The Disposable Life

989-relax-and-succeed-no-amount-of-security-is-worth-the-sufferingThe Paralympics are currently on. I actually liked when they were called the Special Olympics because to me it is notable and special when someone can do something with less than everyone else needs to do it, as was evidenced in this post from earlier in the year.  I’m not being nice to anyone by being impressed by all that, I’m deep-down inspired by what other human beings can show me we’re capable of.

This brings up the question of what moves us forward in life? At these Paralympics I see smiles and achievements and connections to teams and respect for competitors and lots of physical health and travel and excitement, and none of these things are contained in our limbs. Just as the blind know happiness, the deaf have heard grief. The experiences in our consciousness are what life is made of. Your body is what delivers you to the situations where those experiences take place.

The people who repeatedly choose negative experiences don’t recognise their choices. Once when I was living in Australia I met a very religious man. He was kind in the sense that he was very keen to warn me about all of the potential dangers in the world but those fears had made him extremely angry all the time.

989-relax-and-succeed-worrying-does-not-empty-tomorrowRather than be happy about his wife’s uncle building them a beautiful playhouse for the kids, he worried they would get up to no good in it and so he tore the door off and placed the playhouse right outside the back door of the main house. The kids naturally sought privacy so they mostly just stored things in it. They were only allowed to see religious films and read religious books. They never went out and only mixed with people from their church who were similarly cloistered.

This unfortunately turned the kids into huge outsiders at their school. They were teased for not being aware of anything really modern and they were afraid to participate in anything. They had however seen their father get angry a lot so they were both good at having hot, fast tempers. When they weren’t upset they were mostly depressed because they had no example of what joy or fun looked like. Their parents rarely spoke.

I was fully aware the wife was addicted to TV and profoundly unhappy to the point of abusing prescription drugs. The kids lives grew progressively worse as they matured and sought greater freedom of choice and their angry father soon had them on prescription drugs too. And yet it’s important to note, they had inherited money so they had no need to even work, and everyone was healthy other than emotionally. They could have travelled anywhere but chose to go nowhere.

989-relax-and-succeed-someone-is-happySo this is important: how is someone who lost their legs prior to a huge accomplishment crying at hearing their anthem played while they’re on a podium when this entire family is drugged and miserable and they have everything going for them? Because life doesn’t happen outside of us it happens inside of us.

The miserable family built a rigid idea of doing the right thing and they’re killing themselves contorting themselves into that preconceived shape. Meanwhile the happy group continue to be bold or even got bolder about life and they chased huge dreams. There are no dreams in that Australian family. There are only fears. While one group creates dangers to hide from the other group creates new space within themselves to allow for more expansion. One life goes up, the other goes down. The choice is always ours.

Will you make the most of what you have or will you hide from life? Because you’ll make that choice each moment of each day, and whether you like it or not, your lifetime is made of what you choose most.

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 Opportunity

I call it a class but it’s more like time together nurturing experiences. I know everyone in front of me is healthy at the level of their soul, I just need to show them how they can slow and stop the dark fury of their ego. After that the rest is entirely natural. No one asked you to learn to walk but you worked at it at every opportunity until you could do it. You’d learn this much the same way and yet you’d never recall actually learning it.

987-relax-and-succeed-zen-teaches-nothingIt actually isn’t that hard for me to poke holes in reality as most people would describe it. Now isn’t that strange? Something as elemental as reality is in question! And if reality itself is in question then so is everything in it. That means that almost everything you believe could potentially be a lie–and that’s my main point.

Things are not what they are they are how we see them. You’ve read things like that a million times, but enough time with the right meditations and you’ll be dissatisfied with your old version of reality and you’ll seek some new more reliable version. The more time you spend with this new, stronger more flexible version of reality the faster you’ll drop your illusory one.

It’s no coincidence that you’re still looking at 3,000 year old quotes, they do carry a special truth which is why I use the ones I see floating around to shape this blog. But you can’t learn this in an educational way. That’s outside-in. You want inside-out. You want to understand things differently so that different things make sense and that leads you to a different life. That happens inside you.

987-relax-and-succeed-your-teacher-can-open-the-doorThere is no way around the time and effort involved to cross this transom. Even those who do it by accident were unwittingly working away on their discovery for years. How could Eckhart Tolle have recognised his depression as a kind of Joy University? Yet it was those meditations on his own suffering that lead him to do what the Buddha did.

In the end I realise I’m more like a personal trainer. People know what they want and they know they’ll have to change some habits. It just seems easier to do when someone else is leading that process and giving you assignments. Meditation is hard. It can feel unfruitful for too long if it’s not guided well. Done well it can be fun.

