Secular Sundays: Souls in Nature

1312 Relax and Succeed - Nature is generous to the soul

Time together in nature. It’s good for us if we’re able to achieve it. Our souls know the sky. And it’s a very nice temple to walk in.

Whether it’s what we eat, or how and when and with whom we eat it, or if it’s walks outside or time with a book, we must ensure that we are not expecting our minds to compensate for a life that is drastically out of a balance in terms of expenditures of energy versus opportunities for rejuvenation.

I too am expending a lot of life energy in balancing many serious responsibilities so I can relate to the need to find opportunities to actively cultivate peace. As hard as it can be at times, we all must make room to rest or else everything will become even more stressful.

Rest is not a selfish luxury of ego; that’s called sloth. That’s what we do when we deny the world our love and capability. Contrary to that, rest is what a healthy mind needs to sustain its hold on equanimity and enthusiasm for life.

To that end, for those readers who are located in Edmonton, I am looking at doing Sunday walks that would be around various trails in the city, with the walks built around the idea of shared experience with our natural world. These might be 90 minutes in length, with maybe 20-30 minutes spent lingering here or there before or after for some discussion. It will be very informal.

Depending on whether there’s just a few of us or more, maybe a short talk might start the process, but it would be more to walk and Be together, and maybe I can answer some questions along the way.

I suspect they would start some time in June. If you’re in Edmonton and would like to be part of these proposed Sunday spiritual walks, send me an email to the address below and on the first Sunday that I start the walks I will let you know where we can meet to begin.

scottis@relaxandsucceed.com

Whether there are many or I pick the wrong week and end up walking alone, even if only for a short time, I am very much looking forward to getting back into Edmonton’s forest system to reconnect with all that is around us. Maybe I’ll see you there. Happy trails.

peace, s

Holiday Blog: Other Perspectives #39

It’s a holiday here in Canada so here’s a reminder for today:

522 Relax and Succeed Rebuttal - Change the voice in your head

Ideally we are quiet-minded and there are no voices in our head. But okay, if we can’t quiet ourselves enough to point ourselves toward that silence, we can at least direct ourselves toward thinking charitable, compassionate and loving thoughts about ourselves.

That’s not ego. That’s the real us. We are decent people, we do care and we do want to love and to be loved. And of course like everyone else we have some struggles and peccadilloes, but that doesn’t change our worthiness in the slightest.

We are as integral to the universe as anyone else. So keep in mind (no pun intended) that every single voice inside our head is just us talking to ourselves. It’s absurd that we would pay attention to that voice as though it has some profound meaning.

Silence. Silence has profound meaning. Talk is all ego by nature. Maybe it lines up with reality, maybe not. Self-talk presents us with a divided world where comparison leads to suffering. Ego divides and describes. Our spirit doesn’t.

We should all do our best to try to use our minds as an awareness and absorption input device and not as an opinions and language output device. And we always always always always need to remember that any voice in our head is meaningless and it holds zero power to make us do anything unless we inexplicably choose to act on hollow thoughts.

If we’re going to think anything, think positive thoughts. But as much as we can, we should just try to be really, really quiet. After all, ff we’re quiet enough, wisdom is all that’s left. Take care.

peace. s

00 Relax and Succeed - Other Perspectives Footer

 

True Action

1264 Relax and Succeed - The best place to findSome people approach the act of learning to manage their consciousness with fears that it is too difficult for them to do (it isn’t), or they may have have fears that without thoughts about religion or guilt that humans are destined to descend into chaos, but these are very weak and bleak views of ourselves and of humanity, unsupported by history and daily experience.

Certainly humans get a lot wrong, but for better or worse we managed to go from just another ape to being the dominant species on the world with 7.5 eventually to be 11 billion people. Clearly we cared enough to about people to do that, and now that we’re starting to get slightly competent with that we have switched our attention to the other living things that comprise our environment.

