Intentional Courage

1248 Relax and Succeed - Bethany Hamilton professional surferThis is Bethany Hamilton. You might recognise her. She was thirteen years old when a fourteen foot tiger shark took her left arm while she was surfing with her best friend in Kauai. Beautiful place, best friend, a favourite activity…it was all a dream come true. Even after the shark attack, Bethany used her sense of intention to adjust her dreams and then she made those true.

Bethany was an active young woman who loved surfing and spending time in nature. Today Bethany is an active young championship surfer who loves to spend time in nature with her husband and two children. Note that losing her arm did not change who Bethany is. She was always determined to live deeply and fully and the shark only intensified that drive.

Within two months of losing her arm she was back in the water and not long after that she was competing. The arm didn’t stop her from meeting a man, the fact that it was missing attracted a particularly strong and loving man. She’s written a book, had a film made about her, she’s started a charity, works with many others, and she’s been on countless television programs for her charity work promoting positive mental attitudes, faith and a general outlook of abundance.

1248 Relax and Succeed - Just because today is a terrible dayMany people fall asleep within their own lives and they sleep most of the way through living them. Generally only illness or divorce or the loss of a job or some other tragedy will temporarily wake the person up, but they’ll rarely account for the fact that they feel more alive when they’re struggling to survive than when they are stultified into not even noticing their life is ticking by.

Bethany loses an important limb to a shark and shortly thereafter she’s back in the water, competing on a surfboard, married and pregnant. That’s a lot of belief in a bright future and note it kicked in almost immediately after the injury. In fact, she faced the injury with the same positive attitude she faced the rest of life with.

You can argue for your weariness. We all do it for periods and you can bet she did too. But it’s how much time we spend in which mental states that decide how much control we can maintain throughout our lives. If we see the world as fatalistic and ourselves as unlucky then we have doomed ourselves with a literal intention to have a bad life. But we can use that same force of intention to create a full life like Bethany’s.

1248 Relax and Succeed - ForwardBetween toiling in oblivion and struggling for equality, most people focus on sadness over who they were rather than seizing the opportunities that emerge from who they now are. Bethany’s positivity route is actually the easier and more enjoyable to live, but to get it you must be positive even when the indications urge you to feed a darker aspect of yourself. This is where Bethany takes control and makes her life happen, rather than idly watching it happen and then commenting to herself in her ego, after the fact. A good life is created by action. A bad one by inaction.

Don’t use Bethany’s example to beat yourself up for perceived shortcomings because that is not what Bethany would do. She would not account for what is missing, she would account for what is there. She could have been just another anonymous woman with a missing arm who lead a sad life because of a tragic accident. Or, she could become who she’s been; a rare person who’s both been attacked by a shark and who has survived. Add her positivity on top of that and now she’s so rare that you can see why she can make a living on TV and by doing public speaking on the value of faith and a belief that the universe is working with you and not against you.

Every day you choose a path. Sometimes the choice is conscious, sometimes not. But for our lives to improve, those choices must not only be made more conscious, they must be made with the sort of courage that allows us to step outside of a common narrative so that we can instead continue to be ourselves even in the wake of whatever tragedies we face. None of us are the results of what has happens to us. All of us are the result of how we chose to face what happens to us. Get active. Live consciously. It’s the only way to find your actual life.

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 March of Kindness

1106-relax-and-succeed-the-march-of-kindnessIf you read yesterday’s blog you know that a few years ago I started doing the March of Kindness. Thanks to some teachers and schools from around the world this idea was actually practiced. It not not only put a lot of positive action into our world, it also reduced ego by focusing us on the needs of others.

March includes twenty-three weekdays. That’s twenty-three days of action, and the only action you need to undertake today is to right-click on the photo, save it, print and sign it and then post this notice in a location where you are sure to see it during each of those twenty-three days.

The world is a big place, but it changes one individual at a time. By signing and committing to these principles, you are placing yourself among the important change-makers from around the world. This isn’t just for people like the prophets, or Gandhi, or Rumi, or Martin Luther King, it’s for you as well.

