Mental Spin Class

1076-relax-and-succeed-suffering-is-not-holding-youIt was entirely normal that a lot of you struggled with yesterday’s meditation. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t productive. The reason it was hard is the same reason that most people are seeking more personal peace with others, ourselves and the world around us. We want to surrender into each other. But there’s these damned thoughts in the way.

When you say, “I can’t stand how Darlene makes it sound like her grandkids are smarter than everyone else’s,” what you mean is: when Darlene talks about her grandchildren I have internal conversations where my ego talks to my self and in doing so it leads me to experience unpleasant brain chemistry that I feel as the emotions I don’t enjoy.

Maybe your conversations surround how you feel insecure about how you raised your kids, and now you feel that your divorced, formerly addicted single mom daughter is something to be ashamed of. Maybe Darlene’s daughter is a chess master who is also an Olympic figure skater. That can lead your inferior-feeling self to want to bring Darlene down a few notches in your thoughts.

1076-relax-and-succeed-the-quieter-you-becomeMaybe you’re fine with whoever your kids and grandkids are but you’ve always had a thing about superiority. That family down the street used to make your mother cry with her comments about your family’s modest life. People like that are jerks. Anyone who displays any kind of superiority has been well thought-out a long time ago. As an adult you can just play that angry recording.

It doesn’t matter what the reason is. What matters is that resistance to someone else’s being feels terrible. It’s unproductive. Fortunately it’s also voluntary. In fact it takes effort. But yesterday, in one of your meditative attempts to be more peaceful, you ended up possibly even more irritated. And that’s okay. It’s instructional.

What often happens is that people do something like this: There’s Darlene, at it again. No. No. Don’t go there. Don’t think about Darlene, don’t think about Darlene, don’t think about Darlene…” I think you might already be getting my point. It’s like your ego and your self are arguing in your head like those two old guys in the balcony in The Muppets. One’s bitching about Darlene and the other’s bitching that he doesn’t want to discuss Darlene. That’s a lot of talking about Darlene.

When a figure skater is spinning really quickly they are keeping their own physical energy near them, away from the outside world. Like them, when you spin thought-loops in your head you keep all of that spinning energy bundled up inside of your consciousness when it should be open to the entire world.

When a figure skater wants to stop their spin they don’t win some kind of argument; they open up and release the energy to the world around them. As the forces are released the spinning stops. Until then the vision of the skater is blurred. Likewise with your psychology. Spin it around Darlene and you’ll get dizzy and upset. Release those thoughts and turn your attention to the surrounding world and you’re free.

Since so many of you struggled yesterday, let us repeat today: choose the same or a different person. Your objective is simple: As you listen, catch your ego starting to spin and then open and release. The idea is that you want to recognise  that you’re focused on your own spinning thoughts. You want to throw your attention outward and without expectation.

1076-relax-and-succeed-i-even-overthink-my-overthinkingWherever you are, a good way to practice this would be for you to try to release yourself by noting something you’ve never noticed before about your location or the people with you. Maybe it’s that someone’s wife is taller than them, or that their eyes are blue; maybe there’s a yellow thumbtack stuck in the ceiling, or there’s a cut in the floor. It doesn’t matter. It’s the act of refocus and release that counts.

Watch for irritation, see yourself spinning, release your consciousness. You already do this in your life. It’s time you started doing it consciously. Have a great day.

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.

Senior Isolation

I had a horrifying realization the other day. It’s one of those things that you should spot right away because it’s right in front of you, but somehow even with all those clues I was maintaining an old and dangerous idea.

778 Relax and Succeed - It's the oldest story in the worldIf you were to ask me how my essentially never-unhappy father could possibly be depressed, I would answer that the only thing I could imagine doing that would be prolonged isolation. He just loves people too much. He loves to talk, he’s a great joker and he’s just a generally super-helpful person. And then it struck me.

There had been a bit of a pattern forming around Dad. I can always feel when one of those realizations is coming–it’s quite distinctive. A few times while I was over doing my daily visit I noticed that Dad wasn’t participating like he usually does. He hadn’t added many jokes lately. Just something was… off.  At first I attributed it to his stroke and then I realized that he looked sad for the first time in my life.

Sadness was so odd–so strange, so baffling–that it really stood out. And then I realized that through body language he’s told us what’s happening. He used to try to participate, but with his hearing aids that’s hard. We can use our brains and ears to hone in on individual speakers in a busy room but people with hearing aids generally can’t.

