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.

Understanding Your Raison D’être

1082-relax-and-succeed-we-are-stars-wrapped-in-skinDid you find what and who haunts you yesterday? For some it was easy and for others the specifics of their central truth was difficult to clarify, but almost everyone will have mistaken their gift for a problem.

In theatresports, a form of improv comedy, there is a terrible thing the host can do to a team and it is to leave them in space, with no surfaces for them to push off of to propel themselves. You can’t just put a performer on stage and say slow-motion! or astronaut! or nighttime! because that’s akin to saying be funny.  That is too much to ask of the performer.

You’re a soul. Your identity is the performer. So your identity needs some surfaces to triangulate off of to ensure you are free to go anywhere once you have intention. When we discussed the temari yesterday, we did a meditation designed to get you to find your temari frame; otherwise known as your problem, or… the framework that you push off to get where you’re going.

1082-relax-and-succeed-people-torture-themselvesSomeone who suffers from a mental illness is missing some surfaces and so their movement is limited and they have the potential to leap completely away. And someone with too many surfaces can be spun into meaninglessness by bouncing around inside them incessantly without ever going anywhere. Regardless of how sides we have, we all need somewhere to start. Even if all we’re going to be is in opposition of it, we need something to be in opposition of.

Without comparison we don’t exist. Existence is co-dependent. We had to be someone. Even if we became enlightened and could be a profound version of nobody, the world will make us someone through comparison. That is how egos work. They compare, value and judge. A man gave up everything but love and became Gandhi, and yet he was killed because someone else thought him evil.

Today’s meditation is to meditate on the relationship between your life and your villain. You’re looking for the links. Do not stop looking until you find one that surprises you. Only then are we somewhere new in your mind. Are you like Steve and did you become someone in opposition to someone, or were you inspired by one parent to wrap while the other built your frame? Or…” These last two days are very important. Make sure you do these meditations earnestly. You’ll be the winner.

1082-relax-and-succeed-we-assume-others-show-loveHow the outside world reacts to you during your life is no good sign of whether or not you’re on the right course. If that were true there’d be no Van Gogh’s. People’s reactions come from their identities which are versions of their egos. The only really good indicator is that divine, pure intelligent part of you that is connected to everything. That’s the feeling that caused you to fall in love inexplicably–but you knew. It’s like recognising your own child the first time you see them–but you knew. Well deep deep down, you know yourself like that because deep deep down you deserve love too.

The challenges you faced when you were young are not the harsh cold edges of the bane of your existence, they are the very framework on which the vine of your brilliance can wrap itself as as it grows and expands and flowers.

The frame is the frame and everyone has one. Comparing to see whose is worse is not the point. Discussing them is not the point. Understanding them is not the point. The wrapping of our frame is the point, because once you’re done wrapping your temari, you’ll be left with something beautiful: you. And that is how  the greatest villains in our lives can secretly become our saviours.

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.

Family Ties

I recently took the first holiday I’ve had in many years and I spent the entire thing working on deconstructing much of my life to accommodate the care my parents now require. That is not what I would ever have hoped for in life. It’s busy and chaotic and it means my parents aren’t feeling well as I’d like, but this is just part of the deal of being human. They’re 90.

980 Relax and Succeed - Suffering is not holding youLife can hurt. It can force us into experiences we do not want. Being in love entails dealing with extra pain when a loved one is absent. Yin and yang. It’s just built into how life functions. Life is like a ball we’re balancing on top of. Our egos try to stay on the good side of the ball, but but our spiritual and psychological health are tied more to simply enjoying the process of keeping our balance on either side of it, because when we die is when we lose our ball and we have to go home.

There are no problems, we create them with our thinking. We imagine how life should be. But think about how many factors and people and decisions need to happen for that to occur! It’s like winning the lottery if it happens the way we imagine. Life is messy and getting angry or depressed that there’s not better order is to waste your life. You railing at the universe will not change its laws. Learn to surf the uncertainty.

Even as I move in a direction away from my previous goals I’m aware I’m still lucky. It’s amazing that Mom still drives to a church and teaches an exercise class three times a week. At the same time, if something falls on the floor they have to wait for someone else to show up to retrieve it. So essentially I took my holidays to organise being with them almost all of the time so they’re comfortable and safe and properly cared for. That’s most important to me, but that means sacrifices, sometimes of things that mean a great deal to me; things I put many years worth of work into. But this is life. This is where most people get stressed and it’s where I let go.

