The Stranger’s House

The stranger’s request was immediately suspicious and William’s radar immediately went up. The stranger claimed he was giving William a very large budget to build the home of his choice–William’s–just as long as it could handle a family with three kids. William knew a little about what that was like because he was paying alimony and child support to a wife and three kids.

When William pulled up to the beautiful lot overlooking a park, he saw another contractor he knew parked next door. Amazingly, as it turned out, Ray had received the same call, only for the lot next door! Ray had three kids as well, so he and William assumed that had something to do with them getting the jobs.

William argued that the whole thing was just too good to be true and he warned Ray to watch out. Ray said he was happy for the work and that he was grateful for William’s concern, but that he would happily keep working right up until something actually went wrong. William was essentially just waiting for an inevitable bomb to drop, so conversely he kept a very close eye on everything as a result. He often lamented all the struggle he would experience once it did all blow up.

The first thing Ray built was a picnic table. “What’s that for?” William asked him.

“My family. They come for lunch with me each day and the kids help clean up the lot. I’m hoping it teaches them a healthy work ethic, plus I eat well and sometimes we even dance.”

“Dance? You should wolf down a burrito or something. Time is money my friend. If you stop to eat your per-hour rate drops. I’d tell my wife to stay at home.”

“I am so sorry William, I did not know you were married! We will have to have you and your wife to dinner one night.”

“Uh, yeah, that’s fine. Her and I… we’re not together anymore.”

“I see.” Ray kept his focus on William. “My friend, you are breaking your back. We’re not young men anymore. Why don’t you hire more help?”

“I’m tellin’ you William, this whole house deal is a sham. This guy has something up his sleeve and we’re gonna get stuck with the bill in the end.”

“But every invoice has been paid on time.”

“He’s just setting us up. The fact that it’s going good is all part of his plan.”

“I see,” said Ray, confused. “So… the good news is actually… bad news…?”

Now William doesn’t seem as sure either. “Uh, yeah. Basically.”

In the months that followed, Ray’s wife did come down every day and those kids did keep that lot looking a lot better than William’s, next door. Everyday Ray sang at work, and he laughed with his co-workers, and he let his kids draw funny little cartoon characters on the wood before he used it. He really enjoyed building the house out of such fine materials. He was grateful to the trees and the people that supplied them. It was going to be a beautiful house. Ray had thought out every detail to ensure it would be ideal for the stranger’s family.

For those same months, William complained a lot, which made sense because he worked much more slowly. He insisted on doing too much himself because he was always worried about costs. That left him exhausted, which left him grumpy, which only served to make him even more suspicious of the stranger. All day he tried to figure out what scam the stranger was playing. He would take breaks from work and do math on pieces of wood in his attempt to find the hidden theft.

Soon the houses we’re nearing completion. Ray takes a lot of pride in his work. He enjoys his days with his co-workers and he is very grateful for the income. That’s all reflected in the home. It’s warm and decorated and beautiful. Care and attention has been paid. Conversely, William’s house looks uninspiring, unfinished and cheap. It looks like someone who didn’t care much at all, and it’s true William didn’t care about the house. He was too busy caring about his fears.

It was therefore ironic when one day there was a knock on the nearly finished stranger’s door. William opened it with concern. Why was anyone visiting? The stranger introduced himself rather plainly, and he explained that he was there to give William the deed to the house he had just built. William was suspicious.

The stranger then explained that William’s life would always be like the house he built. If he was distracted by fear and suspicion and mistrust; if he failed to offer his talents and skills, then the result would be to miss out on creating the things in life that truly bring it value. As a result, William was welcome to live inside the physical space that his own negative thinking had wrought. Then the stranger invited William come with him to Ray’s, which he did.

At Ray’s door, announcement of who the stranger was instantly got him a big hug from Ray’s entire family. They were just about to sit down to dinner. There was always plenty. Would the stranger please stay? After all, he had contributed meaningfully to Ray’s income that year. They would like to celebrate. William could join them too.

The stranger agreed, as did William. As they sat down, the stranger offered Ray and his wife the deed to their home and property. They were equally confused. What was going on? That’s when the stranger turned to William.

“Do you see William? Ray cared. He was active in that care. He invited his wife. They ate, they laughed, they danced. He cared about his family, his employees, his suppliers, his customers, and his work. You William, were worried. And worry only breeds more worry. So if you’d like to live in a nicer, calmer space, I would suggest you do as Ray did. Consider focusing your thoughts on caring rather than worrying, because whichever you do, that is where you will ultimately live.”

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.

Peace Within You

1092-relax-and-succeed-if-you-want-to-become-fullInvitations and violations. Invitations to love, to health, to compassion. Violations of love, of health, of compassion. That is the only two actions you take each day. Nonviolence, or violence. Embracing the soul or violating it.

