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.

Managing Frustration

You know those times where you work hard on something and yet no matter how hard you try or how important it is, it just won’t work? It’s worthwhile focusing on how to manage frustration because unmanaged, it soon becomes anger. Then, before you know it it’s not your challenge that’s the challenge, it’s your state of mind.

Step one is to be more emotionally aware. Don’t be the frustration, realise that it is a product of your use of your consciousness. If you want to change how you feel you need to change what you’re focused on. The frustration emerges from that focus being on your desire. All you start seeing is that a) you want it, and b) you can’t have it. But those are both things that don’t relate to your actual problem, they are judgments regarding your inability to solve it. That’s quite different than tackling the actual solving.

After I’ve noted I’m feeling the emotion, the first thing I try to check for is my two common mistakes: I’m overtired or really hungry. I’m normally better at these, but with my life being very naturally busy at this stage there isn’t as much choice in these matters as I would like. But I can still make sure I rest and eat when it’s most helpful. It’s a challenge I’m actively working on.

Another action to take is to remove yourself temporarily from the problem. Ideally this is to do something entirely unrelated, like spending time playing a game, or walking in nature, seeing loved ones (including pets), as well as things like cooking or other non-word-based activities like gardening or photography. It can even be a 20 minute power nap.

It’s said that Thomas Edison, when stuck on a problem, sat in a rocking chair with a fork pinched between his two fingers, which he hung over a metal pie plate he placed on the floor next to him. As he fell asleep his grasp would ease, the fork would clatter down and Edison would be awakened in a fresh state of mind, having let go all of his previous avenues of thought.

Remember, frustration is the overuse of one area of your mind. You burn it out, and if you’ve been through it exhaustively then the answer just isn’t there. The only thing that prevents you from abandoning the path you’re on is your own self-generated internal dialogue about how much work you don’t want to abandon. That causes your narratives to keep trying to meaninglessly convey the importance of your deadline or the thing itself. It doesn’t matter how important those are if you’re not looking in the right place for your answer. It’s time to accept that reality and regroup and set out in a new direction. Your emotions are guiding you wisely.

After you’ve done your reset, simply relooking at the problem will often present new ideas for solutions. This is where all of your seemingly wasted previous work becomes useful because, by working so hard on figuring something out, you get to know its component parts extremely well. Once you find your path you really can move faster.

Sometimes this needs to be done multiple times on a task. I watched a guy go for about 20 walks on his way to trying to building a model airplane. I remember him telling me that he found it hard to surrender, but he knew from experience that it was better to go for the walks than to smash the airplanes. Indeed, it’s easier if you start the management process before you’ve lost your cool numerous times.

A lot of anger would be avoided if people managed their irritations and frustrations more actively. Work on yours this week. Stay aware of your state of mind and actively manage it to your maximum benefit. You’ll be more productive, happier and you’ll enjoy what you’re doing a lot more. Here’s to a great week for all of 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.

The Enlightenment Misconception

My accident lead me to question reality in a very fundamental way at a very young age. Once I was old enough to embark on a serious spiritual journey, I sought out teachers who might be able to answer some of my deeper questions about reality. Unfortunately, I was inclined to do what you likely do, which is I looked for the wrong people.

With no intention of being ironic, I thought I should look for someone super peaceful, living some super peaceful and respected life. I thought I would recognise them as having achieved something grand and meaningful. But I misunderstood what grand and meaningful were, and so I rarely found them. Because most of them weren’t wearing saffron robes, they weren’t doing yoga and they their lives were surprisingly ordinary.

Part of the reason for this is that once you’ve understood what you’re trying to understand, you realise that no one can take this journey for you, and so no one needs your help. You realise that all you were supposed to do is live your life without the constant thought-based evaluation of how you’re doing in relation to some imaginary goal. Our lives would be instantly more enjoyable if only we would stop second guessing ourselves.

Rather poetically, the first time my life became truly difficult was the same time that, by most external perspectives, I would have appeared to have been failing. I surrendered a life of status and money and power–all in the highly coveted and ever-popular media world (I truly had an awesome job)–to pursue a much smaller, much more obscure life doing something that a lot of people I knew thought was crazy. (This.) But that’s the key isn’t it? They thought that.