778 Relax and Succeed - The quietest roomThey aid delivers a different sound pattern to their brain than their ear did, and so they can’t do the filtering with their old wiring. And so my Dad–and I’m sure many others–eventually gave up. So now that he’s not making the effort we didn’t know we needed to change what we were doing. We have left him essentially alone in every room even if he’s with people. And I said, the only thing I can ever imagine making my Dad sad is if he can’t engage with the human beings he’s always loved so much.

The moment I realized that I was driving to my parents to play cards with my Dad. It’s one on one, he can hear me no problem, and he loves beating me at crib–which he often does. Two deals in and there’s my smiling Dad back, making jokes, teasing me, teasing my Mom and seeming younger and less like a stroke victim every hand. My only regret was that I couldn’t plan for it and I only had time for one game. But I’ll be playing against him again tomorrow.

I now know at family gatherings, my Dad hasn’t lost interest. It’s just too difficult. So from now on I’m his crowd-Sherpa. I’m going to lead him through those events so that he knows what’s going on. Even if it’s mostly just him and I–at least we can still have the same fun we always had.

778 Relax and Succeed - Remember that everyone you meetI don’t think older people would decline anywhere near as much if they were engaged with often. Too many institutional seniors homes look like warehouses and not enough like activity centers. We should stick playschools and kennels in the same facility as seniors and get all the love-sharers and fun-havers in one place.

When you see older people on the street remember: there is a lifetime of wisdom there. They’ve felt all the highs you’ve felt and all the lows too. As we age I think we like to think that things get easier but life is pretty consistently steep throughout all ages. A great attitude helps, but you might still have to carry your urine–or your lungs–in a container with you. Getting old is not for the weak. It’s some heavy lifting.

I’ve always been sensitive to seniors, but this situation with my Dad has really raised my awareness. So from this point forward I hope you will join me in trying to acknowledge and engage with more people who are not only younger than me, but older than me too.

We all have a lot to offer each day just by being ourselves. We should take more opportunities to do that. And we should make sure that wheelchairs, distorted voices or even hearing aids never get in the way of us being connected, generous and caring.

Have a wonderful day connected with everyone around you today.

peace. s

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

The Friday Dose #57

630 FD Relax and Succeed - The most precious gift

Today’s Dose is a mixed bag, although all of it does relate to our pace of life to some degree. Let’s start at the New York Times, where Mandy Len Catron—a writing teacher at the University of British Columbia—wrote a pre-Valentines piece on falling in love. It’s probably an exercise that a lot of struggling couples would benefit from….

How to Fall in Love with Anyone

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Next we’ll go to a—thankfully short—piece 😉 written by Anne Bogart on the nature of being busy and small changes you can make that will have a big impact on your life. It’s a subject I’ve written about many times but today there’s few things worthy of more discussion than trying to slow everyone back down to a speed at which they can actually live:

The Business of Busyness

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Next we’ll have a look at what science has to say. I’m sorry to report that it’s confirming what I’ve been writing to you—you’re not actually multitasking and no your arguments of efficiency and effectiveness aren’t working. The pace of modern life is little more than a series of addictions. This will not change unless you make a conscious effort to do so. Delaying that change is tantamount to a slow suicide. You truly don’t need to work as much as you do. You need to see that time-stress as damaging as you would see working with chemicals, or radiation. You would know that limited exposure was wise. But with time you have no such limits—but you should. And if you don’t read this, won’t it just be because you’ll tell yourself that you don’t have the time…?

Why the Modern World is Bad for your Brain

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And because that’s all rather intense, let’s finish on the antithesis of a fast-paced life and slow things right down. I have no idea why this has such a beautifully meditative quality, but when I would show it to friends and I would go to shut it off part way, they would always stop me, wanting to see more—which is a bit odd, interestingly enough, although I find I too am in this group that always watches it far longer than I would think I would. I suspect it’s because an aspect of my brain knows it’s intentionally grabbing that calm thought almost as a defence mechanism. Enjoy:

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Have yourself a wonderful day. And think about slowing it down a bit, eh? You don’t succeed and then relax. You relax and succeed. 😉

peace. s

The Friday Dose is a collection of cool, interesting and surprising things that are chosen for their potential to distract you away from any painful thought loops that may currently be disrupting your sense of perspective. Save these for when you’re feeling low and you want to change your perspective. They’ll help Enjoy.