The world is changing. We’re at the dawn of a new age of priorities for life. We’ve built a world that’s eating most of us up and most of the world wants something different for their future. Join that future by taking the process of your mental and spiritual health seriously. Don’t be casual or idle about it, it’s connected to everything.

You can have the change you imagine for yourself but not if you won’t make changes to create the time and space necessary for you to actually do the meditations that will lead you there. Prioritise your lifetime. Figure out life before you’ve lived it all.  You’ll be glad you did.

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 Karma Question

942 Relax and Succeed - How people treat youI’ve discussed this before in previous posts because the concept of karma is often perverted by the human ego. Rather than being about energy flow, if you Google ‘karma quotes’ you’re far more likely to see a museum dedicated to anger, bitterness and revenge.

Because people take the world so personally it’s hard finding a karma quote that hasn’t been converted into the Western idea that God’s watching and judging us. The closest thing I got was the Wayne Dyer one that nicely tightropes between the spiritual truth and people’s thought-based desire to have religion secure the concept of fairness for them. But fairness can’t work because in the spiritual world even your wishes count, so negative hopes for another person is still negative karma even if you think they deserve it. You can’t win with karma.

Because each person has an individual identity the concept of karma ends up inadvertently confused with the western concept of what comes around goes around when it’s really more like; we’re all in a pool together, please don’t pee more than necessary or just because the people around you are. In short the lesson is: be conscious about what you put out into this world.

942 Relax and Succeed - No act of kindnessRather than think of karma as some force that happens to you (a force you can possibly win some favour over), think of it more like a direction. So imagine a pool of water comprised of billions of microscopic H2O molecules all milling together. Can you see that if one molecule leaned in one direction that it would impact the other molecules immediately around it? The force of that lean could be called karma.

This force acts on those closest to you. A decent act in one city will only rarely impact someone else in a city half the planet away. But if you lean in and help someone in your community then that creates a tilt inside the person you’ve been kind to; they’re now more inclined to do something for you or someone else.

Due to that connected, cooperative nature can you see that all large movements of the water in the pool all begin with a single movement that is joined? Can you see that these movements cannot take each other into account and sometimes they will lose their energy and direction by smashing into other people’s opposing energy and direction? And do you see no one did anything wrong in that?

When we smash together as individuals we say we had a fight, or if a few people clash that’s an issue, and when huge groups hit each other we calls those elections. A large wave in the pool would be created by a great deal of cooperation. It’s important to remember that it’s possible to cooperate on creative beautiful expansive things, but it’s also possible to cooperate on ugly, divisive anger and blame. One is confidence and the other is fear.

942 Relax and Succeed - peace it does not meanStronger flows will create stronger turbulence. Waves of things like mass humanitarian aid can flow in one direction while waves of angry fascism flow in the opposite direction. But it is important to remember that in a wave it is the energy that flows not the water itself. A seagull will go up and down on the waves but unless it paddles it will not come to shore because the water it’s sitting on is usually sitting still even when it’s participating in a wave. So it goes with people. They aren’t this or that. That’s just where they’re currently floating.

Can you perceive the extremely subtle difference? Karma in your life is the energy of the wave and you feel that as your direction as you move either up or down. But these individualised ups and downs combine together and the waves that form are natural. Yes, it’s possible to be calm and have all of your currents flow below the surface but not all of the ocean can do that at once lest we encourage stagnation. No: change is necessary for growth. The movement is integral to life itself.

In the what comes around goes around model of karma you have to wonder what you did that was so terrible that you deserved what’s happening to you. Or, you have to justify what great things you did to deserve your good fortune or you’ll end up experiencing guilt. In reality you are just one leaning force among an infinite number. Yes you do directly impact things, but there are far too many leaning forces in this pond for you to ever say that you truly control your life.

942 Relax and Succeed - There is a huge amount of freedomYou control your life’s direction and that is worthwhile, but there are many other people who will impact and influence the karma you experience so it’s unwise to take its impacts personally. Stop always framing the world from positions of control. You keep looking for the right things to do; the smart things; the things that will lead to success when those concepts simply do exist in the real world. These are ideas but they are not forces. That is the illusion of thought.

There is no way to guarantee an outcome in life. The closest thing you can get is to be a conscious force as you function within this world.  Karma is collective and so you feel its forces, but karma is not something you get, it is something you cooperate with or lean against. Left, right, this way, that way; it’s all part of a larger cosmic movement. It is only the up and down motion that you too often mistake for your own success or failure. Surrender your individualised ideas of this world and be free.

