Life Lessons

If you read me regularly you know I often point out that an enjoyable life comes from the simple act of appreciation, and yet so few people ever bother to really turn that into a daily verb. They’ll say they want a better life and that they want to be more spiritual, but then they’ll promptly use all their free time to compare themselves with people they perceive as even more fortunate, but they won’t do it with the many billions more who are less fortunate. Why pursue wanting thoughts instead of appreciative thoughts when the former hurt and the 628 Relax and Succeed - The more I understand the mindlatter feel wonderful? That’s a question you really should be asking yourself.

I live in Alberta. This is a place that, for the time being, a nineteen year old kid can make $120,000 a year as a welder and he’ll still complain about it. And because everyone knows so many people like that, people where I live don’t realize that they are among the richest people on Earth. When I recently asked several locals how much they thought you needed to earn to be in the top 1% of global earners, I got guesses like 20 million and low guesses were about 2 million. The real answer (on that day) was $56,400. Most of the people I talked to were double that number and you could see their minds try to adjust their place in the world to this sliver of people at the top. Suddenly they realized that what they thought the world was—that was just the top 1%. They thought they were struggling and so they imagined themselves at somewhere in the bottom half of worldwide earners. They thought they were in the bottom half when they were actually in the top 1%. Do you see how your thinking can steal your joy?

I want you to take a moment to actually appreciate where you really are. It’s my hero’s birthday today (the day I’m writing this). My Dad already had grey hair when I was born, so we have a fascinating spread between us. He was born before the Great Depression on a rural farm in Scotland. He was the youngest of eight children and he was born before the 628 Relax and Succeed - No we don't always get what we wantavailability of antibiotics so he was lucky to have survived Scarlet Fever as a kid. He’s a clever guy but he only had the chance to go to grade eight, and by seventeen years old he was lying about his age so that he could follow his brothers and sisters into service in World War II.

Before the war Dad was pushing a plow behind a horse, and then he helped to cut the wheat with a scythe and they stacked it by pitch fork. Eight kids starts to make sense doesn’t it? Had I been a farmer in my era, I would do all of that “work” with one machine, in my sleep, while a movie was on in the cab of my self-driving GPS-controlled combine. To say life is easier doesn’t even get close to capturing the level of difference. And that’s my Dad and I’m right on the Gen X border. That’s one generation to me. Just a bit ahead of him and there’s no cars, electricity or even running water.

Take a moment to think about that. What my Dad would take a day of super hard work to do I could probably do quite casually in under 10 seconds. I worked alongside my Dad for a long time. My dad could work hard. And he might have only had grade eight but give him two thimbles, some twine and a fish hook and he’ll build you a part that will get your car to the next town for the real repairs. My friends and I couldn’t build a house, fix a car, repair an electrical motor, hunt an animal, clean a fish, do enough math and bookkeeping—by hand—to run a small business, and we certainly couldn’t deliver a baby cow. Our dads were either in the war or they lost their dad in the war—whether that father came home or not. No vaccines, 628 Relax and Succeed - Some people feel the rainpenicillin was barely invented, they all lost siblings to bombs and bullets and various diseases that we no longer fear. That was normal.

Parents expected to lose a kid along the way. Just think about that. Today that would be headline news and possibly cause the parent to stop living their life. Back then it would have been seen as unfortunate but it couldn’t stop you. You still had another seven or more kids to look after back when a washing machine looked like a single piece of corrugated metal. Can you imagine having today’s attitudes about housework when washing clothes meant grinding eight kids clothes against a rough surface for several hours in water that was heated in a kettle hung over a wood stove that you cut the wood for? Think about that next time you spin the dial for an extra rinse. I do and I still appreciate my washing machine every single time I use it.

It was just through proximity not wisdom that I knew how tough our parents were. The first white person to climb Mount Everest only died in 2008 and he did that climb in leather and wool. Life got much easier during my lifetime and it’s no younger person’s fault that they 628 Relax and Succeed - Life is a series of thousandsdon’t immediately consider how challenging something might have been even shortly before they were born. People had higher levels of acceptance and appreciation because it was easy to see how much tougher it had recently been.

