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.

Completely You

Your ego spends its time trying to think it’s way through its existence. It wants to find what you perceive as a healthy route through life, and you want your route, not just any route. You imagine there is a tightrope to walk and that you need to work to maintain your balance. The answer always feels outside of you. You do not imagine this tightrope is in fact the entire universe and that you were born balanced.

You’re a terrible procrastinator because you have this fear of not doing it right, or maybe you think it isn’t the right thing for the real you to do. Whatever your ego’s story is, it will always talk to you about its fears or limits. But then the deadline looms too closely and then what happens? Boom. You can work. There is so little time left that you rationally don’t have the time to think about unproductive things, and you zoom through the work. So why can’t you do that the rest of the time?

You keep looking for a route with none of the things that you tend to call mistakes, or problems, or difficulties, or struggle. And in doing so you create for yourself a ton of opportunities for mistakes, problems, difficulties and struggle. Your answer isn’t to do something differently, it’s to feel differently about what you do. All of those so-called challenges are in fact life, and the overcoming of them is living it. Only your layer of egocentric stories makes all of those things personal.

The radical part for you is to imagine your crazy, screwed up life as actually being lived perfectly, where even your questions are a part of your answer. Like the stumbling, bumbling, goofy source of comedy that many smart stories contain, you are in fact perfect in your imperfection.

Indeed the world rolls forward on the basis of you continually trying to make sense of it, but the point isn’t for it to make sense, the point is to enjoy the act of converting its potential into a form of personal sense. That’s how you reconcile everyone’s disparate opinions–you allow them to stay separate. It’s like every drama you’ve ever watched. If it had no conflict to overcome you would never have watched it. Each channel is showing a different drama and yet the only reason anyone watches any of them is for the drama itself.

Can you imagine looking at your life but not feeling personal about it? Can you imagine living it more like your ego is a game piece, than a person? That your ego is merely the character you play in this game? And that it’s an improv piece, so there’s no way for you to get any lines right or wrong, they just lead to something funnier or less funny….?

That’s your life right there. If you can see this whole thing is just one big silly drama that just ends with you leaving the cast, then it all seems less serious. And ironically, by making the “results” of your “life” less serious, you’ll make the living of that life much more profound.

You don’t need to be found, you have never been lost. You don’t need more, you need less. You don’t need to change, you need to realise. Just for today, try to imagine that your life is going perfectly–imagine that even your embarrassing moments or terrible performances are all a part of what you’re supposed to do as an enlightened person. Because that’s true.

There is no way to be outside of this game. All you can do is play or not play. So don’t avoid playing so that you can figure out how to play. Do the crazy-radical thing and accept yourself instead, and all the love you’ll ever need will flow to you when you 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.

The Late Post

Writing about concepts like delay and malfunction seems very appropriate when working around a technical glitch that translates to today’s planned post being unavailable. This is exactly the sort of time a lot of people would experience panic, worry, frustration and anger, so it’s worthwhile discussing my own real-time “management” of those challenges.

First off, people aren’t horribly lost if they do feel one of those unpleasant ways. There is no horribly lost or totally found any more than there is a little love or lot of love. There’s only two states made of one state. So even not-love is made from unconditional love, just as frustration depends on expectation, and just as the black words I am writing to you depend on the white background of this page to be seen. Without that duality creation could not perform its own existence.

Since there are only two states, then you are always only one switch away from the peace or health or confidence you seek. But if you’re seeking then you’re not finding, and those work just like every other duality. You can’t look for something and find it at the same time, either one or the other is happening. In fact, it’s often when we relax and stop looking so hard for answers that they actually occur to us spontaneously. So when you’re lost, you’re not looking for some big solution. You just need one little switch. And you’ll notice it, not figure it out.

At first people tend to get their egos to do this, so as a teacher I’ll cooperate with that. It’s the act the of dropping-away of illusions. You have to do a few at a time. So at the start you’ll calm yourself down by using your ego consciously, but getting it to say more positive things to you. It’s really a translation process where the fear hits, the anger starts to form, you feel it and then retranslate it into a slow breath in and out and a ego-based self-discussion about how anger won’t do you any good.

