Dwelling in the Past

1259 Relax and Succeed - Maintain a quiet mindHabits. Your mind is built around recognizing patterns. Done with awareness, it’s a great tool for efficiency. Done blindly, it digs the rut that leads to an early grave. Often we’ll work on our behaviour habits without realizing that without changing the underlying thinking, there is no hope of lasting change; no hope of new awarenesses forming.

Real change happens when we study something closely enough that we can have truly profound realizations about that thing. To most of us, our own families are simply patterns and we’ve stopped interacting with each other with any authenticity long ago, and that reality usually isn’t faced until there’s a death or serious illness. This is what it is to be asleep, spiritually.

When we’re open we’re free. Our minds hover, unattached, unattracted, and quiet. When we’re lost in ego we’re attached to our desires and our minds are busy. They bounce around familiar conversations like they’re the walls that form our own mental prison. We get in the car and every day we yell at fellow drivers, never seeing our own upset as being the habit that is generating our suffering, but using our thinking to instead blame others the suffering we have chosen through a lack of awareness.

1259 Relax and Succeed - Watch your thoughts

We walk into rooms and begin old and familiar self-conversations about arguments from the past; or we talk to ghosts from our history about days we wish never would have happened, or we see things in symbolic ways rather than open ones. These are all common, understandable events to begin, but to stay healthy we must catch ourselves in these states of mind and we must consciously shift out.

The value isn’t so much in the switching, because any pain we feel is confined to our thinking anyway, so the important part is the awareness. Once we understand it in a larger context, any suffering we do is less meaningful. By placing it in a larger context it takes on a contrasting value that is difficult to recognize when we only see it as something dark that we want gone. Like a big, mean dog that we’re trapped in our homes with, if we can’t wish it away, then we’re all better to make friends with the part of us that has the potential to tear us apart from the inside.

Don’t move through your life with blind habits of thought. That’s to live the life of a spiritual zombie. Awaken. It’s not some big mysterious paint your face in the jungle thing, and it’s not something profound and holy and out of reach–true spirituality is with you when you do the mundane mindfully. It is not what you are doing, it is how mindfully you are doing whatever it is.

There are walls in your life that restrict you. From how you wake up, to what you listen to, to your route to work, to your reactions on the way and when you’re there; these things are all too-often decided before you even start your day. If we live unconsciously we will bounce between barriers formed by nothing more than our own limiting thoughts, and we will live repetitive, unimaginative existences. We have to get out of our common thoughts and develop our awareness like a muscle.

1259 Relax and Succeed - We do not heal the past

Here’s a little brain test: I’d consider slotting it into at least one day of your week as purely worthwhile exercise. Maybe it’s the radio in your car, maybe it’s a podcast instead of a music playlist, or a streaming audio book–it doesn’t really matter–your job is strictly to listen. Do whatever you’re doing safely and with the appropriate attention, but to prevent your mind from otherwise wandering to familiar self-talk narratives, stay listening instead.

If you miss even one sentence, double back and listen again. Do that; frustrate yourself until you can maintain your focus well enough to simply listen to whomever you choose, for what is really a relatively short period of time. If you can’t hold your focus for that long, or you can’t even keep dedicated to that single achievement, then you know you haven’t suffered enough yet to truly want your health.

If the awareness doesn’t motivate you then that’s fine–but it does definitely mean you are actively choosing suffering, because once we have that shift in understanding,all of this gets easy . We’re suddenly aware that our day is built by us, and so for the day to improve we have to improve at building it, not at finding some secret hidden in our past.

What kind of day will you build today? Will it be made from an unconscious collection of learned habits from your past, or will you awaken to your own originality and create your day anew, from freshly minted and silent moments of now? You make the choice every day. The only< question is: are those choices conscious or not?

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.

Talking Ourselves Down

1251 Relax and Succeed - Toughness is no match for insecurityNEWSFLASH: It does not matter how strong you are, how smart you are, nor how educated you’ve become, nor how skilled. Those are all great thing, but all of them can quickly become worthless by being easily undone by a simple internal narrative of insecurity. Whether it’s a sport, an art, in business, or with others in our social lives, nothing will do more damage to us than our own egos and their neverending pursuit of whatever our current definition of perfection is.