Let us join together and help make the world the incredibly creative, loving and supportive place it has always had the potential to be. Don’t forget to enjoy the process. Have a wonderful day everyone.

peace. s

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

Ego Awareness

1026-relax-and-succeed-the-goal-of-meditationMost people want to make changes but they’re too busy being who they think they are. They never stop to actually figure out who their ego is and how they might more easily identify it when it shows up. It’s important to remember; an ego must be summoned. Your natural state is peace. Your thinking-in-words state is your ego. So how do we find that little trouble-maker?

One of the easiest ways to catch your ego is to simply listen to yourself. And I don’t mean the sounds. If you had to ascribe a tone to your conversations and your responses, would it be negative or positive? Do you take what someone said and polish it up to look nicer, or do you take it and make it worse?

Get to know yourself. Most people you know would know your ego more than the real you. Without you being aware of it your ego is the angle that ideas will bounce off of you and the people who know you call that your personality.

1026-relax-and-succeed-the-darkness-that-surrounds-usDon’t think these little differences in how you talk and interact are unimportant. Keep in mind that those are direct reflections of your brain’s wiring. So as trivial as it might seem, there’s almost nothing more important than, if someone says, Nice day isn’t it? Do you say something negative or positive?

Let’s look at some possible answers to that question, but first let’s keep in mind that I live in one of the world’s northernmost cities and we have had one of our warmest years ever. Last winter was very short on low temperatures, and rather than warm weather extending from May to September, this year it’s gone from March to November. That’s five extra months of warm temperatures. But that doesn’t help someone if they have a negative perspective.

In my experiment I’ve been saying Nice day, isn’t it? for a few weeks and here’s a collection of the responses I got. Many of you are likely one of these or close to one of these.

Negative Responses to the question, Nice day isn’t it?

[No answer. Sullen expression]
Yeah, I guess it’s not bad.
It’s about time.
It won’t last.
Maybe for some people.
Yeah, but whatever it gives us now it’ll take it away worse, later.
Just wait a few weeks.
Not warm enough for me.

Anyone can have a challenging day where their patience is short and some negativity shows up. Sometimes people are dealing with very overwhelming circumstances so they’ll be more inclined to the negative but, all that said, there is no more important time to watch for the best things than when things are at their worst.

Take your little stab at negativity occasionally. We all do, because if there’s a path you’re seeking then there must be a not-path too. But you don’t want to stay on that path any longer than you have to, and the only way off that path is through raising your awareness and leading yourself out with a more optimistic perspective. The people above are experiencing one of the warmest years ever and yet they can still find ways for that to not be good enough. This is why expectations and comparisons kill happiness.

Pay more attention. See conversations as balls lobbed over a net toward you; every statement is a new ball. The question is, do you predominantly shoot those back toward the other person’s backhand, or their forehand? Do you make it easy to play, or do you make it harder? Do you take responsibility for your interpretation of reality or do try to pawn it off on others as though it’s their fault, or that somehow they were luckier than you, rather than they were more positive than you?

Positive approaches generate lots of support and assistance. Negative approaches attract anger and blame. Gee, I wonder which one leads to a better life?

Get conscious. Wake up. Don’t answer people out of habit and don’t initiate contact out of habit. Be aware. Choose your words carefully for they are the brushstrokes that form your painting of the world. If a person is always the victim of something, then that is what they are using this lifetime to become: a victim.

A person can do that their whole life if they choose to. Many more people have wasted lives than lived them. You’re the one who lives with those choices. But those can go both ways, because after anyone responds to me negatively, I still usually meet the next person with a positive attitude and it’s amazing what wonderful people are brought into your life though that simple act.

peace. s

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

The Friday Dose #129: Mindfulness

1013-fd-relax-and-succeed-resistance-is-futileStaying vigilant about our thinking can be a challenging thing. My accident gave me a huge advantage in that there was a distinct separation between me and my thinking, but I know when I jam the two together that they feel like one thing, so I suspect that’s what it feels like for everyone else most of the time. As ephemeral as it is, all I really do in my work is create some distance between souls and egos.