You cannot escape karma but none of this is personal. You can only accept it as the very nature that you are a part of and live within. By accepting that, you too can begin a life of peace within this larger cosmic non-personal flow. May we meet there soon, together.

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 #104

Are you repressed or empathetic? Does that make your life better or worse? How big is your tribe? Who do you let in it and why? Would you let in people you don’t like if you really thought it would help you?

The reason we do March Kindness Month here is 885 FD Relax and Succeed - True happiness is givingbecause empathy is a specific thing you do. If you don’t do it enough you’ll start thinking there’s something wrong with the world when really there’s only something wrong with your connections. The old ideas of survival of the fittest are dead. Science has proven that’s only true to a small degree, because a group of cooperating people will always defeat a group that’s selfish and uncooperative, which is why we show this beneficial tilt toward cooperation, empathy and connection.

Start exercising your empathy and your life will improve. If someone ahead of you is carrying boxes, run ahead and get the door. If someone’s coming for the elevator, hold it up for them. Let someone into traffic. Be patient with a clerk having a tough day. Do a surprise favour for a family member. Call someone and let them know you think they’re special. And if you really want to do something meaningful–be nice to someone who isn’t nice to you.

There are a zillion ways to express your empathy and compassion. If you don’t do any of them then don’t expect to feel any better. And if you do them, those acts may not always make you or the world better-off, but they definitely give you the very best odds at a good life. And those odds are plenty good enough to make it worth it.

Be nice as a habit and do it because it’s good for you. That kind of selfishness the world can use more of. Have a great weekend everyone!

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.

The Subtlety of Racism

A while back I was contacted by a very conscious individual. She was a blog reader of mine and she had managed to make many changes in her life that were very beneficial. One of the things she had gotten quite good at was feeling her day. Every student has their own way inside what I’m teaching them and that was hers. She was good at ignoring her word-based illusory thoughts in favour of focusing on her feelings.

788 Relax and Succeed - Love and compassion are necessitiesThat ability to sense herself and her emotional reaction to her day lead her to an awareness. What initiated her call was that she was developing a consistently negative reaction to any Muslim woman wearing a niqab (the face and head scarf), or for that matter even a hijab (the head and neck scarf).

She knew the feelings were coming from her thoughts but she felt so strongly about the subject that she was unable to alter the course of her anger. It’s no secret to anyone that world tensions are a bit high and that in the most general terms Islam is seen as some sort of general threat. This plays out in big and obvious ways as in the case of governments or even armies. In smaller ways it plays out in everyday life, as with this woman.

I started off by noting the very un-racist-like reaction she had to her concern that she might be racist. She’s a very conscious mother and she didn’t want to teach her children to judge others based on appearances and she knew they learn from your actions not your words. Wise mom.

788 Relax and Succeed - Darkness cannot drive out darknessI simply explained that she had a firm narrative about the scarves and that we needed to replace it with a natural, real empathetic connection. The woman was clearly a feminist and so I offered examples of two feminists I know who have chosen to cover their faces with a niqab.

The first is a very classically beautiful, slim, high-cheekboned elegant woman who was raised by very spiritual parents. Back at home her parents would have been considered hippies. And her husband will laugh if you suggest he has any sort of control over his wife. He’s not that keen on her wearing a niqab himself but he respects his wife and he knows she takes her spirituality very seriously–and one aspect of it is humility. Inner beauty is what is valued and the ego is to be suppressed. On top of that, as a beautiful woman she wants to be sure she is succeeding by her abilities and not her appearance. That all sounds pretty healthy, doesn’t it?

Like the liberated woman sitting in front of me, the friend who wears the niqab does not believe that a woman should be judged based on her appearance and yet study after study proves that from dating to job prospects, that still happens. She also wants to respect herself as a creation of God. If you’ve read my previous post Loving Balpreet you’ll know that this is similar to the Sikh practice of allowing the body to exist as a creation of God’s, without any intervention–including haircutting or shaving. It’s a sign of respect for inner beauty and natural holiness.

I also added that my friend never needs to purchase or apply makeup when she goes out. That raised some eyebrows in envy.

788 Relax and Succeed - The cultural icebergThen I also told her about another friend who left Canada to move to the arabian peninsula. I told my student about how I asked that friend why she chose to wear her niqab. She very confidently noted that as a 240lb woman in Canada she found men never paid any attention to her, but where she lived she was often asked on dates and treated very respectfully. She felt she was being valued for her personality and not her appearance.

