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 Straw that Breaks the Camel’s Back

1227 Relax and Succeed - Serenity is not freedom from the stormWhat good is developing your spirituality if it can’t help you through your day? The fact is, advanced spirituality can come and go at any moment, so developing your recovery skills is key. (Oh yes, it does sometimes disappear once you have it, it’s just easier to get it back).

When this skill is most useful is when you’ve already had a day where you’ve forgot you’re the thinker and instead you’ve been living the thoughts. That means you’ll have loaded a lot of the day’s baggage onto the back of your proverbial emotional camel. Then, when you’ve done something like spilled juice on the new carpet, the dog had an accident, your child has not done as you’ve asked, or work or your spouse is still doing that thing that drives you crazy, you reach that straw that breaks your camel’s back and you lose it. So today we’ll talk about five psychospiritual strategies to get you through those moments.

1. You:

You even thought as you walked away from the counter, filling this cup of coffee, this full, with the dog and kids running around was not a good idea, but that just makes you even madder when a moment later it lands on your carpet. Since talking to yourself leads to greater suffering, go quiet and accept instead. Time does not go backwards. The coffee is there now. The question is, how does the you in that moment react? You can think about a past that wasn’t and be in pain, or you can start cleaning juice and get on with your day with a more peaceful heart. Action or thoughts. Solution or suffering. Take a big breath. Exhale your frustration and the thoughts that surround it. Do not think about things you cannot change. Act instead of thinking.

1227 Relax and Succeed - You are in charge2. Your Pets:

They’re animals, not people. They don’t really understand whatever language you’re speaking to them. But they get how you feel. So don’t scream at an animal that you want to listen to you. Appreciate that when you’re upset it’s like slipping into a costume that makes you look like someone your dog would never trust. Work with the dog as a dog, not against the dog and with your schedule, because however important the schedule is, the dog will still be a dog. The act of wanting it to be a different dog doing different things will generate unnecessary suffering. Breathe. Think about sensing some part of your own body, like a leg muscle or your lungs moving. Get out of your thoughts and back present with the dog where you can cooperate.

3. Your Children:

Here’s the wild difference between a parent and any kid under about 27 years old–the parent’s brain is literally more developed. From our late teens to mid to late 20’s, all a kid is doing is wiring their experiences into the matrix of data that they will feed into their consequence-generator. This is so they can pre-imagine their potential results and possibly alter their plans prior to failure. But the parent has to remember, the way that system is built is through failure. So rather than viewing a ‘failure’ as the kid letting you down, see it instead as an opportunity to constructively  discuss what process might have prevented the issue in the first place. That way you encounter these things less often. Give them tools, not hell, because the former is useful to both of you, while the latter is painful for both of you. Remember, if you’re angry you’re adding to the issue, not subtracting from it. Stay conscious of that.

4. Spouse/Work:

Find what you enjoy about your job or marriage and focus on that. Putting your attention on the same issues or problems over and over just solidifies them in your consciousness, which blinds you to your opportunities to avoid the suffering those resistant thoughts create. Be mature; either accept it’s not bad enough to make you leave, or stay on your own terms. But those terms are not made by prescribing every detail of your day to your spouse or employer, they’re achieved by you choosing to adopt a healthy attitude about seeking upsides regardless of their behaviour. When you see behaviour that frustrates you due to its consistency, recognise that your partner and your co-workers all also need to deal with the frustrations that are created by you. That added bit of humility will help center you and focus you on a healthier response.

1227 Relax and Succeed - The only people who find good days5. The System:

Come on, how good could any world work with people like me, you, your spouse, your kids and your co-workers all making it happen? We’re all learning and making mistakes as we go. Frankly, we should be pleased and amazed that nearly eight billion people have figured out how to cooperate as well as we have. And we do better every single week, so don’t focus on society’s failures, focus on its future with optimism and enthusiasm that the best is yet to come. The only people who find good days are the ones that look for them. So do not focus on painful things, choose to focus on things you find uplifting.