Can you see that each exercise this week focused on a different aspect of reality? You see these as; how you speak to others, what you think of others, and what you think of yourself. But there are only others in the world of ego.

In the world of spirit reality is one continuous whole, as it is with a baby; where they can’t even recognise themselves in mirrors. They can’t think enough to draw ephemeral lines through reality; they can’t see themselves as separate. You need to think to be lonely. You need to think to be depressed. You need to think to suffer.

1092-relax-and-succeed-revolving-sun-moon-yin-yangAre you beginning to grasp the idea of yin and yang now? Your ego thinks it’s good and bad, but in reality it is nonviolence and violence, light and dark, this side and that side. It is necessary for reality to exist, and yet we are propelled by love and togetherness, which is why we feel unloved and alone when we’re in pain.

How can we create love unless there is space to create it in? And if this space can be filled with love, then it must begin with no love. If it is filled with violence, then it can become nonviolent. Nothing is wrong in this scenario. We are simply in motion. We are one. Your goodness is tied to badness. You cannot care for a loved one in pain unless the loved one is first in pain. You cannot fall in human love without also ensuring you experience the pain of love lost.

Yin and yang. Nothing is wrong. And yet you have a purpose. You get lost in the dark and you move toward the light.

1092-relax-and-succeed-extra-extraToday your meditation is to incorporate an appreciation for the reality of oneness into your daily life. You normally discuss the dark side. You complain, but you tell yourself you’re positive because you’re arguing to make you or the world better, but negativity is negativity. Love makes it better. Love doesn’t ask others to change. Love accepts and recognises the incredible value within each and every person.

The meditation looks like this; every time someone says something bad about the world your meditation is to find some way to not violate or deny their feelings, and yet convert the discussion to a more positive view. You also want to do this inside your own head, and you want to do it when you attack others and when you attack yourself, because in spiritual reality those are all one thing.

No matter how old you are the world has gotten massively better in your lifetime. The news and social media are products designed to sell you fear and loathing. They are violent forces in our society and both present a warped image of the world back to the viewer. There must be something wrong with you or your life if you need their product to improve or fix it.

1092-relax-and-succeed-the-world-is-full-of-good-peopleTo quote from a recent episode of Ideas on the subject of peace, the facts are quite different from your beliefs: The world has never been richer, healthier, better-connected, or safe. The number of conflicts around the world have dropped radically. 75 years ago it was 240 people per million who were killed in conflict, today only 11 people per million are killed in conflict.

At the turn of the previous century, 90% of the world was considered poor or very poor; today it’s 11%. 100 years ago 85% of the world was illiterate. Today 85% can read and write. Disease deaths are down or even eliminated. Even terrorism dropped by 15% last year. The news sells fear. The truth is that humans have done really well at caring for other humans.

You job today is to simply begin acting like you actually live in our current nonviolent reality, instead of the violent delusional world of ego and fear. If your eyes are truly open you will see evidence of this truth everywhere you look. Enjoy.

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.

Something Better

860 Relax and Succeed - A pessimist sees difficultySo far you’ve worked on being more grateful, less judgmental and more self-aware of your suffering.  Now you want life to improve because life simply includes too much suffering. But now we’ve found the number one way in which you suffer and you are now more conscious of it. Congratulations. That’s a much bigger achievement than you realize (I told you this would be easy if you did it one step at a time). Don’t forget to stay in touch with that awareness.

Since we’re suffering too much and that’s where we are most often, then we’re set up perfectly. By using this change as an example of making any change you’ll have started with the area of your life where you can make the biggest difference right away.

It is important to remember to see your emotions not as the results of events, but rather as a product of your thinking. You manufacture those feelings intentionally. Maybe not consciously, but it is definitely you telling you to feel that way. Just like if you watch a scary movie you’ll be scared or you’ll read sad book and be sad, if you tell yourself anxious stories about yourself and your life then it should be zero surprise that you’re feeling anxious.

860 Relax and Succeed - Some days you just have toSo there’s your sign it’s time to switch. Wasn’t it nice of the universe to make it feel unpleasant so you would be motivated to change it? Now, instead of peddling your anxious narrative even faster and spinning it wider like Pigpen’s dust-cloud from Peanuts, simply use it as information. It’s like when you feel chilly you put on a sweater or if you’re thirsty you get a drink. If you’re anxious change your narrative.

This can appear difficult at first. But of course, just thinking that it’s hard and that you can’t do it is already an example you have changed your thoughts–I would just encourage you to change to nicer thoughts that will generate a better result. Being disappointed in yourself for feeling disappointed just adds to the disappointment.