We’ll go to the gym, we’ll invest energy in things we’re fascinated by, we’ll spend a lot of time learning about that subject either formally or informally, and we’ll practice it. The reason we’ll happily put in a huge effort in will be because we see value there. We don’t get clear-headed and generally peaceful by wanting to stop our suffering, we get clear-headed by valuing the peace we trust we can create.

There are kids who see practicing an instrument as torture while others see it as an escape. Our behaviours often point quite clearly to our real interests, and when we’re pursuing those our pure zeal leads to us to fill our consciousness with excitement about the thing instead of rolling it’s usually unconscious narratives. There is a great lesson in that fact.

1251 Relax and Succeed - It is easy to shield our bodiesThe voices in our heads are debates by for and with ourselves. It’s a strange thing to do when we get right down to it. It’s natural in that no one tells us not to fall into the trap of too much self-talk after we learn to talk, but by the time anyone’s forty they start to grasp that the unhealthy people overthink and the healthy ones seem inordinately calm.

Both groups will still have their big emotional highs and lows, but while one group is whipped around like a flag in the wind for however long the wind is blowing, the other group quickly shifts back to letting things flow around them, unimpeded by personal thoughts. It’s like our consciousness is actually a fast-moving river, and thinking about something too much is like dumping rocks into the water and making the water choppier and rougher. Just looking at a busy-minded person is like being able to see how busy the incessantly burbling thoughts are inside their head.

We must ask ourselves, when and why do we undertake this strange behaviour? What’s our own most common narrative of insecurity? Are we too short? Too weak? Do we need more money? More time? Do we use our narratives to hate others rather than advance ourselves? Do we see the world as against us? Do we tell yourself ourselves we’re unlucky, or doomed or stupid, or lazy or worthless?

1251 Relax and Succeed - Are you being nice to yourself

We can tell ourselves all of those things and they will act as actual barriers to our achieving all we can. Our other option is to actually learn to get conscious about what internal actions actually lead to our satisfaction.

If we do get conscious we’ll see that our pain comes from our thinking, and when we love our own life it’s because we’re too excited by it to take the time to build any self-limiting narratives. It doesn’t matter how much we go to the gym or read or practice something if our mind hasn’t found a way to embrace whatever it is we need to do. You must fall in love with wherever you are. This general caring about our life is what is often referred to as taking pride in our work, or being respectful or having the commitment to succeed.

We don’t have to work to reach this form of clarity. We don’t add to ourselves to find this peace. We take away our ego, our narratives, our insecurity, and we replace it with a peaceful mindfulness capable of drawing in information at a remarkable rate. Remember, we all learned to talk and walk before we were even three. That’s how smart we can be. But to be that brilliant we must consciously avoid using the words we’ve already learned, to undo the very confidence that enabled us to the learn all the words in the first place.

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 Stagnation of Thought

If you’re inactive you’re looping. You have two modes of movement through this universe. If you understood the difference between them you would find you would be much more successful at avoiding suffering; particularly anxiousness, worry and fear.

Non-word-based thought is quite valuable. A technician doesn’t look at an engine and think of the parts in words–they’re thinking of it as a function within a system. They’re like detectives looking for the answer within the flow of movement. They’re looking for clues that would provide evidence for the theory they’re testing in their minds–without words.

That kind of flowing thought is where your wisdom is. That’s how kids can learn to talk so fast. A kid can be five and know 3 languages really well; not because they’re so smart, but because they listen so well. The listening–the awareness–is the skill. The talking only facilitates some interactions, but not as many as we believe. Usually our conversations are crippled by our identities, which are undone by too much internal thinking.

The damage comes when you turn those thoughts into clubs to bash yourself with, or you turn them into loops that you tie yourself up with. Depressed people have very sad loops. They may have them for good reasons, but what they’re feeling isn’t the experience, it’s the strangle of the looping. An angry person does tight fast loops around something and then snaps. And anxious or inactive people loop around ideas so slowly (out of fear, or lack of interest), that effectively no progress is made. Those are crazy, crippling forms of over-thinking.

Think to create an idea. And yeah, develop a really good pre-production plan and set yourself up for success. But once you have your script and your plan, it’s time to shoot your film. Any thought-looping here has nothing to do with creating life, it’s only about creating fears and anxiousness.

Those of you who do it know what I’m talking about. You get excited about an idea and then you talk yourself out of it. Then you start thinking the thoughts that un-inspire and you do that until you get angry with yourself, after which you use your anger to tell your ego to shut up and then finally you get a burst of movement forward. The problem kicks in again though, just as soon as you start talking to yourself again.