Despite our many mistakes, humanity also offers daily examples of compassionate, heroic responses to need, from cleaning oil-slicked seagulls, to entertaining the elderly, to inventing a simple, yet life-saving, medical technology. These aren’t the sort of stories that fill the news and sell lots of security systems or insurance, but they happen every day nevertheless.

1264 Relax and Succeed - The truth is everybody is going to hurt youThat connection to the others around us that leads to heroism is where we’re at when we’re healthiest. But we can’t be in that state if we’re slicing up the world and the people in it into labels, and then sorting them by how we value them at that time. That is one valid representation of the world, but it’s not the only one, but our judgment process delays our action and takes it out of the realm of in-the-moment callings and makes it a thought-based decision.

A hunting animal doesn’t make a decision. It skips straight from awareness to action in a constant whirling flow like a spinning Yin and Yang. A gazelle does no pro and con list as it tries to evade a cheetah. At that point it is so involved in appreciating its own life that it surrenders thought and the animal trusts the secret forces inside itself that are telling it which way to go and when. After that it’s simply chess between it and the cheetah doing the exact same instinctual in-the-moment thing.

We feel impulses. There is a consistency to them. If we’re looking for our calling we should look for what naturally matters. You might be the biggest toughest guy on the block, but if every time you see a special needs kids you go soft and react the instant you see an unmet need, then maybe despite all that tough exterior, you’re a caregiver.

1264 Relax and Succeed - You can sufferEgos will feel guilt about not being home for the kids, or about not wanting to be home for the kids. But trusting ourselves means that we do whichever one we feel is necessary for our fulfilment and we accept the consequences of that choice. Modelling being oneself is also important to children. Freedom isn’t freedom from pain or consequences, it simply allows us to make the kinds of sacrifices we find it more natural to make, despite how significant  or unwise they may appear to others.

Let’s take today and pay attention to our reactions to the world. Where are our impulses and what do they have in common? We’re not looking for the cloying needs of our egos, we’re talking about actions where we can’t recall having decisions attached to them. These are times where we’ve acted as our true selves in an actual present moment.

These moments of reality pepper our days. As uncomfortable as our calling might feel to our ego, we need to ask ourselves what those moments say about who we fundamentally are and therefore where we might find the heart of our calling. Asking that through observation is important because, after all, no one knows the answer to that better than we do.

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.

Be-ing

1263 Relax and Succeed - Simply be it's a mindful activityMake no mistake, as inactive as it it might seem, it is an entirely serious psychological and spiritual practice to simply be. Today the lesson is no lesson. Today we practice the idea of understanding. You always were perfect and always have been. Try actually living like that’s true just for the day, even if there’s a part of you that has trouble believing it. Just for the exercise, try it.

Today your job is to be clear. Allow all you encounter to pass through you, only offering your own input when it is absolutely necessary, but avoid the tug and pull of unconscious habit. Do not think, avoid opinions, keep your mind silent. Today, only respond to what is necessary to respond to, and spend as much as your day as possible in a pure state of being.

It isn’t easy at first, but it is natural, so practicing is easily worth it. Free yourself. Put all of your attention on it. Be.

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.

Create More Unity in Your Community

1247 Relax and Succeed - If you want others to be happyWe evaluate, we name, we label, we judge, we value. Totally lost in ego, we use words like truth to represent what is really only our personal view. Reacting more to our own thoughts about things than the things themselves, we seek to remove all of our opportunities for personal growth by removing any and all offending ideas from our daily experience.

Is it any wonder that the world feels fractured when most individuals are walking through it with the constant urge to subdivide it down into groups rather than behaviours? How does it help to either subdivide or be angry at the perpetrator of domestic violence for instance? To be angry is to add even more negativity. It’s fine as an initial response, but once that washes over us our job isn’t to have a personal emotional reaction, it’s to do something constructive for our community.

Unity is created in a community when people from all walks of life can feel safe that they will be met with compassion and understanding when they’re struggling. That means the wealthy elderly lady walking her dog is equal to the strapping young man with the sort of childhood that leads him to be violent. People find it easy to be sympathetic to the little old lady even though (like every human being), she’s certain to have done some truly terrible things in her life. But our personal speculation about her will often be quite generous.

