective wisdom by forging new territory, but it’s still a lot better than sitting all alone talking to yourself.

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 Friday Dose #120: Your Nature

968 FD Relax and Succeed - We are natureThe only problem with this is: if you make something this cheap and easy then no one wants to believe it could be the solution to a big problem. But it is.

You are an aspect of nature. Yesterday I discussed the value of you communing with other aspects of nature; other people, animals, plants, earth, water, air. This isn’t some unpleasant assignment or painful procedure, this is freeing your body, seeing interesting things, breathing more deeply and slowing down.

Below I’ve included something funny yet meaningful to start us off and we’ll follow that with two fascinating videos. Immediately after you watch this first one seriously consider booking something to do this weekend with a friend or friends that involves you in actual nature, experiencing nature. And no, golf doesn’t count. 😉

Next we’ll take a peek into an excerpt from a TED Talk given by Suzanne Simard (the entire talk is available here.) She exposes some fascinating facts but pay particular attention to how similar we are to the world around us. Remember, your DNA is not that far off a banana and grasping and respecting that reality is worth a lot to you. Plus it’s just amazing:

And finally I leave you with a documentary I have literally searched for since my days living in Budapest. It’s called, Dream Window: Reflections on the Japanese Garden, and if you’d like to see an HD version apparently the Smithsonian has one. This film discusses the beautifully elegant and spiritually sophisticated relationships between the gardens, the gardeners and the people who visit with intention. It’s a great way to expand yourself on a rainy afternoon. It may be the most peaceful documentary you’ve ever seen. Enjoy.

You want your life to be happier and you want to be healthier. Go outside this weekend. Just don’t get lost in thought. Forget goals. Be with nature.

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.

Shinrin-Yoku

967 Relax and Succeed - The earth has music for those who listenThere is a much easier way to deal with life than the ups and downs of the roller coaster that most people voluntarily climb onto every day. Everyone today has big problems and they’re looking for big sweeping solutions. The habit has become to seek some grand catharsis, or to see a doctor for an answer-all pill, or to come to someone like me in the hopes of suddenly finding clarity or enlightenment, as though it’s a quick cure and not a way to practice living.

It’s as though we collect rocks from every negative experience and we put them in our pockets and over time they weigh us down. We keep looking for someone outside of us to assume responsibility for all of our rocks when our low-consciousness finally notices that they’re really weighing us down. Enough rocks can really slow your progress. Then things can get really heavy and you can eventually find it difficult to even move, and if still nothing is done there can be physical consequences.

Another less-drastic option is to maintain your being and your life. That is to say, rather than battling disorder and disease you can instead nourish and nurture health. Whereas the battles tend to be ugly and have victims, the maintenance of health is often very enjoyable and rewarding. So you can collect rocks and then look for someone to dump a pile of them on, or you can go for a walk every day and drop a few out as you go, by yourself. That’s called empowerment.

Last year while working with an organisation that promoted both nature and wellness, I was surprised to learn they had never encountered the Japanese idea of shinrin-yoku. It literally means forest bathing. As I’ve noted in posts for years now, walks are not idle efforts. Careful scientific study has externally proven what anyone who spends time in nature knows internally: nature has an impact on us.

These impacts include things like pheromones given off by trees, the soothing quality of the sounds of running water, and even the general quality of the air because of course plants and trees are really the cleaning system for our atmosphere. Our exposure to nature also provides opportunities for unexpected experiences with other people and animals, which can be much richer experiences than just sightings.

When was the last time your bare feet touched the Earth off your own property or not on some beach? How often do you walk barefoot around the nature in your own neighbourhood? Kids used to climb dozens of trees and develop all sorts of useful spatial awareness skills but now there are many kids who have never even been allowed to attempt such a connection.

Touching a tree, smelling a flower, skipping stones on water, seeing the sunlight dapple in through the leaves; these are all very old very human experiences. To trap ourselves in a world of right angles, where everything is labeled and processed and pre-set is to live in an inhuman world. Comfort is not nature. Nature addresses both the outsides and the insides of us.

967 Relax and Succeed - Daily tip wanderI have been unable to walk through my nearby beloved ravine for about a week now. It’s rare that I’m so busy that I can’t create time for doing nothing but walking and breathing. I often do sessions walking through it and for good reason. If you don’t think nature has much value to your psychological and spiritual goals, I can assure you that anyone who spends a lot of time in nature will clearly indicate its value if it’s removed from their life. They will immediately start to feel weighed down by small amounts of stones that you’d never even notice in your busy world.

Go for a walk. Skip some of your own stones across a pond. Commune with a duck. Hug a tree. Wade in a creek. Because bringing a smartphone and looking for Pokemons is fine, but being distracted in nature is to miss the point. Your life is all about efficiency and sense and value but how does that look like it’s working for everyone?