Do not let simple or repetitive issues rise in your consciousness. When they appear, see them as potentially painful choices and then find yourself in the present moment and use that presence to choose to focus on the positives involved, and on what can be done. And if it’s too painful for that, then sometimes a good cry is what belongs in our present moment. But either way, it helps a lot if we consciously avoid spending all day loading up our emotion camel by thinking about previous frustrations, because that way you have no straw to break when you spill your coffee.

Now go consciously seek out a great day from all of the events that will present themselves. Your success is within 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.

Agreeing to Disagree

1226 Relax and Succeed - Agree to disagreeIt’s a lost art. So many are caught up in a need to oppose and conquer. We have not improved the world by converting people to our way of seeing things, we have only manipulated their perspective to temporarily align with ours. But over time their view will develop nuances ours doesn’t have because ultimately their perspective is not ours and never will be; they are them and we are ourselves.

Science is like a language we’ve all agreed to use for planning public policy, but everything else is personal opinion. Everyone sees things from a slightly different perspective, meaning that in a healthy world we will most certainly find many people that will disagree with us. That’s no indication anything is wrong.

Sometimes other people will  be right, sometimes you will. And your idea of right or winning will change over time. There is no way to gets it all 100% right, all the way through. Not even close. So next time you’re arguing, just keep in mind that maybe you’re the one that’s missing something. That humility will bring you closer to people.

1226 Relax and Succeed - You don't have to attendTake today and search for an opportunity to feel your resistance to an idea, and then understand that your resistance is created by your unaccepting thoughts about their idea. That’s natural–those aren’t ideas that you feel are compatible with you. But that’s a much different thing than saying they aren’t compatible with the other person’s way of being.

You’ll feel it, maybe in your jaw or stomach or chest. A desire to react. A sense of resistance. A rise to do battle. Note that feeling and check in with what idea you don’t want to be in a room with. Very rarely will these ideas have much material impact on your life, but note how married to those ideas you are. Indeed your very identity emerges from them much like a detailed piece of art emerges from the dots in pointillism.

Your arguing ego is nothing more than an identity that emerges from your current set of beliefs, much like these dots make up this image. Over your lifetime the dots will move as you grow and change, and that will change who you believe you are unless you learn to see past your own thoughts.

1226 Relax and Succeed - Pointillism
This work provided courtesy of GenericZombium

Note that your thoughts exist only in your consciousness. Note that they have no existence until you enact them into behaviour. Note that you can let an idea exist, allow it to pass through you, and then let it go and you will feel fine. In fact, you’ll very likely feel much stronger than you would if you’d entered an argument and won 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.

Good For You

Good for you. Have you ever stopped to really think about that phrase? Think about when you say it; it’s always when someone’s had something good happen in their life. And the more they had to do with their success the more enthusiastic we are. We’re happy for lottery winners, but we deeply admire those with the talent to create success, and our admiration increases in proportion to how hard they needed to work for it.

Good for you. It’s a double entendre. On one hand it means that whatever has happened is good news for you and that you are to be congratulated. On the other hand it can also note a well-earned victory means that notable successes are drawn from notable efforts. All of that hard work is good for you, so the earned victory not only impresses us, it inspires us.

It is in these moments in which we can feel our interconnectedness. Our happiness for the other person is an experience we have within our consciousness. The other person doesn’t even experience that. They see someone in the act of loving and that in turn inspires them to essentially love our love for them. It’s like a feedback loop of love.

And who is unpopular? An ego. An ego considers only itself, just as an insecure person doesn’t consider themselves enough. You want to balance on humility, where you get to selfishly be you, but you’re developed enough as a soul that you understand that nothing is better for you than what is good for others.

How then should this impact our days? If we know an open channel can generate opportunities for valuable connections, and we know closing ourselves off selfishly creates a feeling of separation and emptiness, then why not watch for the former and ignore the latter?

Most people spend most of their day in their head, talking to themselves. And when I say, “talking to,” what I really mean is attacking, reminding, debasing, criticizing, and fearfully undermining their own sense of self.