Input vs Output

Do want a quick, easy way to improve your life regardless of your circumstances? Spend less time focusing your attention—your consciousness—on what you want to impart to someone else and way more on trying to truly understand their perspective. Because an ego just hears a view and then either agrees or disagrees with it instantaneously and purely out of habit. You can see this with politics where 99% of the people arguing have no clue what the actual 530 Relax and Succeed - When you know how to listenplatforms of any of the parties actually are. They are bashing their preconceived ideas into each other rather than actively listening in the hopes of gaining a better understanding of the world.

A person living Clearly will more often listen to people openly. Maybe they’ll learn new reasons to agree with their current view. Or maybe they’ll hear reasons to change their view. But if we’re not listening and we’re not flexible and open minded with our views, then we’re in ego and we will suffer. Because our views will be hard and solid and inflexible and that also makes them brittle and breakable. But if we’re flexible, we can wrap around an opposing idea, we can incorporate it, or we can even adopt it. In short: we have more freedom.

It is possible to listen to people as an activity unto itself. So you’re not listening for a purpose—you’re not even listening to understand. You’re not listening to see how their opinions 530 Relax and Succeed - I speak so much bettercompare to your opinions, nor are you listening to accomplish anything like make someone feel better. You’re just listening. No agenda. This is what it is to be aware. This is how you get to witness the beauty and elegance that is this incredible world. You just need to be quieter inside.

The opposite of quiet is noisy. Noisy is you talking to yourself about what other people should have done, or should have said, or how they should have acted. And maybe you’re telling them those things or maybe you’re telling other people how upset you are because of those things—it doesn’t matter. If you’re saying it to yourself, the person you’re upset with, or gossiping with someone else, you’re noisy inside and you will suffer for it. But if you’re not back-talking in your head or in person, then the energy that is you is free to focus on listening. And that’s when you hear the things that help you know what you should really say. If you should say anything at all.

Remember—you either output or input. Do less offering, suggesting, blaming, explaining, etc. and just be. Don’t want to change the world. Don’t want it your way. Just, as Paul McCartney suggested, let it be. Be active in your quietness. You will always hear the wisdom if you’re truly listening for it. And that sounds like a great way to ensure a great day. Enjoy yours.

peace (and quiet). s

Stupendous Day

Sometimes I feel like I’ll have to explode before I’ll be able to contain how freaking awesome being alive is. I know you primarily take it for granted—that’s your only actual problem. All of your other problems are made out of that problem. While I’m amazed and in love every single day, you’ll stop everything and be filled with the present moment only a few times a year, and even then only for oceanfront sunsets, snow-capped mountains glinting in the sunlight, or 445 Relax and Succeed - I am thankful for todaymaybe for puppies or a really funny cat video—and hopefully always and for sure babies of all kinds. My point is, you really are selective and that’s because you’ve mistaken the things you’re looking at for what you’re experiencing. But what you’re sensing and what you’re experiencing are often two different things.

The reason I think everything’s amazing and you’ll only agree to be amazed if conditions are just right is because you’ve begun to interact with the names of things rather than the things themselves. It’s what the Buddha meant when he talked about The Illusion. So if you see some bird that’s common in your area, you’ll glance at it and identify it, but you won’t look closely at that particular bird. Because just like any other creature, they’re all unique. But unless we feel some semblance of love or the attraction of curiosity we don’t look for the uniqueness. We don’t look to see, we just glance and identify.

Next we assess and judge. We make a value judgment of how much of our attention does this or that deserve? And things that are presumed common or known will be skipped over as soon as they are identified. This is why you can look for your keys several times in the place that you actually find them—because the other times you were assuming they weren’t there so you found a part of the desk that had no keys on it and you looked there to confirm to yourself that your presumptions were correct. And with that useless bit of self-verification you come to believe that the keys aren’t there and that you didn’t see them, when in fact the light that makes up your vision definitely did enter your eye. You just didn’t use your thoughts to turn those waves into a particle you recognized.

So how do you see the keys? How does the everyday world become magnificent? Well, you have to actually be in the world. Because those aforementioned assumptions happened inside your head. When you think your keys are not there you are living in your thinking and not in the real world. Do you see how your ego can even blind you? It’s remarkable how much it can distort what’s truly going on.

445 Relax and Succeed - Be aware as an activityThe world is so enormous that you cannot even begin to fathom its scale and complexity. Your job is not to make sense of creation. You weren’t put here to figure out the answer. You are the answer. You are creation being lived-out. So you can quiet your mind. Do you hear me? You can go quiet inside. Those conversations are nonsense. So rather than identify, evaluate and judge the universe, just be yourself within it. That is your responsibility—that is your aspect of creation to realize—the aspect that is you.