Eventually you get to the point where you’ve had so many of those diffusions and derailments that you’re bored of the process. You go to begin it and your brain sort of surrenders, knowing that the outcome always leads to the same result. It’s a natural reaction of your mind to want to take the proven shortcut and then just let go. There’s no act of conversion now because our unwillingness to participate in the illusion suddenly exposes the nuances of present reality to us.

Instead of our minds filled with our thoughts about some part of the world, our minds are filled with the whole world unjudged. It’s just there, and we simply are, and there is no shoulds, so no one can go wrong and no one can go right. You just go. Otherwise known as living. Unhealthy people talk themselves into an emotion, and healthy people go quiet and they dive into their feelings.

I could have played ping pong with my egos word-based thoughts today. But instead I just did what needed to be done and then I sat down at a blank page and I summoned the same feeling I use to write to you every time. There was no rushed thoughts or ideas that things had gone wrong, nor was there any storytelling about how that might secretly be better in some unexpected way. I just felt that feeling as my activity and this post emerged quite naturally as a result.

Living that way is all you’re looking for. It’s all people read this blog and take my classes for. They just want to stop all of that agonised waffling and just be what they’re gonna be instead. Your ego can ask questions about who you’re supposed to be, but you can only really be you in the present reality, so those questions about what you’re supposed to do are in fact the very action you are involved in that prevents you from realising the reality that is before you every moment.

Don’t let changes in direction throw your psychology around. Your mood is the result of the patterns you initiate and continue to energise through your internal language and analysis. What’s happening isn’t nearly as important as whether or not you’re willing to be okay with whatever that happening is. So don’t try to get healthy. Just try to be okay with how things are.

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.

Everyday Spirituality

Actually working to understand why ancient quotes can still be useful today is what this blog is all about. It’s not like drive-thru religion where you get a quick dose of spirituality without all the rules, and its not like traditional religion where following all the rules automatically leads to salvation regardless of the other deeds in your life–this is about those other deeds being your church. This is about you being dedicated to being human.

Reading quotes, finding one that vaguely applies to your situation and posting it on social media does not mean you’re pursuing your spirituality, it means your ego likes being seen as being spiritual. You can’t just dress the part, go to yoga and post the quotes; you have to ask yourself challenging questions. Questions like, what does the quote I posted really mean; or how can I take yoga from stretching and flexing into actual personal development?

The answer is meditation, but not the Ohmm meditation that monks do. You want to be like Siddhartha, sitting under the tree pondering why suffering exists. You want to ask yourself questions that don’t appear to have answers. You want to know how one wise guide can tell you to be peaceful by rejecting victory and loss, and yet another tells you that you can’t be balanced until you agree to lose.

The key is to understand desire. Desire requires a result. You’re after something. You have a specific outcome in mind and your life is oriented toward achieving that outcome. The problem with the outcome is that is that it’s theoretical. This is why even the slowest fifty year old is wiser than a someone in their early 20’s thinks they’ve found their answer.

You can’t have the answer because that will change as you become different people through your experiences. We tend to think we’ve found the answer when we find a route to the future that finally makes sense to us, but then we think we’re lost when our old answer doesn’t suit our new selves and we feel trapped or directionless. It’s not the answer that changed, it’s the person asking it.

It’s a constant rejuvenation process. That’s why they call it spiritual practice. But aging is like a church where you’re constantly delivered new real-life parables that need explaining. Why did that person try so hard to date you and then leave you? Why did you think this was your dream job and now you hate it? Why can’t you lose weight the way you want to? What is the definition of the word friend?

Over time we ask countless questions but we look for the answers outside of ourselves. We conclude either we are good and the ex is wrong, or we are faulty and they’re right; the dream job either has the wrong boss, or maybe you do really suck; you’re either mad at your mother for teaching you bad eating habits or you self-hate; and you conclude either that your ex friends are bad people or you conclude you’ve not been good enough. Winning and losing, winning and losing.