Why fill your head with all of those busy negative words when you can treat your consciousness more like a Star Trek tractor-beam? You just lock onto something you know you want and you pull it closer. And closer doesn’t mean in a possessive way, it means in a oneness way. It means you start to feel the same happiness they’re feeling but it’s about something that happened to them, not you. That’s connection. We live for that.

So today, like everyday, you’ll go through life switching between the creation of personal narrative that confirm your egocentric impression of the world, or you’ll engage in a very active silence that seeks to pull in the universe in an act of loving awareness. It’s why on a “good day” almost everything seems sweet or beautiful or wonderful or kind, and on a “bad day” it seems like the world’s filled with jerks.

Don’t try to stop your thinking. Switch the energy you use for thinking into being. Reading is thinking another person’s thoughts. A picture isn’t that different from reading, and an actual face isn’t so different from a photo of a face, so it isn’t a huge leap to move from you thinking your personal painful thoughts, to thinking an author’s thoughts, to studying a portrait, and then on to looking at an actual face. That’s all reality, not your opinion about reality.

Thoughts can get so busy they can lead to us feeling like we’re drowning. Reasons to feel good are laying all over the place and they buoy us up. Your day is filled with moments. Take as many as possible, and fill them with the fruits of your observations rather than waste them on yet another stream of unpleasant, unproductive thoughts.

You only have so much time on this Earth, so stop trying to impress everyone else and start living as though your life is actually yours. Because nothing will impress people more than how loving you’ll be once your egocentric, wanting thoughts are quieted in favour of you engaging in loving appreciation.

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 Wisdom of Elders

The boy came down the pier, dragging a stick along the slats of the deck. Click, click, click. He was sullen, looking down, and his grandfather was as still as a bird, so the boy was surprised to suddenly come upon him sitting there on an Adirondack chair. His grandfather smiles.

“What are you doing?” the boy asks.

“Sittin’.”

“I’m bored too.”

“I’m not bored. I’m sittin’.”

The boy gives him a withering look.  “I hate it here. Mom won’t even let me bring my XBox out.”

His grandfather looks out at the grand view across the lake. To the right were the long reeds he and his brother would hide in to scare each other. Or just past that, the long winding area where they tried spearfishing the first time. Or way out, where his oldest brother would shoot golf balls and he and his other brothers and sisters would dive for them. He smiled.

The boy’s voice chimes in. “There’s nothing to do out here.”

“What’s wrong with just bein’?”

“What?”

“Being. What’s wrong with just bein’?”

The boy’s looking at the old man like he’s legitimately crazy. “You can’t just ‘be’ grandpa.”

“You can’t, eh?” His grandpa smiles. “Okay. You wanna do something? How about a boat ride?”

The boy looks over at his grandpa’s boat. Maybe in 1970 it was a streamlined beauty loaded with power, but by the boy’s standards it looked more like a rowboat than something cool people might ride in. He reluctantly accepts a life jacket from his grandfather and they climb in. They cruise for a short while. Over the minor roar of the little engine, the boy yells, “Where are we going?”

His grandfather looks at him and smiles. “Nowhere.” And it actually seems like that’s a pretty decent answer to the boy too.

Eventually the engine cuts and the boat glides into a gorgeous little bay. The grandfather handles the boat with great experience, and soon he’s spun it into position where they have a beautiful view of the incredible shoreline. It looks the same as it has for as long as the grandfather can remember. “Why did you stop here?” the boy asks.

The man takes a long time looking out at the shore, and the trees. A deer picks its way through the moss for a drink. “This is where your father and I used to come to fish.” This information instantly arrests the boy’s attention. There is a long pause.

“You came here with Dad?” He’s almost reverent. Suddenly the whole place seems much more interesting to him.

“Yeah. It was our little spot. This is where I hid him from his mother too.” He winks at the boy, who in turn feels good about the idea of being anything anything like his father.

The boy hangs his hand in the water. “Did you guys catch lots of fish here?”