1247 Relax and Succeed - There are too many of usMeanwhile we have difficulty expressing compassion for a fearful or angry young man with equal challenges and his own set of mistakes. Our job isn’t to look at his clothing and terms of speech and his behaviour and then evaluate him, label him as an offender and his wife as a victim, and then dole out our compassion according to those judgments. Our job is to care about each of them in conjunction with their relationship.

To help we need to understand what in his life would lead him to be violent, and what in her life would lead her to stay for that violence. Our initial judgments are uninformed and useless. They happen inside our head. Even if they do externalize, they’re often just as ugly as what they’re judging.

The world does not benefit from our thoughts, it benefits from our actions. And that action should not be to judge and divide people into good or bad groups, our role is to support anyone struggling, whatever that struggle may look like. Right now, people are inclined to hate the very people that they should be loving the most.

1247 Relax and Succeed - Look out for each other

When we’re unhealthy and locked in ego we’re going to talk about how bad things are and who needs to change. We’ll start filling our social media with angry recriminations of this or that group, or we level this or that judgment about this or that social media post; or we comment on the news, on the behaviour of athletes, and politicians, and celebrities, and on and on and on. Meanwhile children watch us make those judgments, and we pass on to them a world more ever more steeped in the useless egocentric personal views that populate most people’s social media.

Those children deserve to see us offer them examples of where we find our own way past a negative judgment to find some positive sort of action, but instead we offer them endless examples of our judgments of how the world should be, or how it’s supposed to be. Even most television shows now involve someone actively judging someone else in a way that actually determines that person’s fate. It’s all built to appeal to our egos, not the unifying best that is at the heart of who and what we are.

We all have to drop that arrogance. It’s not our job, nor does any one of us know enough to be able to singularly know what the right answer is in any situation. We all need to stop casting judgments and making suggestions, and we all need to start getting to know our enemies better. We have to move toward the people we dislike the most, because the conflict is happening within us, not in the larger external world.

1247 Relax and Succeed - Compassion is a verbIt is we who must lower our sense of right and wrong and instead ask how we can help situations traverse the distance from tense and unpleasant to calm and rewarding. Remember, every time you either consistently negatively judge, or universally accept another person, you are engaged in the very deepest and most destructive state of ego. That’s like failing to throw a life preserver so you can instead scream at a drowning person about how they should have learned to swim many years ago. It’s cruel and it does not serve the larger community.

As Roger Waters said, (it doesn’t just apply to formal schooling), “We don’t need your education, we don’t need your thought control.” Indeed. Stop putting bricks of judgment between you and others. If you want to prove you’re developing spiritually, try tearing down your own wall, be vulnerable, and connect. Because while your judgments only serve to make the world worse, you compassion is the glue that can hold a society together through it’s most difficult times.

Trade in your judgments. Be a positive, constructive spiritual citizen in your community. If everyone learns how to do that, then when it’s us that’s struggling, we too will benefit from the compassion of those around us. Let’s all take immediate action to improve ourselves and the world in this way. I do hope you’ll join me.

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.

Correcting Yourself

1236 Relax and Succeed - He who carves the buddhaPeople think they’ll feel better if they perform better in some specific way, but it’s not achievement that allows us to feel great, it’s mindfulness. It is when we are fully absorbed in what we are doing that we and the act we are performing become one, whether the person is still or busy, their state is peaceful clarity.

Today, rather than constantly criticizing yourself with your own ego-centric thinking try going peaceful instead. As an exercise, when speaking with others today, watch for language that is corrective and then veer away from that need to be right and instead surrender into silent acceptance. Listen to an idea you disagree with and feel the motivation to speak to–and then don’t.

By practicing the act of acceptance we become better listeners. Use today to your advantage. Make a game of it. See how many times you can catch yourself doing it; see how quickly you can change direction; and see how gracefully you can make your shift. Be still amidst ideas you disagree with. Do these things and you will become stronger.