Thanks to that accident, in the midst of what should have been a broken heart, a huge sense of betrayal and a financial disaster, I was left with the opposite question most people  would have. I couldn’t figure out why I was okay with the idea of life being so difficult. This isn’t to say I liked it; it was just more that I accepted it. Any second guessing I did in my consciousness was profoundly painful and the pain acted as a very meaningful teacher.

I could occasionally (or at times even frequently), get caught up in personal thoughts that resisted my experience. These felt like hell. I felt very singular, as though it was all happening to me in particular. The suffering helped me grasp that when I felt better, I felt less like this was my life and more like an actor in a much larger play.

When I wasn’t thinking the resistant thoughts, I was peaceful inside with the knowledge that, like all roles, once I was finished playing this character I would either assume yet another or I would die and return to my real self. I was peaceful in the knowledge that nothing in the play I was performing in would change that.

What I had before was wonderful and I am deeply grateful for the experience. Almost every role I played in this giant improv has been an enjoyable one. I got to go to amazing places and meet incredible people and work on enjoyable and meaningful work. But I realised that the reason I was doing it all was not because other people felt it was a great life, but because I did.

Just like with movies and TV, being a loving and supportive caregiver to my parents was simply what I truly felt compelled to do. The financial strains and time and energy challenges all happen in the external world, but internally more of my time than ever is spent being in and sharing love.

I love making art. I love teaching people to see their strengths and opportunities. But there is something deeply meaningful and profound in helping your beloved father as he struggles with new challenges in the bathroom. There are moments where we look into each others eyes and we feel badly for what we’re putting each other through, but we both move quickly past those to simply being grateful that we’re in it together. That vulnerability is what makes the moment so powerful and filled with love.

I fail more than I ever have before. When my expectations are too high I lose patience when it doesn’t help. When I think too much I feel tired and alone. But most of the time, when we’re just making our way through it without all the thoughts about how we wish it was, I realise that I have never loved my parents more or felt closer to them. And that is why, if you do whatever you do with a lot of inner peace, even failing is a form of success.

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.

Why Connects Us

1088-relax-and-succeed-you-are-a-part-of-everythingWhy are you here? Why do you exist? We’ve all wondered that occasionally. We even go so far as to wish we didn’t exist. And yet walking off something tall is pretty easy and barely anyone does it intentionally. Those that survive said they knew it was a mistake the second they let go. Why?

Someone thought they wanted to die so they walked to a bridge and they thought about all the reasons. And it made them want to jump. All those reasons. All those thoughts. Round and round and round. They’re loud and negative and awful and they hurt. People want to leave all of it behind. So they let go.

Why would someone miss and hit the water, survive, and then not just walk back up and go again but just a little to the left?

1088-relax-and-succeed-perhaps-somewhere-someplace-deepMay I suggest it’s because the act of falling suddenly brought life into perspective. This wasn’t some reset button. This was splat. This was no more. They close the casket, everyone goes home, cries some, and life goes on as it has for tens of thousands of years; without you. But that is not what anyone was really looking for.

What people are actually seeking is peace. They want the noise to stop. We all feel that way. When people are upset they’ll often sit huddled, or they’ll hug their own knees, or they’ll even go so far as to cover their ears. They’re trying to block all of that noise out.

When they let go they realise the sound wasn’t coming from the outside. They realise their so-called problems weren’t the issues, it was the noise, and the noise is self-created. They’re arguments or complaints or whines about the fact that in the end there are always only two routes.

1088-relax-and-succeed-why-struggle-to-open-a-doorI’ve said it before but it bears repeating: there are either solutions to problems, in which case someone doesn’t have a problem, they have a solution they’re working on; or they have something they can’t do anything about but, that’s not a problem either, that is just the world as it is for everyone.

If things went the way people expected there would be no point in living. Without the surprises, the challenges and the achievements it just wouldn’t feel like being alive. It would be boring. That being the case, today’s meditation asks you to find three examples from your life when you thought it was terrible. Find three non-current examples of “problems” and then find where they lead.

Continue the meditation with all three examples and find the value in each. Find the ways that you expanded from experiencing those tough times. Look for examples until you have three where you genuinely realise that the unpleasantness had a value you now wouldn’t trade away.

1088-relax-and-succeed-the-universe-is-my-homeMost people want “problems” to stop because they assume they don’t have that value, when in fact most people have just never done this exercise. They’ve made a huge assumption that something that feels unpleasant must automatically be bad, when it’s really the foundation of all of meaning.