The grandpa smiles broadly. “No…. No, it turned out this was a terrible place for fishing.”

“So why did you keep coming here?” the boy asked.

“We just like bein’ here.” The boy takes yet another look around, this time even more interested, as though maybe he missed something on his first two looks.“Your Dad, he liked keeping busy out here. He was always playing cowboys and indians with his brother in the reeds, or they were water skiing, or diving for golf balls, or hunting for bird nests, or catching salamanders.”

“What’s a salamander?”

“It’s a lizard-lookin’ thing. Lives mostly in the water.”

The kid looks into the dark lake and then extracts his hand from it gingerly. “How big are they?”

His grandpa shrugs. “Big as this boat maybe.” The boy’s eyes bug out and the grandfather laughs. He holds his hands to indicate the animal was actually the size of a cob of corn. The boy relaxes. “When your Dad was tired of doin’ things, we’d come down here and just be.”

The boy looks at the shore yet again, still wondering what he’s looking for. His grandfather continues. “When we came here it was because you wanted to do something. But now you know this place was special to your father. And neither one of us are ever gonna see him again.” They both fight back a tear. “That’s a sad thing. But it’s still a good thing being here, isn’t it?”

The boy looks back at the shore for a good long time before turning back to his grandfather. “I like it here.”

“Me too. I don’t like doin’ anything when I’m here. I don’t even pretend to fish anymore. But even though it’s a little bit sad sometimes, I really like bein’ here anyway.”

The boy thinks a long moment. He eventually settles in with a nice view of the shore. “Yeah. Me too. This is a good place to be.” And they sat like that for about three hours, totally silent, just being.

Later, they got back and docked the boat and walked up the lawn to a few hundred yards to the cottage, where a dreamcatcher caught the setting sun in a window. His mother came out drying her hands. “What were you two doing all this time? I was worried.”

“We weren’t doing anything,” the boy said.

The mother looks at her own father with suspicion. “You can’t have been doing just ‘nothing….'”

The boy reasserts, “We were. We were just bein’.”

His mother’s brow furrows. What are these two hiding… “Being…?”

“Yeah,” the boy offers. “Mom.?”

“What?”

“Do we have any containers good for holding salamanders?”

“Salamanders?!?!” His mother squeals. The boy looks over at his grandfather, beaming at the prospect of freaking out his mother with a ‘lizard.’ His grandfather smiles back, remembering he and his brothers doing the same to their sister. As he heads into the boathouse to return the two lifejackets he looks back at his grandson, now beaming with potential. He winks. The boy smiles and winks back. He is gonna be just fine.

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.

Duelling Realities

What does this quote mean? That’s how this blog got started. It was born when I realised that there were useful lessons contained in discussing what quotes mean from the state of mind you’re seeking.

In the case of the one above, the part we like is where it says, there comes the peace in which all sorrows end. That’s our motivation to want to understand the quote; because we’re in pain and we want to know how to stop it. So that part defines the problem. The rest defines the solution.

When you move amidst the world of sense. This defines what state of mind you’ll need to be in for your sorrows to end. The quote is simply stating that you want to be fully alive in the present rather than having a post-now ego identity that has opinions about what’s happening. The latter is thought-based, the former is sense-based.

So if we want to avoid our sorrows we must live in a world of sense and not thought. But how do we do that? The quote kindly tells us how when it defines the opposite of the world of sense: free from attachment and aversion alike. So the quote is telling you how you use your egotistical judgmental thoughts to create a barrier between you and the grandeur of reality, and you do this by having opinions that you feel personally about.

To feel personally about something is to have an ego. You think a thing has value or it is it has none. You want something or you don’t want it. You think this is meaningful and that is not. You you you. Look at all the ego in there. But what does the quote suggest we do?

And you live in the wisdom of the Self. It says if we avoid thinking about what we want or don’t want, or like or don’t like, or accept or don’t accept, then we are free to live by our senses alone, which is to live in the wisdom of the Self. Note: Self was capitalised. It’s because your little ego-self is what has opinions and judgments about things. Your big, capable, amazing Self isn’t personal.