There were no homes for older people so a lot of families had grandparents living with them so you heard stories. And people still visited farms where you went back in time a bit. You’d see outhouses and kerosene lamps still being used every day. But now I know tons of young people whose grandparents are in a special home they visit for an hour every few months. They have never been to a farm and their parents both have desk jobs on computers and so to them their parents life doesn’t look a lot different than theirs. Not very many kids today get to see what I did when I looked at my Dad. By 17 my Dad was in WWII, and both my parents families lost members in the war and to the war. What an insult it would have been to say to my dad that my safe, easy car-riding life was too hard.

People squander their own happiness. They use their ability to think to want—to compare themselves to others even more fortunate. So the 1%er ends up spending half their day using their thoughts to envy someone in the .0001%??? Does that sound wise to you? Or could all the suffering you’re complaining about be coming from that?

628 Relax and Succeed - Gratitude changes everythingMeditation is consideration. Siddhartha sat under a tree asking himself where suffering comes from and 49 days later he’s the first Buddha. You can do likewise, but instead of using your thinking to negatively compare yourself, instead use it to appreciate how fortune you are. Because if I’m having trouble completely quieting my thinking for whatever reason, I’ll just shift to leading my thoughts toward considering what my day would have looked like for my parents, or even more extremely, for my grandmother. Hitching a horse, riding to town, blah blah. But one minute in I realize my “bad, slow day” is actually accomplishing more in a half hour than my grandmother could have even hoped to do all day, and I would have been safer, warmer, and far more comfortable. And that awareness makes me grateful, and if you’re feeling grateful then you’re okay. It’s as easy as that.

You have a lot to be grateful for. So go create yourself a great day by investing your consciousness in things that are easy to appreciate. Trust me. They’re always there.

peace. s

The Joyful Way

People make me angry. How can we have done all the fantastic scientific things we’ve done and invented all of the amazing things we’ve invented and yet there’s still wars, there’s still tons of poor people and we’re just idiots as a species. It’s hard to feel good when the world’s like this. I’m confused about how in your reality everything is “perfect.”

signed,
Lost in Thought

Dear Lost,

Yes. Perfect in its unfolding. I mean no offence, but do you see how we as egos arrogantly choose a particular moment in time and then excuse ourselves from the Flow of Tao and instead intellectually judge what is happening? And I mean happening in the sense that the 391 Relax and Succeed - Holding on to angerworld is a verb not a noun. You use your thoughts to place borders over things like: scientificwar, poverty, species. These are not things. These are ideas. And they are evolving. So do you look at a flower-bud and judge it as not perfect because it is not blossoming? Or is the true blossoming the infinite act of becoming that is the universe and everything in it? So from seed to decomposition, the flower is forever flowing in complete unity with the universe around it.

Of course I’m no fan of war or poverty. Anyone who reads me a lot knows I’ve discussed both subjects a lot and my perspective is always compassionate. And can it be better? Absolutely. But when a teen goes through a huge hormone rush at puberty, they aren’t imperfect, misbehaving, disrespecting jerks. They’re acing like teens. They’re becoming the next person they will be. And those “people” are not slices of pie like in a game of Trivial Pursuit. It’s more like a colour spectrum. It’s why the concept of an “identity” is a bizarre one in some cultures. We have experiences and we change physically and we’re in a perpetual state of flowing from being one person to another as our body, beliefs and priorities change.

391 Relax and Succeed - If you are distressed by anythingWe’ve” advanced scientifically because we’re very methodical. We hypothesize, we test and we conclude. It’s very progressive, with each discovery resting on the grounds of the ones that preceded it, with the whole thing building outward. With science and technology etc. we can also pass discoveries on from generation to generation, whereas that is really only theoretical in human relations. We’re famous for repeating history and that’s because new generations of us keep being born. As I’ve often said, a pie in the face isn’t an old joke to a two-year-old. So experience is what really teaches, and by time we figure it out we’re done. It’s why Churchill said youth is wasted on the young.