In life, whatever you feel you’ll be inclined to feel more of–including happiness, contentment, satisfaction etc. Any emotion can be changed so it’s worthwhile to meditate to obtain healthy thinking habits. That’s all your suffering is–a habit. I know that sounds like it trivializes it, but that’s good news. Overcoming trivial things is much easier than formidable things. And that makes me happy because I’ll feel better when you feel better.

860 Relax and Succeed - Being positive in a negative situationToday we have fun. Today you have to choose the positive emotion you find it easiest to feel. Not the one you like the most–the one you find it easiest to experience–the one you feel most often. Maybe you’re quick to laugh, maybe you find it easy to feel compassion. Maybe it’s love, or maybe you feel good when you do nice things for others. Whatever it is, get to know that too. You know the fattest pipe in your brain for negativity–it’s even more important to know your most efficient and well-maintained route to something better.

Do these exercises seriously every week and you will change. Know yourself. Get on Youtube and find videos that relate to the positive emotion you believe is your easiest. Watch them and ensure that this is a fast and effective way to elevate your consciousness.

Life can be death by a thousand cuts, or it can be life by a thousand tiny rescues. Find those things it’s easy to think good things about. Everyone has them. Once you have yours we’ll start tomorrow on how to get from the most common negative one to the most common positive one.

Enjoy your 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.

Embracing What Is

282 Relax and Succeed - Let us train our minds 2

Are you familiar with the Seneca quote about training our minds to desire what situations demand? I’m afraid I need translation here again. Can’t seem to wrap my brain around this one.

Needs Translation

Dear Needs,

Imagine that I was an angel that watched over your every step. You are absolutely certain that I know every detail about your past and your future.

Then imagine that when you were very young, I have explained to you that you were in for a wonderful life experience. I would explain that your route is crazy and bent and seemingly chaotic, but I would assure you that as lost or nutty as it might seem at times—you truly were on your way to great things.

Can you see how you would see difficult things differently? All of your difficult days would be framed by the idea of a great life. Because you’d be watching for a great life to show up, you’d create one.

The difference between the two lives might seem abstract, but there is salvation hiding in that subtle distinction.

Rather than facing a challenge and seeing it as a failure or a signal that we are on the wrong path, we simply see it as a phase in our journey. But the only reason we would do that would be because we had been forewarned that our would be good.

We were told it would be filled with ups and downs, so we see the downs as a part of life being good. We’re focused on how our life will be overall, not at any given moment –and on average we’ve been told in a way that made us certain that it was true, that we were, on average, going to have a good life.

How this all translates is that the people who were expecting a just a great life are constantly disappointed when real life brings challenges and delivers lessons. When they face those hills they start criticizing themselves of those around them.

For someone who’s been told that life will be grand, but that it’s greatness will include ups and downs, then the downs can be contextualized as merely an aspect of our journey upward. It’s the same life with a different story. And our stories make or break our lives. This is the lesson of the book and film, Life of Pi.

282 Relax and Succeed - Flow with whatever may happen

A while back I wrote a blog where I referenced a big business magnate from the turn of the century. (Optimism vs Pessimism) He felt the world was always conspiring in his favour, so even when a deal went bad he was happy. In fact, he immediately would shift his money toward what he would presume was an even better deal. And he ended up a billionaire.

Like an airplane, can you see how his attitude took him higher and higher, to greater perspectives that allowed him to see more and react more productively. Other people would have a negative attitude and they’d end up diving at the ground when they struggled, and then they would say they crashed because they’re unlucky, rather than truth, which is that they’re unfortunate because they think they’re unlucky.

Trust me, when you’re on your deathbed you’ll think every step of this was worth it. The trick is to do that before then. Way before then.

Start really getting conscious about your thinking. And if you can’t quiet it, at least re-direct it toward a nice, better story for you to experience. Because that is by far the biggest factor in determining whether or not you have a good or bad day.

Good luck with it. And here’s to a good year.

peace. s

Your Happiness Potential

Logic, reason, and scientific method are useful means by which we can reliably make our way through the world. But despite what many nihilists purport, I am proof that those tools can exist simultaneously with the conscious choice to be optimistic. Healthy skepticism doesn’t need to be cynical or negative. In fact, there is no better skepticism than optimistic skepticism. And optimism’s superiority is entirely logical.

81 Relax and Succeed - Always believe that something wonderfulLet’s say you’re working as a researcher for the Center for Disease Control. Clearly you’re better off being optimistic. If you’re looking for a solution and you believe that trying won’t be worth it, then you won’t even begin any more experiments because you have essentially said that you don’t believe the patient has a chance.

If you’re interminably optimistic you will still recognize the same challenges, but you also know that there is only one way to achieve a long-shot victory: the person who finds the rare victory is the one that continues trying past the point of reasonable or apparently logical limits. They continue to search for solutions no matter how long they go without finding one.