Even when you win, now you have to stay on top. That takes effort and you’ll be a different person sometime within the next eight or so years, so maybe that effort won’t seem wise. That’s because winning and losing are funny terms. They almost shouldn’t exist as static ideas. They only mean something in the moment you’re in.

If you listen to interviews with people over 50 years old, almost invariably you’ll hear them discuss their challenges more than their successes. They almost seem bored or uncomfortable with success because by then they’ve realised it’s largely chance. They also know that when you get there it doesn’t look like it did when you embarked on that journey.

After enough disappointing “wins” we start questioning the meaning of winning. If half of North American marriages end in divorce, then those marriages weren’t a dream come true; they devolved into a nightmare. But if you knew that at the time you wouldn’t have chosen it as your path. And yet as you age you realise that your marriage wasn’t wrong, it just didn’t work out long term. You still walk away with a better idea of what kind of person you’re really looking for in the future.

Victory and loss are tied together. If we live without the desire for a victory we cannot lose. We don’t need goals so much as targets. The getting there isn’t the point, it’s about being sanguine for as much as the journey as possible.

Victories and losses are judgments laid over top of events. Remove that static idea and the meaning of those moments can always change, meaning any defeat could become a victory, and any victory a defeat. Everything lives in potential. There’s no need to win now when we know can we live in a way that seeks value from all our interactions, even the ones we attempt to avoid.

peace. s

Wabi-Sabi Awareness

When people want to learn how to be they’ll often (and entirely without irony) ask me, what should I do? Well there’s the obstacle right there; you can’t do anything. You can’t enter a state of being by doing. Being shows up precisely when you stop doing.

The reason our egos are willing to perform and not enact our true selves is because we’re looking to a fill a want. We think something’s missing so we’re trying to make ourselves and our lives acceptable to those around us. We want some acknowledgement and applause for our performance. But in the real world we are love, living within love, interacting only with other love. So we don’t need anything. Our wants are merely egotistical ideas in our heads.

In looking after my parents there are many helpful things I can do for them. To them I’m doing something for them, but when I’m healthiest and it’s going best I’m simply being in love with them. If I act from a place of love then my actions are a part of my being, and only then can the products of my active love actually generate real value between us.

This is important when caring for people who need help. Often their interactions with us can be very limited so you truly have to be able to immerse yourself in the simplicity of your relationship. Parents of babies, those caring for the severely disabled, and those looking after very elderly but beloved parents are all examples of people that gain great value from unifying themselves with that connection.

The essential simplicity in that type of care is what exposes its value to the person performing it. Essentially hopeless, these people needs are demanding and they can often limit rewards; the child is very challenging and ungrateful, the disabled person will not improve with better care, and the beloved parent will get worse and die. There is nothing we can do about those things, and so understanding a child or person or parent’s imperfection and impermanence is what leads to acceptance and appreciation.

Wabi-Sabi is a Japanese term that’s difficult to turn into English, but it refers to a form of simple beauty that emerges in part from an acceptance of the ever-changing, disordered impermanence of life. So think of a kid on a farm with big dreams of hitting it big in the city. When then they come back home spiritually worn out from adulting, they actually feel the slow pace of life. And it is that new appreciation that allows them to experience their beloved but imperfect parents and siblings in a more profound way.

The feeling of Wabi-Sabi usually refers to those calm but imperfect gardens with the raked stones that you know from popular culture. For a farm person from the west, they get that feeling when they sit having a coffee looking out at the old barn where they used to have to do chores and where they hid as children from their parents.

With enough time and enough memories, as dilapidated and imperfect as it is, the barn gains a certain rustic beauty to it that it would not have were it not for the time needed for all of those memories to grow, and the fact that it may not even be there to contemplate by the next visit. Better to take it in. Better to be with it now.

If I do a bunch of things to help my parents stay alive then I am clinging. But if I am present and accepting of everyone’s imperfection and impermanence, then I can fully be with them. Babies will grow. The disabled will not improve. The aged will die. These are all things to grieve at times but, for the most part, if we can see them from the perspective of Wabi-Sabi then we are engaging with the most beautiful and essential aspects about them.