In human relations we’re less test and answer based. That was the weird thing my accident caused: I spent most of my time not doing what I was appearing to do, I was usually doing test and answer research on how human’s perceived the universe at every level. Fortunately the divine elegance of the human spirit lead me to admire, respect and love it. If you’re looking at it the right way, you can see our universe as a giant unfolding rose that began its life as a seed391 Relax and Succeed - Whenthe power of love of potential that was provided with whatever resources were available and so it grew, and at every moment of its existence it was perfect, just as every sunset is different but every one is perfect.

So don’t stand in time and look for some idea called justice or rightness or peacefulness. Because none of those things could even exist were it not for their opposite to provide the contrast, just as you need this white background as much as you need the letters I’m typing on it. So the universe is far beyond your understanding. Surrender instead. Trust in the most profoundly spiritual way. The universe is unfolding exactly as it should. Do not argue with that, for your argument is nothing more than painful resistance to what is.

I know what it’s like to care the way you do. I used to do it too. It says nice things about your soul. But don’t waste your existence being angry or upset or depressed because you or others are suffering. Go live. Truly. That’s how the world gets better. Not because we fix it. But because each of us as an individual just starts prioritizing our own happiness. And a bunch of happy people will make the world as good as it can be. But even then, Yin and Yang will always be there. So don’t look to be made happy by the outside world. Instead make yourself happy by being in the world in a joyful way. Have fun.

peace. s

Hans Rosling’s Good News

228 Relax and Succeed - Keep calm and get yourEven most internet news stories still begin in newspapers or on television because they can afford the resources necessary to gather them. And because those are commercial enterprises we can know that their motivation is to earn money through advertising. To sell advertising you need readers or listeners or viewers, and to have them you need stories. So the public sees the news as: what’s going on? Unfortunately the news itself sees it as: what will keep you watching until the commercial?

Because of the difference in perspective noted above, what we primarily see are stories that generate either fear, anger or titillation, with the total tipping very heavily towards the first two. That means most stories on the newsand therefore in society—are about the worst events and human behaviours. And then of course human nature will cause the stories to get embellished, and they won’t be made better.

No, gossip never improves an idea. It will always add even more. Meaning that over time this relentless tilt to our media eventually distorts our views so much that we actually believe the world is much, much worse than it really is. This causes us to act in more fearful, less friendly ways. And so by believing it is already so, people then contribute to it actually getting worse. Such is the Power of Attraction.

228 Relax and Succeed - One person has the powerSo I’m not asking you to put on rose coloured glasses and pretend the world is better than you currently believe. I’m saying your current beliefs were informed by commercially motivated media., and for you to change the thought-habits that media has built for you, you will have to consciously change your perspective.

You will have to start consciously choosing what to look at before you’ll see what’s really going on around you. You will have to re-awaken your ability to see and create beauty. You have to start seeing your awareness of things emerge. It’s something you must wisely employ. You don’t want to notice a bad day because the news told you to. You want to have the awareness necessary to create a good day because you’re in touch with your ability to influence your life through your choices.

Every day friendships are made. Medical breakthroughs take place. People’s standard of living rises. There is so much good news out there, it just isn’t profitable to tell it to you. Fear sells more pills and locks and alarms and weapons. Happiness sets you free. (The very funny book Happiness is about how a man ruins the world economy by making everyone happy.)

The world isn’t getting worse. The world is getting better. But none of that matters unless you’re actually paying attention to that fact. Because if you believe it’s what other people tell you, then you will be a slave to their beliefs. But if you set your sights on watching for what’s good and loving and beautiful within you and the world, it will absolutely be there to be found.

Don’t believe the product that is the news as it attempts to describe each day. Believe instead in your own ability to create your day. Because that ability is at the root of what makes any day truly great.

peace. 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.