People have never been more stressed. Meanwhile, if you pay attention to the mountain climbers, the naturalists, the hikers and the campers in your life they will all share a uniquely healthy spirit. That isn’t them being more successful than you as a person; that’s them being more connected to the world as an aspect of their own nature. You can do that too.

Forget concepts and roles and responsibilities. Join us. Join the universe. Find your own nature. And make sure you toss a few stones out every single 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 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.

Recognition of Involvement

Winner: 2016’s Blog of the Year #10!

So this week we know two things: our Dominant Negative Emotion and our Dominant Positive Emotion. Your mind has lots of things wired into those two emotions and so those are the ones to which you have the most effective route. Your brain’s like that–the more you do of something the better it gets at it.

861 Relax and Succeed - Today I listen to my feelingsFor our example today we could use sadness or anger but since it’s so popular, let’s say you spend most of your day anxious. Maybe you got laid off and there’s no work so you started your own little business but every day you’re freaked out that in you’re in over your head, it’s more than you can handle and you feel lost and afraid about your future and you lack trust in yourself. Again, it can be any emotion; this is just an example.

And let’s say the enjoyable thing you can easily experience is compassion. You can be having a terrible day–be all caught up in your own egotistical suffering and then you can see an injured dog being rescued on social media and suddenly you’ve switched from anxiety about your future to a form of caring love for the animal and thoughts instead about its future. You’re so invested in the animal that you’re not even creating a you to do any suffering.

This example works particularly well because compassion is tied to someone else’s suffering. For your mind, it’s not a giant leap to stay in suffering mode and yet focus on someone else. That once-removed understanding of the pain is the same thing that makes watching suffering in a movie actually resonate. It’s not your pain, but you feel it as pain you personally understand.

861 Relax and Succeed - Feeling unsure and lostWell it’s time you got to understand your own pain like that. That way, if you can’t shift to a better-feeling emotion you can still feel okay being in a painful situation. That’s an important distinction. Pain is mandatory in life. Everyone feels it. But suffering is the egotistical thought layer we place over the world and we invent suffering and claim it’s pain. It isn’t. Psychological pain is very fortunately a choice.

You can’t blame people a few years ago for thinking this was crazy. Common belief in psychology was that it worked the other way around. Your mental health affected your thinking, not that your thinking affected your mental health. Now they’re old fashioned if they think that people are victims. We can’t out-victim people who went through the worst of WWII, so if they can still have fruitful lives so can anyone else. It’s a matter of understanding our choices. It’s a matter of valuing this awesome opportunity called life.

Remember, because you have a preference for an experience that feels good that does not mean that the undesirable emotions and experiences are incorrect or otherwise something to remove from your life. You want to learn to spend the least amount of time there possible, but there is still tremendous value in the contrast that negative experiences provide.

861 Relax and Succeed - You are innately mentally healthyThere cannot be a path of enlightenment if there isn’t a not-path. And it’s not a path to enlightenment, because that makes it sound like it’s a destination when it’s actually an action–a verb; a way of moving through the universe. It is to be awake. To see the creation of your emotions and the possibility of a shift. Just wondering about that change for one day will do you tremendous good.

These are not small steps you’re taking every day. It’s you learning to see the world in a different way. If we do this long enough you’ll not only have the benefit of each lesson, but you’ll also have the larger total benefit of having assumed as natural, an entirely new way of seeing the world. A way so comfortable it can eventually replace the flawed version of reality you’re struggling to manage today.

That’s your assignment: watch your two biggest emotions. See how they each rise within you. Wonder about those sources. You’re wiser than you think. If you’re sincerely doing the exercises you’re likely to have a very helpful insight about how you can be more peaceful with yourself. It’s those little a-ha moments that we’ll stitch together into a new understanding. It’ll be fun. See you tomorrow for the act of the switch.

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.

2014’s Blog of the Year #5

582 Relax and Succeed - I searched for God

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Obviously a lot of people loved the winning post, but if people are actively anti-religious it’s one that can sit funny in their head. Because the winner features a God that scientists can actually believe in, and yet if anything it adds to or expands upon the idea of most religious versions. If you read it carefully you see that I am marrying the idea of God with a non-religious, non-judgmental, non-separate entity. It’s like the Frank Lloyd Wright quote, “I believe in God, only I spell it nature.” I suppose it’s fitting that it would win Blog-of-the-Year status right in the midst of celebrations by many different religions. So without further ado, here’s the link to the 5th most popular blog for 2014:

CLICK BELOW TO READ:

2014’s Blog of the Year #5

peace. s

The Friday Dose #35

Winner: 2014’s Dose of the Year

485 Relax and Succeed - We are awakened by joy

Wow have I got some fun stuff for you. Life can be heavy. It’s good to buoy ourselves up on a routine basis. It should be an active part of your mental health regime to ensure that you ingest some enjoyable experiences during your day. Many of these will come from interactions with other people—your customers, co-workers or friends—but some will come from media as well. So encourage the sad people to join you because it will help make them happier, but choose friends who are good at being happy and then go do happy things. Play sports, run, play board games, converse, whatever. And if you’re going to take in any media, try to have it tip heavily towards positive things. You feel what your brain eats and digests. So be mindful of what you give it. I would recommend something along these lines. If you don’t think the world around you is conscious then maybe your thoughts just travel at the wrong speed. What if you sped the world around you up? Would it seem more intentional then?