People let their fears stop them because they think creation takes genius, not boldness. Here’s how easy you can leave your mark in the universe: In film we have a term for shooting without sound, so on the clapperboard they’ll write MOS. Almost everyone who starts in film will immediately ask, “Why is ‘without sound’ written as ‘MOS?'” And the answer is that a lot of the early cinematographers came from photography, and Germany was a leading nation for photography. So when a German cinematographer called out instructions to the crew, he would say, “Vee are going to jhoot ziss mit out sound.”

It exists. MOS. Millions of people know the term and use it regularly. It’s creation was a creative act. So where did it come from that it deserved to last this long? It came from one person’s bold creative act to add something to the universe.

Some senior German filmmaker said “mit out sound,” and some person with courage, risked offending the cinematographer, risked having people angry with them, maybe even risked getting fired, and they to added some humour to the universe anyway. They risked their job and people being just a little upset, and they wrote it anyway.

Obviously it was popular and spread, and now most Germans are quite proud to know their artistic culture has left this mark in the world. And that was invented by some guy just trying to create a life by making a small joke with his co-workers. And yet how many of you stop yourselves from doing likewise pretty routinely?

How many of you will be the first to put your hand up to volunteer?  Do you see how fears hold your life back? And do you see how things can echo if you live life with courage? Families end up being created by someone having the simple courage to ask someone to dance.

Your creation could be a relationship that you get the courage to start if you stop talking yourself out of your worthiness. Or you could create a child, or a friendship or a career or business. You can create an enjoyable conversation (because why create an unenjoyable one?). You could create a piece of art, you can expand by learning, or even building a spreadsheet. Life happens as a verb. Verb your life. Because the worst fate is isn’t failing or having people laugh at you. The worst fate possible is to leave your life unlived. So start living yours right this moment.

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 Space To Be You

You know what you need? Nothing. That’s what you need. You need gaps, you need space. You need room to simply be. But you can’t do that because you’re either too busy being busy, or you’re busy being something other than yourself. You’re either too busy thinking other people’s thoughts or you’re too busy thinking about yourself. You’re anxious or worried or angry or depressed, and yet your nature is not. There are zero depressed babies.

The worst thing you can do to a baby is take it away from human contact. That’s why being depressed hurts so much when we’re older too. It cuts us off from the natural camaraderie that is part of a healthy human life. If you’re spending a lot of time alone and you’re hurt or angry, then keep in mind that it’s pretty normal for any human to feel that way if you’re in any way deprived of human engagement.

Temporarily wanting to be alone after taking an emotional hit is fine, but the reason that being isolated eventually always hurts is because the pain is signalling us that our time alone is over and we’re now being prodded by our healthy self to end the source of the suffering: the isolation.

The problem is, people will often mistake the pain of the isolation for the pain for the original experience. Fortunately, that’s just a small mistake our mind makes. Once we’ve trained it to watch for those things it can handle telling the two apart quite easily. But you can’t do that if you think all of your suffering comes from the outside world. The pain, okay. But the suffering you need to accept as your responsibility before you can be free of its agonies.

Let’s say you got cut off from your social group in some harsh and thorough way. Because we’re creatures that do better in the company of other creatures, it makes sense that you would find that experience painful. So go be alone for a while. But then when the aloneness doesn’t feel better–when it doesn’t feel like solitude and space and quiet–then you’ll start to suffer in that aloneness, and that’s your sign.

If you’re suffering you’ll have started to overthink and, if you’re not careful, soon you’ll mistake the emotional results of your thinking for the emotional pain of the inciting event from the past. You’ll blame the outside world for something you’re doing to yourself. You’ll develop all kinds of rationalisation stories that explain why your pain is someone else’s fault. But it won’t be. It will be you. And your freedom is hidden in that fact.

If you put yourself there you can get yourself out. If something painful’s happened, take some time and collect yourself but then rejoin life. But if you’re just wallowing in suffering every day then I’m sorry, but that’s you. You can tell yourself all the stories you like, with all of the sad events and evil characters you can think of, but it will not change the fact that you are powerful. You are free to think what you choose, and you’re free to end your suffering the moment you decide to focus of your consciousness on things that inspire you.