Without the foundation of this page’s whiteness you wouldn’t be able to see the black marks I write with. Without contrast there is nothing. You wouldn’t come to read a blank blog. Why read something that didn’t even bother to exist?

Life’s value is derived from overcoming. If I will not face the white noise of a blank page I cannot hope to draw from myself the love and compassion that creates the black lines that make up these words. Yet if I can use them to connect us and share our souls, then we both can feel we have improved the universe. And nothing is more important, because if nothing is wrong we cannot hope to make it better. And making the universe better is critical because collectively, that universe is made of us.

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.

Unconditional Surrender

1078-relax-and-succeed-you-are-where-you-need-to-beYou want to be the best person you can be and you want to enjoy your own life more. Those are good goals and that’s why you’re here. And I have good news! You’ve already taken an important step in your journey, but it won’t be very visible to you until it’s a ways behind you.

A percentage of the people who started these daily meditations have already gone back to old habits while many others have been quite enthusiastic. It’s curious isn’t it? I assured people results if they just stuck with a series of easy tasks and still a percentage of people could not appreciate that their peace of mind would be worth that small effort. In short, they have too little to lose. They need their suffering to get worse before they’ll think that easy trade is worth it.

The people who are still doing the exercises fall into two groups. Some are not sure what’s going on with these weird exercises either, but they’re giving it a try. Some of you have a light, forgiving childlike spirit that’s already close to its home, so it takes on the challenges playfully and trusts. But for many more, their dedication comes from their pure fatigue with the idea of suffering. They just want relief and they have little pride about how to get it. They just want to surrender. And both of those sound like open people to my ears.

1078-relax-and-succeed-stay-afraid-but-do-it-anywayAround now is when a bunch of you are on the fence regarding which group you’re in. I’m not bothered or offended by your uncertainty. In fact it makes sense to me. But I can’t convince you. I can make an offer and I can do it from a genuine place of compassion, but your acceptance of it is up to you.

Only you can invite these ideas into your landscape of possibility. That can feel weird and new and awkward, which is why some people just resort to old behaviours, habits or addictions. It’s so easy to play yourself a recorded message of some excuse. And like water, the words and internal narrative become repetitive actions in your life. That’s a psychological downslope and it’s easy to flow in that direction. It’s why most people accept an unpleasant life for far longer than they later feel they should have. It’s easy.

Not much harder is just a bit of diligence, some awareness, and some trust that innocent, playful nature we all have. You don’t want to do these exercises and then continue to beat yourself up in your own thoughts like some failed adult. Throughout these meditations you should not invest psychological energy in the narration-creation of a failing you. That runs contrary to our purpose.

1078-relax-and-succeed-when-you-throw-dirtThe idea is that you just do the exercises here and then stop beating yourself up the rest of the time. You’re doing this; you don’t need to attack yourself. You’re already dealing with your issues. And I’m helping you, and I’m telling you that you’ll help me help you if you’ll just let yourself off the hook.

Even if you treat someone badly, just forgive it and give it to me and this process. Surrender. You don’t need to do anything else. You’re doing enough by doing my strange little exercises. I know the concept of over looks weird when you live in a two-dimensional world, but trust me, being able to get over a problem is worth some time being confused in the two-dimensional world.

Today, just practice surrendering. Every time you catch yourself using your internal narrative to attack yourself or your work, just stop and give that to me. Just say, “I’m taking care of this stuff with those meditations on Relax and Succeed. He said to just let things like this go, so I’m letting it go.” Then shift your energy away from creating that narrative to noticing something in that present moment. That’s it. It’s both easy and yet you already know this is a tricky one. That’s why you should practice it all weekend.

1078-relax-and-succeed-my-only-goal-in-life-right-nowLet me worry about your sins. You just do your exercises and live and we’ll look up in a quarter of a year and see if you feel like your dedication to this weird plan was worth it. We’ve already spent a few weeks poking holes in your sense of reality. You’ve done more to undermine it than you think. Stay for the duration and we’ll tear a big enough hole for you to see through.

Surrender. You’ll see. Once I get your ego out of the way you’ll take fantastic care of yourself and your life.

peace. s

PS And don’t forget to put your quiet time from yesterday into your calendar. Even if you have to move that commitment, ensure that you get your three opportunities each day. It will be worth your efforts.

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.