One way to create some distance and to slow down that process is to study it closely and break it down into its component parts. It’s like a drummer learning a new beat. You have to do it super slowly, super slowly and then build the wiring and build the wiring until you can go faster and faster and faster until it’s natural.

Since our mental health is tied to us accepting rather than resisting the universe as it is, a good candidate for study is complaining. Complaints are pure resistance. They’re either internal resistance thoughts, or spoken external ones, but they’re resistance either way. A man recently tried going only 21 days without complaining and he found it very difficult. That said, he also did notice a shift in himself in only those 21 days. I would suggest that this would be a beneficial process for everyone to undertake.

Here’s a link to an interview with the author, and here’s Michael J. Fox on how your circumstances can appear worse than average and yet your life is better than average. It’s really only a question of how much resistance you choose to produce.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone because, despite your genuine challenges, in many ways you’re still more fortunate than a lot of the world. Enjoy that.

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.

Extending Kindness to Ourselves

We’re still in March Kindness Month so we want to stay on theme, but it’s Monday, so I have an easy one to start your week. Today you’re going to be kind to yourself in a Maslow kind of way. Food and shelter. Going forward you’re going to make two tiny changes for yourself.

886 Relax and Succeed - Create healthy habitsFirst, become more aware of your body. In previous posts I’ve talked about how only one in ten cells in “your body” are actually you; how most of “your bodyweight” is just the organisms that live in and on us and keep us alive. See yourself as their host and realize that when they are doing well, so are you.

Imagine your mouth as an entry port into your space station. You don’t let just anyone or anything in. You want to make sure that every arrival is about nurturing your society, not destroying it. You will get occasional attacks by viral or bacterial forces, but you have an army of white blood cells you’ll begin recruiting the moment you sense an attack underway.

Let’s make sure your troops and citizens are well-fed. Take the day and be hyper-aware of what goes into your mouth. Food and drinks. Find one that you consume fairly regularly that you know you would benefit from changing.

886 Relax and Succeed - Don't call it a dreamThere’s a tiny portion of your community up near your taste buds that likes to run things because it’s near the gate, but your Consciousness is Captain, so the orders come from you as long as you’re awake and in the Captain’s seat. So get your awareness on duty and find that one muffin or soft drink or chocolate bar or whatever, that you can switch for something else.

A doughnut for an apple. A sugary drink for a water. Candy in the drawer replaced by nuts and berries. Your morning cereal shifts from sugary to fibery. Rather than sparking yourself with coffee, try some natural sugars in some orange slices. Switch one common side dish for a healthier side dish. Stop buying one unhealthy food and replace it with one healthy one.

Now it’s important that when you do this you keep in your awareness why: because you will feel good and that’s what you really want. You don’t want someone to date, or to lose weight, or to live somewhere else, you want to feel good for most of your life. Well you don’t do it by changing things outside of you, you do it by changing the inside of you.

886 Relax and Succeed - Your life doesn't get better by chanceWe also want to change what you load into your consciousness, so also look at where you live and how it impacts your senses. Remove one unhealthy reminder or thing and replace it with only one other–better–thing. So you’ve always had a broken coaster on your office chair. Fix it. Or you have a picture up of an ex and you replace it with one of a new friend. Get nicer sheets. Finally put a brighter bulb in that lamp you read by. Tidy up that crazy drawer.

Do these things and always remember to be grateful each time you encounter them. These are literally steps in your expansion as a being. Every time you eat that banana instead of a chocolate bar, congratulate yourself. Every time you wake up from a good sleep on your new pillow, be grateful that you made the switch. Live your healthy pro-your choices.