980 Relax and Succeed - Do you know what my secret is

We can all get physically stressed. We can ask our bodies to do more than is physically reasonable. But psychological stress is another thing altogether. That is something we create for ourselves by what we choose to load into our consciousness. While I am caring for my parents there is nothing stopping me from listening to enjoyable podcasts with them. I can enjoy the food I cook for them. I can enjoy recalling memories from my childhood and all the fun I had in that house with my siblings and cousins. Or I could think about all the things I’m missing out on by not getting to fulfil my original direction.

This is what detachment is: you’re going somewhere but you’re not attached to getting there. When life says, hey, go here and do this and you feel that as a thing you just know is right, then that is you feeling your truth. Others may disagree with what you do but your job is only to trust that feeling and ignore theirs. How they feel about it isn’t relevant if it’s your life.

I’ve always had a great life. I’m not thrilled by some of the parts of it I’ll have to surrender in order to live up to the person I am, but I am a person who values experiences with loved ones more than any other thing and so that makes this decision easy. And I don’t run the universe. It might tumble things toward me in a painful way but it’s also pretty generous a lot of the time so who knows, maybe I benefit a lot more from this than my parents do. Either way, if I’m keeping my eye out for good signs that’ll help a lot with noticing and appreciating positive things that will reinforce my idea that things are fine the way they are.

Have a great week everyone.

peace. s

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

Videogames and Parenting

974 Relax and Succeed - And those who were seenI’ve wrote about this before but it keeps coming up. One of the most common complaints I hear from parents is that their children–particularly the boys–play video games too much, and yet when I ask the parents which games their children play I have yet to have a single parent that knows. That’s a remarkable demonstration of how a busy life lowers our awareness.

If it’s worth complaining about it’s worth knowing at least something about it, but instead every game is thrown into one pile as though they are all equal when some are mindless addictions and others require great thought. There’s strategy games, puzzle games, war-based games, society-based games, team games, solo games, and each will have its own moral angle and points system, so how can all of those be seen as one thing?

Not knowing anything about the games is like saying a kid reading a textbook is the same as a kid reading People Magazine. (Note I didn’t use comics because in my experience the smartest adults I know were often comic readers.) There are millions of games. There is a reason that their fans love them.

974 Relax and Succeed - Play is the highest form of researchAs I’ve noted before, it should come as little surprise that the very first location that took off in Second Life was a dance bar called Wheelies and it created a meeting place for users in wheelchairs. In a virtual world someone in a wheelchair is just as mobile and capable as someone out of it so you can see why they would value it. A lonely kid can value team games, a leader can like them too. An independent person can love first-person shooters that allows them to team up when they choose, or they may prefer a game that requires great patience and planning.

Video games today can encourage good behaviour. They get you to love characters before they die in real storylines, creating more empathy. Whereas they used to give you awful choices like raping prostitutes, those same game designers now have daughters of their own and now the same game makes you calmly do yoga or you can’t continue to the next level. I watched this have a real impact on a friend of mine who learned to moderate his quick temper thanks to it.

If parents added up how many hours they look at the screens on their TV’s, their computers and their phones they would realise they are screen-watching a huge amount of the day so it’s no surprise kids are comfortable sitting and looking at screen just as the children of joggers are often joggers and just as the children of big eaters are often big eaters. That’s the real parenting, not what you say; it’s what you do.

974 Relax and Succeed - Children don't need more thingsTry to get your kid to teach you some games. If you’re lucky you might even like the same type. But at least at the start they’ll get to beat you a lot and that’s good for a kid as long as they don’t try to turn it into a habit and thereby become a poor loser. Each parent has to make decisions about their situation and their kid, but it’s important to note that many children of divorce talk about how valuable it was to be able to bury their head in a game while they watched their parent’s marriage descend into bickering.

Nothing is good or bad only thinking makes it so. If everyone from military leaders to 747 pilots to astronauts can advance themselves using virtual training then there’s no reason to think that your child isn’t also developing themselves. Certainly they could just be hiding from life, but if you don’t even know the games they’re playing then you can’t hope to guess if that’s where they’re at.

Slow down. Pay attention. Trust yourself. From there the love for your child will tell you all you need to know. Kids are future adults. Whether we like it or not they will be shaped by the forces around them. Rather than try to push against them, start working with them. You might find you have more allies than you’ve realised.

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.