The optimist works under the general premise that their time will not be wasted. And that’s just another way of saying that they perpetually believe they can save the patient. And if the patient does die, then the optimist can know that at least their efforts did lead to more knowledge, which in turn might save future patients. In this way the optimist lives in a perpetual state of a kid before Christmas—you don’t know what’s going to happen, but you’re confident something awesome is going to happen eventually.

81a Relax and Succeed - Keep you eyes openIf you consciously choose to live in an enthusiastically optimistic state of mind, you will view everything as though it is pregnant with potential goodness and enjoyment. When your team’s behind with only a little time left, then the situation is perfect for an exciting come-from-behind win. If you don’t get this job, you’re free for the next one—which might be much better. Or maybe you failed a course, but when you re-took it you met the person you fell in love with. Simply put, if you look for reasons to be grateful—if you assume that the world is constantly offering you amazing gifts—then those gifts will suddenly become visible to you. Assume they’re not there are they won’t be.

There are some very heavy days in life when happiness and a light view are not suitable. But for the vast majority of our days, if we simply watch for our good fortune we will see that it is perpetually present. If we stop expecting specific things, we can start focusing on the many fortunate things that already exist in our lives.

Even if days are tough, just keep going forward with a mind wide open to your potential good fortune. Do not look down the narrow, dark tube of expectation. Its limited vision almost guarantees your disappointment. But if you anticipate rather than expect, then you can find things to like in almost any direction you could look.

Now go notice the greatness in your day. I love you.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

Optimism vs. Pessimism

Skepticism is a very useful tool for a human being but a lot of people mistake cynicism for skepticism. There are obvious benefits to using your knowledge to test if something is true in your experience. But likewise, cynicism and pessimism have obvious downsides.

Pessimists will claim that optimists aren’t realistic—that they look at the world through rose-coloured glasses and they fail to see what’s really going on. But the same argument could be made for the pessimists. Certainly optimists may chase down some dead ends, but when everyone else has given up all 384176_495857223757951_177686374_nhope, it is the most optimistic person that will continue looking for—and keeping their mind open to—a solution.

If you were working on a movie, who would generate more quality work? The Cinematographer who’s in his trailer worrying about the fact that they can’t shoot because of the clouds, or the Cinematographer who’s outside his trailer calmly waiting and keeping an eye on the weather in anticipation (not expectation) of something useful coming? And because he or she is outside looking for an answer that can advance their objective, they have the opportunity to notice things the pessimistic Cinematographer wouldn’t even get the chance to see. Like maybe a clever, new, innovative way to shoot with the cloud cover. Because necessity very often is the mother of invention.

Like the previous post that mentioned the woman pining after her ex-husband, if we’re only looking for a specific thing to happen that we have defined as good, then we have a much lower chance of having our expectation met. But if we are instead focused on what we want to accomplish but we remain unattached to our potential solutions then our mind is free to bend and flex toward whatever surprise solution might present itself. Expectations not being met leads the pessimist back into his trailer. Anticipation that there is the potential for a solution is what keeps the optimist looking. And even if they fail, all they have done is delay the experience that the pessimist already had.

I remember years ago reading about a big turn-of-the-century US industrialist like a Carnegie, a Vanderbilt, or a Mellon—someone like that—who was said to have an affliction of always assuming the world was conspiring in his favour. Imagine that. Going through life literally feeling like the universe is secretly cooperating with you. (This deal fell through? Well then I 21 Relax and Succeed - Let us not look backmust need the money to invest in something even better!) What I’m suggesting is that this “crazy industrialist” was in fact on to something very real. Imagine the disappointment you avoid in life simply because when something “goes wrong” your reaction is to gleefully assume that it’s failed because something better is coming! And because you believe that you actually watch for it. And because you’re watching for it you see things no one else was even aware enough to notice.

Be like a child. They find tons of happiness every day in the simplest of things. Most of us would open an empty box and complain that it was empty. Give that to a small enough kid and they’ll enjoy tearing the wrapping paper off and then they’ll happily play with the empty box. A pessimist can judgmentally call the child unsophisticated and point out that it’s “just a cardboard box,” but the optimist could just as honestly describe the child as being open-minded, and that their choice of playing with just the box is “an experience of true happiness” just as much as any other the pessimist was hoping for. Life isn’t about getting what you want, it’s about wanting what you get.

Do not hope for hope is the opposite side of the coin from disappointment. Believe instead. Know that the universe is huge and made of many things, so if you keep your eyes genuinely open you won’t be hoping to find something good, you’ll be doing all you need to do to actually find it.

Enjoy your day by looking for what’s good in it. Make that a habit and you will have built yourself a very enjoyable life. And that is the ultimate success.

peace. s