Associate your choices and your actions as being the things that define the quality of your life. Increase your awareness of that relationship and you will find yourself progressively feeling more in control. Be kind to you: one food, one thing. By the end of the day, write your switches down on a note and leave it somewhere so you’re reminded to maintain it. March. It’s half over. It’s not too much to ask. Trust me, you’re worth it. Be kind to you today. One food, one thing. Go.

peas. s

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

Understanding Ego

Winner: 2015’s Blog of the Year #5

Look, I love you alright? How long do you expect me to watch you torture yourself in all the many ways that you do? Life is awesome. Life is stupendous. There is so much beauty and amazingness in every day that there’s no excuse not to be shouting boisterously from the rooftops. But you? This person that I love. Not you. I don’t get to see you realizing your greatest self. Instead you doom me to watching you weaken and undermine yourself on a routine basis. It’s like watching someone stick pencils in their own eyes.

652 Relax and Succeed - Don't have your mood affect your judgmentIt’s super simple. You’re a crazy hypocrite. I’m doing the same thing when I’m letting my ego get the best of me. But it’s still crazy. You’re in your head bashing your past decisions. But you’re bashing them using the wisdom you gained from those bad decisions. Duh. Painful and crazy. And if you’re not doing that then you’re worrying about your future as though you’re incapable of working out what to do when that’s not true either.

You’ll have all of these options about what to think about or do, and–like pulling the only bad book out of a giant bookcase–you’ll angrily go recall some series of events that only generates anger because you had the audacity to pre-imagine an outcome and then you got attached to that fantasy, as though everyone in the world is the cast in some play created by and for you. The world is not supposed to go your way but that still leaves tons and tons of room for it to be awesome.

Out of the thousands of days of your life you’ll sometimes focus exclusively on all of the worst days you’ve lived. You’ll be so low-consciousness that you will choose to re-live your worst moments. That’s when we all feel suicidal. Everyone does that at least once if not semi-routinely. But like I said, I love you, so it’s painful to watch you volunteer for all of that suffering. Because even though you are thinking all of those negative thoughts, I can see that the real you is okay and it’s just the thought-you that is suffering. When the real you changes the thoughts from suicidal to appreciative you go from weak to strong.

652 Relax and Succeed - Learn to see your emotionsRemember: you are where your consciousness is. But how would you expect to feel if you load your consciousness up with concerns about time and money and status and fears and guilt and regrets? So maybe you should start treating your consciousness more like it’s your mouth. Because then maybe you’ll be more careful with what you put in it.

Stop talking to yourself. Quiet your mind. If it’s coming to you in words it’s your ego every time and it should be quieted and ignored. This is so easy. Just practice it: it doesn’t matter if you’re getting blame or if you’re blaming, if you’re angry, hurt, sad, proud, nervous, insecure–whatever. That’s just an idea-suit you’re wearing. That’s an ego. It’s a collection of ideas about a self (you) that filters out truths about the world around you. So you never see what other people see and they never see what you see. Because we all live in the haze of our own thinking. Within that haze, everyone is genuine and everyone feels misunderstood.

So here it is in a nutshell: it’s like we all move through the world in space suits that are our egos. They are ideas that limit us. And we fill those suits with a magical gas called thought and those thoughts are guaranteed to distort our sense of what’s going on outside of our suit. It’s why on a day when your thought choices are positively distorting the world (a good day), someone will cut you off in traffic and you’ll be quite relaxed and sanguine about it. And on other days you fill the same suit with different thoughts and you’ll call that a bad day and all of a sudden you’re in the movie Death Race 2000.

652 Relax and Succeed - Who is it that is awareYou’ve gotta start realizing you’re the creator of the thoughts you’re not the thoughts themselves. Your society and experiences build your suit, but the real you controls what thoughts the inside-the-suit-you will see the world through. Everyone gets a suit, you’re always looking through a personal haze, but everyone also has total control over the thoughts that go into creating that haze. But you must consciously seize control over your thinking.

The space inside that suit is your consciousness. And the real you is who chooses what thoughts you will fill the suit with and, therefore, which direction your thoughts will distort your view of the world. And it’s not like you have to worry either way—the worst thing that can happen is that you fill your suit with some unpleasant gases for a while. That doesn’t change the world, just your view of it. The suit is always removing old gas and adding new gas anyway, so even if you do nothing your conditions and perspective will change.