Getting Out Of Line

Winner: 2016’s Blog of the Year #2

955 Relax and Succeed - The quieter you becomeIf we’re lost in ego there’s only two directions we can go: forward and back. That’s the problem with ego–it’s a simplistic personal view and it is very limited in it’s vision of potential directions. Our egos can live in our past and egos can live in our futures, but living in the present moment is so completely and thoroughly involving that it simply does not leave us any consciousness left to use words to weave illusions like time. The quiet of our soul is always Now.Blog of the

The ego is an action a lost soul will take. Rather than being present and aware in the moment, a spirit will create an ego that can leave the body where it is and then take the mind on a word-based journey forward or backward in time. For example, we can be in a lineup for something. There’s maybe tea to taste, maybe some flowers to smell and maybe there’s some music to listen to. Children don’t yet know words so they can experience those things as a soul. They perceive but they do not divide and judge.

As an adult we can be standing with the child in a lineup, tea in hand, flowers nearby and music audible and yet we will ignore all of that and it will begin talking to ourselves about something we’ve judged as embarrassing from a week ago, or a month ago, or years ago. So that’s where the ego is–back on its past, dealing with something it’s already done.

955 Relax and Succeed - These mountains that you are carryingIt’s like watching a movie over and over because we don’t like the ending and we’re hoping if we keep watching it that one day it’ll have changed. But if it’s a terrible story then it’s important to remember that you’ll get the same chemistry now that you got then.

Meanwhile, there’s the kid that’s with us in line and they’re living in spirit. The song’s nice, the people around us are smiling, maybe someone’s holding a puppy in their arms that we haven’t even noticed. The kid is happy and in pursuing that happiness in that moment they move toward the puppy.

Meanwhile we’re the adult lost in our thoughts about a past event. The chemistry we’re asking for by reliving that thought is painful. That pain leads us to be sensitive and easily upset. And because we’re lost in our thoughts we haven’t noticed the puppy. So from our perspective, when the child takes off it’s for no apparent reason. We then take our anger from our past and use it to scold the child in the present using words our parents taught us years ago, and all while we truly don’t even know what’s going on in the present moment. This is why children often think their parents are unfair and it’s also how children learn to be adults that stay in line.

955 Relax and Succeed - Pause for a few secondsAs children our parents constantly and unknowingly invited us out of the present moment and instead encouraged us to stitch together our egos. We were told puppy’s don’t belong in banks and we were taught to pay attention to abstract ideas like obedience. Eventually we do this so much that we also don’t notice the puppies because we’re we too busy with our own painful thoughts; wondering if we’re out of line, regretting that we’ve ever been out of line and hoping we’re never be out of line again.

Our past is our past and has little to no bearing on the quality of our future. Moreover, hopes and fears about what might be can cripple that future by preventing us from attending to the present moment from which it will be built.

You think all the time and you’re reading this because you want something better. Better is easy. Better is quiet inside. Better is to simply Be. Because you never could go back and fix the past or guarantee your future. But if you’re present you might actually find a few more puppies in your life.

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.

Woman School

Today let’s imagine Woman School. We’ll be in the same house as when the Boy learned to become the Man. Input comes through a screen and some speakers. All the parts of the brain and body are present and ready to learn. The Brain at the front of the class narrates for the other body parts.

941 Relax and Succeed - She took the leapBrain: Okay everyone, ready? Remember, we’ll be spending most of our time with and we’ll get most of our guidance from The Mother, so watch her closely. She’s making breakfast on a weekend. We didn’t sleep well, sorry guys.

Memory: Sorry. I babbled a bit last night.

Imagination: Yeah, I wasn’t exactly quiet either, sorry.

Brain: Okay I think everyone’s been served. She has a list she’s written out. See that Hand? You give lists to him.

Hand: Got it.

Eyes: Oh oh. I don’t think he wanted a list. He does not look happy.

Brain: She’s tired of him not being happy with any lists.

Mouth: To talk to a future husband like that I’ll need some help from the diaphragm. She got a bit stern there.

Memory: Meet unhappiness with increased pressure. Got it.

Ears: Oh oh. He’s yelling.

Eyes: He’s mad. He’s coming toward her.

Self (silently): I enjoy my connection to others and prefer that those connections continue.

941 Relax and Succeed - Children learn moreEars: Hear that Mouth? She starts to offer apologies.

Eyelids: She’s starting to flutter in case he swings.

Eyes: I’m scared for her.

Legs: Should we go over and help?

Brain: NO!

Head: That did not work out well for me last time.

Ears: Those are terrible names he’s calling her.

Memory: We hear them a lot. I’ve already got them down as ‘normal.’

Nerves: Yeah it’s been a while since we’ve reacted to harsh names.

Ears: That feels weird to me.

Eyes: If my hair ever gets grabbed like that I’ll need some tears ready.

Brain: I’m confused. Why doesn’t her fight or flight chemistry come on? Ours is.

Self (silently): I enjoy my connection to others and prefer that those connections continue.