Now do you want to know the cool part? You don’t like sunsets or puppies. What you do like is the feeling of shutting your mind up when you look closely at those things. So it was never the things themselves that were making you feel awesome, it was that they encouraged you to be fully with them, and therefore they lead to you being quiet inside. So you don’t need to add anything from the outside to realize enlightenment. You just need to go quiet and your inside will naturally manifest. So now you can surrender. You can stop looking for the keys to life. They were in your hand the whole time. Now you can go live.

Have yourself a stupendous day.

peace. s

Natural Reactions

How do I get a quieter mind? I get what you’re saying and I’m trying to be quiet inside and everything but then I’m busy at work and the next thing I’m all acting from ego again. I know I have to take the process in steps but it’s not really working for me this way. I need some advice on how I can create more quiet space in my life. Any ideas Scott?

signed,
Seeking Silence

Dear Seeking,

I applaud your efforts to develop a quieter mind. Once you do it you will easily be motivated to continue to do it because the world becomes increasingly beautiful for every level of deepening silence. When you stop judging what people are saying as they say it, and when you’re not formulating your response before they’re even done talking, then your incredibly capably and fantastic mind can focus its attention (aka your consciousness) on the other person. You’ll start to see them for the first time. I’ve had people work with me, they have this 417 Relax and Succeed - I go to nature t o be soothedbreakthrough of slowing down, and then they have lunch with an old friend and they actually cry because they can’t believe how beautiful their friend is and they cannot understand how they never noticed that fact before.

One of the easiest ways to free your mind of judgment and analysis and opinion is to go somewhere neutral. That is to say, somewhere where your mind has pretty much no stake. Somewhere where there is little order, more random serendipity, and maybe even some scents that actually signal to your primordial self that all is well and that you can relax. Did you know that if you can hear birds singing you’ll immediately feel better because that state of affairs is stored in your head under: signs that all is well? I would suggest getting back to your roots. Literally. Get back into nature. And don’t just walk on it in $200 shoes. Lay on some grass. Look at some clouds. Listen to insects and bird songs. Watch some ants. Stop judging and manipulating and Be instead. Just Be in that place at that time. Forget all else. Take in the sights and the smells and the sounds all as one experience.

Many working North Americans can easily go extremely long periods of time without touching any actual nature. And yet depression rates soar and no one looks to how we live to see the explanations for these changes in the public mood. We’re too disconnected. From each other, from nature. Forget going to a movie. I know I make movies, and movies can be great art, but play some board games with friends. Talk about meaningless things simply because they amuse you. Remember that your life is quite short and that you have to make your enjoyment of it an actual priority or some capitalist will convince you to be a slave in trade for trinkets.

Put your feet in running water. Birdwatch. Study insects with your kids. Close your eyes and listen. Start noticing how the sound the rain makes changes as the ground gets more and more saturated. Notice the back and forth of birdsong. Think about the fact that as you walk through a forest you are walking through only half of its ecosystem because below you the trees go just as far out or down as they go up or out. There’s 50,000 earthworms per acre burrowing holes in the soil to help water reach roots, and their castings supply fantastic food sources for the trees 417 Relax and Succeed - Best gym evergrowing above. For the birds the forest is a very three-dimensional place and they would sense the shape of the treetops—something we cannot do without the help of a bridge or cliff. You get my point. If you’re going to Be there, then don’t think about the forest, actually be in the forest. Fully in it, with all your senses.

You don’t need a gym membership as much as you need to reacquaint yourself with your basic nature. Eat foods that your ancestors would recognize as food. Get as much sleep as your body seems to request through its actions, and spend regular stretches of time in quiet solitude. Do that and a richness will rise up your life that is difficult for me to convey in words. Life gets an intensity and a hum and glow and it almost feels like being hugged by the universe. You had this feeling all of the time as a kid. Let’s get that back. Let’s get back to less self-talk and more absorption of the world around you. Both you and the world will win if that’s the focus.

Here’s to the sights, sounds, tastes, smells and feel of nature. Here’s to simplicity and quiet and meaninglessness and fun. We weren’t put on this Earth to earn a living. We were born to live. But living is a verb. It does not happen automatically. We must engage with life by making choices that lead to adventure and experience. I look forward to seeing you out there in the world. It’s a wonderful place filled with amazing people like you. So go give it all a big hug. I’ll keep an eye out for you on the trails.

peace. s