It’s not hard: think happy thoughts and things look great. Think negative ones and things turn down. And so wise people are just quiet-minded people. They choose an appreciative, enjoyable and rewarding view and that’s what allows them to see everyone else more clearly. Spiritually and psychologically healthy people don’t usually get their feelings hurt (or for long if they do) because they know not to take things personally. They know that the egos around them aren’t really seeing anyone accurately. People are seeing the judgments and opinions and beliefs that are swirling around inside their suits. So stop putting so much energy into getting people to respect your thinking and instead put that effort into quieting it. Because a clear-headed suit makes the good life a lot easier to find.

peace. s

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

Optimism vs. Pessimism

Skepticism is a very useful tool for a human being but a lot of people mistake cynicism for skepticism. There are obvious benefits to using your knowledge to test if something is true in your experience. But likewise, cynicism and pessimism have obvious downsides.

Pessimists will claim that optimists aren’t realistic—that they look at the world through rose-coloured glasses and they fail to see what’s really going on. But the same argument could be made for the pessimists. Certainly optimists may chase down some dead ends, but when everyone else has given up all 384176_495857223757951_177686374_nhope, it is the most optimistic person that will continue looking for—and keeping their mind open to—a solution.

If you were working on a movie, who would generate more quality work? The Cinematographer who’s in his trailer worrying about the fact that they can’t shoot because of the clouds, or the Cinematographer who’s outside his trailer calmly waiting and keeping an eye on the weather in anticipation (not expectation) of something useful coming? And because he or she is outside looking for an answer that can advance their objective, they have the opportunity to notice things the pessimistic Cinematographer wouldn’t even get the chance to see. Like maybe a clever, new, innovative way to shoot with the cloud cover. Because necessity very often is the mother of invention.

Like the previous post that mentioned the woman pining after her ex-husband, if we’re only looking for a specific thing to happen that we have defined as good, then we have a much lower chance of having our expectation met. But if we are instead focused on what we want to accomplish but we remain unattached to our potential solutions then our mind is free to bend and flex toward whatever surprise solution might present itself. Expectations not being met leads the pessimist back into his trailer. Anticipation that there is the potential for a solution is what keeps the optimist looking. And even if they fail, all they have done is delay the experience that the pessimist already had.

I remember years ago reading about a big turn-of-the-century US industrialist like a Carnegie, a Vanderbilt, or a Mellon—someone like that—who was said to have an affliction of always assuming the world was conspiring in his favour. Imagine that. Going through life literally feeling like the universe is secretly cooperating with you. (This deal fell through? Well then I 21 Relax and Succeed - Let us not look backmust need the money to invest in something even better!) What I’m suggesting is that this “crazy industrialist” was in fact on to something very real. Imagine the disappointment you avoid in life simply because when something “goes wrong” your reaction is to gleefully assume that it’s failed because something better is coming! And because you believe that you actually watch for it. And because you’re watching for it you see things no one else was even aware enough to notice.

Be like a child. They find tons of happiness every day in the simplest of things. Most of us would open an empty box and complain that it was empty. Give that to a small enough kid and they’ll enjoy tearing the wrapping paper off and then they’ll happily play with the empty box. A pessimist can judgmentally call the child unsophisticated and point out that it’s “just a cardboard box,” but the optimist could just as honestly describe the child as being open-minded, and that their choice of playing with just the box is “an experience of true happiness” just as much as any other the pessimist was hoping for. Life isn’t about getting what you want, it’s about wanting what you get.

Do not hope for hope is the opposite side of the coin from disappointment. Believe instead. Know that the universe is huge and made of many things, so if you keep your eyes genuinely open you won’t be hoping to find something good, you’ll be doing all you need to do to actually find it.

Enjoy your day by looking for what’s good in it. Make that a habit and you will have built yourself a very enjoyable life. And that is the ultimate success.

peace. s