Do not lament imperfect things and do not cling to certainty. Because after all, it is the very bitter-sweetness at the basis of our feelings of Wabi-Sabi that are what makes the barn worthwhile, the garden beautiful, the baby precious, the disabled person valued, and the parent appreciated.

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.

Stumbling Together

Yesterday I talked about how no one can take your spiritual or psychological journey for you. That prompted a friend to quote me and ask the question, “If you can say, ‘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,’ then why do you teach this stuff?”

It was worth discussing. I had wondered the same thing myself. But in doing that wondering I realised that just as some people’s nature came forth as music, or woodworking, or dance, or raising children, or cars, or gymnastics, or math, mine comes from helping others see how remarkably beautiful the universe is in this very special way.

I don’t take the journey for them. Let’s not mistake the finger pointing at the moon for the moon. I see a lot of beauty in this world. To not share it feels unnatural, as though we’ve driven past the most amazing waterfall ever and I never mentioned it to the rest of the people on my tour bus. That almost seems cruel to me. It’s like hogging all the majesty for myself. It’s too big for me. There’s room for all of us in there.

If people can’t see that beauty and they’re living a dead, repetitive life, they come across to me like people standing still, stabbing themselves in the eyes, ears, mouth and nose and then cutting their hands off. They’re literally using a kind of spiritual violence against themselves. By doing things like thinking they’re ugly or stupid or worthless, they’re cutting themselves off from the universe.

How could I walk past that and not act? That would be like a musician writing a beautiful or powerful or emotional song and then not sharing it with the rest of us. What good does it do for her to keep that music to herself?

Keep in mind that even categorising yourself as attractive, or smart or capable, you’re creating division between yourself and others. Those are all comparative terms, and as I explained to my friend; the very act of comparison means there must be at least two things to compare, and if we’re separate we’re lost.

My friend doubted I never felt lost and he was right. Of course I do. Why have feelings if you’re not going to feel them? I asked him why he felt it was necessary to avoid something like that? He claimed it was because it felt so painfully lonely, but I argued that were it not for that painful feeling, we wouldn’t place such a great value on togetherness. You can’t ride the downhills unless you peddle up the uphills.

All of our lonely suffering is like a thought bubble within the dream of something greater than us. If I fall down in life I land in the palm of the universe. Our feelings are just nature generously steering us toward the good life. Not the good life in the sense that if you’re good you’ll enjoy life, but more that if you enjoy life you’ll be what often gets called good.

What confuses us is that sometimes the world needs us to play villain, so we all take a turn. I’m sure we can all remember a lot of the truly crappy things we did to people thanks to some misunderstanding to be sorted out now or in the future, or because we ourselves were feeling low and we pulled them down because because we desire togetherness and yet we can’t figure out how to get where they are. That’s why if someone makes you angry, you instantly feel a little to a lot better once they get angry too. At least now you’re in the experience together.

We were given all of the tools we need. Our emotions weren’t the point, they were the pointer. They not there for us to rate and rank. They’re to be lived. And this is a giant improv. So no one knows your lines but you. No one knows who your character is but you. They’ll all have a guess about who you are out of habit, but that’s their reality, just like you have a view of them that is your reality. Those were never designed to be reconciled.

We’re not supposed to argue over whose reality is right, we’re just supposed to share what we see and then we let the universe unfold. Sometimes we take action, sometimes not. But that’s irrelevant because we’re not competing. Our only job is to be ourselves. And sharing that binding, central truth is what leads me to feel connected.

If it’s done right, all sharing is selfish. So to answer to my friend’s question about people’s individual journeys and my role in guiding them; I don’t help them find their way for their sake, it’s a selfish act. My connection to, empathy for, and experience with their lostness is what connects us. In that vulnerability our separate selves melt and together we become whole. That is what it is to be generous with your life. And that creates the greatest feelings I have ever known.

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.