Awareness, recognition, response. It’s yours to do.

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.

Avoid Getting Caught

1234 Relax and Succeed - One day I woke upDespite our self-criticisms all of us are actually smart and capable. Our problem isn’t our potential, it’s our limits on that potential. The potential is always ready to go by nature. It’s not that we aren’t realizing it, it’s that we’re holding ourselves back by being tricked into going the wrong direction.

We should think of ourselves as a fish. Our three-dimensional world gives us the ability to move in any direction. Eating another fish would be like combining ourselves with another part of the universe and we would use the energy to grow even larger and more capable.

The ego-based world is more like bait. There’s some fisherman who lives in a world nothing like ours, and they’re going to pull us into their two-dimensional world and eat us up. Knowing the difference between bait and nourishment is key to our enjoyment of life.

1234 Relax and Succeed - We don't need anything more

Today, on each and every decision that we can recognise (we’ll probably identify less than 10% of them), we must ask ourselves whether the decision we made/are making was/is about more, or for better? Are we just trying to get more time, more money, more stuff, more respect, or more control etc.? Or was/is the decision about improving how we feel about our life?

We have very healthy feelings just before we quit a job we despise, or just before we end a taxing relationship. We’re giving up more for better and it feels good. That’s like flailing and getting the hook out of our mouth.

All day long we make these little decisions and brick by brick they build our world. So greater consciousness is critical, but to do this we need awareness. But our radar can’t learn to pick up that other 90% if we don’t start with trying to find the big, easy 10% that affects 90% of our life. We shouldn’t be working hard to save things that have no meaning.

1234 Relax and Succeed - Nothing makes a fish bigger
Nothing makes us wiser and more capable than learning to tell the difference between bait and nourishment.

No one really wins an argument. Achievements are always short-lived. Comfort breeds complacency. Ease makes us dull. Control crushes value. Money can’t buy happiness, status is fleeting and dangerous, and attachment destroys love. We can’t want more. We must seek better or our lives are an endless loop of consumption of people, things and places.

We shouldn’t get hooked and swallowed up by a two-dimensional world that limits our heights. Rather than forever seeking more–as though some gap in ourselves will be filled by achievement–we must all turn our eyes away from the collection of life and toward simply sharing in its remarkable abundance and beauty, because we sure don’t need much when the life we’re leading is rich.

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.

 

Silently Floating

You’re born floating in the middle of a beautiful river. You don’t even know there is a shore. You know only the floating of the water. As you age you learn you can affect your movement around the water and you attempt to do so, but you often become frustrated when the river is itself and does not meet your expectations.

Maybe it is the currents pulling you in challenging, stressful directions. Maybe it’s too shallow where you are and you are skimming along, irritated. Maybe it is rocky, and you’re bouncing along in frustration and a bit of fear. Maybe you’re actually hitting some really big rocks pretty hard and it’s so frightening that you’re angry at the world for scaring you so much. Or maybe you’re marooned with damage, depressed and unmoving on the shore. But if you’re reading this you haven’t done the equivalent of suicide and gotten out of your boat. Which is good. Because there’s something you’ve misunderstood.

Yes, you do control yourself. But you do not control the river. The banks are set by fate, by your parents, your times, your culture, your individual experiences. The difference will be in their banks, not in the flow of the water. That’s the point. The flow is guaranteed like gravity. You are destined to return home to the sea. The only question is, how much will you allow yourself to flow?

What is it not to flow? It is to imagine things as being wrong. It’s to image the river being a faulty river. Rivers can only do as rivers do. They are guided by principles. Your thoughts about the river are not the river itself. Your opinions exist only in your consciousness; the river is indifferent. But then why think resistant thoughts at all?