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Next you’ll see the incredible artistry of Melody Yang, daughter of Fan Yang the renowned Canadian artist. There’s nothing I can really say here other than I’m confident you’ll be impressed by the mixture of art and science, she’s got some remarkable skills, and it’s easy to enjoy:

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And finally we’ll send you off by sending you around the world to a the sort of street artists you too-often walk past on your own streets. I remember hearing in an interview that Tom Petty and members of the Eagles used to busk on street corners and people had no idea who they were walking past. There are certainly some brilliant artists working on the street in my city and I’m sure there are in yours too. Pay more attention. It would be good for you and them. This really is very, very good. Enjoy. 😉

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That should have you feeling pretty good so carry that feeling forward. You’re an awesome person who has a lot to give. Feel your own wealth by sharing it with others. Go out and create a great day with positive vibes and patient, tolerant and helpful good deeds and that will be all we’ll need for the world to get better. Love you all.

peace. s

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

Other Perspectives #18

396 Relax and Succeed Rebuttal - Anyone who ever gave you confidence

This quote almost ended up in a blog post of mine except I had reservations about people misunderstanding it. I agree we should allow ourselves to feel very positive about anyone who contributes to us enjoying our life experience more. But it’s also important to remember that they didn’t give us the confidence. But we can nevertheless be extremely grateful to them for reminding us that confidence is a natural state and that only self-talk can get in the way of us feeling natural confidence. There never really was anything stopping us from feeling confident except our own insecure thoughts about ourselves. So with my apologies to Truman Capote, I’m okay with the line if it reads: Be grateful for anyone who reminds you that the only thing separating you from a feeling of confidence is your own insecure thinking. As a fellow screenwriter, I doubt that George Axelrod (who wrote the script) would have liked my line in his movie and I would agree. But on a quote designed to be beneficial in helping people to understand their own role in their life experience? On that quote I’d go with me instead of Trueman or Axelrod. You don’t need confidence from the outside. You just need to stop suppressing it from the inside with stories about why you can’t, won’t or couldn’t. You are much more capable than your idea of yourself suggests, which is why insecurity would feel uncomfortable for you to experience. It’s not your natural state.

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 offence 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 #9 – Brave New Worlds

It’s a cool week. I get to put a lot of really interesting stuff in the Dose each week. But I don’t know if I’ve ever been more excited about a week. Because there’s a lot of people bitching and a lot of people lost and a lot of people hurting, but overall the world is moving in a wonderful, beautiful, marvellous direction. And today we’re looking at two signs of that progression. Isn’t it exciting to be living through a renaissance!

329 Relax and Succeed - In zen the important thingI’ll start off with an absolutely wonderful article from Psychology Tomorrow Magazine. In it the writer writes about a man whose life was very different from, and yet in many ways almost exactly the same as, my own. His route was extremely similar from an internal perspective, but I find it fascinating how he had virtually identical internal experiences and yet they were created by external circumstances that were remarkably different. Certainly every quote from him in the article is something I either have said or would feel entirely comfortable saying (although I actually can fill in some of the remaining blanks noted). I sometimes work with my friend Christina, and I can’t help but think that she has/will laugh when she reads it because his points sound so much like me. It’s a great article and it points to a brighter future for our world. Enjoy:

The Neuroscience of Suffering – And Its End

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You may have seen a recent Scientific American article talking about how we’re learning that elephants are much smarter than we realized. I can’t help but wonder if the elephants are learning we’re not as smart as they thought. 😉

329 Relax and Succeed - All animals deserve protectionWe have to change our ideas of Human Beings being masters of this Earth. There’s no reason for us to believe that except hubris. Because we can talk and manage energy to the point where we can overrun the planet does not mean that we own it. Who were we to put up fences? Who were we to invent the idea of property? Pretty bold. But we’re hitting a wall in numerous ways. And people can feel it. They’re looking for something real. Something intense and beautiful and unrecreatable. They want life to be more of a Mandala, where they can intricately build aspects of themselves and then destroy them in order to engage in the act of creating another. We’re getting less interested in things and status and more interested in experiences. This is a good thing.

As regards the video: I remember seeing this guy many years ago, before he’d learned as much as he knows now. By using his own experience rather than other people’s teaching, he found new ways to approach old ideas. In the end his discoveries seem inevitable. It would be counter-intuitive to even consider that he might be wrong. It just makes sense. And it makes you wonder what this world will look like if we all start raising all the world’s children to have this level of connection capability. It’s one of the best videos on the internet. Enjoy:

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Have yourself a wonderful weekend.

peace. s