941 Relax and Succeed - People have a hard timeHeart: I don’t think anyone taught her to love her own heart enough to know she deserves to be defended.

Brain: That’s crazy! Why not!?

Ears: We have overheard her say a lot of negative things about herself.

Memory: Yeah we have a lot of those stored and we do hear her replaying them a lot to herself.

Eyes: Thank goodness he’s letting go!! He’s storming away!

Legs: Let’s get over there and comfort her.

Arms: I agree. It’s time for a hug.

Self (silently): I enjoy my connection to others and prefer that those connections continue.

Eyes: Why did we have to see that?

Nerves: Yeah. Sorry guys. I got overloaded. It’s gonna take me a day or two to fully settle down so let’s keep things calm. That’s hard on me.

Memory: Do I really want to just store this?

941 Relax and Succeed - Learning is a giftHeart: It feels wrong.

Legs: She’s headed to the bathroom to cry again.

Eyes: If you’re this sad apparently it’s important to see yourself in a mirror.

Brain: I wonder what she’s thinking?

Ears: Sounds like she might be replaying those words; the mean ones.

Brain: Why? Ouch! Those would hurt. Why would she hurt herself because he lost control and hurt her?

Ears: Mouth, why are we saying we’re fat when she looks fine?

Mouth: I don’t know. Memory’s just supposed to write it down.

Memory: Brain, can’t you get her to pick some other thoughts? I don’t want to record those.

Brain: I agree. I’m okay with meditating around a lot of things away but this is not something that should be meditated away. This is a guy a woman should not be around.

Memory: So are we saying we’re not going to do what the Mother did?

941 Relax and Succeed - Parents can only give good adviceBrain: I don’t know when when it’s so obvious but she must not feel worthy. I think that’s why she thinks his behaviour is in alignment with who she is when it doesn’t feel right to any of us.

Self (silently): I enjoy my connection to others and prefer that those connections continue.

Memory: If it doesn’t feel good why are we storing it for future use?

Brain: I don’t know. I’m designed to copy everything.

Memory: But we all get a say. And it’s mostly Face and Arms and Back that get the punishment. What do they think we should do?

Face and Arms and Back: We’re not interested in being hurt like that.

Brain: Okay fine, but then what do we do?

Legs: I don’t think it’s a good idea but she can stay if she wants to. But if most of us still feel worthy we could just leave if it was us.

Brain: I suppose it’s true. We could just decide and leave if it was us.

Face: I know I’d appreciate that.

Brain: Okay, we’ll stay and help her as much as we can but we do not want to copy the parts about men. On those we’ll do the opposite. Sound good?

Heart: Yes. I’d rather be alone that put up with what she’s putting up with. We’re worth more than that.

941 Relax and Succeed - The most difficult thingBrain: Got that everyone? So we have some tolerance for when people are struggling but from now on there’s certain things we won’t put up with. We’re worth more than that. Everyone comfortable with respecting ourselves?

Legs: So we’d walk out if it was us?

Brain: Let’s still do our best to protect The Mother.

Face: Isn’t it up to her to do that?

Brain: I suppose you’re right.

Face: Let’s hope she does.

Brain: Okay. Everyone’s in? We’d leave if it was us?

The Body: Yes!

Brain: That does feel like a good answer.

Ears: Indeed. That sounds like love.

peace. s

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

The Friday Dose #83

775 FD Relax and Succeed - Be happy for this momentI’ve got super-valuable information on raising pre-schoolers, I’ll blow your mind with what’s being 3D printed and for the introspective I’ve got a very human, open and raw video on breaking up. And, if you want a super-cool video about how movies secretly influence you then duck back a couple days to The Movie of Your Life. Let’s start with this article and idea that I hope gets a lot of attention. As a species we’re a lot more brilliant than we give ourselves credit for and this article points toward a part of brain development that has been vastly undervalued for about 25 years:

The Decline of Play in Preschoolers
and the rise of sensory issues

*

And now we’ll have a couple videos, one for the people feeling good who want to fill their minds with wonder, and one for the people who are in the midst of some of the heavier parts of life and are therefore seeking more introspective things. This breakdown of what’s currently being 3D printed will seem funny and dated someday, but looking at it today I think you’ll be amazed by what’s already happened:

And we’ll end off with people. People breaking up, specifically. As we age we learn that our views will change and our perspectives will shift as well. That means we can literally change our thoughts and the people we know become actual different people to us. This is a great example of that as a couple who broke up years ago agree to answer each other’s questions. (Warning, they do talk a little bit about sex.)

Have a good weekend everyone. Spend it like it’s your own life. 😉

peace. s

Scott McPherson is a writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.

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