In both cases the women subscribed to the idea of the niqab as an expression of their values, not of oppression. It wasn’t that their husband wanted them covered, it was that they valued human spirit and expression more than appearances–these are the exact same values my student extolled to her children and the same ones most of us say are noble.

In the end the niqab is much thinner than a winter scarf. It’s certainly not a barrier to these women being able to see each other for what many of them really are: true feminists. Once my student could see that connection between her and these seemingly different women, her veil of thought made no more sense and she dropped it in favour of her new awareness.

788 Relax and Succeed - Before you assumeIt’s important to note–had we not intervened in that thinking when we did she could easily have expanded the narrative of her incorrect assumption into a full blown story that would result in bigotry and hatred. And she would then have taught that to her kids. It’s that easy. We all need to be vigilant.

We all love everyone. If you think you can’t love and respect someone and you really want to grow spiritually then I would suggest you look more closely at their life. Because if you do so honestly and openly you are certain to find someone just like you. Someone who’s had to overcome great hardship and who has felt great love. Our differences exist only in our thoughts.

The woman left feeling comfortable that she would no longer create the negative reaction that had been attached to her thoughts. With better understanding came empathy and from that came connection and a lack of desire to judge. It’s really that easy. You’ll see that if you try it. 😉

peace. s

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

Other Perspectives #85

781 OP Relax and Succeed - If your theologyThe sentiment is a good one but I would prefer the phrase interpretation of your theology. I have been all over the world and everywhere I see the same values. People feel good and they are always generous when they are loved, and they become insecure and difficult when the world seems indifferent. People can respond to this in secular or religious terms. I have seen absolutely beautiful gestures from both. Ultimately love is the center of each of the religions so far from them opposing each other they should be seen more like the same book presented in different languages. No matter what your path, love will lead your way to the best possible outcomes.

peace. s

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

Hating People

Is there someone you just absolutely hate? Someone who either hurt you personally or hurt someone you love? Or maybe they’re part of a group and that group did something and so you hate them as a proxy for the group. An example would be Russians hating terrorist Ukrainians while Ukrainians hate terrorist Russians. It’s the hate that makes the terrorist.

753 Relax and Succeed - Be softWhen we hate another person we either hate them for something they have done or not done, or we hate them because we believe they are associated with people who have done or not-done things we feel are very significant. But this hate is not experienced by our enemies, it is an internal psychological experience that is ours and ours alone. The painful biting brain chemistry we feel as hurt, angry and hateful emotions are not coming from our enemy, they are from our thinking about our enemy. This is a damaging thing to do to ourselves.

Hate is when people fail to recognize the humanity in another person. A personal example would be when someone we love falls in love with someone else. We can perceive that they lack character, cheat and lie or have no morals. But from their perspective they unexpectedly fell in love while they were already dating someone. On a larger scale it’s like hating a good husband and dad and soccer coach, a guy who’s good friend to his buddies at work, all because he has on a different team’s jersey.

753 Relax and Succeed - Hate has caused a lot of problemsThe reason any terrorist will attack it is because he feels his way of life is being threatened and he believes that threat is coming from who he or she is attacking. But that person can be a religious zealot from halfway around the world or he can be a libertarian who blows up a public building and kills his own citizens because he feels his government is now undermining his way of life.

Any person who is acting in a disrespectful way to others will eventually have resentments build until things boil over and get worse. And this goes for husbands and wives as much as corporations and countries. The problem isn’t the name of the person or group, it is that someone has lost touch with another person’s humanity and then begins to treat them inhumanely. It’s why a terrorist will strike and why a good person will condone the horrors of torture even though they may have the wrong person and in fact be committing the crime they claim they’re fighting against.

753 Relax and Succeed - Love is the only alchemyYou cannot fight hate with hate. You cannot fight misunderstanding by informing someone with anger or violence. As much as these might be our immediate reactions we must allow ourselves to feel that pain without converting it into a cudgel to hit someone with. Instead we must meet hate with love. If we don’t, we are suggesting that we feel that love can lose in such a comparison. But that is only an underestimation of the power of love.

Hate has never overcome hate. But love is a natural state. Do not be an agent of hate. You will die wondering why you invested your life in such an unrewarding pursuit. Instead enact love in your life. You’ll do more good, keep more people safe and you’ll have more great chances at love than any other way. Just don’t let words and thoughts get in the way of seeing anyone’s humanity because whether we recognize it or not, it’s always there.

peace. s

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