We often mistake our own flow for a mistake, and in attempting to correct it we fight our flow. It is this misunderstanding that misleads us. It’s not a mistake that the water is shallower and rougher near the shore. Nor that there are sharp rocks, or waterfalls or dangerous eddies. These are all normal things for any river, and all parts of the river will experience them to some degree. That isn’t the world or the water being wrong, that’s layering thought over top of flow to create resistance.

The narratives about your unfulfilled desires, your worries, your fears, your complaints against yourself and those around you–those are like psychological attempts to damn your river. You’re trying to force a direction change with pure thought, but you don’t stand a chance in the face of the river of life. Your must surrender and float.

Stop your judgments. Flow past your irritations, frustrations, and bouts of temper or depression. Replace them with a silent appreciation that, even with these challenges, to flow is to live and to live is exalted. It is easily the most underrated thing in society today; to merely be alive to experience existence. So many die without having ever truly opening their eyes.

Don’t argue with your white water. Don’t try to back away from a waterfall. Don’t try to muscle your way out of an eddy or escape from the rocks. Flow. Stop your paddling, wanting, resisting thoughts and flow.

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.

Let More Be

1189 Relax and Succeed - One person's craziness

Every year it seems, people are increasingly focused on their differences and very little heed is being paid to our overwhelming similarities. What’s curious about those differences is that they’re all theoretical. If you look beyond your personal beliefs to the greater truth that forms all realities they’re all equally uncertain.

Like everyone else, you’ve changed your mind about a subject or two in your life. Maybe you’ll even admit to executing a few of life’s inevitable flip-flops too. Maybe you thought Person A was your friend, then you thought they weren’t, and then they were again. It’s not like Person A was flip-flopping who they were. You were just changing the opinion you colour them with.

The fact is Raj or Sirah or Dennis or Clare or Sydney or Dylan sound like a group of friends when really that’s just a collection of words. Because who are those people? Not only will they each change at their own rates and for their own reasons throughout their lives, but likewise, so will their opinions of each other. So who is what, when?

1189 Relax and Succeed - Reality is negotiable“Society” is nothing more than the averaging of everyone’s assembled–yet still individual–views. We draw a Venn Diagram with seven billion circles and we find the layers of overlap and we call that “normal.” Whether it’s about people or things or ideas, we all come to accept ideas at different times.

Some people believe things as soon as they like them. Others need tons of proof. Others need high quality scientific proof. Others will only believe people they like, and they’ll never believe anything coming from someone they don’t like. Others doubt everything. We’re all on this spectrum somewhere.

This means the rules and ideas and concepts that shape and guide our society are like a collective amoeba, organically working its way along as we all pursue things that are in alignment with our current capabilities and our individual natures. This is the subtle person by person way that a society’s fundamental perspective can appear to suddenly shift, when really all that happened is that the slow ebb eventually tipped your personal scale.So collectively, first we believed there were Kings and Queens who killed you if they didn’t approve of you. Then only wealthy land-owning men could vote, and you could be destroyed if they didn’t approve of you. Then only men could vote, and you could be destroyed if they didn’t approve of you. And then women could vote, and thankfully there’s no one left for them to prove their strength to because at least all of us humans all equal.

The strange thing about “differences” is that you could still find people today who still believe only landowners should be allowed to vote. There’s people that still think only men should. And some think children and eventually animals should be able to. We are all alive on the same planet at the same time. So all of these views co-exist. Is that really something to get upset about? Doesn’t that just make sense? How else could it be?

So, if we’re all changeable, and none of us knows what we might believe in the future, then surely some of the views that we’re hearing today are actually correct and we will eventually change our mind. Maybe it’s about a musician or maybe it’s about a spouse, but that means big argument or small, you may just be arguing for a view you won’t have later.

Just think back. I’m sure you can find some painful examples of where you held a belief you no longer do. Everyone has loads of those. When I was a kid my neighbour used to want to be a fire truck. I doubt he does now. More recently, for a while, another neighbour thought they wanted to be married. But like I suspect the fire truck kid did, she ended up changing her mind about that. (I sure hope she also remembered to change her “divorce is failure” belief while she was at it.)