Your identity vanishes when you ignore the judgmental thoughts that you use to divide the world up into symbols. Your ego-reality is made of your opinions. Without the barrier of separateness created by thought, you feel connected to everything. Everywhere is home. Every person is lovable.

So an ego deep in the throes of falling in romantic love can without shame post this Rumi quote because they feel so excited by their personal approval of what’s happening. That level of complete acceptance means it feels as though this new person has brought the entire world to their feet. Yet, in a spiritual sense, the Rumi quote means exactly the same thing as the one that starts this post. Both are telling us to be judicious with our attention; our focus; the contents of our consciousness. To focus on one love is to lose the rest.

We can’t think out of training or habit, we must be alive in the world. And to do that we need to ignore all of our personal thoughts about what we want and don’t want. We can still have those thoughts. We just should ignore them immediately after thinking them. That leaves us in the world of sense, where things simply are, rather than being judged as right or wrong or good or bad. And that is how end your sorrows and find your peace. You simply trade your dividing thoughts for the connectedness of silence.

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 Sillage of Life Itself

1095-relax-and-succeed-you-are-the-templeHow was your focus on yesterday’s meditation on taste? Hopefully some of your discoveries surprised you. That would indicate you’ve seen something in a deeper way than previously. Today we’ll be doing the same thing with scents, although in this case it’s important to remember that your sense of smell is closely linked to your memory.

We evolved as humans, so your most valuable asset when eating would be determining the safety of your food. Remember, to early life and mankind; which smells were safe and which were dangerous were as important as a pilot today remembering how to fly an airplane. Get it wrong and people die. You come from a long line of successful smellers.

With few exceptions most of you won’t track things anymore by scent. We have food inspectors for that. You watch TV and have a phone and a computer. You watch screens. In the last few decades you have shifted a great deal. Now your sight is what takes up the vast majority of your mind’s focus.

1095-relax-and-succeed-the-mind-is-like-an-icebergYour job today is to turn the world into a scentscape. Rather than focus on visual directions, follow the flow of a current of air on which a scent of cinnamon buns travels. Trace perfumes and colognes. Who is wearing what? Maybe you even get a chance to smell some flowers or chocolate or perfume or cologne today….

Use your mind to define the scents. Can you pin down what it is before you can see it? What can you learn from a scent? Treat it as though it has secret information hidden in it because it does. It is possible to smell carefully.

What you’re searching for is a memory link as your awareness focuses on scent all day. Without sniffing anything dangerous, start smelling packs of paper at work, smell the food wafting by from nearby tables at lunch, smell people, don’t just see them. Smell flowers, and plants and the air around you.

Assign everything a scent quality other than nothing. You have to find at least one word for each situation you’re awake in. Oh and by the way, you’ll be terrible at this at the start. That’s how little you do it. But it’s not like the scents aren’t there. They just haven’t gotten your attention in a very long time.

1095-relax-and-succeed-sillage-the-scent-that-lingersMove through your day with this one added awareness operating and you will have literally exercised the size of your consciousness. It feels weird and clumsy and inefficient at first, but like weightlifting or studying, you get better at the things you practice. Just do it and your mind will develop. With few exceptions; you can tell a peppery wine from a fruity one with only your nose.

You’ll still execute your day. You’ll still get your jobs done. But make sure to set up timely reminders to yourself to stay aware. Maybe stick a post-it note to your coffee cup or computer screen. But do it. What you smell isn’t as important as that you smell. Becoming conscious of the world takes practice. Most people have only been focusing on their internal egocentric conversations for many years. We all miss a huge percentage of what’s going on.

In today’s meditation you smell your way through your day, counting how many times your memory is spontaneously triggered to remember some unrelated event. If you’re working with a partner then compare your numbers. Who noticed more things? To care about who wins is to still be in ego. What counts is the awareness. There are no losers in this meditation.

Enjoy your day. Add dimension to it. Do the meditation. Expand yourself.

peace. s

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