Being alone isn’t lonely if that’s where you feel you should be. Being with people isn’t busy or complicated if you’re quiet inside. No place or activity is right or wrong, it is simply either in or out of harmony with who you are being in any given moment. Allow yourself some sadness. But don’t regard your own thinking as though you have problems when you’re only problem is all of that thinking. After all, learning to tell our thinking from a direct experience is a key part of being healthy.

Save yourself. Whether you’re alone or in a crowd, create more space. Create more openness in each day, and more acceptance of yourself and your life. You are expansive and capable. Listen to your own guidance and then trust it.

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.

A Life Unlived

When my father got sick we almost lost the house. I was just getting out of high school and I had never seen my parents to stressed. They’d never fought, now they were fighting all the time. I was too young to understand the tension of a mortgage back then, but with my brothers and sisters already moved out and living in different cities, it was up to me to help.

Unfortunately the only thing I knew that could make me money fast was to work with my brother’s friends. They dealt drugs and wasted it all on fancy cars and stupid stuff. I paid my Dad’s medical bills and my parents kept their house. Still, the money solved my problem but that’s not who my parents raised me to be and I always worried about the people buying the stuff, so to get away from that stress I took night school and eventually I got an engineering degree.

My eventual engineering job replaced the money I was making and we got my parent’s house paid off. Now I was free, but I didn’t know what to do. I’d been trained to be afraid that there’d never be enough money, or there’d always be too much work and that was was bad training for what would come next. That’s when I started talking to Scot and he pointed out that I’d always been responsible–in a whatever way that made sense at the time. That made me feel a bit better.

I had this invention. No big thing, but it was a good idea that could easily replace a good wage. I’d been laid off, so I had the time to develop it, but being laid off had a weird effect. My parent’s situation had taught me to be paranoid about money, so despite having a lot of savings I still worried about money all the time because no more was coming in. It wasn’t a healthy mental situation. And it was ironically keeping me from developing the idea.

Scott had been explaining to me how I’d been accidentally taught to process the world. I saw it as a place that was lacking, that was short, that my life needed work to come from others before it could be secure. I learned to over-process my fears and under-process my dreams. I spent far more time thinking about what could go wrong than what could go right.

Keep in mind during all of this that Scott kept pointing out that I’d done very well in school, and that even my ability to save for meaningful things was businesslike, and that the idea I’d developed was not only good, but the tons of research I’d done on it was not only excellent and thorough, but it represented more proof than most good ideas had to support them when they proceeded. He kept asking me what it was that was holding me back.

For a long time I listed what I thought was holding me back. What if it didn’t work? What if I made some fatal judgment error and ruined a good idea? What if there was a hidden pitfall I couldn’t predict? And what about all of the mistakes in life I’d already made? I had a huge list of fears but Scott just kept reminding me that they were all made of my own thinking. I thought he got what I meant until one day I had a huge revelation.

I was out walking. Okay, I was out procrastinating. If I wasn’t walking then I’d have to work on my idea, and if I did that then I was getting closer to a thing that scared me, so it did make a kind of sense that I was avoiding it. But avoiding it to do what? And that’s when it hit me.

It was so subtle I hope it even comes across now but, I realised that I was avoiding the pursuit of the idea so that I could instead think the fears that might possibly relate to the idea. For the first time I saw my thinking as an action–as what I was doing with my life. I wasn’t going anywhere. I was using my fears about being responsible to keep me from my responsibility to live.

My idea was good. The world would benefit from it. So who was I to keep it from the world because I was busy thinking thoughts that were irrelevant to everyone else? And why would I use the energy from my life to think those destructive thoughts when I could be using the same life energy to build that business?

The fact is, all of this worrying has been me failing. Even if I built the business and it bombed, I would have been done by now and I would have had the advantage of the experience and I would have felt like I accomplished more. Suddenly thinking appeared to me as the opposite of living.

Don’t be like me. Don’t avoid life. Because now that I can see through my thinking, I realise that like the walk, it’s a form of procrastination too. And it requires me to see myself as weak and ineffectual, as though I can’t pull this off. There’s no evidence I can’t do it. Just my fears. And those are no where but my consciousness. So now I hear myself think them and I get why they’re there, but they don’t stop me anymore.

I’ve come alive. I’ve stopped thinking about a timid life and I’ve started living a bold one and it turns out that boldness feels a lot calmer and more peaceful than all that worrying ever did. Listen to Scott. Trade your thinking for living. It makes all the difference in the world.

Sincerely, C

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.