Who knows what you’ll believe a year from now? Why not just breathe out? Why not just let other views co-exist with yours like books in a library? You don’t have to read them, but if the cover ever does catch your interest, you can thank the people around you for placing that book in your library of potential beliefs. And if you never pick that book up. That’s fine too. You’ll leave plenty lying around that other people won’t read either.

The world appreciates the efforts of your good heart but there’s no need to suffer to save it. Yes, there are things for you to care about. But mistaking caring for worrying is like mistaking the efforts of love for the efforts of resistance. As Mother Teresa said, skip the anti-war rallies. Go to the ones for peace. So it is with life. Don’t resist it so much. Let more go. Be more fluid and flexible. Let things be. And in so doing, be free.

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.

Balancing With Wisdom

We tend to think of wisdom as something that will save us, but we fail to notice that if it saves us then we must have been in trouble in the first place. That’s fine, because experiencing challenges expands our capacity, but it’s important to actually remember, in the moment, that you want them: wisdom has no use unless you have problems, and problems both teach and are overcome by wisdom. It’s a win-win.

People who are not yet familiar with their wisdom often see the wise as balanced, when they should be seen as good at balancing. There we have a word that needs inspection; balance isn’t a static state. You weren’t supposed to become the perfect fossil. Your life is an active, in-motion expression of the balance and tension between your so-called problems and your so-called wisdom.

When you start off in life you run around on the teeter-totter of being like a little kid. And like little kids, you sometimes make miscalculations about where to put your weight. When we’re young or when we’re not paying enough attention (which is like being young), that’s when we tend to make the mistakes that see us crashing down painfully.

When you’re a kid just not getting your way can cause your teeter-totter to crash down. Later, you understand more grown-up concepts, so you’re more accepting of daily life, but you still struggle with your relationships. But as you struggle through those, you get better at that but then you have to learn to use an aging body. The learning never stops, so the trick is to love the learning rather than resist it.

Life is doing what it’s doing and it’ll drop unexpected and expected weights on teeter-totters all the time. Sometimes you’ll perceive that action personally, as though life’s been hard on you specifically, rather than you seeing it for what it is: that you just happened to be balancing in the path of some otherwise impersonal destruction.

Some scientists wanted to test experienced meditators regarding what levels of acceptance can be achieved through mindfulness. They took the best monk they knew (Lama Oser), and they tested him. Keep in mind, this fellow spent his entire life getting good at being peaceful. And what did that attract to him? The people looking to attack him so they could study the sources of peace.

It wasn’t personal when they got him to meditate. They just wanted to see what mindfulness could do when it came to managing something the scientists thought was guaranteed to create startled reaction. So the reward for all of his meditation practice was that they scared him intentionally, with a really really loud noise. They just wanted to see if he would react. Even police snipers have a startle reaction to the sound of a gun. Lama Oser didn’t. Can you see? Life literally delivers the lessons that suit us best if only we’d be open to them. And that went for the scientists as much as for Lama Oser.

When you started off as a kid you were flopping all over the place and your teeter-totter rocked violently sometimes. But as you age, and much more so as you become aware, you’ll find ways to detect that you’re heading off course and you’ll develop skills to react to those situations. Over time and practice you’ll refine those until eventually someone says that’s how you are.

The wise person you want to be–the people you admire–they’re still balancing. It’s just they’ve learned enough from being off balance that they now can make such subtle adjustments to stay on balance that you can’t even detect them from your perspective. But they’re still there, make no mistake. So if someone can settle themselves in a way you can’t, don’t argue with them that they should be upset with you. Instead, ask them more about how they manage to not be upset.

Life doesn’t finish. Awareness is a practice, not an achievement. Life will always require you to balance it. But if you don’t pay attention, years alone won’t do it. You have to actually pay attention to balancing if you want to learn to balance. It won’t happen mindlessly, only mindfully. Stop fighting and resisting your battles. Learn from them instead. Because everyone, including you, has the capacity within them to develop balance. Go find yours.

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.