Get Lost

1017-relax-and-succeed-getting-lost-is-not-a-waste-of-timeWhere did you think you were going anyway? Even if you did manage to live your A-List life with no divorce, no cancer, lots of money; you’re still gonna have some bad days. You’re still gonna have problems. But even problems and bad days are just sets of experiences.

Wherever we had them, whoever we had them with, doing whatever we were doing, all we can ever have is experiences. There are no good or bad lives, although I know fashion and celebrity magazines and websites sell the idea that there’s a route through them to the good ones. But what’s a good one?

I’ve got a friend with a five and ten year plan and he never varies from it. It’s gone perfectly. He’ll be able to retire by 40 with everything paid off and lots invested. He’s also a bit uptight, so his wife is bored and the marriage is shaky. I’ve got another friend who travels and he works as a welder when he needs money and he mostly just hangs out with locals visiting until he eventually leaves to meet other people in other places. He’s got a woman in every port and they’re always happy to see him. Each of those guys thinks the other’s life is irresponsible and nuts.

1017-relax-and-succeed-when-you-danceWe can argue freedom versus responsibility but that that’s an ego-argument because in the end both of these people are simply having experiences, the same as you and me. That’s what’s being alive is; having experiences. That’s why you’re only technically alive when you’re in a coma. Your ability to process experiences is greatly reduced. That’s like starvation to your soul. You’re consciousness is a flashlight. What it shines on is what you feel. To stay still is painful stagnation. Otherwise there are no mistakes, there’s only what you shine on.

Most people imagine their spiritual growth as steps up some mystical staircase of wisdom, but in reality it’s not really a gaining of knowledge; our eyes just adjust to the dark and we gain an increased awareness of the world that was always around us, even if it hasn’t been in the spotlight of our attention. The darkness can be made of many things, including everything from traffic rules to ideas about love , and even really strange things like; does it really make sense that a bunch of wildly varied physical types, doing wildly varied amounts of physical activity could all share a common dinner time? That’s an idea, not a thing. Most of our lives are invisible agreements like that.

When we get lost we lose both our certainty and our identity. Forced to live in the moment we wake back up. You might know this feeling if you’re an enthusiastic traveller; when you first get somewhere it’s like your senses are all on steroids. Plus, when you travel no one knows you so your identity is irrelevant. So you’re really awake and aware and you’re not giving much thought to who you are in the world. That sounds like enlightenment. No wonder vacations are so relaxing!

1017-relax-and-succeed-dalai-lamaMost of your suffering is due to being knocked off course. But whose course? What gave you the right to write lives out for everyone you meet? Do they get to do that to you too? Of course you’d hate that. But you have to meditate on this set of facts. If it really is a bad idea you have to let it go. And I mean let it go like; totally surrender the idea as completely unworkable. You can’t have it hanging there like a remote possibility.

You cannot direct the ocean’s waves. The world is too huge and too complex. Our lack of acceptance of that reality binds us to our hopes and dreams and those are what rise to the heights from which our disappointments topple. We’re better to act wisely in a moment of being lost than to be unconscious but on track with some theoretical plan that isn’t taking the present moment into account.

We can catch glimpses of life matching our hopes and then extrapolate that it’s possible to do that with an entire life but those are more the exceptions than the rules. This isn’t to say that life can’t still be awesome and that you can never plan anything, but if your life is rewarding it will become that way because you are consciously building the experience you’re having, not because you’re fumbling the present because you’re busy planning for a later time and a different set of circumstances that will likely never come anyway, (and even if it does the best you can do is enjoy it, which could have been done in the current moment were it not for the planning for later moments).

There is no way, no route, no road, no path. There is only a way of going, and it isn’t happy and it isn’t sad; it isn’t calm and it isn’t excited, it’s just going. It is the act of having experiences. It’s less time than we all think we’ll get, so invest it wisely. By the end of your life, where you’ve been and who you’ve been won’t be nearly as important as how you’ve been.

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.

Life Is What Happens

Most of us think we’re adults by the time we’re about 16-18 years old. We may be “legal” from about 18-21 but really and truly we’re still kids. This is only because schooling or early jobs have us confused about how the world really works. I’ve noted it before—I’ve asked people all over the world how old they were when they felt they were an adult and every single person told me either 26 or 27 years old. Because that’s when you first start to realize that your naive and youthful dreams weren’t taking all kinds of factors into account, like limited time or resources—with the biggest resources being time and money.

536 Relax and Succeed - Life is what happensBy the time you’re in your mid 30’s you’re either feeling lost or you think you’re really on your way. Maybe you thought you’d be married and have kids and yet you just got dumped, and you’re doing the math forward: if you’re single at 36 then it might take a year to find someone. You date for 37-38 and then maybe get engaged and you hope to be married before 40 so you can start a family. Or maybe you’re on a strong career track and you’re feeling confident about reaching your long term goals but you don’t have a meaningful relationship. So this can either be a very disconcerting and disappointing aspect of life, or you feel like you’re on top of the world and you’re not so far in debt that you can still have fun and see your friends a lot—and that’s fantastic.

Of course, at every age there is a decent percentage of people who are experiencing serious derailments of their plans. Maybe your marriage ended quickly and you never imagined yourself as divorced. Or maybe your children aren’t healthy, or you realize you’re not actually suited to your chosen career and you’re talking about having to entirely change tracks which is costly in both time and money. Or maybe you’ve been diagnosed with something serious or you’ve lost important family members. Everyone has these phases in life. It’s only a matter of when they come.

By the time people reach their 40’s they have realized that the reason their parents lives looked like they did was largely because every kind of life will have shortages of something major. Money, time, or love. People will have abandoned their A-plan as naive, their B-plan as unsuccessful in some way shape or form, and so by mid-40’s you’re on your C, D, E or even F plan.

Maybe a weak marriage is starting to feel like a really bad decision you should have changed a decade ago. Or your health is out of control due to your diet or lack of exercise. Maybe an addiction is really starting to take a toll. Or maybe you’re not even sure of what you’re doing or why.

It’s very easy for this to be a crisis time where we can feel quite verklempt about where this is all going. Maybe parents are dead or dying or frail enough that we can see the writing on the wall. And that reminds us that we’re next in line. So we’d better get into gear and make something of this life. Strangely, it can be that sense of frustration of failed paths that make us want to make some more meaningful internal change to help insulate us from the vagaries of life. That’s why most of my readers are in their mid 30’s to mid 50’s. That’s crisis time.

After that I’m guessing, but I’m confident it’s a similar progression. Where we’ll have felt too old for life in our 50’s but 70 year-olds know we’re still young enough to have all kinds of fun they’ve had to surrender. You start reading the obituaries looking for friend’s parents, then the friends themselves. In the 60’s medical visits become more routine, and by the 70’s half your life is meeting friends at funerals and by your 80’s you just hope you have enough dough for a decent, safe place to live.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter that it’s gravy, but still it won’t seem like it because being that old is not for the faint of heart—pun intended. At 20 it hurt to lift heavy weights in gym. In your 80’s it hurts to lift your own weight off a toilet. But what’s nice about everything after the late 40’s is that you have enough life experience that you now know that everyone goes through these phases. That every single life is visited by terrible tragedy. And that everyone has their bad choices and misdirections and utter failures. We are all equal.

We come to know that the people we thought had truly made it had in fact paid big prices. Maybe your friend is a super famous scientist. But his marriage might suck. Or your friend’s a famous singer, but you know she still can’t have children. And of course in those highly public lives, pressure often leads to addictions and other unhealthy ego-based activities. So in a way, everyone faces serious losses in life. So what’s the point?

When you come to realize this wisdom is entirely up to you. Everyone has the potential to know it. The wisest among us learn it very young, but usually through hard experience. But life is an opportunity. Not to become someone relative to others. But to become yourself. To become the person who can realize the life that only you could. And how that life looks to others is irrelevant. The wise person isn’t trying to have an impressive life, they want an interesting one. Fun can be a big part of it if that’s the priority, but again the wise ones will know that there’s no avoiding the fact that every life has an underbelly. The only question is, when do you accept that and then focus your energies on what you can do?

536 Relax and Succeed - The beauty of lifeEveryone’s performing patterns because we’re all much the same. The timing of our events might happen differently but by 50 most people are aware that there’s a few different streams through life, and we start to just accept that some people’s streams merge well with ours while others don’t and that’s no ones fault.

As you age you will surrender dreams for reality and then reality for choice. Regardless of age, true wisdom is when we accept the strange and unpredictable fates of life and rather than trying to control the wave, we focus on doing a good job of surfing whatever wave we’re given.

Go ahead. Make plans. Move “forward.” But when you don’t end up where you’re headed, don’t be surprised. Just use your new perspective to adjust your targets and get into motion again. Over time you will refine your path. Not so it will lead you to success, but so it will lead you to yourself. Because in the end the only thing you truly every enjoy or not-enjoy is yourself.

Do not judge your life. Just amalgamate your lessons into your choices and then proceed knowing that a re-adjustment of your direction is normal and that, in the end, you weren’t really going anywhere anyway, so you might as well just relax. And that is why this page is called what it’s called. 😉

Now go have yourself a relaxing, successful day.

peace and hugs 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.